Grading each NFL team at the halfway mark of the season

With about half of the NFL season in the books, the 2019 outlook for each team is clearer. We handed out grades for each team through eight weeks of the season. 1 of 32

Arizona Cardinals: C

Arizona made a splash in the offseason by hiring Kliff Kingsbury and drafting Kyler Murray first overall. The defense has spent most of the first eight weeks without Patrick Peterson due to a suspension and has allowed the second most points in the league, but the offense has shown some explosion, resulting in a 3-4-1 record, including a recent three-game win streak. It’s definitely progress. 2 of 32

Atlanta Falcons: F

The Falcons cleaned house in the offseason, getting rid of all three coordinators, but it’s apparent the problem was above them. Atlanta enters the bye week 1-7, allowing a staggering 31.3 points per game and underachieving on offense with only 20.6 points per game. Matt Ryan’s recent ankle injury has only added to their woes. Head coach Dan Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl only three years ago, but now it’s clearly time for him to go. 3 of 32

Baltimore Ravens: B+

It was fair to expect regression from the Ravens after losing significant talent on defense during the offseason, but the team has made up for its defensive issues with an explosive offense led by Lamar Jackson. Baltimore ranks second in the league with 30.6 points per game and is coming off a huge win at Seattle. The Ravens host New England this week, which will be a measuring stick for both teams.

Buffalo Bills: B

While it’s hard to complain about a 5-2 record, especially given the recent history of the Bills, we still need to put their five wins in perspective. They all came against teams with a .500 or worse record, including two winless teams. The offense has struggled despite several notable offseason additions, with young quarterback Josh Allen showing inconsistency. A 31-13 home loss to a floundering Eagles squad in Week 8 is concerning. 5 of 32

Carolina Panthers: B

Considering Cam Newton’s foot injury and resulting five missed games, a 4-3 record is about as good as the Panthers could have expected. That said, they were blown out at San Francisco, 51-13, coming off a bye, which puts a stench on their start. After Kyle Allen’s poor play in that game, Newton’s return is probably coming sooner than later. The defense had played well up to that point, but now there are suddenly questions about it. 6 of 32

Chicago Bears: C-

The Bears have big problems, starting with third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He’s taken a big step back early this season, with a terrible 5.6 yards per attempt and a 81.4 passer rating. His poor play has resulted in consecutive home losses, and two missed field goals by Eddy Pineiro vs. the Chargers also raises questions about the kicking game, which was one of the top priorities in the offseason. At 3-4 in a tough division, Chicago’s prospects to return to the playoffs this year don’t look great.

7 of 32

Cincinnati Bengals: F

The expectations for Cleveland were probably a bit too lofty after their big offseason moves, including the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. That said, the team is a disappointment at 2-5 for even the most pessimistic. Despite a bevy of weapons, the team ranks 25th in points per game, and Baker Mayfield has seen huge regression with 12 picks in seven games. The Browns have committed the most penalties in the league and have the second-most giveaways. That’s losing football, and it goes squarely on first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens. 9 of 32

Dallas Cowboys: B-

It’s been a first half of inconsistency for the Cowboys, who have a three-game winning streak and a three-game losing streak already. The good news is that their offensive line is finally healthy again, and it looks like their 24-22 loss at the Jets in Week 6 was a wake-up call. Dak Prescott remains an MVP candidate with a 102.6 passer rating, and the team is in the driver’s seat in the NFC East after a big win vs. Philadelphia. The Cowboys could do a lot of things better, but they’re in an enviable position in the standings.

10 of 32

Denver Broncos: D

Vic Fangio’s long-awaited chance to be a head coach hasn’t gone well, with a 2-6 start and an inept offense. The truth is that the Broncos roster has been in transition, with many new faces on defense and Joe Flacco at quarterback. Flacco has continued to prove he’s a below-average quarterback at this point in his career, with the team averaging only 15.6 points per game, and he could be out indefinitely with a neck injury. The team desperately needs to address the offensive line next offseason, but that’s something we’ve been saying for years. John Elway, are you listening? 11 of 32

Detroit Lions: C

Detroit went into its bye week 2-1-1, with a home loss vs. Kansas City as the only major blemish. Since then the team is 1-2, losing to division opponents Green Bay and Minnesota. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to play well under new coordinator Darrell Bevell, but running back Kerryon Johnson will miss significant time for the second straight year to injury, and the defense remains a disappointment, allowing 26.6 points per game. 12 of 32

Green Bay Packers: A

The ball has bounced Green Bay’s way during the first half of the season, most recently with favorable reffing vs. Detroit in Week 6 and the absence of Patrick Mahomes when the team visited Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8. Regardless, Green Bay is 7-1 through the first half of the season and has been without No. 1 wideout Davante Adams for most of the year. Aaron Rodgers is playing great football under new head coach Matt LaFleur, and running back Aaron Jones also looks like a potential MVP candidate with 11 touchdowns. Looking ahead, the team’s visit to San Francisco in Week 12 could have huge playoff positioning implications.

13 of 32

Houston Texans: B

The Texans are in good position in the AFC after a 5-3 start, and Deshaun Watson continues to play like an elite quarterback. However, the team has already spent much of its 2020 draft capital to help in the short term, and J.J. Watt is now out for the year. Anything short of a playoff run will be a disappointment, and missing the playoffs is still well within the range of possibilities with four division games remaining. 14 of 32

Indianapolis Colts: A-

With a 5-2 start to the year, Frank Reich has to be the current leader for Coach of the Year. Andrew Luck retired just before the start of the season, and the Colts have also had significant injuries, most notably T.Y. Hilton, Malik Hooker and Darius Leonard. Jacoby Brissett has been extremely efficient, which is a direct credit to Reich’s development, and the defense continues to play in the top half of the league despite the injuries. 15 of 32

Jacksonville Jaguars: B

If the Jaguars were told Nick Foles would suffer a fractured collarbone in Week 1 and Jalen Ramsey would appear in only three games, another disastrous season would probably be considered a foregone conclusion. However, rookie Gardner Minshew has done a great job filling in for Foles, and the Jags were able to get past the Ramsey distraction and net a great trade return from the Rams. Leonard Fournette is also playing the best football of his career. At 4-4, the Jags’ playoff hopes are still alive.

Kansas City Chiefs: B

Injuries have ravaged the Chiefs, including to Patrick Mahomes, three offensive linemen, their top two wideouts and top two defensive linemen. The team has also lost three home games already. However, Mahomes might miss only one or two games after what looked like a catastrophic knee injury in Week 7, and the defense has picked up the pace despite its missing pieces. The Chiefs remain in good position to not only win the AFC West again but to also possibly earn the coveted No. 2 seed in a thin AFC. 17 of 32

Los Angeles Chargers: D

With 2018 being a rare exception, the Chargers seem to have lived through the movie “Groundhog Day” for the last decade. They’ve had numerous major injuries, headlined by star safety Derwin James, lost games in ways no one would believe and continue to disappoint despite a talented roster. Through seven games, they already had more losses than last season. Philip Rivers has started to show his age at times this year, and the remainder of the schedule is brutal, including the Packers, Vikings and two games against the Chiefs. 18 of 32

Los Angeles Rams: B-

The Rams seemed to put their disappointing Super Bowl performance behind them by starting the season 3-0, but that was followed by three straight losses. They’ve righted the ship against the Falcons and Bengals and still have a good shot to make the playoffs. The offense ranks eighth in points per game, well behind what it did last year as Jared Goff and Todd Gurley have struggled, and the defense has been embarrassed on multiple occasions. The good news is that they seem to have received a boost after acquiring cornerback Jalen Ramsey two weeks ago.

19 of 32

Miami Dolphins: F

It appeared the Dolphins were tanking before the season began, and that speculation was realized prior to Week 1 when Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills were traded. The team has continued to make trades, most notably Minkah Fitzpatrick for Pittsburgh’s 2020 first-round pick. For all its struggles, Miami has gotten closer to a win recently with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. However, there’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Dolphins rank dead last in points scored and points allowed per game. 20 of 32

Minnesota Vikings: A-

Minnesota is doing a nice job bouncing back from a disappointing 2018 season, with a solid 6-2 start. Kirk Cousins has played some of the best ball of his career recently, while a healthy Dalvin Cook is on a 2,200 yards from scrimmage pace. The defense also looks better, allowing only 16.5 points per game. While both losses came in the division, they were also on the road. The Vikings remaining schedule is difficult, but an NFC North title and No. 2 seed in the NFC are still well within reach. 21 of 32

New England Patriots: A

There’s no debating that the Patriots’ schedule has been incredibly easy, but they’ve barely had a scare through eight games. The defense is on a historic pace, with only 7.6 points allowed per game, and the team also quietly leads the league with 31.3 points per game. Still, the schedule is about to get much tougher, and it remains to be seen if the offense has enough weapons for Tom Brady to stand up to the challenge, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per pass attempt despite that mediocre schedule.

By: Seth Trachtman

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Yardbarker’s Week 4 NFL picks, game previews

PHILA. (1-2) AT GREEN BAY (3-0), Thur., 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NFL NETWORK     LINE: Green Bay -4.5


What you need to know: In Week 3, fumbles by Miles Sanders and Nelson Agholor hurt the Eagles. In fact, those plays led to six Lions points and provided the difference in a surprising home loss for Philadelphia. With the Cowboys looking strong and Giants revived by Daniel Jones’ winning debut, the Eagles must win to keep from falling out of the race early. Green Bay hasn’t started 4-0 since 2015, when it won its first six games before losing four of its next five. That the Packers are unbeaten is testament to their balance, as Aaron Rodgers’ play has not been scintillating. Green Bay boasts the league’s No. 2 scoring defense, and its eight takeaways are best in the league. The pass rush (12 sacks) is getting after it, too. The rush defense, however, ranks 25th.

On the spot: Eagles RB Miles Sanders. Sanders has not proven himself ready for the role of feature back, but the Eagles need him to hold up his end of the bargain in a partnership with Jordan Howard. 

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: An opportunistic defense is arguably most responsible for Green Bay’s fast start, so Rodgers must pick up his game to keep the Packers atop what appears to be the best division.

The pick: Packers 30 Eagles 24 2 of 15

TENNESSEE (1-2) AT ATLANTA (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: Atlanta -3.5


What you need to know: Tennessee had a chance to make a major statement against the Jaguars in Week 3 but flopped, and its dominant season-opening win over Cleveland feels like long ago. As in Week 2, offense was the problem for the Titans, with Marcus Mariota failing to sustain many drives. He was sacked nine times. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has six picks in three games. 

On the spot: Titans WR A.J. Brown. After Adam Humphries and Delanie Walker, Brown got the most targets against Jacksonville, with five. He was taken out of the game by Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and needs to be much better to give Mariota more downfield options.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan: Everyone else is doing his part. Ryan can light up the scoreboard, but in a pass-happy league, he must be superb more often than not, and he hasn’t been.

The pick: Falcons 24 Titans 16 3 of 15

LA CHARGERS (1-2) AT MIAMI (0-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: Los Angeles -16.5


What you need to know: In Week 3,the Chargers couldn’t get to Deshaun Watson like the last several Texans opponents did, and it cost them dearly. Watson made big plays, including a 53-yard touchdown pass on a broken play, to beat Los Angeles. The Chargers have only four sacks, something that must change in a hurry, particularly with safety Derwin James out for at least half the season and the Chiefs already two games ahead in the AFC West. In Week 3, Miami was competitive with Dallas for 30 minutes, but couldn’t take advantage of three first-half red-zone trips. The Dolphins’ pass defense wasn’t gashed by Dak Prescott, but it had no answers for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard (combined for 228 yards on 32 carries).

On the spot: Chargers DE Melvin Ingram. Ingram has just one sack. Pro Football Focus’ grading is more kind to him, crediting him with six hurries. He must be better to help the Chargers’ so-so secondary.

Dolphins WR Preston Williams: Against Dallas, Williams dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Josh Rosen that would have gone for a touchdown. He finished with a team-leading 12 targets, but only four catches for 68 yards. Williams (6-5, 218) has prototype size for the position, and Rosen will continue to look his way. 

The pick: Chargers 30 Dolphins 17 4 of 15

OAKLAND (1-2) AT INDIANAPOLIS (2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: Indianapolis -6.5


What you need to know: In Week 3, Oakland made things much too easy for the Vikings. QB Kirk Cousins barely broke a sweat, and RB Dalvin Cook dominated. One of the Raiders’ two scores came on a trick play. In Indy in Week 3, Jacoby Brissett completed his first three passes as the Colts jumped to a 20-3 halftime lead in a win over Atlanta. More good news for Frank Reich’s team: Adam Vinatieri was perfect, including a 49-yard field goal.

On the spot: Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. Oakland needs a complementary piece in the passing game to go with Waller and Tyrell Williams, and Jon Gruden seems to want that piece to be Jacobs. He has been effective as a runner (228 yards), but has only one catch for 28 yards.

Colts S Khari Willis: Malik Hooker will be out roughly a month and a half with a torn meniscus, and the burden of replacing him falls to Willis, a rookie fourth-rounder. Hooker was in the midst of another solid season, so Willis has big shoes to fill.

The pick: Colts 28 Raiders 13 5 of 15

NEW ENGLAND (3-0) AT BUFFALO (3-0), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: New England -7


What you need to know: The Pats’ defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown, as both Jets scores last week came from their defense. New England is scary good on both sides of the ball. The Patriots’ defense is best in the league in points and yards allowed, and their offense is the second highest scoring. The only area where they’ve been even somewhat deficient is rushing offense, but when Tom Brady is running the show, that hardly matters. Josh Allen has been on a roller coaster ride, but he has made enough plays to complement a top-five Bills defense and rally the team to two fourth-quarter, comeback wins.

On the spot: Patriots RB Sony Michel. Michel averages less than 2.5 yards per carry. Although the Pats look unstoppable now, chances are they’ll need Michel soon, certainly in the postseason, if they are going to successfully defend their Super Bowl title.

Bills RB Frank Gore. Devin Singletary’s status is uncertain, so the task of churning out first downs and chewing up clock might fall to the ageless Gore, who has rushed for 164 yards (3.7 a carry). 

The pick: Patriots 31 Bills 14 6 of 15

CLEVELAND (1-2) AT BALTIMORE (2-1), Sun., 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: Baltimore -7


What you need to know: Cleveland is a mess offensively, and most of it is Baker Mayfield’s fault. The quarterback looks jittery in the pocket, holds the ball too long and runs himself into trouble when standing pat and making a throw would be more prudent. Freddie Kitchens takes much of the blame, but if his QB doesn’t snap out of his funk, the Browns’ hyped season will be on life support a mere quarter of the way in. In Week 3, the Ravens lost in Kansas City, and Lamar Jackson’s play was spotty. The Ravens are good, and certainly better than many thought they would be, but the K.C. loss proved that Jackson is not a finished product and Baltimore needs to do some work defensively. 

On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. He courted the hype, the attention and the haters, and now Mayfield isn’t holding up his end (56.9 completion %, 805 yards passing, 70.3 QB rating). 

Ravens S Earl Thomas: With Mayfield holding onto the ball too long, Thomas could have a field day baiting him into traps. That said, his past two games have not been great, per Pro Football Focus grading, so Mayfield may end up going right at him.

The pick: Browns 26 Ravens 23 7 of 15

WASHINGTON (0-3) AT NY GIANTS (1-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: FOX  LINE: New York -3


What you need to know: In Week 3, Washington was sloppy, careless and non-competitive at home on MNF against Chicago. Case Keenum was ineffective; coupled with a winless start, that might compel Daniel Snyder to fire Jay Gruden. Or perhaps he will pressure the head coach to start rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. Gruden still thinks the season can be salvaged, so he’s resisting — for now. Speaking of throwing a rookie out there to see what he can do, Daniel Jones made GM Dave Gettleman look brilliant. Jones was a revelation, throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more in his Giants debut, a win over the Bucs. He’s the talk of New York, but now comes the hard part: doing it twice in a row.

On the spot: Redskins QB Case Keenum. Keenum was good in Washington’s first two games, but he struggled against the Bears, throwing three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. If he doesn’t bounce back, Haskins-mania will reach a fever pitch.

Giants QB Daniel Jones: Jones instantly energized the Giants, and it seemed like he brought pieces of the offense into play that Eli Manning could not. Jones will try to keep the good times rolling without his most dynamic weapon. RB Saquon Barkley is out 4-8 weeks. Your move, Wayne Gallman.

The pick: Giants 24 Redskins 20 8 of 15

CAROLINA (1-2) AT HOUSTON (2-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: FOX  LINE: Houston -4


What you need to know: This game figured to be a great matchup when fans thought it would be Cam Newton versus Deshaun Watson, but Newton’s absence might make for an even better shootout. In Week 3, Newton replacement Kyle Allen lit up the Cardinals. Christian McCaffrey backed Allen with 153 yards rushing, and TE Greg Olsen had two touchdown catches. Carolina looked like a different — and much better — team with Allen. In Week 3 against the Chargers, the Texans finally protected Watson, as he was sacked fewer than four times in a game for the first time in eight regular-season contests. He was rarely pressured outside of those two sacks, and made the Chargers pay. Despite taking a beating, Watson still has a 108.6 passer rating.

On the spot: Panthers QB Kyle Allen. Can Allen do it two weeks in a row? Houston’s defense is second best in the NFL. One more star turn by Allen might cause a quarterback controversy in Charlotte.

Texans WR Will Fuller: The slow-starting Fuller doesn’t have a touchdown catch and has only 160 yards receiving through three games. The Texans need a legitimate second option when DeAndre Hopkins is covered, and Fuller is still best-suited for the job.

The pick: Texans 30 Panthers 21 9 of 15

KANSAS CITY (3-0) AT DETROIT (2-0-1), Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: FOX  LINE: Kansas City -6


What you need to know: In Week 3, the Chiefs passed their test against Baltimore, and now they get another interesting one in the Lions. Kansas City’s running back situation isn’t ideal, but it feels like it almost doesn’t matter with the way Patrick Mahomes is playing. Incredibly enough, Mahomes is ahead of his 2018 pace for yards passing and TD passes. If he keeps it up, the MVP race will be a formality. Detroit is technically an unbeaten, but its come-from-ahead tie against the Cardinals feels like a loss. Still, the Lions have gutted out a win against the Chargers, and shocked Philadelphia on the road. No one is talking much about Matt Patricia’s team as a threat in the NFC North, but if it wins this game, everyone will be.

On the spot: Chiefs RB Darrel Williams. He rushed for 62 yards on nine carries in Week 3, and figures to get calls again this week. If banged-up LeSean McCoy is limited again, the burden of giving K.C. at least the threat of the run will fall to Williams.

Lions S Tracy Walker: Walker’s Pro Football Focus coverage grade through three weeks is 75.6, which is good to very good. But he’ll need to be fantastic, because if Earl Thomas was targeted by Mahomes and Andy Reid last week, they’ll likely go after Walker this week.

The pick: Chiefs 38 Lions 20 10 of 15

TAMPA BAY (1-2) AT LA RAMS (3-0), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

TV: FOX  LINE: Los Angeles -10


What you need to know: Shaq Barrett’s first season as a full-time starter is a smashing success; the linebacker leads the NFL with eight sacks in three games. The Buccaneers’ defense ranks in the top half of the league in yards allowed. It is particularly stingy against the run, giving up only three yards per carry, third best in the league. The Bucs are only 22nd in points allowed, however, owing partly to Jameis Winston, who has thrown two pick-sixes. In Week 3, Cooper Kupp helped the Rams overcome a game defensive effort from the Browns as LA won in Cleveland. Kupp consistently exploited coverage mismatches, and he and Jared Goff were on the same page all game. Kupp leads the Rams in catches (23) and touchdowns (2). 

On the spot: Bucs QB Jameis Winston. In Week 3, Winston and Mike Evans finally got going against the Giants, with Evans racking up 190 yards and three touchdowns. If the Bucs steal a win against the Rams, it may help coach Bruce Arians decide if Winston is worth a long-term investment.

Rams WR Cooper Kupp: The Bucs are stingy against the run game, so it might fall again to Kupp to spark the offense. He might be Los Angeles’ best overall receiver; he certainly played like it against the Browns. Tampa’s pass defense is suspect, so Kupp could have a big day.

The pick: Rams 27 Buccaneers 23 11 of 15

SEATTLE (2-1) AT ARIZONA (0-2-1), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

TV: FOX  LINE: Seattle -5


What you need to know: Seattle could easily be unbeaten, but sloppy play on special teams, and another fumble by Chris Carson, conspired to cost them in Week 3 against the Saints, who were outgained 515-265. Russell Wilson has been nearly flawless (seven touchdowns and no interceptions). The Seahawks might lean on him even more if Carson’s fumbling problems persist. The Cardinals’ run defense is abysmal. Only two teams in the league are worse — the Bengals and Dolphins. Arizona has yet to hold an opponent under 100 yards on the ground. On the plus side, WR Christian Kirk is developing into a nice weapon for Kyler Murray.

On the spot: Seahawks RB Chris Carson. Pete Carroll gave Carson a vote of confidence, but his three lost fumbles in three games are alarming. He lost only two in his first 18 games as a pro. Rashaad Penny should be back this week, so Carson’s margin for error is minimal.

Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks: Hicks has dropped into coverage more than any other Cardinals linebacker, per Pro Football Focus, but he hasn’t done a good job in that regard. Arizona has been shredded by tight ends each of the first three weeks, and Hicks is part of the issue.

The pick: Seahawks 30 Cardinals 28 12 of 15

MINNESOTA (2-1) AT CHICAGO (2-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

TV: CBS  LINE: Chicago -2.5


What you need to know: The NFC North may be football’s best division, which means that this battle of 2-1 teams could determine who eventually resides in the cellar. Minnesota is tough to beat when Dalvin Cook is running well; his 375 yards lead the league, as does his 6.6 yards per carry. He’ll have a tough test against a Bears defense that ranks fifth in the league against the run. In Week 3, Chicago got a laugher of a win against Washington, and Mitchell Trubisky finally had an easy, productive night. Much of that was due to Matt Nagy’s play-calling, which consistently had receivers, specifically Taylor Gabriel, running open. Can Chicago sustain that momentum?

On the spot: Vikings FS Harrison Smith. Smith is one of the league’s better safeties, and he’ll have the task of confusing Trubisky and baiting him into risky throws. If he wins the chess match, the Vikings have a good chance to win.

Bears WR Allen Robinson: Gabriel got all the love for his three-touchdown outburst against Washington, but Robinson is Chicago’s best receiving threat. Nagy was able to scheme Gabriel open — he needs to do the same for Robinson.

The pick: Vikings 20 Bears 13 13 of 15

JACKSONVILLE (1-2) AT DENVER (0-3), Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET

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By: Chris Mueller

Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 2 NFL action

Sunday’s NFL action represented the first full slate of the season as 14 games took place around the league. It did not disappoint.

The early games included tremendous performances from NFC rivals taking on hostile road crowds. That included the Dallas Cowboys doing their thing in D.C., and the San Francisco 49ers showing that the NFC West might be more competitive than originally thought.

Over in the AFC, the New England Patriots absolutely dominated a horrible Miami Dolphins team while the Pittsburgh Steelers proved that they are a shell of their former selves.

It’s in this that we look at the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s Week 2 NFL action.

Broncos offense is a hot mess

Sep 15, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco (5) attempts a pass under pressure from Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) in the fourth quarter at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

We knew that Sunday’s home game against the Chicago Bears was going to be a low-scoring affair. Both the Broncos and Bears boast tremendous defenses with questionable offense. We didn’t realize just how bad the Joe Flacco-led Broncos offense was going to be. Was Week 1 against the Raiders an exception to the rule? Sunday’s game proved that it wasn’t.

Denver tallied a total of six points through the first 59 minutes of the game before converting on a touchdown and two-point conversion to take the lead before blowing it on defense en route to a 16-14 loss. All said, the Broncos’ offense converted on 3-of-14 third-down opportunities in the loss. That’s just not going to get it done. Now 0-2 on the season and averaging 15 points per game, it’s time to start talking about the Broncos’ offense as one of the worst in the NFL.

Houston, we have a problem

Sep 15, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs during the second quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s simple. The Texans need to do a better job protecting Deshaun Watson. We can use all the excuses available to mankind. That’s fine. But unless Watson stays upright on a more consistent basis, he’s not going to last this season. The third-year quarterback was hit 11 times and sacked six times against the Saints last week. Despite coming out on top 13-12 against a hapless Jaguars team on Sunday, Watson was hit seven times and sacked another four times.

The backdrop is real. Houston lost recently acquired starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil to an ankle injury. He was added ahead of Week 1 to help rebuild a devastated and talent-stricken Texans offensive line. No matter the severity of Tunsil’s injury, these Texans must do a better job protecting Watson. It’s that simple.

This just in: Kyler Murray is good

Sep 15, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws to tight end Charles Clay (85) as Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon (99) applies pressure during the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since Cam Newton back in 2011, a quarterback has accounted for 300-plus passing yards in each of his first two NFL starts. Shockingly, Murray has accomplished this feat in consecutive road starts to begin his career.

It might not have been good enough to come out on top against the Ravens on Sunday, but Murray continues to prove that the NFL game is not too big for him. The reigning Heisman winner completed 25-of-40 passes for 349 yards without an interception. Since struggling through the first two quarters last week, Murray has been on fire. It’s going to be fun watching him play moving forward on the season.

Chargers blow a chance at 2-0

Following a win over the Indianapolis Colts last week, most figured that the Chargers would not have an issue on the road against the Lions on Sunday. Almost immediately, that proved not to be the case. Philip Rivers and Co. scored a grand total of 10 points in a three-point loss that was capped off by this game-winning touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay.

It’s games like these the Chargers can’t afford to lose in an AFC West headed by the Kansas City Chiefs. And in reality, it was the offense that failed to step up. In fact, the Chargers’ defense was game against Detroit. It just wasn’t to be. And this loss could come back to haunt Los Angeles moving forward on the season.

Kirk Cousins continues to be a joke

Sep 15, 2019; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) fumbles the football while tackled by Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark (97) during the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota was able to win last week against the Falcons despite seeing Cousins attempt 10 passes. That was in no way going to be the case against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers and Co. opened up a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. While Minnesota’s defense picked it up and held the Packers scoreless the rest of the way, Cousins was absolutely atrocious under center.

The high-priced quarterback completed 14-of-32 passes for 230 yards. He threw two interceptions, including a pick in the end zone with Minnesota driving for the potential go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.

https://twitter.com/packers/status/1173326891689758720

It’s getting to the point that Minnesota can’t rely on Cousins to be anything more than a game manager. Sunday’s loss to the Packers magnified this to a T. Defenses know if they put the game in Cousins’ hands, the quarterback will not be up to the task.

Julio Jones saves Falcons’ season

Sep 15, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a pass against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21) in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

 

Teams that start the season 0-2 since 2007 have made the playoffs just 11 percent of the time. That’s what the Falcons were facing at home Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Taking on an injury-depleted squad, Atlanta almost gave this game away. That included a 13-play, 73-yard touchdown drive by Philadelphia to take the lead with just over three minutes left.

All looked lost for Atlanta. It was facing a fourth-and-three with the game on the line. That’s when Jones stepped up and hauled in a 54-yard game-winning touchdown to help Atlanta pull it out by the score of 24-20. He had put up another tremendous catch earlier in the game, too, finishing with 106 yards on five receptions. Jones saved Atlanta’s season Sunday night. It’s that simple.

No shame in Pats’, Antonio Brown’s game

Not only did Antonio Brown make his Patriots debut Sunday against the Dolphins, the team featured him early. That included Brown making multiple catches on the first drive and coming away with a touchdown in the first half. All said, Brown caught 4-of-8 targets for 56 yards with a touchdown.

The backdrop here is interesting, to say the least. It was just last week that Brown’s former trainer filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming multiple instances of sexual assault. Given these accusations, the Patriots’ decision to have Brown active for Week 2 tells us exactly where they stand on the situation. Only time will tell regarding the team’s stance moving forward. For now, Brown promises to play a huge role on offense in New England as the season progresses.

Cowboys have no problems with Redskins 

Sep 15, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) carries the ball to score a touchdown past Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson (52) in the fourth quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It started out slowly for Dallas against the Redskins in D.C. Sunday. For the second consecutive game, the Cowboys found themselves trailing early against a lesser opponent. But much like what we saw last week against the Giants, Dak Prescott and Co. picked it up big time from that point on.

Prescott followed up a flawless opener by completing 26-of-30 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. He added to a rushing attack that went for 213 yards. Meanwhile, Dallas bottled up the Redskins running game to the tune of 47 yards on 17 attempts. It led to another lopsided win for Dallas. This time, by the score of 31-21. Could this team now be the class of the NFC? The Cowboys are certainly looking like it right now.

https://www.yardbarker.com/nfl/articles/top_takeaways_from_sundays_week_2_nfl_action/s1_12680_30009140

By: Vincent Frank

32 things we learned heading into divisional round of 2018 NFL playoffs

The 32 things we learned heading into the 2018 NFL playoff divisional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs competing in the opening round was in action for last season’s wild-card games, and only the Eagles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the playoff field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see largely familiar characters in the divisional round with Philadelphia returning along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints, all postseason entries last year, too.

1b. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl after playing on wild-card weekend was the 2012 Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII. The next 10 conference champs have all had first-round byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sentimental favorite to win it all, right? No quarterback in league history has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touchdowns (374) yet never played on Super Sunday.

2a. And how great (and entertaining) would it be to see Rivers’ Chargers take on the Saints … and former Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into unminted Millennial passers, Patrick Mahomes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most certainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII.

4. Three quarterbacks made their playoff debuts during wild-card weekend. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vikings in Week 17 rather than invite a matchup with the Iggles and your old buddy Doug Pederson.

6. Did anyone else want Eagles-Bears go into overtime (maybe double OT) just to see how NBC would handle its Golden Globes coverage, which began minutes after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards hit the upright then the crossbar before caroming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Soldier Field uprights four times Nov. 1. Uncanny.

8. But if I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of support from kickers throughout the league as he copes with this unfortunate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sunday’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw multiple INTs in an Eagles uniform, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last time Philadelphia played the Saints in postseason, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quarterback (in a losing effort) — Kelly’s only NFL playoff appearance.

10. Congrats to Eagles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game-winning TD at Chicago, instantly justifying the scrutinized trade deadline deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that appeared awfully expensive given the struggles to integrate Tate into the offense.

10a. Congrats to Eagles LT Jason Peters, RB/KR Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Super Bowl run with injuries but tasted a playoff victory Sunday.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card weekend’s MVP Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. Sunday, it showed the rest of the league how to contain Jackson — essentially deploying a defense comprised of linemen and defensive backs to shadow, flummox and confuse the rookie.

12. Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday, became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. He looked like it. Make no mistake, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North without Jackson’s heroics in the second half of the season, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts provided a blueprint to stopping him and a fresh reminder that, though Jackson remains an elite athlete and highly effective with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a fully-formed pro quarterback. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fumbled thrice, losing the ball on his team’s final possession.

13. Who figured on Chargers rookie K Mike Badgley outperforming Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Badgley set a Bolts’ postseason record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1-for-2 on three-point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this season, three against L.A.

14. Who figured on Chargers FB Derek Watt making a longer playoff run this season than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Chargers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 head-to-head against TB12, including two losses in postseason.

15a. But Sunday, the Chargers became the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this season. A visit to Foxborough, daunting as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers appeared in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Baltimore’s second-ranked run game, which had averaged nearly 230 yards in Jackson’s seven regular-season starts, was limited to 90.

Full List Here

By: Nate Davis

 

Bing Predicts: NFL Wild Card

Winners and losers from NFL Week 15

There was a ton of really weird stuff going on around the league during NFL Week 15, both positive and negative, as teams battled for a playoff berth.

One of the hottest teams in the NFL was shut out in stunning style. With a convincing win over the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North. The Cleveland Browns — of all teams — are still alive for postseason play, for crying out loud.

Heck, one player forgot which team he played for and facilitated a touchdown for the opposing team.

These are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 15.

Winner: Philip Rivers has ice water running through his veins

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s game in Kansas City seemed to portend doom for Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game, severely under throwing Tyrell Williams.

It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to build up a 14-0 lead. Then in the second half, they went up by two touchdowns once more midway through the fourth quarter. It appeared Patrick Mahomes and Co. were on their way to an easy win. Then, Rivers woke up.

The veteran quarterback led two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives in the final eight minutes of the game, capping it all off with a gutty two-point conversion to Mike Williams (watch here), who had a monster game while Keenan Allen watched due to an injury.

Now at 11-3, the Chargers have a chance to claim the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the final weeks.

Loser: Vance Joseph has got to go

Situational awareness is a critical element to being a good head coach in the NFL — or really any level of play. Vance Joseph does not have a healthy dose of that. He proved it once more on Saturday at home against the Cleveland Browns.

Down by four points, with just over four minutes left in the game, his offense on Cleveland’s six-yard line on a 4th-and-1, Joseph called for a field goal. He was booed heartily by the home crowd in Denver, and social media was brutal in its assessment of his awful decision.

Not surprisingly, the move backfired. Cleveland won the game by one point. In a must-win situation, Joseph retreated into his shell and cost his team the victory. There’s no way John Elway can keep him now. He’s got to go.

Winner: Josh Allen came up big 

The Buffalo Bills were down their two top running backs before Sunday’s game against Detroit even began. Both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were ruled out, leading many to wonder just where any offense was going to come from.

Rookie quarterback Josh Allen — whose play is always an adventure — answered the call. His shockingly nifty touchdown run in the first half (watch here) put the Bills up by a point. Then, in the fourth quarter, his 42-yard laser strike to Robert Foster proved to be the game-winner.

Loser: Oakland managed to make Cincinnati look good

We’ve been harping on how bad the Oakland Raiders are all year. One lucky win against an unmotivated Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 14 did nothing to change that, as everyone found out just one week later in Cincinnati.

The Bengals dominated Sunday’s game. Oakland’s defense had no answer for Joe Mixon, and, despite a poor outing from backup Jeff Driskel, the Raiders just couldn’t make key stops when they needed it.

Derek Carr had a rough outing throwing the ball, and both he and Jalen Richard lost fumbles — the second of which led to the first score of the game for Cincinnati.

The bottom line is this: When you’re making the Bengals look good, you’ve hit rock bottom.

Winner: Tremendous team effort nets Pittsburgh a huge win

Dec 16, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) meet at mid-field after playing at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment Tom Brady stepped onto the field for warm-ups in Pittsburgh, he faced adversity. When the game tipped off, it was clear that the Steelers were not going to let him connect with Rob Gronkowski or Josh Gordon. They did just that, as the two top New England playmakers combined for just three catches for 40 yards.

The coup de grace for Pittsburgh’s defense came in the fourth quarter when Joe Haden made a tremendous leaping interception with two Patriots draped over him for what proved to be the win-sealing play (watch here).

Big Ben Roethlisberger had a rough night with two bad interceptions but was buoyed by the rest of his offense. Jaylen Samuels did his best Le’Veon Bell and James Conner impersonation by racking up 172 yards on 21 touches, and the Steelers walked out with a 17-10 win over the mighty Patriots to remain atop the AFC North.

Full Article

By: Jesse Reed

Top matchup for each Week 6 NFL game

During this week’s slate of NFL games, a ton of individual matchups will take center stage as 30 of the league’s 32 teams take to the field.

Can Denzel Ward continue his great rookie season in route to leading the Browns to a winning record against Keenan Allen and the equally hot Los Angeles Chargers? Patrick Peterson will look to continue his excellent play in hopes of stopping a Vikings receiver in Adam Thielen who is on pace to break the single-season catch mark. And in Kansas City, the Patriots must contend with the league’s best offense, Tyreek Hill included.

These are among the top individual matchups for each Week 6 NFL game.

Charger Felt Disrespected By Bills Starting Nathan Peterman

Written by Kevin Patra at NFL.com

“Trippin’.”

That is how Los Angeles Chargers corner Casey Hayward described the decision by Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott to start rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman on the road.

“This week? Really? Changing to a rookie quarterback for his first start? Against us?” Hayward thought before the Chargers picked off Peterman five times in the first half.

“I’m pretty sure we might’ve felt a little disrespected,” Hayward said, via the L.A. Times. “…We’ve got two really good pass rushers, probably the top tandem in the NFL. We’ve got really good corners. … We’ve got really good safeties. They do it against us?

“Trippin’.”

Trippin’ in deed.

The optics of the Bills’ quarterback decision look disastrous in hindsight, with Peterman tossing five INTs in just 14 pass attempts. They never looked great from the moment the decision was made. Making a change is one thing, but doing it on a cross-country road trip, facing a fire-breathing pass rush in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram was inviting trouble.

McDermott said following the game he’d wait to name a starter after Tyrod Taylor was his normal solid self in second half relief in the blowout. But how can he justify going back to Peterman after one of the most disastrous first halves of football since the invention of the forward pass? The rookie could be scared for the rest of his career.

“Me and Mel knew that if we were able to get pressure and get in his face, he was going to make some bad decisions with the football,” Bosa said, per the O.C. Register. “We didn’t expect five.”

You know it’s a bad situation when a defensive player sounds sorry for the beating he put on his opponent.

“You have to cut him a break,” Bosa added. “He’s a rookie, and he was thrown in there out of the blue. And it’s not like we were taking it easy on him.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Phil Rivers In Concussion Protocol

Written by Jeremy Bergman at NFL.com

Philip Rivers’ consecutive starts streak is in jeopardy.

The Los Angeles Chargers quarterback was placed into concussion protocol Monday, coach Anthony Lynn told reporters, one day after the Bolts fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime. Lynn said he saw “nothing at all” from Rivers after the game to indicate he had suffered a concussion.

It’s unclear when Rivers suffered the head injury. On his final play of the game, Rivers threw a deep interception to Jags corner A.J. Bouye and then proceeded to deck Bouye out of bounds to prevent a game-winning pick-six. Rivers was not sacked by the self-proclaimed “Sacksonville” defense but did take five QB hits. Rivers finished with 235 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the 20-17 loss.

The 35-year-old has not shown up on the injury report this year and has not displayed concrete signs of physical deterioration. In fact, he hasn’t missed a game since taking over the Chargers’ starting role from Drew Brees in 2006. The Chargers ironman has started 185 consecutive games, the second-best active streak behind draft mate Eli Manning (208) and the fourth-best all time.

If Rivers can’t go against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday, it’s likely that longtime backup Kellen Clemens will fill in. Former Bills quarterback Cardale Jones is also on the roster.

For a 3-6 Chargers club teetering on the verge of elimination from playoff contention, Rivers’ health will be something to monitor.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Jaguars Overcome Adversity Against Chargers

Written by Michael DiRocco at ESPN.com

It was easy to pick out a common theme among the Jacksonville Jaguars players after Sunday’s 20-17 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at EverBank Field.

They were amazed at the craziness and back-and-forth momentum swings in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. They also were adamant that none of the teams of the past several seasons wins that game.

No way they bounce back from two interceptions in the final two minutes, including one that came after a Chargers fumble and ruined a potential game-tying field goal. No way they overcome a pair of taunting penalties. And the game-winning field-goal attempt being tipped and still making it through the uprights on Sunday doesn’t even come close the last few years.

“If any of those things happen, if half of those things happen, two years ago we fold and it’s over,” quarterback Blake Bortles said.

Yet the Jaguars (6-3) didn’t fold.

They kept making mistakes and committing stupid penalties, yet still found a way to make a couple critical plays late to win their third consecutive game and keep pace with Tennessee in the AFC South. The players say it’s because they’ve bought into the culture that Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin have established and because of the leadership in the locker room.

They also said the team is much closer than in past years, in part because they bonded while going through what was an emotionally and physically exhausting training camp.

But, really, the bottom line is this: The Jaguars have better players than they’ve had over the past several seasons.

To continue reading this article, click here.