AROUND THE NFL

One week ago, the Patriots commanded the AFC as overwhelming favorites to again represent the conference in the Super Bowl and probable choices to again hoist Lombardi.

 

This morning, they are haunted and hunted by an emerging Ravens team that will have a tiebreaker advantage to kick them out of Foxborough if they can draw even.

 

In addition, it was a great week for the AFC West as all four teams won – three against the NFC North. 

 

Two of the best brands in football – the Steelers and Raiders are back in the playoff conversation, just one game behind a Colts team that has sudden quarterback issues.  The Colts fell from 2nd to 6th in the seeding – and they have already lost to both Pittsburgh and Oakland.

 

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC –

 

                                                        Overall             Div Rk       Conf Rec

1          New England  East                 8-1                   1                 6-1           

2          Baltimore         North               6-2                   1                 4-2

3          Houston           South               6-3                   1                 5-1           

4          Kansas City     West                6-3                   1                 4-2           

5          Buffalo            WC                  6-2                   2                 4-1

6          Indianapolis     WC                  5-3                   2                 4-3           

7          Pittsburgh                                4-4                   2                 4-2           

8          Oakland                                 4-4                   2                 2-2           

9          Jacksonville                            4-5                   3                 4-3

10        Tennessee                              4-5                   4                 2-4

11        LA Chargers                            4-5                   3                 2-4

 

As he has done for so long – Peter King does a great job of staring across the fruited NFL plain and summing up the Conventional Wisdom:

 

Nine weeks down, eight weeks to go in pro football’s 100th season. One unbeaten team remains: San Francisco is 8-0. Two one-loss teams are left: 8-1 New England, 7-1 New Orleans. And seven other teams with six or seven wins. The league is careening toward a fascinating playoff season that could see Brady-Jackson or Brady-Mahomes, and, maybe Brady-Garoppolo or Brady-Brees or Brady-Rodgers even. But Sunday night showed that so many other matchups ultimately could make the postseason almost as fun as Brady going for his seventh (and maybe last) Super Bowl in New England. How about a final four of youth-shall-be-served Baltimore-Kansas City and San Francisco-Seattle, featuring Jackson, Mahomes, Garoppolo and Wilson. Also: Deshaun Watson would like a word. Don’t forget AFC South-leading Houston, still in the fight for a first-round bye.

 

Point is: Any of these matchups would be great. The forecast for January is sunny, with 100 percent chance of fun, with or without the almighty Patriots.

– – –

 

By asking this question, does Peter King know more than he lets on?

 

Other than a press availability for a few minutes at the NFL fall meetings in Florida last month, has anyone seen Roger Goodell? Anywhere? Odd, considering this is a year when I thought the league would be celebrating its 100th. That, too, has been mostly invisible. It should not be much of a career change for Goodell when, as most people around the league believe, he walks away into private life after the negotiation of the next CBA (talking now, but not likely done till 2021) and the next TV/streaming rights deal (2022).

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

JJ Stankevitz of NBCSports.com on the Bears offense:

 

The Bears would’ve been better off punting on first down on their first five possessions, which combined to lose 10 yards on 15 plays, in their 22-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

 

Welcome to the 2019 Chicago Bears offense: Disjointed, sloppy, ineffective, unwatchable.

 

This group found a spark in the second half, yes, when Mitch Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel on a 53-yard deep ball. But, as Gabriel put it: “At the end of the day, we lost. So it doesn’t mean anything.”

 

The reality is that “spark” the Bears found resulted in them scoring 14 points. That’s it. They’ve failed to eclipse 20 points in six of their eight games this year (the Bears scored 25 against the New Orleans Saints; seven came on Cordarrelle Patterson’s kickoff return).

 

This is an offense that’s been broken for two months and hasn’t found a consistent fix. Six of the Bears’ 13 offensive touchdowns in 2019 have come in two quarters: The second quarter of Week 3 at Washington and the third quarter of Week 5 against Oakland.

 

 

DETROIT

Another close loss for the Lions leaves Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press frustrated (is there a Shawn Detroit writing for the paper across the river in Windsor?):

 

You’re not surprised. Of course you’re not. How could you be? 

 

After all these years and all these seasons it’s just the way things are. Here is your quarterback, playing the best football of his career, and he’s led his team — your team — down to the 1-yard-line with a second left in the game and the chance to get to overtime.

 

In other cities, in other stadiums, maybe a receiver finds his way to a little daylight, or maybe the offensive line gives that quarterback a little more time. 

 

But here in Detroit? The ball is always going to be a little high. Or a little low. 

 

The quarterback is always going to be under duress. And when it comes time to win the game, fall a little short.

 

Again. 

 

Not that it’s Matthew Stafford’s fault the Detroit Lions lost to the Raiders on Sunday, 31-24. It’s Matt Patricia’s.

 

It was he, the team’s coach, who couldn’t figure out a way to stop Oakland. And it was he who hasn’t been able to get this defense right all year.

 

 “Always starts with me,” Patricia said after the game. “I’ve got to coach better. Got to get the team ready to go … so that we can play consistently.”

 

As for Stafford, don’t even start. He couldn’t make the final pass, yes, but then he didn’t have much time or an open receiver or even his best receivers on the field.  

 

He is the reason the Lions had a chance. He is the reason — along with some terrific playmaking from those receivers: Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay — that the Lions were at the goal line with a chance.

 

And his coaches knew it. Which is why Stafford came out throwing from the first snap, threw on the first three plays, in fact.

 

He had to.

 

Then kept throwing, occasionally handing it off to give the Raiders … what? 

 

A breather? How thoughtful. 

 

Despite the lack of a running game, Stafford still threw for almost 200 yards in the first half and if not for a fumble by running back J.D. McKissic on the first drive and an acrobatic interception by the Raiders’ Daryl Worley in the end zone, he might have thrown for more. 

 

That Stafford is back here in this spot, without much of a running game, without much of a defense, must feel like purgatory to him. Though he’d never admit it. 

 

How many times has he watched from the sidelines as the other team marched down and won the game? How many times has he thrown for 406 yards, three touchdowns, and it still wasn’t enough?

 

Too many. That’s how many. Not that I need to tell you. 

 

And so it goes.

 

On a day when the Raiders were down two starters on the offensive line and the Lions still couldn’t get to Derek Carr. Not even a little. Oh, sure, they sacked him once. But, really, they couldn’t bother him on Oakland’s last drive.  When it was time to make a play.

 

Nor could the defense, even with the return of Da’Shawn Hand, do much to keep the Raiders from running.  Up the middle. Around the edges. Anywhere, really, where there was green. 

 

Oakland’s rookie running back, Josh Jacobs, ran for an easy 128 yards. His associates in the Raiders’ huddle ran for another 51. 

 

By my math, that’s 179 yards, and that won’t do. Not for a team led by a coach who specializes in … defense. And adjustments, of which Patricia made a few after halftime, when he shifted alignments in his front seven and actually forced a couple of punts.

 

Still, 31 points? 

 

Some 450 yards?

 

These weren’t the Chiefs — though not even the Chiefs are the Chiefs at the moment.

 

But you get the point.

 

Patricia deserves credit for bringing in Darrell Bevell and finding a system to unleash the Stafford we’ve seen this year. But he deserves plenty of blame for fielding a defense that’s worse than it was a year ago. 

 

That defense is why the Lions are 3-4-1 and just about out of the playoff race. 

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

In a move involving two former Buccaneers head coaches, Dirk Koetter seems to have pushed Raheem Morris back to defense:

 

@AlbertBreer

Falcons announce staff changes, post-bye …

 

• WRs coach Raheem Morris is now DBs coach.

• RBs coach Dave Brock moves to WRs coach.

• Offensive ass’t Bernie Parmalee now RBs coach.

 

Morris’ background is primarily on D, so getting him over to that side makes some sense.

 

Or, maybe and not necessarily contradictorily, Morris’ perceived talents as a player’s coach will be put to use bucking up the down-trodden Falcons defenders.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Peter King on the state of QB JAMEIS WINSTON after a near-miss in Seattle:

 

The Titans, frustrated that Marcus Mariota never became the decisive playmaker they thought they drafted number two overall in 2015, have planted him on the bench behind another failed starter, Ryan Tannehill. Mariota will likely back up another quarterback in 2020. Maybe Chicago, where his former coach, Mark Helfrich, is offensive coordinator—though the Bears might want a player with a better résumé to challenge Mitchell Trubisky in 2020. In Tampa, Jameis Winston has gone from an 80-percent sure bet for a second contract with the Bucs to who knows. In his last two games prior to Week 9, Winston turned it over 10 times—and he’s lucky it wasn’t 12, because two of his fumbles were not lost. But then he throws for 335 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in nearly upsetting Seattle on the road. So like I said, who knows. Coach Bruce Arians has been fiercely defensive of Winston, but that’s what happens when a coach is trying to save a quarterback whose middle name is Potential. I won’t be surprised, barring an efficient second half of the season, if GM Jason Licht pushes the QB decision down the road and offers Winston a bridge deal of a couple of years.

 

Bucs fans were fuming when Winston lost a key fumble Sunday, but replays belatedly showed that one of his linemen hit his elbow while he was attempting to pass.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Just as happened to the Patriots, the 8-0 49ers have raced downwind against a light schedule, but now must turn around and tack home.  Peter King sees headwinds looming – even as he makes a rare blunder:

 

Five NFC teams have seven or more wins through nine weeks, which is amazing. The Niners are terrific on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense, but it’s possible 7-2 Green Bay and 7-1 New Orleans could pass them for the top two seeds. San Francisco’s second-half schedule is a killer: Seattle twice, the Rams once, and Baltimore and New Orleans on the road.

 

We would presume that King overlooked the Packers in Week 12 in Santa Clara from San Francisco’s killer lineup.

 

The other two games – that we would think would be wins 9 and 10 are home match-ups with Arizona and Atlanta.  And the Cardinals are playing at about league average right now.

 

 

SEATTLE

Peter King with a QB RUSSELL WILSON note:

 

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, through nine games, has 22 touchdown passes and one interception. He is on pace to throw for 39 touchdowns and two interceptions, a plus-37 TD-to-interception differential.

 

In 19 seasons, Tom Brady has had one season better than plus-37.

 

In 17 seasons, Peyton Manning had two seasons better than plus-37.

 

In 19 seasons, Brett Favre had no seasons better than plus-37.

 

In 18 seasons, Drew Brees has had no seasons better than plus-37.

 

And this on new WR JOSH GORDON:

 

I think I get a kick out of the legitimate wonder of people that only one team claimed wide receiver Josh Gordon after the Patriots released him off injured reserve last week. Seriously you question why teams wouldn’t be flocking to claim this highly problematic player? Suspended five times in an eight-year career for substance abuse … cut by the Browns for “violating the team’s trust” … released by a six-time championship team desperate for wide-receiver help … put on the street by Bill Belichick. Common sense, people. Please.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

After JOSH ALLEN and KYLE ALLEN won in the early window, BRANDON ALLEN completed this amazing trifecta reported by The AP:

 

The name of the game this weekend?

 

Allen. All three of them.

 

Brandon Allen has guided Denver to a 24-19 win over Cleveland that not only made him an indelible memory in his first NFL start but produced an unprecedented occurrence in this unpredictable league.

 

Because Josh Allen quarterbacked Buffalo to victory over Washington and Kyle Allen did the same for Carolina against Tennessee, all three unrelated players named Allen were winners. According to the NFL, that was the first time in the 54-year Super Bowl era that three quarterbacks with the same surname not only started in the same week but won their respective games.

 

In 2000, Brad Johnson (Washington), Doug Johnson (Atlanta) and Rob Johnson (Buffalo) all started in Week 14. They all lost.

 

In 1984, Dave Wilson (New Orleans), Marc Wilson (Los Angeles Raiders) and Wade Wilson (Minnesota) all started in Week 16. Only New Orleans won.

 

As near as the DB can determined using a ProFootballReference.com sort, this is the alphabetical order of all starting QBs in NFL history (or at least back to 1950):

 

                                               1st start

1          Tony Adams               1975

2          Troy Aikman*              1989

3          Frankie Albert             1950

4          Brandon Allen             2019

5          Josh Allen                  2018

6          Kyle Allen                    2018

7          Derek Anderson          2006

8          Ken Anderson            1971

 

So up until last year, no one with the last name Allen had started an NFL game at QB.  Now, three have – and they have a combined record of 18-9.

 

Josh from Firebaugh, California and the University of Wyoming is 11-8.

 

Kyle from Scottsdale, Arizona and Texas A&M/U. of Houston is 6-1.

 

And Brandon from Fayetteville, Arkansas and the U. of Arkansas is now 1-0.

 

Brandon has a brother Austin Allen, who we could see in the XFL this winter, who also QB’d at Arkansas and could make an amazing 4th Allen someday.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Peter King on the calculations in Kansas City:

 

1. The health of Patrick Mahomes. With him at 100 percent, the Chiefs could (could, I wrote, not would) have the kind of explosive offense to win in Foxboro and beat back the strong contenders in the NFC in the Super Bowl. With him at 88 percent-ish because of the after-effects of the dislocated kneecap, his quick-twitch movements in and out of the pocket disappear, and the Chiefs would have to be significantly better on defense than they are today to win Super Bowl 54. This is the reason I fully back Any Reid sitting Mahomes on Sunday against Minnesota, though Mahomes was probably healthy enough to play hobbled: As of this morning, only one of KC’s seven foes down the stretch has a record over .500. Get Mahomes to max health, even if it costs the Chiefs the two seed.

 

At the moment, at the moment we said – the four AFC division champ, homefield QBs are TOM BRADY, PATRICK MAHOMES, LAMAR JACKSON and DESHAUN WATSON.  Which one is not like the other three?

 

Only Watson would seem to have much of a chance to change – at the moment.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Good early returns on the first Gruden-Mayock draft class.  Josh Shrock of NBCNewsBayArea.com:

 

When Jon Gruden arrived back in Oakland, it was clear he didn’t like what he saw.

 

Most of the players didn’t fit what he wanted to do — either from a culture or scheme perspective — and so Year 1 of Gruden’s second reign in silver and black turned into a Year 0 teardown. The losses piled up. Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were traded away as Gruden angled for draft capital in order to craft the team in his image.

 

To build the next great era of football, Gruden believed, the building blocks must be acquired and put in place.

 

Many of those building blocks were acquired in April when the Raiders selected nine players in the 2019 NFL Draft.

 

There were first-round picks Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram, yes. But there also was second-round pick Trayvon Mullen, fourth-round pick Foster Moreau, fifth-round pick Hunter Renfrow and undrafted rookies Keelan Doss and Alec Ingold, who the Raiders later brought on board.

 

Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick, hasn’t popped yet, but the confidence still is there that he can be a difference-maker on the defensive line. Abram suffered a shoulder injury in Week 1 and will miss the entire season. Mullen didn’t see a lot of snaps early on, but was given the starting spot after the Raiders traded Gareon Conley to the Texans and has been as-advertised.

 

The defensive rookies are talented, but it’s what’s happened on offense that has to have Gruden beaming from ear-to-ear.

 

Jacobs has been a revelation at running back, breaking Marcus Allen’s record for rushing yards by a Raiders rookie Sunday in a Week 9 win over the Lions. He’s shown great vision, power, elusiveness and still has yet to showcase his ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

 

Moreau, who was thought of as a project tight end coming out of LSU, was thrust into a bigger role once the Raiders were forced to alter their offensive philosophy in the wake of Antonio Brown’s unexpected departure. Moreau wasn’t used a ton in the passing game in Baton Rouge, but it’s clear that was due to a run-heavy offensive scheme and not his ability to be a weapon as he’s become a reliable target for quarterback Derek Carr.

 

Renfrow’s college credentials are well-documented. A College Football Playoff National Championship Game hero for Clemson, Renfrow racked up clutch catch after clutch catch during his career in Death Valley. He won the slot receiver job in training camp, beating out veteran Ryan Grant. After a slow start to his NFL career, Renfrow has come on over the last two games, catching 10 balls for 142 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning, 9-yard touchdown in the Raiders’ win over the Lions on Sunday.

 

All told, Jacobs, Moreau and Renfrow accounted for all four of the Raiders’ scores in the win over the Lions. This group of rookies came in with a clear goal, knowing they were going to be the ground floor of a Raiders rebuild, and they’ve worked hard to get the Silver and Black back on track right away.

 

“That’s something that we’ve been priding ourselves on since we came in,” Jacobs said of the rookie class. “We wanted to change the culture, start a dynasty here. We all came in and we made that agreement together. Seeing that we are all doing so good right now, it’s working.”

 

The Raiders became the first team since the Seahawks in 2015 to have rookies score all four touchdowns in a victory. Jacobs racked up 128 yards and two touchdowns. Renfrow caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown and Moreau’s lone catch was a 3-yard scoring strike.

 

The offensive rookies have been grinding since Day 1, and they are starting to bear the fruits of their labor.

 

“Our rookie class takes a lot of pride, with Alec and Keelan, on the offensive side,” Renfrow said. “All of us just trying to be our best and try to get this thing turned around. We feel like we are a good class and we have the chance to do that.”

 

Gruden was heavily criticized for trading away two of his best players in Mack and Cooper. The Raiders still are looking for a way to replace the hole Mack left on the defensive line. A hole the Raiders hope Ferrell can help fill in time. Many questioned Gruden’s ability to evaluate talent after spending so many years away from the game, but his rookie class has delivered so far and have the Raiders 4-4 and in the playoff hunt.

 

Carr now has been a Raider for six seasons. He’s had four head coaches and has seen different blueprints drawn up to get the Raiders going in the right direction. Each plan has been torn up. stuck in a shredder and discarded in favor of a different vision. But these rookies give Carr hope the Raiders now are on the right path.

 

“I talk about it all the time, you have to lay a foundation,” Carr said after the Raiders’ win over the Lions. “We’ve laid one and jackhammered it out about 14 times since I’ve been here, right? This one I hope stays, that’s for sure. But this foundation is pretty good, man.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

A note from Jeff Miller of the LA Times:

 

@JeffMillerLAT

This is the first time Philip Rivers has beaten the Packers. Only two teams he still has never beaten: Saints and Panthers.

 

And, of course, the Chargers.  So his number of teams beaten is now 29.

– – –

It sounds like Ken Whisenhunt was shown the door for being complicated – as the Chargers surge in Week 9 with a new simpler look from a young OC.  Peter King:

 

Shane Steichen, offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Chargers. On Thursday, Steichen preached simplicity to his team, and to the media. “We’ll do whatever we can do to make guys play faster and not think as much,” the new Chargers offensive coordinator said. Taking over for the fired Ken Whisenhunt, Steichen called a strong game against the heretofore 7-1 Packers in L.A.’s 26-11 upset in California. (Kudos to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, too, for designing a nightmare afternoon for Aaron Rodgers.) I could see Anthony Lynn’s hand in the game plan too: Lynn loves a hard-running, physically imposing offense team. Steichen called 38 runs and 30 passes, and the 38 runs produced an uncharacteristic 159 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Last interesting note, in keeping with the baby boom of so many of these new offensive coaches on the scene: Steichen, 34, is 3.5 years younger than his quarterback. Now it’ll be interesting to see if the Chargers (formerly 2-5, now 4-5, with a quick-turnaround game at Oakland on Thursday) can make this one game more than an outlier.

– – –

Why were Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the sidelines for part of Sunday’s game.  Andrew Joseph of USAToday.com:

 

The basic setup of an NFL broadcast have been consistent over the years: There’s an announcing team in the booth and a reporter working on the sidelines. Outside of the much-maligned Booger Mobile and Tony Siragusa’s stint at Fox, NFL broadcasts have stuck to that set formula.

 

On Sunday, CBS Sports’ top NFL team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson switched things up a bit for the second half of the Packers-Chargers game at Dignity Health Sports Park.

 

Nantz and Romo took position on the sidelines with some portable monitors and their game notes. Wolfson moved between the sidelines and the booth.

 

It was unclear as to why the announcing team made this move. Typically, this would be the sort of gimmick that a PR department would love to promote ahead of the game. Yet, there was no such announcement from the folks at CBS.

 

The move seemed to be an impromptu stunt aimed at mocking the Green Bay offense as the pair ultimately returned to the booth with a graphic showing their total yards exceeded the Packers.

 

We would guess that the move involved some kind of power outage in the main booth which was never intended to host a network’s top national broadcast.

 

Or one of the talent may have had claustrophobia in its tiny spaces.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Can a torch be passed so quickly?  For it was the Ravens quarterback LAMAR JACKSON racing and passing easily through the greatest defense in NFL history while the GOAT (but perhaps not the Greatest of Today) looked human.  Peter King:

 

So, in two hours and 59 minutes Sunday night, the NFL landscape changed. No longer is there one team on Mount Olympus and then eight or 10 teams clawing to get in New England’s league. Lamar Jackson saw to that on a revelatory night of football in downtown Baltimore.

 

Revelatory is not an exaggerated word. The Ravens ran out of a Pistol formation twice. They surrounded Jackson with sidecar tight ends at least seven times. They complete a Jet Sweep toss-pass for 26 yards. They ran three run-pass options, with Jackson keeping each time. They ran standard power runs with Mark Ingram, and they ran designed runs for Jackson, and he ran a read-option for a touchdown that left Jamie Collins in the dust. And Jackson scrambled when pressured several times using great peripheral vision—most notably on a late-third-quarter, 11-yard run when he juked Pats linebacker Kyle Van Noy into Delaware, setting up an insurance touchdown. That one caused Charles Woodson, future Hall of Famer, to tweet: “Lamar Jackson vision once he tucks to run is second to none.”

 

New England entered Sunday night 8-0, allowing a league-low 7.6 points and 12.9 first downs per game. They exited 8-1, allowing 37 points and 26 first downs. The Baltimore victory wasn’t a shock. The Baltimore offensive explosion, and drives of 11, 11, 14 and 14 plays against the Patriots—now that was a shock felt all over the league. The Ravens showed you could run on the Patriots and pass on the Patriots and not get flummoxed by the Patriots.

 

Baltimore 37, New England 20. But what would you say if I told you there was a time midway through the third quarter, the Ravens hanging onto a four-point lead, backed up on third-and-five, when the rocking stadium had become Sistine Chapel-quiet, awaiting the inevitable New England onslaught? Tension on the Ravens’ bench, tension in the stands.

 

But apparently no tension in the huddle.

 

“Big situation,” tight end Mark Andrews said. “We don’t get that, we gotta punt it back to Tom Brady. Not good. But we were calm in the huddle. That starts with Lamar. He was cool right then.”

– – –

New England didn’t live by the blitz in this game—by Pro Football Focus’ count, the Patriots blitzed eight times on 27 Jackson dropbacks—but they were coming here. “You could see they were going to play zero,” Andrews told me. That’s the defense playing man on each receiver, one on one, with no safety help for anyone. Jackson saw it too: “We’ve been seeing it all week, and coach [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] has been drilling it in my head.” The Patriots sent six, covering four receivers one on one, with a cornerback, Jonathan Jones, lurking around the middle-linebacker slot to spy Jackson in case he took off. From wide left, Andrews ran a corner route, and got a step on backup safety Terrence Brooks. Andrews, 6-5, has six inches on Brooks. “I just had to deliver the ball,” Jackson threw high, but Andrew went up and got it, maybe six inches out of Brooks reach.

 

Gain of 18. First down. Then it went Ravens touchdown, Brady interception, Ravens touchdown, ballgame.

 

“That play really kind of gave us a spark,” Andrews said in the back of the Ravens’ locker room. The adulation was elsewhere—with Jackson, Ingram, Earl Thomas, and other heroes of the night. Rightfully so. But this play, Jackson to Andrews, was the play of the night for Baltimore. It kept the chains moving toward an insurance touchdown, and New England was done.

 

“He [Andrews] should have the game ball for that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I forgot.”

 

Andrews will have other chances. This is an equal-opportunity offense. Four rushers gained yards on the ground; 10 receivers were targeted. This offense is just so multi-dimensional, so different from the NFL standard, even in this day of filling the air with footballs. It’s fun. You sit there and think: What’s coming next?

 

“All starts with Lamar. Lamar runs the show,” said Earl Thomas. “you better be in great shape when you play us, because Lamar’s gonna wear you down, mentally and physically.”

 

“Lamar the dude,” Ingram said, with the kind of deep respect you hear only from an admiring locker-room peer.

 

A while after the game, I found Jackson in the back of the locker room. As those who know him tell it, he’s just a happy kid, respectful, with a strong work ethic, and he doesn’t get cowed by the spotlight. He respects Tom Brady, but said adamantly that he didn’t think, Man, I’m playing Brady tonight. We chatted a bit, and as I prepared to leave, I said to him, “You’re fun to watch.”

 

“Appreciate that, Mr. Peter,” Jackson said.

– – –

S EARL THOMAS picks his MVP – and it is his current QB and not his old one.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Ravens safety Earl Thomas says the best player in the NFL is in Baltimore.

 

Thomas said after Sunday’s win over the Patriots that quarterback Lamar Jackson deserves to be the league’s Most Valuable Player.

 

“Lamar played MVP-type football. He’s separating himself,” Thomas said.

 

Thomas said the Ravens are led by their offense, and he and his defensive teammates play a supporting role.

 

“It starts with Lamar and the offense and the running game,” Thomas said. “Us on defense, we just try to give the ball back to them and create more stops and let the MVP do his thing,” Thomas said.

 

Thomas said he was thrilled to hear the Baltimore crowd chanting “MVP” at Jackson.

 

“I’m right with the crowd. I mean that. This man is the MVP. I’m right behind him. I’m backing him. He makes my job easier,” Thomas said.

 

That’s high praise from a respected veteran for a young player who’s performing at an elite level.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Browns S JERMAINE WHITEHEAD had his Twitter account removed after a postgame meltdown.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Browns safety Jermaine Whitehead probably needed more than the standard 10-minute cooling off period.

 

Whitehead went on a social media rant only minutes after the Browns’ 24-19 loss to the Broncos, taking out his anger on his critics.

 

Whitehead, who wore a brace on his left hand, struggled to tackle Sunday. He finished with no statistics.

 

His threatening tweets got his Twitter account suspended and promoted a statement from the Browns.

 

“Jermaine Whitehead’s social media posts following today’s game were totally unacceptable and highly inappropriate,” the team wrote, via Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan. “We immediately spoke with Jermaine upon learning of these comments. The Browns in no way condone that type of language or behavior. This matter will be further addressed internally.”

 

Whitehead’s account is not verified by Twitter, but the Browns confirmed it was his.

 

“Don’t get shot at lil b—- …can you whoop my a–. f— football… let me know when you need the address,” Whitehead replied to one critic.

 

He also tweeted to another, “Imma kill you b—-… that’s on blood.”

 

Whitehead went after Dustin Fox of 92.3 The Fan who had tweeted, “Whitehead’s effort tackling today is a joke.” That prompted Whitehead to reply, “Come get it in blood b— made a– lil boy. I’m out there with a broke hand …don’t get smoked f— a– cracker”

 

Whitehead didn’t follow rule one after a loss: Stay off social media.

 

On Monday comes word that Whitehead has been waived.

– – –

This too was a major story in the odd-looking game in Denver.  Charean Williams of ESPN.com:

 

The Browns wore brown jerseys. The Broncos wore orange jerseys.

 

It looked weird.

 

Odell Beckham said the Browns announced to the players mid-week that they weren’t wearing white jerseys. The Pro Bowl receiver blamed that on shoe-gate.

 

Beckham and teammate Jarvis Landry were told by NFL officials in the first half that they were wearing non-conforming cleats and would have to change at halftime to be allowed back on the field for the second half.

 

“To be honest, obviously you guys know I have a deal with Nike. I really wasn’t going to say nothing, but if I don’t say something then it’s just going to be used against me so. . . .,” Beckham said, via video from Jake Trotter of ESPN. “I have a deal with Nike. We were supposed to wear white jerseys this week. In the offseason, before the season even starts, in June and July, we sit down and we map out the cleats. ‘All right, this is it. Bam! This is the jersey you’re going to wear. Cool.’ This week, on Wednesday or Thursday, we switched jerseys from the white to the all brown, so I had no cleats left to wear. I had none I could have wore, and the black ones I was wearing for the rest of the game for some reason was just hurting my feet, so I went to the ones that was most comfortable. I’m pretty sure they changed the rule and cleats wasn’t a big deal. It’s only a big deal to the people who are talking about it.

 

“When I have cleats on my feet, they can be hot pink, lime green. It’s never going to affect me. It’s not something that I worry about while I’m running routes, reading coverages and trying to win the game. So it was just a tough day. Literally just switched the jersey, so cleats that I had was not for that jersey. We were supposed to wear white. The cleats were white. I just had to go with whatever was most comfortable to play in.”

 

Landry said he didn’t “really understand” what the NFL’s problem was with the cleats.

 

Landry wore golden slippers, and Beckham his Joker shoes in the first half. Both switched at halftime.

 

“When we went up to the Nike headquarters to start game planning for throughout the season and our uniforms and things like that, these things get cleared by the league before Nike can start processing the shoe,” Landry said. “So Nike processed the shoe and thinking, I guess, they had the green light from the NFL. So I didn’t see it as being a a problem or a distraction to anybody. I’m just trying to play football, but you know. . . .”

 

Beckham has complained at least twice this season about uniform violation letters from the NFL. He received a warning letter from the NFL after wearing his expensive Richard Mille watch during a game early in the season.

 

The NFL told him to stop wearing a watch.

 

Beckham later posted the letter he received from the NFL informing him of a fine for his uniform pants not covering his knees during the Week Six game against Seattle.

 

He said Sunday the NFL is singling him out.

 

“You just got to know your situation, know who you are, where you are and know they’re going to try to take them off regardless,” Beckham said, “even though I’ve seen people in cleats that are completely different colored from their team and they can wear them all game on a prime-time game and for some reason when it comes to me, it’s just not the case.”

 

More on the uniform chaos:

 

There was a lot of brown and orange on the field when the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns matched up on Sunday.

 

So much that fans were confused about who was who.

 

The visiting Browns wore their brown color rush uniforms with orange trim, while the Broncos opted to wear their orange jerseys.

 

When players collided, confusion reigned.

 

@FourVerts

who thought this was a good idea with the brown vs orange

 

 

@NateSablich

This Browns-Broncos game is quite possibly the worst uniform matchup in sports history

 

@jmacomber75

One of these teams definitely screwed up on their uniform selection. @UniWatch #CLEvsDEN @Browns @Broncos

 

@MySportsUpdate

The jersey combo in the #Browns-#Broncos game is a disaster.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

The 5-3 Colts are 5-3 in close games.  A tweet from Mike Chappell

 

@mchappell51

Colts 1 of 5 teams to open a season w/8 straight games decided by 7 points or fewer. Indy and 1978 Houston Oilers only teams to do so with winning record (both 5-3).

 

Record: 2016 Detroit Lions with 11 straight.

– – –

Colts DC MATT EBERFLUS gets the privilege of being promoted by Peter King:

 

A few months before the Rams hired Sean McVay at 30 in 2017, one of our writers at The MMQB, Andy Benoit, wrote that McVay was far and away, despite his age, the best head-coaching candidate in the NFL. Rams COO Kevin Demoff read the piece, got interested in McVay, interviewed him, and the rest is Rams history. “I’m probably as high on Eberflus as anyone since Sean McVay,” Benoit said on my podcast this week. Eberflus has integrated scads of young players into his defense and gotten them to play fast quickly. Very highly regarded about the league. Should get a head-coaching job.

– – –

A note on QB BRIAN HOYER, who did okay after QB JACOBY BRISSETT went down:

 

Brian Hoyer is the fifth player in NFL history to throw a pass TD with seven or more different teams (Patriots, Cardinals, Browns, Texans, Bears, 49ers and Colts). He joins Vinny Testaverde, Chris Chandler, Gus Frerotte (seven teams each) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (eight teams).

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

One thing accomplished in London by QB GARDNER MINSHEW was to clear the way for the return of NICK FOLES.  Peter King:

 

So much for the Gardner Minshew-over-Nick Foles narrative in Jacksonville.

 

I admit: I was one of those conducting that train. Minshew had to make something good happen in London on Sunday against the Watt-less Texans, but what he did was throw two picks, put up three points, and give Jacksonville zero chance to win.

 

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Ryan Talbot of NYUpstate.com notes this oddity in the opening lines for Week 10:

 

It’s safe to say that Las Vegas does not believe in the Buffalo Bills.

 

Despite their 6-2 record, Buffalo will open as a slight underdog to the 2-6 Cleveland Browns in Week 10.

 

SportsLine shared the NFL Week 10 opening lines and Buffalo is a 2.5 point underdog on the road according to Super Book USA.

 

@SportsLine

NFL Week 10 Opening Lines

 

LAC at OAK (-1)

BAL (-10) at CIN

BUF at CLE (-2.5)

DET at CHI (-3)

NYG (PK) at NYJ

KC (-3.5) at TEN

AZ at TB (-6)

ATL at NO (-13.5)

MIA at IND (No Line)

LAR (-3.5) at PIT

CAR at GB (-5)

MIN at DAL (-3)

SEA at SF (-6.5)

 

Odds via @SuperBookUSA

 

Buffalo enters the matchup following a 24-9 win over Washington. Josh Allen accounted for two touchdowns in the victory while rookie running back Devin Singletary recorded 140 total yards on offense. The Bills struggled in run defense early in the game, but made some strong second half adjustments in the victory.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

When we saw this, we thought the XFL was taking a shot at the Jets.  Turns out it was just a funny from a “fan” account, but still a funny:

 

XFL

@realXFLfootball

Congratulations to the Miami Dolphins for their first victory of the season.

 

We’d say something snarky about the Jets, but some of those guys may be playing for us in a few months.  #XFL2020

 

These thoughts from Peter King:

 

Between 2010 and 2017, all nine first-round picks by the Jets were defensive players. S Jamal Adams is the last one left on the team.

 

• Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner, Calvin Pryor, Darron Lee: Duds. Kyle Wilson, Leonard Williams: Meh. Muhammad Wilkerson: Got the money, changed. Sheldon Richardson: Productive, too much of a handful off the field.

 

• Wins since opening day 2014: New England 82, Jets 29.

 

Joe Douglas was lured from a top job in Philadelphia—I hear for a six-year contract—last winter to bring stability to the Jets. He’s an excellent scout and evaluator. But that’s only part of this new job. He’s got to find a way to make peace with Adams. He’s got to be a rock-solid north-star type for an organization that time and again over the last decade has undergone makeovers, gotten fans excited, then just driven them right off the cliff again. Now Douglas needs to put the genie back in the bottle.

– – –

Dan Graziano says Jets fans are right to panic about the Adam Gase Regime:

 

The Jets’ hiring of Adam Gase was a mistake

The Jets became the first team to lose to the Dolphins, whose front office has spent the past eight months willingly subverting the quality of its roster in an effort to amass as many 2020 and 2021 NFL draft picks as possible. This is an inexcusable loss, and it came in inexcusable fashion, at the hands of former Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami built a 21-7 lead on three second-quarter FitzMagic touchdown throws and uncharacteristically held on, as the Jets scored nothing but field goals and a safety after the first quarter.

 

The Jets are now 1-7, which is the same record as the Dolphins, who — again — are not trying to field a competitive roster for this season.

 

The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. And this isn’t because of the record, or because of Gase’s inexcusable loss to his former team, though those certainly aren’t points in his favor. If the Jets were suffering through another miserable, Jets-ian season and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold were showing real progress, things wouldn’t look so bad for Gase.

 

Remember, he is supposed to be a quarterback guy, and one of the main reasons they fired defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles and brought in Gase was to help with Darnold’s development. Darnold appears to be regressing in some key ways, and if the Jets get to the end of this season and he’s not on an upward trajectory, that’s the indictment that could make Gase one-and-done.

 

The whole thing is a mess. The Jets’ big offensive line trade acquisition got released after feuding with the medical staff, their best defensive player is mad they answered the phone about him at the trade deadline and their big free-agent running back signing was upset a week ago about not getting enough touches. Gase moved out general manager Mike Maccagnan and handpicked Joe Douglas to replace him, so you’d think he has a lot of power and could survive this. But there’s a lot of time for it to get a lot uglier. And if it does, there could be major changes in Florham Park for the second offseason in a row.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

WEEK 16

Peter King takes a look at a tasty group of Saturday games forming for Week 16:

 

Now look at Week 16. ‘Twas the week before Christmas. You probably don’t recall the schedule weirdness from last April. The NFL scheduled a Saturday tripleheader, to be televised by NFL Network. The league put five games from Week 16 in a pool, with three to be chosen by next Monday, Nov. 11. The five games: Detroit-Denver, Oakland-L.A. Chargers, Buffalo-New England, L.A. Rams-San Francisco, Houston-Tampa Bay. The games are likely to be played at 1:05 p.m. ET, 4:30 p.m. ET and 8:15 p.m. ET. Spitballing here. I think it’s possible the league puts Texans-Bucs in the early window, Raiders-Chargers in the second window, and Bills-Patriots in prime time. But wait, you say. What about Rams-Niners? That’s the best game of the five! Why not put that in prime time Saturday? Look at the game slated for Sunday night football that week. Kansas City-Chicago. Normally you’d say, No way we’re flexing out of a Mahomes game. And it’s altogether possible the NFL won’t. But the Bears could be 5-9 at kickoff in Week 16, long since out of it. I’m just saying don’t be shocked if the best game of the five up for grabs right now gets moved twice—once from Saturday to Sunday, and again from Sunday day to prime time.

 

 

RIVERON P.I.

Peter King investigates and sees Al Riveron privately killing the Sean Payton Rule:

 

Whither pass interference? The new pass-interference challenge “rule” has been more of a “laughably rarely enforced suggestion” in the first half of this year. Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron seldom overrules a call on the field (2 of 31 coaches’ challenges between Week 3 and Week 8 were denied, ESPN reported) and seemingly at will. Maybe we’ll all be happy if it saves a horrible call in a playoff game. Maybe. But I don’t see this debacle of a rules change getting 24 of 32 votes next March to continue in the 2020 season.

 

The DB seriously wonders if Riveron would call the play that sparked it all in the NFC Championship Game as P.I. if presented with it under the rule this year.

 

 

2020 DRAFT

Peter King surveys the bottom of the barrel:

 

As of this morning, the race for the first pick seems to be a five-team race: Cincinnati (0-8), Washington (1-8), Atlanta (1-7), Jets (1-7) and Miami (1-7). As of today, there is no must-have overall first pick. Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young is likely the surest draft thing. Two quarterbacks are likely to go in the top five, at least. The most compelling draft storyline, of course, will be Miami, which also owns the first-round picks of Pittsburgh and Houston. Let’s just guess the Dolphins end up with the second, 10th (from Pittsburgh, for Minkah Fitzpatrick) and 22nd (from Houston, for Laremy Tunsil) picks in round one. Miami also has two firsts and two seconds in 2021. They could be frothing over Young at a major need position, and know they need a quarterback too. No team would be in better position to trade up than Miami. The Dolphins, in this scenario, might be able to trade the 10th overall pick this year plus a first and a second next year to move from 10 to three with a franchise not desperate for a quarterback. Amazing, that would still leave Miami with another first-rounder this year, and picks in the first and second rounds next year. Theoretically, that’s how they could end up with Young and one of the three quarterbacks with soft question marks—Tua Tagovailoa (nagging injuries), Justin Herbert (not an alpha-male leader type), Joe Burrow (one-year wonder).

 

Sooo, the Redskins are one year from taking a maybe-he-has it QB in DWAYNE HASKINS, the Jets two from tagging SAM DARNOLD as an IT guy.  The Dolphins have a vacancy.  Cincinnati probably does, but maybe rookie RYAN FINLEY will be 4th-round lightning.

 

And then there is Atlanta.  Is it time, dare we think it, to move on from Hall of Famer in waiting MATT RYAN after 12 years in a Let-Peyton-Go-To-Denver moment that Luckily revitalized two franchises. 

 

Tua lighting up the suddenly empty Benz and Ryan getting a shot to push a team with good bones like Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas over the top…and we could see Ryan with Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay.

 

We’re not cap savvy enough to know if Ryan’s contract which has two to four years to run is tradeable what with bonus acceleration and all.  And how many teams could afford to have a big QB salary dropped in their laps.

 

But if Atlanta had Tua, another decent first, a 2nd first in 2021, more picks and a decent player – is that better and more exciting to the fan base than more of Ryan and CHASE YOUNG?