The Daily Briefing Tuesday, November 13, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Ay, caramba. This from Adam Schefter:

 

@AdamSchefter

Discussions continue about whether Monday night’s Chiefs-Rams game will be played in Mexico City, LA or postponed, per sources. NFL determined to play it Monday night in Mexico City, but the field is “a mess” and might not be safe for players. It’s a significant concern.

 

And this story:

 

“We are working closely with the field manager at Azteca Stadium and others to ensure that we have an NFL-quality surface for our game, and we are looking forward to kicking off in Mexico City on Monday night,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

 

Significant discussions are underway about whether the game will be played in Mexico City, Los Angeles or postponed, according to sources, and a decision is expected this week.

 

One source said he still expects the game will be played there. But another source said he thinks moving the game to Los Angeles is still an option that will be decided this week.

 

The issue is that soccer games and concerts have left the field a mess. The teams are aware of the situation, and the NFLPA is concerned and has been monitoring it closely.

 

NFL officials are expected to convene at the stadium Tuesday in a meeting that was previously scheduled to examine the playing surface and make a final decision about whether the game can and will be played there, sources said. If it is not, the game would be moved to Los Angeles.

 

The decision better be made this week.

 

Postponed?  To Week 12 when both teams are supposed to be on bye?

 

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com piles on:

 

Regardless of how the NFL resolves the question of whether to proceed with Monday night’s game of the year in Mexico City, the league has yet another mess of its own making.

 

Here we are, six days before the Chiefs and Rams will meet in Mexico, and the league engaged in no obvious proactive effort to solve the problem until the pot reached a full, raging boil.

 

The turf at Aztec Stadium remains a “mess,” but the NFL is “determined” to play the game, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

 

It’s easy to envision a series of hectic meetings and frazzled conference calls during which a variety of arguments are made and considerations are balanced. Here’s hoping that the only factors that ultimately matters are: (1) the safety of the players; and (2) the integrity of the game.

 

Remember the second one? That was the cover the NFL used to justify whacking the Patriots over a trivial football-inflation issue under a standard that had been on the books for so long that no one knew why it was even there. Taking a little air out of the ball to make it easier to throw (the NFL failed to prove that this ever happened) and thus making the game better is a far cry from forcing two of the best offenses in the NFL to play on a field that looks like the vacant lot in every neighborhood where a house was torn down and a smattering of grass, weeds, rocks, and dirt is now in its place.

 

Instead, other concerns will drive the decision, from legal claims made by fans who incurred travel plans in reliance on the game being played in Mexico (there will be liability, and the NFL should do the right thing and provide fair refunds) to potentially alienating Mexican officials who could kill future NFL games there to possibly undermining the league’s effort to squeeze as much money as possible out of international wallets. Those concerns should be secondary to the safety of the players and the integrity of the game.

 

But we know they won’t be. Because in too many past instances, they haven’t been.

 

AS WE GO TO PRESS, this from Adam Schefter:

 

Monday night’s Chiefs-Rams game now is being moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions in Estadio Azteca, per sources.

 

Back to LA for the Rams, who have been training for altitude in Colorado Springs.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Michael David Smith on the record-breaking pace of QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY:

 

The Bears don’t have a history of great quarterbacks, so it’s unsurprising that their franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns aren’t too impressive. But it’s still surprising that Mitchell Trubisky, in only his second NFL season, is on pace to break those records.

 

Erik Kramer owns the Chicago Bears franchise records for passing yards in a season, with 3,838, and for passing touchdowns in a season, with 29. He set both of those records in 1995, and the Bears haven’t been able to find a better quarterback since. Trubisky may finally break those records since then.

 

Through nine games this season, Trubisky has 2,304 passing yards, which puts him on pace to finish this season with 4,096 yards. And he has 19 passing touchdowns, which puts him on pace to finish this season with 34 touchdowns. Trubisky is actually ahead of pace and would break the touchdown record in the Bears’ 14th game and the yardage record in the Bears’ 15th game if he continues at his current pace.

 

There are still those who have doubts about Trubisky, and who question whether it was really wise for G.M. Ryan Pace to trade up for Trubisky in last year’s draft, when he could have stayed put or even traded down and drafted Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. But Trubisky is starting to put the doubts about him to rest. He’s been playing his best football recently, and playing some of the best football Chicago has ever seen from a quarterback.

 

Three teams have never had a QB throw 30 TD passes in a season – the Bears, the Texans and the Buccaneers.  To be on a pace for 30 after nine games, a QB would need 17 TD passes.  At the moment:

 

MITCHELL TRUBISKY, Bears           19

DeSHAUN WATSON, Texans            17

RYAN FITZPATRICK, Buccanners    17

 

They are among a mind-boggling 16 QBs with 17 TD passes or more.

 

 

DETROIT

Coach Matt Patricia says Sunday’s woeful outing in Chicago is not reason for panic.  Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press:

 

The Detroit Lions are not panicking.

 

At least that’s what coach Matt Patricia said the day after his team lost its third straight game by double digits.

 

“I believe in this team and we’re going to work real hard every single day,” Patricia said Monday. “I think the guys in that room have a great understanding of what they are and what we’re going to do as a team. We’re not hitting the panic button right now or anything like that right now. We’re just trying to get better. I think that’s our biggest thing is just try get some improvement.”

 

The Lions are 3-6 and all but eliminated from playoff contention. Offensively and defensively, they haven’t looked anything like the team that beat the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers and ran wild on the road against the Miami Dolphins.

 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been sacked 16 times the past two weeks. The run game has been anemic, and the defense looked out of sync with poor communication in Sunday’s 34-22 loss at Chicago.

 

“I don’t think it would be necessarily the right thing to do to hit the panic button,” left tackle Taylor Decker said Monday. “Obviously, there’s a ton of things we’ve got to correct. But there’s a ton of things that are correctable. But no, I don’t think we should be panicking per se.”

 

But Patricia said the mandate was to continue to seek improvement through the final six games of the season.

 

“There’s a lot of football left to be played and we’re going to fight to the very end of this whole thing,” he said. “So it’s what we do in games, it’s what we do single day: Try to get better. So we’re absolutely just pushing forward.”

 

Are the 3-6 Lions “all but eliminated” from playoff contention?

 

Well, it all depends on how well they can play at home.  They start a formidable three-game road trip with the Panthers, followed by Chicago (on Thanksgiving) and the Rams.  Can we imagine them winning 2 of 3 to get to 5-7?  Then road games at Arizona and Buffalo, so maybe 7-7.  Then home with the Vikings.  Then at Green Bay.

 

Eh, 6-10 seems to be about the ceiling, not the 9-7 that might be needed.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Lincoln Riley, who may never have even been to an NFL game, may be fighting off NFL teams with a stick in six weeks or so.  Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones shot down an NFL Network report that the team had an “affinity” for Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley as a possible replacement for head coach Jason Garrett.

 

He also said the report that the Cowboys contemplated firing offensive coordinator Scott Linehan during the bye was false.

 

“That is completely false,” Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “It was never a discussion. Never a thought on my part. That didn’t happen. We never contemplated Scott not calling the players or doing something different with Scott.”

 

Jones admires the work Riley has done at Oklahoma and understands why he would be linked to the Cowboys.

 

But he said the report was “pulling it out of the air” and “total speculation” in terms of the Cowboys currently evaluating him as a replacement for Garrett.

 

“Again, that would be total drawing it out of the air,” Jones said. “Coach Riley is outstanding. What he is doing is real impressive. Doesn’t surprise me because of proximity and his success that when talk comes of the Cowboys changing coaches a coach of his stature would come into the picture but total speculation.”

 

The DB would say that calling something “total speculation” does not “shoot down” a report.

 

We were sort of kidding about Riley and attending an NFL game, but he was born beyond the ends of the earth in Lubbock, raised in Muleshoe, Texas (seriously), went to Texas Tech (Lubbock again) and has never coached within a 100-mile radius of an NFL city.  The first NFL preseason game he head coaches next year might indeed be the first one he’s seen.  If not, we bet you can count them on one hand.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Whatever the rest of 2018 season holds, ELI MANNING will always have Santa Clara.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Giants had gone a long time without winning. On Monday night, they finally did again. And quarterback Eli Manning was happy to change the narrative in New York.

 

“That was big,” Manning told reporters after the 27-23 victory. “That was big, and we’ve been good at the two-minute drive this year. Unfortunately, we’ve been kind of down two scores, or left too much time on [the clock] sometimes and weren’t able to get some wins. But when we needed touchdowns we’ve been able to get them late in games. So, we felt confident about it and guys made some great plays, Evan [Engram], Saquon [Barkley], Sterling [Shepard] at the end. It was big. We’ve got good players, we’ve got good receivers and they finally played a little man-to-man, and we were able to make some plays. . . . It means a lot, and that’s kind of what I told the guys this week. I said, ‘We’ve worked too hard not to be rewarded with wins.’ We’ve kind of stayed true to the course though, and each week prepare hard, practice well, play hard in games and we just weren’t able to get some of the outcomes or make some of the plays we needed to to win. And, today we were able to do that.”

 

That’s what they did, getting their first victory since Week Three, in Houston.

 

“Wins are important,” Manning said. “Wins mean a lot, especially after this season and what we’ve had to go through as a team, what I’ve had to go through, and just the questions and this and that. So, just to be able to have a two-minute drive to win a football game, hopefully we can just focus on some positive things for at least one more week.”

 

Until next week, Manning gets to enjoy the feeling of winning a game on a last-minute drive.

 

“[I]t doesn’t get old,” Manning said. “That’s fun. It’s fun playing in those games and having a two-minute drive to win it. Those are the situations you want to be in if you want to have a chance. Obviously, you’d love to have a two-score lead with a little time, and run it out or whatnot, but you prepare and practice for those two-minute drives to go win football games. To come through is exciting. The team needs that. The defense needs that to know that we can do that. Offense, we needed that for ourselves, saying, ‘Hey, we can win.’ If we get close in games, we can go win football games and we just had to do it.”

 

They did it, and now the Giants will try to build on it. And the goal will be to keep the focus on football and not on the end of football for Eli.

 

“It’s more just getting asked about it,” Manning said regarding whether the talk bothers him. “Just trying to — it doesn’t bother me what people say, but just having to answer questions about it, I guess. You want to go out there and play football and that’s what I want to do. I want to be with my team and prepare and practice and go play football and obviously, get wins and feel good about what we’re doing.”

 

For now, that’s where the Giants are. How long they remain there remains to be seen.

 

The DB actually watched much of Monday’s game, and it really was a very good game with a nice balance of offense and defense and an interesting storyline.

 

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins have a two-game lead in the NFC North even as doubts about the club linger.  John Keim of ESPN.com on if they can close the deal.

 

Yes, the Washington Redskins won, to improve to 6-3, on Sunday.

 

Even with the victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Redskins were not satisfied. Players expressed frustration and concern, saying they could not keep playing this way.

 

“Still not overly happy with our performance,” Redskins second-year defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “We gave up [501 yards]. If we’re gonna get to where we want to go, we can’t do that.”

 

Safety D.J. Swearinger echoed those sentiments. And right tackle Morgan Moses stressed that the offense must get it together.

 

“It’s time for us to put some points on the board,” Moses said, “and let the defense … not relax, but just take the game off their shoulders.”

 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden isn’t ready to start scoreboard watching. Here’s what he said Monday: “The good thing … being in first place is we control what we have to control. We don’t have to look at the other teams. If we do our job, we don’t have to worry about anything. Right now it’s just all about Houston and that’s all it is.”

 

Yes, as the Redskins prepare to play the Houston Texans on Sunday, their mindset is where it must be. That’s in stark contrast to the last 6-3 team, in 2008. Long before the playoffs, then-coach Jim Zorn said he was balancing bringing players back with wanting them fresh for the postseason. They lost six of their last eight and stayed home for the postseason.

 

Here are other reasons this Redskins team can win the NFC East:

 

The Redskins are tied for first with the fewest turnovers (seven) and are second in turnover differential (11). They’re tied with Atlanta for the fewest points allowed off turnovers.

 

That’s what Smith provides: He won’t cost the Redskins games. Smith is not a gunslinger and isn’t about to become one. In a season in which the top teams feature quarterbacks capable of leading aerial assaults, Smith is a relic. The focus often centers around what he can’t do — and the list of knocks has tamed the fan base’s enthusiasm. He and the passing game must be more productive. But there are ways he helps.

 

Take Sunday’s win over Tampa Bay. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 406 yards, but was intercepted twice — once at the goal line — and fumbled inside the 10-yard line. Smith, meanwhile, threw for 178 yards — oddly enough the third time in four weeks he has hit that exact number — and no picks. The Bucs started nine drives at their own 25-yard line or worse and two inside the 10. The Redskins started one drive at the Tampa 14 (resulting in three points) and two others at their 30 or better.

 

For the season, the lack of turnovers — and quality special teams play — is why Redskins opponents have started only four drives in Washington territory. That’s third in the NFL — and 19 fewer than their 2017 total. That’s not all due to one position, but it’s what Smith provides.

 

Punts and coverage

The Redskins’ punter Tress Way has been terrific. The lack of turnovers combined with Way’s punts are why teams start drives 74.7 yards from the end zone, third best in the NFL. The Redskins rank 17th in the NFL in yards allowed per game, but sixth in points.

 

His gunners, Jehu Chesson and Danny Johnson, deserve credit, too, for how they cover punts. But Way has been a deadly marksmen with his punts.

 

“They are back spinning and he looks like he’s hitting soft 9-irons into the Masters ninth green for goodness sakes,” Gruden said.

 

The Redskins have a good, though not a shutdown defense. They have allowed a combined 992 yards the past two games. They rank 25th in yards allowed per drive, but only fourth in points per drive surrendered, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking. That’s the benefit of starting field position.

 

Remaining games

The Texans and Tennessee are the only teams left on the Redskins’ schedule that have winning records. They have two games left versus the now-struggling Eagles — who have five games left versus teams with winning records starting Sunday at New Orleans.

 

Dallas has only three road games left — at Atlanta, Indianapolis and the New York Giants — and all are winnable.

 

But, the Redskins’ final seven opponents have a combined 27-35 record. They face one offense, Houston, which is in the top half of the league in touchdown passes. Four of the seven opponents rank in the bottom 10. The Redskins’ three losses have occurred against teams in the top five of this category. They’re much better equipped to handle the sort of offenses they’ll see over the final two months.

 

Returning players

The Redskins hope to get back several key offensive players in coming weeks.

 

Left tackle Trent Williams, who has missed the past two games with a dislocated right thumb, might miss another two games. But that would leave him ready for the final five.

 

Running back Chris Thompson, who can add some sizzle to the passing game with his ability to make defenders miss, remains out with a broken rib. It’s still painful and still leaves him unable to get much sleep. When he returns remains a guess, but at this point he’s expected back.

 

There’s also wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who is trying to return from a sprained ankle but missed his fifth straight game Sunday.

 

Washington should benefit from getting these players back for a stretch run.

 

It is a schedule a team could go 7-0 against or 0-7:

 

Nov 18            Houston          

Nov 22            @  Dallas       

Dec 3              @  Philadelphia          

Dec 9              vs   N.Y. Giants          

Dec 16            @  Jacksonville          

Dec 22            @  Tennessee

Dec 30            vs  Philadelphia          

 

The Skins are 2-0 in the division, so that is a good start for a tie if they get to 9-7.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

Another Bucs PK bites the dust as CHANDLER CATANZARO vacates the premises.

 

Next up, is PK CAIRO SANTOS.  He’s a Brazilian who discovered football kicking while going to school in St. Augustine, FL as an exchange student.  He kicked for the Chiefs for three seasons, then a balky groin has sent him on a run through five teams since the start of ’17.  Last stop was the Rams a few weeks ago when GREG ZEUERLEIN was ailing.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

The DB saw a national media figure going tsk-tsk that QB PATRICK MAHOMES didn’t speak to the media after Sunday’s win.  He had a very good reason.  Adam Teicher of ESPN.com:

 

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes skipped his postgame news conference on Sunday after his girlfriend’s stepfather died while at the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

 

Mahomes’ girlfriend, Brittany Matthews, reported on her Instagram account that her stepfather had died.

 

“We’re sorry to hear about what took place yesterday,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday. “Our prayers and blessings are with the family. I’ve talked to Patrick and they’re doing well for the circumstance that took place.”

 

Mahomes played as scheduled against the Cardinals and broke the Chiefs’ single-season touchdown record by throwing two scoring passes during the 26-14 victory.

 

He has 31 touchdown passes for the 9-1 Chiefs, who will face the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams next Monday night in Mexico City.

 

Reid said he doesn’t expect the tragedy to affect Mahomes’ preparation for Week 11, noting that the quarterback was at the team facility Monday.

 

Mahomes isn’t expected to miss any playing time either, though Reid said, “If he has to, that’s not a big deal.”

– – –

You can stop looking for WR TYREEK HILL on your Pro Bowl ballot, he’s not there.  Shalise Manza Young of YahooSports.com:

 

Fan voting for the Pro Bowl opened on Tuesday, and the fan picks count toward one-third of the results, with coaches’ votes getting a third and players’ votes making up the final third.

 

But the voting page has at least one glaring omission at receiver.

 

Tyreek Hill listed at returner but not receiver

 

The rest of the receivers in the top 10 in yardage are options.

 

As the kids say: How, Sway?

 

Maybe Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, he of the “He’s alright, I guess” assessment of Hill earlier this year, was the one who compiled the ballot.

 

Hill, who is currently fifth in the league in punt return average at 12.5 yards per, is listed as an option on the “return specialist” tab.

 

Whether it was a late change due to an outcry or whether Manza Young has vision problems, we don’t know – but when the DB opened up the Pro Bowl ballot after reading this article, Hill was among the 81 wide receivers listed.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

One way or another, the Raiders are going to have a drastically different roster in 2019 from the one inherited by $100 million man Jon Gruden.  Jaclyn Hendricks in the New York Post:

 

The 2018 Raiders are what nightmares are made of.

 

Following Oakland’s fifth straight loss Sunday, which dropped it to 1-8 on an already disastrous season, the $100 million coach said the current state of affairs may keep much of the team’s personnel up at night.

 

“This will be a year that a lot of us will never forget,” Gruden said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, after falling 20-6 to the Chargers. “It’s painful. It’s hard. It will be hard to sleep again, hard to get up in the morning.”

 

In a year marred by high-profile trades and internal discord, including questions surrounding quarterback Derek Carr’s leadership, older players have openly spoken about jumping ship.

 

“One Raiders veteran to another, on his way out of the locker room past three reporters, including myself: ‘I gotta get the f–k outta here,’” tweeted Oakland beat writer Matt Schneidman on Sunday.

 

One already escaped just before Halloween, when 32-year-old cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie abruptly retired.

 

Ever the optimist, Gruden believes hitting rock bottom now will better the Raiders later.

 

“This will be the foundation this organization leans on: mental toughness, physical toughness. I know it sounds corny to some people, but that’s the grit and toughness this organization was built on, and that is what we’ll continue to strive for,” he said.

 

Gruden also knows that the only place Oakland can go — besides Las Vegas in two years — is up.

 

“We’re going to keep working hard, keep preparing as hard as we can, keep developing the players that are here, and hopefully that translates into some wins,” Gruden said.

 

“We have seven weeks to spend with these players. The future is something we’ll talk about later. Right now, it is hard to lose, but we are seeing some progress with our young players and some of these veteran guys are giving us everything they have.”

 

The Raiders will have a chance to get win No. 2 Sunday against the 2-7 Cardinals.

 

And this from Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

A day after Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis gave Jon Gruden a vote of confidence, calling Gruden’s hiring as coach the “endgame” for him, Gruden reciprocated the feeling.

 

“I feel Mark’s pain,” Gruden said Monday in his weekly media conference, after the Raiders’ 20-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers dropped Oakland’s record to 1-8 in Gruden’s first season back on the sideline following nine seasons in ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth.

 

“I talk to Mark after every game and these are unpleasant conversations. It’s tough, man, we want to win. We want to win. We also want to do right by this organization and some of these decisions have been really tough, but I want to deliver for him and his family, certainly, and this organization and right now, it’s tough. But it’s great to have him support me and I appreciate it. But I feel the same way he does — I just want to win.”

 

Making things tougher for Gruden to win is the injury bug. Again.

 

Receivers Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson both suffered knee injuries against the Chargers, with Bryant suffering an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament that might keep him out “for some time,” Gruden said, while Nelson’s knee is being further evaluated. It was described as a quadriceps injury Sunday.

 

“We’ll knock on Marcell Ateman’s door,” Gruden said of the seventh-round rookie receiver. “Perhaps get him an opportunity to step forward. We’ll bring in some receivers to work out tomorrow and if we need to make a roster spot, we will.”

 

Gruden praised the play of veteran Brandon LaFell, who caught four passes for 47 yards Sunday, and Seth Roberts, who had three catches for 39 yards.

 

“Hopefully Jordy’s OK,” Gruden said. “If not, Marcell will get a great opportunity against Arizona.”

 

Plus, the Raiders are placing defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes on season-ending injured reserve rather than activating him after he suffered a torn ACL in the 2017 season finale. Vanderdoes began the season on the physically unable to perform list and had endured setbacks in training camp and recently.

 

“We’re going to be very precautionary with him,” Gruden said. “I think it’s the right thing to do for him and his future.”

 

Gruden was asked what positive signs he saw in the wake of the 1-8 start, which includes the Raiders being outscored by a combined 75-9 the past nine quarters.

 

“I thought we hung in there pretty good [with] a lot of young guys playing,” Gruden said. “I know we can play better and I know we will play better. I’m not going to make any predictions. I know it’s dark right now. It’s tough. It’s tough on our fans. I thank our fans for showing up and being with us. But we’re going to bring this thing back. I’ve been a part of it before and we’ve got some great people to build around and we’ve got some resources to keep building. I’ll leave it at that.”

 

Davis, who spoke to ESPN during a dinner at an Oakland waterfront restaurant Sunday night in which he played host to former Raiders Jim Otto, Art Shell, Clem Daniels, Art Thoms and the late Ken Stabler’s life partner, Kim Bush, and daughter Kendra Stabler Moyes, also said Gruden had a 10-year contract for a reason.

 

“Jon’s going to be the stability here,” Davis said. “Jon’s going nowhere. That’s just the way it is.”

 

Gruden found solace in that.

 

“The Oakland Raiders, we’ve had a lot of change in this organization for the last 15, 20 years, and change is tough,” said Gruden, referencing the nine coaches Oakland has employed — Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio — since Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.

 

“Change is tough on everybody. I’ll put a big exclamation point on that. I thought there were some really good signs yesterday, some signs that really excited me, and I’m really happy to be back and I know we’ve got a lot to prove and I’m sure we have our critics out there, but that’s all part of this.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

One team’s trash is another team’s treasure.  Marvin Lewis, who has fired his DC Teryl Austin, is glad to have Hue Jackson back doing his thing with the Bengals (who if the season ended today would be in the playoffs).  Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com:

 

A reunion between Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson seemed destined from almost the minute Jackson was fired in Cleveland on Oct. 29. The only surprise is that it took this long.

 

So why did it seem so obvious that this would happen?

 

Lewis and Jackson have an incredibly close relationship and talk on the phone almost every week. Lewis probably trusts Jackson as much as anyone he ever has had on staff, enough to bring him back to the fold three separate times. He’s going to need that now that he’s down a staff member.

 

Things changed quickly once Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and took over playcalling duties himself. There aren’t many coaches who actually take on both roles, which probably is why Lewis placed a call to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on the night of a disastrous 51-14 loss to the Saints, likely seeking advice.

 

That’s not to mention the fact Lewis hasn’t actually called the defensive plays on a regular basis since he was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator in 2002. The last time was in 2004, when he took over the playcalling from Leslie Frazier in a 34-17 loss to the Browns. He gave it back the next week, but Frazier ended up getting fired at the end of the season.

 

“It’s different [on defense], because on offense most of the decisions are made. Most of the things happen on offense,” Lewis said. “You don’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down when you’re calling the offense, you already did. But the defense doesn’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down and so forth. That’s why you see fewer on defense.”

 

Lewis admitted he quickly felt like he wasn’t able to be on top of everything against the Saints while he was trying to pull the defense out of its slump. Lewis usually leaves that sort of thing to his coordinators, but he went to the defensive players himself that day to try to snap them out of it. That meant he wasn’t seeing what was happening on offense.

 

“A lot of things happen when you’re on defense. I had my back turned yesterday to the offense a couple times, trying to bring the defense together. Things happen,” he said. “It could be whether or not we made a catch, and if we made a first down or not. If I’ve got my back turned, I have to make the decision if we’re going for it. Are we in four-down territory? I have to let Bill [Lazor] know and the quarterback know that they have three downs here. Those kind of things. If I have my back turned by making corrections or whatever, I can’t do that. I’m going to try to minimize that as much as possible. I feel strongly that I have to make the correction to coach the defense right now.”

 

When asked how he planned to handle both roles going forward, he grinned.

 

“I’ve got a plan,” he said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

 

That plan apparently comes in the form of Jackson, although it’s unclear just what he’s going to do on game day. Lewis implied in a statement that Jackson would help on defense, when his entire coaching background is on offense. Jackson was a secondary assistant for the Bengals in 2012, but that was essentially a placeholder while the Bengals tried to find a spot for him after he had been fired as coach of the Raiders the previous year.

 

 “I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said in a news release.

 

Because Austin was in the booth, Lewis will lose one staff member up there and said he doesn’t plan to move anyone around. That makes it likely Jackson will be down on the sideline, where he could help Lewis by being an extra eye on offense.

 

While Jackson didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard as head coach of the Raiders and Browns (11-44-1 coaching record), he has proved his capabilities as an assistant at every stop. The Bengals’ offense was extremely successful when he was coordinator in 2015, albeit with many different players than they have now. It makes sense to add him to get some additional help, and he could provide intel on the Browns, whom the Bengals haven’t played this season.

 

The only real downside is the potential to mess with the chemistry of the coaching staff or the feeling that Lazor could be looking over his shoulder with Jackson around.

 

But considering Lewis made it clear that everyone in the building, including himself, is on notice after their performances lately, hurt feelings are probably the least of his concern. Lewis, like everyone else, just wants some help.

 

“The guys want to help,” Lewis said on Monday. “‘Give me something.’ … ‘Help me through this.’ That’s the thing, I have to be the rock. That’s why I have to hide my feelings on the sideline and not choke anybody out or anything.”

 

Maybe Jackson can be that help. With seven games left, and the Browns up twice, surely the Bengals will take all the help they can get.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

As the 4 p.m. deadline passed, this from Adam Schefter:

 

@AdamSchefter

Le’Veon Bell is not reporting to the Steelers by the 4 pm deadline today and is now ineligible to play the remainder of the 2018 season, source tells ESPN. His season is over.

 

Bell will become an unrestricted free agent this winter, when the bidding for his services will begin.

 

Leading to this from Andrew Brandt:

 

@AndrewBrandt

Narrative on LeVeon Bell that makes me smile: “Well, he gave up $8 million, why not give up another $6 million?” Sure, who among us needs $6 million?😏

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Nathan Peterman, twice elevated to the starting quarterback position over healthy QBs in the past 12 months, is a Bill no longer.

 

The Buffalo Bills waived Nathan Peterman on Monday, ending the tenure of the team’s 2017 fifth-round pick who became known for his historically high rate of interceptions.

 

The move came after the Bills decided to start Matt Barkley over Peterman in Sunday’s 41-10 win over the New York Jets. Barkley, whom the team signed Oct. 31, completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Peterman, 24, appeared in eight games in his two seasons in Buffalo and made four starts. On 130 career regular-season pass attempts, Peterman has thrown three touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also threw an interception on one of his three pass attempts in last season’s AFC wild-card playoff loss.

 

Among all NFL quarterbacks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with as many pass attempts, Peterman’s interception rate of 9.23 percent is the third-highest, behind those of Kim McQuilken (10.7) and Don Horn (9.34). Peterman’s 32.5 passer rating is the third-lowest among quarterbacks with at least 130 pass attempts since the merger, behind those of McQuilken (17.9) and Scott Bull (24.8).

 

Peterman spent last season as Tyrod Taylor’s backup before being named the starter for a Nov. 19 game at the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman threw five interceptions, becoming the first quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger to be picked off five times in a first half, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Taylor replaced him at halftime.

 

Coach Sean McDermott named Peterman the opening-day starter this season after holding a training camp competition with AJ McCarron and rookie first-round pick Josh Allen. McDermott expressed optimism in Peterman after he completed 80 percent of his passes in the preseason for three touchdowns and one interception.

 

In a Week 1 trip to Baltimore, Peterman completed five of 18 passes for 24 yards and two interceptions before McDermott benched him for Allen in the third quarter of what became a 47-3 loss to the Ravens.

 

When Allen injured his elbow during an Oct. 14 game at Houston, Peterman replaced him and threw the go-ahead touchdown pass. He later threw two interceptions, including one the Texans returned for the game-winning touchdown.

 

Peterman’s final appearance for Buffalo came Nov. 4, when he threw three picks in a 41-9 loss to the Chicago Bears. Peterman completed 31 passes for 188 yards, the fewest on that many completions in a game by any NFL quarterback since at least 1950.

 

Despite opting for Barkley over Peterman in Sunday’s game at the Jets, McDermott continued to stand by Peterman earlier Monday.

 

“I’m still confident in Nate,” he said.

 

Without Peterman, the Bills will enter their bye week with Allen, Barkley and Derek Anderson as the three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. McDermott said Allen will start when Buffalo hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 25.

 

Peterman has started three games in his NFL career.  The DB has seen two of them.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

 

The Chicago Bears continue to lead the Aikman Combined Ratings as compiled by Sports Radar through 10 weeks of the NFL season, but the Steelers are closing fast.  Pittsburgh was 5th after Week 9 prior to their dismantling of the Panthers on Thursday Night Football on FOX.  It was the third consecutive seek that the Steelers jumped four spots – a rise that began when they were 13th after Week 7.

 

The Bears hold the top spot in the Combined for the third straight week.  They also continue in the lead in Aikman Defense at 77.8, although this week’s opponent, the Vikings has closed to 2nd place at 77.6.

 

However, we do have a new leader in Aikman Offense.  The Chiefs had been sitting in first all season, but after dropping 52 points on the Bengals Sunday, the Saints have slipped ahead by a tenth of a point, 101.8 to 101.7.  Both teams are bidding to set Aikman Ratings history as the first teams top 100 for the season in Aikman Offense.

 

– – –

 

There is more than the usual discrepancy this year in Aikman Combined Ratings and won-loss record.  The Aikmans have identified the Colts, Ravens and Seahawks as 4-5 teams that have out-performed division leaders the Texans, Patriots and Redskins.

 

Of the teams with the worst records, the two-win 49ers and Giants are significantly ahead of the Cardinals and Raiders.

 

 

2018 Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 10

————–

Aikman

————–

————–

NFL

————–

Rank

Record

Team

Combined

Off

Def

Off

Def

Combined

1

6-3-0

Chicago Bears

167.1

89.4

77.8

16

4

20

2

6-2-1

Pittsburgh Steelers

164.0

96.2

67.8

4

8

12

3

8-1-0

New Orleans Saints

161.8

101.8

60.0

5

23

28

4

9-1-0

Kansas City Chiefs

161.6

101.7

59.9

3

29

32

5

7-2-0

Los Angeles Chargers

161.3

89.6

71.7

8

14

22

6

9-1-0

Los Angeles Rams

160.5

98.4

62.2

2

13

15

7

5-3-1

Minnesota Vikings

159.6

82.0

77.6

12

5

17

8

4-5-0

Indianapolis Colts

158.5

91.9

66.6

9

23

32

9

4-5-0

Baltimore Ravens

157.4

87.0

70.4

15

2

17

10

4-5-0

Seattle Seahawks

157.3

89.4

67.8

22

12

34

11

5-4-0

Tennessee Titans

156.5

79.4

77.0

30

6

36

12

4-4-1

Green Bay Packers

156.2

88.5

67.8

7

11

18

13

6-3-0

Washington Redskins

155.5

82.2

73.3

26

17

43

14

4-5-0

Philadelphia Eagles

154.3

83.9

70.5

13

16

29

15

7-3-0

New England Patriots

153.1

88.5

64.6

10

25

35

16

6-3-0

Carolina Panthers

152.2

91.8

60.4

18

15

33

17

4-5-0

Dallas Cowboys

151.8

80.7

71.1

27

7

34

18

6-3-0

Houston Texans

148.7

81.2

67.5

14

9

23

19

3-6-1

Cleveland Browns

148.5

82.4

66.1

20

31

51

20

3-6-0

Denver Broncos

148.4

82.6

65.8

11

21

32

21

4-5-0

Atlanta Falcons

145.5

94.5

51.1

6

30

36

22

2-8-0

San Francisco 49ers

143.0

80.6

62.5

19

10

29

23

3-6-0

Detroit Lions

143.0

81.4

61.6

23

19

42

24

2-7-0

New York Giants

142.2

77.2

65.0

24

22

46

25

5-4-0

Cincinnati Bengals

140.1

88.9

51.1

25

32

57

26

3-6-0

Jacksonville Jaguars

139.4

73.2

66.2

17

3

20

27

5-5-0

Miami Dolphins

138.8

71.6

67.2

28

26

54

28

3-7-0

New York Jets

137.3

66.9

70.4

29

18

47

29

3-7-0

Buffalo Bills

135.6

68.1

67.5

31

1

32

30

3-6-0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

133.2

82.6

50.6

1

28

29

31

2-7-0

Arizona Cardinals

131.6

67.2

64.4

32

20

52

32

1-8-0

Oakland Raiders

130.5

73.6

56.9

21

27

48

NFL Average:

149.8

84.2

65.6

 

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 10, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

5

New Orleans Saints

101.8

2

3

Kansas City Chiefs

101.7

3

2

Los Angeles Rams

98.4

4

4

Pittsburgh Steelers

96.2

5

6

Atlanta Falcons

94.5

6

9

Indianapolis Colts

91.9

7

18

Carolina Panthers

91.8

8

8

Los Angeles Chargers

89.6

9

22

Seattle Seahawks

89.4

10

16

Chicago Bears

89.4

11

25

Cincinnati Bengals

88.9

12

10

New England Patriots

88.5

13

7

Green Bay Packers

88.5

14

15

Baltimore Ravens

87.0

15

13

Philadelphia Eagles

83.9

16

1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

82.6

17

11

Denver Broncos

82.6

18

20

Cleveland Browns

82.4

19

26

Washington Redskins

82.2

20

12

Minnesota Vikings

82.0

21

23

Detroit Lions

81.4

22

14

Houston Texans

81.2

23

27

Dallas Cowboys

80.7

24

19

San Francisco 49ers

80.6

25

30

Tennessee Titans

79.4

26

24

New York Giants

77.2

27

21

Oakland Raiders

73.6

28

17

Jacksonville Jaguars

73.2

29

28

Miami Dolphins

71.6

30

31

Buffalo Bills

68.1

31

32

Arizona Cardinals

67.2

32

29

New York Jets

66.9

NFL Average:

84.2

 

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 10, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

4

Chicago Bears

77.8

2

5

Minnesota Vikings

77.6

3

6

Tennessee Titans

77.0

4

17

Washington Redskins

73.3

5

14

Los Angeles Chargers

71.7

6

7

Dallas Cowboys

71.1

7

16

Philadelphia Eagles

70.5

8

18

New York Jets

70.4

9

2

Baltimore Ravens

70.4

10

12

Seattle Seahawks

67.8

11

11

Green Bay Packers

67.8

12

8

Pittsburgh Steelers

67.8

13

9

Houston Texans

67.5

14

1

Buffalo Bills

67.5

15

26

Miami Dolphins

67.2

16

23

Indianapolis Colts

66.6

17

3

Jacksonville Jaguars

66.2

18

31

Cleveland Browns

66.1

19

21

Denver Broncos

65.8

20

22

New York Giants

65.0

21

25

New England Patriots

64.6

22

20

Arizona Cardinals

64.4

23

10

San Francisco 49ers

62.5

24

13

Los Angeles Rams

62.2

25

19

Detroit Lions

61.6

26

15

Carolina Panthers

60.4

27

23

New Orleans Saints

60.0

28

29

Kansas City Chiefs

59.9

29

27

Oakland Raiders

56.9

30

32

Cincinnati Bengals

51.1

31

30

Atlanta Falcons

51.1

32

28

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

50.6

NFL Average:

65.6