Cam Newton: Replacing Tom Brady is ‘the elephant in the room’

Cam Newton is aware that he has some big shoes to fill as the Patriots next starting quarterback. After all, the last guy to do it won six Super Bowls and is widely considered the best quarterback to ever play. But Newton isn’t afraid of addressing “the elephant in the room,” and is confident he’ll do just fine as the guy who came after Brady.

“You know who [you’re] coming after? I’m like, yeah, great. What he was, what he is, is great, needs no even talking about it,” Newton said. “But one thing about it though: Coach [Josh] McDaniels, you’re able to call some stuff that you ain’t ever been able to call now.”

While Newton knows that he faces a challenge in trying to replace Brady, he points out his own motivation to get his career back on track. After all, the former MVP was unceremoniously dumped by the team he once helped lead to the Super Bowl and was subsequently overlooked by several teams in free agency.

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By Blake Harper | Last updated 7/14/20

Report: Patriots not currently considering Andy Dalton

It appears entirely plausible that the New England Patriots could stand pat and not bring in a veteran starter to replace Tom Brady.

The Patriots have been linked to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who is available via trade. However, according to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the team has not discussed Dalton as a potential option at this point.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports | By Grey Papke | Last updated 3/21/20

Report: Bill Belichick ‘would prefer’ Tom Brady to return in 2020

There’s a lot of scuttlebutt around the league that Tom Brady could play for a team other than the New England Patriots in 2020, but Bill Belichick would reportedly like to avoid that scenario.

According to NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran, who spoke on the topic in a radio appearance with WEEI’s “Dale & Keefe,” Belichick wants Brady back: “At a price, yeah. From all I’ve gathered, he would prefer to have Tom playing QB in 2020,” Curran said (h/t Devon Clements of SI.com).

Curran did mention that Belichick could change his mind “if it comes to a crossroads.” Essentially, that means it really boils down to what Brady wants to do.

There have been conflicting reports about what Brady may want the most when it comes to potentially coming back to play for Belichick and Co. next season. However, it sure seemed like he was indicating a return to the Patriots in 2020 during his highly-publicized Hulu ad.

If Brady does decide to test the market, there is no shortage of teams looking at him as a potential Super Bowl ticket.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Jesse Reed | Last updated 2/6/20

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Patriots reportedly willing to give Tom Brady $30-plus million

There has been a lot of talk about Tom Brady potentially leaving the New England Patriots this offseason, but it does not sound like the team is planning to insult Brady with a low contract offer.

Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network Sunday morning that the Patriots are willing to give Brady $30 million or more to return in 2020.

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

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Julian Edelman Arrested For Vandalism After Allegedly Jumping On Hood Of Car

Julian Edelman has had a rough past week or so, and we aren’t just talking about the New England Patriots’ disappointing playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans. Now, the star receiver can also add an arrest to his list of problems. 

Edelman was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, on Saturday night after he allegedly jumped on the hood of a person’s Mercedes, according to TMZ. Police were in the area working a robbery, and someone flagged them down to report what Edelman had done. The 33-year-old was cited for misdemeanor vandalism and released.

It’s unclear why Edelman decided to hop on the hood of someone’s car, but TMZ reports that police suspected he had been drinking. The Los Angeles County District Attorney will now decide whether or not to proceed with charges, though it seems like the type of case Edelman could easily settle by writing a check to the owner of the vehicle.

Edelman had one awesome play during New England’s loss to the Titans, but he also had a key dropped pass that killed a drive. He battled injuries throughout the season and is expected to have surgeries on both his shoulder and knee this offseason. He also has some legal trouble to sort out.

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Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports 
By Steve DelVecchio  |  Last updated 1/12/20

Hang It Up, Tom Brady, We’ve Seen Enough

After 20 seasons, six NFL championships, nine Super Bowl appearances, three MVPs, 17 division titles, 14 Pro Bowl appearances and untold other individual accolades, the greatest of all time should retire.

During his post-game presser following Saturday night’s home wild-card loss to Tennessee, the Patriots’ Tom Brady dismissed the idea of retirement, or at least branded it highly unlikely, yet admitted he wasn’t entirely sure what his immediate future holds. All anyone knows for now is that his contract will void once the new league year begins in March, thus presumably touching off the biggest free-agent sweepstakes the league has seen — at least one featuring a 42-year-old quarterback.

If Brady is willing to play until he literally must be dragged from the field, some team undoubtedly will accommodate him. And it’s reasonable to figure he could physically withstand playing another year, or maybe even two. He has maintained that his goal is to play until he’s 45, and he’ll be 43 at the start of the 2020 season. But for the first time in his extended run in the NFL, it’s evident that returns are diminishing. 

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By Mike Tunison  |  Last updated 1/6/20

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

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 13 game-by-game analysis, grades

In the AFC, the Ravens —  who defeated the 49ers– took the lead in the race for No. 1 seed when the Patriots fell to the Texans in the Sunday night game. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 13 whip-around: 1 of 16

HOUSTON 28, NEW ENGLAND 22

PATRIOTS (10-2): From owner Robert Kraft hoping to lure Rob Gronkowski out of retirement, to the rumblings of Tom Brady being against the Antonio Brown release, signs of Patriots unease with their aerial weaponry have persisted. New England’s offensive woes, James White’s garbage-time routine notwithstanding, continued in Houston. The Patriots’ weeks-long concern about their receiving situation manifested itself in a discombobulated effort. From 2007-18, the Pats featured at least two reliable receivers (in addition to White). Although both Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett returned to action Sunday, the Patriots’ current optimal lineup appears to contain one. The Texans gave Julian Edelman deserved attention and frequently forced Brady into awkward pocket shuffling. Brady (24-for-47, sub-7.0 yards per attempt for a fourth straight game) struggled against the Texans’ No. 26 DVOA pass defense. When the Pats’ defense runs into a high-caliber offense, as it did Sunday and will against the Chiefs, can Brady’s limited air support (and suddenly average rushing complement) keep up?  GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Chiefs (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


TEXANS (8-4): The Texans’ superior individual talent overwhelmed New England for the majority of the game. Most encouraging for Houston was the way Deshaun Watson performed against the Patriots’ vaunted pass defense. Watson repeatedly exploited New England’s linebackers in pass coverage, and when he had chances to take deep shots, he was able to hit them. The Patriots had allowed just four passing touchdowns entering the game, but Watson had three, and caught one from DeAndre Hopkins, to boot. Perhaps most striking was Bill O’Brien’s level of trust in his quarterback. The Texans didn’t attempt their 20th carry of the game until late in the fourth quarter, despite the stats suggesting New England’s run defense was its weakness. Watson rewarded O’Brien’s faith with the best game of his season, accounting for quality of opponent. If he continues playing this way, the Texans can beat anyone in the NFL.GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Broncos (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 2 of 16

BALTIMORE 20, SAN FRANCISCO 17

49ERS (10-2): In defeat, San Francisco may have done more to solidify itself as the class of the NFC than it did in any of its victories. The 49ers, who had a chance to win until the waning minutes, made QB Lamar Jackson (101 yards rushing) and Baltimore earn every yard. More impressive was San Francisco’s ability to move the ball on the Ravens; RB Raheem Mostert churned out 146 yards rushing, and despite terrible weather conditions, QB Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient (15-for-21, 165 yards), although his fumble did translate into a Ravens touchdown. Considering the degree to which Baltimore was throttling quality opponents, and the conditions favoring the Ravens’ running game and misdirection tendencies, San Francisco’s defensive performance, particularly in the second half, was encouraging. The Niners are primed for the Week 14 showdown against the Saints (10-2). GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: at Saints (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


RAVENS (10-2): Credit kicker Justin Tucker and the Ravens for persevering in terrible, rainy conditions. Tucker, who has missed only one field goal this season, booted the winning, 49-yard field goal as time expired. The 49ers’ excellent secondary took away Lamar Jackson’s deep passing, and San Francisco focused on stopping the Ravens’ running backs (77 rushing yards) more than it did the second-year QB, who was superb with his ball handling and play fakes. Jackson’s legs were the cheat code, as he led Baltimore in rushing (101 yards) by a wide margin. (He has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season.) San Francisco’s defense played well, but no team can take away all the Ravens’ high-powered, multidimensional offense. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 3 of 16

PITTSBURGH 20, CLEVELAND 13

BROWNS (5-7): Minus defensive end Myles Garrett, suspended indefinitely for his role in the brawl the last time these teams played, Cleveland generated little pass rush. End Olivier Vernon’s limited role also cost the Browns, who dealt with other, lesser injuries on the D-line, as well as injuries in the secondary. As this game progressed, the Steelers exploited these weaknesses with deep passing and then eventually with a power running game that took its toll on a depleted unit. After being held to two yards in the first quarter, the Steelers racked up 321 in the final three quarters. Garrett’s absence may have cost the Browns a win. Cleveland’s playoff hopes are on life support. How embarrassing is it to lose to third-string rookie QB “Duck” Hodges. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Bengals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


STEELERS (7-5): Lacking playmakers nearly all season, the Steelers may finally have found one in wide receiver James Washington, who went duck hunting last week with his quarterback, Delvin “Duck” Hodges. Heading into the rematch with the Browns, Washington had caught three or more balls in each of his last four games, accumulating 306 receiving yards in that stretch. Against the Browns, Washington led the Steelers with 111 yards receiving. He ran free deep late in the game, but Hodges didn’t see him. Washington is built almost like a running back, but with long legs and a high waistline. He builds up speed downfield and shows great ball skills, finding the football from tough body positions. As usual, the Steelers — one of the best teams in the league at drafting receivers — are developing their wideout talent. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson

4 of 16

LA RAMS 34, ARIZONA 7

RAMS (7-5): Los Angeles has waited for this version of QB Jared Goff (424 yards passing) to show up, and as impressive as he was, it may be too little, too late. The Rams must hope division rival Seattle helps them out by handing Minnesota a loss Monday night, or else the Rams will remain two games back for the final wild-card spot with four games to play. Goff was well-protected all game, with the Cardinals sacking him just once. Protection was one element the Rams have missed all season, and a productive Todd Gurley was the other. Gurley was sharp, with 95 yards on just 19 carries, and Los Angeles was able to run the ball almost at will against Arizona, which came into the game 23rd in the league in yards allowed. The Rams still have a difficult road, but they at least showed that the dominant offense that carried them to a Super Bowl appearance isn’t completely gone. GAME GRADE: A + | NEXT: vs. Seahawks (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


CARDINALS (3-8-1): Arizona might be tempted to use the 2020 draft to surround QB Kyler Murray with weapons, but it really needs help on defense above all else. During their current five-game losing streak, the Cardinals have allowed 31.8 points and 473.8 yards per game. The secondary is dreadful, as it entered the Rams game last in the NFL in yards and touchdowns allowed. Yet somehow it performed even worse than its normal standard against LA.; Jared Goff threw for 424 yards. Arizona is powerless to stop tight ends: Rams TE Tyler Higbee had seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. While wins and losses aren’t paramount, this loss represents a major step backward in the Cardinals’ development. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 5 of 16

GREEN BAY 31, NY GIANTS 13

PACKERS (9-3): The book for beating the Giants’ defense — which is solid against the run — is to attack it through the air. But the ugly, snowy conditions in East Rutherford, N.J., figured to play to New York’s advantage. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, however, showed off his veteran guile, dealing superbly with the poor weather (four TD passes). “I admit I was a little worried that it might be more rain than snow,” he told reporters after the game. “When those big flakes were falling down, I felt pretty good about our chances.” There is an art to throwing the ball in wind, cold and precipitation, and clearly Rodgers understands this. But there is also value in having immense arm talent, which Rodgers still has to rival just about any passer in the game. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Redskins (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


GIANTS (2-10): Daniel Jones, who tossed three interceptions, continues to be a turnover machine. The rookie QB has 21 turnovers in 11 games, 10 fumbles lost and 11 interceptions. Jones also recorded his league-leading 15th fumble, but the Giants recovered it. His effectiveness has also dwindled, as Jones is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt over his past eight starts (in which the Giants are 0-8) after posting an impressive mark of 8.4 over his first two starts (in which the Giants went 2-0). Three of New York’s final four games are against teams ranked in the bottom half of takeaway rate. Jones must secure the football to build some hope surrounding his potential going into 2020.For those counting, this is the third straight season the Giants have lost 10 or more games.GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Eagles (Mon., Dec. 9)

— Michael Nania 6 of 16

MIAMI 37, PHILADELPHIA 31

EAGLES (5-7): Philadelphia’s solid pass defense, which entered Week 13 ranked 10th in DVOA, was surprisingly torched by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and WR DeVante Parker. Fitzpatrick threw for 365 yards on 39 pass attempts, averaging an impressive 9.4 yards per attempt. Parker had a dominant performance, making highlight grab after highlight grab (seven catches for career-best 159 yards) and scoring two touchdowns. The Eagles’ pass rush did its part, racking up 11 quarterback hits, but the secondary failed to take advantage, consistently losing in contested catch situations. Three of Philadelphia’s final four games are against the Giants (twice) and Redskins (once), so there is no excuse for the pass-defending struggles to continue against bad competition. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Giants (Mon., Dec. 9)

— Michael Nania


DOLPHINS (3-9): During a season designed to be one of the worst in franchise history, the Dolphins have observed a breakout from a player they hoped would produce years ago. Once in danger of being traded or cut, DeVante Parker has become the consistent wide receiver the franchise’s previous front office envisioned. Parker’s seven-catch, 159-yard, two-touchdown game elevated the Dolphins to their season’s best win and further solidified the 2015 first-round pick’s status as a dependable target. Parker out-jumped Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby for two chunk plays – the first such sequence including some careful sideline steps on a 43-yard touchdown – and made a contested touchdown catch against Jalen Mills in a major upset. Dolphins GM Chris Grier gave Parker a two-year, $13 million deal this offseason; he’s outplayed that contract. The ex-doghouse occupant now has a career-most 854 receiving yards. Still just 26, Parker now profiles as a cornerstone player for a team lacking them. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Jets (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 7 of 16

KANSAS CITY 40, OAKLAND 9

RAIDERS (6-6): Facing a Chiefs defense that counts cornerback as its lowest-profile spot, investment-wise, the Raiders completed a grand total of four passes (for 34 yards) to wide receivers. While Oakland’s receiving corps was supposed to include Antonio Brown and just lost Hunter Renfrow, such an outing is unacceptable for an NFL offense. Nominal No. 1 wideout Tyrell Williams has caught three passes for 27 yards over the past two games. Williams must produce if the Raiders are to have a shot at reviving their playoff hopes. The ex-Charger wideout’s four-year contract contains no fully guaranteed money after 2019. If Williams cannot help Derek Carr’s Darren Waller-dependent aerial corps down the stretch, the Raiders will balk at his $11 million base salary next season. The Antonio Brown trade deterred Jon Gruden and Co. from targeting a receiver early in the draft, hurting this year’s team. Gruden and GM Mike Mayock will be prepared to draft one early in 2020. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


CHIEFS (8-4): Kansas City employed one of this decade’s premier safeties for years, but Eric Berry’s injuries proved costly. Daniel Sorensen and a hobbled Berry started last season’s AFC Championship Game, but the Chiefs could not stop Tom Brady in crunch time. The Chiefs threw key resources at the problem this offseason, adding Tyrann Mathieu on a position-record-tying $14 million-per-year contract and drafting Juan Thornhill in the second round. Mathieu and Thornhill justified the investments Sunday, forcing the Raiders to play catch-up. Each intercepted a pass; both picks led to touchdowns. Mathieu’s coverage fooled Derek Carr and set up Darrel Williams’ first-quarter score, and Thornhill took a Carr pass back for a 46-yard second-quarter TD. None of Thornhill’s 13 INTs at Virginia went for touchdowns. His second NFL pick helped compensate for the Chiefs’ 259 yards Sunday and highlighted the potential the franchise sees in a Mathieu-Thornhill long-term tandem. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Patriots (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 8 of 16

DENVER 23, LA CHARGERS 20

CHARGERS (4-8): What a way to squander a game. The Bolts allowed the Broncos to kick a walk-off field goal after a one-play drive that began at Denver’s 28-yard line. After the Chargers tied the score, cornerback Casey Hayward barreled into Courtland Sutton to give a listless Broncos offense 37 yards. While the call was questionable, the Bolts’ penchant for unique losses is not. Facing a Broncos team also excellent at crafting final-minute defeat blueprints, the Chargers did their best to help their opponent by mismanaging the clock and committing two false-start penalties on a late fourth down. The Chargers are closing out a largely wasted decade – one featuring numerous endings such as Sunday’s in Denver – and with QB Philip Rivers near the end of his NFL career, the perennial underachievers will enter the 2020s with far less certainty. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BRONCOS (4-8): Trading Pro Bowl wideouts in each of the past two Octobers, Denver depleted its pass-catching situation considerably. Courtland Sutton has helped compensate, the 2018 second-round pick joining Phillip Lindsay as a cornerstone piece on an offense largely lacking them. Propping up Drew Lock like he did Brandon Allen in his debut, Sutton has now produced with three quarterbacks this season. His first-half work – highlighted by one of this season’s premier catches – saved a Broncos offense that (again) accomplished little after halftime. Lock averaged a Paxton Lynch-ian 4.8 yards per attempt; 74 of the rookie’s 134 yards went to his 6-foot-4 weapon. Sutton’s deft tumble to draw a game-deciding pass interference penalty also halted the Broncos’ trend of late-game collapses. While not on Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders’ levels yet, Sutton is on his way. The jump-ball maven is on pace to eclipse 1,200 yards and makes for a stealth Pro Bowl candidate in a down season for AFC receivers. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Texans (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson 9 of 16

TAMPA BAY 28, JACKSONVILLE 11

BUCS (5-7): Tampa Bay’s defense was dominant, forcing QB Nick Foles and his four-year, $88 million contract to the bench in just his third start since returning from injury. The Buccaneers racked up five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Leading the unit was OLB Shaquil Barrett, who picked up two sacks to bring his total to a league-leading 14.5. Barrett had four quarterback hits, giving him nine over his past two games. The Buccaneers also lived up to their No. 1 ranking in run defense DVOA, holding Jacksonville to 47 rushing yards on 2.9 yards per attempt. Head coach Bruce Arians’ team has a nearly even point differential at -6 and is 5-7 despite a 2-4 record in close games (decided by seven points or fewer). He has the Bucs playing around an average level, a step up from where they were the previous two seasons. GAME GRADE: A NEXT: vs. Colts (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


JAGUARS (4-8): Nick Foles was abysmal against a Buccaneers defense that entered the game second-worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Foles threw an interception, lost two fumbles, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and was completely ineffective before giving way to Gardner Minshew to start the second half. Foles got $88 million from the Jaguars, including $50.125 million guaranteed, but Minshew has looked like the better, more effective player this season. Foles isn’t going anywhere, because he has a $33.875 million dead cap hit for 2020, but while the Jaguars don’t have much to play for as a team the rest of this season, Foles needs to finish strongly to prove that Jacksonville made a smart investment. If Foles fails to inspire, Jacksonville will have to consider making the starting quarterback job an open competition next season. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Chargers (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

10 of 16

CINCINNATI 22, NEW YORK JETS 6

JETS (4-8): On a day when the Jets’ mini-resurgence died, their offensive line showed why GM Joe Douglas will conduct an offseason overhaul. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap dominated Jets right tackle Brandon Shell, a former starter back in the lineup due to injuries. Dunlap registered three sacks; Sam Hubbard beat guard Tom Compton for another. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum committed three of the O-line’s seven penalties, including a holding infraction that resulted in a safety. Le’Veon Bell’s dreadful 2019 continued with a 10-carry, 32-yard day against Cincinnati’s 32nd-ranked run defense. Beachum had played better in recent weeks but joins Shell as a free agent-to-be, and no guaranteed money remains on injured right guard Brian Winters’ deal. All five of the Jets’ Week 1 O-line starters are good bets to be elsewhere next season. A 16-point loss to an 0-11 team should accelerate Douglas’ long-anticipated revamp of the perennially poor unit.
GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Dolphins (Sun.)

— Sam Robinson


BENGALS (1-11): This downtrodden franchise has plenty of needs. Defensive line might not be one of them. Against the Jets, end Carlos Dunlap demonstrated he can abuse lesser offensive tackles. Tackle Geno Atkins may have lost a slight step, but he remains a potent interior disruptor. Andrew Billings is a nice complement on early downs to Atkins, excelling against the run with his great strength and power. Hubbard and Carl Lawson are young up-and-comers off the edge. With Cincinnati’s first win, the pressure may be off for the Bengals, who can focus now on securing the No. 1 overall pick. Kidding. (I think.) GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: at Browns (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson 11 of 16

TENNESSEE 31, INDIANAPOLIS 17

TITANS (7-5): Tennessee showed off its new-found resilience and offensive explosiveness under QB Ryan Tannehill. Despite a 17-7 deficit and lots of pressure (six sacks), Tannehill did not blink. The Titans’ offensive prowess was most on display after Tennessee intercepted Jacoby Brissett while up 24-17. Tannehill then hit Kalif Raymond for a 40-yard touchdown to effectively ice the game. That the Titans went for it all on 3rd-and-6 instead of playing conservatively shows how much faith they have in their quarterback, who replaced the ineffective Marcus Mariota in Week 7. Tennessee is still out of playoff position, but should it get in, the Titans will be dangerous because of their offense. Imagine that. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Raiders (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller


COLTS (6-6): Another game, another kicking disaster for the Colts. Adam Vinatieri was already 1-for-3 on field goals when he lined up for a 46-yarder that would have put Indianapolis ahead 20-17. But the kick was blocked — why, of course — and returned for a touchdown. Indianapolis’ efforts to come back were further hampered by a Jacoby Brissett interception. Head coach Frank Reich’s loyalty to Vinatieri has cost the Colts multiple games; if Indianapolis got even slightly better than league average kicking, it would be at least two and possibly three or four games better in the standings. The Colts probably will miss the playoffs; they have no one to blame but themselves. GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Bucs (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller 12 of 16

WASHINGTON 29, CAROLINA 21

REDSKINS (3-9): Washington took full advantage of Carolina’s 31st-ranked DVOA run defense. The Redskins racked up 248 yards on 30 rush attempts, averaging a 8.3 yards per rush. They rushed for three touchdowns, two by Derrius Guice and one by Adrian Peterson. Guice picked up 129 yards on 10 carries, finally breaking out after averaging 24.7 yards per game on 2.7 yards per carry over his first three career games. The run game bailed out rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, who was extremely ineffective (3.8 net yards per pass attempt). At least he didn’t take a selfie with a fan during this game. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Packers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


PANTHERS (5-7): Ron Rivera’s defense continues to be embarrassed against the run. Carolina, which entered Week 13 ranked 31st in both run defense EPA and DVOA, was shredded on the ground by a Redskins offense ranked 30th in rush offense DVOA. Washington ran for 248 yards, more than 100 yards greater than their previous season-best. The Panthers have yielded a league-high 22 rushing touchdowns and have given up at least 100 yards on the ground in all but two games. Each of Carolina’s final three games will be against teams that currently rank in the top half of rush offense DVOA. More humiliating efforts in run defense could be on the way, potentially sending Rivera out the door. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Falcons (Sun.)

— Michael Nania

13 of 16

NEW ORLEANS 26, ATLANTA 18

SAINTS (10-2): The pass rush went berserk on Thanksgiving, taking down Matt Ryan for nine sacks (tying his career-high). That total also tied the Saints’ franchise record, set in 2001 (at Falcons) and 1985 (vs. Rams). End Cameron Jordan led the charge with a career-best four sacks, bringing his season total to a career-high 13.5. Through games played Thursday, New Orleans was tied for third in quarterback hits per game (7.0) and ranked eighth in sack rate (8.0 percent). The Saints’ dominant pass rush will be tested down the stretch as New Orleans seeks the NFC’s top seed. Two solid offensive lines await in the next two games (49ers and Colts). GAME GRADE: B |  NEXT: vs. 49ers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania


FALCONS (3-9): Against New Orleans, Matt Ryan averaged just 6.2 yards per attempt over 50 passes and threw two interceptions. While not entirely his fault, Ryan is playing some of the most ineffective football of his career, posting a 77.8 passer rating (league average 91.2 through Thursday) and averaging 5.0 net yards per attempt (league average 6.3) over his past five games. On the season, Ryan has averaged 5.9 adjusted net yards per attempt (which adjusts for sacks, touchdowns and interceptions), slightly below the league average of 6.2. It is the worst season mark compared to league average that Ryan has posted in his career. Perhaps Atlanta should bench him and keep him healthy for 2020. GAME GRADE: C– | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)

— Michael Nania 14 of 16

CHICAGO 24, DETROIT 20

BEARS (6-6): Don’t celebrate yet, Bears fans, but QB Mitch Trubisky is playing better. In the first eight games, he mostly dinked and dunked. Over the past month, he has thrown deeper downfield. Trubisky was especially effective working the intermediate portions of the field against the Lions, who dared him to beat them downfield by playing mostly man coverage. Oddly, the Lions rarely sent added pressure. Trubisky’s lone interception, to CB Darius Slay early in the second half, was a poorly placed throw against tight man coverage. But other than that, Trubisky was solid, with several impressive throws to Anthony Miller (nine catches for 140 yards), who abused cornerback Justin Coleman. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Thurs.)

— Matt Williamson


LIONS (3-8-1): There were several positives for the Lions. Their wideouts owned Chicago’s cornerbacks in the first half, and the pass protection — it was a smart move to double up against Khalil Mack — was solid for rookie QB David Blough, who made his first career start. Blough stood strong in the pocket, allowing Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones time to set up the Bears corners. Blough’s poise was noteworthy and his accuracy (22-for-38 for 280 yards) stood out. He often looked for TJ Hockenson (11 targets), a smart move, although the rookie tight end had only six catches for 18 yards. Detroit’s offense dried up in the second half after Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano made adjustments to help Chicago’s cornerbacks and Mack came to life. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson  15 of 16

BUFFALO 26, DALLAS 15

BILLS (9-3): After using Ed Oliver on most of their defensive snaps during the season’s first half, the Bills demoted their first-round pick entering November. Oliver’s resurgence over the past three weeks showed why Buffalo used the ninth overall pick on him. Despite coming off the bench for the fifth straight game, the rookie defensive tackle unveiled a ceiling few Bills have possessed this century. The compact interior rusher sacked Dak Prescott twice – the first featuring a game-changing strip – and registered a tackle for loss. After going nine games without sacking a quarterback, the ex-Houston Cougars tackles-for-loss dynamo has four in Buffalo’s past three games. Rarely given nationally televised opportunities, the Bills made the most of this one. Oliver’s dominance of Cowboys backup left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo helped change the narrative of the Bills being a product of weak competition and served notice that they won’t be a wild-card pushover. GAME GRADE: A+ | NEXT: vs. Ravens (Sun)

— Sam Robinson


COWBOYS (6-6): Dallas continued its struggles against elite competition, falling to 0-5 in games against teams that currently have a winning record. The same issue that plagued Jason Garrett’s squad in previous games against strong opponents was evident against Buffalo: turnovers. The Cowboys coughed up the football twice in the first half, setting up Buffalo with a lead it would not relinquish. Dallas failed to take the ball away from Josh Allen’s offense. In its five games against winning teams, Dallas has lost the turnover battle 10 to one. Good news for the Cowboys: Three of Dallas’ final four games are against .500 or worse teams — the lone exception is the Rams (7-5). GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: at Chicago (Thurs.)

— Michael Nania 16 of 16

MONDAY: MINNESOTA AT SEATTLE

VIKINGS (8-3): The offensive line is far better than it was in 2018, but it is still inconsistent, and it will face a Seattle defense boosted by the returns of end Jadeveon Clowney and tackle Jarran Reed, Seattle’s two best defensive linemen. This game sets up well for Kirk Cousins, who is light years better than most seem to realize (2,756 yards passing, 70.6 percent complete percentage). Wide receivers and tight ends have put up a lot of production against Seattle, so look for a big game from Cousins if his O-line can deliver a solid game. NEXT: vs. Lions (Sun.)

— Matt Williamson


SEAHAWKS (9-2): Although he has only three sacks, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, returning from an injury, will be a welcome addition. Per Pro Football Reference, Clowney ranks eighth in the league with 14 hurries, despite being sent on a designed blitz just once all season, and nine quarterback knockdowns (11th in the NFL). The Vikings have balance on offense, but their resurgence after a slow start is largely connected to Kirk Cousins’ improved play. Clowney’s ability to disrupt the pocket against Minnesota – even if he can’t generate sacks – is integral to Seattle’s defense holding up. Clowney might not be filling the stat sheet with traditional counting stats, but there is no denying that his return gives an otherwise mediocre Seahawks defense (21st in the league entering Week 13) some teeth. NEXT: at Rams (Sun.)

— Chris Mueller

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