This year’s NFL trade deadline was something else. Big trades have become the new normal around the league. No longer are blockbuster mid-season deals a rarity.
It started with the massive trade that sent Jalen Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Los Angeles Rams. Meanwhile, the league’s two remaining undefeated teams added an upgrade at receiver.
We’re diving into those moves and more looking at the biggest winners and losers from the NFL trade deadline.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
Being able to acquire a second-round pick for your third-best receiver at the initial stages of a rebuild is something. That’s what the Falcons did when they dealt the 30-year-old Mohamed Sanu to New England earlier in October.
Sanu is good. However, he didn’t fit into Atlanta’s long-term plans. This trade also enables young stud Calvin Ridley to receive more targets moving forward. That’s a necessity for Matt Ryan and Co. This is the biggest key for a Falcons team that’s now going to rebuild on the fly. Sanu just didn’t fit into that model.
Loser: New York Giants
Giants general manager David Gettleman had a plan before he abandoned it by drafting Daniel Jones in April. He had another plan to build through the draft before abandoning it on Monday. So, we’re not exactly sure what the plan is in New Jersey. What we do know is that Giants yielded a third-round pick in 2020 and a fifth-rounder in 2021 to acquire impending free agent defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
The Giants already use two defensive tackles in that of stud rookie Dexter Lawrence (acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade) and Dalvin Tomlinson. Where does Williams fit in? At 2-6, the Giants hopefully didn’t make this trade for the remainder of the 2019 season. Even then, there are no guarantees long term. It just didn’t make much sense.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
In desperate need of a proven pass catcher on the outside, San Francisco dealt a third- and fourth-round pick to the Broncos for two-time Pro Bowl WR Emmanuel Sanders and a fifth-round pick. Sanders paid off immediately, recording a touchdown on his initial possession as a member of the 49ers in last week’s blowout win over the Panthers.
Some will question whether yielding two mid-round picks for an impending free agent makes sense. That’s until we realize the fifth-rounder San Francisco got back in the deal is going to be a dozen picks or so lower than the fourth-rounder it dealt. Now at 7-0 on the season, the 49ers made a win-now move. That’s what needed to be done. Period.
Loser: Los Angeles Rams
Is Jalen Ramsey good? Yes. He’s one of the best cover guys in the NFL and is just 25 years old. Los Angeles swung for the fences in pulling off this trade after losing three consecutive games earlier in the season. However, there are many more layers to this deal.
The Rams dealt away two first-round picks and change for Ramsey, without him committing to a long-term deal. The team is already paying Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and Aaron Donald top-end money. How can the Rams fit Ramsey in long term while keeping the depth that will be needed in an ultra-competitive NFC West? We have absolutely no idea. Adding more fuel to this, Los Angeles dealt a fifth-round pick to the Dolphins in order for Miami to take on Aqib Talib’s contract and had to move Marcus Peters to make room for Ramsey. That’s a huge price to pay.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
Led by general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden, the Raiders’ brass had no built-in relationship with cornerback Gareon Conley. The former first-round selection was former GM Reggie McKenzie’s pick. So it’s not a surprise that Oakland dealt the ineffective young cornerback away ahead of the deadline.
We are surprised that the Raiders were able to net a third-round pick from the Houston Texans in the deal. Conley didn’t fit in Oakland. The team is high on young corners Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson. Nabbing a mid-round pick to add to their draft capital was an absolute win for the Raiders.
Loser: Detroit Lions
Detroit found itself at 2-3-1 heading into Week 8’s action. The team still had legit playoff aspirations. After taking out the New York Giants on Sunday, Matt Patricia’s squad moved to .500. In between all of this, the Lions traded starting safety Quandre Diggs to the Seattle Seahawks. That deal included Detroit sending a 2021 seventh-round pick to Seattle in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
Needless to say, members of the Lions were thrown for a loop by this trade. It seemed to be more financial than anything else, with Diggs having just signed a three-year, $18.6 million extension. Promptly, the Lions lost fellow safety Tracy Walker to injury this past week. This is not the type of move that inspires confidence in a team that’s still in the playoff race.
Winner: New York Jets
We have to give the Jets credit. It was noted a lot ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline that this one-win squad was going to be a seller. However, it didn’t seem like first-year general manager Joe Douglas had a lot to offer other teams.
That changed big time when New York traded embattled impending free-agent defensive tackle Leonard Williams to the Giants on Monday. This deal included the Jets acquiring a third-round pick in 2020 and a mid-round selection in 2021. Not a bad bounty for someone that was going to leave Jersey in free agency this coming March.
Loser: Houston Texans
This pretty much started ahead of Week 1, when the Texans dealt a bounty for left tackle Laremy Tunsil before giving away stud pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney for pennies on the dollar. It’s a symptom of the Texans not having a true general manager after firing Brian Gaine.
Though, the focus of this article is on deals that were made in October. That’s where Houston’s decision to acquire struggling young corner Gareon Conley from Oakland for a third-round pick comes into play. Sure these Texans have struggled against the pass. But yielding such a valuable pick when your war chest is already limited made no real sense.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
As noted above, Jalen Ramsey is one heck of a football player. It just became too much for the Jaguars’ brass to handle. The Pro Bowler did not get along with team president Tom Coughlin. Jacksonville was not about to choose the corner over its top front-office figure. In the end, moving Ramsey made the most sense.
The simple fact that these Jags were able to add two first-round pick and a mid-rounder for Ramsey is stunning. It sets the team up well moving forward as long as it draft well. It’s also important to note that the Jags have won two consecutive since trading Ramsey. It’s a clear indication that the corner wasn’t making a huge overall impact for the team. Sell high, and reap the rewards later. Jacksonville did just that.
Loser: Denver Broncos
Acquiring the equivalent of a third-round pick for Emmanuel Sanders was pretty solid for John Elway and Co. However, the team’s unwillingness to move fellow impending free agent Chris Harris Jr. ahead of the deadline made no real sense.
Elway seems to think his team is not in rebuild mode. That’s pretty much a pie in the sky mentality from the embattled general manager. Good organizations know when to sell. Unfortunately, the Broncos are going to remain in purgatory because of Mr. Elway.
The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 29, and if recent seasons are any indication, there could be plenty of wheeling and dealing. These 25 players are top trade candidates as we get closer to the deadline.
1 of 25
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons
The Falcons defense has been a dumpster fire through six games, and head coach Dan Quinn’s job could be in jeopardy. After leaving Atlanta for New England last year, Clayborn has returned to the Falcons but the stats haven’t followed (one sack). As a pending free agent, Clayborn could be made available if there’s any market for him at age 31.
2 of 25
Vernon Davis, TE, Redskins
Davis is the de facto starting tight end in Washington with Jordan Reed suffering from a concussion, but Davis has had concussion issues of his own. He’s missed the last two games, though his play in recent years shows he can still help in his mid-30s. Washington has nothing to play for after a 1-5 start to the season. 3 of 25
Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
Diggs seemed unsatisfied in Minnesota earlier this season, getting fined for missing team activities. Things might have changed after a spectacular game vs. Philly, with 167 yards and three touchdowns, but the market for his services should be lively if the Vikings do opt to trade their star wideout.
4 of 25
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins
Drake is seeing part-time snaps on the NFL’s worst team and has 60 touches through five games. Now in his fourth season, the versatile back is being wasted on the Dolphins and would likely fetch some draft capital for a team that’s tanking.
5 of 25
Bud Dupree, OLB, Steelers
Trading their first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick would indicate that the Steelers aren’t yet throwing in the towel after Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, but they still have reason to consider moving Dupree. They should be able to find decent value for the pending free agent, as he already has three sacks in six games, and the Steelers would be trading from an area of strength. 6 of 25
Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
Eifert has been extremely injury prone during his career and is no longer the red-zone threat that he was early on, but he’s still a gifted pass catcher. Now in his seventh season, Eifert is doing little for an 0-6 Bengals squad and would make a nice addition for a team like New England, which is craving tight end help.
7 of 25
A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
Green is nearing a return from his ankle injury, but the Bengals haven’t won without him. Now a pending free agent, he’s one of the faces of the franchise but has been a problem recently, missing significant time in three of the last four seasons. When healthy, Green remains an elite wideout, so the Bengals should be able to find nice value for him as they likely go into a rebuild.
8 of 25
Chris Harris, CB, Broncos
Harris didn’t seem enthused with the Broncos franchise in the offseason and has been the subject of trade speculation already. The four-time Pro Bowler remains a solid cover corner at age 30 and will be a free agent after this season. There are plenty of teams that could use his services down the stretch with the Broncos in poor position to make the playoffs.
9 of 25
Xavien Howard, CB, Dolphins
Howard had a league-leading seven interceptions in his 2018 Pro Bowl campaign, and he remains a capable cover corner. Miami has been willing to trade anything that’s not tacked down early this season, and Howard is certainly a candidate to be moved despite missing Week 6 with a knee injury.
10 of 25
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Giants
Jenkins signed a monstrous five-year deal with the Giants in 2016, and he hasn’t played as well as hoped. Still, the almost-31-year-old corner has proved to be a decent player at times and a willing tackler. He’s signed through 2020 but could be moved with teams hungry for secondary help and New York struggling for wins.
11 of 25
Trumaine Johnson, CB, Jets
Johnson signed a five-year deal with the Jets under a different front office and coaching regime. Injuries have been a storyline early in his contract, and the Jets are already effectively out of the playoff race this year. If anyone is willing to take on Johnson’s contract, the Jets should happily oblige.
12 of 25
Reshad Jones, S, Dolphins
The relationship between Jones and the Dolphins hasn’t been harmonious recently, but he remains on the roster. He missed time early this year with an ankle injury but remains one of the only quality players on a tanking squad. If Miami can find anyone to take on his salary, it’s probably time to move on.
13 of 25
Markus Golden, OLB, Giants
Golden is doing a great job reviving his value after some injuries late in his tenure with the Cardinals. Through six starts, Golden has five sacks and a scoop-and-score. Signed for a low price this year, he should be an attractive trade candidate unless the Giants opt to sign him long term.
14 of 25
Josh Norman, CB, Redskins
Norman has never lived up to the hype after Washington gave him an outlandish five-year, $75 million contract in 2016. To Norman’s credit, he has been relatively durable. He has one full year remaining on the deal after 2019 but could make a nice addition for a contending team with cap space.
15 of 25
DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
A former first-round pick with a world of talent, Parker simply hasn’t put it all together in the NFL. He’s now in his fifth season with Miami, and the results have been predictably disappointing. Still, there are plenty of contending teams in need of receiver help, and a change of scenery certainly couldn’t hurt with Parker’s contract expiring after this year.
16 of 25
Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins
Like last season, Peterson has become Washington’s starting running back due to Derrius Guice’s injury. However, the 34-year-old is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and clearly has no future on a 1-5 Washington team. It’s unclear how he really helps the team significantly over a younger option, aside from being a veteran leader.
17 of 25
Brian Poole, CB, Jets
Poole came over from Atlanta in the offseason, now in the final season of his contract. He’s seen regular snaps at safety, but the Jets have all but fallen out of contention already.
The Colts stunned the Chiefs in Kansas City. Green Bay built a big early lead on the road and held off the Cowboys. Wow, Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (237 scrimmage yards) is good. Here’s Yardbarker’s Week 5 whip-around.
1 of 16
INDIANAPOLIS 19, KANSAS CITY 13
COLTS: (3-2): Indianapolis’ defense turned in a heroic performance against PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs. The D-line played the biggest part. Indy was without Malik Hooker, Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers, but Justin Houston, Grover Stewart and the rest of Indy’s front-seven owned the line of scrimmage. The Colts harassed Mahomes and, in particular, suffocated Kansas City’s running game. It was an impressive and surprising effort; Indianapolis allowed three of its first four opponents to rush for at least 100 yards, and Oakland dominated them on the ground in Week 4. The Colts now get a much-needed bye week to get healthy, before they host Houston in a game that could shape the AFC South race. If the Colts win that one, they could easily be 7-2 by the time a mid-November divisional crucible begins. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Texans (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Chris Mueller
CHIEFS: (4-1): The first of many national showcases for this Chiefs team illuminated an uncomfortable reality. They may not be sufficiently improved defensively to capitalize on Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance. When the reigning MVP is compromised or is missing enough key players, the Chiefs’ foundation becomes shaky. The Chiefs entered Sunday night’s game 31st in run defense, and the Colts turned the clock back to expose it. Kansas City used considerable capital on defensive augmentations this offseason but had no answer for Indianapolis’ rushing onslaught. The Chiefs, who did lose key defensive tackle Chris Jones, gave up 180 rushing yards – the third straight game in which they have allowed at least 180. Considering the Chiefs are also below average on pass defense and rush offense, they are again asking Mahomes to walk a tightrope. For a team carrying the NFL’s best contract, its defense still being one of the league’s worst is troubling.GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Texans (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
2 of 16
GREEN BAY 34, DALLAS 24
PACKERS (4-1): It’s about time the coaching staff trusted AARON JONES enough to feed him touches. It took Jamaal Williams (concussion) going down, but hey, maybe everyone can now see he is far and away the best running back option. After the Packers took a big early lead, Jones got a little breather here and there in the second half, but still finished with 182 total yards against an excellent defense. He has natural running skills and is developing as a pass-catcher. This game also showcased Jones’ improvement as a route runner, and he’s getting better in pass protection. Without Devante Adams (turf toe), Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around, with nine Packers catching at least one pass. It’s telling that Jones not only led the Packers in rushing but also was Green Bay’s leading receiver (seven catches for 75 yards) by a significant margin. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Lions
— Matt Williamson
COWBOYS (3-2): With Dak Prescott’s contract looming, it’s impossible for his performance not to be the focus. Although he made this game interesting down the stretch, he finished with three interceptions, the 10th multi-interception game of his career, now early in his fourth season. Prescott threw for 463 yards, 226 to Amari Cooper. But much of that yardage came in the second half, when the Packers’ defense seemed to let up. Green Bay’s defense was especially impressive in blanking the Cowboys in the first half. Cooper, the former Raiders receiver, has been a wise investment for Dallas, but whether he’s enough to help turn Dak into a top-line starter remains to be seen. Two weeks in a row against considerable competition, Dallas was found lacking. Are the Cowboys willing to settle for “just OK”? GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Jets
— Mike Tunison
3 of 16
CAROLINA 34, JACKSONVILLE 27
JAGUARS (2-3): Jacksonville’s run defense had been trending in the right direction the past two weeks, holding the Titans and Broncos to a combined 159 yards in two wins. But the Jags’ run D was a no-show against Carolina. CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY gouged Jacksonville, especially on an 84-yard gallop that saw more than half the defense over-commit to a fake. Even McCaffrey’s backup, Reggie Bonnafon, hit for a 59-yard TD. Jacksonville’s aggressiveness was its problem on that play, too. Multiple members of the front-seven over-pursued because of an end-around fake; the Jaguars’ secondary had no chance to catch him because all the players took a bad angle. Gardner Minshew (374 yards passing) played well enough, but if the Jaguars are going to win the AFC South, they must get more from the defense. GAME GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: vs. Saints (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
PANTHERS (3-2): Christian McCaffrey continues to add reasons why he’s an elite back and in the discussion for the best in the game. Sunday’s performance was historic in many ways. The third of his three touchdowns was an 84-yard run, the longest in franchise history. (According to NextGen Stats, he reached a max speed of 21.95 mph on the TD run, his fastest touch since 2018.) McCaffrey’s performance was one of only 18 since 2000 by a running back that resulted in at least 237 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns. That means you’re talking about a roughly once-a-year type of outing, usually done by only the best of the best. The only downside was a sequence in the red zone in the fourth quarter when the Panthers tried to get him a passing touchdown (he had one in his career before Sunday) on third down and it didn’t work out. Then McCaffrey was stuffed on a fourth-down attempt. Carolina held on, but it slightly marred an otherwise excellent game. GAME GRADE: B+ | NEXT: at Bucs (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
4 of 16
BALTIMORE 26, PITTSBURGH 23 (OT)
RAVENS (3-2): In an overtime game, the Ravens had the ball 13 minutes, 26 seconds longer and ran the ball 40 times. Despite being the much fresher unit, Baltimore’s defense was far from impressive. This is more than just an isolated incident for the once-exceptional unit, as it has been abused four weeks in a row. Pittsburgh’s offensive box score isn’t telling (269 yards), because the unit still seeks an identity. It lost MASON RUDOLPH (concussion) to a vicious hit by Earl Thomas, which put third-stringer Devlin Hodges at the offense’s controls. Yet the Steelers still averaged 5.3 yards per play, a yard and a half more than Baltimore. The run defense is a problem without question, but the area of most concern is Baltimore’s pass rush. This is a blitz-heavy scheme, but the Ravens’ secondary is uncharacteristically poor, and the lack of pure pass-rushers hurts. Terrell Suggs, where are you? GAME GRADE: C+ | NEXT: vs., Bengals (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
STEELERS (1-4): Going back to 2017, Pittsburgh has rushed the passer as well as or better than almost every defense. The Steelers had 52 sacks last season, 56 in 2017. It’s what Pittsburgh (19 sacks) does best this season, too. The Steelers’ rush (five sacks) on Lamar Jackson was superb. But what stood out in Week 5 was their pass-rushing plan. Not only did the Steelers push the pocket really well, but for the most part, they kept Jackson bottled up by staying in their rush lanes. We didn’t see a lot of games or stunting. Jackson (14 carries for 70 yards) got loose here and there. The execution of a pass-rush plan, an underrated important aspect of playing great defense, was impressive. GAME GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chargers (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
5 of 16
NEW ENGLAND 33, WASHINGTON 7
PATRIOTS (5-0): Jamie Collins went from athletic Patriots linebacker to a freelancing player deemed unnecessary during the team’s Super Bowl LII run; the Pats traded him to the Browns in 2016. Cleveland soon gave the outside linebacker a position-record $12.5 million-per-year contract that he did not live up to. Now back in New England on an incentive-laden deal and counting only $3 million against the cap, he has become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Against Washington, Collins continued his resurgence by recovering a second-quarter fumble and forcing another on an impressive inside rush that resulted in a fourth-quarter sack of Colt McCoy. A player the Browns cut has been one of the NFL’s best this season, finishing Week 5 with 4.5 sacks (an NFL-high for off-ball ‘backers) and a career-high three interceptions. For a Patriots team coming off perhaps the Super Bowl’s greatest defensive showing, Collins looks like a frightening luxury. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Giants (Thurs.)
— Sam Robinson
REDSKINS (0-5): In a game the Patriots were bound to win in a laugher, especially amid the swirling rumors of JAY GRUDEN’S impending dismissal, the Washington defense put on a better performance than anyone had a right to expect, even if the final score doesn’t indicate as much. Washington limited Tom Brady to completing three of his first seven attempts en route to taking an early lead, the Pats’ first deficit of the season. A fourth-down stop and a red-zone interception by Montae Nicholson, after the Washington offense had just turned the ball over on its own side of the field, kept the game competitive longer than perhaps it should have been. Think Washington fans are disenchanted? Asked by the Washington Post what he thought about the predominately New England crowd at FedEx Field, Brady said, “I thought it was pretty amazing. That felt like a home game.” Gruden, as expected, was canned early Monday morning. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: at Dolphins (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
BUFFALO 14, TENNESSEE 7
BILLS (4-1): With Miami on tap after a Week 6 bye, Buffalo is firmly in contention. The Bills again received spotty offense but have become a matchup nightmare for opposing aerial attacks. After stifling Tom Brady in one of the worst games of his career, Buffalo smothered Marcus Mariota. The Bills’ front seven did not sack Brady but dropped Mariota five times, four by inside rushers. Defensive tackle JORDAN PHILLIPS had a three-sack first half. Buffalo recently lost promising D-tackle Harrison Phillips (torn ACL) for the season. On Sunday, defensive end Trent Murphy (head) and linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring) left with injuries in the second half. Yet Buffalo still held the Titans to 4-for-14 on third downs. The Bills are headed in the right direction in Sean McDermott’s third season. This is a better team than their fluky 2017 playoff squad. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Dolphins (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Sam Robinson
TITANS (2-3): It was reasonable to assume that a matchup of two of the league’s top-five scoring defenses would produce a low-scoring game. But the Titans must be kicking themselves because of their kicker. Cairo Santos missed all four of his field goals — 50- and 53-yarders, a 36-yarder, and a 33-yarder that was blocked — and those misses were the difference. Santos came into the game 41-for-44 from 30-39 yards and 8-for-15 from 50-plus yards for his career. Titans coach Mike Vrabel says he still has confidence in him. Santos’ difficulties obscured the fact that Marcus Mariota and the offense were sloppy, had touchdowns nullified by penalties and several drives stifled by sacks. The Titans were penalized eight times for 60 yards and allowed five sacks, despite left tackle Taylor Lewan’s return from a four-game PED suspension. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Broncos (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
7 of 16
DENVER 20, LA CHARGERS 13
BRONCOS (1-4): Denver could not curtail the Jaguars’ momentum in Week 4 but managed to stop the Chargers from stealing the win. Los Angeles, however, would have operated differently in the second half had cornerback Kareem Jackson, a former Texan, not provided Denver’s defensive play of the year. Jackson derailed the Bolts’ fourth-and-goal play by forcing an Austin Ekeler fumble near the pylon in the second quarter. This ensured the Broncos carried a 17-0 lead into halftime. Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 cornerback entering Sunday, Jackson made a Broncos-high 10 tackles and helped a Bradley Chubb-less defense hold PHILIP RIVERS to 4.4 yards per attempt. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: vs. Titans (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
CHARGERS (2-3): Despite having Mike Williams and Melvin Gordon back in the lineup, the Bolts could not produce enough against a Broncos team down Bradley Chubb, starting linebacker Josey Jewell and would-be starting cornerback Bryce Callahan. Los Angeles totaled 246 yards – 120 fewer than any output of their previous 2019 outings – and were outrushed 191-35. A week after the Jaguars erased a 14-point Broncos lead largely with Leonard Fournette’s 225-yard day, the Chargers were not patient enough with the run. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions. Keenan Allen, the NFL’s receiving leader after Week 4, caught four passes for 18 yards. This profiled as a non-threatening spot for the injury-plagued team, but the Chargers are plagued by inconsistency. LA, which played at home before a big Denver contingent, is in trouble amid a crowded AFC middle tier. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
8 of 16
ARIZONA 26, CINCINNATI 23
CARDINALS: (1-3-1): KYLER MURRAY and Kliff Kingsbury each got their first win in the NFL, and it isn’t hard to pinpoint why. Arizona’s offensive line kept Murray upright almost the entire game. The Cardinals allowed only one sack despite coming in having surrendered 20, most in the league through four games. Murray did his part, too, managing to get rid of the football under pressure. The lack of negative plays was a major factor in helping the Cardinals establish rhythm and consistency. He was also more decisive as a playmaker, and he led a 266-yard team rushing effort with 93 on his own. Arizona piled up 514 yards, and while Cincinnati is one of the league’s worst defenses, it was still a big step forward for Murray and Kingsbury. Notable: Arizona prevented a score by a tight end for the first time this season. GAME GRADE: B + | NEXT: vs. Falcons (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
BENGALS (0-5): It’s clear the Cardinals are the better of these two poor teams. Here’s the deal with Cincinnati: Its offense has only two players! Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd; that’s it. Andy Dalton is a professional quarterback, and tight end Tyler Eifert can occasionally make plays, but this team has a putrid offensive line, and every defense the Bengals face (at least until injured A.J.Green returns) is going to make life extremely difficult on Mixon and Boyd. These two touched the ball 30 times, accounting for 232 of Cincinnati’s 370 yards. The offense is far too dependent on them. Hey, I thought head coach Zac Taylor’s forte was offense. GAME GRADE: D+ | NEXT: at Ravens (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
9 of 16
HOUSTON 53, ATLANTA 32
FALCONS (1-4): Atlanta’s secondary will be having nightmares about Will Fuller for weeks to come. Part of the Texans receiver’s monster day had to do with several miscommunications in coverage by the Falcons, including both of his first-half touchdowns. Fuller didn’t just reap the benefit of broken plays, he also just straight-up smoked an overmatched Atlanta secondary when defenders had the right idea about where they needed to be. Fuller had 14 catches on 16 targets for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That’s a day that looks almost effortlessly easy; Atlanta’s listless coverage helped make it that way. GAME GRADE: D-minus | NEXT: at Cardinals (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
TEXANS (3-2): If this is what life is like for DESHAUN WATSON with a clean pocket, his offensive line should be the most motivated group on the planet. After an opening three and out, the Texans piled up six touchdowns and two field goals, with only the end of the first half stopping another drive. Watson finished with five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating, consistently shredding the Falcons’ defense with deep shots downfield. This came one week after the Texans didn’t complete a pass longer than 14 yards in a loss to Carolina. Watson’s performance and the line’s protection were by far the most encouraging aspects of the game for Houston, but Will Fuller’s career day was close behind. If he can function as a truly dangerous second option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Houston will be the team to beat in the AFC South. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)
— Chris Mueller
10 of 16
NEW ORLEANS 31, TAMPA BAY 24
BUCS (2-3): Coming off a 55-point outing in a win over the Rams, the Buccaneers must have figured they wouldn’t need quite that many offensive fireworks to top a Brees-less Saints team, although obviously one would like to keep the offense humming regardless. It can be hard to be effective to that degree when your top receiver, Mike Evans, finishes the game with no catches on three targets. Perhaps that’s a credit to Marshon Lattimore, but wideouts considered among the game’s best don’t usually pull disappearing acts such as that. GAME GRADE: D + | NEXT: vs. Panthers (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
SAINTS (4-1): The idea during Drew Brees’ absence is that the Saints were hoping for just good enough quarterback play to tread water and eke out a few wins. That has been the case for the most part. New Orleans got good QB play and then some against the Buccaneers, as Teddy Bridgewater threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns. One of the knocks against Bridgewater is that he tends to play the short game and not get a lot of air under the ball. Against the Bucs, he had an impressive strike for 33 yards to Ted Ginn for a score and another to Josh Hill on a 26-yard play. GAME GRADE: A-minus | NEXT: at Jaguars (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
11 of 16
MINNESOTA 28, NY GIANTS 10
VIKINGS (3-2): The Vikings have one of the league’s best running games, making play-action rollouts a highly effective tactic by KIRK COUSINS. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for 184 rushing yards on 28 attempts against New York. Cousins isn’t a great athlete, but he does move well and certainly can throw effectively on the run. Designed quarterback movement off play action played to Cousins’ strengths and put the Giants’ suspect linebackers in compromised positions. This game plan had assistant coach Gary Kubiak written all over it — keep an eye on this the rest of the season. GAME GRADE: B | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)
— Matt Williamson
GIANTS (2-3): There are plenty of takes to be had about Daniel Jones coming back to earth following his excellent first outing two weeks ago in Tampa. Sunday’s loss makes it clear there are plenty of issues with the roster even if the Giants get a serviceable performance from their starting quarterback. Before Week 5, Kirk Cousins hadn’t thrown for more than 233 yards in a game. He had that before the end of the first half against the Giants. New York’s secondary was ripe for the picking all game, and it shows in the nearly flawless performances that Cousins (306 yards passing) and Adam Thielen (seven catches and 130 yards) put up in a one-sided game. GAME GRADE: D | NEXT: at Patriots (Thur.)
— Mike Tunison
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OAKLAND 24, CHICAGO 21 (LONDON)
BEARS (3-2): Allen Robinson, who had seven catches on eight targets for 97 yards and two touchdowns, is easily Chicago’s best offensive player. That showed in a big way in Week 5. For the better part of this game, the Bears surprisingly lost the battle at the line of scrimmage. Chicago was also hampered by penalties, poor blocking, a lackluster running game and less-than-stellar defense. But Robinson was spectacular. Rarely is he mentioned as an upper-echelon wide receiver, but he excels at all levels of the field, is good after the catch and often dominant at the catch point. He has bailed out Chicago QBs all season. GAME GRADE: C | NEXT: Week 6 bye, vs. Saints (Sun, Oct. 20)
— Matt Williamson
RAIDERS (3-2): With the Raiders producing one winning season since 2003, the bulk of their drives in this era have not been particularly consequential. A drive in London may go down as a season-changing march. Jon Gruden pulling the trigger on a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from his own 27-yard line ignited a Raiders team on the verge of blowing a 17-point lead. The direct snap to safety Erik Harris doubled as a turning point, with the Raiders then piecing together a 13-play, 97-yard, go-ahead drive against the Bears’ top-tier defense. DEREK CARR, No. 22 in QBR through four games, led the drive without hitting Tyrell Williams or Darren Waller. Oakland rookie tight end Foster Moreau contributed 41 yards on the possession, including a diving grab to set up Josh Jacobs’ game-winner. GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: Week 6 bye, at Packers (Sun., Oct. 20)
— Sam Robinson
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PHILADELPHIA 31, NY JETS 6
JETS (0-4): Their offensive line struggles in recent years having bled into 2019, the Jets made changes before Week 5. Despite the two new starters – left guard Alex Lewis and right tackle Chuma Edoga – the Jets gave up 10 sacks to the Eagles. For a team that has seen two quarterbacks go down, this made a third consecutive Jets game nearly unwatchable. One of those sacks resulted in a touchdown, with Eagles in-season cornerback acquisition Orlando Scandrick ripping the ball from Luke Falk and sprinting for a touchdown. The Jets last allowed 10-plus sacks in a 2012 game against the Chargers, when another backup quarterback – Greg McElroy – was concussed. Falk made it through this game but again finished with a dreadful stat line – 15-for-26, 120 yards, two interceptions. The Jets cannot be properly evaluated until Sam Darnold returns, but their stretch without him exposed plenty of flaws that stand to hinder the starter’s development when he comes back. GAME GRADE: F | NEXT: vs. Cowboys (Sun.)
— Sam Robinson
EAGLES (3-2): Philly was more or less on autopilot in what was always an expected win. The offense (446 yards) plowed through New York with a run-heavy opening drive to take a touchdown lead. From there, the Eagles’ defense forced the turnovers, including a 52-yard pick-six by linebacker NATE GERRY on the ensuing Jets possession, that have been missing in their early season struggles. Still, a big part of being a playoff team is taking care of business when you have the opportunity, so that’s an encouraging sign for an Eagles team that has been erratic and faces a difficult six-week stretch ahead (at Vikings, at Cowboys, at Bills, vs. Bears, vs. Patriots, vs. Seahawks). GAME GRADE: A | NEXT: at Vikings (Sun.)
— Mike Tunison
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MONDAY: CLEVELAND AT SAN FRANCISCO
BROWNS (2-2): Cleveland got a huge win in Week 4 at Baltimore, but the Ravens no longer have a strong pass-rushing defense. The Browns’ troubled offensive line is going to face a far stiffer challenge on the road against the Niners, who are coming off a bye. It isn’t getting the national credit, but San Francisco’s defensive front is among the best in football. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa has just one sack, but he is stout. Keeping BAKER MAYFIELD clean should prove to be the most challenging aspect of this game for the Browns. The second-year QB is much more effective when he gets rid of the ball quickly. | NEXT: vs. Seattle (Sun., Oct. 13)
— Matt Williamson
49ERS (3-0): San Francisco comes off an early bye week with a chance to start asserting itself as the team to beat in the NFC West. There will be no worries about looking past the Browns, even with a road showdown with the Rams looming in Week 6. The Niners’ defensive front has been a major strength so far this season, with the team ranking fifth in the league against the run and fourth in yards per carry allowed. It will face their toughest test of the season in the form of Nick Chubb and the Browns, who found their stride against Baltimore in Week 4. Arik Armstead, Ronald Blair, DeForest Buckner and Nick Bosa have been productive in terms of generating tackles for loss, and have consistently forced opponents to play from behind the sticks. NEXT: at Los Angeles Rams (Sun., Oct. 13)
DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average): A method of evaluating teams, units or players in a comparative fashion. It takes every play during the NFL season and compares each to a league-average baseline based on situation.
EPA (Estimated Points Added): The measure of a play’s impact on the score of the game. It represents the difference between a team’s “expected points value” (the net point value a team can expect given a particular combination of down, distance and field position) before and after a play.
Net Yards Per Pass Attempt: Passing yards per attempt adjusted for sack yardage.
L.A. Rams (3-1) at Seattle (3-1), 8:20 p.m. ET
Inside Rams numbers: Wade Phillips’ secondary started the season red-hot, allowing the league’s third-lowest passer rating through three weeks (66.2). All that success went out the window in Week 4, as Jameis Winston shredded the Rams for 385 yards and four touchdowns, dropping Los Angeles to seventh in opponent passer rating (81). A return to form will be essential against Russell Wilson, who ranks second in passer rating (118.7), behind only Patrick Mahomes.
Inside Rams roster: Todd Gurley’s situation shows the importance of running backs signing extensions when first eligible (after Year 3). He has not looked like the near-MVP-level version of 2017 and most of ‘18, making his $45 million in guarantees more important. The 24-year-old back is on pace for fewer rushing yards than his disappointing 2016 season (885 yards) and, with 62 receiving yards, is well off his recent aerial pace as well. This murky knee injury will come up in future front office debates regarding running back payments; the Rams are tethered to Gurley through at least 2021.
Inside Seahawks numbers: Seattle’s pass rush picked up only one sack in Weeks 2-3, but it came back to life in Week 4 with four sacks against Arizona’s Kyler Murray. As Seattle aims to slow a Rams offense ranked sixth in scoring (29.3 ppg), the generation of that level of pressure is key. Jared Goff has stayed clean, taking a career-low sack rate of just 4.4 percent — the ninth-best mark in the league.
Inside Seahawks roster: The insider trading charge Mychal Kendricks pleaded guilty to in 2018 has not led to a punishment yet, with the sentencing date pushed back multiple times. Not only is Kendricks a Seahawks starter, the team is using him as a near-full-time player. The Seahawks have played Kendricks 199 snaps -– not far behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright’s workloads -– and have deviated from the NFL norm by keeping their base set on the field in some nickel situations. The ex-Eagle has four tackles for loss and rates as a top-30 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.
Jacksonville (2-2) at Carolina (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Jaguars numbers: The legend of Gardner Minshew continues to grow. The Washington State product is the first rookie quarterback since 1988 to post a passer rating of 95.0 or better in each of his first three starts. His next test will be perhaps his greatest yet; the Panthers are fifth in pass defense EPA and allow the fewest passing yards per game (156.8).
Inside Jaguars roster: Minshew mania moved D.J. Chark to the top of Jacksonville’s aerial pecking order, but the team’s highest-paid wideout, Marqise Lee, has hovered well off the grid. He signed an $8.5 million-per-year deal in March 2018. After Lee missed last season with a knee injury, the Jags’ 2016 receiving leader has not cleared the 30 percent snap threshold in his three 2019 games. Lee has caught one pass since signing this contract, which counts $8.75M on Jacksonville’s 2019 cap sheet. This deal is on the sunk-cost precipice.
Inside Panthers numbers: Carolina’s defense is outstanding, allowing the second-fewest yards per play (4.3) and fourth-fewest yards per game (287.5). It ranks ninth in fewest points allowed per drive (1.63) and 10th in total defensive EPA. A dominant pass rush is the driving force: The Panthers lead the NFL with a sack rate of 11.3 percent (with 18 sacks total). The Carolina front seven could tee off on Jacksonville, which allowed five sacks to a Denver defense that had none over the first three weeks.
Inside Panthers roster: Carolina’s improved defense will not feature perhaps its second-best player; Kawann Short is out for the season. The mammoth defensive tackle has only missed four games since arriving as a 2013 fifth-round pick -– two in 2018 and the Panthers’ most recent two -– and this stands to lower Carolina’s defensive ceiling. However, the Panthers are oddly well-stocked to pick up the pieces, having signed Dontari Poe in 2018 and Gerald McCoy this year. Additionally, 2016 first-round pick Vernon Butler –- a seldom-used talent –- may have a chance to shed the “bust” label in a contract year.
New England (4-0) at Washington (0-4), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Patriots numbers: New England’s opponents have thrown no touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Patriots are the first team since the 1961 Packers to allow no touchdowns and pick off at least 10 passes over their first four games of the season. The Redskins have nine turnovers and 18 points in the past two games.
Inside Patriots roster: On the heels of one of the worst games of Tom Brady’s career, the legendary passer will have a deeper complement of weapons Sunday. Benjamin Watson returns from a four-game suspension and is set to become the first pure tight end in NFL history to play in an age-39 season. The Patriots have four receptions from tight ends this season. The 16th-year veteran was a decent auxiliary weapon for Drew Brees last season, catching 46 passes for 400 yards.
Inside Redskins numbers: Jay Gruden forced Dwayne Haskins into his first NFL action as the team was getting blown out by the Giants, and predictably, the rookie struggled, tossing three picks on just 17 pass attempts. The Redskins must think twice before starting Haskins against the Patriots, whose defense ranks second in the league in quarterback hits (32) and has allowed the league’s lowest passer rating (41.0). A rookie quarterback has not defeated the Patriots since Geno Smith in October 2013.
Inside Redskins roster: Trent Williams is now the league’s lone holdout. With Washington almost certainly set for its first 0-5 record in 18 years, it would make sense to unload its disgruntled left tackle for draft compensation. Missing out on nearly $3 million in salary this season, the seven-time Pro Bowler has shown no signs of backing down. It would make sense if the Redskins made a deal soon, with Williams losing value the longer he sits out (thus limiting the number of games he can play with another team). Nearly $20M in non-guaranteed money remains on his through-2020 deal.
Tampa Bay (2-2) at New Orleans (3-1), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Buccaneers numbers: Jameis Winston is having a career renaissance under Bruce Arians, with career-highs in touchdown percentage (6.5 percent), yards per attempt (8.4), yards per game (291.8), and passer rating (95.8). A trip to the Superdome may not be as daunting as it seemed before the season. Winston, who entered 2019 with 12 consecutive road losses, is 2-0 away from Tampa under Arians, throwing five touchdowns and just one interception in those games.
Inside Buccaneers roster: Chris Godwin’s breakout has been as advertised so far; the Bucs’ No. 2 wideout’s yardage total (386) is third best in the league. Bruce Arians’ offense did not have this kind of weapon in Arizona; Michael Floyd and John Brown were not quite on this level. This not only raises the floor for Tampa Bay’s offense, it sets Godwin up for a payday. The third-year receiver becomes extension-eligible in January, and his 1,500-plus-yard pace would put the former third-round pick in line for WR1 money. With Mike Evans the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid wideout, this is an interesting situation/good problem for the Bucs.
Inside Saints numbers: New Orleans needs more downfield playmaking from Teddy Bridgewater. His average completed pass has traveled only 3.7 yards, 33rd out of 34 qualifiers (ahead of only Mason Rudolph). This may not be the week it happens, as Tampa Bay’s Shaquil Barrett could prevent Bridgewater from getting enough time to push the ball downfield. His nine sacks ties the league record for the most through four games.
Inside Saints roster: Only two players remain from the Saints’ 2016 starting defense, defensive end Cam Jordan and safety Vonn Bell. That unit was the last of New Orleans’ three awful defenses, which ranked either 32nd or 31st from 2014-16. The Saints’ win over the Cowboys showed how far this reconstruction effort has come, with this defensive cast thus far stabilizing the Saints while Drew Brees rehabs. This bevy of rookie contracts (Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Marcus Davenport), trades (Eli Apple, Kiko Alonso) and free- agency adds (Demario Davis) assembled since 2017 represents one of the better defensive overhauls in modern NFL history.
Minnesota (2-2) at N.Y. Giants (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Vikings numbers: Kirk Cousins continues to struggle against quality competition since his arrival in Minnesota. His loss to the Bears dropped him to 1-8 against teams with a winning record as a member of the Vikings. A less intimidating Giants team could be less of a problem, as Cousins tends to get the job done against lesser teams. With Minnesota, Cousins owns a 9-1-1 record against teams without a winning record, posting an average passer rating of 108.1 in those games.
Inside Vikings roster: Scrutiny has rightfully been applied to Minnesota’s passing game, the focus being on Cousins and his highly paid receivers. But the Vikings’ decision to add a Kyle Rudolph extension to their ultra-expensive roster, after drafting Irv Smith Jr. in Round 2, looks even more puzzling now. Through five games, the NFL’s fourth-highest-paid tight end ($9 million per year) has five receptions for 32 yards. Rudolph is on pace to post 506 fewer yards than he had last season.
Inside Giants numbers: The Giants had one of their best defensive performances in ages in Week 4. They held the Redskins to 176 yards and forced four turnovers, the first time since 2008 New York has held an opponent to under 200 yards and taken the ball away four times or more. The unit’s opponent in Week 5, Cousins, is 1-5 in his past six road starts.
Inside Giants roster: New York’s passing game has frequently featured suboptimal balance. Tight end stability proved elusive between Jeremy Shockey and Evan Engram and wide receiver unavailability has persisted over the past two-plus years. Golden Tate is set to debut in Week 5 after his four-game PED suspension, giving Daniel Jones a better-rounded aerial cast. For the 31-year-old Tate, these will be a pivotal 12 games. Although he signed for four years and $37.5M, the PED ban voided his 2020 guarantee ($7.97M).
Chicago (3-1) vs. Oakland (2-2) in LONDON, 1 p.m. ET
Inside Bears numbers: Chicago’s defense is back on the mountaintop in the NFC, leading the conference in fewest points allowed per drive (1.09). Khalil Mack continues to be the driving force, as he is tied with Danielle Hunter for the NFL lead in total pressures (27). Oakland’s tackle duo will provide a strong challenge for Mack. Left tackle Trent Brown and right tackle Kolton Miller have combined to allow only 13 pressures this season, an average of 3.3 per game between the pair.
Inside Bears roster: Shrugging off four-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s exit, the No. 2-ranked Chicago defense has Pro Bowl-caliber talent on all three levels. It is worth wondering if lower-ceiling, game manager-type backup Chase Daniel, who is in line to start in England, complements this menacing unit better than the more erratic Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have seen a volatile starter hold a stacked defense back, as Rex Grossman once did, and their latest look with Daniel may be more important to the big picture.
Inside Raiders numbers: Rookie Josh Jacobs ranks 10th in the league in rush attempts (62) and ninth in rushing yards (307). He’s done it efficiently, averaging five yards per attempt. Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook are the only other backs averaging 5.0-plus yards per attempt on at least 60 carries. Chicago’s ground defense will be a major test for Jacobs, as the Bears are ranked second in fewest yards allowed per rush attempt (3.0) and third in rush defense EPA.
Inside Raiders roster: Oakland gave two veteran linebackers mid-level deals this offseason, but Brandon Marshall failed to make the team and Vontaze Burfict may have exhausted his final opportunity. Burfict’s rest-of-season suspension comes after the Raiders placed backup middle linebacker Marquel Lee on IR. The rest of Oakland’s contingent consists of outside linebackers, though starting outside ‘backer Tahir Whitehead has played in the middle before. More importantly, Burfict’s loss leaves the Raiders with a host of lower-level players –- one of whom set to join Whitehead in sub-packages.
N.Y. Jets (0-3) at Philadelphia (2-2), 1 p.m. ET
Inside Jets numbers: Adam Gase’s injury-plagued offense is historically inept. For the first time in franchise history, the Jets have only one offensive touchdown through the first three games of the season. Their average of 3.67 net yards per pass attempt is the worst mark through three games since the 2006 Raiders (who finished 2-14). Things do not get easier in Week 5, as the Jets hit the road to take on the only franchise they have never beaten (0-10 all time vs. Philadelphia).
Inside Jets roster: With Joe Douglas addition Ryan Kalil struggling, and Mike Maccagnan trade acquisition Kelechi Osemele battling a knee issue that limited him last season, a full-scale Jets offensive line overhaul may be months away. Returning starters Kelvin Beachum, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell are again scuffling, after being part of one of the league’s worst lines in 2018. Three starters (Kalil, Beachum and Shell) are due for free agency, and Winters’ contract would cost the Jets $0 to shed.
Inside Eagles numbers: In its two wins, Philadelphia has zero turnovers. In its two losses, it has five combined. The Jets are good at forcing turnovers. They have three non-offensive touchdowns and a safety, and have forced a turnover on 15.8 percent of defensive drives.
Inside Eagles roster: One team reportedly offered the Jaguars two first-round picks for Jalen Ramsey, and it wouldn’t be out of character for Eagles GM Howie Roseman to swing big. If the Jaguars prefer to keep that contentious relationship alive, would the Eagles consider calling the 0-4 Broncos about contract-year standout Chris Harris? Either way, this is a problem the Eagles may need to address. Philadelphia ranks last in pass defense (323.8 yards allowed per game), winding up there after Roseman made big investments to strengthen stronger positions in the offseason.
Denver (0-4) at L.A. Chargers (2-2), 4:05 p.m. ET
Inside Broncos numbers: Denver’s run defense is atrocious, allowing the third-most yards per attempt (5.1) and yards per game (149.3). The loss of Bradley Chubb for the season will not help, as he was leading the team with 15 tackles short of the sticks in the run game. Melvin Gordon may return to his bell-cow role for Los Angeles, but the Broncos have held him to 3.7 yards per carry over six matchups.
Inside Broncos roster: Von Miller already sees a steady volume of double-teams and chip blocks; Chubb’s ACL tear will make the All-Pro a marked man. The Broncos let longtime rotational rushers Shaquil Barrett and Shane Ray sign elsewhere, though Ray is again a free agent, and have no notable veteran replacements. Undrafted rookie Malik Reed is the next man up for a Broncos team that entered Week 4 without a sack. Denver did add journeyman Jerry Attaochu this week but is in danger of its pass rush becoming more one-dimensional than it has at any point in Miller’s tenure.
Inside Chargers numbers: Philip Rivers continues to engineer a top-notch passing attack, as the Chargers rank fourth in net yards per pass attempt (7.6) and sixth in pass offense EPA. While this is not the Broncos defense of old, Rivers has not played his best football against Denver. His 88.8 passer rating against the Broncos is his sixth-worst mark against a franchise.
Inside Chargers roster: If the Bolts’ all-fronts injury issues were not noticeable enough, their punter is now less than 100 percent. Ty Long, a CFL import asked to kick and punt in his initial NFL season because of kicker Michael Badgley’s injury, hurt his foot on a kickoff. The Chargers signed rookie Chase McLaughlin this week, sending Long to the punter-only role for which he was signed. McLaughlin will be the Bolts’ eighth kicker since the start of the 2017 season.
Green Bay (3-1) at Dallas (3-1), 4:25 p.m. ET
Inside Packers numbers: In Week 4,Green Bay scored only three touchdowns on seven red zone trips in the loss to the Eagles. It was a reversion to the mean for Matt LaFleur’s offense, which had scored touchdowns on six of its first seven red zone trips. The Packers must get back on track against Dallas, which has allowed the league’s third-lowest red-zone touchdown rate (35.7 percent).
Inside Packers roster: Set for one of their toughest-looking assignments this season, the Packers may be forced to find out more about Davante Adams’ young assortment of sidekicks. Adams’ turf toe places him in jeopardy of missing this Cowboys matchup, leaving Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison set to lead what would be the least experienced group of receivers with which Aaron Rodgers has been equipped as a Packer. Neither of Valdes-Scantling’s 2018 draft classmates, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore, are on the active roster.
Inside Cowboys numbers: In Week 4, the Saints stifled Ezekiel Elliott, as he ran for just 35 yards (third-lowest total of career) and 1.9 yards per attempt (second lowest). Elliott has been successful against Green Bay, averaging 136.5 rushing yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry in his last two games against the Packers. Green Bay ranks 30th in rush defense EPA and has allowed the fourth-most yards per rush attempt (5.0).
Inside Cowboys roster: One of several veteran defensive ends who left Miami this offseason, Robert Quinn has made an immediate impression on his third NFL team. The trade acquisition who missed the Cowboys’ first two games due to suspension has a team-high three sacks, two against upper-echelon tackle Terron Armstead. Quinn did not live up to the Rams extension he signed in 2014, a contract that’s since been traded twice, but the ninth-year veteran is only 29. DeMarcus Lawrence should soon benefit from a talented veteran opposite him.
Indianapolis (2-2) at Kansas City (4-0), 8:20 p.m. ET
Inside Colts numbers: The Colts’ defense is disappointing, ranking 29th in points allowed per drive (2.53). Its pass rush has collected only 18 quarterback hits, tied for 23rd in the league. More was expected from Justin Houston, who has just one sack and three hits heading into a matchup against his former team. A Chiefs offense allowing a league-low sack rate of 1.9 percent makes this a daunting matchup for Indianapolis.
Inside Colts roster: After the franchise’s worst performance since the early part of 2018, Indianapolis’ defense ranks last in run-stoppage DVOA. The Colts finished last season fourth in this metric. Last season, Indianapolis enjoyed strong play from bargain-buy defensive linemen Denico Autry and Margus Hunt. A former first-round pick, Hunt has disappointed so far, grading as PFF’s No. 102 interior defender. Three of the Colts’ seven second-round picks over the past two years have gone to the D-line as well, but this is an issue the team must address this week and during its Week 6 bye.
Inside Chiefs numbers: The Chiefs continue to get clutch rushing production no matter who is taking the handoff. Since Damien Williams went down, LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams have combined for five touchdowns, including all three scored by the offense in Week 4. The duo could tee off on a Colts defense allowing the second-most yards per rush attempt (5.5).
Inside Chiefs roster: Cris Collinsworth may take issue with some of Sunday night’s run defense. The Chiefs’ issues are more troublesome than the Colts’, having gone from 32nd in 2017 run-defense DVOA to 32nd in 2018 to 31st this season. Kansas City made a surprising defensive coordinator hire in Steve Spagnuolo, who has seen four of his past five defenses rank 31st or 32nd in yards allowed. Considering where the Patriots are defensively, the Chiefs’ Bob Sutton-to-Spagnuolo switch producing these results so far is rather alarming.
Cleveland (2-2) at San Francisco (3-0), 8:15 p.m. ET
Inside Browns numbers: In Week 4 against Baltimore, Odell Beckham had a career-low 20 yards receiving, but the Browns’ offense finally broke out with 40 points. To repeat their success, the Browns will likely need more from their superstar against the 49ers’ lockdown secondary, which has allowed the league’s third-lowest passer rating (72.7).
Inside Browns roster: After a rough start, Baker Mayfield will have a better chance to continue his rejuvenation. The Browns will have suspended wideout Antonio Callaway back, and their other second-stringer, Rashard Higgins, has a chance to play as well after missing three games with an ankle ailment. Both players cleared 500 yards on last season’s Jarvis Landry-led receiving corps.
Inside 49ers numbers: Jimmy Garoppolo is 11-2 as a starter, joining Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott as the only quarterbacks over the past decade to win 11 of their first 13 career starts. Garoppolo’s offense is off to a hot start, ranking ninth in points per drive (2.25). After facing two struggling defenses (Bengals and Steelers), Garoppolo should get a good test from the Browns’ pass defense. Cleveland ranks eighth in fewest passing yards allowed per game (215.3) and pass defense EPA.
Inside 49ers roster: Ahkello Witherspoon’s bounce-back play has been essential for San Francisco’s rebounding secondary. Richard Sherman’s running mate was given PFF’s worst cornerback grade in 2018 but stands in the top 15 through three games. Unfortunately, a foot injury will keep Witherspoon out Monday night and potentially blunt the third-year defender’s momentum. Second-year undrafted free agent Emmanuel Moseley, the likely starter opposite Sherman, will be in line to defend Beckham at times.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Still the consensus top player on the board, Bosa would make quite the bookend opposite Chandler Jones in Arizona. More likely, the Cardinals will trade down to a quarterback-needy team, and Bosa’s draft spot will fall as a result.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
The 49ers are hoping to finish developing a dominant defensive line with former first-round picks DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, and Williams could be the final piece. The youthful defensive tackle has jumped up draft boards after finishing with eight sacks and 71 tackles in his sophomore season at Alabama.
3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky
The Jets are encouraged by Sam Darnold’s rookie development, but the value in this spot is on defense. Allen put himself in the conversation as the top pick in the draft after recording 17 sacks in his final season with the Wildcats.
4. Oakland Raiders: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
The Raiders are in a position to take the best player available, and that very well could be Oliver. His stock has dropped slightly after missing time last season with a knee injury, but he still has dominant pass-rushing potential after recording 13.5 sacks and 53 tackles for loss in three seasons for the Cougars.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU
Bruce Arians has been hired to fix Jameis Winston, and wide receiver could be a path if DeSean Jackson isn’t back for 2019. However, the value here is better on defense, and White could potentially replace Kwon Alexander, who suffered a torn ACL last season and is set for free agency.
6. New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Haskins still looks like the top quarterback on the board, but he probably won’t fall this far if recent history of teams trading up for signal-callers in the draft is any indication. If the Giants see Haskins as Eli Manning’s replacement, there are plenty of trade-up possibilities.
Jaguars could be in the market for a quarterback, but more likely they’ll be looking at the available veterans (Nick Foles, Joe Flacco) with a roster just one year removed from an AFC championship appearance. If that does happen, protecting the investment will be the priority, and Williams could join former Alabama teammate Cam Robinson to give Jacksonville two solid, young tackles in Jacksonville.
8. Detroit Lions: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
It looks like the Lions could be a full rebuild with the way they’ve been trending under head coach Matt Patricia over the last year. Detroit acquired Damon Harrison last year, and Gary would further shore up Patricia’s defense after recording 9.5 sacks in 22 games over the last two seasons.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
The retirement of Kyle Williams leaves big shoes to fill in Buffalo. Simmons has the skills to fit well next to run-stuffer Star Lotulelei in the 4-3, with seven sacks and 30 tackles for loss over the last two seasons.
10. Denver Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Denver has been connected so much to Lock that it’s almost creepy, and at this point they could be required to use significant draft capital to trade up for him, with the possibility that another team could trade up in the top 10 to get him. Lock made nice progress at Mizzou last season, but his accuracy on short throws is still a question mark.
Almost every NFL coach knows when they’re hired that they will eventually be fired. Judgment day for head coaches is better known as Black Monday, the Monday after Week 17 games when some head coaches are handed their pink slips.
Here’s a look at the coaches with the most to fear as we near the final stretch of the regular season.
Todd Bowles, New York Jets
It’s somewhat surprising that Bowles has held on for this long. Not much was expected of his team this year with a rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold, but the team still has played below expectations at 3-8 through 12 weeks. After going 10-6 in his first season as head coach in 2015, Bowles’ teams went 5-11 in back-to-back years. With Darnold continuing to develop, the Jets will likely want an offensive-minded head coach to lead them next.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Harbaugh’s fate is still very much up in the air and could be determined by whether the Ravens earn an AFC Wild Card spot. Like in the last two seasons, Baltimore has a shot to make the playoffs but needs to close the deal. The defense sputtered a bit after the team started the season 0-2, but three consecutive wins with rookie Lamar Jackson under center have given fans hope. Harbaugh will be remembered fondly for winning Super Bowl XLVII no matter what happens, but four straight seasons without a playoff appearance would simply be unacceptable.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
In any other organization, Lewis would have been gone after last season, but the Bengals have been especially loyal to him after he brought competitive football back to Cincinnati in the mid-2000s. He has a winning record for his career with the team but is 0-7 in the playoffs, including losses in five straight seasons from 2011-15. On the cusp of their third straight playoff-less season, after losing Andy Dalton to a thumb injury, it’s clearly time for the Bengals to move on.
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars
What goes up must come down. The Jaguars lost the AFC Championship to the Patriots in a thriller last season, but they’ve regressed to 3-8 through 11 games this year, finally benching Blake Bortles as a result. There have also been signs that Marrone has lost the team, from the brawl against Buffalo that resulted in a one-game suspension for Leonard Fournette to the seemingly hapless cornerback Jalen Ramsey this year. Marrone already fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, and the team certainly will be in the market for a new quarterback this offseason. Whether they’re also in the market for a new head coach remains to be seen.
Because few actually abide by the “legal tampering period” rules, the meatiest portion of free agency can strike at any time. For those on the east coast, that meant waking up to a flurry of major deals on Tuesday morning in addition to four inches of snow. Case Keenum, Sammy Watkins and Andrew Norwell were off the market before some West Coast general managers went to bed. While there are still some remaining tidbits, like how the Steelers will resolve their near future with Le’Veon Bell and where remaining players like A.J. McCarron land, the opening bell was an early climax.
Here are the biggest acquisitions thus far and how we think they graded out (in reverse-chronological order):
With about $60 million to spend this offseason, the Titans jump into the deep end on Day One of this NFL free agency extravaganza and sign Malcolm Butler, bringing the former Patriots Super Bowl hero (and, in later years, scapegoat) to New England South. New head coach Mike Vrabel gets a cover corner who, while not cheap, is hopefully desperate to prove that whatever nebulous offenses ended his career in New England were the act of a tyrannical head coach and not the faults of a rule-bending player.
Butler and new teammate Logan Ryan played well together in New England for three seasons and should resume a strong working relationship in the back end of Tennessee’s secondary. The Titans, as Tom Brady proved in the playoffs last year, are not just one cornerback away from taking the AFC South and marching toward a conference title game. However, the more versatile and capable cover corners a team has, the better they’ll fare against the class of the AFC.
The reported length and dollar amounts of these contracts should not sway opinion—as NFL Network reported, Butler gets about half of the $61 million in guarantees. If a team like the Titans is in contention, they should spend the money. This doesn’t have to be a long marriage if Butler declines a bit as he did toward the end of his Patriot tenure.
I was surprised to see the immediate backlash on Twitter after a season when McCown played at replacement level (and at times far above) for the Jets in 2017. A one-year, $10-million deal is easily absorbed by a team that has almost $90 million in cap space, and having an easy-going personality like McCown in the locker room makes it simple to still sign someone like Teddy Bridgewater and draft a rookie at No. 6.
In a move that has seemingly been coming down the pike for a while now, the New York Jets released defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson on Wednesday. The Jets announced the move via their official Twitter account.
We have released DL Muhammad Wilkerson. pic.twitter.com/NhLfoREpLK
— New York Jets (@nyjets) February 28, 2018
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported in December that Wilkerson expected to be released this offseason after his relationship with the team had deteriorated over the last few years.
Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets’ highest paid player, is virtually certain to be elsewhere next season, with the relationship between him and the team in disarray and both parties bracing for a split this offseason. Wilkerson was left home from a recent road trip for being late, something he’s been fined for frequently in the past, and may not play again this season, though he did return to practice last week.
Wilkerson signed a five-year, $86 million deal in 2016 and his 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 16. It would be beyond shocking if he is not gone by then, though the Jets are not in a rush to make any decisions at this point.
The Jets saved $11 million on their 2018 books by cutting ties with Wilkerson before his March 16 guarantee date. Wilkerson had become a star over his first few seasons in the league, recording 301 tackles and 36.5 sacks during his first five years with the Jets. Things started going downhill for him both on and off the field during the 2016 campaign, and it culminated in this release.
He should have a fairly robust market for his services this offseason, as there are surely teams that will believe they can tap back into his talent and do it without the headaches that he had in New York.
Super Bowl LII just ended. The Philadelphia Eagles are still celebrating. But that’s not what matters here.
You wake this morning to face a stretch of seven painful, football-free months. The 2018 season is more than a half-year away, and you’re already aching to see what happens next.
We’ve got you covered.
For the third year in a row, we have looked into our crystal ball and foreseen many of the key events of the next NFL season, so you don’t have to wait. As you know from reading this column the past two years, all 10 of these predictions are absolutely, 100 percent guaranteed to come true.
Now, get to reading while I excuse myself to go scrub the internet clean of the past two years’ editions of this column. Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2018 NFL season:
1. Free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins signs with the Jets
It’s a six-year, $186 million contracts with $100 million in guarantees, including $75 million fully guaranteed at signing. The Jets outbid the Browns, Jaguars and division-rival Bills for Cousins, who becomes the highest-paid player in NFL history after hitting the market following two seasons as Washington’s franchise player. He then leads the Jets to a 10-6 record and a wild-card playoff spot.
2. Odell Beckham Jr. sits out at least one regular-season game
Beckham’s contract situation is going to be a tricky one for the Giants, who hold a 2018 option on him and aren’t in a hurry to give him the extension he wants coming off an ankle injury that cost him almost the entire 2017 season.
Uninterested in taking the field without a new deal, Beckham stays in California throughout training camp and, Aaron Donald-style, sits out the season opener in protest. New coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Eli Manning continue to insist they can get by with Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as their top receiving options — and are wrong.