Winners, losers from ‘Monday Night Football’ doubleheader in Week 1

To celebrate the first week of the season, fans were treated to a “Monday Night Football” doubleheader that featured plenty of fireworks.

Early, it was the Houston Texans visiting the New Orleans Saints. This one proved to be an entertaining, see-saw battle all game long. It wasn’t until the last second ticked off the clock that we knew which team would win, as New Orleans eked out a 30-28 victory.

Late in the evening, the AFC West was on display with a rivalry game featuring the Denver Broncos visiting the famed Black Hole and the Oakland Raiders. To the delight of the home crowd, the Raiders dominated, winning 24-16.

These were the biggest winners and losers from the season-opening “Monday Night Football” doubleheader.

Winner: The Hyde/Johnson duo is pretty dynamic

When the Texans lost Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL injury, it was easy to panic about their ability to run the ball consistently. Then, Houston pulled off a trade for Carlos Hyde. That proved to be a savvy move, as the power back was huge in Week 1.

Hyde rushed for 83 yards on 10 carries, providing the thunder in Houston’s offense. Former Cleveland Browns back Duke Johnson provided the lightning with 57 yards on the ground. He also provided a spark in the passing game with four catches for 33 yards. The duo combined on 175 yards from scrimmage and appears to be a solid tandem the Texans can count on this season.

Loser: J.J. Watt was practically invisible

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk (71) blocks Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

When Houston traded Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a pauper’s bounty, many wondered if the Texans could remain dominant up front without him. It was only one game, but on Monday it was pretty clear they won’t be the same.

In particular, star defensive end J.J. Watt was unbelievably unproductive. In fact, Watt didn’t register a single stat. Not one tackle. Not one quarterback hit. Not one pass defended. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Watt is too good to struggle like this all season. But perhaps he benefited from Clowney more than anyone realized. We’ll soon find out.

Winner: Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara — still pretty darn good

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) celebrates with fans after a win against the Houston Texans during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Saints receiver Michael Thomas had one of the most impressive statistical seasons any wideout has ever had in the NFL. He caught an absurd 85% of the passes that came his way to the tune of 125 catches for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. On Monday night, Thomas picked up right where he left off. Catching 10 passes on 13 targets, he racked up 123 yards and was the main weapon in Drew Brees’ arsenal all game long. He’s already living up to the monster contract he signed this summer.

Fantasy football players also once again rejoiced at the production of Alvin Kamara on Monday night. He’s such a dynamic weapon, and he’s among the best the NFL has to offer in terms of bang for your buck. That was on display against Houston as Kamara racked up the yardage. He piled up 97 yards on just 13 carries and another 72 yards on seven receptions. That’s an average of 8.45 yards per touch.

Loser: Houston’s offensive line is still a huge problem

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) reacts after a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson was sacked a league-leading 62 times last year and hit 125 times, and not surprisingly he got banged up quite a bit in the process. The Texans tried to fix this issue in the draft and then by trading for Laremy Tunsil right before the season began. But based on what transpired in Week 1 against New Orleans, this problem isn’t going away any time soon.

Hopkins was pummeled by the Saints. From the opening drive until the end, he took big hits in the pocket (and outside of it as well). Houston’s offensive line allowed six sacks and gave up 11 quarterback hits.

That puts Watson on pace to be sacked 96 times this year, and absorb 176 hits in the pocket. That’s not sustainable. And it’s going to get this young man hurt badly at some point.

Winner: Wil Lutz called game

Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz (3) (behind) is mobbed by teammates after his game winning, 58-yard field goal against the Houston Texans in the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The final minute of the Texans-Saints game was insanely fun to watch for anyone who is not a Houston fan. It was also one of the best things we’ve seen in sports for some time now.

Deshaun Watson made two of the best throws under pressure you’ll ever see and tied the game on a touchdown pass to Kenny Stills. Then, Houston kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point, only to get a second chance due to a penalty. He made the kick, putting the Texans up by one point with just 37 seconds remaining in the game.

That’s when Drew Brees marched the Saints 35 yards down the field in 35 seconds, setting up a potential game-winner from 58 yards out.

Wil Lutz stepped onto the field, took a deep breath, and then called game.

Loser: Broncos struggled in the red zone

September 9, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco (5) passes the football against the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos made a few nice pushes into to enemy territory against Oakland Monday night. They just couldn’t do much once they got into the red zone.

Four times, Joe Flacco had Denver in a position to score touchdowns inside the 20-yard line. Three times, the Broncos came up short. The only successful trip came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already practically over.

Rookie offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello struggled with the game plan. Flacco struggled to avoid pressure in key situations. The Broncos had one touchdown go right through their hands (literally), which we’ll get to in more detail later. Just an awful performance by Denver’s offense when it mattered most.

Winner: Darren Waller, Tyrell Williams, Josh Jacobs give Raiders some juice

Sep 9, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) carries the ball against Denver Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom (26) during the first quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

No Antonio Brown? No problem. The Raiders have plenty of offensive firepower, thanks to the emergence of ‘Hard Knocks’ star, tight end Darren Waller, free-agent acquisition Tyrell Williams and rookie running back Josh Jacobs.

Waller was a tremendous go-to option for Derek Carr in the middle of the field. He came through with seven catches for 70 yards and appears to be a centerpiece on this offense.

Williams did for Oakland what he’s been doing for the Chargers the past few years — make big plays down the field. He hauled in a gorgeous 43-yard pass and scored a touchdown, finishing with six catches for 105 yards.

Jacobs did an incredible job on the ground, rushing for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 28 yards through the air.

This trio looks really good.

By: Jesse Reed

Odell Beckham Jr. traded to Browns

Odell Beckham Jr. is finally on the move. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports (via Twitter) that the Giants are trading the wide receiver to the Browns.

It sound like New York has received a relative haul for their star receiver. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that the Giants will be receiving a 2019 first-rounder (No. 17 overall), a 2019 third-rounder (No. 95), and safety Jabrill Peppers. The deal will leave $16M in dead money for the Giants, who inked the receiver to a five-year, $95 million contract ($65M guaranteed) back in August. The move will open up $5M in cap space, according to’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

This would seem to be a relatively big haul for Beckham, especially when you consider what the Steelers recently received for Antonio Brown. While Brown is older and desired a new contract, Pittsburgh was still only able to fetch a third-round pick (No. 66 overall) and fifth-round pick (No. 141) from the Raiders.

There had been conflicting reports regarding Beckham’s availability in recent days. Despite general manager Dave Gettleman‘s consistent insistence that Beckham was not available, we learned yesterday that the Giants had been discussing a trade. We heard earlier today that an AFC North team was engaged in conversations with the Giants, and we’ve now learned that the team was Cleveland.

The Browns seemed like a relatively natural fit for Beckham and his $18M salary. Despite signing Jarvis Landry to a lucrative deal last offseason, Cleveland’s front office was still hunting around for a big-name addition. The 26-year-old surely fits that bill, as he’ll team up with Landry, quarterback Baker Mayfield, and running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to form one of the more talented offenses in the NFL.

The 26-year-old was still productive in 2018 despite missing four games due to a quad injury. In 12 games, Beckham hauled in 77 receptions for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns. The former first-rounder is all over the Giants all-time leaders list, with top-five appearances in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions.

While the focus of the trade will surround Beckham, Peppers is an intriguing inclusion in the deal. The former Michigan standout had spent the first two seasons of his career in Cleveland, including a 2018 campaign where he compiled 79 tackles, one sack, and five passes defended. While the 23-year-old hasn’t necessarily displayed the talent that earned him a first-round selection, he’s still an intriguing asset for the Giants. While the team recently added Antoine Bethea, Peppers could theoretically supplant Michael Thomas in the starting lineup.

Original Article

By: Ben Levine

Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here



Fantasy Sleepers for 2016

Written by Timothy Rapp at Bleacher

The Olympics rage on, European soccer has returned and college football is right around the corner, but let’s be honest: Your mind is on fantasy football.

Hey, I don’t blame you. My mind is there, too.

So let’s embark upon one of August’s most time-honored traditions: obsessing over potential sleepers and busts for the upcoming NFL season.


Fantasy Football Sleepers
Position Player Team
QB Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans
QB Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers
QB Derek Carr Oakland Raiders
Position Player Team
RB Duke Johnson Cleveland Browns
RB Melvin Gordon San Diego Chargers
RB Wendell Smallwood Philadelphia Eagles
RB C.J. Prosise Seattle Seahawks
RB Ameer Abdullah Detroit Lions
RB Paul Perkins New York Giants
Position Player Team
WR Josh Gordon Cleveland Browns
WR Sterling Shepard New York Giants
WR Sammie Coates Pittsburgh Steelers
WR DeVante Parker Miami Dolphins
WR Torrey Smith San Francisco 49ers
WR Marvin Jones Detroit Lions
WR Kevin White Chicago Bears
WR Michael Thomas New Orleans Saints
WR Dorial-Green Beckham Philadelphia Eagles
Position Player Team
TE Coby Fleener New Orleans Saints
TE Clive Walford Oakland Raiders

We won’t be going over each and every potential sleeper in great detail, but we’ll try to offer a brief look at why several of the players listed above are sleeper candidates.


Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota each flashed major potential in their rookie seasons, so it’s hardly a stretch to think they’ll show improvement in 2016. Winston is the better passer, so his floor is higher. Mariota is a danger on the ground with his legs, so his ceiling is higher. Each has plenty to overcome to be considered a true fantasy option—Winston has to scale back the turnovers, Mariota has to stay healthy—but each could make a lot of noise in 2016.

Colin Kaepernick is the deepest of sleepers, but if he wins the starting job in San Francisco and adjusts to head coach Chip Kelly’s offense, he could be a fantasy monster given his ability on the ground.

Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders continue to look better and better with each passing year. He had eight games with 17 or more fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues a year ago. Look for his consistency and output to continue to improve. Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtreeand Clive Walford give Carr a nice arsenal to utilize.


Running Backs

Here’s your theme for running back: look for younger players who could end up winning the starting job due to a lack of talent in front of them, injury-prone players ahead of them or a specific skill set that should give them a solid role in the offense.

I love Duke Johnson this year, but don’t be surprised if he goes off the board in the middle rounds. Even then, he has the ability to be an RB2. Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon should earn the early-down work in Detroit and San Diego, respectively, while players such as Paul Perkins are probably already the best players on the depth chart and should be the starters soon enough.

Wide Receiver

Few positions are as deep as wide receiver, so finding sleepers here is probably less important than at positions like running back or tight end. But pay attention to four groups of players:

  1. Proven veterans due for bounce-back seasons (Torrey Smith).
  2. Young, talented players primed for breakout campaigns (DeVante Parker).
  3. Rookies or young players in excellent systems where they’ll get plenty of opportunities (Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas, Sammie Coates).
  4. Josh Gordon. Because why not?

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener gets Drew Brees. Not a ton else needs to be said there.

Walford, meanwhile, showed signs as a rookie last season, and another year working with Carr should help him immensely. Every young quarterback needs a safety net. Walford could be a nice one, assuming he stays healthy.

Finally, Eric Ebron has been a bust thus far, but with Calvin Johnson gone, more red-zone targets should be heading his way. In general, players like Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Ebron should get a bump with Matt Stafford not having his favorite target in Detroit any longer.

The operative word is “should,” of course. But that’s always the operative word when it comes to sleepers.

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Training Camp News From Around the League

Written By Gregg Rosenthal at

The final weekend without football games until mid-February came and went without the screaming headlines that could interrupt summer vacation for our pigskin-addled populace. Enjoy the quiet while you can and don’t expect the trend to last.

Training camps for all 32 teams are now in full swing, with most squads breaking out pads for full-contact work over the weekend. Since actual games haven’t started yet, it’s on us to make up the score. Below, you’ll find some extremely early camp winners and losers.

Good news for …

Robert Griffin III, QB, Cleveland Browns: Browns coach Hue Jackson says he will name his starting quarterback before the team’s first preseason game. His actions tell a different story.

RGIII received every first-team rep for the first three days of practice, with Josh McCown exclusively working with the backups. Compare that to San Francisco, where Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are splitting reps evenly.

The practice reports surrounding Griffin’s play have failed to approach Jackson’s winning brand of optimism and bluster, but that’s beside the point. Jackson has made his decision and wants to give Griffin all the work he can. There’s little need to keep the charade going.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints: It wouldn’t be a training camp column without some irrational hype for a rookie receiver. The Saints’ second-round pick inspired buzz all offseason and his propensity for fancy grabs has only picked up early in camp.

One beat writer called Thomas “easily the best player in camp so far,” which should offend Drew Breesand Cameron Jordan. We don’t want to get carried away yet, but Brees must be thrilled with his young trio of Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead and Thomas.

Formerly embattled general managers: Give Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis credit for overseeing the hire of general manager Reggie McKenzie and having the patience to see his plan through. It wasn’t that long ago that McKenzie was the butt of jokes for his slashing and burning of theRaiders’ roster while he flailed in the Matt Flynn and Matt Schaub aisle of leftover quarterbacks. Now McKenzie boasts a new four-year contract and one of the most promising young starting lineups in football.

Houston Texans GM Rick Smith, meanwhile, got a new deal through 2020. Owner Bob McNair prizes organizational stability and Smith has quietly done a solid job at the helm. He was hired in 2006, so he’s already shown incredible longevity for someone who is only 46 years old.

Fans of old-fashioned rookie holdouts: Surely, there is at least one crotchety diehard out there who pines for the good old days when rookie contract drama would spice up training camp. Joey Bosa and the San Diego Chargers are here to help.

The collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 has mostly done away with holdouts because of the rookie-wage slotting system. But Bosa hasn’t showed up to camp because he’s unhappy with the structure of his signing-bonus payment. Bosa’s campwants his entire $17 million bonus in 2016, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The Chargers don’t want to break precedent and propose to spread it out over two years. There is no reason to take sides here; it’s not your money. But if this drags on, it’s fair to question why both sides can’t figure out an issue that gets quickly resolved in every other negotiation.

(The other unsaid victim here: I am gearing up to predict that this sneaky Chargers defense will lead San Diego back to the playoffs, and don’t want anything to screw it up.)

Coach Mike McCoy says Bosa “needs to be” at camp, which is reminiscent of rookie holdouts of yore. Perhaps it sounds familiar to Joey’s father, John, the No. 16 of the 1987 draft. He held out for most of his rookie camp, too.

Eric Fisher, LT, Kansas City Chiefs: One of the least-known No. 1 overall picks in NFL history, Fisher struggled in his first two seasons at tackle for Kansas City. That’s why it was a surprise to see the Chiefs hand Fisher a deal that made him among the highest-paid players at his position after a solid, if unspectacular, third season.

Fisher was the first player drafted under general manager John Dorsey and we wonder if this contract was partly a case of confirmation bias. By giving Fisher the deal, Dorsey has essentially validated his pick.

Nick Perry, OLB, Green Bay Packers: Another oft-maligned first-rounder, Perry is finally set to be a starter at outside linebacker entering his fifth season. The plan in Green Bay is to bring Julius Peppers off the bench behind Perry, whom the Packers re-signed this offseason. Those 3.5 playoff sacks have given Perry’s career new life.

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