AROUND THE NFL

Tale of two states.

 

After Week 3 of the 2018 season, the three Florida teams were a combined 7-2, since then they have gone 4-14.

 

After Week 3 of the 2018 season, the two Texas teams were a combined 1-5, since then they have gone 12-3.  Actually, it is 11-2 against teams outside the state since there was a 19-16 overtime win for Houston over Dallas in Week 5.

– – –

Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com wasn’t happy with the results when the NFL put a scramble all-star crew on display last Monday:

 

In an attempt to engineer a perfect game Monday night, the NFL simply overthought it by mixing and matching its officiating crew with top-performing officials.

 

Fortunately for us all, the unprecedented decision did not impact the outcome of an otherwise spectacular matchup in the Los Angeles Rams’ 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

The net effect, however, was still not positive and served as a reminder of why most officials prefer to work in their assigned crews. If this was a test run for future assignments, it should be shelved immediately.

 

The game was tightly called, producing the third-highest total of penalties in a game (26, including five that were declined) this season. There were some moments of confusion, as there are in every game, most notably when referee Clete Blakeman’s crew charged Chiefs coach Andy Reid with a timeout when he was pointing out that a ball had been tipped. And there was at least one big play, a 7-yard third-quarter touchdown run by Rams quarterback Jared Goff, that produced the type of granular scrutiny the league was trying to avoid. (Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein appeared to rise from his stance prior to the snap, but nothing was called.)

 

Worse, the implication that Monday’s assembled crew was best qualified for the job suggests that the officials originally assigned to the game — led by referee Jerome Boger — were not. Boger and some members of his crew were reassigned to Sunday’s game between the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals, who had a combined 3-15 record entering the week.

 

Was that matchup, and those teams, less important to the NFL? Probably. Should the NFL signal it so obviously? No. On Twitter, former NFL referee Terry McAulay wrote that he was “thoroughly disheartened” at the “perception that some officials are ‘stars’ and some are not worthy,” inferring that the league is employing officials it does not fully trust.

 

I understand what the NFL was trying to accomplish. You don’t have to go further than the 2015 season, when a series of high-profile officiating gaffes in prime-time games rained criticism on the league. It wouldn’t have taken much — an inadvertent whistle here, a clock error there — to distract from what proved to be a historically entertaining game. The NFL wanted to minimize the chance for a major mistake. It surely wanted to avoid a flag fest as well, and Blakeman entered the game averaging 13.9 flags per game with his usual crew, sixth fewest in the league.

 

But the decision to use members of four different crews was a distraction in itself. In addition to spurring questions about the officials who were reassigned, it probably contributed to the flag frequency rather than tamping it down.

 

The 26 penalties not only doubled Blakeman’s 2018 average but were the most called by a crew he led since at least the start of the 2012 season, according to the ESPN Stats & Information database. In those seven seasons, a span of 100 games, Blakeman had been involved in only seven games that produced 20 or more flags.

 

It’s only fair to point out that the Chiefs entered the game, and departed it, with the most team penalties in the league (116) by far. The next-highest team (the Cleveland Browns) has 93. Teams have as much to do with penalty frequency as do officials. But it’s not unreasonable to think that officials called in to provide “all-star” work err on the side of throwing flags. Monday night’s crew did so 10 times in the first quarter alone.

 

In comments on their “Last Call” show for Fox Sports, former NFL officiating chiefs Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino noted the extra pressure the assignment would bring. It meant that any possible mistake — and they happen in every single game — would be more heavily scrutinized. If the intent was to import a crew that would “let them play” and allow the game to speak for itself, it produced the opposite result.

 

The NFL has not explained its decision to veer from its practice of keeping regular-season crews largely intact. There are individual scheduling changes in every season, sometimes because of illness or logistics and occasionally for performance reasons, as noted by NFL spokesman Michael Signora in a statement Sunday. But before Monday night, full mix-and-matching hadn’t occurred until the playoffs. Pereira, in fact, said he couldn’t remember seeing more than two replacement officials in a regular-season crew.

 

Speculation that the decision was related to the NFL’s original plans to play the game in Mexico City strike me as naïve. This wasn’t a matter of passports or international travel. The NFL applied special treatment to its game of the year, hoping to create an ideal environment for flawless administration and good calls. But whatever it gained in competence it lost in credibility and process.

 

Most officials compare themselves to offensive linemen, who generally perform best among a familiar group of teammates. While it might sound good in theory, assembling a group of unacquainted officials is no less difficult than dropping five veteran offensive linemen onto a field and asking them to play together at a high level.

 

The NFL’s intent here was understandable but unrealistic, and it inadvertently revealed internal concerns about across-the-board competence. Hopefully this was a one-off decision for a unique game, with regular order soon to follow.

 

This from Mike Florio on another officiating matter:

 

With legalized sports wagering now spreading throughout the country, it’s more important than ever that the latter outcome be avoided.

 

It happened on Thursday, with Washington — an underdog in the range of seven to 7.5 points — trailing Dallas by 11 and driving for a score. Facing third and three from the Cowboys’ 13, quarterback Colt McCoy threw a pass to tight end Jordan Reed. He absorbed a vicious blow to the head from Cowboys safety Xavier Woods. It’s the kind of hit that has been flagged many times before, a byproduct of a sensitivity to head injuries that emerged in 2010.

 

Often, officials have penalized players for far less egregious hits, erring on the side of protecting players. The league has evolved away from using the term “erring,” since it implies a mistake. Regardless, the officials are supposed to be looking closely for these kinds of hits.

 

In this case, the officials flat-out missed it.

 

Washington settled for a field goal, an eight-point deficit, and an onside kick that failed. A foul would have given Washington a first and goal from the 6, and a fresh set of chances to score a touchdown that, in turn, would have allowed the road team to cover. The fact that the foul wasn’t called surely rankled those who risked their money on Washington plus the points.

 

It’s a tangible example of the challenge the NFL faces when it comes to legalized sports betting. Balanced against all the money the league and its owners will make in the coming years is the risk of tough questions being asked when blown calls result in millions of dollars changing hands. If enough tough questions are asked, changes will be imposed on the league by outside forces. Which means that the best play for the league will be to make the changes necessary to avoid situations like this.

 

When it comes to the rule regarding hits on defenseless receivers, the simplest solution becomes making the play subject to automatic replay review. Alternatively, the league office could assume the authority to mandate that the flag being thrown via the pipeline to the referee. Ideally, the league would embrace the concept of adding to the crew a video official, who would be responsible for giving the on-field officials real-time assistance in all aspects of calling a game, in the hopes of always getting it right.

 

Especially when the outcome of the game and/or the outcome of the bet is hinging on the decision. And especially when the tin-foil hat crowd will be looking for any and every reason to suggest that the fix is in, even though it never, ever is.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com on some of the accomplishments of the 2018 Bears:

 

Coach Matt Nagy has a word to describe the 2018 Chicago Bears: “special.”

 

“The Bears” and “special” haven’t appeared in the same sentence in some time, but Thursday’s victory over the Lions was Chicago’s third consecutive NFC North win in 12 days.

 

“I feel really, really good, because it is not easy in this tough division, when you’re facing these teams in the division that we’re in — that’s a tall task,” Nagy said. “And what I like about it is our guys — there was never any … excuses; there could’ve been a lot of excuses and feeling sorry for themselves. They didn’t do that. And when you have that — I’m starting to learn, as a head coach with this team, who we are, and it’s special. It really is, and I like where we’re at.”

 

The Bears further tightened their grip on the division by winning their eighth game of the season.

 

The Vikings (5-4-1) are three wins off the pace. Minnesota squares off with Green Bay (4-5-1) on Sunday night. If the Packers don’t reach the playoffs — which seems highly likely — the team appears to be headed for a major offseason shake-up.

 

The Lions (4-7), who won nine games last year, now look totally out of it under first-year coach Matt Patricia.

 

“They accepted my challenge of going 3-0 in 12 days against three division opponents,” Nagy said. “They did that; they can check that off.”

 

To put into perspective what Nagy and the Bears already have accomplished, Chicago did not win a single division game last year. Former coach John Fox won only three NFC North games throughout his entire tenure in Chicago.

 

The Bears, who last reached the playoffs in 2010, finished with the worst record in the division in each of the past four years.

 

That streak is over. The Bears now have the third-most wins of any team in the NFC.

 

With winnable games on the horizon against the Giants (next week) and San Francisco (late December), the Bears are poised to win 10 or more games for the first time since Lovie Smith’s final season in 2012.

 

 

DETROIT

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on the pickle in which GM Bob Quinn finds himself as it becomes certain the Lions will not improve their record in 2018.

 

Lions General Manager Bob Quinn made a strong statement when he fired head coach Jim Caldwell at the end of last season: 9-7 isn’t good enough.

 

Caldwell had gone 9-7 two consecutive years, and according to Quinn that simply wasn’t the kind of progress he wanted to see.

 

“I wanted to take this team to the next level,” Quinn said.

 

To take the Lions to the next level, Quinn hired his old friend Matt Patricia. Quinn worked for the Patriots from 2000 until the Lions hired him in 2016, and Patricia worked for the Patriots from 2004 until Quinn gave him the Lions job this year, so the two go back a long time. Patrica, according to Quinn, was the coach who would take the Lions to the next level.

 

And now, after the Lions’ Thanksgiving loss to the Bears, they’re 4-7. The Lions can finish no better than 9-7 this year, and given that they’ll be heavy underdogs against the Rams next week, they’re highly likely to clinch a worse record than the 9-7 mark that got Caldwell fired.

 

So how safe is Patrica’s job now?

 

The answer is probably that Patricia is safe. If Quinn were to fire Patricia after one year, Quinn would be admitting a huge mistake of his own, and that would be putting Quinn’s own job in jeopardy. The safest way for Quinn to keep his job is to hope that Patricia wins a few more games next year, when the Lions are playing a last-place schedule, and be able to claim his team is making progress.

 

But the reality is, it’s not progress until Patricia improves on the 9-7 record of the team he inherited, the 9-7 record that wasn’t good enough for Caldwell to keep his job. Patricia definitely isn’t going to do that this year, and he’s done little as a coach to inspire confidence he’ll do it next year, either.

 

 

GREEN BAY

The DB was wondering the other day, now that Olivia Munn is out of the life of QB AARON RODGERS, if there was more harmony in the quarterback’s relationship with his family.  Apparently not.  Chris Cwik of YahooSports.com:

 

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to have family drama. The 34-year-old was ripped by his brother Jordan on Twitter after pledging to donate $1 million to assist those impacted by the California wildfires.

 

Jordan Rodgers called out Aaron, accusing him of not getting in touch with his family as the wildfires approached their house.

 

@JRodgers11

 PLEASE DONATE, SPREAD AWARENESS & SEND LOVE.

 

But when your own Mom is home alone during the fires, car packed ready to evacuate, & you miss the fundamental first step of compassion; calling your parents to make sure they are safe….

 

Everything else just feels like an act.

 

@AaronRodgers12

Please take a minute to watch this and if you can, take a few seconds to retweet this using the #retweet4good

All the money goes to a great organization for the immediate needs and the recovery efforts for the #CampFireParadise

Thank you 🙏🏻 #ButteStrong #payitforward

 

According to Jordan Rodgers, Aaron did not reach out to his mother as she was preparing to evacuate the family’s house during the wildfires. Jordan Rodgers also said everything else Aaron does “just feels like an act.”

 

The family feud isn’t new. While on “The Bachelorette,” Jordan Rodgers revealed Aaron and the family had a falling out. Aaron Rodgers has declined to discuss the issue, saying he finds it inappropriate to talk publicly about “family matters.”

 

The family’s drama should add to an already pivotal week for the Packers. The team will take on the division rival Minnesota Vikings in Week 12. With the Packers sitting at 4-5-1, a loss could be devastating to their postseason chances.

 

We note that in his video, Rodgers said, “I personally reached out to my friends and the Mayor of Chico.”  The word “family” was not used at any point in the video, although he admits to having been “born and raised” there.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

WR AMARI COOPER continues to enhance the reputation of the Jones family to the detriment of Jon Gruden. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones traded a first-round draft pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper, he was criticized in part because Cooper is going to be a lot more expensive than any first-round pick: Cooper’s salary is $13.9 million next year, and then he hits free agency in 2020 unless the Cowboys lock him up with the franchise tag or a contract extension, either of which would be expensive.

 

But Jones said after watching Cooper’s big game in a Thanksgiving victory that he thinks Cooper is going to be worth the money he makes.

 

“That Amari looked like he’s making a bid for some cash,” Jones said.

 

There’s no doubt about that: The Cowboys are probably going to have to make Cooper one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL if they want to extend him this offseason. And soon Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will be in line for new contracts as well. The Cowboys hope they have a new version of “The Triplets,” and hope they’ll be able to afford good players around them with all the money those three players will cost.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the reaction of Coach Doug Pederson to some postgame comments after the Eagles were thrashed by the Saints:

 

In the past week, Eagles center Jason Kelce and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins have spoken publicly about issues with accountability and effort among the defending Super Bowl champions. Most would regard the remarks as an effort to point fingers at teammates. Eagles coach Doug Pederson doesn’t see it that way.

 

“You might take Malcolm’s comments as finger pointing or Kelce’s, it’s not,” Pederson told reporters on Wednesday. “They’re talking about themselves, too, right? They hold themselves accountable. I hold myself accountable, and then collectively we can do that as a group. I think that’s something that this team has really — I’ve seen that, and it’s hard to say that and maybe to get you to believe it, but I’ve seen it every single day with this group that comes in here and works their tail off to try to win a football game, as hard as that is in this league.”

 

At best, reasonable minds can differ on whether Kelce and Jenkins were bemoaning their own deficiencies with accountability or effort when going on the record with their concerns. At worst, they definitely weren’t admitting that they lack accountability or effort, but instead wondering aloud why others aren’t approaching the season they same way they are.

 

“They’re disappointed,” Pederson said. “We’re all disappointed. The season has not gone the way we anticipated coming out of training camp. So we continue to fight every single day in practice, come to work every single day, try to get better, put a great game plan together in all three phases and build towards Sunday. When it doesn’t go your way and then you have a game like that, it just — there’s going to be a lot of — which I have not seen, and this is one of the things I love about this football team, there isn’t a ton of finger pointing.”

 

Pederson seems to think finger pointing happens only when specific names are named. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between the assessments of Kelce/Jenkins and Pederson. And for good reason; Pederson knows it ultimately reflects poorly on him if the players aren’t accountability and/or lack effort.

 

There may be no cornerbacks to point fingers at this week.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Eagles have given some extra opportunities to some of their backup wide receivers in practice this week, but they weren’t catching passes from Carson Wentz.

 

Head coach Dough Pederson said at his Friday press conference that shortfalls in the secondary led the team to use wideouts for scout team defense work. The situation didn’t get any better as the week progressed either.

 

Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones all remained out of practice on Friday and their chances of playing this weekend don’t look great as a result. With Ronald Darby done for the year with a torn ACL, the Eagles would be left with Chandon Sullivan, Cre’Von LeBlanc and DeVante Bausby as the options at cornerback against the Giants on Sunday.

 

That’s not how you want to be lining up for a game under any circumstances and especially not when you’ve lost two straight games with any remaining hopes for the season slipping away in the process.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Hopefully T TRENT WILLIAMS is okay.  The AP:

 

Washington left tackle Trent Williams was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after getting hit in the chest but just missing one play in the Redskins’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Williams stayed on the ground along the sideline at the end of an 8-yard run by Kapri Bibbs in the third quarter of the Cowboys’ 31-23 victory Thursday.

 

The 30-year-old Williams missed the next play, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Trey Quinn, but returned for the next Washington series after a two-minute scoring drive by Dallas.

 

The six-time Pro Bowl player returned against the Cowboys after missing three games with a dislocated right thumb.

 

Coach Jay Gruden didn’t mention Williams in an update on injuries after the game.

– – –

Why would RB ADRIAN PETERSON say or do such a thing given his history and the state of play in America today?  Peter Dawson in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Apparently, Adrian Peterson hasn’t changed all that much.

 

The Redskins will visit the Dallas Cowboys in the running back’s home state of Texas on Thanksgiving.

 

Although Peterson is enjoying a resurgent season, new comments that he made to Bleacher Report may put his future NFL status in jeopardy.

 

Here’s what the ex-Oklahoma Sooners star told the outlet.

 

“I had to discipline my son and spank him the other day with a belt,” Peterson told Master Tesfatsion of Bleacher Report.

 

In 2014, Peterson, then a member of the Minnesota Vikings, was charged with felony child abuse. He eventually entered a plea deal to misdemeanor reckless assault.

 

As a result, the NFL suspended Peterson for the majority of the 2014 season.

 

Setting aside any potential legal consequences from Peterson’s latest statement, it’s possible he could face discipline from the NFL once again.

 

Here is a quote from the league office regarding the terms of Peterson’s reinstatement.

 

“The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision,” the league told Peterson in a 2014 letter. “Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement. You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”

 

In a previous letter from Roger Goodell to Peterson, the NFL commissioner said “You have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.”

 

The NFL has yet to issue a statement or comment on the story.

 

Now there are ways to spank, with or without a belt, that do not leave physical damage, unlike the switch Peterson used several years ago.  Still…

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The loss to the Saints means that the 4-7 Falcons cannot be NFC South champs.  And a Wild Card spot is unlikely as well.

 

It sounds like Coach Dan Quinn is safe as owner Arthur Blank recognizes the team’s crippling injuries.  Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com:

 

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave coach Dan Quinn a vote of confidence after Thursday’s 31-17 loss to the Saints dropped the Falcons to 4-7 and all but ended their playoff hopes.

 

Blank expressed total faith in Quinn, who guided the Falcons to the 2016 Super Bowl.

 

“Absolutely. We love our coach,” Blank told ESPN. “Our coach is not the problem.”

 

Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were rewarded with three-year extensions in July. They are signed through 2022.

 

The Falcons have been inconsistent throughout this season, starting 1-4, winning three straight to even their record, then dropping the past three games. Injuries have been an issue, with six starters placed on injured reserve, including Pro Bowlers Devonta Freeman, Keanu Neal and Deion Jones.

 

“It’s a reason, but it’s not an excuse,” Blank said of the injuries. “That’s what the coach would tell you. That’s what the players would tell you. There have been some crippling injuries, but other guys have stepped up and played the best they can. Some cases, that’s good enough. In some cases, not quite.”

 

Blank saw a simple reason behind the implosion in another loss to the rival Saints.

 

“I thought it was pretty obvious tonight: We had a few turnovers, which are always brutal,” Blank said. “To have four of them, it’s nearly impossible to win. And we couldn’t run the ball tonight, couldn’t stop the run. That’s the story of the game.”

 

Quinn implied on Thursday that there could be changes coming to the offensive line after a bad performance against the Saints.

 

The DB thought that Atlanta actually slowed down the Saints more than most teams had lately and if Atlanta’s offense had gotten the job done we would have had a game.  Hall of Famer-to-be MATT RYAN’s stats say 377 yards, 2 TDs and just 1 INT – but we have to admit we were underwhelmed by the results of the eye test to his performance.  A fumble, several bad reads in critical situations…

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

QB DREW BREES with another game with 4 TD passes.  And the four receivers he threw to, now have a total of 6 career TD catches.  Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

 

Who was Dat?!

 

Quarterback Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes to four undrafted players on Thursday night, as the New Orleans Saints beat the rival Atlanta Falcons 31-17 for their 10th straight victory.

 

The Saints are the first team in the Super Bowl era to have four undrafted players with a receiving touchdown in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

 

Also, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, New Orleans is the first team since the 1984 Pittsburgh Steelers to have four players score their first or second career touchdowns in the same game.

 

Brees also tied an NFL record — set by Falcons QB Matt Ryan in 2016 — by throwing TD passes to 13 different players this season.

 

Those four players (third-year WR Tommylee Lewis, second-year WR Austin Carr, first-year TE Dan Arnold and rookie WR Keith Kirkwood) had a total of two career TD catches heading into Thursday’s game.

 

“You know, it says a lot about them. It says a lot about taking advantage of the opportunity and stepping up when we need it,” Brees said. “You know, we’re down some receivers from the beginning of the year until now. And these guys are having to step into some roles and do some things that maybe were unexpected. And yet it’s fun to watch them grow and gain confidence and build a chemistry.”

 

He added: “For all of them to play the way they did, each get a touchdown on Thanksgiving day, all their family and friends watching at home, is pretty cool.”

 

Brees, who is having a season for the ages at age 39, hasn’t had any trouble improvising while the injuries keep piling up in New Orleans’ receiving corps this season.

 

Rookie starter Tre’Quan Smith was ruled inactive with a foot injury before Thursday’s game, and the Saints have also lost veteran receivers Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith and Dez Bryant to injured reserve as the season has gone on. They signed veteran Brandon Marshall for depth last week, but he has not appeared in a game yet.

 

Unmentioned by Triplett, or NBC for that matter, is that Kirkwood and Arnold are the 65th and 66th different TD targets for Brees among his 517 career TD passes. 

 

Tony Dungy did point out on the broadcast that WR BRANDON MARSHALL is waiting in the wings to be the 14th 2018 TD target (and the 67th of Brees’ career).  The NFL record, set earlier this year, is 71 career TD targets for Tom Brady.  Vinny Testaverde is 2nd with 70.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

An idle note –

 

After last Monday, the Rams have now scored 50+ points in a game 15 times.  That is the most of any team, two ahead of the Bears and Patriots.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Another start for QB LAMAR JACKSON, this time against Jon Gruden’s Raiders.  Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:

 

There is no mystery surrounding the Baltimore Ravens’ starting quarterback position this week.

 

Lamar Jackson will make his second NFL start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, coach John Harbaugh announced Friday. This comes after the Ravens declined to name their starting quarterback heading into last Sunday’s game.

 

“I’m counting on Lamar being the starter for this game,” Harbaugh said after Friday’s practice. “I think that’s pretty straightforward.”

 

Joe Flacco, the Ravens’ starter for the past 11 seasons, hasn’t practiced since injuring his right hip in a 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

Harbaugh said last week that Flacco could play after not participating in practice. Now that’s not the case after Flacco missed his second straight week of practice.

 

“At this point now, Joe would have to practice to be ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “And he was not able to practice this week.”

 

Flacco was officially ruled out for the game against the Raiders on Friday.

 

Jackson, the No. 32 overall pick in this year’s draft, led the Ravens to a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, becoming the first quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards in his first NFL start. He ran the ball 27 times, which was the most by a quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

 

 

CINCINNATI

A setback for WR A.J. GREEN.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday that wide receiver A.J. Green is “ready to get back to work” after missing the last two games with a toe injury, but Green did not take part in practice later that day.

 

Green’s readiness wasn’t on display Thursday either. While Lewis said he expected Green to take part in practice this week, the veteran wideout remained a non-participant on Thanksgiving.

 

Geoff Hobson of the team’s website points out that players have “rarely” played during Lewis’ tenure if they are not at least limited participants on Wednesday or Thursday. Friday will bring another chance to practice and the release of the team’s final injury designations for Sunday.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills will return to rookie QB JOSH ALLEN on Sunday against the Jaguars in matchup of 2017 playoff teams that won’t be back this year.  The Buffalo News:

 

Quarterback Josh Allen will start Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at New Era Field, coach Sean McDermott said Friday.

 

Allen has not played since suffering a strained right elbow against the Houston Texans on Oct. 14. He has been a full practice participant all week.

 

“As long as we can get through today, he will start at quarterback,” McDermott said before practice.

 

He later told reporters that Allen came out of practice with no issue and would start unless soreness in the elbow or other issues developed by game time.

 

“The medical staff feels good about it and so does Josh. He feels better than he did two weeks ago and he’s practiced well. … I want to him see him continue to play and learn with every rep. That’s really all I can ask and all we ask of every player is to embrace that growth mindset. We want him to come out of this season with a ton of experience.”

 

McDermott said all players but tight end Charles Clay will practice in some fashion Friday. Clay will be listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

QB TOM BRADY may have a health issue.  The AP:

 

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was absent at the start of practice on Friday, the team’s last before its game against the New York Jets.

 

The 41-year-old three-time NFL MVP hurt his knee when he slipped after receiving a pass in last week’s game against Tennessee. He was listed on the injury report as limited for Wednesday’s workout; the team did not practice on Thanksgiving Day.

 

Since taking over as the starter when Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the 2001 season, only once has Brady missed games for injury, when he tore apart his knee in the 2008 opener. He also missed the first four games of the 2016 season to serve a suspension for his role in the team’s illegal football deflation scheme.

 

He was officially listed as questionable for a combination knee issue and illness in the official report.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Hard to say whether or not this helps or hurts the chances of the Jets springing an upset over the hated Patriots.  The AP on the state of QB SAM DARNOLD.

 

Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold sat out team drills for a second straight day of practice, increasing the likelihood he’ll sit out against New England on Sunday.

 

Darnold strained his right foot against Miami on Nov. 4 and didn’t play the following week against Buffalo. Josh McCown will start in Darnold’s place again if the youngster is unable to play.

 

Darnold showed some progress Wednesday when he was in uniform for the first time since the injury, but didn’t throw passes in individual or team drills. It was the same situation Thursday when the Jets practiced indoors because of temperatures in New Jersey dropping into the low-20s.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

THE HIGH-SCORING FUTURE OF THE NFL

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com mulls the message of 54-51.

 

Yes, the Rams did beat the Chiefs 54-51 in a game that featured more touchdowns (14) than the Buffalo Bills have scored this season (13). It’s the first NFL game ever in which each team scored at least 50. And yes, the entertainment value was through the roof. How often in this life do things live up to their advance hype?

 

But in terms of whether this is the kind of game we should expect to see all the time now, the answer is a little more complicated. No way is every game going to be 54-51 from here on out, but the POSSIBILITY of a 54-51 game has bought a house at the end of the cul-de-sac and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Monday night showed us the direction in which the NFL is heading, and has been heading for some time. Statistically, and in terms of pace and excitement, Monday’s game wasn’t much different from last year’s Super Bowl. This thing’s not about to self-correct and turn the other direction, probably ever. Monday night was the culmination of years of rules changes that protect QBs and receivers and favor pass-happy offenses, and of a wave of head-coaching hires that come from the offensive side of the ball.

 

Of the 20 head coaches hired in the NFL in the past three years, 15 came from offensive backgrounds, and you shouldn’t expect that trend to change any time soon. If you’re an owner considering making a coaching change this offseason and you watched Sean McVay against Andy Reid on Monday night, you’re thinking to yourself, “How do I get some of that?” The head coach you hire is almost certainly going to be a guy who convinces you he has a binderful of fancy new ideas about how to score points. You need to do it to win. Of the bottom 16 teams in the NFL right now in points per game, only one (Washington, 6-4) has a winning record.

 

Most Points Per Game Through Week 11 Since 1970

YEAR   TEAM   PPG

2007     Patriots   41.1

2013     Broncos 39.8

2000     Rams      39.2

2018     Saints    37.8<<

2009     Saints     36.9

2018     Chiefs    36.7<<

2012     Patriots   35.8

2011     Packers  35.5

2018     Rams     35.4<<

 

The league-wide scoring average per game right now is 48.4 points (combined for both teams), which would be the highest since the 1970 merger if it holds up all year. (And that is an “IF,” as the bad-weather games are right around the corner.) Only eight teams in league history have averaged more points per game through the first 11 weeks of a season than this year’s Rams have (35.4), and two of those eight are this year’s Chiefs (36.7) and Saints (37.8).

 

The scoring revolution you’re seeing is real, and it’s no accident. Chiefs-Rams was the highest-rated Monday Night Football game in four years, up 57 percent over last year’s Week 11 Monday night game. The league likes it like this and will continue to encourage scoring in any and every way it can. The last couple of years have been rough ones for the NFL as an entertainment product, and since that’s what it is at its core, the league has a vested interest in making itself as entertaining as possible.

 

I still don’t believe it’s as simple and dramatic, however, as “Football as we know it is over.” We’re not ready yet to go all the way into the hand-wringing about defense being dead. Scoring is up, sure, but that 48.4 points per game is only 1.6 more (less than a point per team per game) than the previous high in 2013. Heck, the third-highest-scoring season in league history was 1948, when games averaged 46.4 points.

 

What’s going on is still more evolutionary than revolutionary, if only because there aren’t that many teams that can score 50 points in a game. Look at Thursday’s Thanksgiving games schedule. You wouldn’t be surprised to see the Falcons and Saints both creep into the 40s, but you don’t expect it from Lions/Bears or Dallas/Washington. Not every team has a Patrick Mahomes AND a Tyreek Hill AND a Travis Kelce AND a Kareem Hunt AND a Sammy Watkins AND an underrated monster offensive line.

 

And if you came out of Monday night thinking defense is doomed, you weren’t watching very closely. Of the 14 touchdowns scored in the game, three were scored by defensive players. Not set up by defensive players, but actually scored by a defensive player crossing the goal line with the ball in his hands. The highest-paid player on the field was Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had two strip-sacks of Mahomes without which the Chiefs might actually have blown the Rams out.

 

Is it harder than ever for defenses? Yup. Is it going to get any easier any time soon? Nope. The days of being able to keep teams from moving the ball up and down the field on you are just about gone. But what will happen now on the defensive side is that game-changing plays and players will become even more valuable. A guy like Donald or Khalil Mack, who can disrupt even the most dynamic passing offenses once or twice a game, will cash in with a huge contract, as both of those guys did in September. A cornerback who can truly cover receivers the way basically no one did Monday night will become one of the league’s rarest and most valuable commodities. Look ahead to next spring’s draft. Teams are already talking up the game-wrecking defensive line prospects like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Houston’s Ed Oliver. If those guys live up to their hype and expected draft slots, they’ll be as rich as the top quarterbacks when the time comes for their big extensions.

 

The game is changing, significantly. Of that there can be no doubt. A game like Monday night’s would have shocked the world 10 or 15 years ago, where in 2018 it thrilled us by doing what we hoped and expected it would do. Scoring is likely to continue to go up, even if only incrementally. New head coaches are likely to continue to come from the offensive side of the ball, as scoring becomes more and more the focus.

 

But football as we knew it isn’t dead. It’s simply evolving — and in a thrilling direction. Monday night was partly a sign of where things stand, partly a sign of where things are headed and entirely a dazzling spectacle of athletic brilliance. If what the NFL is selling now is that last thing, it’s going to be very happy to keep on selling it.

 

So far we have had 4 teams reach 50+ points in a game this year and the 45-point mark has been reached a total of 13 times.

 

The numbers for the entire season last year were 5 games with a 50-point team, 11 with 45+.