The Baltimore Ravens went into Seattle and took out a red-hot Seahawks team in a statement win on Sunday. The San Francisco 49ers remained the NFC’s only undefeated team with a shutout win over the Redskins in D.C.
On the other side of the ledger, the Atlanta Falcons’ season-long struggles continued while the Houston Texans put up a bummer of a performance against the Indianapolis Colts.
These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action.
Ravens make a major statement
Fresh off ho-hum wins over the Steelers and Bengals, Baltimore headed to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. This was already being billed as a statement game for the Ravens. They did not disappoint.
The recently-acquired Marcus Peters made a personal statement early on with a pick-six of Russell Wilson . Lamar Jackson continued to dazzle, both through the air and on the ground in putting up 259 total yards. Baltimore then put the game away with a fumble return for a touchdown to ice things. Now at 5-2 following a 30-16 win over Seattle, these Ravens look like real threats in the AFC.
Aaron Rodgers excelling in new offense
It took some time for the former NFL MVP to get into rhythm in first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense. Rodgers had tallied just eight touchdowns in six games heading into Week 7. That changed big-time against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Rodgers completed 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards with six total touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 42-24 win. Statistically speaking, it was the best performance of his Hall of Fame-worthy career. It also led to Rodgers making history as he navigated his team to a 6-1 record heading into the midway point of the season. Things are going swimmingly for Mr. Rodgers and his Pack right now.
Kirk Cousins and Co. keep pace
Fresh off the best two-game span of his Vikings career, Cousins busted out more of his new tricks against the division rival Lions in Detroit on Sunday. He led Minnesota to at least 38 points for the second consecutive game, throwing four touchdown pases and zero picks while tossing the ball around the field to the tune of 337 yards.
More than anything, Cousins’ ability to connect with Stefon Diggs loomed large in a 42-30 win. Diggs caught 7-of-8 targets for 142 yards. For his part, Cousins is completing 76% of his passes for nearly 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception over the past three games. He also now has Minnesota at 5-2 after the Vikings struggled to open the season.
Jaguars ride stout defense to much-needed win
If the Jaguars were to have any say in the AFC South this season, they had to dispose of the winless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. That’s exactly what we saw from Jacksonville in a 27-17 win over the Bengals.
That included a pick-six of Andy Dalton with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter. All said, Jacksonville’s defense forced four turnovers in a brilliant all-around performance. This defense also held the Bengals to -2 rushing yards in an all-time great first-half performance. Now 3-4 on the season, Jacksonville is not yet done.
Texans blow big opportunity
Fresh off an upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs last week, Bill O’Brien and the Texans had to be feeling good about themselves heading into Sunday’s AFC South outing against the Indianapolis Colts. But it did not go according to plan.
MVP candidate Deshaun Watson put up his worst performance of the season, throwing two key interceptions. Meanwhile, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett picked apart Houston’s defense to the tune of 326 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 win. The Texans had an opportunity to move two games ahead of Indy in the win column. Instead, Houston now finds itself in second place heading into Week 8.
Chargers find a new way to lose
Los Angeles entered Sunday’s action at 2-4 on the season and in must-win mode against another pedestrian team in the Tennessee Titans. After making the game close late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers found yet another way to lose.
Down just 23-20 after overcoming a double-digit deficit, it looked like the Chargers were on the brink of a game-winning touchdown. They had second-and-goal from inside the one with mere seconds left. That’s when former holdout running back Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball, leading to yet another horrible loss for the Chargers. More so than Gordon’s fumble, the decision by head coach Anthony Lynn to go with him instead of Austin Ekeler will stand out. Ekeler had put up 125 total yards compared to Gordon’s 32 before that final snap. Ouch!
49ers defense is just stupid good
The weather played a huge role for the NFC’s sole remaining undefeated team on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo and San Francisco’s offense managed just nine points and 282 total yards in Landover, Maryland against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. However, that’s not the story here. Instead, it’s all about what has now become an historically good defense.
San Francisco held Case Keenum to 50 net passing yards. It has now given up 98 net passing yards over the past two games. Heck, the 49ers have yielded 10 total points over their past three games. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are absolutely dominant up front. Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner might be the best linebacker tandem in the league. Meanwhile, the Richard Sherman-led secondary is freakishly good. Championship-caliber stuff.
Bills break out of early funk
Buffalo found itself as a resounding 15.5-point home favorite against the winless Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It was certainly a trap game for a Bills squad that was looking to go 5-1 for the first time since 2008. At least initially, it looked like Buffalo was going to be a victim of one of the biggest upsets of the NFL season.
Miami held a 14-9 lead heading into the second half. That’s when the defense stepped up. Tre’Davious White intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick at the goal line with Miami driving for a potential two-score lead. Buffalo would ultimately score a touchdown on the ensuing possession. It also scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter after White forced a fumble to put the game away. It’s this ball-hawking and dominant defense that has Buffalo as a legit contender heading into the midway point of the season.
Yet another win for Kyler Murray and the Cardinals
When Arizona started the season out 0-3-1, it looked like much of the same for the long-downtrodden organization. Murray was in over his head as a rookie starting quarterback. Kliff Kingsbury’s offense had yet to click. That’s now changed altogether. Arizona entered Sunday’s matchup against the New York Giants having won two consecutive games and then took care of business against the Giants in Jersey.
This game did not feature the eye-opening numbers we’ve seen from Murray recently. He completed just 14 passes for 104 yards. However, it was the performance by Chase Edmunds (126 rushing yards, three touchdowns) and Arizona’s defense that made the difference in a 27-21 win. Now at 3-3-1 on the season, Arizona finds itself as a budding playoff contender. Crazy stuff.
Wheels completely off in Atlanta
Whether it was Devonta Freeman’s frustration or an inability to even slow down what had been a struggling Rams offense, Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons were an absolute mess. When the clock struck zero in Atlanta, the Falcons were on the losing end of a 37-10 blowout loss.
The much-maligned Falcons defense allowed Jared Goff to throw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Falcons, it didn’t get too much better on the other side of the ball. Former MVP Matt Ryan exited in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and was seen in a walking boot. With the Falcons now at 1-6 on the season, questions will continue to come up regarding Quinn’s status. It’s really bad in Hotlanta right now.
Bears need a quarterback
We’re not sure if it’s possible for the Bears to add a starter-caliber signal caller ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline. What we do know is that Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer under center in the Windy City. The third-year quarterback entered Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints having thrown three touchdowns in four games. He was downright dreadful throughout the afternoon, leading to Bears fans booing the former top-three pick.
Trubisky tallied 251 yards on a ridiculous 54 passing attempts, putting up most of his numbers in garbage time when the Bears found themselves down 36-10. Now at 3-3 on the season, one has to wonder if the Bears will look to make a move. The likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Nick Mullens might be available.
Cowboys get off the schneid
Dallas entered Week 7 having lost each of its past three games. Head coach Jason Garrett was clearly on the hot seat . The time was now to come up with a win and salvage their season. That’s exactly what the Cowboys did at home against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles Sunday night.
The Cowboys’ defense forced four turnovers of Carson Wentz and Philadelphia’s offense. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott completed 21-of-27 passes for 239 yards in a near-flawless performance. The end result was a dominating 37-10 win over Philadelphia and sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Separation made in the NFC
By virtue of their win Sunday night, the Cowboys have come out on top in all three of their divisional games to date. They are now one game ahead of Philadelphia with the Giants and Redskins riding up the rear. The New Orleans Saints’ blowout road win over the Chicago Bears changes the dynamics for both teams. New Orleans is now a full game ahead of Carolina in the NFC South. Chicago? Well it falls three games behind Green Bay in the win column.
Out west, the San Francisco 49ers’ shutout win coupled with Seattle’s loss has Kyle Shanahan’s squad two games ahead of the Seahawks in the loss column. Despite their win over Atlanta, the defending NFC champion Rams are three games behind San Francisco in the loss column. Yeah, these NFC teams have created separation heading into the midway point of the season.
The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 29, and if recent seasons are any indication, there could be plenty of wheeling and dealing. These 25 players are top trade candidates as we get closer to the deadline.
1 of 25
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons
The Falcons defense has been a dumpster fire through six games, and head coach Dan Quinn’s job could be in jeopardy. After leaving Atlanta for New England last year, Clayborn has returned to the Falcons but the stats haven’t followed (one sack). As a pending free agent, Clayborn could be made available if there’s any market for him at age 31.
2 of 25
Vernon Davis, TE, Redskins
Davis is the de facto starting tight end in Washington with Jordan Reed suffering from a concussion, but Davis has had concussion issues of his own. He’s missed the last two games, though his play in recent years shows he can still help in his mid-30s. Washington has nothing to play for after a 1-5 start to the season. 3 of 25
Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
Diggs seemed unsatisfied in Minnesota earlier this season, getting fined for missing team activities. Things might have changed after a spectacular game vs. Philly, with 167 yards and three touchdowns, but the market for his services should be lively if the Vikings do opt to trade their star wideout.
4 of 25
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
Drake is seeing part-time snaps on the NFL’s worst team and has 60 touches through five games. Now in his fourth season, the versatile back is being wasted on the Dolphins and would likely fetch some draft capital for a team that’s tanking.
5 of 25
Bud Dupree, OLB, Steelers
Trading their first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick would indicate that the Steelers aren’t yet throwing in the towel after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, but they still have reason to consider moving Dupree. They should be able to find decent value for the pending free agent, as he already has three sacks in six games, and the Steelers would be trading from an area of strength. 6 of 25
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
Eifert has been extremely injury prone during his career and is no longer the red-zone threat that he was early on, but he’s still a gifted pass catcher. Now in his seventh season, Eifert is doing little for an 0-6 Bengals squad and would make a nice addition for a team like New England, which is craving tight end help.
7 of 25
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Green is nearing a return from his ankle injury, but the Bengals haven’t won without him. Now a pending free agent, he’s one of the faces of the franchise but has been a problem recently, missing significant time in three of the last four seasons. When healthy, Green remains an elite wideout, so the Bengals should be able to find nice value for him as they likely go into a rebuild.
8 of 25
Chris Harris, CB, Broncos
Harris didn’t seem enthused with the Broncos franchise in the offseason and has been the subject of trade speculation already. The four-time Pro Bowler remains a solid cover corner at age 30 and will be a free agent after this season. There are plenty of teams that could use his services down the stretch with the Broncos in poor position to make the playoffs.
9 of 25
Xavien Howard, CB, Dolphins
Howard had a league-leading seven interceptions in his 2018 Pro Bowl campaign, and he remains a capable cover corner. Miami has been willing to trade anything that’s not tacked down early this season, and Howard is certainly a candidate to be moved despite missing Week 6 with a knee injury.
10 of 25
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Giants
Jenkins signed a monstrous five-year deal with the Giants in 2016, and he hasn’t played as well as hoped. Still, the almost-31-year-old corner has proved to be a decent player at times and a willing tackler. He’s signed through 2020 but could be moved with teams hungry for secondary help and New York struggling for wins.
11 of 25
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Jets
Johnson signed a five-year deal with the Jets under a different front office and coaching regime. Injuries have been a storyline early in his contract, and the Jets are already effectively out of the playoff race this year. If anyone is willing to take on Johnson’s contract, the Jets should happily oblige.
12 of 25
Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins
The relationship between Jones and the Dolphins hasn’t been harmonious recently, but he remains on the roster. He missed time early this year with an ankle injury but remains one of the only quality players on a tanking squad. If Miami can find anyone to take on his salary, it’s probably time to move on.
13 of 25
Markus Golden, OLB, Giants
Golden is doing a great job reviving his value after some injuries late in his tenure with the Cardinals. Through six starts, Golden has five sacks and a scoop-and-score. Signed for a low price this year, he should be an attractive trade candidate unless the Giants opt to sign him long term.
14 of 25
Josh Norman, CB, Redskins
Norman has never lived up to the hype after Washington gave him an outlandish five-year, $75 million contract in 2016. To Norman’s credit, he has been relatively durable. He has one full year remaining on the deal after 2019 but could make a nice addition for a contending team with cap space.
15 of 25
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
A former first-round pick with a world of talent, Parker simply hasn’t put it all together in the NFL. He’s now in his fifth season with Miami, and the results have been predictably disappointing. Still, there are plenty of contending teams in need of receiver help, and a change of scenery certainly couldn’t hurt with Parker’s contract expiring after this year.
16 of 25
Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins
Like last season, Peterson has become Washington’s starting running back due to Derrius Guice’s injury. However, the 34-year-old is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and clearly has no future on a 1-5 Washington team. It’s unclear how he really helps the team significantly over a younger option, aside from being a veteran leader.
17 of 25
Brian Poole, CB, Jets
Poole came over from Atlanta in the offseason, now in the final season of his contract. He’s seen regular snaps at safety, but the Jets have all but fallen out of contention already.
The Redskins have officially fired head coach Jay Gruden. In the interim, offensive line/assistant head coach Bill Callahan will take over the operation, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
“Through the first five games of the 2019 season, the team has clearly not performed up to expectations, and we all share in that responsibility,” the team said, via press release. “Moving forward we are committed to doing all that we can collectively as an organization to turn things around and give our Redskins fans and alumni a team they can be proud of in 2019 and beyond.”
Last week, we heard another round of reports indicating a rift between Gruden and the organization, specifically as it pertains to first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. Reportedly, owner Dan Snyder & Co. drove the selection of the Ohio State quarterback – Gruden did not want him. This year, Gruden refused to start Haskins, citing his lack of NFL readiness.
Of course, Gruden’s recent off-the-field controversy didn’t help matters, either. Days ago, a video surfaced in which Gruden appears to be smoking marijuana with a young woman. The Redskins declined to comment on the viral video, but it has been speculated that the Redskins leaked these year-old videos, so they could fire Gruden “with cause”, helping to ease potential financial ramifications of a firing. It’s reminiscent of circumstances leading up to the firing of GM Scot McCloughan.
Gruden also addressed recent comments by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, where Smith stated that Gruden had quit on his team.
“I heard about that one. That one is far from the truth. Those are fighting words for me,” Gruden said. “That’s one thing I will never do or have done in my life. I work extremely hard, getting up early as hell and working late and doing the best I can to get ourselves a victory this week. I have a lot of respect for everyone in this locker room and the last thing I would do to these players is quit on them because I know they’re not going to quit on me.”
The Redskins are 0-5, but it’s fair to wonder whether this is truly the fault of Gruden. The Redskins were not necessarily built to win in 2019 and the club’s constant discord is clearly holding the franchise back.
Callahan, 63, is a highly-respected figure in the NFL. Sometime during or after the Redskins’ press conference at 1 p.m. ET, we’ll learn whether Callahan will garner consideration for the permanent post.
Callahan took over for Jon Gruden as the Raiders head coach in 2002 and held the post through 2003, before he was fired. After going 4-12 as Oakland’s head coach in ’03, he served as Nebraska’s HC for four years.
The Colts stunned the Chiefs in Kansas City. Green Bay built a big early lead on the road and held off the Cowboys. Wow, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (237 scrimmage yards) is good. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 5 whip-around.
1 of 16
INDIANAPOLIS 19, KANSAS CITY 13
COLTS: (3-2): Indianapolis’ defense turned in a heroic performance against PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs. The D-line played the biggest part. Indy was without Malik Hooker, Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers, but Justin Houston, Grover Stewart and the rest of Indy’s front-seven owned the line of scrimmage. The Colts harassed Mahomes and, in particular, suffocated Kansas City’s running game. It was an impressive and surprising effort; Indianapolis allowed three of its first four opponents to rush for at least 100 yards, and Oakland dominated them on the ground in Week 4. The Colts now get a much-needed bye week to get healthy, before they host Houston in a game that could shape the AFC South race. If the Colts win that one, they could easily be 7-2 by the time a mid-November divisional crucible begins. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Texans (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Chris Mueller
CHIEFS: (4-1): The first of many national showcases for this Chiefs team illuminated an uncomfortable reality. They may not be sufficiently improved defensively to capitalize on Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. When the reigning MVP is compromised or is missing enough key players, the Chiefs’ foundation becomes shaky. The Chiefs entered Sunday night’s game 31st in run defense, and the Colts turned the clock back to expose it. Kansas City used considerable capital on defensive augmentations this offseason but had no answer for Indianapolis’ rushing onslaught. The Chiefs, who did lose key defensive tackle Chris Jones, gave up 180 rushing yards – the third straight game in which they have allowed at least 180. Considering the Chiefs are also below average on pass defense and rush offense, they are again asking Mahomes to walk a tightrope. For a team carrying the NFL’s best contract, its defense still being one of the league’s worst is troubling.GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
2 of 16
GREEN BAY 34, DALLAS 24
PACKERS (4-1): It’s about time the coaching staff trusted AARON JONES enough to feed him touches. It took Jamaal Williams (concussion) going down, but hey, maybe everyone can now see he is far and away the best running back option. After the Packers took a big early lead, Jones got a little breather here and there in the second half, but still finished with 182 total yards against an excellent defense. He has natural running skills and is developing as a pass-catcher. This game also showcased Jones’ improvement as a route runner, and he’s getting better in pass protection. Without Devante Adams (turf toe), Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around, with nine Packers catching at least one pass. It’s telling that Jones not only led the Packers in rushing but also was Green Bay’s leading receiver (seven catches for 75 yards) by a significant margin. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Lions
— Matt Williamson
COWBOYS (3-2): With Dak Prescott’s contract looming, it’s impossible for his performance not to be the focus. Although he made this game interesting down the stretch, he finished with three interceptions, the 10th multi-interception game of his career, now early in his fourth season. Prescott threw for 463 yards, 226 to Amari Cooper. But much of that yardage came in the second half, when the Packers’ defense seemed to let up. Green Bay’s defense was especially impressive in blanking the Cowboys in the first half. Cooper, the former Raiders receiver, has been a wise investment for Dallas, but whether he’s enough to help turn Dak into a top-line starter remains to be seen. Two weeks in a row against considerable competition, Dallas was found lacking. Are the Cowboys willing to settle for “just OK”? GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Jets
— Mike Tunison
3 of 16
CAROLINA 34, JACKSONVILLE 27
JAGUARS (2-3): Jacksonville’s run defense had been trending in the right direction the past two weeks, holding the Titans and Broncos to a combined 159 yards in two wins. But the Jags’ run D was a no-show against Carolina. CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY gouged Jacksonville, especially on an 84-yard gallop that saw more than half the defense over-commit to a fake. Even McCaffrey’s backup, Reggie Bonnafon, hit for a 59-yard TD. Jacksonville’s aggressiveness was its problem on that play, too. Multiple members of the front-seven over-pursued because of an end-around fake; the Jaguars’ secondary had no chance to catch him because all the players took a bad angle. Gardner Minshew (374 yards passing) played well enough, but if the Jaguars are going to win the AFC South, they must get more from the defense. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
PANTHERS (3-2): Christian McCaffrey continues to add reasons why he’s an elite back and in the discussion for the best in the game. Sunday’s performance was historic in many ways. The third of his three touchdowns was an 84-yard run, the longest in franchise history. (According to NextGen Stats, he reached a max speed of 21.95 mph on the TD run, his fastest touch since 2018.) McCaffrey’s performance was one of only 18 since 2000 by a running back that resulted in at least 237 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. That means you’re talking about a roughly once-a-year type of outing, usually done by only the best of the best. The only downside was a sequence in the red zone in the fourth quarter when the Panthers tried to get him a passing touchdown (he had one in his career before Sunday) on third down and it didn’t work out. Then McCaffrey was stuffed on a fourth-down attempt. Carolina held on, but it slightly marred an otherwise excellent game. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Bucs (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
4 of 16
BALTIMORE 26, PITTSBURGH 23 (OT)
RAVENS (3-2): In an overtime game, the Ravens had the ball 13 minutes, 26 seconds longer and ran the ball 40 times. Despite being the much fresher unit, Baltimore’s defense was far from impressive. This is more than just an isolated incident for the once-exceptional unit, as it has been abused four weeks in a row. Pittsburgh’s offensive box score isn’t telling (269 yards), because the unit still seeks an identity. It lost MASON RUDOLPH (concussion) to a vicious hit by Earl Thomas, which put third-stringer Devlin Hodges at the offense’s controls. Yet the Steelers still averaged 5.3 yards per play, a yard and a half more than Baltimore. The run defense is a problem without question, but the area of most concern is Baltimore’s pass rush. This is a blitz-heavy scheme, but the Ravens’ secondary is uncharacteristically poor, and the lack of pure pass-rushers hurts. Terrell Suggs, where are you? GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: vs., Bengals (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
STEELERS (1-4): Going back to 2017, Pittsburgh has rushed the passer as well as or better than almost every defense. The Steelers had 52 sacks last season, 56 in 2017. It’s what Pittsburgh (19 sacks) does best this season, too. The Steelers’ rush (five sacks) on Lamar Jackson was superb. But what stood out in Week 5 was their pass-rushing plan. Not only did the Steelers push the pocket really well, but for the most part, they kept Jackson bottled up by staying in their rush lanes. We didn’t see a lot of games or stunting. Jackson (14 carries for 70 yards) got loose here and there. The execution of a pass-rush plan, an underrated important aspect of playing great defense, was impressive. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
5 of 16
NEW ENGLAND 33, WASHINGTON 7
PATRIOTS (5-0): Jamie Collins went from athletic Patriots linebacker to a freelancing player deemed unnecessary during the team’s Super Bowl LII run; the Pats traded him to the Browns in 2016. Cleveland soon gave the outside linebacker a position-record $12.5 million-per-year contract that he did not live up to. Now back in New England on an incentive-laden deal and counting only $3 million against the cap, he has become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Against Washington, Collins continued his resurgence by recovering a second-quarter fumble and forcing another on an impressive inside rush that resulted in a fourth-quarter sack of Colt McCoy. A player the Browns cut has been one of the NFL’s best this season, finishing Week 5 with 4.5 sacks (an NFL-high for off-ball ‘backers) and a career-high three interceptions. For a Patriots team coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s greatest defensive showing, Collins looks like a frightening luxury. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Giants (Thurs.)
— Sam Robinson
REDSKINS (0-5): In a game the Patriots were bound to win in a laugher, especially amid the swirling rumors of JAY GRUDEN’S impending dismissal, the Washington defense put on a better performance than anyone had a right to expect, even if the final score doesn’t indicate as much. Washington limited Tom Brady to completing three of his first seven attempts en route to taking an early lead, the Pats’ first deficit of the season. A fourth-down stop and a red-zone interception by Montae Nicholson, after the Washington offense had just turned the ball over on its own side of the field, kept the game competitive longer than perhaps it should have been. Think Washington fans are disenchanted? Asked by the Washington Post what he thought about the predominately New England crowd at FedEx Field, Brady said, “I thought it was pretty amazing. That felt like a home game.” Gruden, as expected, was canned early Monday morning. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
BUFFALO 14, TENNESSEE 7
BILLS (4-1): With Miami on tap after a Week 6 bye, Buffalo is firmly in contention. The Bills again received spotty offense but have become a matchup nightmare for opposing aerial attacks. After stifling Tom Brady in one of the worst games of his career, Buffalo smothered Marcus Mariota. The Bills’ front seven did not sack Brady but dropped Mariota five times, four by inside rushers. Defensive tackle JORDAN PHILLIPS had a three-sack first half. Buffalo recently lost promising D-tackle Harrison Phillips (torn ACL) for the season. On Sunday, defensive end Trent Murphy (head) and linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring) left with injuries in the second half. Yet Buffalo still held the Titans to 4-for-14 on third downs. The Bills are headed in the right direction in Sean McDermott’s third season. This is a better team than their fluky 2017 playoff squad. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Dolphins (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Sam Robinson
TITANS (2-3): It was reasonable to assume that a matchup of two of the league’s top-five scoring defenses would produce a low-scoring game. But the Titans must be kicking themselves because of their kicker. Cairo Santos missed all four of his field goals — 50- and 53-yarders, a 36-yarder, and a 33-yarder that was blocked — and those misses were the difference. Santos came into the game 41-for-44 from 30-39 yards and 8-for-15 from 50-plus yards for his career. Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he still has confidence in him. Santos’ difficulties obscured the fact that Marcus Mariota and the offense were sloppy, had touchdowns nullified by penalties and several drives stifled by sacks. The Titans were penalized eight times for 60 yards and allowed five sacks, despite left tackle Taylor Lewan’s return from a four-game PED suspension. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
7 of 16
DENVER 20, LA CHARGERS 13
BRONCOS (1-4): Denver could not curtail the Jaguars’ momentum in Week 4 but managed to stop the Chargers from stealing the win. Los Angeles, however, would have operated differently in the second half had cornerback Kareem Jackson, a former Texan, not provided Denver’s defensive play of the year. Jackson derailed the Bolts’ fourth-and-goal play by forcing an Austin Ekeler fumble near the pylon in the second quarter. This ensured the Broncos carried a 17-0 lead into halftime. Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 cornerback entering Sunday, Jackson made a Broncos-high 10 tackles and helped a Bradley Chubb-less defense hold PHILIP RIVERS to 4.4 yards per attempt. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
CHARGERS (2-3): Despite having Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon back in the lineup, the Bolts could not produce enough against a Broncos team down Bradley Chubb, starting linebacker Josey Jewell and would-be starting cornerback Bryce Callahan. Los Angeles totaled 246 yards – 120 fewer than any output of their previous 2019 outings – and were outrushed 191-35. A week after the Jaguars erased a 14-point Broncos lead largely with Leonard Fournette’s 225-yard day, the Chargers were not patient enough with the run. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions. Keenan Allen, the NFL’s receiving leader after Week 4, caught four passes for 18 yards. This profiled as a non-threatening spot for the injury-plagued team, but the Chargers are plagued by inconsistency. LA, which played at home before a big Denver contingent, is in trouble amid a crowded AFC middle tier. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
8 of 16
ARIZONA 26, CINCINNATI 23
CARDINALS: (1-3-1): KYLER MURRAY and Kliff Kingsbury each got their first win in the NFL, and it isn’t hard to pinpoint why. Arizona’s offensive line kept Murray upright almost the entire game. The Cardinals allowed only one sack despite coming in having surrendered 20, most in the league through four games. Murray did his part, too, managing to get rid of the football under pressure. The lack of negative plays was a major factor in helping the Cardinals establish rhythm and consistency. He was also more decisive as a playmaker, and he led a 266-yard team rushing effort with 93 on his own. Arizona piled up 514 yards, and while Cincinnati is one of the league’s worst defenses, it was still a big step forward for Murray and Kingsbury. Notable: Arizona prevented a score by a tight end for the first time this season. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
BENGALS (0-5): It’s clear the Cardinals are the better of these two poor teams. Here’s the deal with Cincinnati: Its offense has only two players! Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd; that’s it. Andy Dalton is a professional quarterback, and tight end Tyler Eifert can occasionally make plays, but this team has a putrid offensive line, and every defense the Bengals face (at least until injured A.J.Green returns) is going to make life extremely difficult on Mixon and Boyd. These two touched the ball 30 times, accounting for 232 of Cincinnati’s 370 yards. The offense is far too dependent on them. Hey, I thought head coach Zac Taylor’s forte was offense. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
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HOUSTON 53, ATLANTA 32
FALCONS (1-4): Atlanta’s secondary will be having nightmares about Will Fuller for weeks to come. Part of the Texans receiver’s monster day had to do with several miscommunications in coverage by the Falcons, including both of his first-half touchdowns. Fuller didn’t just reap the benefit of broken plays, he also just straight-up smoked an overmatched Atlanta secondary when defenders had the right idea about where they needed to be. Fuller had 14 catches on 16 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a day that looks almost effortlessly easy; Atlanta’s listless coverage helped make it that way. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
TEXANS (3-2): If this is what life is like for DESHAUN WATSON with a clean pocket, his offensive line should be the most motivated group on the planet. After an opening three and out, the Texans piled up six touchdowns and two field goals, with only the end of the first half stopping another drive. Watson finished with five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating, consistently shredding the Falcons’ defense with deep shots downfield. This came one week after the Texans didn’t complete a pass longer than 14 yards in a loss to Carolina. Watson’s performance and the line’s protection were by far the most encouraging aspects of the game for Houston, but Will Fuller’s career day was close behind. If he can function as a truly dangerous second option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Houston will be the team to beat in the AFC South. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
10 of 16
NEW ORLEANS 31, TAMPA BAY 24
BUCS (2-3): Coming off a 55-point outing in a win over the Rams, the Buccaneers must have figured they wouldn’t need quite that many offensive fireworks to top a Brees-less Saints team, although obviously one would like to keep the offense humming regardless. It can be hard to be effective to that degree when your top receiver, Mike Evans, finishes the game with no catches on three targets. Perhaps that’s a credit to Marshon Lattimore, but wideouts considered among the game’s best don’t usually pull disappearing acts such as that. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
SAINTS (4-1): The idea during Drew Brees’ absence is that the Saints were hoping for just good enough quarterback play to tread water and eke out a few wins. That has been the case for the most part. New Orleans got good QB play and then some against the Buccaneers, as Teddy Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns. One of the knocks against Bridgewater is that he tends to play the short game and not get a lot of air under the ball. Against the Bucs, he had an impressive strike for 33 yards to Ted Ginn for a score and another to Josh Hill on a 26-yard play. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
11 of 16
MINNESOTA 28, NY GIANTS 10
VIKINGS (3-2): The Vikings have one of the league’s best running games, making play-action rollouts a highly effective tactic by KIRK COUSINS. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for 184 rushing yards on 28 attempts against New York. Cousins isn’t a great athlete, but he does move well and certainly can throw effectively on the run. Designed quarterback movement off play action played to Cousins’ strengths and put the Giants’ suspect linebackers in compromised positions. This game plan had assistant coach Gary Kubiak written all over it — keep an eye on this the rest of the season. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
GIANTS (2-3): There are plenty of takes to be had about Daniel Jones coming back to earth following his excellent first outing two weeks ago in Tampa. Sunday’s loss makes it clear there are plenty of issues with the roster even if the Giants get a serviceable performance from their starting quarterback. Before Week 5, Kirk Cousins hadn’t thrown for more than 233 yards in a game. He had that before the end of the first half against the Giants. New York’s secondary was ripe for the picking all game, and it shows in the nearly flawless performances that Cousins (306 yards passing) and Adam Thielen (seven catches and 130 yards) put up in a one-sided game. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Patriots (Thur.)
— Mike Tunison
12 of 16
OAKLAND 24, CHICAGO 21 (LONDON)
BEARS (3-2): Allen Robinson, who had seven catches on eight targets for 97 yards and two touchdowns, is easily Chicago’s best offensive player. That showed in a big way in Week 5. For the better part of this game, the Bears surprisingly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. Chicago was also hampered by penalties, poor blocking, a lackluster running game and less-than-stellar defense. But Robinson was spectacular. Rarely is he mentioned as an upper-echelon wide receiver, but he excels at all levels of the field, is good after the catch and often dominant at the catch point. He has bailed out Chicago QBs all season. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Saints (Sun, Oct. 20)
— Matt Williamson
RAIDERS (3-2): With the Raiders producing one winning season since 2003, the bulk of their drives in this era have not been particularly consequential. A drive in London may go down as a season-changing march. Jon Gruden pulling the trigger on a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from his own 27-yard line ignited a Raiders team on the verge of blowing a 17-point lead. The direct snap to safety Erik Harris doubled as a turning point, with the Raiders then piecing together a 13-play, 97-yard, go-ahead drive against the Bears’ top-tier defense. DEREK CARR, No. 22 in QBR through four games, led the drive without hitting Tyrell Williams or Darren Waller. Oakland rookie tight end Foster Moreau contributed 41 yards on the possession, including a diving grab to set up Josh Jacobs’ game-winner. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: Week 6 bye, at Packers (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Sam Robinson
13 of 16
PHILADELPHIA 31, NY JETS 6
JETS (0-4): Their offensive line struggles in recent years having bled into 2019, the Jets made changes before Week 5. Despite the two new starters – left guard Alex Lewis and right tackle Chuma Edoga – the Jets gave up 10 sacks to the Eagles. For a team that has seen two quarterbacks go down, this made a third consecutive Jets game nearly unwatchable. One of those sacks resulted in a touchdown, with Eagles in-season cornerback acquisition Orlando Scandrick ripping the ball from Luke Falk and sprinting for a touchdown. The Jets last allowed 10-plus sacks in a 2012 game against the Chargers, when another backup quarterback – Greg McElroy – was concussed. Falk made it through this game but again finished with a dreadful stat line – 15-for-26, 120 yards, two interceptions. The Jets cannot be properly evaluated until Sam Darnold returns, but their stretch without him exposed plenty of flaws that stand to hinder the starter’s development when he comes back. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
EAGLES (3-2): Philly was more or less on autopilot in what was always an expected win. The offense (446 yards) plowed through New York with a run-heavy opening drive to take a touchdown lead. From there, the Eagles’ defense forced the turnovers, including a 52-yard pick-six by linebacker NATE GERRY on the ensuing Jets possession, that have been missing in their early season struggles. Still, a big part of being a playoff team is taking care of business when you have the opportunity, so that’s an encouraging sign for an Eagles team that has been erratic and faces a difficult six-week stretch ahead (at Vikings, at Cowboys, at Bills, vs. Bears, vs. Patriots, vs. Seahawks). GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
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MONDAY: CLEVELAND AT SAN FRANCISCO
BROWNS (2-2): Cleveland got a huge win in Week 4 at Baltimore, but the Ravens no longer have a strong pass-rushing defense. The Browns’ troubled offensive line is going to face a far stiffer challenge on the road against the Niners, who are coming off a bye. It isn’t getting the national credit, but San Francisco’s defensive front is among the best in football. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa has just one sack, but he is stout. Keeping BAKER MAYFIELD clean should prove to be the most challenging aspect of this game for the Browns. The second-year QB is much more effective when he gets rid of the ball quickly. | NEXT: vs. Seattle (Sun., Oct. 13)
— Matt Williamson
49ERS (3-0): San Francisco comes off an early bye week with a chance to start asserting itself as the team to beat in the NFC West. There will be no worries about looking past the Browns, even with a road showdown with the Rams looming in Week 6. The Niners’ defensive front has been a major strength so far this season, with the team ranking fifth in the league against the run and fourth in yards per carry allowed. It will face their toughest test of the season in the form of Nick Chubb and the Browns, who found their stride against Baltimore in Week 4. Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa have been productive in terms of generating tackles for loss, and have consistently forced opponents to play from behind the sticks. NEXT: at Los Angeles Rams (Sun., Oct. 13)
DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average): A method of evaluating teams, units or players in a comparative fashion. It takes every play during the NFL season and compares each to a league-average baseline based on situation.
EPA (Estimated Points Added): The measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. It represents the difference between a team’s “expected points value” (the net point value a team can expect given a particular combination of down, distance and field position) before and after a play.
Net Yards Per Pass Attempt: Passing yards per attempt adjusted for sack yardage.
L.A. Rams (3-1) at Seattle (3-1), 8:20 p.m. ET
Inside Rams numbers: Wade Phillips’ secondary started the season red-hot, allowing the league’s third-lowest passer rating through three weeks (66.2). All that success went out the window in Week 4, as Jameis Winston shredded the Rams for 385 yards and four touchdowns, dropping Los Angeles to seventh in opponent passer rating (81). A return to form will be essential against Russell Wilson, who ranks second in passer rating (118.7), behind only Patrick Mahomes.
Inside Rams roster: Todd Gurley’s situation shows the importance of running backs signing extensions when first eligible (after Year 3). He has not looked like the near-MVP-level version of 2017 and most of ‘18, making his $45 million in guarantees more important. The 24-year-old back is on pace for fewer rushing yards than his disappointing 2016 season (885 yards) and, with 62 receiving yards, is well off his recent aerial pace as well. This murky knee injury will come up in future front office debates regarding running back payments; the Rams are tethered to Gurley through at least 2021.
Inside Seahawks numbers: Seattle’s pass rush picked up only one sack in Weeks 2-3, but it came back to life in Week 4 with four sacks against Arizona’s Kyler Murray. As Seattle aims to slow a Rams offense ranked sixth in scoring (29.3 ppg), the generation of that level of pressure is key. Jared Goff has stayed clean, taking a career-low sack rate of just 4.4 percent — the ninth-best mark in the league.
Inside Seahawks roster: The insider trading charge Mychal Kendricks pleaded guilty to in 2018 has not led to a punishment yet, with the sentencing date pushed back multiple times. Not only is Kendricks a Seahawks starter, the team is using him as a near-full-time player. The Seahawks have played Kendricks 199 snaps -– not far behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright’s workloads -– and have deviated from the NFL norm by keeping their base set on the field in some nickel situations. The ex-Eagle has four tackles for loss and rates as a top-30 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.
Jacksonville (2-2) at Carolina (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Jaguars numbers: The legend of Gardner Minshew continues to grow. The Washington State product is the first rookie quarterback since 1988 to post a passer rating of 95.0 or better in each of his first three starts. His next test will be perhaps his greatest yet; the Panthers are fifth in pass defense EPA and allow the fewest passing yards per game (156.8).
Inside Jaguars roster: Minshew mania moved D.J. Chark to the top of Jacksonville’s aerial pecking order, but the team’s highest-paid wideout, Marqise Lee, has hovered well off the grid. He signed an $8.5 million-per-year deal in March 2018. After Lee missed last season with a knee injury, the Jags’ 2016 receiving leader has not cleared the 30 percent snap threshold in his three 2019 games. Lee has caught one pass since signing this contract, which counts $8.75M on Jacksonville’s 2019 cap sheet. This deal is on the sunk-cost precipice.
Inside Panthers numbers: Carolina’s defense is outstanding, allowing the second-fewest yards per play (4.3) and fourth-fewest yards per game (287.5). It ranks ninth in fewest points allowed per drive (1.63) and 10th in total defensive EPA. A dominant pass rush is the driving force: The Panthers lead the NFL with a sack rate of 11.3 percent (with 18 sacks total). The Carolina front seven could tee off on Jacksonville, which allowed five sacks to a Denver defense that had none over the first three weeks.
Inside Panthers roster: Carolina’s improved defense will not feature perhaps its second-best player; Kawann Short is out for the season. The mammoth defensive tackle has only missed four games since arriving as a 2013 fifth-round pick -– two in 2018 and the Panthers’ most recent two -– and this stands to lower Carolina’s defensive ceiling. However, the Panthers are oddly well-stocked to pick up the pieces, having signed Dontari Poe in 2018 and Gerald McCoy this year. Additionally, 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler –- a seldom-used talent –- may have a chance to shed the “bust” label in a contract year.
New England (4-0) at Washington (0-4), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Patriots numbers: New England’s opponents have thrown no touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Patriots are the first team since the 1961 Packers to allow no touchdowns and pick off at least 10 passes over their first four games of the season. The Redskins have nine turnovers and 18 points in the past two games.
Inside Patriots roster: On the heels of one of the worst games of Tom Brady’s career, the legendary passer will have a deeper complement of weapons Sunday. Benjamin Watson returns from a four-game suspension and is set to become the first pure tight end in NFL history to play in an age-39 season. The Patriots have four receptions from tight ends this season. The 16th-year veteran was a decent auxiliary weapon for Drew Brees last season, catching 46 passes for 400 yards.
Inside Redskins numbers: Jay Gruden forced Dwayne Haskins into his first NFL action as the team was getting blown out by the Giants, and predictably, the rookie struggled, tossing three picks on just 17 pass attempts. The Redskins must think twice before starting Haskins against the Patriots, whose defense ranks second in the league in quarterback hits (32) and has allowed the league’s lowest passer rating (41.0). A rookie quarterback has not defeated the Patriots since Geno Smith in October 2013.
Inside Redskins roster: Trent Williams is now the league’s lone holdout. With Washington almost certainly set for its first 0-5 record in 18 years, it would make sense to unload its disgruntled left tackle for draft compensation. Missing out on nearly $3 million in salary this season, the seven-time Pro Bowler has shown no signs of backing down. It would make sense if the Redskins made a deal soon, with Williams losing value the longer he sits out (thus limiting the number of games he can play with another team). Nearly $20M in non-guaranteed money remains on his through-2020 deal.
Tampa Bay (2-2) at New Orleans (3-1), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Buccaneers numbers: Jameis Winston is having a career renaissance under Bruce Arians, with career-highs in touchdown percentage (6.5 percent), yards per attempt (8.4), yards per game (291.8), and passer rating (95.8). A trip to the Superdome may not be as daunting as it seemed before the season. Winston, who entered 2019 with 12 consecutive road losses, is 2-0 away from Tampa under Arians, throwing five touchdowns and just one interception in those games.
Inside Buccaneers roster: Chris Godwin’s breakout has been as advertised so far; the Bucs’ No. 2 wideout’s yardage total (386) is third best in the league. Bruce Arians’ offense did not have this kind of weapon in Arizona; Michael Floyd and John Brown were not quite on this level. This not only raises the floor for Tampa Bay’s offense, it sets Godwin up for a payday. The third-year receiver becomes extension-eligible in January, and his 1,500-plus-yard pace would put the former third-round pick in line for WR1 money. With Mike Evans the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid wideout, this is an interesting situation/good problem for the Bucs.
Inside Saints numbers: New Orleans needs more downfield playmaking from Teddy Bridgewater. His average completed pass has traveled only 3.7 yards, 33rd out of 34 qualifiers (ahead of only Mason Rudolph). This may not be the week it happens, as Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett could prevent Bridgewater from getting enough time to push the ball downfield. His nine sacks ties the league record for the most through four games.
Inside Saints roster: Only two players remain from the Saints’ 2016 starting defense, defensive end Cam Jordan and safety Vonn Bell. That unit was the last of New Orleans’ three awful defenses, which ranked either 32nd or 31st from 2014-16. The Saints’ win over the Cowboys showed how far this reconstruction effort has come, with this defensive cast thus far stabilizing the Saints while Drew Brees rehabs. This bevy of rookie contracts (Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Marcus Davenport), trades (Eli Apple, Kiko Alonso) and free- agency adds (Demario Davis) assembled since 2017 represents one of the better defensive overhauls in modern NFL history.
Minnesota (2-2) at N.Y. Giants (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Vikings numbers: Kirk Cousins continues to struggle against quality competition since his arrival in Minnesota. His loss to the Bears dropped him to 1-8 against teams with a winning record as a member of the Vikings. A less intimidating Giants team could be less of a problem, as Cousins tends to get the job done against lesser teams. With Minnesota, Cousins owns a 9-1-1 record against teams without a winning record, posting an average passer rating of 108.1 in those games.
Inside Vikings roster: Scrutiny has rightfully been applied to Minnesota’s passing game, the focus being on Cousins and his highly paid receivers. But the Vikings’ decision to add a Kyle Rudolph extension to their ultra-expensive roster, after drafting Irv Smith Jr. in Round 2, looks even more puzzling now. Through five games, the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid tight end ($9 million per year) has five receptions for 32 yards. Rudolph is on pace to post 506 fewer yards than he had last season.
Inside Giants numbers: The Giants had one of their best defensive performances in ages in Week 4. They held the Redskins to 176 yards and forced four turnovers, the first time since 2008 New York has held an opponent to under 200 yards and taken the ball away four times or more. The unit’s opponent in Week 5, Cousins, is 1-5 in his past six road starts.
Inside Giants roster: New York’s passing game has frequently featured suboptimal balance. Tight end stability proved elusive between Jeremy Shockey and Evan Engram and wide receiver unavailability has persisted over the past two-plus years. Golden Tate is set to debut in Week 5 after his four-game PED suspension, giving Daniel Jones a better-rounded aerial cast. For the 31-year-old Tate, these will be a pivotal 12 games. Although he signed for four years and $37.5M, the PED ban voided his 2020 guarantee ($7.97M).
Chicago (3-1) vs. Oakland (2-2) in LONDON, 1 p.m. ET
Inside Bears numbers: Chicago’s defense is back on the mountaintop in the NFC, leading the conference in fewest points allowed per drive (1.09). Khalil Mack continues to be the driving force, as he is tied with Danielle Hunter for the NFL lead in total pressures (27). Oakland’s tackle duo will provide a strong challenge for Mack. Left tackle Trent Brown and right tackle Kolton Miller have combined to allow only 13 pressures this season, an average of 3.3 per game between the pair.
Inside Bears roster: Shrugging off four-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s exit, the No. 2-ranked Chicago defense has Pro Bowl-caliber talent on all three levels. It is worth wondering if lower-ceiling, game manager-type backup Chase Daniel, who is in line to start in England, complements this menacing unit better than the more erratic Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have seen a volatile starter hold a stacked defense back, as Rex Grossman once did, and their latest look with Daniel may be more important to the big picture.
Inside Raiders numbers: Rookie Josh Jacobs ranks 10th in the league in rush attempts (62) and ninth in rushing yards (307). He’s done it efficiently, averaging five yards per attempt. Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook are the only other backs averaging 5.0-plus yards per attempt on at least 60 carries. Chicago’s ground defense will be a major test for Jacobs, as the Bears are ranked second in fewest yards allowed per rush attempt (3.0) and third in rush defense EPA.
Inside Raiders roster: Oakland gave two veteran linebackers mid-level deals this offseason, but Brandon Marshall failed to make the team and Vontaze Burfict may have exhausted his final opportunity. Burfict’s rest-of-season suspension comes after the Raiders placed backup middle linebacker Marquel Lee on IR. The rest of Oakland’s contingent consists of outside linebackers, though starting outside ‘backer Tahir Whitehead has played in the middle before. More importantly, Burfict’s loss leaves the Raiders with a host of lower-level players –- one of whom set to join Whitehead in sub-packages.
N.Y. Jets (0-3) at Philadelphia (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Jets numbers: Adam Gase’s injury-plagued offense is historically inept. For the first time in franchise history, the Jets have only one offensive touchdown through the first three games of the season. Their average of 3.67 net yards per pass attempt is the worst mark through three games since the 2006 Raiders (who finished 2-14). Things do not get easier in Week 5, as the Jets hit the road to take on the only franchise they have never beaten (0-10 all time vs. Philadelphia).
Inside Jets roster: With Joe Douglas addition Ryan Kalil struggling, and Mike Maccagnan trade acquisition Kelechi Osemele battling a knee issue that limited him last season, a full-scale Jets offensive line overhaul may be months away. Returning starters Kelvin Beachum, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell are again scuffling, after being part of one of the league’s worst lines in 2018. Three starters (Kalil, Beachum and Shell) are due for free agency, and Winters’ contract would cost the Jets $0 to shed.
Inside Eagles numbers: In its two wins, Philadelphia has zero turnovers. In its two losses, it has five combined. The Jets are good at forcing turnovers. They have three non-offensive touchdowns and a safety, and have forced a turnover on 15.8 percent of defensive drives.
Inside Eagles roster: One team reportedly offered the Jaguars two first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey, and it wouldn’t be out of character for Eagles GM Howie Roseman to swing big. If the Jaguars prefer to keep that contentious relationship alive, would the Eagles consider calling the 0-4 Broncos about contract-year standout Chris Harris? Either way, this is a problem the Eagles may need to address. Philadelphia ranks last in pass defense (323.8 yards allowed per game), winding up there after Roseman made big investments to strengthen stronger positions in the offseason.
Denver (0-4) at L.A. Chargers (2-2), 4:05 p.m. ET
Inside Broncos numbers: Denver’s run defense is atrocious, allowing the third-most yards per attempt (5.1) and yards per game (149.3). The loss of Bradley Chubb for the season will not help, as he was leading the team with 15 tackles short of the sticks in the run game. Melvin Gordon may return to his bell-cow role for Los Angeles, but the Broncos have held him to 3.7 yards per carry over six matchups.
Inside Broncos roster: Von Miller already sees a steady volume of double-teams and chip blocks; Chubb’s ACL tear will make the All-Pro a marked man. The Broncos let longtime rotational rushers Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray sign elsewhere, though Ray is again a free agent, and have no notable veteran replacements. Undrafted rookie Malik Reed is the next man up for a Broncos team that entered Week 4 without a sack. Denver did add journeyman Jerry Attaochu this week but is in danger of its pass rush becoming more one-dimensional than it has at any point in Miller’s tenure.
Inside Chargers numbers: Philip Rivers continues to engineer a top-notch passing attack, as the Chargers rank fourth in net yards per pass attempt (7.6) and sixth in pass offense EPA. While this is not the Broncos defense of old, Rivers has not played his best football against Denver. His 88.8 passer rating against the Broncos is his sixth-worst mark against a franchise.
Inside Chargers roster: If the Bolts’ all-fronts injury issues were not noticeable enough, their punter is now less than 100 percent. Ty Long, a CFL import asked to kick and punt in his initial NFL season because of kicker Michael Badgley’s injury, hurt his foot on a kickoff. The Chargers signed rookie Chase McLaughlin this week, sending Long to the punter-only role for which he was signed. McLaughlin will be the Bolts’ eighth kicker since the start of the 2017 season.
Green Bay (3-1) at Dallas (3-1), 4:25 p.m. ET
Inside Packers numbers: In Week 4,Green Bay scored only three touchdowns on seven red zone trips in the loss to the Eagles. It was a reversion to the mean for Matt LaFleur’s offense, which had scored touchdowns on six of its first seven red zone trips. The Packers must get back on track against Dallas, which has allowed the league’s third-lowest red-zone touchdown rate (35.7 percent).
Inside Packers roster: Set for one of their toughest-looking assignments this season, the Packers may be forced to find out more about Davante Adams’ young assortment of sidekicks. Adams’ turf toe places him in jeopardy of missing this Cowboys matchup, leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison set to lead what would be the least experienced group of receivers with which Aaron Rodgers has been equipped as a Packer. Neither of Valdes-Scantling’s 2018 draft classmates, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore, are on the active roster.
Inside Cowboys numbers: In Week 4, the Saints stifled Ezekiel Elliott, as he ran for just 35 yards (third-lowest total of career) and 1.9 yards per attempt (second lowest). Elliott has been successful against Green Bay, averaging 136.5 rushing yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry in his last two games against the Packers. Green Bay ranks 30th in rush defense EPA and has allowed the fourth-most yards per rush attempt (5.0).
Inside Cowboys roster: One of several veteran defensive ends who left Miami this offseason, Robert Quinn has made an immediate impression on his third NFL team. The trade acquisition who missed the Cowboys’ first two games due to suspension has a team-high three sacks, two against upper-echelon tackle Terron Armstead. Quinn did not live up to the Rams extension he signed in 2014, a contract that’s since been traded twice, but the ninth-year veteran is only 29. DeMarcus Lawrence should soon benefit from a talented veteran opposite him.
Indianapolis (2-2) at Kansas City (4-0), 8:20 p.m. ET
Inside Colts numbers: The Colts’ defense is disappointing, ranking 29th in points allowed per drive (2.53). Its pass rush has collected only 18 quarterback hits, tied for 23rd in the league. More was expected from Justin Houston, who has just one sack and three hits heading into a matchup against his former team. A Chiefs offense allowing a league-low sack rate of 1.9 percent makes this a daunting matchup for Indianapolis.
Inside Colts roster: After the franchise’s worst performance since the early part of 2018, Indianapolis’ defense ranks last in run-stoppage DVOA. The Colts finished last season fourth in this metric. Last season, Indianapolis enjoyed strong play from bargain-buy defensive linemen Denico Autry and Margus Hunt. A former first-round pick, Hunt has disappointed so far, grading as PFF’s No. 102 interior defender. Three of the Colts’ seven second-round picks over the past two years have gone to the D-line as well, but this is an issue the team must address this week and during its Week 6 bye.
Inside Chiefs numbers: The Chiefs continue to get clutch rushing production no matter who is taking the handoff. Since Damien Williams went down, LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams have combined for five touchdowns, including all three scored by the offense in Week 4. The duo could tee off on a Colts defense allowing the second-most yards per rush attempt (5.5).
Inside Chiefs roster: Cris Collinsworth may take issue with some of Sunday night’s run defense. The Chiefs’ issues are more troublesome than the Colts’, having gone from 32nd in 2017 run-defense DVOA to 32nd in 2018 to 31st this season. Kansas City made a surprising defensive coordinator hire in Steve Spagnuolo, who has seen four of his past five defenses rank 31st or 32nd in yards allowed. Considering where the Patriots are defensively, the Chiefs’ Bob Sutton-to-Spagnuolo switch producing these results so far is rather alarming.
Cleveland (2-2) at San Francisco (3-0), 8:15 p.m. ET
Inside Browns numbers: In Week 4 against Baltimore, Odell Beckham had a career-low 20 yards receiving, but the Browns’ offense finally broke out with 40 points. To repeat their success, the Browns will likely need more from their superstar against the 49ers’ lockdown secondary, which has allowed the league’s third-lowest passer rating (72.7).
Inside Browns roster: After a rough start, Baker Mayfield will have a better chance to continue his rejuvenation. The Browns will have suspended wideout Antonio Callaway back, and their other second-stringer, Rashard Higgins, has a chance to play as well after missing three games with an ankle ailment. Both players cleared 500 yards on last season’s Jarvis Landry-led receiving corps.
Inside 49ers numbers: Jimmy Garoppolo is 11-2 as a starter, joining Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott as the only quarterbacks over the past decade to win 11 of their first 13 career starts. Garoppolo’s offense is off to a hot start, ranking ninth in points per drive (2.25). After facing two struggling defenses (Bengals and Steelers), Garoppolo should get a good test from the Browns’ pass defense. Cleveland ranks eighth in fewest passing yards allowed per game (215.3) and pass defense EPA.
Inside 49ers roster: Ahkello Witherspoon’s bounce-back play has been essential for San Francisco’s rebounding secondary. Richard Sherman’s running mate was given PFF’s worst cornerback grade in 2018 but stands in the top 15 through three games. Unfortunately, a foot injury will keep Witherspoon out Monday night and potentially blunt the third-year defender’s momentum. Second-year undrafted free agent Emmanuel Moseley, the likely starter opposite Sherman, will be in line to defend Beckham at times.
“Overrated” Baker Mayfield passed for 342 yards in Cleveland’s win. Tom Brady struggled in Buffalo, but the Patriots’ defense rose to the occasion (again). And the Bucs — yes, the Bucs! — beat the Rams in LA in a wild one. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 4 whip-around.
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NEW ORLEANS 12, DALLAS 10
“Overrated” Baker Mayfield passed for 342 yards in Cleveland’s win. Tom Brady struggled in Buffalo, but the Patriots’ defense rose to the occasion (again). And the Bucs — yes, the Bucs! — beat the Rams in LA in a wild one. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 4 whip-around.
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NEW ORLEANS 12, DALLAS 10
BUCS (2-2): Tampa Bay had to pour on the points to have any chance against the high-octane Rams. Jameis Winston rose to the challenge, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly, Winston limited turnovers. He threw a pick, one of only two turnovers he has had in the past three games. (He had three interceptions in Week 1.) It indicates that Bruce Arians just might work the magic with him that he did with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Facing a third and goal with three and a half minutes left that might have iced the game, Winston checked down and settled for the field goal. Los Angeles had a chance to tie, but then Ndamukong Suh got revenge against his former team with a 37-yard fumble return to ice the win.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT GAME: at Saints (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
RAMS (3-1): It would be easy to point to the Rams’ defense as the primary culprit in their loss, and it certainly bore a major share of the blame, giving up 48 of the Buccaneers’ 55 points. The real problem was that Los Angeles had no balance offensively. The Rams entered the game with the league’s seventh-best rushing attack, but they achieved those numbers against the 24th-strongest schedule of run defenses. Todd Gurley couldn’t get going against Tampa’s second-ranked rush defense, and the Rams finished with 28 yards on 11 carries. Part of that was a byproduct of Tampa jumping out to a 21-0 lead, but the end result — Jared Goff dropping back to pass 70 times and attempting 68 passes — was likely eye-opening for Sean McVay. This was an ugly loss for Los Angeles, one that might cost the Rams in the race for NFC playoff positioning. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT GAME: at Seahawks (Thur.)
— Chris Mueller
3 of 16
CLEVELAND 40, BALTIMORE 25
BROWNS (2-2): What do you think of Baker Mayfield now, Rex Ryan? Called overrated earlier in the week by the former NFL coach, Mayfield (342 yards passing) looked far more comfortable than he had in the season’s first three weeks. And that’s mostly without Odell Beckham (two catches, 20 yards), who was taken out of the game by Marlon Humphrey. Jarvis Landry, who apparently didn’t really concern Baltimore’s defense, stood out (eight catches, 167 yards) in this huge road win for Cleveland. What impressed me most was the Browns’ continual feeding of Nick Chubb (20 rushes, 165 yards, three touchdowns). Sheesh, he looked fast on his 88-yard touchdown run, the NFL’s longest rushing score this season. In a game the Browns absolutely had to get, this was a dominating offensive performance. And guess what? The Browns are in first in the AFC North. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT GAME: at 49ers (Mon., Oct. 7)
— Matt Williamson
RAVENS (2-2): With weaklings Miami and Arizona in the rear-view mirror, Baltimore has little room for error against a quality opponent. Kansas City waxed the Ravens’ defense in Week 3 with 503 total yards. The Browns did the waxing in Baltimore in Week 4, piling up 530 yards. According to my math, that’s 1,033 yards. Yikes, what’s happened to the vaunted Ravens defense? Even with Lamar Jackson’s emergence, Baltimore has little margin for error. Going into this game, the Ravens had zero turnovers. Against the Browns, they turned it over three times (two Jackson picks and a Mark Ingram fumble). GAME GRADE: C | NEXT GAME: at Steelers (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
4 of 16
NEW ENGLAND 16, BUFFALO 10
PATRIOTS (4-0): Fans of other AFC contenders likely expressed frustration after the Patriots eked out a victory in the toughest assignment on their annually soft AFC East docket. Cheer up: The defending Super Bowl champions looked a few cuts below their recent form. Their running game missed reliable fullback James Develin, who is on IR. Sony Michel entered Week 4 averaging 2.4 yards per carry and was a non-factor in the second half, when the Patriots needed his one-dimensional skill set to keep the Bills’ offense off the field. Michel finished with 63 yards on 17 carries but has looked good off his 2018 form. After posting 336 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the playoffs, the 2018 first-round investment is struggling. The Patriots, who are without offensive line starters Isaiah Wynn and David Andrews, may soon begin to reduce the run downs-only back’s role. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT GAME: at Redskins (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
BILLS (3-1): As could be expected with a young quarterback facing a thriving Patriots defense, the Bills’ offense struggled. But Week 4 showed Buffalo’s defense can be an anchor as Josh Allen develops (and hopefully recovers swiftly from a concussion). The Patriots forced four Bills turnovers and scored 16 points, producing their lowest total yardage figure (224) in 10 years in the process. The Bills cooled a Patriots attack that ripped through its first three opponents, with Tom Brady’s 18-for-39, 150-yard day being one of the ugliest in his career. With help from a balanced defensive line, Buffalo’s secondary won the battle against higher-profile players. Tre’Davious White’s cornerback crew limited Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman to 76 combined receiving yards. Brady finished with 3.8 yards per attempt – his lowest in his NFL-record 211 starts that ended in wins. The Bills’ pass defense lacks name recognition (for now) but is a weapon that should keep Buffalo in the AFC playoff picture. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT GAME: at Titans (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
5 of 16
LA CHARGERS 30, MIAMI 10
CHARGERS (2-2): Injuries early in recent seasons have restricted the Chargers, but this year’s outfit might be dealing with the most health-related trouble. Fortunately, the Bolts are catching a key break that should help them stay in the AFC contention mix. They entered Week 4 without safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, offensive tackle Russell Okung, wideouts Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin, tight end Hunter Henry and kicker Michael Badgley. They lost upper-echelon defensive end Melvin Ingram to a pulled hamstring Sunday. Fortunately, they played the Dolphins, limiting the damage. The Bolts crossed the Dolphins’ 40-yard line on every drive and did not punt, ending an eight-game losing streak in Miami (against Dolphins teams a bit more committed to winning). The Chargers’ next two games – home against the Broncos and Steelers, who are 0-7 between them – should allow them to stay afloat amid this latest health crisis. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT GAME: vs. Broncos (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
DOLPHINS (0-4): It is difficult to evaluate the Dolphins’ Josh Rosen strategy. They have three 2020 first-round picks and are near-certain to use one of them on a quarterback. The franchise’s league-worst roster also makes evaluation difficult. But the 2018 first-round pick of the Cardinals gave Miami a promising stretch in a home loss. Rosen’s first drive went 75 yards. He completed 4 of 4 passes – the last of which a 34-yard TD strike to Devante Parker. He marched the NFL’s worst offense into field-goal range three more times in the half. Miami still missed two field goals, and Kalen Ballage dropped a would-be touchdown, but it’s incremental progress. Miami, outscored 81-0 this season in the second half, gained just 36 yards in the third and fourth quarters. But Rosen going 12-for-16 for 169 yards before the break is encouraging. He could be a trade asset or stopgap starter. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT GAME: vs. Redskins (Sun., Oct. 13)
— Sam Robinson
6 of 16
KANSAS CITY 34, DETROIT 30
CHIEFS (4-0): Patrick Mahomes’ aerial displays in his first 20 starts established a stupefying pace. In start No. 21, the Chiefs’ centerpiece showed his sneaky-dangerous secondary skill. Mahomes threw for 315 yards and no touchdowns. The high standards he has set can reasonably paint it as an unremarkable performance. The reigning MVP flipped the script in his first NFL dome game, rushing for a career-high 54 yards. Mahomes vexed the Lions with scrambles on the Chiefs’ final two touchdown drives, converting a third-and-6 with a seven-yard sideline scurry and then saving his team’s effort with a 15-yard sprint up the middle on a fourth-and-8. After both escapes, the Chiefs notched go-ahead scores. No player other than Mahomes in the top 25 of the season passing yards list has cleared 210 rushing yards in a season. He amassed 272 in 2018. This in-case-of-emergency skill adds to the challenge the NFL faces in containing Kansas City’s superstar. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT GAME: vs. Colts (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
LIONS (2-1-1): There was a ton to take away from this game: huge plays on both sides of the ball and Matthew Stafford playing great (21-for-34, 291 yards, three TDs), distributing the ball to nine different pass-catchers. But Jeez I was super-impressed with RB Kerryon Johnson (26 carries, 125 yards). It couldn’t be clearer that Johnson is the true lead back and the Lions’ offense runs through the 5-foot-11, 212-pound former Auburn star. Without question, this is the right move for the Lions, who too often in the past put too much pressure on Stafford’s passing and on their defense to produce. Finally with a legit lead back, the Lions (18th in rushing last season) are much more balanced. Detroit didn’t win, but kudos to Matt Patricia for feeding the ball to Johnson. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT GAME: at Packers (Mon., Oct. 14)
— Matt Williamson
7 of 16
CAROLINA 16, HOUSTON 10
PANTHERS (2-2): In the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, facing a third-and-7 deep in Carolina’s end, Kyle Allen connected with Christian McCaffrey in the flat. The back bobbled it a few times, caught it while stumbling, and slid for an incredible first down. The drive didn’t culminate in any points, but it ate up nearly six minutes and kept the Panthers from surrendering a short field. Carolina added another field goal in the fourth quarter to protect its one-score lead and evened its record with consecutive wins after starting 0-2. McCaffrey finished with 179 yards — 93 rushing and 86 receiving — and further solidified his push to become one of the top backs in the league.GAME GRADE: B – minus | NEXT GAME: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
TEXANS (2-2): Like many previous losses, the latest Texans defeat was defined by one word: sacks. Playing at home, Deshaun Watson was sacked six times, the last of which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Carolina with just over four minutes left. The Panthers turned it into three points, and Houston, needing a touchdown, had virtually no chance. The offensive line usually gets most of the blame and it had its share of problems in this one, but Watson again held onto the ball too long and was the cause of some of his own issues, particularly a violent sack in the shadow of his own goalposts. Per Pro Football Focus, Houston’s pass-blocking grade coming into the game was 16th in the league. Bill O’Brien must figure how to find a happy medium between taking shots downfield and protecting his quarterback or Watson’s health, and Houston’s season, will be in peril.GAME GRADE: D | NEXT GAME: vs. Falcons (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
8 of 16
OAKLAND 31, INDIANAPOLIS 24
RAIDERS (2-2): Criticized inhis second Oakland stint for personnel decisions, Jon Gruden found an offense-changing weapon during the Raiders’ woeful 2018 stretch run. Signed off the Ravens’ practice squad in late November, Darren Waller has gone from perpetual suspension risk into the NFL record book. The fifth-year tight end snared seven passes for 53 yards against the Colts. In doing so, the converted wide receiver moved his catch total to 33. That ties Antonio Gates for the most by a tight end in NFL history through four games. To put Waller’s stunning emergence into perspective, he never topped 26 catches in a season while at run-oriented Georgia Tech. Waller’s 33 grabs trail only Keenan Allen (34) and lead the tight end pack by five. On Sunday, Waller contributed third-down conversions on each of Oakland’s two first-quarter touchdown drives and threw the block that finished off Trevor Davis’ 60-yard score. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT GAME: vs. Bears (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
COLTS (2-2): Indianapolis did just about everything right in the season’s first three weeks, save make its kicks. Against Oakland, it did nothing right. Indy was victimized by several drops, including three from tight end Eric Ebron. Coming into the game, Colts pass-catchers had only three drops, according to Pro Football Focus. While QB Jacoby Brissett is clearly improving, and much more capable than outsiders would have believed, he still needs his skill players to do their jobs, particularly in a game in which he was without T.Y. Hilton. Safety Malik Hooker’s absence was felt as well, as Oakland tight ends Darren Waller and Foster Moreau combined for 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. The tight end assignment doesn’t get any easier in Week 5, with a prime-time date with Travis Kelce and the Chiefs. GAMEGRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Kansas City (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
9 of 16
NY GIANTS 24, WASHINGTON 3
REDSKINS (0-4): After weeks of questions, Case Keenum was dreadful enough (6-for-11, 37 yards, one pick) to give way to rookie Dwayne Haskins. Washington’s presumptive franchise quarterback of the future had a debut to forget, including a pick-six among three interceptions. He finished 9-for-17 for 107 yards. Haskins had a few flashes of ability, but there was little to excite any Washington fan in this game at New York. Interceptions went off receivers’ hands, long returns were called back by penalty. “Surely an 0-3 team can come back from the depths of 0-3 and put on a nine-, 10-game streak and win 10 of their last 13 games. It’s not that big of a deal, right?” Redskins coach Jay Gruden (35-48-1 in Washington) told the Washington Post earlier in the week. Now we wonder how long Daniel Snyder will stick with him. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT GAME: vs. Patriots (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
GIANTS (2-2): Rookie Daniel Jones (23-for-31, 225 yards, two picks) was bound to come back to earth somewhat in his second start and indeed he did, although the main concern was how the Giants would compensate for the loss of Saquon Barkley in the first game following his injury. Wayne Gallman stepped up to the plate with 118 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. It was fairly evenly split between rushing (63) and receiving yards (55), giving the Giants flexibility on offense in the month or so that Barkley will be out. In the meantime, New York continues to roll and not only is its season saved, but Big Blue might be a threat in December. Now who would have thought THAT after Week 2? GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT GAME: vs. Minnesota (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
10 of 16
TENNESSEE 24, ATLANTA 10
TITANS (2-2): While the Texans and Colts were stubbing their collective toes at home against 1-2 opponents, Tennessee was handling business on the road in Atlanta. The win could best be described as a return on investment for general manager Jon Robinson. A.J. Brown and Corey Davis, after combining for 10 catches and 111 yards in Weeks 2 and 3 combined, teamed for eight catches, 185 yards and three touchdowns. Brown’s 55-yard catch and run to open the scoring was his first NFL touchdown, and a classic example of an elite skill player turning a ho-hum completion into a big play. Davis (fifth overall in the 2017 draft) and Brown (the 51st overall pick this year) represent an organizational effort to surround Marcus Mariota with high-caliber talent, and explosive games such as this are what the Titans’ brass envisioned. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT GAME: vs. Bills (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
FALCONS (1-3): Desmond Trufant had a heck of a time with rookie A.J. Brown, who had two touchdowns in the first quarter. The Titans’ second-round pick had an amazing catch-and-run in which he eluded most of the Atlanta defense en route to a score. For the second, he hauled in a lofted throw over Trufant to put Tennessee up 14-7 at the half. The cornerback earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2015, and at the time seemed like an ascendant talent. He has been scattershot, at best, since and might never make the leap to shutdown corner. On the other end, Atlanta once again struggled to get its offense going, with Matt Ryan committing a critical fumble at the end of the first quarter. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT GAME: at Texans (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
11 of 16
CHICAGO 16, MINNESOTA 6
VIKINGS (2-2): It’s obvious Minnesota goes as its running game goes. With Dalvin Cook tearing it up, the Vikings are highly competitive. But when the Vikings run into a great defense such as Chicago’s, Kirk Cousins eventually has to make throws. Of course he is capable, but when Minnesota doesn’t have balance in its attack, its quarterback and work-in-progress offensive line are exposed. That makes Minnesota one of the most transparent teams in the league. In Week 4, Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for just 40 rushing yards. Even with Stefon Diggs (seven catches for 108 yards) thriving, the Vikings once again showed us what they truly are. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT GAME: at Giants (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
BEARS (3-1): Sometimes there’s such thing as a good injury. That’s a brutal thing to say about Mitch Trubisky, but Chicago’s offense is better without him in the lineup. Chase Daniel (22-for-30, 195 yards, 1 TD) took over early in the first quarter, when Trubisky was ruled out with a left shoulder injury. Daniel is never going to wow us. He won’t make difficult throws like Trubisky can. He won’t make big plays with his legs like Trubisky can. But he can play winning football with this supporting cast because he is smart and efficient. In a nasty defensive struggle, Daniel’s ball placement and decision making (especially compared to Trubisky’s) really stood out in a positive light.GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT GAME: at Raiders (Sun.)
PHILA. (1-2) AT GREEN BAY (3-0), Thur., 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NFL NETWORK LINE: Green Bay -4.5
What you need to know: In Week 3, fumbles by Miles Sanders and Nelson Agholor hurt the Eagles. In fact, those plays led to six Lions points and provided the difference in a surprising home loss for Philadelphia. With the Cowboys looking strong and Giants revived by Daniel Jones’ winning debut, the Eagles must win to keep from falling out of the race early. Green Bay hasn’t started 4-0 since 2015, when it won its first six games before losing four of its next five. That the Packers are unbeaten is testament to their balance, as Aaron Rodgers’ play has not been scintillating. Green Bay boasts the league’s No. 2 scoring defense, and its eight takeaways are best in the league. The pass rush (12 sacks) is getting after it, too. The rush defense, however, ranks 25th.
On the spot: Eagles RB Miles Sanders. Sanders has not proven himself ready for the role of feature back, but the Eagles need him to hold up his end of the bargain in a partnership with Jordan Howard.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: An opportunistic defense is arguably most responsible for Green Bay’s fast start, so Rodgers must pick up his game to keep the Packers atop what appears to be the best division.
The pick: Packers 30 Eagles 24
2 of 15
TENNESSEE (1-2) AT ATLANTA (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: Atlanta -3.5
What you need to know: Tennessee had a chance to make a major statement against the Jaguars in Week 3 but flopped, and its dominant season-opening win over Cleveland feels like long ago. As in Week 2, offense was the problem for the Titans, with Marcus Mariota failing to sustain many drives. He was sacked nine times. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has six picks in three games.
On the spot: Titans WR A.J. Brown. After Adam Humphries and Delanie Walker, Brown got the most targets against Jacksonville, with five. He was taken out of the game by Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and needs to be much better to give Mariota more downfield options.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Everyone else is doing his part. Ryan can light up the scoreboard, but in a pass-happy league, he must be superb more often than not, and he hasn’t been.
The pick: Falcons 24 Titans 16
3 of 15
LA CHARGERS (1-2) AT MIAMI (0-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: Los Angeles -16.5
What you need to know: In Week 3,the Chargers couldn’t get to Deshaun Watson like the last several Texans opponents did, and it cost them dearly. Watson made big plays, including a 53-yard touchdown pass on a broken play, to beat Los Angeles. The Chargers have only four sacks, something that must change in a hurry, particularly with safety Derwin James out for at least half the season and the Chiefs already two games ahead in the AFC West. In Week 3, Miami was competitive with Dallas for 30 minutes, but couldn’t take advantage of three first-half red-zone trips. The Dolphins’ pass defense wasn’t gashed by Dak Prescott, but it had no answers for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard (combined for 228 yards on 32 carries).
On the spot: Chargers DE Melvin Ingram. Ingram has just one sack. Pro Football Focus’ grading is more kind to him, crediting him with six hurries. He must be better to help the Chargers’ so-so secondary.
Dolphins WR Preston Williams: Against Dallas, Williams dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Josh Rosen that would have gone for a touchdown. He finished with a team-leading 12 targets, but only four catches for 68 yards. Williams (6-5, 218) has prototype size for the position, and Rosen will continue to look his way.
The pick: Chargers 30 Dolphins 17
4 of 15
OAKLAND (1-2) AT INDIANAPOLIS (2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: Indianapolis -6.5
What you need to know: In Week 3, Oakland made things much too easy for the Vikings. QB Kirk Cousins barely broke a sweat, and RB Dalvin Cook dominated. One of the Raiders’ two scores came on a trick play. In Indy in Week 3, Jacoby Brissett completed his first three passes as the Colts jumped to a 20-3 halftime lead in a win over Atlanta. More good news for Frank Reich’s team: Adam Vinatieri was perfect, including a 49-yard field goal.
On the spot: Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. Oakland needs a complementary piece in the passing game to go with Waller and Tyrell Williams, and Jon Gruden seems to want that piece to be Jacobs. He has been effective as a runner (228 yards), but has only one catch for 28 yards.
Colts S Khari Willis: Malik Hooker will be out roughly a month and a half with a torn meniscus, and the burden of replacing him falls to Willis, a rookie fourth-rounder. Hooker was in the midst of another solid season, so Willis has big shoes to fill.
The pick: Colts 28 Raiders 13
5 of 15
NEW ENGLAND (3-0) AT BUFFALO (3-0), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: New England -7
What you need to know: The Pats’ defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown, as both Jets scores last week came from their defense. New England is scary good on both sides of the ball. The Patriots’ defense is best in the league in points and yards allowed, and their offense is the second highest scoring. The only area where they’ve been even somewhat deficient is rushing offense, but when Tom Brady is running the show, that hardly matters. Josh Allen has been on a roller coaster ride, but he has made enough plays to complement a top-five Bills defense and rally the team to two fourth-quarter, comeback wins.
On the spot: Patriots RB Sony Michel. Michel averages less than 2.5 yards per carry. Although the Pats look unstoppable now, chances are they’ll need Michel soon, certainly in the postseason, if they are going to successfully defend their Super Bowl title.
Bills RB Frank Gore. Devin Singletary’s status is uncertain, so the task of churning out first downs and chewing up clock might fall to the ageless Gore, who has rushed for 164 yards (3.7 a carry).
The pick: Patriots 31 Bills 14
6 of 15
CLEVELAND (1-2) AT BALTIMORE (2-1), Sun., 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: Baltimore -7
What you need to know: Cleveland is a mess offensively, and most of it is Baker Mayfield’s fault. The quarterback looks jittery in the pocket, holds the ball too long and runs himself into trouble when standing pat and making a throw would be more prudent. Freddie Kitchens takes much of the blame, but if his QB doesn’t snap out of his funk, the Browns’ hyped season will be on life support a mere quarter of the way in. In Week 3, the Ravens lost in Kansas City, and Lamar Jackson’s play was spotty. The Ravens are good, and certainly better than many thought they would be, but the K.C. loss proved that Jackson is not a finished product and Baltimore needs to do some work defensively.
On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. He courted the hype, the attention and the haters, and now Mayfield isn’t holding up his end (56.9 completion %, 805 yards passing, 70.3 QB rating).
Ravens S Earl Thomas: With Mayfield holding onto the ball too long, Thomas could have a field day baiting him into traps. That said, his past two games have not been great, per Pro Football Focus grading, so Mayfield may end up going right at him.
The pick: Browns 26 Ravens 23
7 of 15
WASHINGTON (0-3) AT NY GIANTS (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX LINE: New York -3
What you need to know: In Week 3, Washington was sloppy, careless and non-competitive at home on MNF against Chicago. Case Keenum was ineffective; coupled with a winless start, that might compel Daniel Snyder to fire Jay Gruden. Or perhaps he will pressure the head coach to start rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. Gruden still thinks the season can be salvaged, so he’s resisting — for now. Speaking of throwing a rookie out there to see what he can do, Daniel Jones made GM Dave Gettleman look brilliant. Jones was a revelation, throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more in his Giants debut, a win over the Bucs. He’s the talk of New York, but now comes the hard part: doing it twice in a row.
On the spot: Redskins QB Case Keenum. Keenum was good in Washington’s first two games, but he struggled against the Bears, throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. If he doesn’t bounce back, Haskins-mania will reach a fever pitch.
Giants QB Daniel Jones: Jones instantly energized the Giants, and it seemed like he brought pieces of the offense into play that Eli Manning could not. Jones will try to keep the good times rolling without his most dynamic weapon. RB Saquon Barkley is out 4-8 weeks. Your move, Wayne Gallman.
The pick: Giants 24 Redskins 20
8 of 15
CAROLINA (1-2) AT HOUSTON (2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX LINE: Houston -4
What you need to know: This game figured to be a great matchup when fans thought it would be Cam Newton versus Deshaun Watson, but Newton’s absence might make for an even better shootout. In Week 3, Newton replacement Kyle Allen lit up the Cardinals. Christian McCaffrey backed Allen with 153 yards rushing, and TE Greg Olsen had two touchdown catches. Carolina looked like a different — and much better — team with Allen. In Week 3 against the Chargers, the Texans finally protected Watson, as he was sacked fewer than four times in a game for the first time in eight regular-season contests. He was rarely pressured outside of those two sacks, and made the Chargers pay. Despite taking a beating, Watson still has a 108.6 passer rating.
On the spot: Panthers QB Kyle Allen. Can Allen do it two weeks in a row? Houston’s defense is second best in the NFL. One more star turn by Allen might cause a quarterback controversy in Charlotte.
Texans WR Will Fuller: The slow-starting Fuller doesn’t have a touchdown catch and has only 160 yards receiving through three games. The Texans need a legitimate second option when DeAndre Hopkins is covered, and Fuller is still best-suited for the job.
The pick: Texans 30 Panthers 21
9 of 15
KANSAS CITY (3-0) AT DETROIT (2-0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX LINE: Kansas City -6
What you need to know: In Week 3, the Chiefs passed their test against Baltimore, and now they get another interesting one in the Lions. Kansas City’s running back situation isn’t ideal, but it feels like it almost doesn’t matter with the way Patrick Mahomes is playing. Incredibly enough, Mahomes is ahead of his 2018 pace for yards passing and TD passes. If he keeps it up, the MVP race will be a formality. Detroit is technically an unbeaten, but its come-from-ahead tie against the Cardinals feels like a loss. Still, the Lions have gutted out a win against the Chargers, and shocked Philadelphia on the road. No one is talking much about Matt Patricia’s team as a threat in the NFC North, but if it wins this game, everyone will be.
On the spot: Chiefs RB Darrel Williams. He rushed for 62 yards on nine carries in Week 3, and figures to get calls again this week. If banged-up LeSean McCoy is limited again, the burden of giving K.C. at least the threat of the run will fall to Williams.
Lions S Tracy Walker: Walker’s Pro Football Focus coverage grade through three weeks is 75.6, which is good to very good. But he’ll need to be fantastic, because if Earl Thomas was targeted by Mahomes and Andy Reid last week, they’ll likely go after Walker this week.
The pick: Chiefs 38 Lions 20
10 of 15
TAMPA BAY (1-2) AT LA RAMS (3-0), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: FOX LINE: Los Angeles -10
What you need to know: Shaq Barrett’s first season as a full-time starter is a smashing success; the linebacker leads the NFL with eight sacks in three games. The Buccaneers’ defense ranks in the top half of the league in yards allowed. It is particularly stingy against the run, giving up only three yards per carry, third best in the league. The Bucs are only 22nd in points allowed, however, owing partly to Jameis Winston, who has thrown two pick-sixes. In Week 3, Cooper Kupp helped the Rams overcome a game defensive effort from the Browns as LA won in Cleveland. Kupp consistently exploited coverage mismatches, and he and Jared Goff were on the same page all game. Kupp leads the Rams in catches (23) and touchdowns (2).
On the spot: Bucs QB Jameis Winston. In Week 3, Winston and Mike Evans finally got going against the Giants, with Evans racking up 190 yards and three touchdowns. If the Bucs steal a win against the Rams, it may help coach Bruce Arians decide if Winston is worth a long-term investment.
Rams WR Cooper Kupp: The Bucs are stingy against the run game, so it might fall again to Kupp to spark the offense. He might be Los Angeles’ best overall receiver; he certainly played like it against the Browns. Tampa’s pass defense is suspect, so Kupp could have a big day.
The pick: Rams 27 Buccaneers 23
11 of 15
SEATTLE (2-1) AT ARIZONA (0-2-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
TV: FOX LINE: Seattle -5
What you need to know: Seattle could easily be unbeaten, but sloppy play on special teams, and another fumble by Chris Carson, conspired to cost them in Week 3 against the Saints, who were outgained 515-265. Russell Wilson has been nearly flawless (seven touchdowns and no interceptions). The Seahawks might lean on him even more if Carson’s fumbling problems persist. The Cardinals’ run defense is abysmal. Only two teams in the league are worse — the Bengals and Dolphins. Arizona has yet to hold an opponent under 100 yards on the ground. On the plus side, WR Christian Kirk is developing into a nice weapon for Kyler Murray.
On the spot: Seahawks RB Chris Carson. Pete Carroll gave Carson a vote of confidence, but his three lost fumbles in three games are alarming. He lost only two in his first 18 games as a pro. Rashaad Penny should be back this week, so Carson’s margin for error is minimal.
Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks: Hicks has dropped into coverage more than any other Cardinals linebacker, per Pro Football Focus, but he hasn’t done a good job in that regard. Arizona has been shredded by tight ends each of the first three weeks, and Hicks is part of the issue.
The pick: Seahawks 30 Cardinals 28
12 of 15
MINNESOTA (2-1) AT CHICAGO (2-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
TV: CBS LINE: Chicago -2.5
What you need to know: The NFC North may be football’s best division, which means that this battle of 2-1 teams could determine who eventually resides in the cellar. Minnesota is tough to beat when Dalvin Cook is running well; his 375 yards lead the league, as does his 6.6 yards per carry. He’ll have a tough test against a Bears defense that ranks fifth in the league against the run. In Week 3, Chicago got a laugher of a win against Washington, and Mitchell Trubisky finally had an easy, productive night. Much of that was due to Matt Nagy’s play-calling, which consistently had receivers, specifically Taylor Gabriel, running open. Can Chicago sustain that momentum?
On the spot: Vikings FS Harrison Smith. Smith is one of the league’s better safeties, and he’ll have the task of confusing Trubisky and baiting him into risky throws. If he wins the chess match, the Vikings have a good chance to win.
Bears WR Allen Robinson: Gabriel got all the love for his three-touchdown outburst against Washington, but Robinson is Chicago’s best receiving threat. Nagy was able to scheme Gabriel open — he needs to do the same for Robinson.
The pick: Vikings 20 Bears 13
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JACKSONVILLE (1-2) AT DENVER (0-3), Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
BALTIMORE — Kyler Murray sat at his cubby in the cramped visitors’ locker room of M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon holding tight his newest prized possession — a game-worn jersey, fresh from the back of his former Oklahoma teammate and now Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown. Murray clutched it briefly, appearing for a moment to think, “What a long, strange journey it’s been.”
Minutes after his first loss as a professional quarterback — and fully aware that if not for his heroics in salvaging a Week 1 tie against Detroit that it would’ve been his second loss — the new face of the Arizona Cardinals was dejected but not depressed. There was a sense among the Cardinals that they had let one slip away, that they’d lost to a good Baltimore Ravens team but had not succumbed. This was not the 3-13 team from last season that collapsed so easily.
Murray jovially chatted with his locker-room neighbor, practice-squad quarterback Kyle Sloter, and he cleaned himself up a bit before heading to the post-game podium, picking small pieces of debris from his hair.
“(Am I) feeling good about where are right now, coming off of last season?” Murray said. “Last season is last season. This is a new one, and for me, personally, I’m not cool with losing. We played hard, lost by six, and we had a chance to win it and we came up short.”
This was particularly true of the team’s red-zone woes, as the Cardinals had three drives stall inside the 4-yard line, resulting in three Zane Gonzalez field goals.
That was the main topic of conversation on a day when Murray’s counterpart — Baltimore’s young star quarterback, Lamar Jackson — had no such issues. The Ravens had touchdown drives of 94 and 85 yards in the first half, and Jackson helped Baltimore move to 2-0 with 392 yards from scrimmage (120 rushing) and two touchdowns.
Facing a hostile, purple-clad crowd, Murray held up for the most part, but he admitted after the game that he had his bad moments. “It just got loud as hell,” he said. “We’ve got to be better, plain and simple. It’s a loud environment, a great environment to be in, and it kind of just got to us.”
If he did buckle, he didn’t show it.
According to the Cardinals, that is a familiar trait for the stoic top pick. In interviews and in the locker room, Murray plays it pretty close to the vest. At the podium Sunday, he was cordial but not overly revelatory. He did not throw his offensive line under the bus, even if, with eight sacks in two games, it has at times deserved it.
“They’re a team that likes to bring a lot of pressure,” Murray said of the Ravens. “They got back there a little bit today. I thought we handled it well for the most part.”
The Cardinals have come to expect such leadership from Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Murray began to earn their trust early in the offseason, said Cardinals backup quarterback Brett Hundley, no stranger to backing up great leaders. Hundley was drafted by Green Bay in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of UCLA to serve as Aaron Rodgers protégé. After three rocky years with the Packers, Hundley moved to Seattle last season, where he backed up Russell Wilson. He knows a good quarterback when he sees one, and he sees one in Murray.
“You’ve got a lot of pressure on you as the No. 1 pick, as a quarterback for the team that was the worst in the league last year,” he said. “To come in and say ‘I’m going to help this team win games,’ when you’re not expected to? That’s a really hard task. Everybody puts pressure on him. That’s a lot, especially for a young cat. But nothing seems like it fazes him.”
Hundley said Murray has been humble in his approach, and “very teachable.”
“Even after bad days, he’d come in the next day and do his thing,” Hundley said. “He’s very consistent. It took me years to get to that point, to feel that. To see him come in and be able to handle this? The NFL is hard for everybody, but he isn’t showing that.”
There are steps, though, and Murray must take a big one soon.
With Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and Wilson and the Seahawks coming to Arizona the next two weeks, Murray’s first win might not come until Week 5 at Cincinnati, or perhaps two weeks later at the New York Giants.
Salvaging a tie in Week 1 was nice. Standing firm against a solid Ravens squad was a positive.
In two games, Murray has passed for 657 yards, the second most for a player in his first two starts. Newton holds the record, set in 2011. But with eight sacks taken and just 17 rushing yards on six carries, Murray hasn’t yet shown the dual-threat versatility that scouts raved about.
It’ll come, that seems to be sure. And so will a win. Soon, he hopes.
For now, it’s a good start.
“I’m not where I want to be five years from now,” Murray said. “But as far as being comfortable, I feel pretty good right now.”
Sunday’s NFL action represented the first full slate of the season as 14 games took place around the league. It did not disappoint.
The early games included tremendous performances from NFC rivals taking on hostile road crowds. That included the Dallas Cowboys doing their thing in D.C., and the San Francisco 49ers showing that the NFC West might be more competitive than originally thought.
Over in the AFC, the New England Patriots absolutely dominated a horrible Miami Dolphins team while the Pittsburgh Steelers proved that they are a shell of their former selves.
It’s in this that we look at the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s Week 2 NFL action.
Broncos offense is a hot mess
We knew that Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Bears was going to be a low-scoring affair. Both the Broncos and Bears boast tremendous defenses with questionable offense. We didn’t realize just how bad the Joe Flacco-led Broncos offense was going to be. Was Week 1 against the Raiders an exception to the rule? Sunday’s game proved that it wasn’t.
Denver tallied a total of six points through the first 59 minutes of the game before converting on a touchdown and two-point conversion to take the lead before blowing it on defense en route to a 16-14 loss. All said, the Broncos’ offense converted on 3-of-14 third-down opportunities in the loss. That’s just not going to get it done. Now 0-2 on the season and averaging 15 points per game, it’s time to start talking about the Broncos’ offense as one of the worst in the NFL.
Houston, we have a problem
It’s simple. The Texans need to do a better job protecting Deshaun Watson. We can use all the excuses available to mankind. That’s fine. But unless Watson stays upright on a more consistent basis, he’s not going to last this season. The third-year quarterback was hit 11 times and sacked six times against the Saints last week. Despite coming out on top 13-12 against a hapless Jaguars team on Sunday, Watson was hit seven times and sacked another four times.
The backdrop is real. Houston lost recently acquired starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil to an ankle injury. He was added ahead of Week 1 to help rebuild a devastated and talent-stricken Texans offensive line. No matter the severity of Tunsil’s injury, these Texans must do a better job protecting Watson. It’s that simple.
This just in: Kyler Murray is good
For the first time since Cam Newton back in 2011, a quarterback has accounted for 300-plus passing yards in each of his first two NFL starts. Shockingly, Murray has accomplished this feat in consecutive road starts to begin his career.
It might not have been good enough to come out on top against the Ravens on Sunday, but Murray continues to prove that the NFL game is not too big for him. The reigning Heisman winner completed 25-of-40 passes for 349 yards without an interception. Since struggling through the first two quarters last week, Murray has been on fire. It’s going to be fun watching him play moving forward on the season.
Chargers blow a chance at 2-0
Following a win over the Indianapolis Colts last week, most figured that the Chargers would not have an issue on the road against the Lions on Sunday. Almost immediately, that proved not to be the case. Philip Rivers and Co. scored a grand total of 10 points in a three-point loss that was capped off by this game-winning touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay.
It’s games like these the Chargers can’t afford to lose in an AFC West headed by the Kansas City Chiefs. And in reality, it was the offense that failed to step up. In fact, the Chargers’ defense was game against Detroit. It just wasn’t to be. And this loss could come back to haunt Los Angeles moving forward on the season.
Kirk Cousins continues to be a joke
Minnesota was able to win last week against the Falcons despite seeing Cousins attempt 10 passes. That was in no way going to be the case against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers and Co. opened up a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. While Minnesota’s defense picked it up and held the Packers scoreless the rest of the way, Cousins was absolutely atrocious under center.
The high-priced quarterback completed 14-of-32 passes for 230 yards. He threw two interceptions, including a pick in the end zone with Minnesota driving for the potential go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
It’s getting to the point that Minnesota can’t rely on Cousins to be anything more than a game manager. Sunday’s loss to the Packers magnified this to a T. Defenses know if they put the game in Cousins’ hands, the quarterback will not be up to the task.
Julio Jones saves Falcons’ season
Teams that start the season 0-2 since 2007 have made the playoffs just 11 percent of the time. That’s what the Falcons were facing at home Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Taking on an injury-depleted squad, Atlanta almost gave this game away. That included a 13-play, 73-yard touchdown drive by Philadelphia to take the lead with just over three minutes left.
All looked lost for Atlanta. It was facing a fourth-and-three with the game on the line. That’s when Jones stepped up and hauled in a 54-yard game-winning touchdown to help Atlanta pull it out by the score of 24-20. He had put up another tremendous catch earlier in the game, too, finishing with 106 yards on five receptions. Jones saved Atlanta’s season Sunday night. It’s that simple.
No shame in Pats’, Antonio Brown’s game
Not only did Antonio Brown make his Patriots debut Sunday against the Dolphins, the team featured him early. That included Brown making multiple catches on the first drive and coming away with a touchdown in the first half. All said, Brown caught 4-of-8 targets for 56 yards with a touchdown.
The backdrop here is interesting, to say the least. It was just last week that Brown’s former trainer filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming multiple instances of sexual assault. Given these accusations, the Patriots’ decision to have Brown active for Week 2 tells us exactly where they stand on the situation. Only time will tell regarding the team’s stance moving forward. For now, Brown promises to play a huge role on offense in New England as the season progresses.
Cowboys have no problems with Redskins
It started out slowly for Dallas against the Redskins in D.C. Sunday. For the second consecutive game, the Cowboys found themselves trailing early against a lesser opponent. But much like what we saw last week against the Giants, Dak Prescott and Co. picked it up big time from that point on.
Prescott followed up a flawless opener by completing 26-of-30 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. He added to a rushing attack that went for 213 yards. Meanwhile, Dallas bottled up the Redskins running game to the tune of 47 yards on 17 attempts. It led to another lopsided win for Dallas. This time, by the score of 31-21. Could this team now be the class of the NFC? The Cowboys are certainly looking like it right now.
To celebrate the first week of the season, fans were treated to a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader that featured plenty of fireworks.
Early, it was the Houston Texans visiting the New Orleans Saints. This one proved to be an entertaining, see-saw battle all game long. It wasn’t until the last second ticked off the clock that we knew which team would win, as New Orleans eked out a 30-28 victory.
Late in the evening, the AFC West was on display with a rivalry game featuring the Denver Broncos visiting the famed Black Hole and the Oakland Raiders. To the delight of the home crowd, the Raiders dominated, winning 24-16.
These were the biggest winners and losers from the season-opening “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.
Winner: The Hyde/Johnson duo is pretty dynamic
When the Texans lost Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL injury, it was easy to panic about their ability to run the ball consistently. Then, Houston pulled off a trade for Carlos Hyde. That proved to be a savvy move, as the power back was huge in Week 1.
Hyde rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, providing the thunder in Houston’s offense. Former Cleveland Browns back Duke Johnson provided the lightning with 57 yards on the ground. He also provided a spark in the passing game with four catches for 33 yards. The duo combined on 175 yards from scrimmage and appears to be a solid tandem the Texans can count on this season.
Loser: J.J. Watt was practically invisible
When Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a pauper’s bounty, many wondered if the Texans could remain dominant up front without him. It was only one game, but on Monday it was pretty clear they won’t be the same.
In particular, star defensive end J.J. Watt was unbelievably unproductive. In fact, Watt didn’t register a single stat. Not one tackle. Not one quarterback hit. Not one pass defended. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Watt is too good to struggle like this all season. But perhaps he benefited from Clowney more than anyone realized. We’ll soon find out.
Winner: Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — still pretty darn good
Last season, Saints receiver Michael Thomas had one of the most impressive statistical seasons any wideout has ever had in the NFL. He caught an absurd 85% of the passes that came his way to the tune of 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. On Monday night, Thomas picked up right where he left off. Catching 10 passes on 13 targets, he racked up 123 yards and was the main weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal all game long. He’s already living up to the monster contract he signed this summer.
Fantasy football players also once again rejoiced at the production of Alvin Kamara on Monday night. He’s such a dynamic weapon, and he’s among the best the NFL has to offer in terms of bang for your buck. That was on display against Houston as Kamara racked up the yardage. He piled up 97 yards on just 13 carries and another 72 yards on seven receptions. That’s an average of 8.45 yards per touch.
Loser: Houston’s offensive line is still a huge problem
Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times last year and hit 125 times, and not surprisingly he got banged up quite a bit in the process. The Texans tried to fix this issue in the draft and then by trading for Laremy Tunsil right before the season began. But based on what transpired in Week 1 against New Orleans, this problem isn’t going away any time soon.
Hopkins was pummeled by the Saints. From the opening drive until the end, he took big hits in the pocket (and outside of it as well). Houston’s offensive line allowed six sacks and gave up 11 quarterback hits.
That puts Watson on pace to be sacked 96 times this year, and absorb 176 hits in the pocket. That’s not sustainable. And it’s going to get this young man hurt badly at some point.
Winner: Wil Lutz called game
The final minute of the Texans-Saints game was insanely fun to watch for anyone who is not a Houston fan. It was also one of the best things we’ve seen in sports for some time now.
Deshaun Watson made two of the best throws under pressure you’ll ever see and tied the game on a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. Then, Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point, only to get a second chance due to a penalty. He made the kick, putting the Texans up by one point with just 37 seconds remaining in the game.
That’s when Drew Brees marched the Saints 35 yards down the field in 35 seconds, setting up a potential game-winner from 58 yards out.
Wil Lutz stepped onto the field, took a deep breath, and then called game.
Loser: Broncos struggled in the red zone
The Broncos made a few nice pushes into to enemy territory against Oakland Monday night. They just couldn’t do much once they got into the red zone.
Four times, Joe Flacco had Denver in a position to score touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Three times, the Broncos came up short. The only successful trip came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already practically over.
Rookie offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello struggled with the game plan. Flacco struggled to avoid pressure in key situations. The Broncos had one touchdown go right through their hands (literally), which we’ll get to in more detail later. Just an awful performance by Denver’s offense when it mattered most.
Winner: Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs give Raiders some juice
No Antonio Brown? No problem. The Raiders have plenty of offensive firepower, thanks to the emergence of ‘Hard Knocks’ star, tight end Darren Waller, free-agent acquisition Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs.
Waller was a tremendous go-to option for Derek Carr in the middle of the field. He came through with seven catches for 70 yards and appears to be a centerpiece on this offense.
Williams did for Oakland what he’s been doing for the Chargers the past few years — make big plays down the field. He hauled in a gorgeous 43-yard pass and scored a touchdown, finishing with six catches for 105 yards.
Jacobs did an incredible job on the ground, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 28 yards through the air.