AROUND THE NFL

A tweet from Mike Tannenbaum:

 

The following starting QB’s don’t have a contract for 2020

 

Brees

Brady

Prescott

Rivers

Tannehill

Winston

 

Tua’s injury & uncertainty of recovery, will make each teams’ analysis on their options more complicated, b/c you won’t know his status for the ‘20 season when you draft him

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

A Tweet from Jeff Darlington:

 

Jerry Jones was just asked if he’s ever been this frustrated with a first-place team: “With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated.” And that line, after a poignant and cutting session with the media, both concluded and summarized the whole vibe.

 

There is a rumor that the Giants want to take Garrett off Jones’ hand.  Justin Tasch in the New York Post:

 

A lot has to happen before this could come to fruition, but should the Giants fire Pat Shurmur and the Cowboys ax Jason Garrett, the latter would want to end up with the Giants, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

 

“My understanding is the Giants have emerged as a real and legitimate potential landing spot for Garrett,” Rapoport said Sunday on NFL GameDay. “First of all, it is his preferred destination if he can’t stick with the Cowboys. And second, back in 2014, the Giants were trying to decide, should they fire Tom Coughlin. My understanding is they would have fired Coughlin if they could get Jason Garrett.”

 

Garrett ended up signing a five-year, $30 million contract extension in January 2015. Coughlin stepped down as Giants coach after the 2015 season following a second consecutive 6-10 campaign.

 

Garrett, 53, spent four seasons with the Giants from 2000-03 as a depth quarterback. Dallas enters Sunday leading the NFC East at 6-4. Under Garrett, the Cowboys have made the playoffs three of the last seven seasons but have not advanced past the Divisional Round.

 

Shurmur, 54, is in his second season as Giants coach. The team is 2-8 entering Sunday’s game against the Bears after going 5-11 last season.

 

In his postgame comments, Jones seems to say that’s okay with him.  ProFootballTalk.com:

 

If Jason Garrett and the Giants want to do business after the season, Jerry Jones may encourage it.

 

Jones vented to reporters after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots about deficiencies in coaching.

 

“Special teams is a total reflection of coaching,” Jones said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. The special-teams gaffes included a blocked punt that led to a touchdown, plus multiple failures of execution on kickoff returns and a missed field goal.

 

“With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated,” Jones also said, via the team’s official website. Which is another way of saying, “We have the talent, so talent isn’t the problem.”

 

And to make it clear that Jones wasn’t happy about coaching, he said this: “I don’t think there’s a game where a coaching staff couldn’t do better. I don’t like that we’ve got so many [this year] as I’m standing here tonight.”

 

With the head coach only five regular-season games away from completing his current contract, Jones’ sudden decision to criticize a coach he previously defended so aggressively suggests that Jones could eventually be doing what he’s done in the past — supporting an employee totally and completely and unconditional until the moment he no longer does.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Peter King politely join the pile on of QB CARSON WENTZ:

 

In the significantly playoff-crippling 17-9 loss to Seattle, Wentz played at times like he had a case of the yips. They started early. Midway through the first quarter, on third-and-nine from the Seattle 10-yard line, Wentz had running back Miles Sanders alone in the left flat, just a few yards away, with an open path to the goal line. It was 50-50, at least, that he’d have turned this gimme completion into a touchdown. The ball, looking like it was forced by Wentz, sailed five feet over Sanders’ head. Startling misfire.

 

“It wasn’t the wind, it wasn’t the — it was nothing. I have to do better,” Wentz said about that and other misfires.

 

The recent spate of uncharacteristic inaccuracy and unsustainable drives caused the Eagle crowd to do what it traditionally does when it’s been let down: boo. Wentz wasn’t crying about it afterward. “You never want to hear it, but it is what it is,” he said. “That’s this city, that’s the fan base.”

 

Four of Philly’s last five games are eminently winnable—at Miami, Giants, at Washington, at Giants—and the Eagles have to sweep those to have even a remote shot to make the playoffs. Then Dallas, at home, Dec. 22. But the Eagles aren’t going 4-1 or 5-0 down the stretch with Wentz playing like this, and Doug Pederson knows it.

 

Some of Mike Sando’s anonymous execs are not as polite:

 

Charting the Eagles’ first five offensive possessions Sunday became repetitive during a 17-9 defeat to Seattle that felt worse.

 

Drive No. 1: Carson Wentz misses Zach Ertz on third down. Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs gets two hands on the ball, nearly intercepting it.

 

Drive No. 2: Wentz misses his running back in the flat so badly, he turns away in apparent horror right after letting the ball go.

 

Drive No. 3: Wentz loses a fumble.

 

Drive No. 4: Wentz misses his running back again, then throws an interception with pressure in his face.

 

Drive No. 5: Wentz seems to not see an open receiver before taking a sack and fumbling again.

 

Conditions were windy and tough on both quarterbacks. Philly basically has zero speed at wide receiver because DeSean Jackson, 32 years old, is on injured reserve after playing 15 games in 2016, 14 games in 2017 and 12 games in 2018. Jackson is still a dynamic force when healthy, but he’s been around so long, Matt Nagy was an Eagles coaching intern when Jackson entered the league. There are currently six wide receivers in the NFL who are 32 or older and have caught a pass in 2019. It’s not a shock that Jackson is out.

 

The offensive line, already diminished from previous seasons, imploded without right tackle Lane Johnson. Would a better quarterback overcome the Eagles’ many obvious issues? Should a quarterback as highly regarded as Wentz overcome these issues? Those are questions for my 2020 Quarterback Tiers survey.

 

“He didn’t really have a chance,” said an evaluator who watched the Seattle game. “Those guys were all over him. Their receiver corps is not what it used to be. Their line is not that great and they were shuffling guys all over. It is hard when that is going on to say it is all Carson Wentz’s fault, but the fumbles stood out. Those fumbles were bad. He is not protecting the ball. I think Wentz can play. I just think that they had good talent that first year and now I think it’s just hard.”

 

The schedule eases up with the Dolphins, Giants and Redskins next for Philadelphia, just as Dallas hits a tougher stretch. The NFC East race is not over, but even if the Eagles rally against their soft schedule, then what? It’s easy to pile on after a string of difficult games, but it’s tough to spin this Eagles season as merely bad luck. Keeping open a championship window is hard.

 

“They have traded away draft picks, traded up, signed old players, extended old players and I’m not sure it makes sense,” an exec said. “They traded for Golden Tate last year. He’s not a speed guy. They did a weird deal with Alshon Jeffery. They extended Brandon Brooks. We’ll see how it works out.”

 

You would think a cold, windy day would play into the hands of the North Dakota born-and-raised Wentz.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The good news – QB DWAYNE HASKINS was doing public relations work for a team that could use it.  The bad news – the game wasn’t over.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

As the Washington Redskins offense ran back onto the field, ready to take the victory formation, quarterback Dwayne Haskins was taking a selfie with a fan. That left the Redskins needing to trot veteran Case Keenum onto the field to take the final snap.

 

It was an unusual ending to Haskins’ first NFL victory as a starter.

 

“I was so hyped, I broke a water bottle,” Haskins said. “I look up and we’re in victory [formation]. I thought the game was over with already, but I’ll get it next time.”

 

Interim coach Bill Callahan said the coaches were looking for him. He didn’t come across as upset, but he didn’t shrug it off.

 

“No, I don’t laugh at it,” Callahan said. “I’m happy we won. We’ll address that. I’m just pleased we won the game. I just have to find out.”

 

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann wasn’t happy about it, based on his postgame tweet. After the draft, Theismann gave Haskins his blessing to wear the No. 7 again; it had been out of commission since Theismann retired in 1985. But Theismann wasn’t a fan of what happened Sunday, calling the selfie “unprofessional and wrong.”

 

The fan who took the selfie with Haskins disagreed.

 

It’s easy to see why Haskins was celebrating. He helped lead a 19-16 comeback win over the Detroit Lions. After going 7-for-20 for 88 yards to start the game, he went 6-of-9 for 68 yards on his final two possessions. Both drives ended in field goals. The second one resulted in the game winner, a 39-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins with 16 seconds remaining.

 

After that, Haskins was seen in a tight embrace with offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and then tackle Morgan Moses on the sideline.

 

But Haskins was needed for one more snap after corner Fabian Moreau intercepted his second pass of the day.

 

Teammates certainly understood why Haskins would want to celebrate after enduring a six-sack game in a 17-point loss to the New York Jets a week ago. Teammates also liked how he responded to a tough day. Before the final two drives, he had struggled with overthrows to open receivers. Haskins said he injured his right wrist, which at times impacted his ability to grip the ball as he wanted.

 

“It’s big. Obviously he comes from a big program; he’s not used to losing. It’s a sour taste in his mouth,” right tackle Morgan Moses said. “We all know he has big-play potential. This is about composure.”

 

The DB feels that as far as player sins go, this isn’t a big one.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

First-year PK JOEY SLYE had been okay until yesterday.  Now, he is Peter King’s Goat of the Week.

 

Goat of the Week

Joey Slye, kicker, Carolina. Easiest goat pick in years. In a vital 34-31 loss to the division-leading Saints, Slye was either directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of seven points. If he was even normal on this day in the weather-less Superdome, Carolina would be 6-5 this morning, two games behind the Saints with five to play. He missed a PAT late in the first quarter wide right. Just before halftime, Ron Rivera chased points and went for two after a touchdown that brought the Panthers within 17-15. The Kyle Allen pass failed. Late in the third quarter, Carolina scored to pull within seven; Slye missed his second PAT of the day. Did I mention this game was in a dome? No wind? No divots in the field? In a tie game, 31-all, with two minutes left, Slye was out to redeem himself, with a kick for the potential winning field goal from five yards closer. Wide right. The Saints won on a field goal as the clock hit :00. Count the seven points I “credit” to Slye: missed PAT, missed two-point conversion, missed PAT, missed 28-yard field goal. (The two-point conversion was tried because of the first missed PAT, of course.)

 

 

TAMPA BAY

We get it that many in Tampa Bay are tired of QB JAMEIS WINSTON.  We know you look at his interceptions line first and are rarely greeted with a zero.  We get all that.

 

But there are only three 1,000-yard receivers in the NFL after Week 12.  And two of them catch passes thrown by Winston – CHRIS GODWIN at 1,071 and MIKE EVANS at 1,043.

 

Winston is 2nd in the NFL in pass yards with 3,391 (to Dak Prescott).  He’s 2nd in the NFL with 22 TD passes (to Russell Wilson).  But, of course, he’s 1st in the NFL with 20 INTs.

– – –

Here’s Peter King on WR CHRIS GODWIN:

 

Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Tampa Bay. There’s no way Godwin can stay unknown much longer. Can he? After catching seven balls for 184 yards and two more touchdowns in the beatdown of Atlanta, Godwin, the third-year former third-rounder from Penn State, stands second in the NFL with 1,071 receiving yards, fourth with 70 catches and first with nine receiving touchdowns. What’s made Godwin such a threat for Tampa Bay is his ability to be both a deep and intermediate threat. His 15.3-yard average is better than both Michael Thomas and Julio Jones.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Peter King on five new and key pieces for the 10-1 49ers:

 

I view five pieces either new or just rapidly ascending as being just as big. Nick Bosa, the second pick in the draft, and trade acquisition Dee Ford gave the Niners the best defensive-line depth in football. In 41 pass-drops Sunday night, Rodgers was sacked five times, pressured six times and hit twice more, per PFF. The most significant hit was probably the first—and that brings us to the third relatively new guy who’s exploded for the Niners: middle linebacker Fred Warner.

 

“I’m a San Diego kid,” Warner told me, gripping his post-game NBC player of the game football in his arm like he didn’t want to let it go. “I loved Junior Seau. I was a Shawne Merriman fan.”

 

He did his best Seau on the fifth play of the game, blowing up the Green Bay protection in the middle of the line on third-and-10 at the Packer 25-yard line, sacking Rodgers, forcing a fumble and setting up the first Niners touchdown. Since San Francisco lost playmaking linebacker Kwon Alexander with a torn pectoral a month ago, Warner has taken over his explosive playmaking. He’s led the team in tackles in each of the last four games, recorded three sacks and forced two fumbles. And he’s smart, running the defense in his second year out of Brigham Young. “We’ve got a bunch of checks we had to make all game, and Fred didn’t miss one all night,” Shanahan said. “We love the guy. Love his talent. Love his brain. And then our coaches, who really know linebackers, [defensive coordinator] Robert Saleh and [position coach] DeMeco Ryans, could really tell us how he fit in our scheme, and I think it was great for John Lynch to go get him in the draft.”

 

Two other newbies: Free safety Jimmie Ward’s a six-year vet, but he’s been hurt so much the Niners couldn’t rely on him. This year, he’s joined the fast-rising secondary as a big hitter who excels in coverage. He made the play of the game in the secondary, going up with Jimmy Graham to break up the pass. Graham looked to come down with it, but Ward fought with him coming down and the ball came loose a split-second after Graham landed. (If the Packers challenged the play, called an incompletion, they might have overturned it.) “It was basically who wanted it more,” said Ward.

 

Finally, Deebo Samuel’s been a godsend to the offense. The rookie second-rounder (must have been a tremendous draft for this guy to go in the second round) broke up the game just before the half with a 42-yard streaking touchdown that left the Green Bay defenders in the dust. “I was worried I’d never learn the offense when I first got here—the playbook is so big,” Samuel told me. “But I’m good with it now. I love this offense.”

 

The team’s got a little bit of the Shanahan ethos. America doesn’t know him yet. He’s not as polished as his dad, veteran coach Mike Shanahan, was. Then again, he’s 39. He’s got time. What he is, is tough and an excellent play-designer and play-caller. He won’t say it, but he’s the kind of a just-try-to-knock-this-chip-off-my-shoulder coach who players respect. And they respect Shanahan because they know he puts them in the best position to win.

 

All opponents can be beaten. All opponents we respect. We can find something in everyone we play to exploit. Who does that sound like? “I’ve never met a coach who reminds me of Bill Belichick as much as Kyle,” said former Patriots and Falcons front-office man Scott Pioli, who has worked with both.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

An optimistic report from Coach Andy Reid on WR TYREEK HILL. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Chiefs had Week 12 off, which meant that wide receiver Tyreek Hill didn’t have to miss a game due to the hamstring injury he suffered in Mexico City last Monday night.

 

Head coach Andy Reid was asked about Hill’s status for this week’s game against the Raiders in his first visit with reporters since returning from the bye. Reid said upcoming practices will provide a firm answer regarding Hill’s availability, but he’s optimistic that the Chiefs will have Hill for the AFC West matchup.

 

“I think he’ll be all right. We’ll see how it goes,” Reid said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com.

 

The Raiders had a chance to pull even with the Chiefs by beating the Jets on Sunday, but their 34-3 loss gives the Chiefs a chance to move to the brink of winning another division title by beating Oakland at home. Having Hill on hand would help them get that result.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Mike Sando of The Athletic on the PHILIP RIVERS situation.

 

6. Philip Rivers could be facing a Hall of Fame crossroads

Philip Rivers’ recent struggles and potential free agency after the season invite questions about his future with the Los Angeles Chargers as the quarterback’s 38th birthday approaches next month. The franchise itself is already at a crossroads and soon must figure out how to become relevant in an indifferent market as tenants in a cross-town rival’s stadium. Starting fresh at quarterback could make sense under the circumstances.

 

Three big takeaways emerged when talking through Rivers’ situation with NFL execs as the quarterback enters the final five games of the 2019 regular season:

 

Finishing strong could be unrealistic: The Chargers were unusually strong finishers during Rivers’ first eight seasons as a starter. From 2006-13, Rivers posted a 33-7 starting record over the final five games of seasons. He had 70 touchdowns with 21 interceptions in those games. The Chargers averaged 26.0 offensive points per game. Rivers then went 3-12 with 25 touchdowns and 23 interceptions over the final five games of the next three seasons, including an 0-5 finish in 2016. The last couple years were better, but the problem is, 2019 bears some resemblance to 2016.

 

“Rivers struggles when he doesn’t trust his offensive line,” an exec said. “It’s pretty clear he hasn’t trusted his line lately.”

 

When the line fell apart in 2016, Rivers tossed 10 touchdown passes with nine interceptions during the five-game losing streak to end the season.

 

Rivers has incentive to keep playing: Rivers entered the NFL with the 2004 quarterback class featuring Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Those two quarterbacks have won championships, which enhances their chances for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rivers has arguably played better than Manning in particular, but he hasn’t been able to drive championship success. Rivers needs to finish his career with a flourish to maximize his case for Canton.

 

The Chargers may or may not want Rivers back: The Chargers have not been the type of team to make splashes with their moves, but they must do something to generate excitement as they prepare to move into a massive new stadium, do they not? Rivers was never in favor of relocating from San Diego. He has commuted to Los Angeles. Can the Chargers truly embrace their new market if the face of their franchise is a 38-year-old quarterback whose heart — and family — remains in San Diego?

 

“That one will be interesting,” an exec said. “I don’t know how excited Rivers would be to stay for less money, if that is what it comes to. Would he play elsewhere and move his family?”

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Mike Sando of The Athletic says that the willingness of the Ravens to go for it on 4th down also means they are more willing to run the ball on third down:

 

Baltimore has figured out the most obvious thing: NFL teams run the ball 18 percent of the time on third down when they need 2-5 yards for a first down. Baltimore runs 44 percent of the time in those situations. No other team is higher than 30 percent run. Why?

 

“Baltimore recognizes what should be obvious, which is, how many downs do you get to convert a first down?” an exec said. “You get four, but everyone operates as if you get three. Defenses are so used to calling press-man or whatever in those situations, but Baltimore is treating that like first or second down, so they are less predictable.”

 

Treating third-and-manageable as first or second down reduces the number of obvious passing situations, which are typically the hardest situations for offenses to handle.

 

“They are effectively in a first- and second-down type offense, so it’s harder to make your defensive play calls against them,” the analytics specialist said, “because they know even if they don’t get it on third-and-3, it will be fourth-and-1, and they might go for it.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

TE ERIC EBRON is done for the year with problems with both ankles.  NFL.com:

 

Eric Ebron’s 2019 campaign is over.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports the Indianapolis Colts are placing Ebron on injured reserve as the tight end is set to undergo surgery on both ankles. The veteran tight end first popped up on the Colts’ injury report with ankle injuries during Week 9.

 

Ebron was listed as questionable heading into Week 12’s matchup against the Houston Texans. He suited up, totaling four catches for 44 yards.

 

Ebron’s sixth season prematurely ends with 31 receptions for 375 yards and three touchdowns. The 26-year-old entered 2019 coming off a year where he posted career-high totals of 66 receptions, 750 yards and 13 TDs, which was his first season in Indianapolis after landing there via free agency.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

The only Jaguars wins this year have come with uber-popular QB GARDNER MINSHEW.  But Coach Doug Marrone is staying the course with QB NICK FOLES.  Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union disagrees:

 

In the 25-year existence of the Jaguars, the on-field product has never quite morphed into a train wreck with such a resounding thud.

 

Wasn’t it just 29 days ago Doug Marrone’s team climbed back to 4-4 and felt rejuvenated about getting back into the AFC South race? Plus, with the imminent return of injured quarterback Nick Foles, the Jaguars had legitimate cause to feel reaching the playoffs was plenty doable.

 

Yet here we are, three consecutive division losses later, and the Jaguars look cooked before any Thanksgiving turkey makes it into the oven.

 

As if getting embarrassed by the Houston Texans in London, and then the Indianapolis Colts last week on the road, wasn’t bad enough, the Jaguars hit one of the lowest points Sunday in their undistinguished history.

 

They came to Nissan Stadium, a venue where little has gone right for them, and made a mockery out of any notion of potentially being a playoff contender.

 

A 42-20 setback doesn’t even begin to accurately portray how badly the Titans and running back Derrick Henry, a Yulee High product, embarrassed them yet again. This was an all-around failure of epic proportions, one that should make it awfully difficult for owner Shad Khan to stand pat with this coaching staff and front office.

 

You simply can’t get outscored 101-36 by your division rivals in three straight games — 23 of those Jaguars’ points were absolutely meaningless, with the outcome already decided – and think this horrific slump is going to get fixed any time soon.

– – –

So what exactly does Marrone intend to do to get the Jaguars out of one of their all-time funks? He balked at the idea of going back to rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew, sticking by his earlier stance that Foles would be the starter moving forward.

 

“We got to figure it out with the guys we have,” said Marrone. “You got to keep fighting. You got to keep trying. If you just say, ‘hey, we’re going to get it corrected and you keep things the same.’ I can’t live like that. That’s not how I live my life. I don’t believe in that.

 

“It’s very difficult. We’re going to go back, look again and probably try to find something else. Because obviously, what we’ve been doing hasn’t worked.”

– – –

Three days before Thanksgiving, and it feels like the Jaguars are totally cooked.

 

Khan might want to put all those Lot J plans and Wembley Stadium purchase concerns on hold. Just figure out what he’s going to do with his sinking franchise.

 

There might be 3 to 5 wins in the remaining five games if the Jags can get their heads on straight –

 

WEEK 13 · Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WEEK 14 · Los Angeles Chargers

WEEK 15 · at Oakland Raiders

WEEK 16 · at Atlanta Falcons

WEEK 17 · Indianapolis Colts

 

 

TENNESSEE

QB RYAN TANNEHILL is the QB for Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on his All-Underrated Team:

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

OK, in 2019, when cameras are trained on quarterbacks from the moment they get off the bus on Sundays, it’s almost impossible for a signal-caller to actually be underrated. Given how bad young quarterbacks are often feted for their moments of competence by fan bases that desperately want them to succeed, the most likely quarterbacks to be undervalued are actually guys who have been around for a while and written off as irrelevant.

 

There was little to lose when the Titans inserted the former Dolphins starter into the starting lineup earlier this season. Tennessee scored 38 points over Marcus Mariota’s final four starts, with 24 of those coming against the bad version of the Falcons’ defense. Mike Vrabel didn’t even seem to have much faith for Tannehill in making the move, solely hoping that the decision would spark a moribund offense.

 

It has! The Titans have won four of their past five games under Tannehill to get back in the playoff race at 6-5, including an upset victory over the Chiefs before the bye. After losing 20-7 to the Jaguars in September under Mariota, Tannehill and the Titans scored six touchdowns in a 42-20 blowout victory on Sunday. The Texas A&M product went 14-of-18 passing for 259 yards and two touchdowns and further chipped in by scrambling seven times for 40 yards and two additional scores. He finished with a 92.3 Total QBR, which is his best single-game performance in just over three years.

 

Since Tannehill took over, the Titans rank sixth in the league with 2.43 points per drive and second behind the Ravens in offensive points scored per game at 28.2. Derrick Henry unquestionably plays a huge role in making that happen, but Tannehill is playing the best football of his career. As Tennessee’s starter, he ranks fifth over the past six weeks in passer rating at 114.9. He also has chipped in by turning his 23 carries into three touchdowns and eight first downs, with the latter figure tied for fifth among quarterbacks over that time frame.

 

Even beyond the numbers, though, Tannehill looks incredibly comfortable throwing the football. Look at his highlights from Sunday and you’ll see a quarterback who is not just finding the right receiver but hitting them in stride. There’s noticeable zip on his passes. He looks confident under pressure and is using his athleticism to create opportunities as opposed to mindlessly extending plays without ever getting his eyes back upfield. He looks like the quarterback the Titans were hoping Mariota would turn into after all these years.

 

As constituted, this offense just works. It’s not the most exciting or cutting-edge attack, but the Titans have a big back who bulls over opposing defenses and receivers who can make people miss after the catch off play-action. Since taking over in Week 7, Tannehill is averaging a staggering 13.5 yards per pass attempt off play-action, the best mark in football.

 

The Titans are in the thick of the AFC South race, with a game against the Colts and a home-and-home against the Texans still to come. When you look at the quarterbacks on teams competing for the sixth spot in the AFC playoffs — Mason Rudolph, Jacoby Brissett, Derek Carr, even Baker Mayfield — Tannehill is playing better than any of them right now.

 

You can read in detail about the rest of his team here.

 

Here are the other members –

 

OFFENSE

Running back: Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Wide receiver: John Brown, Buffalo Bills

Wide receiver: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Wide receiver: Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

Tight end: Ryan Griffin, New York Jets

Offensive tackle: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

Guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

Guard: Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers

Center: Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans

 

DEFENSE

Edge: Matthew Judon, Baltimore Ravens

Edge: Robert Quinn, Dallas Cowboys

Defensive tackle: Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Defensive tackle: Matt Ioannidis, Washington

Linebacker: Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints

Linebacker: Vince Biegel, Miami Dolphins

Linebacker: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

Cornerback: Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills

Cornerback: Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens

Safety: Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Safety: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Chris Boswell, Pittsburgh Steelers

Punter: Jake Bailey, New England Patriots

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Peter King reminds us that RB FRANK GORE, like another Bills back Thurman Thomas, was considered damaged goods after his college career.  And now, he ranks 3rd on the all-time rushing list:

 

The most amazing thing about Frank Gore is not that he’s still contributing to a strong playoff contender as a running back at age 36. Or that he passed Barry Sanders into third place on the all-time rushing list Sunday in Buffalo. Or that of all the running backs in the 100 years of professional football, only two have more rushing yards. To me, the most impressive thing about Gore is that he had both knees reconstructed while playing at the University of Miami, and then, after his rookie year in the NFL in 2005, he had labrum tears in both shoulders repaired. And after having all four of his vital body parts surgically repaired, he went on to rush for 14,681 yards.

 

I can’t get over that.

 

“On a day like today,” Gore said after rushing for 65 yards in 8-3 Buffalo’s 20-3 win over Denver, “I think about all the times I could have walked away. Like, at Miami, after I tore my second knee, I was going to quit. My running backs coach, Don Soldinger, told me, ‘Man, you’re crazy. My goal is to get you to the NFL.”

 

Now he’s passed Barry Sanders on the all-time rushing list. It left him almost speechless Sunday evening—but not quite. “Come on,” he said before leaving the stadium Sunday. “Let’s be real. Come on. I respect everyone in this game—everyone. But Barry Sanders? Growing up, watching him … 15,000 yards in 10 years … This was an unbelievable football player. Like no other.”

 

“And you just passed him on the all-time rushing list,” I said.

 

“A big reason,” said Gore, “is I came to a great place, man. Everything is right here. I remember when I signed here, some people said, ‘You’re going there for the yards. You’re chasing yards.’ For me, this was the right offense, the right team, the right coaches. This is a tough, hard-nosed brand of football, the kind I’ve played my whole life. It’s my type of team, my type of football. And I’m still having success, still contributing, at this age.”

 

That’s the best thing about these yards he’s getting now. He’s getting them for a surging darkhorse in the playoffs. Because if the Bills are going to make it to January and then win a game or two, it’s likely not going to be done solely with Josh Allen filling the air with footballs. It’s going to be Devin Singletary and Gore grinding out the tough yards, just the way Gore loves.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com on what the Patriots did yesterday:

 

The Patriots had fewer than 300 yards. Tom Brady passed for fewer than 200 yards. The Patriots scored only one touchdown. They had no scoring drive longer than 38 yards.

 

The Patriots won anyway, holding on for a 13-9 victory.

 

It was the Patriots’ 18th consecutive home victory in the regular season and the 21st in row counting the postseason. Carolina was the last road team to win at Gillette, beating the Patriots on Oct. 1, 2017.

 

The Patriots moved their record to 10-1 to maintain a two-game lead over the Bills. They set an NFL record with a 17th consecutive 10-win season, breaking a tie with the 49ers (1983-98).

 

CB STEPHON GILMORE held Cowboys star WR AMARI COOPER without a catch on Sunday.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The best cornerback in the NFL earned a signature game in what has been a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season.

 

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore completely wiped Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper from the box score, holding the wideout to zero catches on two targets. In fact, Gilmore caught more passes from Dak Prescott than Cooper, intercepting the Cowboys quarterback on a first-half target.

 

“It was fun. I was just trying to get my hands on him every snap,” Gilmore said after the Patriots’ 13-9 home victory, via ESPN.

 

Gilmore has been among the best defensive players the entire season, earning four INTs and a team-high 13 passes defended. On the top defense in the NFL, Gilmore is an alpha.

 

“He’s a monster,” Pats receiver Julian Edelman said. “I get to battle against him every day, and I love getting to do it because it makes me better. He has a knack for the ball, he’s confident, and he’s got that steady mind where he’s never up, he’s never down. He barely talks. But when he does talk, it’s usually ball, and I love the conversations we do have.

 

“It’s unbelievable to have a teammate like him. You’re just seeing the tip of it. He does that stuff in practice all the time.”

 

Gilmore’s ability to negate an opponent’s top receiver affords Bill Belichick the luxury of rolling coverage elsewhere, knowing his athletic corner can handle himself on an island.

 

On Sunday, the CB held Cooper to his first game in a Cowboys jersey with zero catches. The first target to Cooper, Gilmore intercepted, leading to a Pats field goal and a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Prescott pretty much ignored Cooper the rest of the way. The second target his way not negated by penalty came on 4th-and-11 with 1:44 left on the clock. The wideout dove for a pass over the middle, but after review, the ball was ruled incomplete.

 

“That wasn’t a catch. It hit the ground, and I knew it hit the ground. I gave my best effort to catch the ball; I just came up short,” said Cooper.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

COST IS SOHI ON SOFI

Peter King:

 

Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta of ESPN.com reported that the cost overruns at the new Rams-Chargers stadium and property in Los Angeles now exceed $3.1 billion. Imagine: SoFi Stadium and the adjoining development was projected to cost $1.86 billion in 2015 and later revised by the Rams to $2.4 billion. The cost now: an estimated $5 billion. And, of course, there could be cost overruns on the cost overruns: Per Wickersham/Van Natta, the parent company of the project, StadCo, calls it “our $6 billion stadium” when speaking to owners and NFL execs.

 

Here is one way to look at the stunning insanity of that:

 

• To build AT&T Stadium (Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas), Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts, in Indianapolis) and Lincoln Financial Field (Eagles, in Philadelphia) cost a total of $2.832 billion, total. Which means the cost overruns at the new L.A. stadium will end up being more than it cost to build the shiny and still near-state-of-the-art football stadiums housing the Cowboys, Colts and Eagles.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

The NFL freed up San Francisco’s home game with Green Bay from a secondary FOX slot (and neither GB-SF or the flexed Seattle at Philadelphia game proved particularly compelling).  Now, Peter King points out, a possible Super Bowl preview, will stay with FOX.

 

In the NFL, it’s always smart to have recency bias. I don’t know how you watch an Aaron Rodgers-led team fail to convert 0 of 13 third downs and not think San Francisco is capable of running the table, all the way to the Super Bowl. You see the impact George Kittle had (six catches, 129 yards), playing with a chipped bone in his ankle, and you see the defensive depth. This is a scary team.

 

Right now, for the sake of great competition, America would love a San Francisco-Baltimore Super Bowl. If that happens, consider Week 13 in Baltimore the appetizer. You know the crazy thing? Niners-Ravens isn’t a prime-time game next week. It’s not a network doubleheader game, to be seen by 75 percent of the country. It’s on FOX, one of eight games Sunday scheduled at 1 p.m. ET.

 

At 1 p.m.! How amazing. Ask 500 fans right now, “What’s the NFL matchup you’d most like to see right now?” I bet Niners-Ravens would be close to number one. You can count on the NFL to maximize the TV audience in a given week 90 percent of the time. But it’s a CBS doubleheader week, with Raiders-Chiefs the big attraction, and flexing to Sunday night didn’t make sense because the ratings-magnet Patriots were scheduled for Sunday prime-time (at Houston). Still, putting this game against seven others for attention in the early window? Just odd.