Mason Rudolph calls Myles Garrett’s racial slur allegation a ‘bold-faced lie’

Mason Rudolph has once again denied using a racial slur toward Myles Garrett when the two players got into an altercation this past season.

Garrett was reinstated by the NFL this week, and the Cleveland Browns star shed more light on his allegation that Rudolph set him off by calling him a racial slur. Garrett told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that Rudolph called him a “stupid N-word” when the two got tangled up late in Cleveland’s Week 11 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rudolph took to Twitter on Saturday morning and called the allegation a “disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character.”

To continue reading the full story, click HERE.

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports By Steve DelVecchio | Last updated 2/15/20

Seven NFL Stars Who Could Be Traded This Offseason

As the NFL playoffs roll on, eliminated teams focus on the  offseason and potential moves they can make to contend for a Super Bowl  next season. While the 2020 NFL Draft and free agency will offer plenty  of help, the trade market could be especially attractive this offseason.

Rumors from the NFL’s midseason trade deadline offered a glimpse into potential names that could be available. New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton are among the stars that teams will inquire on, but they aren’t alone.

Whether your team needs a great quarterback, an offensive weapon, or a disruptive force on the defensive side, that talent could be acquired this offseason. 

Here are the seven NFL stars who could move this offseason.

Odell Beckham Jr., receiver, Browns

While Beckham has denied wanting out of Cleveland, the numerous reports contradicting this claim bring his future into question. Of course, trade speculation could intensify once the Browns’ new brass settles in.

While it’s unlikely that the Browns will recoup what they gave up for OBJ, landing something could still be worth it. Other NFL teams recognize he played through a painful sports hernia injury this season and Beckham’s willingness to compete in a meaningless Week 17 game with food poisoning speaks volumes about his competitiveness. Everyone would benefit from a change of scenery before the 2020 season.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Adams, safety, Jets

The Jets surprised many during the season by shopping Adams,  but a deal never came to fruition before the deadline. While the front office has made efforts to repair the relationship between Adams and  general manager Joe Douglas, the damage might already be done.

New  York will enter the offseason with numerous needs on both sides of the  ball, so this isn’t a team that is one piece away from contention. The  Jets could benefit from trading Adams for a package of picks, perhaps exploring if the Dallas Cowboys would expand on their original offer.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Redskins

New head coach Ron Rivera is making an effort to keep Williams in Washington and convince him this organization has changed. Given all of the drama that unfolded between Williams and the Redskins, including the organization’s decision to withhold his pay, a separation appears likely.

The  31-year-old tackle already took a season off of his career. He can’t afford to waste his remaining years on a team in transition. Williams would greatly benefit from a trade and there are plenty of contenders around the NFL that need a Pro Bowl left tackle. Ultimately, the Redskins should accommodate Williams’ wishes this offseason.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers

Newton’s recovery from Lisfranc surgery and his future in Carolina will be one of the biggest story lines this offseason. While new head coach Matt Rhule is seemingly the perfect coach for Newton and Rhule hinted the star quarterback will remain in Carolina, the fit seems shaky.

Rhule  is building an entirely new culture, which could easily mean finding a long-term quarterback. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears enter this offseason with glaring needs at quarterback and Newton, 30, could be the perfect player to put each of them over the top. 

If  the right offer comes, Rhule could easily trade Newton and take advantage of a loaded 2020 draft class to start building a new foundation for this team.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Matt Johnson  |  Last updated 1/14/20

Browns To Hire Kevin Stefanski As Head Coach

The Browns will hire Vikings offensive coordinator  Kevin Stefanski  as their new head coach, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link), and Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports (via Twitter) that it’s a done deal. Stefanski was the runner-up for the Cleveland head coaching gig last year, and after Freddie Kitchen‘s disastrous 2019 campaign resulted in his dismissal, the Browns have circled back to the man many believe they should have hired in the first place.

Stefanski has served in a variety of roles for the Vikings since joining the organization back in 2006, including stints as the tight ends coach, running backs coach, and quarterbacks coach. The 37-year-old was named interim offensive coordinator following the firing of John DeFilippo during the 2018 season, and he earned the full-time gig prior to the 2019 campaign.

During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. The coach led the trio of Dalvin CookAlexander Mattison, and Mike Boone to top-six rankings in rushing yards and touchdowns, and he also helped quarterback Kirk Cousins have one of the best seasons of his career. Although the Vikings laid an egg in Saturday’s divisional round loss to the 49ers, Cleveland was obviously undeterred.

The Browns’ coaching search saw them interview eight candidates, as our 2020 head coaching search tracker shows (former Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who ultimately accepted the Panthers’ head coaching job, turned down the opportunity to interview with Cleveland). Browns chief strategist Paul DePodesta piloted the search, and recent reports indicated that he had narrowed his list to Stefanski and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. But DePodesta, who wanted Stefanski last year, got his wish this year.

Interestingly, DePodesta’s contract with Cleveland is reportedly set to expire, but given his role in the coaching search, it seems likely that the Browns will retain him. However, the team continues to search for a new general manager, and Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry may have just become the leading candidate for that role, as his analytically-driven approach meshes with Stefanski’s.

Meanwhile, Vikings QB coach Klint Kubiak could follow Stefanski to Cleveland to become the Browns’ new offensive coordinator, as Mike Klis of 9News.com tweets.

With the Stefanski hire, the 2020 head coaching cycle has come to a stop. The Browns were the last of the five teams with a head coaching vacancy this year to hire their head coach.

Click HERE to continue reading this article.

Originally posted on Pro Football Rumors  |  By Rory Parks  |  Last updated 1/12/20

John Dorsey, Browns agree to part ways

John Dorsey was given just two seasons to turn things around for the Cleveland Browns. He was unable to get the job done.

Dorsey and the Browns have agreed to part ways, according to multiple reports. While the general manager technically was not fired, Cleveland’s ownership group met with him and proposed a new front office structure that he did not agree with, which was likely the expected outcome.

Dorsey made big moves in his two years with the Browns after he came over from the Kansas City Chiefs, but they have not panned out thus far. He drafted Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick, acquired two star wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, fired Hue Jackson, and promoted Freddie Kitchens to head coach. Kitchens’ first season as head coach in Cleveland was a disaster, as the team went 6-10 after closing out 2018 strong.

There was a ton of hype surrounding the Browns prior to the season, and Dorsey did his best to try to control that. That didn’t stop fans from expecting a postseason appearance.

Kitchens is largely responsible for 2019 being a lost season in Cleveland. That was evident with some of the ugly exchanges he had with players late in the year. However, the decision to promote Kitchens and acquire the players who butted heads with the coach ultimately falls on Dorsey. Jimmy Haslam believes cleaning house is once again the best option for the Browns.

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports
By Steve DelVecchio  |  Last updated 12/31/19

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/john_dorsey_browns_agree_to_part_ways/s1_127_30934814

Top Takeaways from Sunday’s Week 17 NFL action

What a crazy end to the NFL regular season on Sunday. It started with the New England Patriots shockingly losing to the Miami Dolphins to give away a first-round bye.

The Philadelphia Eagles earned the NFC East title with a win over the New York Giants later in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the  San Francisco 49ers  put up one heck of a performance in a dramatic win over the Seahawks in Seattle to earn the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 17 NFL action.

49ers win game of the decade 

We knew Sunday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks was among the biggest of the season. San Francisco would earn the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win. Seattle would claim the NFC West and host Minnesota during the wild-card round.

The game itself was absolutely amazing with Russell Wilson leading Seattle to multiple second-half scoring drives. But in the end, a goal-line stand from the 49ers’ defense ultimately gave Kyle Shanahan and Co. the win.

This has to be considered the game of the decade in what was the final regular-season matchup of the 2010s. And it’s going to have wide-ranging ramifications in the playoffs. Just craziness.

Titans take care of business, will face the Patriots

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was a simple scenario for Tennessee on Sunday. If the Titans were able to come out on top against a Houston Texans squad that was resting its starters, they would earn the No. 6 seed. Earlier in the day, New England’s loss to Miami guaranteed that any potential wild-card game for the Titans would be against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Riding the brilliant performances of Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry, Tennessee came out on top by the score of 35-14. It finished the regular season having won seven of Tannehill’s 10 starts and has to be seen as an upset waiting to happen against the defending champs next weekend.

That’s it for Oakland Raiders football

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gruden and the Raiders needed a whole lot to happen in order to sneak into the playoffs. That included them coming out on top over the Denver Broncos on Sunday. It also included a ton of other scenarios, including the Titans losing and Colts winning.

When it became apparent that neither scenario would play out, the end of Oakland Raiders football as we know it was in the cards. The Raiders lost to Denver by the score of 16-15 to finish their final season in Northern California at 7-9. It’s now on to Las Vegas for Gruden and the Raiders.

Jason Garrett’s tenure seemingly comes to an end

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys needed to take out Washington with the Giants winning against Philadelphia in Jersey Sunday afternoon to earn the NFC East title. Dallas did its job with an 47-16 blowout of the Skins. Unfortunately, Dallas saw Philadelphia take out the Giants at about the same time.

The end result is an 8-8 record and Dallas shockingly missing out on the playoffs. This should pretty much spell the end of Garrett’s tenure in Dallas. His contract has now officially expired with the Cowboys already being linked to multiple big-name candidates to replace Garrett.

Chiefs are hitting their stride

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Winners of five consecutive heading into Sunday’s season finale against the last-place Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs started out slowly at Arrowhead. That’s until Patrick Mahomes went full Patrick Mahomes and Damien Williams brought the house down with this touchdown run.

When all was said and done, Kansas City came out on top by the score of 31-21 for its sixth consecutive win heading into the playoffs. This win, coupled with New England’s shocking loss to the Dolphins, has the Chiefs as the No. 2 seed in the AFC and enjoying a first-round bye. Watch out Ravens, another team is aiming for you.

No fight in these Panthers

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The decision to fire head coach Ron Rivera after 12 games and nearly a decade in that role has backfired on the Panthers in a big way. They headed into Sunday’s meaningless game against the Saints losers of seven consecutive games. Most of those losses displayed a declawed Panthers squad that showed no fight.

That was once again the case at home against New Orleans. Carolina fell by the score of 42-10, embarrassing itself in the process. Regardless of what the future might hold at quarterback and head coach in Carolina, the ending of this season was an unmitigated disaster for the Panthers. Sunday’s blowout loss added another layer to this.

Patriots stumble into the playoffs

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Shocking. That has to be the best way to describe New England’s home loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. A win at Gillette Stadium would have given New England a first-round bye for the ninth consecutive season.

Instead, Tom Brady and Co. put up a dud of a performance in a 27-24 loss to the Dolphins (5-11). By virtue of this defeat and the Chiefs’ win in Kansas City, New England will be playing wild-card weekend for the first time since all the way back in 2010. It has to be a sickening feeling for Bill Belichick and his team. Just brutal.

Packers survive Lions

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no world in which Green Bay’s 23-20 win over the last-place Detroit Lions on Sunday can be seen as a good thing. By virtue of the victory, Aaron Rodgers and Co. earned a first-round bye.

Even then, a game-ending field goal from Mason Crosby to clinch Green Bay’s 13th win of the season was not great. Sure the Pack will host a divisional round game against one of four teams playing on wild-card weekend. In no way should the team feel good heading into the playoffs. If you can’t dominate an injury-plagued last-place team, there’s little hope for postseason success. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.

That’s it for Freddie Kitchens

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Reports indicated earlier on Sunday that the Browns were vetting potential replacements for first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland entered Week 17 with a 6-9 record and taking on a one-win Bengals team.

What we saw transpire in Cincinnati put an end to Kitchens’ short tenure with the Browns. Cleveland fell in embarrassing fashion by the score of 33-23. It was yet another mistake-prone performance from the squad, and it led to Kitchens getting his walking papers on the eve of Black Monday. Back to the drawing board for the long-downtrodden Browns.

Eagles overcome injuries, win NFC East

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Eagles entered Sunday’s game against the Giants with an opportunity to win the NFC East. It did not start out swimmingly with star offensive players Brandon Brooks and Miles Sanders joining a plethora of other Eagles players on the sideline due to injury.

Despite that, Doug Pederson and Co. were able to will their way to a hard-fought win and the division title with a 34-17 victory. It really is a testament to the job Pederson has done this season. And regardless if the season ends at home next weekend against the Seahawks, it will be seen as a success in Philly.

NFL Playoff field set 

The 49ers, Packers, Ravens and Chiefs will be watching next weekend to see who they take on in the divisional round. Meanwhile, eight teams will take the field for what promises to be a fun weekend of postseason action.

In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans will travel to New England to take on the defending champion Patriots. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills will be taking on the Texans in Houston.

The NFC is even crazier with the Minnesota Vikings heading to New Orleans to take on the Saints and the Seahawks traveling to Philadelphia to play the Eagles. Get your popcorn ready, this should be a blast.

By: Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Vincent Frank  |  Last updated 12/30/19

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/top_takeaways_from_sundays_week_17_nfl_action/s1_12680_30922091

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 16 game-by-game analysis, grades

In Philadelphia, the Eagles moved a massive step closer to clinching the NFC East title with a win over the Cowboys. In Nashville, the Titans fell to the Saints but can clinch the AFC’s No. 6 seed with a Week 17 win at Houston. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 16 whip-around:  1 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 17, DALLAS 9

COWBOYS (7-8): Dallas’ supposed stars didn’t play like stars:Dak Prescott threw for a season-low 6.0 yards per attempt; WR Amari Cooper had just 24 yards receiving, and TE Jason Witten collected only 14 (second-worst total of the season); and RB Ezekiel Elliott averaged just 3.6 yards per rush attempt (fourth-worst of season). The Cowboys have stacked up most of their production in blowouts against bad teams. Dallas has averaged 15.2 points in its six losses to teams that currently own a winning record. Good offenses can beat up on bad teams consistently. Great offenses come through with clutch performances in the biggest moments. The Cowboys simply aren’t capable. Overrated! GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: Vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


EAGLES (8-7): With its offense missing five starters and the season on the line, Philadelphia needed a top-tier performance from its defense and it got it. The Eagles limited Dallas’ supposedly elite offense to a season-low-tying nine points and only 16 first downs (tied for second-fewest). Up front, Fletcher Cox blew up run plays and pressured Dak Prescott into errant throws. In the back end, Philadelphia’s shaky secondary played one of its best games. CB Sidney Jones came up with the play of the game, breaking up a potential touchdown on a fourth-down pass intended for Michael Gallup late in the fourth quarter. If the Eagles are going to win the NFC East and make a surprise playoff run, it’s the defense that must make it happen. If the Eagles beat the Giants in Week 17, they are in. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Giants (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 2 of 16

KANSAS CITY 26, CHICAGO 3

CHIEFS (11-4): Kansas City will almost certainly earn the AFC’s No. 3 seed. But this Chiefs edition is playing better than the 2018 iteration that had home-field advantage. Given a “Sunday Night Football” Week 16 road assignment last season, the Chiefs gave up 38 points in Seattle. Before that, they yielded 29 to the Chargers and 33 to the Raiders. The ’19 Chiefs’ past four games combined: 31 points. Steve Spagnuolo’s improved defense held Mitchell Trubisky to 120 pre-garbage-time yards, stopping the Chicago QB’s stretch-run surge. The Chiefs may have overpaid for safety Tyrann Mathieu, and the totality of DE Frank Clark’s season (seven sacks) pales in comparison to his 2018 Seahawks work. But both have become impact players. With a defense capable of complementing Patrick Mahomes in a way last year’s Bob Sutton-coordinated unit could not, these Chiefs are more dangerous than when their quarterback was the runaway MVP. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT:  Vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BEARS (7-8): Andy Reid’s team is at least a tier above where the Bears and his protege Matt Nagy reside. The problem for Chicago on Sunday night at Soldier Field chiefly was the offense, which had neither rhythm nor flow. Neither QB Mitchell Trubisky (18-for-34 for 157 yards) nor the running game (101 yards) provided any spark. The defense really held its own, per usual, against an elite offense, and DE Khalil Mack (one sack and TFL) was as outstanding as ever. Until the Bears get better, more consistent QB play, this will be Chicago’s fate against elite teams. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: At Vikings (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 3 of 16

OAKLAND 24, LA CHARGERS 17

RAIDERS (7-8): The Raiders reportedly are debating whether to end the Derek Carr era after six seasons, but the scrutinized quarterback helped Oakland avoid mathematical elimination with a strong performance. Carr completed 26 of 30 passes for 291 yards in Oakland’s “away” game in Los Angeles, firing mid-range throws that put Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams in position for 56- and 43-yard catch-and-runs, respectively. Jon Gruden’s reported dissatisfaction with Carr’s limited skill set is not without merit. Entering Sunday, Carr ranked last in the league in Next Gen Stats’ intended air yards metric. The Raiders might struggle, however, to upgrade on their mid-level starter next year. Would a team with several needs trade both of its mid-first-round picks to move up for the second- or third-best quarterback prospect? Gruden and Carr might have to coexist to start the Las Vegas years. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT:  At Broncos (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHARGERS (5-10): Facing a Raiders team that ranked 26th in run-defense DVOA, the Bolts rushed for 19 yards – their worst regular-season total of the decade. Melvin Gordon gained 15 yards. The fifth-year Charger has one game remaining to avoid injury and move to free agency. He has only 566 yards rushing in 11 games this season. Le’Veon Bell needed a desperate Jets GM to salvage a big payday in March. Without Bell’s accolades, and partially because of the former Steeler’s failure in New York, Gordon will not see that kind of market in 2020. The Chargers have also failed to develop offensive linemen in recent years, and veteran acquisitions Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung missed much of the season with injuries. The center and left tackle will be 31 and 33 next year, respectively. It is safe to predict the Bolts will be targeting offensive linemen in free agency and the draft. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: At Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

4 of 16

NY JETS 16, PITTSBURGH 10

STEELERS (8-7): What a nightmare for Pittsburgh, which somehow is still in the mix for the No. 6 seed. Undrafted rookie free agent Devlin Hodges started at QB but was rightfully pulled after two interceptions (six over his past two games) in favor of Mason Rudolph, who was knocked out with an injury. Mercifully, the Duck fluttered back in. The running back situation is a disaster. James Conner lasted a short stretch before he once again left a game with an injury. Outside of Conner, who can’t be counted on, none of Pittsburgh’s running backs is well-rounded enough to contribute in all phases. Pittsburgh rushed for only 75 yards (3.0 per carry), and its running backs’ inability in pass protection contributed to four sacks. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: At Ravens (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


JETS (6-9): Although Marcus Maye will be Robin to Jamal Adams’ Batman as long as the safety duo stays together, he did the most to deliver an upset win. Maye intercepted a Devlin Hodges second-quarter pass in the end zone, but his acrobatic fourth-quarter pass breakup of a would-be James Washington go-ahead touchdown was more impressive. Maye getting his left hand in between Washington’s grip may keep Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. Adams and Maye become extension-eligible after Week 17. While the Jets will need to give their two-time Pro Bowler a much bigger contract, they must decide on Maye’s future first. No fifth-year option exists on the 2017 second-rounder’s deal, so 2020 will be Maye’s contract year. New York’s B-side safety was former GM Mike Maccagnan’s investment but he has played 15 games this season while battling injuries. A lack of Jets homegrown talent should prompt GM Joe Douglas to consider a Maye re-up. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: At Bills (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 5 of 16

NEW ORLEANS 38, TENNESSEE 28

SAINTS (12-3): The chemistry between Michael Thomas and Drew Brees makes New Orleans the most dangerous team in the NFC. Thomas shredded the Titans’ weak secondary and made history, reaching 145 receptions to set the NFL season record (surpassing Marvin Harrison’s 143 in 2002). Tennessee had no answer for Thomas, who grabbed 12 of 17 targets for 136 yards and a game-sealing touchdown reception with just over two minutes to go. He entered the game leading the NFL with 3.36 yards per route run out of the slot, giving him a mismatch against CB Logan Ryan, who entered the game with league-worst totals of 719 yards and five touchdowns allowed out of the slot. Thomas took full advantage of that edge throughout the game, destroying the Titans with a thousand paper cuts in the underneath game (as he does to most teams). GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: At Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


TITANS (8-7): Many have pondered when QB Ryan Tannehill would come back to Earth. With every passing week, however, the 31-year-old looks less like a fluke and more like a player who has blossomed, albeit later in his career than most quarterbacks. Tannehill’s season passer rating stands at 114.6 after he posted a 133.6 mark against New Orleans (League average was 91 entering Week 16.) He put up strong numbers (17-for-27, 272 yards, 3 TDs) against a strong pass rush (five sacks). Tannehill also showed he is capable of producing without the threat of RB Derrick Henry, who sat out with an injured hamstring. The Titans will make the playoffs if they can beat Houston in Week 17; if they do get in, Tannehill makes them a team no AFC opponent wants to see. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: At Texans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 6 of 16

ARIZONA 27, SEATTLE 13

CARDINALS (5-9-1): RB Kenyan Drake continues to be a revelation. After shredding Seattle for 166 yards and two TDs, he has six touchdowns and 303 yards on just 46 carries over his past two games. Drake, a soon-to-be free agent, has three 100-yard games for the Cardinals, and is the catalyst for two straight wins. His season numbers are not eye-popping, which should keep his price down in free agency, but even if there are aggressive bidders, the Cardinals should aim to keep him. Kliff Kingsbury’s system might be all about the quarterback and receivers, but Arizona is not in a position to let talent get away.  GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SEAHAWKS (11-4): In addition to losing game, Seattle suffered significant personnel losses that could cripple the Seahawks in the playoffs. RBs Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise are done for the season with hip and arm injuries, respectively. LT Duane Brown needs knee surgery. Second-string RB Rashaad Penny was already done with an ACL injury. Suddenly Seattle is on its fourth-string running back. Yikes. Assuming they are unable to beat San Francisco and win the NFC West, the Seahawks may need Russell Wilson to be spectacular in the first round of the playoffs. Seattle’s entire season was spent on the edge, repeatedly scraping by in close games, mainly due to Wilson’s brilliance. Now, just winning a playoff game will be a major accomplishment. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT:  Vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 16

INDIANAPOLIS 38, CAROLINA 6

PANTHERS (5-10): Christian McCaffrey caught all 15 of his targets in Indianapolis, setting a record for most targets without an incompletion (record was first tracked in 1992). In his starting debut, rookie Will Grier was 15-for-15 for 119 yards targeting McCaffrey (7.8 per attempt) and 12-for-29 for 105 yards (3.6 per attempt) with three interceptions when targeting any other player. The 15 targets tied a career-high for McCaffrey; the 15 receptions were a career-high, too. Few running backs in league history have showcased as much two-ability as McCaffrey; the ones who have are either in Canton or on their way.GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: Vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


COLTS (7-8): The Colts won’t make the playoffs, but they didn’t quit on Frank Reich, throttling Carolina and giving Panthers quarterback Will Grier a rude welcome in his first NFL start. QB Jacoby Brissett didn’t do much but didn’t have to, as Indianapolis’ running game dominated, and Nyheim Hines became just the fifth player this century and 15th since 1950 to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game. The big question facing the Colts as they approach Week 17 and look toward 2020 is: What’s the ceiling for Brissett? Indianapolis has one of the more balanced rosters in the NFL, but unseating the Texans atop the division will take star power at the most important position on the field. The Colts seem to think Brissett possesses it, but his career passer rating (85.6, below league average) suggests otherwise. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: At Jaguars (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 8 of 16

ATLANTA 24, JACKSONVILLE 12

JAGUARS (5-10): Another week, another listless performance. What will become of head coach Doug Marrone? Jacksonville gave up 518 yards, and, aside from a drive-killing Matt Ryan interception, did not stop an Atlanta march in fewer than six plays. Rookie Gardner Minshew did nothing to suggest he should be the starting quarterback next season. With one game left, Jacksonville has major questions under center. It sounds like a full housecleaning is in order, but NFL.com reported owner Shad Khan may prefer keeping Marrone and GM David Caldwell. Executive VP Tom Coughlin was fired last week in the wake of the NFLPA’s letter to its members warning them about signing with the Jaguars. What a mess. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: Vs. Colts (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


FALCONS (6-9): Falcons players are playing hard for head coach Dan Quinn, whom they want to return. Quinn’s defense has been particularly impressive. It dismantled Jacksonville, holding the Jaguars to 4.9 yards per play and only 3-for-14 on third down. The secondary was excellent, racking up five pass deflections and holding Gardner Minshew to a 72.1 passer rating and 4.9 net yards per attempt (both season-worsts on the road). Going into its Week 9 bye, Atlanta was one of the league’s worst on defense, allowing 31.3 points a game in its 1-7 start. Since then, the Falcons have allowed just 18.1 points as they have gone 5-2. It’s clear the players respect the coach. Will it matter when ownership evaluates Quinn? GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: At Bucs (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 9 of 16

DENVER 27, DETROIT 17

LIONS (3-11-1): Clearly, this team needs to play better defense. Hello, head coach Matt Patricia? This is your area of expertise, correct? And, as usual lately, the Lions struggled to run (96 yards on 21 carries). Detroit was crushed in the time-of-possession battle (36:08 to 23:52). The Lions allowed four consecutive drives of nine plays or more as Denver took control late in the first quarter. The Broncos got to the second and third levels of Detroit’s defense far too easily. Four Lions recorded eight or more tackles — three of them were defensive backs. Not good. Denver doesn’t feature a particularly dynamic offense and are led by a rookie quarterback, but the Lions were simply too soft. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT:  Vs. Packers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BRONCOS (6-9): Despite Denver drafting Royce Freeman in the 2018 third round and subsequently signing Phillip Lindsay as an undrafted free agent, the latter keeps revealing a massive talent disparity between the sophomore backs. Lindsay runs do not resemble those of most ball-carriers, with the Colorado product’s blend of straight-line speed and frenetic style creating one of the league’s most interesting skill sets. Late in a 109-yard rushing day, Lindsay zoomed through traffic for a game-clinching 27-yard touchdown run. He did so behind blocks from the Broncos’ backup fullback, backup right guard and third-string right tackle. Lindsay is 42 yards from his second 1,000-yard season; he would be the first UDFA to start 2-for-2 in 1,000-yard seasons. While 2018 draftees are not extension-eligible until 2021, Lindsay is next week because he was undrafted. The Broncos can control him via exclusive-rights free agency and restricted free agency through 2021, but with Lindsay having far outplayed his contract, expect 2020 extension discussions. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: Vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 10 of 16

MIAMI 38, CINCINNATI 35 (OT)

BENGALS (1-14): Congratulations, Bengals fans. Your team is on the clock for the No. 1 overall pick. If LSU QB Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, is the starter next season, the Ohio native may want to bring a running game with him. RB Joe Mixon was fighting a stomach ailment in this game, and the Bengals got almost nowhere on the ground (59 yards, 2.36 yards a carry). But at least Cincinnati showed spunk. Late in the fourth quarter, Tyler Boyd caught what looked like a meaningless touchdown pass. Then the Bengals recovered the onside kick and found Tyler Eifert on a Hail Mary pass for another amazing touchdown, making the score 35-33. QB Andy Dalton took the two-point conversion into the end zone to take this heart-stopper to overtime. GAME GRADE: B+  | NEXT: Vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


DOLPHINS (4-11): Miami’s defense threatened to undercut Ryan Fitzpatrick’s nearly game-long brilliance with a borderline unfathomable end-of-regulation collapse. The 37-year-old quarterback threw for a career-high 419 yards and a season-high four touchdown passes. While the bearded veteran’s presence looks strange on one of the 21st century’s least talented teams, Fitzpatrick has undeniably helped DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and other developing Dolphins. The fifth-year wideout and second-year tight end combined for 11 receptions, 193 yards and three touchdowns against Cincinnati. They are better positioned for the future. With the Dolphins signing Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal, he will likely have an open invitation to return and mentor whichever quarterback the team selects in the 2020 first round. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: At New England (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 11 of 16

BALTIMORE 31, CLEVELAND 15

RAVENS (13-2): An overeliance on tight end Mark Andrews and rookie WR Marquise Brown has been worrisome. Against the Browns, however, other receivers got involved for MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, a promising sign for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In all, 10 Ravens were targeted, with Andrews leading the way (shock!) with six catches (on nine targets) for 93 yards. Other than Andrews and Brown, Hayden Hurst and Justice Hill show the most promise; All three young players have excellent speed. WR Miles Boykin (6-4, 220) and TE Hurst (6-4, 260) have great size. Jackson might not throw to any receivers in a game for three weeks. Expect him to sit against the Steelers in Week 17; then the top-seeded Ravens will enjoy their playoff bye and prepare for a division round game at home. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT:  Vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BROWNS (6-9): The Browns have had far too many stretches of poor play this season, but none was worse than one to end the first half against Baltimore. As it did in beating the Ravens 40-25 in Week 4, Cleveland bottled up Lamar Jackson & Co. early. Then the Browns imploded. During a one-minute-and-18-second stretch in the second quarter, Baltimore scored two touchdowns and accumulated 138 yards. On the Ravens’ first possession in the second half, Cleveland allowed another TD. And the Browns, harboring ever-so-slight playoff chances entering the game, were done for 2019. Cleveland has been inconsistent and undisciplined this season. Blame head coach Freddie Kitchens, who could be done in Cleveland. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: At Bengals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 12 of 16

NY GIANTS 41, WASHINGTON 35 (OT)

GIANTS (4-11): Although they crushed their chances at the No. 2 overall pick and the potential opportunity to select Ohio State stud D-lineman Chase Young, the Giants got a glimpse at their future in Washington. Saquon Barkley was dominant, rushing for 189 yards on 22 attempts (8.6 per carry). He added four catches for 90 yards. He scored once through the air, once on the ground. Barkley has battled injuries all season, but he looked healthy, cutting with gusto and making defenders miss consistently. Daniel Jones was surgical against the Redskins’ makeshift secondary, becoming the first rookie in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to pass for 350+ yards, five or more touchdowns and zero interceptions in a game. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT:  Vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


REDSKINS (3-12): What matters most for Washington is the development of rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. On the positive side, he was outstanding when he was on the field. Haskins completed 12 of 15 passes for 133 yards (8.9 per attempt), threw for two touchdowns (and no interceptions) and earned a 143.2 passer rating (season-best for the second consecutive week). Haskins made one of the best plays of his pro career, as he scrambled to the left on a broken play and found Steven Sims for a touchdown on a third-down play in the red zone. On the down side, Haskins did not finish the game; he was carted off with an ankle injury early in the second half. (X-rays were negative.) Unless Haskins is 100%, Washington should sit him for Week 17. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: At  Cowboys (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 13 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 24, BUFFALO 17

BILLS (10-5): Facing the staunchest road assignment the modern NFL presents young quarterbacks, Josh Allen showed why he is best positioned to take the reins from Tom Brady as the AFC East’s top quarterback. The dual threat signal-caller remains erratic, and some of his overthrows on a 13-for-26 passing day proved costly in Foxborough. But against far and away DVOA’s top pass defense, Allen displayed flashes of what he could become with more seasoning. The deft drop-in to Dawson Knox and perfect strike to John Brown despite front-side pressure stunned a Gillette Stadium crowd unaccustomed to seeing competent Bills efforts. Allen’s mid-range work with Cole Beasley, particularly on a 25-yard off-balance laser, illustrated the improvement the polarizing prospect has made since a shaky rookie season. Buffalo’s conservative play-calling showed the coaching staff’s lack of complete trust in its passer, but if Allen makes a similar leap in 2020, a (gasp) Bills Super Bowl window will open. GAME GRADE: B | Vs. Jets. (Sun.) 

— Sam Robinson


PATRIOTS (12-3): New England’s nominal third-string running back, Rex Burkhead does not possess the defined role that James White or Sony Michel does. But the Patriots use the ex-Bengals back as a sporadic spark, and Burkhead’s versatility is needed more now than at any point in his three-year New England career. Burkhead did not lead the Pats in yards from scrimmage Saturday, with Michel besting him at 101, but the 29-year-old reserve sparked a team that possesses less firepower than it has had in many years. While Burkhead’s bulldozing 1-yard run gave the Pats the lead, his team-high (and career-best) 77 receiving yards helped Tom Brady against one of the league’s premier defenses. Bill Belichick sticking with Burkhead, whose receiving talents could be labeled redundant alongside White, proved pivotal — after his first-quarter fumble — in the Pats cementing their 11th straight AFC East title. This diverse backfield functioning as it did against the Bills could save the Pats come January. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: Vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 14 of 16

SAN FRANCISCO 34, LA RAMS 31

RAMS (8-7):  Although Los Angeles lost, its offense looked dangerous all game Saturday. Sean McVay schemed and scripted effectively, and his ability to get Jared Goff (323 passing yards) on the move and out of the pocket largely neutralized the 49ers’ pass rush. Although he had only 48 yards rushing, Todd Gurley looked like the back who keyed most of the Rams’ success last season. He was explosive and quick, particularly on a touchdown run in which he left Richard Sherman gasping for air. The Rams’ frustration came courtesy of their defense, which surrendered a pivotal first down on a third-and-16 because of a blown coverage by safety Taylor Rapp. That sort of missed assignment, coupled with other poor efforts, could spell trouble for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. GAME GRADE: C NEXT: Vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


49ERS (12-3): Although San Fran’s defense was flummoxed much of the game by Los Angeles’ scheme, LB Fred Warner’s pick-six showed how dangerous the 49ers can be. Most noteworthy: the faith head coach Kyle Shanahan showed in QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who did not have a good game statistically (two picks, one TD pass). On a third-and-16 with the score tied, Shanahan trusted Garoppolo to take a shot downfield, and it paid off. Los Angeles blew its coverage, and Garoppolo hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 46-yard gain that all but decided the game. The 49ers’ victory means that their season-ending showdown with Seattle will decide the NFC West. A Niners win will give them the NFC’s top seed. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: At Seahawks (Sun.) 

— Chris Mueller 15 of 16

HOUSTON 23, TAMPA BAY 20

TEXANS (10-5): Thanks to its defense and the generosity of turnover machine Jameis Winston (four picks), Houston clinched the AFC South. As good as the Texans’ defense was, their quiet offensive day is cause for concern. The Buccaneers stifled the run, which is what they do better than almost every team in the league, but Deshaun Watson (184 yards passing) was unable to take advantage of a porous pass defense. It’s also fair to wonder whether the outcome would have been different had the Buccaneers had first-time Pro Bowler Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Mike Evans (hamstring), their top receiving targets. Houston is still alive for the third seed in the AFC, but with Tennessee looking like a strong potential sixth seed, it might be best for the Texans if they draw the Bills in the first round. GRADE: C + | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


BUCS (7-8): Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers’ passing attack faced a tall order with receivers Chris Godwin (second in NFL with 1,333 yards) and Mike Evans (fifth with 1,157) out with hamstring injuries. The results were mixed from the young corps of pass-catchers who replaced them. Breshad Perriman, Tampa Bay’s third-leading receiver entering Week 16 (511 yards), was excellent. He led the way with team-highs of seven catches and 102 yards, logging his second consecutive 100-yard game. When targeting wide receivers other than Perriman, Winston went 10-for-19 for 138 yards, picking up just five first downs. Odd stat: Winston has 32 TD passes … and 28 interceptions. GRADE: C | NEXT: Vs. Falcons (Sun.)

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_16_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30874373#slide_15

By: Yardbarker Staff

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 15 game-by-game analysis, grades

In Pittsburgh on Sunday night, the Bills clinched a playoff spot with a win over the Steelers. Earlier, the Eagles earned a come-from-behind win against Washington, setting up an NFC East showdown with the Cowboys in Week 16 in Philadelphia. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 15 whip-around: 1 of 16

BUFFALO 17, PITTSBURGH 10

BILLS (10-4): It’s hard to envision Buffalo being playoff-bound were it not for key additions made during head coach Sean McDermott and since-fired GM Doug Whaley’s few months together. In the spring of 2017, the Bills added Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer – the safeties via team-friendly free-agency deals and CB White via a momentous first-round trade that gave the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes. That trio quickly helped Buffalo assemble a formidable pass defense, one that is belatedly receiving attention. Likely en route to All-Pro acclaim, White intercepted Devlin Hodges twice – the second pick leading to a Bills field goal – and Poyer notched one of the visitors’ two end-zone picks. The third-year Bills were the difference in another defensive battle, one that cemented the franchise’s first 10-win season since 1999. White’s six interceptions are tied for the league lead. Buffalo’s secondary equips QB Josh Allen with a safety net, and it keeps showing up in big spots. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


STEELERS (8-6): It’s a shame Pittsburgh is so limited offensively with QB Devlin Hodges, who doesn’t have the arm strength to make big-time NFL throws. Duck’s performance (23-for-38, 202 yards, four interceptions) negated another stellar showing by the defense. LB T.J. Watt, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was spectacular (two tackles for loss, two QB hits), and DE Cameron Heyward was a force, routinely beating Quinton Spain, especially when aligning on the outside shoulder of Buffalo’s top-heavy left guard. Heyward’s aggression and hustle set the tone for what may be the NFL’s best defense. Too bad the Duck couldn’t fly. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 2 of 16

PHILADELPHIA 37, WASHINGTON 27

EAGLES (7-7): For the second consecutive game, the Eagles needed somebody on their banged-up offense to step up. Rookie Miles Sanders delivered, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and grabbing six passes for 50 yards and another TD. In the process, he smashed the Eagles’ rookie record for yards from scrimmage, held by DeSean Jackson. He has 1,120. Philadelphia needed every yard it could get from Sanders, as the defense struggled to contain a Washington offense that averaged 7.1 yards per play. The Eagles are far from perfect, but their talented backfield of Sanders and Boston Scott has allowed them to overcome injuries. An NFC East showdown against Dallas awaits. GAME GRADE: B  | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


REDSKINS (3-11): For the Redskins, all that really matters is the development of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who suffered from poor pass protection and drops by his receivers in his first five starts. Against the Eagles, Haskins finally got more aid and he had the most productive performance of his pro career. He completed 19 of 28 passes for a career-best 261 yards and posted career-highs in yards per attempt (9.3) and passer rating (121.3). Haskins has a special connection with former Ohio State teammate Terry McLaurin, who caught five passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. A special guest watched from Daniel Snyder’s owner’s box: Urban Meyer, Haskins’ coach at Ohio State. Hmmm. Does Jerry Jones know? GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Giants (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 3 of 16

DALLAS 44, LA RAMS 21

RAMS (8-6): The defending NFC champs’ playoff hopes were virtually extinguished after a performance much more reminiscent of their midseason slump than their recent two-game winning streak. Los Angeles is at its best when it runs the ball effectively, but the Rams totaled just 22 yards on the ground. Todd Gurley did next to nothing, averaging fewer than two yards per carry, and Jared Goff’s numbers (284 yards passing) were inflated by garbage-time production. The Rams could still go 10-6 and miss the playoffs, but they should not be fooled into thinking that there aren’t significant issues to fix. Chief among them is Goff’s performance this season. His passer rating of 84.8 is significantly below the league average of 91.3, and he has been the main cause of multiple losses. Since Los Angeles has guaranteed more than $100 million to Goff, the goal must be to maximize his production and performance, although it is fair to wonder just how high his ceiling is. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


COWBOYS (7-7): Finally. Dallas earned its first win over an opponent with a winning record. Credit the O-line. Against a defense that entered the game ranked second in pressure rate (30.1%) and seventh in sack rate (8.4%), QB Dak Prescott was not sacked in 23 pass attempts. Los Angeles had also been dominant defending the run, entering the game allowing the fourth-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.8). But Dallas shredded the Rams, rushing 45 times for 263 yards (5.8 per attempt) and scoring three touchdowns. Ezekiel Elliott led the way 24 totes for 117 yards (4.9 per attempt) and two scores, but Tony Pollard was dynamic (131 yards on just 12 carries, 10.9 per attempt). The game marked just the eighth time in Cowboys history that Dallas ran for 250-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns. Run like this and the NFC East is theirs. GAME GRADE: A +  | NEXT: at Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

4 of 16

ATLANTA 29, SAN FRANCISCO 22

FALCONS (5-9): What. A. Stunner. George Kittle led the 49ers with 13 catches for 134 yards, but the rest of San Francisco’s receiving corps combined to catch just nine passes on 17 targets for 66 yards (3.9 per target), a testament to the Falcons’ lockdown coverage. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, getting extended action for just the fifth time this season, led the Falcons with three passes defended. Desmond Trufant, who entered the game as Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked corner from Weeks 11-14, stayed quiet against Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders. Dan Quinn’s defense held QB Jimmy Garoppolo to 5.9 yards per pass attempt, his second-worst mark of the season. Since the bye week, Atlanta is 4-2 and allowing just 19.2 points per game. Will Quinn keep his gig? GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


49ERS (11-3): San Francisco was on top of the NFC but left the door wide open for Seattle and New Orleans with a sloppy loss. The 49ers never got going on offense, with only George Kittle providing a consistent threat, and their vaunted pass defense was unable to keep Matt Ryan from going down the field for the winning touchdown. Other than a scramble by Ryan, every play on Atlanta’s winning drive was a pass. That’s problematic for the 49ers, who knew what was coming. Ultimately, the Niners might not need home field, or even to win the division, because when things are going along well, their style of play wins anywhere, as they proved against the Saints. Still, this performance should serve as a wake-up call; they might be loaded with talent, but they’re not nearly good enough to overlook anyone.GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Rams (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 16

HOUSTON 24, TENNESSEE 21

TEXANS (9-5): Houston wasn’t perfect, but it did enough to seize control of the AFC South. While the story of the Texans’ season is primarily about superstar talent – specifically QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins – Kenny Stills was a key figure in the victory over Tennessee, doubling his season touchdown total with two scores. Watson took advantage of Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson’s absence (foot) to hit Stills twice in situations in which Hopkins and Will Fuller commanded significant defensive attention and Stills drew man-to-man coverage. Houston’s chances of winning the division are better than 90%. If Stills, RB Duke Johnson and the rest of the supporting cast take advantage of their opportunities, Houston can beat anyone.GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: at Bucs (Sat.)

— Chris Mueller


TITANS (8-6): The stats would suggest QB Ryan Tannehill and RB Derrick Henry cooled off from their torrid recent pace, but had Tennessee not suffered multiple self-inflicted wounds, it would be atop the AFC South. Tannehill threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and was victimized on his only interception by a blatant drop by Anthony Firkser. Firkser’s play likely will decide the division, as Tennessee was poised to go in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Instead, Houston scored a touchdown two plays after Whitney Mercilus’ 86-yard interception return. One more win for Houston will give it the division; the playoff hopes of the Titans, who must win out to take the AFC South, are grim. That’s bad news for them, good news for the rest of the AFC. The way things were going, Mike Vrabel’s team looked like one of the most dangerous teams outside of Baltimore. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 6 of 16

ARIZONA 38, CLEVELAND 24

BROWNS (6-8): Embarrassing. The body language from this team was simply awful. And the Browns’ play on the field was sloppy and extremely uninspired. Where is the leadership? Is veteran WR Jarvis Landry providing it? He was spotted sulking. Where’s Odell Beckham? He and Landry combined for 89 yards receiving on 21 targets against a poor defense. Baker Mayfield has a lot of TV commercials, but he’s still finding his way. Head coach Freddie Kitchens, a possible Black Monday candidate, is lost. Cleveland should add veterans who have won in the league. It sure could use a player like Steelers CB Joe Haden. Oh, wait, they had him. GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun.) 

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (4-9-1): Arizona owes David Johnson plenty of money, but it may have found a full-time running back in Kenyan Drake, at least if the price is right. Johnson will count $16.2 million against the cap in 2020, but Drake now has two 100-yard games in Arizona after Sunday’s 137-yard, four-touchdown effort. Drake, acquired from Miami earlier this season, had just two 100-yard outings as a Dolphin. Drake will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but his career statistics suggest that a big contract is not likely in the open market. Arizona has major areas of need in the draft; trying to retain Drake could fix one of them without the use of a valuable pick. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Seahawks (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 16

MINNESOTA 39, LA CHARGERS 10

VIKINGS (10-4): Danielle Hunter is a stud. The 25-year-old end out of LSU recently became the youngest player in history to get 50 sacks. Against the Chargers, Hunter caused the Philip Rivers fumble that was returned for a Minnesota touchdown. Shortly afterward, he recovered a fumble by RB Melvin Gordon, one of seven Chargers turnovers. As usual, Hunter’s extreme length and great get-off was on full display against an overwhelmed Chargers line. When Hunter entered the league, he was a piece of raw clay. Man, he has learned the game. Hunter’s Week 16 matchup against Aaron Rodgers, sacked once by the Bears on Sunday, will be intriguing. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Packers (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson


CHARGERS (5-9): Most NFL teams would trade their skill-position arsenals for what the Bolts have. The Melvin Gordon-Austin Ekeler-Keenan Allen-Mike Williams-Hunter Henry quintet is healthy, but the Chargers still turned the ball over seven times. The franchise had not committed seven turnovers in a game since 1986, in an era when interceptions were more commonplace. Philip Rivers threw three interceptions, running his season total to 18 (second-most in the league), and lost a fumble the Vikings returned for a touchdown. Gordon lost two fumbles. The one-time Charger cornerstones are lumbering toward free agency. While Gordon has little chance to return to Los Angeles, unless his market craters to the point the Bolts re-sign him via a buy-low agreement, Rivers certainly could be back. But after this season, can the Chargers convince themselves to bring back an immobile 38-year-old – at a franchise-QB price – who fared this poorly despite having high-end weaponry? GAME GRADE: F  | NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

KANSAS CITY 23, DENVER 3

BRONCOS (5-9): While the 2018 Denver draft/UDFA class produced Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos’ reliance on two less remarkable members of the class has limited the offense. QB Drew Lock cannot count on 2018 fourth-round pick DaeSean Hamilton, a wideout whom the Broncos hoped would step up after the Emmanuel Sanders trade, and third-round RB Royce Freeman has not shown a high ceiling. The Broncos fell behind early and rushed for 52 yards on a snowy day in K.C. So Lock opted to throw Hamilton and ex-UDFA Tim Patrick a combined 16 passes; five of them were completed. Freeman averaged 2.4 yards per carry – his eighth game averaging fewer than 3.5 per tote this season – and continues to fail the eye test. The Broncos need better auxiliary weaponry to support Lindsay, Sutton and Noah Fant next season. With Denver owning a rookie quarterback contract and seven picks in the first four rounds in 2020, upgrade avenues exist. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHIEFS (10-4): A CBS graphic indicating Travis Kelce’s first seven seasons have produced more receiving yardage than any tight end was deceiving. Microfracture surgery ended Kelce’s rookie season after one stat-less game. The 2013 third-round pick’s 6,367 yards in six seasons better every other tight end’s first seven years. Comparing Kelce’s first six healthy seasons to the field, the Chief has 812 more yards than any tight end in NFL history. Kansas City began using its near-unrivaled chess piece frequently against Denver to avoid testing cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Since 2016, the perennial Pro Bowl weapon has posted four 100-yard games against the Broncos; his 11 catches for 142 yards Sunday were easily season-highs. With both Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes, Kelce has been the Chiefs’ skill-position centerpiece. He’s swung the AFC West’s balance of power. With a tight end-record four straight 1,000-yard seasons, the 30-year-old playmaker is on track for the Hall of Fame. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Bears (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 16

NEW ENGLAND 34, CINCINNATI 13

PATRIOTS (11-3): Despite Bill Belichick’s defenses being perhaps the most reliable 21st-century NFL unit, no Patriot has earned Defensive Player of the Year. On a team with an undependable offense, Stephon Gilmore should be given strong consideration to become the sixth cornerback to win this award. Shutdown corners are often avoided to the point where their stats suffer (see: Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey or Raiders 1.0-years Charles Woodson), but Gilmore has six interceptions and two return TDs. Gilmore’s 64-yard pick-6 in Cincinnati came on a day when the eighth-year corner produced two INTs and four passes defensed. Although the Pats’ record is built on a weak schedule, Gilmore has thrived against all competition, regularly locking down No. 1 wideouts to lead a historically great DVOA pass defense. With impact stats plus weekly film showcases, Gilmore has his front-seven peers beat to join Mel Blount, Lester Hayes, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson as corner DPOYs. GAME GRADE: A-minus  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sat.)

— Sam Robinson


BENGALS (1-13): Even though Cincinnati lost by 21, the defense is improving. Slumping Tom Brady barely completed 50% (15 of 29) of his passes for a measly 128 passing yards. James White, who gave Cincinnati’s suspect linebackers problems, was the only Patriot with more than 22 receiving yards. New England’s ailing rushing attack racked up 175 yards (5.5  yards per attempt). But after the Patriots’ first drive, the Bengals’ run defense held up well. Five turnovers, not their defense, cost the Bengals. Clearly, Cincinnati needs a QB. Where are you, Ohio native Joe Burrow? GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

10 of 16

GREEN BAY 21, CHICAGO 13

BEARS (7-7): Aaron Rodgers attempted 33 passes (203 yards) but was sacked just once and rarely disrupted by Chicago’s pass rush. DE Akiem Hicks, put on injured reserve Oct. 15, returned and made his presence felt (4 tackles, 2 QB hits). But Chicago’s edge players, especially Khalil Mack, didn’t put enough pressure on Rodgers. Mack, who has had a down year by his amazing standards, draws most of the attention from offensive coordinators. He isn’t a declining player, but his inability to impact this game (one tackle) is disconcerting. GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


PACKERS (11-3): Kenny Clark is rarely mentioned among the league’s best defensive tackles, a big mistake. Powerful and with long arms and strong hammer-like hands, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder gets off the ball quickly and with force. Chicago had no success with its inside running game, largely attributable to Clark’s stellar play. (Overall, the Bears rushed for 96 yards on 27 carries.) An every-down force, Clark couldn’t be blocked when the Bears passed either, demonstrating a great bull rush and a wide variety of other pass-rush moves. Clark’s dominance is evident in his stat line: eight tackles (six solo), two sacks and three tackles for loss. GAME GRADE: B + |  NEXT: At Vikings (Mon.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 16

TAMPA BAY 38, DETROIT 17

BUCS (7-7): Jameis Winston was stellar, rebounding from an early interception to throw for 458 yards (10.9 yards per attempt) and four touchdowns. Winston, who has thrown for over 10 yards per attempt in three of his past four games, eclipsed 300 passing yards in the first half. WR Breshad Perriman stepped up with Mike Evans out with a foot injury, grabbing five passes for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Winston has set a career-high in turnovers, but he is on track for career-highs in touchdown rate, yards per attempt and yards per game. Is he a franchise quarterback or not? At 67 years old, head coach Bruce Arians might not want to start over at QB. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sat.)

— Michael Nania


LIONS (3-10-1): This was a bleak game for head coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator whose expertise is supposed to be, well, defense. Even without the injured Mike Evans, the Bucs threw the ball at will. Jameis Winston rarely was under pressure, and even more alarming, Bucs receivers ran free almost all game. Winston found receivers in short zones, deep — heck, they were open everywhere. There were plenty of coverage busts, too. Tampa Bay’s best receiver in this game, Chris Godwin, didn’t even finish because of a hamstring injury. Eleven different Tampa Bay receivers had a least one catch. Is Patricia a Black Monday candidate? GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 12 of 16

NY GIANTS 36, MIAMI 20

DOLPHINS (3-11): Miami deployed one of the least recognizable starting lineups in modern NFL history. The Giants’ rout moved them behind the Dolphins in the 2020 draft order as a result. With a potential draft-damaging game against the Bengals looming, there is no reason for the Dolphins to keep playing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Josh Rosen would cover the Dolphins on multiple fronts. Two more starts would give the trade acquisition more experience and potentially enhanced trade value or, if said starts go as poorly as Rosen’s meetings and practices apparently have, the 2018 first-round pick could “help” the Dolphins lose their final two and secure the No. 2 overall draft slot. While it would look like an NBA-style tanking move, head coach Brian Flores sticking with the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick – as he said he plans to – serves no purpose for a rebuilding team that built 2019 around developing players and acquiring draft capital. GAME GRADE: D  | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.) 

— Sam Robinson


GIANTS (3-11): Eli Manning was solid in perhaps his final home game as a Giant, tossing two TD passes and averaging 10.1 yards per attempt. He had face-plant moments, too: three interceptions against a defense that entered the game allowing the third-highest passer rating in the NFL (103.7). If he decides to play next season, Manning should have no shortage of suitors. Cincinnati and Miami might want a stopgap starter while waiting for a rookie (Joe Burrow?) to develop. Perhaps Chicago or Jacksonville (where Manning has a connection with VP of football operations Tom Coughlin) will be in the market. Pittsburgh, with questions surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, might also seek a starter. If he can’t find a starting spot, he could attract interest from a playoff-worthy franchise. GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

13 of 16

SEATTLE 30, CAROLINA 24

SEAHAWKS (11-3): Tyler Lockett, who had eight catches for 120 yards, is Seattle’s unquestioned No. 1 receiver (75 catches for 994 yards and seven touchdowns). Almost as important as Lockett’s emergence is the rise of rookie D.K. Metcalf, a second-round pick in the 2019 draft. Even though Metcalf was targeted only four times against Carolina, managing a 19-yard touchdown catch in the process, Russell Wilson’s growing trust in him is obvious. Metcalf’s targets have gone up, from 5.6 per game in the first half of the season, to more than seven a game. Metcalf’s detractors claimed he was a Combine superstar and not a polished receiver coming out of Mississippi, but he has proven to be anything but. His college teammate, A.J. Brown, also a 2019 second-round pick, is an emerging star for the Titans. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT:  vs. Cardinals (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


PANTHERS (5-9): It’s clear Carolina has two glaring needs: run defense and quarterback. Against Seattle, the NFL’s worst run defense was atrocious, yielding 154 yards (and two touchdowns) on 34 attempts. Proving he’s nothing more than a backup, Kyle Allen continued his stretch of ugly play, posting a 58.7 passer rating (91.3 was league average entering Week 14) and tossing three picks. He averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt. Should Carolina bring back Cam Newton, who has missed most of the season with a Lisfranc injury? He was ineffective earlier in 2019. The Panthers will probably draft toward the lower end of the top 10, where Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (if he comes out) and Georgia’s Jake Fromm might be available. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow appears out of Carolina’s reach, barring a trade up. GAME GRADE: C-minus  | NEXT: at Colts (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 14 of 16

JACKSONVILLE 20, OAKLAND 16

JAGUARS (5-9): Jacksonville managed to spoil the Raiders’ final game in Oakland with two late Gardner Minshew touchdown passes to Chris Conley. But the Jaguars’ listless performance before that rally feels more relevant to their future than what happened in the game’s final five minutes. After Jacksonville’s first drive yielded a field goal, its next five possessions featured four three-and-outs and 16 total yards. A beleaguered defense did well to keep the Jags in the game long enough. Head coach Doug Marrone can say his team hasn’t quit on him, but there was precious little to get excited about. GAME GRADE: C +  | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-8): Oakland fans have handled an unfortunate situation bizarrely well. The Raiders are about to become the first NFL franchise to leave their original city twice. They have one winning season since 2003 and went full rebuild in their final two Oakland seasons. Somehow, Raiders supporters accepted Oakland being a three-year lame duck after Mark Davis received relocation approval in March of 2017. The cascade of boos and assortment of items thrown onto the Oakland Coliseum’s field, after a blown lead against the Jaguars in the Raiders’ home finale, seems restrained considering what the city endured. Other markets have not handled imminent relocation so well – see Cleveland in 1995 or Houston in ’96 – yet Raiders fans kept supporting a team that sold off top assets in a pre-Las Vegas purge. Do not be surprised if Raiders home games become somewhat like Chargers LA atmospheres in transplant-heavy Las Vegas. A good bet: Vegas Sundays will not bring the atmosphere the Black Hole provided.  GAME GRADE: C  | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 15 of 16

MONDAY: INDIANAPOLIS AT NEW ORLEANS

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis is all but certain to miss the playoffs despite starting 5-2 and looking more solid top to bottom than most of the rest of the AFC. A three-game losing streak has derailed the Colts’ season; Jacoby Brissett’s poor play during that stretch (82.1 passer rating; league average 91.3 through Week 14) is a major reason why Indy has slumped. He was unable to win a shootout with turnover-prone Jameis Winston in Week 14, despite Tampa Bay’s defense being one of the league’s worst against the pass. The Colts signed Brissett to a two-year, $30 million deal in September. The length of that deal looks like a wise move, because while Indianapolis’ early rally after Luck’s retirement was a nice story, Brissett has not proven definitively that he can perform like a franchise-level player. NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): The defense has sputtered in its three home games since the bye week, yielding an average of 35 points. The Saints have had a tough time stopping QBs at the Superdome, as their 100.5 passer rating allowed at home ranks seventh worst in the NFL. Saints opponents average 25.2 points in New Orleans, the 11th-worst figure by a home team. New Orleans is 11th in home point differential (plus-17), after ranking sixth from 2017-18 (plus-129). Sean Payton’s team should dominate a Colts team that is 2-4 on the road, but will the defense step up? NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

16 of 16

BALTIMORE 42, NY JETS 21

JETS (5-9): Lamar Jackson’s latest showcase came against a depleted secondary and revealed a perennial Jets deficiency. Surely drawing scorn from fantasy owners facing Jackson-led teams, the Jets’ pass defense was missing Pro Bowler Jamal Adams and bounce-back slot cornerback Brian Poole. Ravens targets ran wide open in the blowout – the Jets’ seventh loss by at least two touchdowns this season – and Jackson tossed a career-high five touchdown passes and averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt. The returns of  Adams, Poole and C.J. Mosley will help, but needs remain at boundary corner and edge rusher for yet another offseason. The Jets, who ranked 22nd in pass-defense DVOA before the Jackson rampage, have one front-seven player (free agent-to-be Jordan Jenkins) with more than three sacks. Needs across the offensive line, and the ill-advised contracts Joe Douglas’ GM predecessor authorized – such as the nightmare pact given to cornerback (and imminent dead-money sinkhole) Trumaine Johnson – will not make defensive upgrades easy, however. GAME GRADE: D-minus  | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


RAVENS (12-2): Thursday night’s win, which clinched the AFC North for the Ravens, showed us how dangerous Baltimore’s passing game is when TE Mark Andrews (58 catches, 759 yards and 8 TDs) and rookie WR Marquise Brown (43-563-7) are in the lineup. Coordinator Greg Roman does a great job scheming to get them open. Andrews stretches the field and makes plays after the catch, and he’s a supreme weapon in the red zone. Brown isn’t quite Tyreek Hill (yet), but he’s a threat against whom defenses must keep deep help on his side of the field. That can hurt against the Ravens’ NFL-leading running game. Andrews and Brown combined for eight catches, two TDs and only 97 yards, but their impact went far beyond those stats. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_15_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30813089#slide_1

Odell Beckham Jr. reportedly wants out of Cleveland

Odell Beckham Jr. has been in the news a lot on Sunday morning. We heard earlier in the day that the Browns wideout has been battling a hernia injury all season and may be headed for offseason surgery, and Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) later reported that OBJ wants out of Cleveland.

When he was asked about his future with the Browns several days ago, Beckham was non-committal. 

“I couldn’t sit here and tell you whether I’m going to be here, want to be here, don’t want to be here,” he said. “This is exactly where I’m at now and I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. God has a plan. In the offseason, everything will figure itself out. I feel like I’ve been here before, answering questions about the next team when I’m on a team already. That’s just something I’m going to tune out for right now. Catch me in the offseason and we’ll see what happens.”

But Glazer says Beckham has approached opposing players and coaches before (and even during) games this season and has told them, “come get me.” And considering that Glazer was the one who said the Giants would trade Beckham when everyone within the New York organization was saying they wouldn’t, that carries some weight.

“I don’t see that relationship ending well for [the Browns] after this year,” Glazer said.

Of course, trading Beckham would be a tough pill to swallow for the Browns, who gave up first- and third-round picks in the 2019 draft along with Jabrill Peppers and Kevin Zeitler to acquire the star receiver and Olivier Vernon. The fact that Beckham has had a disappointing year (by his standards, at least) and would have basically forced his way out of two organizations would obviously hurt his trade value.

By: Rory Parks

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/odell_beckham_jr_reportedly_wants_out_of_cleveland/s1_14819_30749009

NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. At New England, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 1 of 17

Yardbarker’s NFL Week 14 game-by-game analysis, grades

In New Orleans, the 49ers claimed the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a wild win. Also, the Chiefs snapped the Patriots’ 21-game home winning streak. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 14 whip-around: 2 of 17

SAN FRANCISCO 48, NEW ORLEANS 46

49ERS (11-2): If San Francisco won over most doubters with its performance in defeat against Baltimore in Week 13, it silenced all remaining ones with this win. Surprisingly, it was fueled by the offense and not the defense, which was strafed by Drew Brees. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for four touchdowns, and the 49ers ran for 162 yards on a Saints team that came into the game having allowed the third-fewest rushing yards in the league. Garoppolo’s performance was even more impressive because the Saints had allowed the fifth-fewest net yards per passing attempt in the league through Week 13. The 49ers control their own destiny; if they win out, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through San Francisco. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


SAINTS (10-3): Despite the loss, New Orleans must be thrilled with how its passing attack clicked against the top-ranked DVOA pass defense. Drew Brees was masterful, completing 29 of 40 passes for 349 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions (138.4 passer rating). TE Jared Cook, who entered the game averaging 72.8 yards receiving over his past four games, posted 38- and 26-yard touchdowns on his only two targets. This was a San Francisco defense that owned league-best marks of 5.5 yards per pass attempt allowed and an 11.3% sack rate; the 49ers did not sack Brees and allowed him to average 8.7 yards per attempt. If these teams meet again in the playoffs … whew. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Colts (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Michael Nania 3 of 17

KANSAS CITY 23, NEW ENGLAND 16

CHIEFS (9-4): Kansas City led the NFL with 52 sacks last season, but in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, the Dee Ford-Justin Houston group did not sack Tom Brady and hit him just once. The Chiefs overhauled their D-line this offseason, and while Frank Clark and Alex Okafor are well off Ford and Houston’s statistical pace, they produced pressure in a big spot. Clark, Okafor and Chris Jones each dropped Brady, and the Chiefs hit him six times. Clark added a critical tackle for loss – one of the Chiefs’ eight Sunday – on a James White red-zone run, forcing a field goal. Kansas City’s final-play blitz led to Bashaud Breeland’s pass breakup. After midseason struggles induced panic among the Chiefs’ fan base, Kansas City’s defense has strung together back-to-back strong efforts. That’s a key development considering K.C.’s offensive capabilities. With the win, the Chiefs clinched the AFC West.
GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


PATRIOTS (10-3): Seventy-two of New England’s 184 passing yards came on trick plays. Bill Belichick’s defensive wizardry has consistently given his offenses high margins for error, but this group fell through that safety net Sunday. Tom Brady’s pass-catching cast is obviously a cut below the norm, but the 42-year-old quarterback cannot be absolved after averaging fewer than five yards per attempt for the third time this season. He’s enjoyed historically great circumstances for most of the Pats’ dynasty – be it elite defenses, offensive lines or the most dominant tight end ever. Does the legend have enough left to produce when his weaponry isn’t optimal? Now 2-3 against winning teams, the Patriots have coasted on the easiest schedule they’ve played in a decade chock full of them. With Bengals and Dolphins games coming soon, they will still likely earn a playoff bye. But this loss provided a sign this operation will be more vulnerable in January than any Pats team since 2009. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Bengals (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson

4 of 17

LA RAMS 28, SEATTLE 12

SEAHAWKS (10-3): Until D.K. Metcalf’s 35-yard catch with less than 10 minutes left, the Seahawks didn’t have a play over 20 yards. After opening the game with a field goal, Seattle went scoreless on its next seven offensive possessions, before kicking another field goal midway through the fourth quarter. The Seahawks are only as good as Russell Wilson and the offense on a given day. That’s usually an acceptable recipe, because they entered Week 14 fifth in the league in points per game. RB Rashaad Penny’s knee injury throws some uncertainty into Seattle’s running attack, so Chris Carson might have to shoulder a heavier burden. What Seattle really needs is for Wilson to regain his MVP form. He has four straight games with a passer rating under 100, after opening the season topping that mark in eight of nine. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Panthers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAMS (8-5): QB Jared Goff was mostly razor-sharp, and though he threw two interceptions early in the third quarter, it seemed that both were the fault of his wide receivers. Goff excelled when he wasn’t stationary; he was 7-of-7 for 134 yards and a touchdown when throwing from outside the pocket. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2018, Goff earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any NFC West quarterback when it came to passing outside the pocket, easily besting Russell Wilson, who finished second. Head coach Sean McVay and Goff are figuring things out, but whether they did so in time remains to be seen. To catch Minnesota for the final wild-card spot, Los Angeles likely must win out. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Cowboys (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 17

TENNESSEE 42, OAKLAND 21

TITANS (8-5): Reports surfaced before Sunday’s game that Ryan Tannehill and the Titans were in discussions about a contract extension. It’s easy to understand why, as Tannehill has completely changed the trajectory of Tennessee’s season. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he is playing like the league MVP in his seven starts. Tannehill has the highest yards per attempt in the league, at 9.8, and his 118.9 passer rating in the eight games in which he has actually attempted a pass is also tops in the league. Tannehill’s career history suggests that eventually he will regress, but the eye test shows a quarterback who appears to have put it all together, whose success isn’t fluky or unsustainable. If Tannehill’s play continues at this level, Tennessee will have to pony up a huge amount of money on a long-term contract, but considering that the Titans’ current ceiling looks like that of a Super Bowl contender, they’ll be more than happy to do so.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAIDERS (6-7): After throwing the football-following world off the scent with a midseason win streak, Oakland’s three consecutive blowout losses restore the expected reality. The Raiders assembled some passable defensive outings and saw growth from select players (namely DE Maxx Crosby). But the franchise will fold up shop in Oakland after deploying below-average defenses in an astounding 17 straight seasons. Ryan Tannehill’s 391-yard showing during a game when the Titans finished 8-for-11 on third downs provided more evidence the Raiders need more help. Oakland’s secondary covered and tackled poorly, with Titans rookie wideout A.J. Brown joining RB Derrick Henry in shrugging off Raider defenders. The Khalil Mack trade gives the Raiders the Bears’ 2020 first- and third-round picks – although Chicago owns Oakland’s second-rounder from that deal. Beyond wide receiver, the Las Vegas-bound team needs reinforcements at cornerback, linebacker and on the defensive line. With his team projected to hold $73 million in 2020 cap space, expect Jon Gruden to land multiple veteran upgrades as well.  GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Jaguars (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 6 of 17

LA CHARGERS 45, JACKSONVILLE 10

CHARGERS (5-8): The Chargers showed a glimmer of what could have been Sunday in Jacksonville. One contributor continues to hover above the rest. Austin Ekeler’s performances will represent the best Bolts memories from this season. The Chargers should initiate extension talks with their explosive passing-down back, who is a restricted free agent-to-be. Ekeler totaled 213 scrimmage yards (17.7 per touch), delivering a career-best 101 on the ground. Eighty-four of Ekeler’s yards came on a tunnel-screen touchdown. He became the second Charger to eclipse 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game, joining not LaDainian Tomlinson but Lionel James. James is one of three backs to amass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Ekeler leads 2019 backs with 830 and has a chance to reach 1,000. The Chargers can draft a between-the-tackles Melvin Gordon replacement, but the 24-year-old’s low mileage (404 touches in three seasons) makes him a good bet to maintain long-term value. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: vs. Vikings (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JAGUARS (4-9): The Jaguars lost their fifth straight game by at least 17 points. Focusing on any individual player’s performance for Jacksonville is irrelevant. The real story is that Doug Marrone has very likely coached his final game for the Jaguars. The team certainly appears to have quit on him, and with another losing season guaranteed, owner Shad Khan needs to take a hard look at his franchise and decide what he wants it to be. A star-studded defense has imploded, battled with the front office and ultimately turned into a shell of its former self, and while rookie QB Gardner Minshew is a fun story, there are serious quarterback questions to answer. Firing Marrone is an obvious, easy move. Taking a long, honest look at what has ailed this franchise comes next, and that is the hard part. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

7 of 17

BALTIMORE 24, BUFFALO 17

RAVENS (11-2): Baltimore clinched a playoff berth in a difficult environment in Buffalo. But it also potentially exposed an area of concern: TE Mark Andrews left early with a right knee injury for a Ravens team short on quality receivers. Hayden Hurst (3 catches for 73 yards) played well in Andrews’ absence, but Ravens wideouts had a rough time gaining separation against a quality secondary. No one besides Hurst had more than 29 yards receiving. QB Lamar Jackson (145 yards passing and 40 rushing) did just enough. Another positive: With New England’s loss, the Ravens tightened their grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Jets (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


BILLS (9-4): Buffalo allowed six sacks, managed 209 yards and converted 4 of 18 third- and fourth-down plays. But there was a silver lining: The Bills held the Ravens to a season-low 118 rushing yards. Considering the AFC favorites are on pace to (somehow in 2019) to break the NFL season rushing yardage record, this represents an achievement for any team – let alone a Bills defense that entered 22nd in run-defense DVOA. Lamar Jackson had a season-worst 185 yards, and Baltimore’s multifaceted ground attack averaged 3.6 yards per carry after coming into Sunday at 5.5. The Bills did not score a touchdown until seven minutes remained yet still had an opportunity at a tying score. This margin for error shows more development from Buffalo’s defense, strengthening the Bills’ chances for what would be their first playoff win in 24 years. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Steelers (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 17

DENVER 38, HOUSTON 24

BRONCOS (5-8): The bevy of non-Paxton Lynch Broncos quarterbacks between Peyton Manning and Drew Lock enjoyed moments, but Sunday’s game provides a stronger indicator about Denver’s future than productive games from Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum or Joe Flacco. Lock’s 22-for-27, 309-yard, three-touchdown pass showing in Houston gave Denver its best win this season. It marked a major improvement from Lock’s choppy debut in Week 13. Whereas Flacco and Brandon Allen squandered fourth-quarter leads, Lock’s effort built a big enough advantage that it would have taken an NFL-record collapse for the Broncos to lose it. The second-round rookie displayed his blend of arm strength – via the middle-of-the-field laser to TE Noah Fant for Denver’s first touchdown – mobility and patience on well-designed plays. The Broncos entered this game a candidate to use their 2020 first-round pick on a quarterback. Barring a significant Lock regression over the final three games, they can prepare to build around him next season. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


TEXANS (8-5): No team had a more embarrassing Week 14 than the Texans, who put their status as AFC South favorites in question. Deshaun Watson threw two interceptions and couldn’t get anything going until the game was out of reach, but Houston’s defense was its real issue. The Texans entered the game 28th in the league in pass defense and played down to that ranking and then some against rookie Drew Lock, who was making just his second NFL start. Lock picked apart Houston’s secondary despite not having much of a running game (90 yards). The game illustrated Houston’s chief vulnerability on defense and was an object lesson in how quickly things can go bad for the Texans if Watson and DeAndre Hopkins don’t deliver spectacular individual performances. A road date with the Titans for control of the AFC South looms, and the Texans can’t be feeling good about themselves. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Titans (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 9 of 17

TAMPA BAY 38, INDIANAPOLIS 35

COLTS (6-7): Indianapolis’ playoff hopes are probably cooked because it was unable to dictate the terms of this game. Jameis Winston and the Bucs are accustomed to playing turnover- and point-filled track meets. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett did his best to keep up, and Indy’s defense scored points courtesy of a Darius Leonard interception return, but Indianapolis was gashed by Tampa Bay’s offense for 542 yards, the most it has allowed all season. The Colts couldn’t run the ball, lost badly in the time-of-possession battle and simply ran out of gas. Well, at least kicker Adam Vinatieri, who missed the game with a left knee injury, didn’t blow this one. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Saints (Mon., Dec. 16)

— Chris Mueller


BUCS (6-7): It’s not often we give a quarterback kudos when he throws three interceptions, but Jameis Winston was mostly stellar against the Colts’ 14th-ranked DVOA defense. He completed 33 of 45 passes for four touchdowns and 456 yards, 10.1 yards per attempt. Head coach Bruce Arians got everybody in on the party. No Buccaneer hit the 100-yard receiving mark, but nine different players collected at least 19 yards receiving and four different players hauled in touchdowns. Tampa Bay is red-hot, winning four of its past five games and averaging 29.6 points over that stretch. The Bucs’ playoff chances are minuscule, but they are building a foundation for 2020. GAME GRADE: B+  | NEXT: at Lions (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

10 of 17

PITTSBURGH 23, ARIZONA 17

STEELERS (8-5): In what was quasi-home game for the Steelers in Arizona, Devlin “Duck” Hodges threw for only 152 yards, but he was efficient. The star of this game, however, was rookie Diontae Johnson, a third-round pick out of Toledo. He scored Pittsburgh’s first touchdown on a dynamic, 85-yard punt return. In the third quarter, Johnson again showed off his vision and explosion with the ball in his hands on a screen play in which he reversed fields and made something out of nothing. A few plays later, Johnson scored his second touchdown with a crisp, two-yard out route for a TD. He has great body control and the ability to explode out of his sharp breaks. But Johnson’s sharp route running is where he really thrives. Wow, the Steelers can find receivers. GAME GRADE: B +  | NEXT: vs. Bills (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


CARDINALS (3-9-1): Kyler Murray saw an unfortunate but predictable trend continue against the Steelers: Against the league’s better defenses, he usually struggles. Murray has two strong games against San Francisco on his resume, but against Pittsburgh, Baltimore and the Saints, he has been unable to make big plays with regularity. Part of that is a reflection of the Cardinals’ overall lack of talent, but some of it is on Murray. Pittsburgh harassed him all game, sacking him five times and intercepting three passes. Murray has five interceptions in his past four games, after going five straight contests without a turnover. Taking more chances is good for Murray in the long run, but as the Cardinals proved yet again, their road back to contention will be long and arduous and will require a major roster overhaul. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Browns (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 11 of 17

ATLANTA 40, CAROLINA 20

PANTHERS (5-8): It’s like clockwork. Week after week, opponents shred the Panthers on the ground with ease. The Falcons, who entered Week 14 ranked 27th in rush offense DVOA, ran 32 times for 159 yards (5.0 per attempt) and two touchdowns on Carolina’s abysmal run defense. The Panthers have allowed league-worst marks of 5.3 yards per rush attempt and 24 rushing touchdowns. Significant resources must be invested in the defense in the offseason. With better run defense, the Panthers would have two or three more wins, despite their problems at quarterback. Carolina Kyle Allen again was poor (28-for-41, 293 yards, two interceptions). GAME GRADE: F |  NEXT: vs. Seahawks

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (4-9): The offense was strong, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Matt Ryan posted his second game with 300-plus yards on 9.0-plus yards per attempt against the Panthers in a four-week span. An unlikely hero helped break the game open for the Falcons: undrafted free agent Olamide Zaccheaus. He entered Week 14 having played just 32 offensive snaps; he did not have a target or a touch. Against the Panthers, Zaccheaus broke free for a 93-yard touchdown on the first grab of his NFL career and his only catch of the game. The Falcons wrapped up a five-game stretch against divisional opponents with a 3-2 record. Is that enough to save head coach Dan Quinn? GAME GRADE: A  | NEXT: at 49ers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 12 of 17

NY JETS 22, MIAMI 21

DOLPHINS (3-10): With the Giants and Bengals still on the Dolphins’ schedule, a team with one of the worst rosters in modern NFL history could finish 5-11. Were it not for an overturned pass-interference call that allowed the Jets to kick a winning field goal, the Dolphins would have possessed a six-win ceiling. That is borderline unfathomable, based on Miami’s offseason actions and the talent trades and injuries removed from the roster in-season. Brian Flores appears to be the right coach for this rebuild. He has gotten more from this roster than almost anyone envisioned. First-time offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea has also overseen the long-awaited, oft-doubted breakout by WR DeVante Parker. This resembles a semi-competent offense despite a replacement-level offensive line. The Dolphins have less talent than the 0-16 Browns of  2017, yet Flores has lapped Hue Jackson’s work. Even without the No. 1 overall pick, the Flores-led Dolphins are on the right track. And his 2020 roster will be much better. GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: at Giants (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


JETS (5-8): A recent trade candidate, Robby Anderson may be positioning himself for a long-term Jets extension. Or he could be one of the prizes in a thin wide receiver free-agent class. Sam Darnold located his most talented receiver seven times for 116 yards against the Dolphins, and the fourth-year deep threat found space across the field against Miami’s undermanned secondary. Anderson’s extra-effort touchdown helped the Jets win a meaningless game, but this stretch is more about evaluation than final scores. Dating to last season, the 26-year-old wideout has shown chemistry with Darnold. However, Anderson’s career has included inconsistency and off-field issues. If the Cowboys extend Dak Prescott and use their franchise tag on Amari Cooper, Anderson would be the top 20-something wideout on the market. It will take eight figures per year for the Jets to retain him, but without any young outside threats on the roster, GM Joe Douglas must consider an Anderson re-up. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Ravens (Thurs.)

— Sam Robinson

13 of 17

MINNESOTA 20, DETROIT 7

LIONS (3-9-1): No one should expect David Blough to be Matthew Stafford. But this game was a massive step backward from his impressive showing in a loss to Chicago on Thanksgiving Day. He missed open throws and threw two interceptions, but what stood out most was how poorly he handled himself in the pocket. The Vikings have a very good pass-rush — DE Danielle Hunter in particular caused great problems for the Lions’ protection. But Blough is to blame more than Detroit’s pass blocking. He held the ball too long, didn’t feel the rush around him, and even when the Vikings were not bearing down on him, he perceived pressure that wasn’t there. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: vs. Bucs (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


VIKINGS (9-4): Minnesota’s cornerback situation (See Rhodes, Xavier) is problematic. But the Vikings, who won their fifth straight game, may have found something in one of their former first-round picks. Mike Hughes blanketed Marvin Jones (3 catches) much of the game, as the Vikings limited the Lions to only 161 yards passing. Coming into this game, the only advantage the Lions’ offense had on paper was the combination of WR Kenny Golladay, who is impressive, and Jones against Minnesota’s outside cornerbacks. Hughes may give head coach Mike Zimmer a possible answer to one of this team’s biggest questions as the Vikings head toward the playoffs. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: at LA Chargers (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 14 of 17

GREEN BAY 20, WASHINGTON 15

REDSKINS (3-10): Washington’s defense did an admirable job in Green Bay keeping a high-octane offense in check. The Packers, who came into the week ranked seventh in points per drive (2.24), scored just 20 points, their lowest mark of the season at Lambeau Field. The Redskins got after Aaron Rodgers, sacking him four times and registering seven quarterback hits. It was a team effort, as four different players picked up a sack and seven different players picked up a hit. Rodgers passed for 195 yards, his worst mark in a fully played home game since Week 4 of 2017. The Redskins are doing some nice things to set the tone for their future. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


PACKERS (10-3): The Redskins ‘ offense has some decent, young pieces, but no one is going to confuse it with the 2019 Saints’ attack. Green Bay took care of business, limiting rookie QB to Dwayne Haskins to 170 yards passing. But the Packers’ run defense may be a weak link. Packers tackling was shoddy at times, and they weren’t disciplined controlling gaps. It wasn’t a horrible showing against the run but something to be mindful of in the playoffs. That’s when the defense won’t be able to stack the box against much more formidable passing teams. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Bears (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 15 of 17

CLEVELAND 27, CINCINNATI 19

BENGALS (1-12): RB Joe Mixon was easily Cincinnati’s best player in this game. Although his stats early in the season were poor, it wasn’t his fault. The line rarely opened holes. Now with cracks to slip through, Mixon looks like one of the best running backs in the league. Against the Browns, he ran with passion, burst and power (146 yards) and showed terrific change-of-direction ability against a defense geared to stop him. The Bengals even split Mixon out wide and threw him deep routes against linebacker coverage. (He had 40 yards receiving.) The Bengals’ offense, with OT Jonah Williams returning next year, isn’t as far off as many might think. GAME GRADE: C + | NEXT: vs. Patriots (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


BROWNS (6-7): Cleveland was far too pass-heavy in the first half, especially considering the Bengals rush the passer well but are horrendous against the run. In the second half, Cleveland’s offense went through RBs Nick Chubb (106 yards) and Kareem Hunt. (26 yards rushing and 40 receiving) Smart, smart move: The Browns’ pass protection is a liability, and QB Baker Mayfield and WR Odell Beckham’s on-the-field relationship couldn’t be more disjointed. Perhaps the coaching staff will stick to the ground in the final three  games. (Psst: I don’t trust ’em.) Beckham (2 catches, 39 yards), reportedly dealing with a sports hernia injury, remains a disappointment. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

NY GIANTS AT PHILADELPHIA

GIANTS (2-10): Perhaps veteran QB Eli Manning  who hasn’t played since Week 2, can solve the Giants’ turnover woes. Rookie QB Daniel Jones, out with a high ankle sprain, has 21 turnovers this season. Manning is coming off of a 2018 season in which he posted a career-low interception rate of 1.9%, and he did a solid job at the beginning of 2019 with just two interceptions over 89 pass attempts (2.2%  rate, better than league average of 2.3%). Philadelphia has struggled a bit in taking the ball away as well as limiting the effectiveness of opposing quarterbacks, ranking 18th in takeaway rate (10.7%, below league average of 11.9%) and 19th in passer rating allowed (91.8). 

— Michael Nania


EAGLES (5-7): The defense must perform at a consistently dominant level, which it has the talent to do. The Eagles are 19th in points allowed per drive (1.99), after yielding a season-worst 37 points to the hapless Dolphins in Week 13. The Eagles, who stunningly could still win the terrible NFC East, are surprisingly mediocre against the pass. They are tied for 19th in net yards per pass attempt allowed (6.4 versus league average of 6.3) and are allowing the 10th-highest touchdown pass rate (5.2% versus league average of 4.5%). This unit has the talent to be substantially more reliable than that.  NEXT: at Redskins (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 17 of 17

CHICAGO 31, DALLAS 24

BEARS (7-6): Much maligned this season, QB Mitch Trubisky has played significantly better recently. Led by WR Allen Robinson (76 catches for 898 yards), he’s throwing to a better group of receivers than some may realize. The third-year QB’s passing prowess showed up again Thursday night (244 yards and three TDs). But in this game, we saw the running ability (10 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown) that was so crucial for him in 2018, when he scampered for 421 yards. The Cowboys did a really poor job of tackling, but Trubisky was smart when he chose to run, avoiding taking punishment. Trubisky looks much healthier and more confident now than he did in the first half of the season and is making a strong push to be Chicago’s starter in 2020. Using his legs as a weapon (143 rushing yards in 2019) sure helps. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)

 — Matt Williamson


COWBOYS (6-7): The Cowboys’ struggles against strong competition continued in Chicago, as they fell to 0-6 in games against teams with a winning record. Dallas, somehow still in first in the NFC East, has been close, as the loss to the Bears marked its ‘ fourth loss by seven points or fewer out of those six games. Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky carved up the struggling pass defense (which entered Week 14 ranked 23rd in DVOA), posting three touchdowns, a 115.5 passer rating and a season-best 80.6 QBR. Slot corner Jourdan Lewis was a primary culprit, yielding four catches on four targets for 64 yards and three first downs. One was an eight-yard touchdown to Allen Robinson. Lewis has given up 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at LA Rams (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/yardbarkers_nfl_week_14_game_by_game_analysis_grades/s1__30753680#slide_1

By: Yardbarker Staff

NFL Week 14 matchups: An insiders’ guide

Yardbarker’s Sam Robinson and Michael Nania go deep inside NFL games each week, focusing on key numbers and roster issues. 

GLOSSARY: 

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. 

THURSDAY

Dallas (6-6) at Chicago (6-6), 8:20 p.m. ET

Inside Cowboys numbers: Dallas is 0-5 against teams that currently have a winning record. The Cowboys lost the turnover battle 10 to one in those games.  

Inside Cowboys roster: With Amari Cooper on pace to eclipse his season yardage high by nearly 150, Dallas’ decision to trade a first-round pick for him worked out. Despite Cooper wanting to stay in Dallas, it will probably come down to the team’s ability to extend Dak Prescott before the March 10 franchise tag deadline. Prescott will certainly take precedence if this extension saga moves to this point, forcing the Cowboys to tag him and thus sending Cooper to free agency. If the Cowboys cannot navigate this situation and keep an important player off the market, it will be an organizational failure.

Inside Bears numbers: Chicago’s defense has overcome unfavorable circumstances to remain one of the league’s most dominant units, ranking fourth in scoring defense per drive (1.50) despite playing with the second-worst average starting field position (opponent’s 31-yard line). The Bears allow the fourth-fewest yards per rush attempt (3.7) and seventh-fewest net yards per pass attempt (5.8). 

Inside Bears roster: Chicago has not featured a long-term receiver duo since its Brandon Marshall-Alshon Jeffery tandem, but Anthony Miller has crept into the equation as a potential Allen Robinson complement. Despite a part-time role for half the season, the Bears’ second-year slot receiver surpassed his rookie-year receptions and yards total in Week 13 via his career-high nine-grab, 140-yard showing. Miller has exceeded 50 yards in six of his past eight games and is now a full-time player. Given Chicago’s issues at tight end, Miller’s development is critical for a Robinson-reliant passing attack.

SUNDAY

Carolina (5-7) at Atlanta (3-9), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Panthers numbers: Carolina’s 22 rush touchdowns allowed is the most through 12 games since the 2000 Cardinals. After taking on Atlanta’s 25th-ranked DVOA run game, the Panthers will play three teams ranked in the top-13 of rush offense DVOA (Seahawks, Colts, Saints), so more embarrassment could be on the way.

Inside Panthers roster: Despite Carolina’s struggles over the past two seasons, Ron Rivera should be a candidate elsewhere soon. But second-year owner David Tepper firing the two-time Coach of the Year was easy to anticipate, given his comments since arriving. It will be interesting to see if the Panthers stick with Cam Newton, as Kyle Allen has predictably shown he’s more a backup QB than a viable starter, given Newton’s relationship with Rivera. Tepper seeking a “modern” coach should point to the Panthers’ next leader having an offensive background.

Inside Falcons numbers: The offense is respectable, ranking 10th in EPA and 12th in points per drive (2.02). The Falcons are doing this despite a down season from QB Matt Ryan, who averages his fewest yards per attempt (7.3) since 2013 (6.9).

Inside Falcons roster: Some of the Falcons’ pass-protection issues in the Saints’ franchise-record-tying nine-sack performance stemmed from three offensive linemen being out, but backups Ty Sambrailo and Wes Schweitzer are ex-starters with several years’ experience. Atlanta’s line has underwhelmed throughout what’s been a wasted year for a veteran-laden roster. With the Falcons projected to be over the 2020 salary cap (without many cuts possible) and having used two first-round picks on linemen this year, the team will need to need to bargain shop for any upgrades it seeks for this unit.

Indianapolis (6-6) at Tampa Bay (5-7), 1 p.m. ET 

Inside Colts numbers: The Colts have stubbornly stuck with a washed-up Adam Vinatieri, and it has cost them dearly. Vinatieri has missed eight field goals (tied for league lead with Robbie Gould) and six extra points (most in the league). His 30 points worth of missed kicks is by far the highest total in the league.

Inside Colts roster: Indianapolis is in a dire place at wide receiver. In addition to T.Y. Hilton battling injuries throughout the season, would-be No. 2 wideout Devin Funchess will not come off IR as the team once expected he would. Third-round rookie Parris Campbell has 115 yards receiving  in five games and has not played since Week 9, and the Colts just placed auxiliary cog Chester Rogers on IR. QB Jacoby Brissett will have a difficult time keeping Indianapolis in the playoff race.

Inside Bucs numbers: Coordinator Todd Bowles’ defense has dealt with bad field position (sixth worst) due to an offense that owns the second-highest turnover rate (18.2 percent). But the group has prevailed with impressive situational football. The Bucs’ defense ranks 10th in takeaway rate (13.5 percent), and 14th in the red zone (54.3 percent). 

Inside Bucs roster: Now two sacks from Warren Sapp’s season Bucs record of 16.5, pass-rusher Shaq Barrett looks like an extension no-brainer. But with he, Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib on expiring contracts, this current Bucs strength spot will be a need area soon. JPP being willing to accept a discount or an incentive-laden deal would help, given his history, but Tampa Bay may need to consider an early-round edge rusher pick due to its uncertainty here and a pricey Barrett extension likely on tap.

Miami (3-9) at N.Y. Jets (4-8), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Dolphins numbers: A dose of Fitzmagic has made the Dolphins surprisingly competitive. Fitzpatrick ranks 12th among qualified quarterbacks in QBR (60). Since Week 9, the Dolphins rank 11th in points per game (24.6), a feat nobody would have figured possible after Miami entered the bye week averaging 6.5 points.

Inside Dolphins roster: The only borderline name-brand player in Miami’s patchwork secondary, Eric Rowe signed a three-year extension this week. This move may well check off one of the Dolphins’ many needs with the ex-Patriots cornerback-turned-Dolphins safety signed through 2022 and 2018 extension recipient Bobby McCain due back from injury next year. While the Dolphins need help nearly everywhere, they appear content with their in-house safeties.

Inside Jets numbers: The run defense has allowed a league-low 2.89 yards per rush attempt, 1.4 yards below the 2019 league average of 4.29. If the Jets can maintain that mark, they would top the Super Bowl era (since 1966) record held by the 2000 Ravens (-1.39 differential, with 2.69 yards per rush allowed versus league average of 4.08). 

Inside Jets roster: C.J. Mosley’s top 2019 NFL contribution was changing the off-ball linebacker market, with his Jets deal representing a staggering $4.5 million-per-year markup from 2018’s top contract at the position. But a player who missed three games in five years with the Ravens is now on IR after missing most of the Jets’ 2019 snaps due to a nagging groin problem. The Jets will need a strong 2020 from Mosley to remotely justify this outlandish $17M-per-year price, because they cannot reasonably escape this contract until 2022.

San Francisco (10-2) at New Orleans (10-2), 1 p.m. ET

Inside 49ers numbers: In Week 13, the 49ers held Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson to a career-low 4.6 yards per pass attempt; he entered the game averaging a 10.1 yards per attempt over his previous three games. San Francisco’s secondary leads the NFL in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed (5.5) despite having played games against Jackson, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. 

Inside 49ers roster: Although San Francisco needed Emmanuel Sanders, the team’s second-round pick Deebo Samuel pick looks like a decision that will benefit many future 49er offenses. The rookie has become the reliable target the franchise hoped 2018 Round 2 choice Dante Pettis would be, with 564 yards and a strong midseason surge aiding Jimmy Garoppolo in the team’s biggest games in six years. Pettis should not be discarded just yet, given his impressive finish to last season, but Samuel has helped the 49ers cover for the second-year wideout’s disappearance and will be a key figure for the revitalized franchise.

Inside Saints numbers: The Saints are excellent producing stops on third down, allowing the sixth-lowest conversion rate (34.4 percent). Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is a driving force behind that success, as he is tied for second among all players with seven passes defended on third down.

Inside Saints roster: New Orleans has never really replaced tight end Jimmy Graham since trading him in 2015, but Jared Cook – his Thanksgiving drops notwithstanding – has proven to be a worthwhile investment at two years and $15 million. Since Drew Brees’ return from injury, the veteran tight end has exceeded 70 yards in three of his four games and has scored twice. Despite being 32, Cook is averaging 45.9 yards per game – the third most of his career – and at least gives defenses more to worry about than Ben Watson, Coby Fleener or Josh Hill did.

Detroit (3-8-1) at Minnesota (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Lions numbers: Detroit struggles to score without injured QB Matthew Stafford, going 0-4 and averaging 19 points in four games without him after going 3-4-1 and averaging 23.8 offensive points over eight games with him. Jeff Driskel and David Blough are mediocre, combining to average 6.7 yards per attempt (league average 7.3).

Inside Lions roster: Detroit almost has Pittsburgh outflanked on December’s weirdest quarterback starter. While David Blough did go to a Division I-FBS school (Purdue), unlike Devlin Hodges, he spent his first NFL months with the Browns before being traded to the Lions in August. With Jeff Driskel now on IR, Blough has an unusual opportunity to audition to be Matthew Stafford’s backup next year. These final four Lions games may look irrelevant on the surface, but considering Stafford’s back issues the past two years, identifying a future backup will be important.

Inside Vikings numbers: The Vikings are average on the road, ranking 16th in win percentage (.429) and 13th in point differential (+9). Conversely, are dominant at home (5-0), ranking third in point differential (+68) and sitting with the Patriots as the only team yet to lose. 

Inside Vikings roster: Many of Minnesota’s recent-years extensions have benefited its defense – from Danielle Hunter to Everson Griffen to Eric Kendricks to Harrison Smith. But the Vikings’ Xavier Rhodes deal appears to have outlived its usefulness, with the $14 million-per-year cornerback exiting Week 13 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 109 player at this position. The Seahawks (badly) burned the former first-round pick and All-Pro for a 60-yard touchdown Monday. One of four first- or second-round corners on Minnesota’s roster, Rhodes, 29, runs the risk of being a trade or cut candidate next year.

Denver (4-8) at Houston (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Broncos numbers: Denver’s defense is tough to beat in the red zone, allowing the lowest touchdown rate in the league (39.4 percent). The secondary is particularly stout in the red area, allowing a first down or touchdown on a league-low 15.4 percent of red-zone pass plays.

Inside Broncos roster: Denver entered this season with each of its starting defensive linemen in a contract year, but frequent healthy scratch Adam Gotsis has faded out of the long-term picture and Derek Wolfe is now on IR. Wolfe and versatile defensive end Shelby Harris profile as extension candidates, and while a Justin Simmons re-up or a third Chris Harris deal may take precedence, the Broncos’ situation here should mean either Wolfe or Harris stays. Wolfe has said he wants a third Denver deal and made a case as a fit for head coach Vic Fangio, recording a career-high seven sacks pre-injury.

Inside Texans numbers: Deshaun Watson is enjoying unprecedented success to begin his career; he is on track to become the first quarterback in league history to post a 100-plus passer rating in each of his first three seasons. Watson is electric on third down, posting a 109.4 passer rating, helping Houston rank fourth in third- down conversion rate (45.8 percent). 

Inside Texans roster: Overlooked amid one of the biggest wins in Texans history: a report indicating they plan to keep their GM-less setup in 2020. The Texans fired GM Brian Gaine in May, after barely a year on the job, and have used head coach Bill O’Brien as the new front office boss. O’Brien (50-42 as Texans HC) has not won enough to hold this job in non-emergency situations and has traded two first-round picks, a second-rounder, two third-rounders and Jadeveon Clowney since August. A GM-less blueprint is incredibly risky for the Texans, who were thought to make another run at Patriots exec Nick Caserio once his contract expires at season’s end.

Baltimore (10-2) at Buffalo (9-3), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Ravens numbers: Baltimore is on track to set Super Bowl-era records for yards per rush rush attempt (5.6) and total rushing yards (on pace for 3,325). All four of the Ravens’ remaining games are against teams ranked in the top half of defensive DVOA (Bills, Jets, Browns, Steelers).

Inside Ravens roster: Justin Tucker is the NFL’s highest-paid kicker, making $5 million annually. That fits nicely into the kicker price range, but with the salary barely $200,000 per year more than the second-highest-paid kicker, the Ravens have an incredible bargain. The most accurate kicker in NFL history just made perhaps the season’s most important field goal – his 49-yarder in the rain to beat the 49ers – and is on his way to what would be a record (for pure kickers) fourth first-team All-Pro honor. In a year featuring widespread kicker unreliability, the Ravens’ Tucker contract has never been more important.

Inside Bills numbers: The defense is superb, ranking third in fewest points allowed per drive (1.25). The secondary and pass rush have worked together beautifully, as the Bills are tied for second in passes defended (69) and eighth in sack rate (8.1 percent). That combination has Buffalo ranked third in opponent passer rating (78.5) and net yards per pass attempt (5.1). 

Inside Bills roster: Josh Allen has accounted for 16 touchdowns and has thrown one interception since Week 7, and Buffalo’s offseason additions have undeniably aided his development. John Brown leads the Bills in receiving, and Cole Beasley has given the improving quarterback a consistent target. Signed for barely $7 million per year, Beasley is averaging a career-best 52.9 yards per game. Brown and Beasley’s combined salaries match ex-Bill Sammy Watkins’, and the lower-profile new tandem is on pace to give the Bills two 800-yard receivers for the first time since 2003.

Cincinnati (1-11) at Cleveland (5-7), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Bengals numbers: Defensive strides are being made in Cincinnati, as the Bengals have allowed just 13 points per game over the past three weeks. Improved pass defense is the key, as the Bengals have yielded a passer rating of just 82.8 over the last three weeks, after giving up a mark of 107.4 over their first nine games. 

Inside Bengals roster: Cincinnati has gotten little from its past three first-round picks this season, with Jonah Williams (2019) out all season and John Ross (2017) missing much of it. Hope remains for each, however. But the Bengals’ 2018 first-rounder, center-guard Billy Price, is on the verge of “bust” status. The Bengals benched the ex-Ohio State standout again Sunday, replacing him at right guard with fourth-round rookie Michael Jordan. This came a week after Price was set to be replaced at guard by the now-injured Alex Redmond and months after he lost his center job in training camp.

Inside Browns numbers: Baker Mayfield has dipped significantly in his second season, ranking last among qualifiers in passer rating (79.9). He has struggled mightily to get on the same page with WR Odell Beckham, who is posting career-lows in receiving yards per game (67.1), receiving touchdowns per game (0.17), and catch rate (55.3 percent).

Inside Browns roster: An overmatched Freddie Kitchens and a regressing Mayfield are essentially wasting a year of Beckham prime. A player who once carried the 2016 Giants to the playoffs and may still be the game’s most talented receiver ranks 29th in the league, trailing four tight ends, in yards per game. The Browns owe Beckham a non-guaranteed $14 million salary next year, and while that setup makes him a valuable trade asset, Cleveland’s next play-caller must get more from the 27-year-old star.

Washington (3-9) at Green Bay (8-4), 1 p.m. ET

Inside Redskins numbers: Washington would like to see more flashes from rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who has thrown two touchdowns and six interceptions. He has averaged only 6.0 yards per attempt over his 133 pass attempts. Better protection would go a long way, as Haskins has taken a high sack rate of 14.2 percent (22 sacks total).

Inside Redskins roster: It’s safe to say Quinton Dunbar has outplayed his contract. The Redskins did well to extend him at $3.4 million average annual value on New Year’s Day 2018 – the first day the former UDFA was extension-eligible – and have seen the fifth-year defender spend most of the season rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cornerback. Head coach Bill Callahan benched $15M-per-year corner Josh Norman, a surefire cut candidate after this season, and the Redskins have won two straight games with Dunbar and Fabian Moreau working as their boundary corners. Expect Dunbar, whose contract runs through 2020, to seek a raise soon.

Inside Packers numbers: Green Bay’s passing attack is disappointingly average outside of the red zone, ranking 15th in yards per pass play (7.5) and 19th in passing first-down rate (32.2 percent). Inside the red zone has been a different story, as the Packers rank second in touchdown rate (70 percent) and eighth in passing conversion rate (36.8 percent).

Inside Packers roster: Even though Allen Lazard caught three passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s snow game in East Rutherford, N.J.,, Green Bay does not have a reliable pass-catcher beyond Davante Adams. The Packers let Randall Cobb defect to the Cowboys in free agency, and he’s outplayed each of Green Bay’s younger auxiliary wideouts. With Jimmy Graham also a shell of his Pro Bowl self, GM Brian Gutekunst must address the team’s pass-catching situation in 2020 after ignoring it this year.

L.A. Chargers (4-8) at Jacksonville (4-8), 4:05 p.m. ET

Inside Chargers numbers: L.A. has a 2-8 record in games decided by seven points or less, with three consecutive one-score losses entering Week 14. Los Angeles’ total of eight losses by seven points or less is tied for the most through a team’s first 12 games in NFL history (along with the 1993 Patriots and 2001 Lions).

Inside Chargers roster: Not much has gone well around him, but 15th-year linebacker Thomas Davis has shown he can still play. Signed to a two-year, $10.5 million deal in advance of his age-36 season, Davis has 96 tackles – 35 more than any other Charger. After considering retirement while still in Carolina, it is entirely possible he will be kept on Los Angeles’ payroll through the 2020 season. Not many off-ball ‘backers have been starters at age 37; London Fletcher in 2013 serves as the most recent example.

Inside Jaguars numbers: Nick Foles was highly ineffective after returning from injury, averaging 5.1 net yards per attempt and tossing just two touchdowns over 109 attempts (1.8 percent touchdown rate). Rookie Gardner Minshew, who remains 16th in net yards per attempt (6.1) and 17th in passer rating (91.1), should provide a boost as he makes his final pitch to become Jacksonville’s quarterback of the future. 

Inside Jaguars roster: Going back to Minshew does not necessarily doom Foles in Jacksonville, but signing off on the Foles deal a year after authorizing the Blake Bortles extension does not look good for the Jaguars. The bizarre Bortles reinvestment tagged the franchise with $16.5 million in 2019 dead money, which forced cap-casualty cuts of starting defenders, and the Jags proceeded to give Foles $50M guaranteed despite perhaps bidding against themselves. Head coach Doug Marrone might not be the only scapegoat for the past two years; GM David Caldwell’s job could be in jeopardy. 

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Arizona (3-8-1), 4:25 p.m. ET

Inside Steelers numbers: The Steelers’ pass rush is almost unstoppable in Pittsburgh, leading the NFL with 5.0 sacks per game and a 12.7 percent sack rate. The record for sacks at home in a season is 41, held by the 1985 Los Angeles Raiders. Conversely, the pass rush ranks 29th in sacks per game on the road (1.6).

Inside Steelers roster: Though they are winning games with a rookie UDFA from Division I-FCS Samford at quarterback, the Steelers still need their running game more than most contenders. James Conner has now missed seven games since becoming the starter last season, and he remains questionable going into Week 14. While he’s fared worse than his Pro Bowl 2018, Conner still represents an upgrade on the Benny Snell-Jaylen Samuels tandem. Conner’s injuries will affect his value when it comes time to see if the Steelers are up for negotiating an extension with Le’Veon Bell’s successor next year.

Inside Cardinals numbers: Arizona must get Kyler Murray back on track. He has averaged a minuscule 4.7 yards per attempt over his past two games (finishing with under 5.0 yards per attempt in each game). Getting Christian Kirk more involved needs to be a focal point. Kirk has averaged just 4.5 catches for 32 yards over his last two games, following a six-catch, 138-yard, three-touchdown breakout in Tampa Bay four weeks ago. 

Inside Cardinals roster: The Cardinals, who have the NFL’s worst pass defense, allowed embattled Rams QB Jared Goff to throw for 424 yards in three quarters in Week 13. The secondary’s leader, Patrick Peterson, has struggled since his return from a six-game PED suspension but recently spoke of a desire for another Cardinals extension. Do the Cards want to pay top dollar for Peterson’s early 30s? By resisting trade interest the past two years, it would seem they would have to negotiate with the signed-through-2020 cornerback next year. Regardless of how this process goes, Arizona needs plenty of secondary help.

Tennessee (7-5) at Oakland (6-6), 4:25 p.m. ET

Inside Titans numbers: The Titans are 5-1 with an average of 29.7 points per game under Ryan Tannehill, versus 2-4 with an average of 14.7 points per game under Marcus Mariota. Tannehill leads qualified quarterbacks in passer rating (113.9) and yards per attempt (9.1) 

Inside Titans roster: Tennessee interestingly did not pick up Jack Conklin’s fifth-year option in May, putting him on track for 2020 free agency. The right tackle who missed time in 2018 because two knee injuries has been a key part of Tennessee’s bludgeoning ground attack, helping Derrick Henry become a Pro Bowl candidate. The 2016 first-round pick (Pro Football Focus’ No. 16 overall tackle) resides in good position, after Trent Brown, Ja’Wuan James and Lane Johnson transformed the right tackle market this year. With Henry also a free agent next year, the Titans have some major decisions forthcoming.

Inside Raiders numbers: The Raiders will be thrilled to return home, where their 5-1 record is tied for third best in the league. Derek Carr, who posted a 62.7 passer rating over Oakland’s two-game road trip, will be looking to continue the success he had in the team’s three-game homestand from Weeks 9 to 11 (3-0 record, 109.2 passer rating, one interception over 92 passes). 

Inside Raiders roster: Despite his strong debut that produced a win in Indianapolis, Trevor Davis received his walking papers barely two months after the Raiders traded for him. The return man/supporting cast wide receiver is now a Dolphin after a waiver claim. The Raiders have shuffled their receiver group many times this season and will enter the offseason with a glaring need. Fortunately, Oakland has two first-round picks in a draft expected to feature one of the best receiver talent pools in many years.

Full article here https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/nfl_week_14_matchups_an_insiders_guide/s1_13132_30712250

By: Michael Nania and Sam Robinson