2019 NFL MVP favorites and odds

The NFL quarterbacks’ MVP dynasty

Two gifted running backs — Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson — won the Associated Press NFL MVP Award in consecutive seasons, 2005-2006. Since then, 11 of the past 12 MVPs have been quarterbacks, including 2018 top dog Patrick Mahomes who earned 41 of the 50 first-place votes. Fellow quarterback Drew Brees finished second. So Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season — less than a year removed from a torn ACL — remains the last time somebody other than an NFL quarterback hoisted the NFL MVP hardware.

Spoiler alert: Based on the favorites to win the 2019 MVP, don’t expect this trend to change anytime soon.

Odds via Bovada 2 of 16

Cam Newton

Odds: +2,500
2018 Stats: 3,395 pass yards, 24 TDs and 13 INTs | 488 rush yards  and four TDs

A shoulder injury may have cost Newton the final two games on paper, but anybody who watched the Panthers quarterback grind out the 2018 season knows it cost the team much more. Carolina started the season 6-2 and in a prime position to reach the playoffs. However, the severity of Newton’s shoulder injury prevented him from throwing balls down field and allowed defenses to cheat up and play the underneath routes. After the hot start, the Panthers lost seven of their last eight games. Newton had offseason surgery to repair the shoulder, and he’s expected to be back at 100 percent by the start of the season. His MVP chances ride on improved play of DJ Moore, Jarius Wright and a healthy Greg Olsen. The veteran tight end has missed 16 games over the past two seasons due to injury, but when healthy he’s Cam’s most trusted target. If Olsen misses time, running back Christian McCaffrey’s MVP odds could be just as high as Cam’s. 3 of 16

Philip Rivers

Odds: +2,000
2018 stats: 4,308 pass yards, 32 TDs and 12 INTs

Rivers may be the NFL equivalent of MLB’s Cal Ripken. The Chargers ironman has not missed a game for 13 consecutive seasons. While the league has gone to great lengths to protect the quarterback, the fact Rivers hasn’t sustained a serious injury over the past 208 games is nothing short of a miracle. Led by Keenan Allen, his receiving corps remains intact and receives a slight upgrade with the full-time return of tight end Hunter Henry who missed the 2018 regular season with a torn ACL. The one constant who is missing as of press time is Melvin Gordon. The Chargers starting running back is holding out in hopes of a new contract. If Gordon’s holdout lingers into the regular season, Rivers’ odds of winning the 2019 MVP should take a notable hit. 4 of 16

Jimmy Garoppolo

Odds: +3,300
2018 stats: 718 pass yards, five TDs and three INTs (in only three games due to torn ACL)

The saying goes, “we don’t know what we don’t know,” and when it comes to Jimmy G. what we don’t  know outweighs his elite hype. Garoppolo has yet to play in more than six regular-season games and missed the final 13 games of the 2018 season with a torn ACL. So the 2019 season will be a fresh canvas on which to either paint a masterpiece and fill in those unknown gaps OR post pedestrian stats as he has through his first nine games as the 49ers quarterback: 12:8 TD:INT ratio. If you’re looking for a reason to back this long shot, Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes will benefit — not hurt — Jimmy G’s shot at the 2019 MVP. 5 of 16

Matt Ryan

Odds: +3,000
2018 Stats: 4,924 pass yards, 35 TDs and seven INTs

Ryan was one of only four quarterbacks last season to finish with more than 600 pass attempts. Aside from a pass-first offense, the primary reason his pass attempts reached a three-year high is due to a host of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, which turned the secondary into Swiss-cheese city, and opponents racked up early leads. So Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley (10 TDs as a rookie) and others spent most of the game in rally mode via the pass. If the defense can stay healthy, the Falcons are one of those squads that could flip the script and qualify for the playoffs one year after missing them. Ryan is as consistent as they come and despite turning 30 years old, Jones will go down as one of the top targets in NFL history. 6 of 16

Ben Roethlisberger

Odds: +3,000
2018 Stats: 5,129 pass yards, 34 TDs and 16 INTs

Without Le’Veon Bell last season, Roethlisberger led the NFL in completions (career-high), attempts (career-high), passing yards (career-high) and pass yards per game. The loss of both Bell and Antonio Brown will no doubt change the Steelers’ offensive dynamic, but don’t sleep on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to fill Brown’s shoes as Big Ben’s primary receiver in addition to a healthy running game of James Connor and Jaylen Samuels behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. While many believe the AFC North torch has been passed to Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, an MVP season by Roethlisberger would mute any chance of that happening. 7 of 16

Deshaun Watson

Odds: +2,000
2018 Stats: 4,165 pass yards, 26 TDs and nine INTs | 551 rush yards and five TDs

The good news for Watson is that he’ll probably compete for an NFL MVP one day. The bad news is that unless his offensive line play improves 1,000 percent, he won’t be among the 2019 MVP finalists. Remember: Despite mobility that rivals Russell Wilson, Watson was sacked a league-high 62 times. To be fair some of those sacks were no doubt Watson’s fault. However, as of early August, head coach Bill O’Brien admits he still doesn’t know who will start on the offensive line. How does this not get addressed in the offseason? Forget Watson’s MVP chances. The Texans could find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time. 8 of 16

Mitch Trubisky

Odds: +2,000
2018 Stats: 3,223 pass yards, 24 TDs and 12 INTs

The Chicago Bears 2018 defense ranked first in points allowed and against the rush, third in turnover differential (+12) and seventh against the pass. Its pass offense ranked outside the top 20. So the obvious question becomes where can Trubisky improve in his third year when the top three receiving targets remain the same and the Bears front office elected to shake up the running back depth chart after averaging 121 rush yards per game last season (11 th)? It’s a loaded question. Despite an above-average arm and 421 rush yards and three rush TDs last season, it’s hard to fathom Trubisky making enough of a statistical leap toward MVP when the most valuable players — plural — on the team likely reside on the defensive side of the ball. 9 of 16

Russell Wilson

Odds: +2,500
2018 Stats: 3,448 pass yards, 35 TDs and seven INTs

Because the Seahawks averaged a league-leading 160 yards per game last season, Wilson’s passing totals were the lowest since 2014. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for the Seahawks to make another Super Bowl run, the offense needs to find a consistent passing game aside from Wilson running for his life on third and long. Wilson was sacked 51 times last season, but that total could have been higher if not for his elite mobility out of the pocket. So the offensive line play must improve, and Pete Carroll needs to find lighting in a bottle with second-round draft pick DK Metcalf. The 6-foot-4, 228-pound receiver out of Ole Miss is a polarizing brand, but Wilson has no choice but to embrace the rookie because without Doug Baldwin, No. 3’s primary target is 5-foot-11, 175-pound speedster Tyler Lockett. 10 of 16

Carson Wentz

Odds: +1,200
2018 Stats: 3,074 pass yards, 21 TDs and seven INTs (11 games)

Wentz’s 2017 season was cut short due to an ACL tear, and he missed the final three games of the 2018 season with a stress fracture in his back. The knock of Wentz is that these annual ailments date back to high school. However, when you place the injury history on the back burner and assess a potential 16-game campaign for the Eagles quarterback, it’s evident he has the talent and players around him to make a run at an MVP and Super Bowl title. One guy who will help him reach those goals is DeSean Jackson. The speedy, downfield receiver returns to Philadelphia at age 32 and should allow for Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor to enjoy softer coverages this season. Also, the arrival of Jordan Howard should improve the Eagles 28 th-ranked running game of a season ago, which should also boost Wentz’s MVP odds.

By: Ryan Fowler

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/2019_nfl_mvp_favorites_and_odds/s1__29673998#slide_1

Steelers GM: Extension likely Big Ben’s last deal

Originally posted on Pro Football Rumors | By Zach Links | Last updated 4/26/19

This week, Ben Roethlisberger inked a lucrative new extension with the Steelers to take him through the 2021 season. This deal, GM Kevin Colbert says, will likely be his last (Twitter link via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com).

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise – Roethlisberger celebrated his 37th birthday in March and the new pact will take him through his age-39 campaign. Roethlisberger has flirted with retirement a few times in the past, so it was never expected that he would plan for the Tom Brady route.

Even in his old age, Big Ben remains effective. He’s also healthier than he has been in the past. Roethlisberger started all 16 games last year, marking his first perfect attendance campaign since 2014.

This year, Big Ben will seek to prove that he can conquer both Father Time and the absence of star wide receiver Antonio Brown. There’s plenty of reason to believe that he can pull it off – he finished fourth in Total QBR and eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt last season, even though the Steelers fell just shy of the playoffs.

Original article

All-time Super Bowl QB rankings: Tom Brady tops 61-man list

Five Super Bowls ago, the dominant pregame storyline centered around whether Peyton Manning was poised to become the greatest quarterback of all time.
Tom Brady’s preposterous stretch since then, including four more Super Bowl bids, two huge fourth-quarter comebacks and one MVP award all but settled that particular debate. Returning to the big game with this particular Patriots team almost feels like running up the score.

Brady’s place atop the quarterback mountain stands in stark contrast to the stature of his Super Bowl LIII counterpart, Jared Goff, who will be a few months younger than Brady was back in February of 2002, when the Patriots dynasty was born against the Rams. But where does Goff stack up against other Super Bowl starters overall?

To figure that out, I combed through the resumes of all 61 Super Bowl starting quarterbacks, including Goff. It’s important to note that for players like Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, who started Super Bowls but whose peak years came before the Super Bowl era, I considered their entire careers, not just what they did from 1966 onward. I ranked all quarterbacks based on career achievements, with regular-season excellence, All-Pro/Pro Bowl appearances and seasons as top-five and top-10 players at the position carrying more weight than just Super Bowl success. (Spoiler: Jim Plunkett did not have a better career than Dan Marino. Sorry.)

The good news for Goff: He’s already ahead of a few Super Bowl starters. At 24 years old with the biggest game of his life ahead, he has a long runway to improve his resume.

To the rankings!

G.O.A.T. pasture

1) Tom Brady (Super Bowl record: 5-3 with Patriots)

2) Johnny Unitas (1-0 with Colts)

3) Joe Montana (4-0 with 49ers)

4) Peyton Manning (1-1 with Colts; 1-1 with Broncos)

5) Dan Marino (0-1 with Dolphins)

6) Brett Favre (1-1 with Packers)

These are the six men who could conceivably have an argument as being the greatest ever, although the breadth of Brady’s career now makes it difficult for the rest of the group. The first nine seasons of Brady’s career — which included three titles and an undefeated regular season — now look like an appetizer to Brady’s dominant Gronk-era peak.

It’s impossible to truly compare across eras because the game has changed so much, but Unitas (who played from 1956 to 1973) edges out Montana (1979-1994) and Manning (1998-2015) for the No. 2 spot because Johnny U was so clearly the best of his era and a transformative figure for the sport. Unitas collected three MVPs and five first-team All-Pro nods, and he displayed a sneaky statistical dominance compared to his competition.

Manning ultimately overwhelms Marino and Favre with individual honors and consistency. He was so rarely outside the league’s top-three quarterbacks during a career that included five MVPs. Marino is probably the best pure passer of this group. He was never supported with a top-10 running game, and he rarely played with a good defense. He shouldn’t suffer too much, historically speaking, just because of Don Shula’s personnel decisions. Favre has perhaps the strangest resume. He combines a brilliant peak with three consecutive MVPs and a career famous for its durability with some lesser efficiency stats than the rest of the tier. Still, there’s not that much separating any of these guys.

The best second tier ever

7) Steve Young (1-0 with 49ers)

8) Aaron Rodgers (1-0 with Packers)

9) John Elway (2-3 with Broncos)

10) Roger Staubach (2-2 with Cowboys)

11) Drew Brees (1-0 with Saints)

12) Bart Starr (2-0 with Packers)

It’s wild how similar the resumes of Young and Rodgers look. They both had to wait before taking over for all-time greats who just happen to be in the tier above. They each have two MVPs. They were both as athletic as any top quarterback who has ever played. Young’s teams went 94-49 in his starts, from 1985 to 1999. Rodgers’ teams have gone 100-57-1. Young gets the slight edge for now because his seven-year peak ranks with that of any quarterback who has ever played, but it’s only a matter of time before Rodgers moves up.

Elway was a physical marvel, won an MVP and earned three second-team All-Pro nods in his career (1983-1998), but his passing numbers (3,217 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 picks per year), when adjusted for his era, don’t stack up with the rest of the top 10. Staubach is a great “What if?” because he didn’t become a full-time starter until he was 29 years old. He’s still the consensus best quarterback of the 1970s and led the league in passer rating four times. He probably gets downgraded too much for the era he played in. Starr, who has a reputation for being a “winner” of the ’60s and early Super Bowl era without generating great stats actually has … pretty great stats. So does Brees, who just turned 40 — and just completed one of his best NFL seasons.

In (or should be in) the Hall of Fame

13) Fran Tarkenton (0-3 with Vikings)

14) Ben Roethlisberger (2-1 with Steelers)

15) Troy Aikman (3-0 with Cowboys)

16) Terry Bradshaw (4-0 with Steelers)

17) Joe Namath (1-0 with Jets)

18) Bob Griese (2-1 with Dolphins)

19) Len Dawson (1-1 with Chiefs)

20) Jim Kelly (0-4 with Bills)

21) Kurt Warner (1-1 with Rams; 0-1 with Cardinals)

22) Ken Anderson (0-1 with Bengals)

23) Ken Stabler (1-0 with Raiders)

Like Brees, Tarkenton was an undersized, undervalued but consistent star with an incredibly long run of statistical dominance. Roethlisberger has been a top-five quarterback for the better part of his career, especially after his second Super Bowl triumph (following the 2008 season). Aikman’s peak (1991-96) was impressive, but unfortunately too short. Bradshaw wasn’t great in the seasons preceding his first two Super Bowl triumphs (1975 and ’76), but he wound up being a league MVP and finishing in the top five in yards per attempt five times. Namath gets extra credit for his impact on the game, although it’s worth noting Griese had three more Pro Bowl appearances (eight to Namath’s five), one more All-Pro nod (two to one) and far more seasons in the top five in yards per attempt. The offensive line and running game help, but Griese deserves some legacy love!

Dawson was the best passer in a pass-happy league, leading the AFL in passer rating for five straight years (1964-68). Kelly, like Aikman, had a brilliant peak that wasn’t quite as long as that of some others listed here. Warner had a singular career, starting late before winning two MVPs and leading two different teams to the Super Bowl. Anderson still should be considered for the Hall of Fame, as he was the rare player to win MVP, Comeback Player of the Year and the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He led the league in passer rating four times and earned a first-team All-Pro selection and two second-team nods, which is more than plenty of the names above him. Stabler finally got into the Hall in 2016, unfortunately after his passing.

Fun to watch

24) Donovan McNabb (0-1 with Eagles)

25) Boomer Esiason (0-1 with Bengals)

26) Daryle Lamonica (0-1 with Raiders)

27) Matt Ryan (0-1 with Falcons)

28) Earl Morrall (0-1 with Colts)

29) Eli Manning (2-0 with Giants)

30) Steve McNair (0-1 with Titans)

31) Russell Wilson (1-1 with Seahawks)

32) Rich Gannon (0-1 with Raiders)

McNabb was a top-10 quarterback for nearly all of his career, very often in the top five. I’m surprised he doesn’t get more Hall of Fame consideration. Esiason won an MVP (1988) and led the league in yards per attempt in that season and 1986. Lamonica was someone I didn’t fully appreciate until this exercise. While he was fattening up on a soft AFL, he made five Pro Bowls and nabbed two AFL Player of the Year awards. He finished his career 66-16-6 as a starter! Ryan has a number of seasons as a top-10 quarterback, although his MVP campaign of 2016 stands out as an anomaly.

Full List

By: Gregg Rosenthal

Winners and losers from NFL Week 11

From thrilling last-second wins by teams that are fighting to stay in contention to a horrifying injury that could shape the NFC playoff race, NFL Week 11 had it all.

A six-game winning streak was snapped in agonizing fashion. A team many thought would contend for the title suffered a sixth-straight loss. A team many thought was out of contention is right back in it thanks to a second-straight road win.

Those are among the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 11.

Winner: Captain Andrew Luck has Colts on a roll

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts lost five of their first six games this season. It looked like Andrew Luck’s redemption tour was going to be delayed by a year, at least, despite some solid play from him early. But since that awful start, both Luck and the Colts have started playing some outstanding ball.

With 297 yards and three passing touchdowns Sunday in a 38-10 blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, Luck extended his streak of at least three passing touchdowns to seven consecutive games.

His Colts have now rattled off four wins in a row and are in second place in the AFC South, knocking at the door to get into the playoffs. Should they complete the comeback and make the postseason, then Luck deserves to be included in the MVP conversation, along with Comeback Player of the Year.

Loser: Washington suffers déjà vu in worst possible way

© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) reacts after breaking his leg in the second half against the Houston Texans during the second half at FedEx Field. 

Thirty-three years ago to the day, the Washington Redskins were issued a staggering gut punch. Joe Theismann suffered a horrifying broken leg that is still to this day considered among the most gruesome in professional sports.

On Sunday, Washington lost Alex Smith in the same exact manner. He broke his right tibia and fibula while being dragged to the ground on a sack. He was carted off, taken to the hospital in an ambulance and required immediate surgery. To nobody’s surprise, he will miss the rest of the season, head coach Jay Gruden announced after the game.

Washington also lost Sunday’s game in heartbreaking fashion — falling to 6-4 on the season. The team will be bringing in a bunch of veterans on Monday to see who might back up Colt McCoy.

Barring some crazy developments, it’s hard to see this team finishing off the season strong without Smith. Though it still leads the NFC East, Washington will be hard pressed to hold that lead. On the season, it is minus-one in point differential and closes out the campaign with four of its last six games on the road.

Winner: Cowboys rising 

© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

Dallas couldn’t win on the road earlier this year and entered Week 9 with a 3-5 record. It looked like the ‘Boys were headed for another disappointing season. But the past two weeks have seen this team come together for two straight road wins, and Sunday’s victory in Atlanta was very impressive.

Ezekiel Elliott and the big guys up front are getting back to dominating folks at the line of scrimmage. The dynamic dual-threat running back followed up Week 10’s 187-yard game with an incredible 201-yard showing against the Falcons.

Now just one game behind Washington in the NFC East, featuring an offense that’s starting to click and a defense that can really get after folks — and with four of their final six games at home — Dallas is in great shape to win the division.

Loser: Jags are toast

© Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Jon Bostic (51) brings down Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) during the second half at TIAA Bank Field.

The Jacksonville Jaguars gave it their all on Sunday. For a while it appeared they had Big Ben Roethlisberger and Co. in the palm of their hands, as the Pittsburgh Steelers could do next to nothing in the first half.

Despite a monster game from Leonard Fournette. Despite two Jalen Ramsey interceptions against Big Ben, and three interceptions overall. Despite the best showing Jacksonville has put up in weeks. The Jags lost. They lost their sixth game in a row. They’re now 3-7 on the season. Oh, by the way, Blake Bortles is still not the guy.

This team is done. A franchise many pegged to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII is unofficially out of the playoff chase, and it is officially the biggest disappointment of the 2018 season.

All the Winner and Losers

By: Jesse Reed

Big Ben Thinks TNF Is Stupid

Written by John Breech at CBS Sports.com

Every week in the NFL, there seems to be at least one new player out there who’s unhappy with playing football on Thursdays, and this week that player is Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers will be hosting the Titans on Thursday night this week, and let’s just say that Big Ben isn’t happy about the fact that he has to play in the game. During an interview Monday with 93.7 The Fan, a CBS Sports Radio station in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger ripped the idea of Thursday games and called on the NFL to just get rid of them.

“It’s miserable, it’s terrible, they need to get rid of this game I think,” Roethlisberger said. “Just play on Mondays and Sundays. It’s so tough on guys, you’re beat up, you’re banged up. It’s a very violent, physical game we play.”

Roethlisberger also added that the Titans probably feel the same way about playing on just four days of rest.

“Both teams are going through it, so I’m not just speaking on ours,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m sure the Titans would say the same thing and everyone who’s played on Thursday night would say the same thing.”

The Steelers quarterback isn’t the first player this season to call on the NFL to put an end to Thursday football. After the Seahawks beat the Cardinals in Week 10, Doug Baldwin said playing on Thursday should be “illegal.”

Bills offensive lineman Richie Incognito had a similar reaction after a 34-21 loss to the Jets in Week 9. Following that game, Incognito said that Thursday games “suck” and it’s “ridiculous” that the NFL puts them on the schedule.

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Steelers President Lays Out His Plans For the Offseason

Written by Jeremy Fowler at ESPN.com

Steelers president Art Rooney II said Tuesday that he expectsBen Roethlisberger to return for a 14th NFL season because of the quarterback’s desire to win a third Super Bowl.

Rooney said he recently spoke to Roethlisberger, who told 93.7 The Fan last week that he’s evaluating his playing career.

Roethlisberger’s hesitation is probably “a combination of things,” Rooney said. “Coming off a long season and a tough loss, and in this age in his career it’s not crazy to have thoughts about, ‘What’s the rest of my career going to be like?’ So, I think we had a good conversation. Obviously, he’s got to make his decision. I expect he’ll be back but he’s got to make that decision.”

Rooney said he believes winning is Roethlisberger’s “No. 1 motivation,” and that the QB has grown into more of a leader in recent years.

Roethlisberger is one-third of a potent offensive trio that includes wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, both of whom Rooney would like to see in Steelers uniforms long term.

The Steelers want to re-sign Brown, who enters the last year of a contract due to pay him $4.7 million in 2017. Rooney said he believes Brown will learn and grow from the Facebook Live distraction in the days before the AFC title game loss to thePatriots, and that Brown’s work ethic and good intentions outweigh any issues.

Brown is the first NFL player since Marvin Harrison to record four consecutive 100-catch seasons.

“Our intention is to try to get a contract extension done with Antonio,” Rooney said. “We’ll get to work on that … Some of the off-the-field things, I think, for the most part are things that I don’t think had a big impact on the team. Hopefully in the future he’ll keep them to the minimal type of distractions.”

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Reading Between The Lines Of Roethlisberger’s Comments On His Future

Written at Peter King at MMQB.com

News about a fun Super Bowl week event in Houston in a few paragraphs—podcast fun and good beer—but we open on a non-Super Bowl bit of news from Tuesday: Ben Roethlisberger hinting that, at 34, he may have played his last snap for the Steelers.

First: I do not believe he will quit. Not for a second. But I do have some interpretation of his comments.

In an appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger said in the wake of the Steelers’ AFC Championship Game no-show in New England: “I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.” He said he wasn’t meaning to say he wasn’t coming back, just that he wanted to take some time to decide his future.

I’ll tell you what I think. And understand that this is a reading of the tea leaves. I have not spoken to Roethlisberger. I have not spoken to his agent, Ryan Tollner. But I have noticed this season that Roethlisberger has seemed frustrated with a few things. I am not absolving him of his share of the blame for the offensive performance, to be sure. The Steelers, in the divisional victory at Kansas City and the title game at New England, managed two touchdowns in two games. This makes it far worse: Over 110 minutes—the game in Kansas City and the first 50 minutes at New England—Roethlisberger managed zero touchdown passes in the most important games of the year. Even without the suspended Martavis Bryant, and even with Le’Veon Bell getting hurt in the first half of the AFC Championship Game, this is a feeble two-game performance by what is supposed to be one of the most explosive offenses in football.

I think, particularly in his post-Kansas City criticism last week of the selfish Antonio Brown, and this week of the team’s lack of maturity and readiness for the game, that Roethlisberger was focusing his frustration on three people: Brown (to be sure), coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The dissing of Brown is easy. He’s too often this year been immature, and if Roethlisberger had to settle him down on the sidelines at Foxboro—which has been reported—it’s an Odell Beckham-like bout of baby behavior that simply has to stop. Brown’s too great a player to be sulking. He’s the major reason why the Steelers won the division in the first place, after his reach over the goal line resulted in the AFC North-winning touchdown on Christmas against Baltimore.

I got the sense, regarding the Roethlisberger/Tomlin situation, that the quarterback is frustrated that Brown is acting up over and over again, and the coach hasn’t stopped it. Good on Tomlin for forcefully going after Brown after the Facebook incident last week, but little things have flared up often this year.

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Dallas Narrowly Beats Steelers

Mike Tomlin declared emphatically that his Steelers defense did not let rookie Ezekiel Elliott score a 14-yard touchdown that put Dallas ahead by five points with 1:55 left in their game Sunday.

It would not have been a bad strategy had they done so, because it allowed Ben Roethlisberger enough time to lead his own touchdown drive that put the Steelers back in front with 42 seconds to go.

Too much time, it turned out.

Yet, the problem for the Steelers defense all day in a rollicking Heinz Field was that it did look as if it allowed Elliott to run through them on other occasions. Those included his 32-yard touchdown dash with nine seconds left that gave the Cowboys (8-1) their eighth consecutive victory, 35-30, and sent the Steelers (4-5) to their fourth loss in a row.

Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher, carried 21 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He took another screen pass 83 yards for a score. It offset one of Roethlisberger’s better days — he completed 37 of 46 passes for 408 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and it looked as if he had rallied them to another comeback victory.

Except it was not because Dallas rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was nearly his equal and because the defense played poorly in all kinds of manners that prompted some stinging accusations by Tomlin that they lacked discpline. Again.

“For us, just not enough discipline and detail in our play to be victorious,’’ the coach said. “It’s not mystical, it isn’t OK, we won’t accept it, we can’t accept it and it was the case.”

Despite all the big plays against them — including a 50-yard touchdown catch by Dez Bryant, who beat rookie Artie Burns in single coverage on a third-down blitz by the Steelers — the outcome probably came down to a facemask penalty.

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Ben Roethlisberger Suffers Torn Meniscus


Written by Chris Burke at SI.com

In the wake of the news that QB Ben Roethlisberger needs surgery on his torn left meniscus, the Steelers have two options. Glass half full? Their bye week is coming in Week 8. Injury analyst Jene Bramel of FootballGuys writes that if the meniscus can be removed, Roethlisberger’s timetable would sit him down only for two to four weeks.

Glass half empty? This is a terrible time for Roethlisberger to be on the sideline. The Steelers are coming off an awful loss in Miami, the red-hot Patriots visit on Sunday, and they face Baltimore and Dallas in Weeks 9 and 10, respectively.

Of course, there’s never a good time for the Steelers to lose Big Ben. Their offense is built around what he can do in the pocket and out of it. He leads the league in passing TDs this season (16) after pacing all QBs in yards per game the past two years (328.2 in 2015).

Without him in the lineup, the Steelers become far less dangerous as an offense. That’s typical of most forced starter-to-backup transitions in the NFL, but Roethlisberger’s ability to manipulate plays inside and out of the pocket push it toward the extreme here. In the four games that Pittsburgh started either Michael Vick or Jones last season, its average points dropped by a full touchdown (27.5 to 20.5). Passing yards plummeted, too, down to 162.8 yards per outing.

The run game became the focal point during Roethlisberger’s 2015 absence—the Steelers topped 140 yards in each of the four games he missed and averaged 152.5 yards across all those weeks. So, expect even more of the Le’Veon Bell/DeAngelo Williams combo against New England.

If there is a silver lining in Roethlisberger’s injury, perhaps it’s in the backfield. The Steelers have running backs who can take over, but they also could stand to increase their output on the ground as it is. Bell only saw 10 rushing attempts in the loss to Miami; the week prior, the Jets held Pittsburgh to 61 yards on 24 carries. Even on a third-and-one near midfield Sunday, with Roethlisberger having his injured knee checked in the locker room, the Steelers opted to let Jones throw—he fired incomplete, Pittsburgh punted and Miami marched for a go-ahead TD before halftime.

“No need to sugarcoat it,” coach Mike Tomlin said after the 30–15 loss. “We got beat soundly.”

Reversing the mojo without Roethlisberger, against the Patriots, will be a monumental task.

Jones came off the bench in Week 6 last year to help Pittsburgh beat Arizona, thanks mainly to an 88-yard, catch-and-run TD from the now-suspended Martavis Bryant. He bombed in his two starts, though, the first a 23–13 loss to Kansas City in which Jones finished 16 of 29 for 209 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He was pulled early in start No. 2, in favor of a hobbled Roethlisberger.

All three of Jones’s touchdown passes last season found Bryant, whom he will not have available as he takes the reins this time. Jones targeted Bryant and Antonio Brown eight times each vs. the Chiefs, with Brown producing 125 yards.

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Winners and Losers from NFL Week 5


Written by Jesse Reed at Sportsnaut.com

There can be no doubt that Tom Brady’s return put the New England Patriots in the winners column in NFL Week 5, both on paper and in general.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Houston Texans and high-priced free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler put forth an effort that can only result in a losing grade.

We’re taking a look at these stories and more winners and losers from Week 5.

Winner: Tom Brady and the Pats have a touchdown party in Cleveland

Okay, so it’s not shocking that the New England Patriots put a beating on the winless Cleveland Browns in Tom Brady’s first game back from his four-game suspension. With that out of the way, let’s just bask in the glow that was New England’s red-hot offense on Sunday in the team’s 33-13 win.

Brady wasn’t perfect, but he was darn close to it. He opened the game with precision on the first offensive possession, completing 5-of-6 passes for 65 yards, including two to Rob Gronkowski for 53 yards. LeGarrette Blout cleaned up the drive with a one-yard touchdown.
Brady’s first touchdown pass of the 2016 season came on the very next drive. He found tight end Martellus Bennett in the end zone from seven yards out — the first of three connections between the two on the day.

The veteran finished with 406 yards in 28-of-40 passing. Both Gronkowski and receiver Chris Hogan went over 100 yards, and Bennett was a fantasy dynamo with his three touchdown scores.

We all knew Brady would return with a vengeance after missing out on the fun the first four weeks of the season. He did not disappoint.

Loser: Brock Osweiler continues to underwhelm

The Houston Texans are paying Osweiler $21 million to quarterback the offense in 2016 — the sixth-highest amount in the NFL this year.

It’s safe to say the franchise is not getting what it paid for. In fact, he’s looking more like a Texas-sized bust than anything else — something we pointed out a few weeks go, though the idea was met with much criticism.

Sunday in Minnesota against a dominant Vikings defense, Osweiler was wildly inaccurate, got rattled under pressure and was generally atrocious. Not surprisingly, the Texans lost by a wide margin, 31-13.

He finished with just 184 yards (much of which was gained in garbage time) on 19-of-42 passing with a late touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins and one interception.

Granted, the Vikings make a lot of quarterbacks look bad. But this isn’t a one-game thing for Osweiler. He’s been merely average even on his best outings in 2016.

Because the Texans play in the AFC South, they might still get into the playoffs by default this year. But unless Osweiler turns the corner in a major way the next handful of games, it’s likely Houston will be once again in the market for a quarterback next season.

Winner: Big Ben + Le’Veon = sweet music

The past two games have proved the value of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Now that he’s back in the lineup and defenses have to account for him busting off a huge run on any given play, Pittsburgh’s offense is rolling.

Of course, it all starts with Big Ben Roethlisberger, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the league before the snap. He diagnoses defense with precision these days and more often than not dials up the right counter.

Going up a darn good defensive front Sunday against the New York Jets, Roethlisberger and Co. played the Darrelle Revis-less secondary like a fiddle, winning 31-13.

On a relatively quiet day for Antonio Brown (just nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, he wrote sarcastically), it was none other than Sammie Coates who (as expected) came through with the monster performance. Coates finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns (including this 72-yard bomb) on six catches.

And while Bell was bottled up somewhat on the ground, he finished with 154 yards.

Pittsburgh’s offense piled up 433 yards and an astonishing 30 first downs Sunday. The past two games, the Steelers have totaled 869 yards and 58 first downs against the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

Roethlisberger threw for 680 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions in these two games. Bell has totaled 362 yards in his first two games back after serving his three-game suspension.

It doesn’t get much better than this offensively. Now the Steelers, at 4-1, are sitting pretty atop the AFC North for at least one week with the lowly Miami Dolphins being their next potential victim.

Speaking of the Dolphins, this leads us nicely to our next loser.

Loser: Dolphins swimming in reverse 

Have the Dolphins hit rock bottom? It sure feels like it after the Tennessee Titans went into Hard Rock Stadium and made it their own, winning 30-17.

Second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota ruled over Miami’s pathetic, overpaid defense with the authority of Genghis Khan in his heyday. He finished the game with just 223 total yards but made them all count, scoring four times — once on the ground and three times through the air.

DeMarco Murray added to his strong campaign with 137 total yards, and Derrick Henry got into the action with 54 yards on seven carries.

Tennessee’s defense dominated Ryan Tannehill and Co. for most of the game, allowing just 200 yards and eight first downs. Tannehill, who was sacked a ridiculous six times, appears to be regressing under the tutelage of Adam Gase.

Oh, and DeVante Parker might want to invest in some sort of hand strengthening gadget.

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