AROUND THE NFL

Well, that was a pretty epic weekend.  Ten of the 12 games were decided by five points or less. 

 

– – –

 

If The Season Ended Today –

 

In the AFC, Week 11 tightened everything with losses by the Chiefs, the two Wild Card teams thru Week 10 (Chargers, Bengals) and Tennessee.  So, a four-way battle for the 2nd bye and a five-way tie for the final Wild Card.  And Denver, winning at the Chargers, gets back into the fray.


Div            Conf

Kansas City                 West    9-2           3-0             7-1

Pittsburgh                    North   7-2-1       3-1-1           4-2-1

New England               East    7-3           2-0              5-2

Houston                       South  7-3            2-1             5-2

LA Chargers                WC      7-3            2-2             5-2

Baltimore                     WC      5-5            2-3             5-3

Cincinnati                                5-5            1-2             3-3

Miami                                       5-5            2-1             4-3

Indianapolis                             5-5            2-1             4-4

Tennessee                               5-5           2-1             3-5

Denver                                     4-6           2-2             2-5 

 

In the NFC, the six playoff teams remained in the same order, but it was a good week for Seattle and Dallas which moved closer to the playoff line with wins over Green Bay and Atlanta, while Washington, Carolina and Minnesota all lost.

 

We note that if the Saints take care of business at home against Atlanta on Thursday night, they will jump to first over the byed Rams due to their head-to-head win.

 

NFC                                                       Div             Conf

Los Angeles Rams      West   10-1        4-0              6-1                                                   

New Orleans               South    9-1        1-1              6-1                                                   

Chicago                       North    7-3         2-1             5-1       

Washington                 East      6-4         2-0             6-2     

Carolina                       WC       6-4        1-1             4-3                                                   

Minnesota                    WC       5-4-1     1-1-1          4-3-1

Seattle                                      5-5         1-2            4-3                  

Dallas                                       5-5          2-1           4-3

Green Bay                                4-5-1      1-1-1        2-4-1   

Atlanta                                      4-6          2-1           4-3

Detroit                                       4-6          1-2           2-5

Philadelphia                              4-6          1-1           2-5     

 

 

THE CLASH AT THE COLISEUM

 

 

Kevin Patra of NFL.com quantifies the epic doings in the LA Coliseum on Monday night:

 

It lived up to the hype.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams thrilling, back-and-forth, big-play bombardment on national television was everything the NFL dreamed of: points, huge plays, numerous lead changes, defensive scores, big-time players making big-time plays, young quarterback’s leading areal raids.

 

The Rams escaped with a 54-51 win. The nation got a sparkling show.

 

Not since LeBron James’ rookie NBA season did a sports moment entering with such gigantic media hype exceed the outsized expectations. It was labeled as the game of the season; it will be darn near impossible to top.

 

With help from the NFL Research department, let’s run down a list of superlatives, records, and down-right mind-boggling stats from Monday night’s enthusiastically draining affair.

 

» The Chiefs and Rams matchup was the first game in NFL history in which each team scored 50-plus points. A.K.A. First game in NFL history in which the losing team scored 50-plus points.

 

» The teams combined for the third-most points (105) in a game in NFL history.

 

» The teams combined for 14 total touchdowns, T-2nd most in a game in NFL history. (The Buffalo Bills have scored 13 TDs all season.)

 

» Jared Goff became the first quarterback in Rams history with multiple career games of 400-plus pass yards and 4-plus pass TD. Only Peyton Manning (4) and HOF Dan Marino (3) have had more career games with 400-plus pass yards & 4-plus pass TD since 1950.

 

» Todd Gurley became the third Rams running back since 1950 to rush for 1,000-plus yards through the first 11 games of a season. Gurley joins HOF Eric Dickerson (1986, 1984, 1983) and Steven Jackson (2009). Gurley’s streak of 13 straight games with a TD was snapped in Week 11 vs KC — T-4th longest such streak since 1950.

 

» Josh Reynolds, replacing Cooper Kupp: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 80 receiving yards, 1 rec TD — third receiving TD this season. Career-high in targets, receptions, and receiving yards.

 

» Aaron Donald (2 sacks) leads the NFL in sacks (14.5), QB hits (28), and tackles for loss (16) this season. Donald is only the third player this season to force multiple strip sacks recovered by the defense in a single game — Joins DEN Von Miller (Wk 7) and SEA Frank Clark (Wk 6).

 

» According to Next Gen Stats, Aaron Donald averaged 3.67 time to sack on his two strip sacks of Patrick Mahomes — Donald: 3.78 average time to sack this season (5th-fastest in NFL, min. 6 sacks).

 

» Samson Ebukam: 3 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 QB hits, 1 INT return TD, 1 fumble returned for TD. Ebukam is the first player with a sack, interception and multiple touchdowns in a single game since sacks became official in 1982.

 

» The Chiefs are the second team since at least 1940 to score 40-plus in multiple losses in a season (Join 1966 Giants). K.C. is averaging 45.5 points in its two losses this season.

 

» The Chiefs have scored 404 points through 11 games this season, the most points in the first 11 games in Chiefs history — Previous high was 370 in 1966 Chiefs (370)

 

» Patrick Mahomes joins Ben Roethlisberger (2014) and Y.A. Tittle (1962) as the only player since 1950 with two games with 6-plus pass TD in a single season. It was Mahomes’ second game with 6-plus pass TD in his first 12 career games (no other player has even 1 such game since 1950).

 

» Mahomes had his sixth game of 4-plus pass TD this season (T-2nd most in a season since 1950; Peyton Manning, 9).

 

» Mahomes is the fifth QB since 1950 to throw six pass TD in a losing effort: Eli Manning (Week 8, 2015), Carson Palmer (Week 2, 2007), Dan Marino (Week 3, 1986), Charley Johnson (Week 7, 1969).

 

» Tyreek Hill’s 215 receiving yards are the second-most in a game in Chiefs franchise history. Stephone Paige had 309 receiving yards versus the Chargers in Week 16, 1985.

 

The DB would add:

 

>> Mahomes tied the NFL record for most TD passes thrown in a loss, but we were surprised that it was the 5th time a QB threw 6 in a game and went down to defeat.  Charley Johnson, ELI MANNING, Dan Marino and Carson Palmer had gone that way before him.

 

>> Teams that had scored 50+ points were 216-0 prior to Monday night.  Two teams had lost when they scored 49, both by 52-49.  One was the Oilers in 1963 to the Oakland Raiders, the other was the Giants in 2015 to the Saints.

 

>> Some said that a Big 12 game broke out on Monday, but the DB was at a Big 12 game on Saturday that had one total TD and 27 total points.  No Big 12 game in 2018 has had as many as 105 points.

– – –

Here is the ratings news.  Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com:

 

The only surprise from the television ratings of the Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Rams thriller was that they weren’t even higher.

 

Still, ESPN will gladly take its highest-rated “Monday Night Football” telecast since 2014.

 

According to ESPN spokeman Bill Hofheimer, the Chiefs-Rams overnight rating of 11.3 is the highest overnight rating for “MNF” since 2014. The rating peaked on the final drive at 12.5. The Rams won 54-51.

 

All of the people who tuned in — aside from “What about defense?” curmudgeons who could complain about anything — got to enjoy perhaps the greatest regular-season game in NFL history.

 

Chiefs-Rams was a huge ratings increase from Week 11 last season

While comparing ratings for similar time slots the previous year is flawed, ESPN was happy with that outcome too.

 

The rating for Monday night was 57 percent better than the Monday night game in Week 11 last season. That game was actually an entertaining Falcons win over the Seahawks that went down to the last minute.

 

“Greatest regular season game” in NFL history?  It was good, really good.  And you don’t have to be a defense curmudgeon to think that there might have been a 28-27 or 34-31 game that was better.  Greatest ever?  We’ll have to think about that.

 

And, it turns out that Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com has done some faster thinking:

 

Was it the greatest regular-season game of all time?

 

I’m not sure there’s a concrete, quantitative way to answer that question. I can’t imagine anyone watching the Rams’ 54-51 win and thinking it wasn’t fun, but I’m sure there are people out there who might prefer a defensive struggle in subzero temperatures. If your football pinnacle is the Seahawks-Vikings game from the 2015 playoffs, live your truth. It’s not for me.

 

In an attempt to answer this question, I’ve gone back through the history of regular-season contests since the merger to try to find other games that might compare to Monday night’s instant classic. I’m sure a game might have slipped through the cracks, but I was looking for a few key criteria:

 

The game had to be high-scoring. Sorry, Seahawks-Vikings guy. I set my limits at a minimum of 35 points for each team. Anything less doesn’t compare.

 

Both teams had to eventually make the playoffs. I don’t want to jinx either team, but I feel pretty confident that the Chiefs and Rams are both going to advance to the postseason come January. I’ll give extra credit to matchups in which we knew both teams were already great, because they had an excellent record at the time of the game and/or had been to the playoffs the prior season.

 

There had to be at least one fourth-quarter lead change. I don’t think you can be as excited about a game where one team gets up by multiple touchdowns and another team makes a late run before coming up narrowly short.

 

The final margin of victory has to be seven points or fewer. Ideally, the losing team needs to have a drive late in the fourth quarter with a chance of winning the game, or the game has to end in overtime.

 

No ties. I refuse.

 

The game can’t involve replacement players or take place with backups in Week 17. This rule specifically keeps out the bonkers Lions-Packers game from 2011, when Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in his final start with the Packers before hitting free agency.

 

I found 17 games that fit the criteria I laid out above, although I admittedly stretched a couple of them to get there. I’ll give you my top 10. If you have different criteria for your favorite regular-season games of all time, that’s fine. These are mine, and while they lean heavily toward the 21st century because of the scoring minimum, I’m comfortable suggesting that the quality of play in the NFL is better than it was in decades past.

 

Finally, keep in mind that these are the greatest games and not the greatest endings. Otherwise, the winner would have to be the Saints-Jaguars game from 2003, when the Saints successfully pulled off a laterals play for a touchdown, only for John Carney to eliminate them from the playoffs by missing the ensuing extra point.

 

10. Chargers 41, Chiefs 38 in Week 12, 2013

The Chiefs are on this list several times, and I’m sorry to report that it doesn’t often go well for them. This was back in Andy Reid’s debut season with the team, with Kansas City starting 9-0 before losing to the Broncos and then in this midseason matchup to the Chargers.

 

The Chiefs led 28-24 heading into the fourth quarter, but the lead changed hands three times in the final eight minutes and twice in the final 82 seconds of the game. A 60-yard Ladarius Green touchdown put the Chargers up 34-31, but Kansas City profited from excellent field position and scored on a Dwayne Bowe touchdown with 1:22 to go up 38-34. Philip Rivers threw three passes to Antonio Gates and two to Danny Woodhead, but after an Eric Berry sack, Rivers found Seyi Ajirotutu for a 26-yard score with 31 seconds to go for the game winner.

 

The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is that the Chargers looked to be out of the playoff race. This win took them only to 5-6, but after a loss the following week to the Bengals, Rivers & Co. fired off four straight wins to sneak into the postseason, including a second victory over the Chiefs in Week 17 to get in. They haven’t beaten Reid in nine tries since.

 

9. Packers 38, Giants 35 in Week 13, 2011

Again, this is a game that looks more impactful in hindsight, given that the Giants would eventually get their revenge on the Packers in the postseason en route to a Super Bowl XLVI win. On the other hand, this game carries extra weight because the Packers were still undefeated heading into the game at 11-0. No team in the league had come this close to beating Green Bay, and the defending Super Bowl champs would make it to 13-0 before falling to the Chiefs.

 

This one technically didn’t have a fourth-quarter lead change, although it certainly involved some late-game heroics. The Packers led 28-24 as the final stanza began, but after a Lawrence Tynes field goal, a Donald Driver touchdown gave the Packers an eight-point lead with 3:34 to go. The Giants took over and launched a nine-play, 69-yard drive before Eli Manning punched the ball in to Hakeem Nicks for a 2-yard score with 1:02 left. Danny Ware’s subsequent two-point conversion tied the score at 35, but Rodgers broke blue hearts by going 4-of-4 for 68 yards in 37 seconds before Mason Crosby hit a 30-yarder to keep the streak alive. Both Manning and Rodgers topped 340 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers won regular-season MVP. Manning picked up his second Super Bowl MVP award.

 

8. Patriots 38, Giants 35 in Week 17, 2007

Another famous loss the Giants would avenge later in the Super Bowl, I’m comfortable putting this Week 17 game on the list because of the context. The Patriots had locked up the first seed in the AFC, but at 15-0, they were playing for an undefeated season in a game that ended up being simulcast on three networks. The Giants already had clinched the NFC East, but Tom Coughlin famously played his starters to try to prevent the Patriots from setting the mark.

 

The narrative is legendary, but what’s lost to the story of what came afterward is an excellent game in itself. This was a much different game from Super Bowl XLII, where the Giants harassed Tom Brady in a low-scoring affair. Here, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense sacked Brady only once, and Manning went shot-for-shot with Brady while throwing four touchdown passes. Brady racked up 356 yards and two scores.

 

The Giants led 28-16 in the third quarter and were clinging to a 28-23 lead entering the fourth, but Brady hit Randy Moss for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Patriots a 31-28 lead, and after Manning threw his lone interception on the day, New England took advantage of the short field to go up 38-28 with a Laurence Maroney score. The Giants scored on Plaxico Burress’ second TD catch of the game with 1:08 to go to make it 38-35, but the Pats recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal their undefeated regular season. What happened next?

 

7. Eagles 43, Rams 35 in Week 14, 2017

I’m sneaking this one onto the list because it was really a two-point game, but Brandon Graham picked up a fumble on a laterals play with zeros on the clock and returned it for a touchdown. This game is more famous for Carson Wentz tearing his ACL and seemingly eliminating Philadelphia’s Super Bowl chances, but you know how that turned out.

 

Wentz missed the entirety of the fourth quarter, but he still finished with 291 yards and four touchdowns in a blistering shootout. Todd Gurley scored twice, and the Rams picked up a blocked punt for a score to keep things close. A Gurley touchdown with 13:58 to go gave the Rams a 35-31 lead, but Nick Foles led the Eagles back for a field goal, then Chris Long strip-sacked Goff to give the Eagles a short field. The next drive somehow went 10 yards and took up four minutes and 23 seconds, with the Eagles moving backward and hitting a field goal, taking points off the board when Aaron Donald was called for leverage, and then settling for the same field goal later on. Philly then forced a three-and-out and burned just enough clock to put the game out of reach.

 

6. Patriots 43, Chiefs 40 in Week 6, 2018

If you want to accuse me of recency bias, that’s fine. This game fits my criteria. Both these teams are likely to make the postseason. They’re perennial playoff teams with a history in their own right, including a classic that narrowly missed out in Week 1 of the 2017 campaign. The fourth quarter had two lead changes and a 75-yard Tyreek Hill touchdown that tied the score at 40-40, only for Rob Gronkowski to bring in a 39-yard catch that set up the Patriots for a game winner from Stephen Gostkowski. If anything, it probably deserves to be higher.

 

5. Rams 41, Broncos 36 in Week 1, 2000

I generally shied away from Week 1 games because we don’t have a great sense of how teams are going to look over the course of a full season in the opener. (As a reminder, remember that the Bucs beat the Saints 48-40 in Week 1 of this very season.) In this case, though, we had a compelling matchup between a Broncos team that was one disappointing season removed from back-to-back Super Bowl victories, and a Rams team that had taken up the slack in their absence and anointed themselves as the Greatest Show on Turf.

 

As shows go, the TWA Dome saw a wild one after raising a Super Bowl banner. We saw some of the issues that would plague the Rams in 2000; while St. Louis had three 100-yard receivers on the day, Kurt Warner threw three interceptions — the Rams would rack up 35 giveaways by the end of the season. One of those picks went to Terrell Buckley with 6:35 to go, giving a Broncos team that trailed 35-20 with 19 minutes to go a 36-35 lead. A 30-yard Marshall Faulk run set up a 1-yard vulture from Robert Holcombe, though, and the Rams’ defense sacked Brian Griese twice to force the Broncos into a desperate incompletion on fourth-and-33 to end things.

 

4. Bucs 38, Rams 35 in Week 16, 2000

Fifteen weeks later, the Rams played another classic tilt as they jockeyed for playoff positioning with Tampa Bay. Both these teams were in the wild-card hunt and were coming off playoff runs the previous season, but the matchup seemed like a fight between Mike Martz’s offense and Tony Dungy’s defense, with the Bucs ranking fifth in defensive DVOA.

 

Instead, we saw the Bucs lean on their oft-frustrating offense for a huge game. Warrick Dunn racked up 198 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns, including a 52-yard run that put the Bucs up 31-21 at the end of the third quarter. Warner threw three interceptions again, but he was money in the fourth quarter. He brought the Rams back to within three points by leading a seven-play, 73-yard drive, and after Shaun King threw an interception in the Rams’ end zone, Warner hit Torry Holt for a 72-yard touchdown to go up 35-31.

 

The Rams held on a fourth down and needed a first down to seal the game, but Martz got curiously conservative and ran three times with Marshall Faulk for a three-and-out. King took the Bucs 80 yards in 79 seconds, including a fourth-and-4 scramble to extend the game, before Dunn punched in a game-winning score. Warner, who had been 6-of-6 for 143 yards in the fourth quarter, tossed an interception to John Lynch with 34 seconds to go to end the game.

 

3. Raiders 40, Cowboys 38 in Week 8, 1983

This was a mammoth matchup between two perennially competitive teams that were playing at a high level. Tom Landry’s Cowboys were 7-0. The Raiders, who had three games in 1983 that either qualified for this list or came close, came in at 5-2. Tom Flores’ team had just changed quarterbacks, swapping out Jim Plunkett for Marc Wilson after the latter signed a five-year contract extension.

 

Reports from the time basically paint this game as chaotic fun. The Raiders turned the ball over six times and won thanks in part to a fake field goal just before halftime that resulted in a pass interference penalty in the end zone. The score was 31-24 at the half, and while the scoring died down after halftime, it included some late drama. Los Angeles led 34-24 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys scored two touchdowns on a pass from Danny White and their fifth fumble recovery of the evening.

 

A field goal brought the Raiders back to 38-37 with 9:40 to go, only for White to toss a ball up into double coverage for an interception. Wilson took over on his own 25-yard line inside of four minutes and drove the Raiders to the 8-yard line before a fourth field goal from Chris Bahr gave the Raiders a two-point win.

 

2. Bills 47, Oilers 41 (OT) in Week 3, 1989

Outside of this one taking place early in the 1989 season, it had just about everything you could hope for from a classic. This was a matchup of two future Hall of Famers at quarterback, with Jim Kelly and Warren Moon in their primes. The two teams had a history, as the Bills had beaten the Oilers during the 1988 playoffs. Their most famous playoff game would come three years after this, when Frank Reich launched The Comeback in a 41-38 victory during the 1992 postseason.

 

Back in 1989, though, we saw two explosive offenses trade body blows in the Astrodome. Both Moon and Kelly topped 330 passing yards. To put things in context, this was just one of six games during the entire 1989 season in which both quarterbacks topped 300 passing yards in the same contest. Kelly chipped in five touchdown passes, and while Moon actually threw more interceptions (two) than touchdown passes (one), he was responsible for one of Houston’s three rushing scores. The Bills returned a blocked field goal for one touchdown, while the Oilers responded by taking a blocked punt to the house.

 

The late-game swings push this game toward the top of the list. The Bills led 34-24 in the fourth quarter after Kelly hit Andre Reed for a 78-yard touchdown, but their lead didn’t last. The Oilers scored two touchdowns to go up 38-34, but the Bills responded with a 26-yard Thurman Thomas score to make it 41-38.

 

From there, chaos reigned. The Oilers started their drive with a pass to Haywood Jeffires, who had the ball dislodged by Nate Odomes and returned into the end zone by Darryl Talley for what looked to be a game-sealing score, but the referees ruled that Jeffires’ forward progress had been stopped. Houston continued its drive on a sideline catch in which Curtis Duncan was initially ruled out of bounds before the officials conferred and overruled the side judge who made the initial call. With no replay to review the call, the Oilers stalled out after a false start and Tony Zendejas kicked a 52-yard field goal (in an era where those were hardly chip shots) to push the game into overtime.

 

Things did not get any less dramatic in overtime. The Oilers drove into field goal range for Zendejas in the extra period. His 43-yard attempt was blocked, but Houston was bailed out by an offsides call on the Bills. Zendejas then pushed his 38-yard attempt wide left, marking the fifth kick he had missed in nine tries over a two-week span. (He didn’t lose his job and picked up steady work until 1995. We’re too hard on kickers these days.) The Bills took over and Kelly hit two passes for 33 yards before Reed took a short throw 28 yards to the house to win an epic up-and-down encounter.

 

1. Rams 54, Chiefs 51 in Week 11, 2018

I think you can credibly make a case that this was the best regular-season game ever. The scoring, obviously, was at another level. L.A. and Kansas City were 9-1 heading into the game, which in itself is a rare matchup of dominant teams. Both had the majority of their stars healthy and active, although the Chiefs might very well look back at their two losses so far this season and wonder if they would have won with a healthy Eric Berry, given how Rob Gronkowski picked apart now-waived backup defensive back Josh Shaw in Week 6, and the Rams went after Daniel Sorensen for their final two scores Monday night.

 

What makes this game stand out is the sheer scope of the late-game drama. This is the only game on the list that had four lead changes in the fourth quarter, and that included the Chiefs coming back from a 10-point deficit at the beginning of the period. In most cases, when a fourth quarter has multiple lead changes, it usually includes one team scoring at the very end of the game without leaving its newly trailing opponent a meaningful shot at winning the game. The Chiefs went down 54-51 with 1:49 left and actually had two realistic shots of setting up for a game-winning touchdown or a game-tying field goal, only for Patrick Mahomes to be intercepted twice.

 

The numbers are almost comical. Mahomes threw for 478 yards and six touchdowns, becoming the second quarterback in league history to post two six-touchdown games in a single season. Jared Goff was good for 413 yards and four scores of his own. Between 1990 and 2009, there was exactly one regular-season game in which both quarterbacks topped 400 passing yards, a Dolphins-Patriots game that is an honorable mention here.

 

The two teams combined for 14 touchdowns, which is one more than the Bills have scored in 10 games this season and as many as the 1991 Colts scored over an entire 16-game season. The defenses were overmatched and still managed to impact the game by combining for three touchdowns. The game had the highest posted point total (63.5) in league history, and it went over that total by 41.5 points.

 

Saying it lived up to the Game of the Year hype is obvious. Looking a step further, it seems eminently reasonable to suggest that we just witnessed the greatest — or at least the most exciting — regular-season game in NFL history.

 

We would strenuously dispute one of Barnwell’s criteria.  His requirement that both teams score 35 points seems to the DB to be artificially high. 

 

For an example we can grasp, if you were to pick what is the best Super Bowl game by Barnwell’s criteria – you wouldn’t have one.  In 52 Super Bowls, many of them marvelous, no team has ever scored 35 points and lost.

 

Looking at the list of SBs, the DB is kind of partial to Pittsburgh’s win over Arizona in Super Bowl 43 with the late pass to Santonio Holmes.  It had plenty of stuff going on throughout, and the final score was 27-23.

 

Or maybe you liked New England’s big comeback against the Falcons, 34-28.

 

Or Russell Wilson throwing the INT at the end?  Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.

 

How about the second Patriots Super Bowl victory with the late Vinatieri FG?  Patriots 32, Carolina 29.

 

As far as regular season games go – the DB remembers the game where Bill Belichick went for it on 4th and 2 in his own territory against Peyton Manning in 2009.  Colts 35, Patriots 34.

 

Even by Barnwell’s definition, we think he missed Steelers 37, Packers 36 in 2009.  I guess he didn’t count it because 9-7 Pittsburgh didn’t make the playoffs.

 

We could go on, but the bottom line would seem to be that the number for total points should be more like 50 than Barnwell’s decision to push it to 70+.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

The short week, made shorter by NBC delaying Sunday’s scheduled kickoff by seven plus hours, may work against the availability of QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY for Thanksgiving in Detroit.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The NFC North-leading Chicago Bears are dealing with a banged-up quarterback heading into Thursday’s Thanksgiving tilt in Detroit.

 

Coach Matt Nagy said Tuesday that Mitch Trubisky is day-to-day with a right shoulder injury and does not think the signal-caller will practice today.

 

The issue puts Trubisky’s status up in the air heading into Thursday.

 

“I’m staying cautiously optimistic, but I can’t make any promises,” Nagy said, via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. “I hope he does. He wants to play, I know that. We’ve got to make sure in these situations we’re doing the right thing.”

 

Trubisky injured his throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings on a late hit by safety Harrison Smith on a play the QB scrambled out of the pocket. Smith was penalized on the play.

 

Nagy noted that the injury isn’t a long-term issue for Trubisky and surgery isn’t needed.

 

With only about 85 hours to recover between games, the injury to the QB is much more urgent for Chicago.

 

@StaceyDales

 With the Bears playing Sunday Night Football, & then in the early window Thursday on Thanksgiving in Detroit, they will have the fastest Sunday to Thursday turnaround since 2000. That’s 88 hours in between kickoffs. 2000 was as far back as @NFLResearch could track this data.

 

Trubisky has improved weekly under Nagy this season, using his arm and legs to move the ball in the coach’s creative system.

 

Hopefully for the 7-3 Bears, holding Trubisky out of practice is merely a precaution. If not, Americans will be served a side of Chase Daniel as their pre-Thanksgiving dinner appetizer.

 

And it’s not like the game NBC ditched was all that bad.  CBS was quick to send Jim Nantz and Tony Romo to Pittsburgh at Jacksonville when the game fell into their laps and the two teams responded with a mini-classic decided in the final seconds.  Minnesota at Chicago was – okay.

– – –

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com with more on the Bears:

 

“Statement game” is kind of an overused term, and the Bears would tell you it doesn’t apply to what they did to the Vikings on Sunday night because they weren’t trying to make a statement; they were trying to pad their division lead.

 

But you can do both, and the Bears did. With Khalil Mack’s ankle back at something close to full strength, the Bears defensive Death Star is fully operational. The visiting Vikings, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, were unfortunate to be in its sights.

 

The Bears’ defense believed even before the early-September trade for Mack that it would be one of the best in the league, but the impact of Mack’s arrival has been elevating that confidence to unforeseen levels. When I covered Chicago’s Week 4 victory over Tampa Bay — the game in which second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw six touchdown passes — Bears defensive back Prince Amukamara told me of Mack, “When you see greatness like that, it just makes everybody want to be great that much more.”

 

What they didn’t know they had back in August was a dynamic offense. They were hoping, but these things take time to come together. And Trubisky entered this season as a still-unknown quantity. What we see when we watch the Bears is an offense that’s still a work in progress to some extent but has dynamic elements and is built to make life as enjoyable as possible for Trubisky. First-year coach Matt Nagy isn’t afraid to mix and match his receivers, tight ends and backs, who have differing skill sets Nagy can adapt to situations and opponents. Trubisky’s natural talents fit a wide-open 2018 NFL in which offenses are more creative and taking more chances. You can see the thing growing, and you can see where it will continue to grow. But in the meantime, the Bears are a real contender, and their division victory Sunday proved it.

 

The Bears felt like they let one get away in Week 1 when Aaron Rodgers did his second-half magic trick on them, but they’ve obviously recovered. Only the Saints, Rams and Chiefs have more wins and a better point differential than the Bears do, and after Sunday’s throttling of the Vikings, they hold a game-and-a-half lead in the NFC North. They don’t dazzle the TV ratings books like the Saints and Rams do, but if they get to the playoffs with a fully healthy Mack and confidence on the upswing, there’s every reason to believe they’ll be dangerous.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tries to figure out how the exemplary numbers of QB AARON RODGERS don’t add up to better than a 4-5-1 record:

 

These are the numbers on Aaron Rodgers through 10 games this season:

 

Touchdown passes: 19

 

Interceptions: 1

 

Passing yards: 3,073

 

Passer rating: 102.2

 

These are the numbers on Rodgers’ word choices after that 10th game — a 27-24 loss at Seattle that dropped the Green Bay Packers to 4-5-1:

 

Frustrated: 3

 

Frustration: 2

 

Frustrating: 1

 

That second set of numbers tells far more about the quarterback and his season than the first. What quarterback wouldn’t be happy with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19-to-1 or an average of more than 300 yards per game and a passer rating in triple-digits?

 

Welcome to Rodgers’ 11th season as a starter.

 

He has thrown the most touchdowns with one or fewer interceptions of any quarterback with a losing record through 10 games during the Super Bowl era, and it’s not all that close. In 1991, the Browns were 4-6, and Bernie Kosar had 11 touchdowns and one interception. He and Rodgers are the only two quarterbacks in the past 53 seasons with double-digit touchdowns along with one or zero interceptions to have a losing record through 10 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

 

And don’t blame Rodgers’ Week 1 knee injury — at least not anymore — for any of the Packers’ struggles.

 

“I feel good; it’s not a problem,” Rodgers said after Thursday’s loss in Seattle.

 

Perhaps everyone should have seen this coming from the Packers, who have suffered because of poor drafts in Ted Thompson’s final three years as general manager. Even a more aggressive approach to free agency and the draft from new GM Brian Gutekunst did not immediately fix all the issues.

 

But with Rodgers back healthy after the broken collarbone ruined his 2017 season, there was talk of another MVP run. After all, he won his second MVP, for the 2014 season, the year after he broke his collarbone for the first time.

 

Rodgers played through the Week 1 left knee injury; he wore a brace until the Nov. 4 game at New England. But something wasn’t right with the offense — a point he made public after the Week 4 win over the Buffalo Bills, when he threw coach Mike McCarthy and his game-planning staff under the bus.

 

And it’s still not right even if he now says he’s as involved as he needs to be in the game-planning process.

 

“I think there’s an agreement with what we’re doing; obviously, we meet multiple times a week on what we’re trying to do,” Rodgers said in Seattle. “The frustration is in the execution. The execution hasn’t been great, especially in situational offense. When you compare it to years past, we’ve always been really good on third down and really good in the red zone, and we’re just not this year. I think that’s a combination of a lot of things, but that’s the biggest frustration.”

 

Rodgers said last week that he believes his decline in completion percentage (61.8 percent, 25th in the NFL) is due in part to an increased number of throwaways. He has already chucked the ball away more times this season than he has in any full season during his career as a starter.

 

To be sure, the narrative might read differently had Ty Montgomery not fumbled the kickoff after the Rams took a 29-27 lead in the final minutes in Week 8 or Aaron Jones not fumbled in the fourth quarter of a tie game at New England in Week 9 or McCarthy not punted on fourth-and-2 with 4:20 left against the Seahawks. Of course, Rodgers bounced the ball short of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s feet on third-and-2 right before McCarthy punted and missed a wide-open Jones on an earlier checkdown, as well.

 

“I think you have to answer more of these questions when you’re 4-5-1,” McCarthy said when asked about Rodgers’ play. “There’s different things that go on during the game, even the pre-snap, but I have great confidence in Aaron’s judgment and, obviously, ability to play the position. We were not clean at certain spots in the pass game, whether it’s spacing or [something else], and I think that was apparent in the second half. Those are the things that we’ll continue to focus on and work through, and really, even during the best of times here with the offense — and we’re still a very productive offense in the National Football League this year — but even in the best of times, you do have some plays like that. That’s the part of the game you continue to stay focused on and continue to work on.”

 

And then there’s the in-season injuries, most notably to receivers Randall Cobb (who has missed five of the past seven games because of a hamstring injury) and Geronimo Allison (who went on injured reserve following groin surgery earlier this month). Their absence might be felt most on third down, where their experience with Rodgers has been difficult for rookies such as Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown to replicate.

 

“I was frustrated watching it, so I can add on to that,” said Cobb, who did not make the trip to Seattle. “Everybody senses that frustration. It’s not fun. When you come to work, you want to enjoy what you do. When you’re not winning games, it’s not nearly as fun.

 

“It comes down to communication and experience. Obviously, they’ve gained a little bit of experience but not the experience that me and G-Mo have. I’m sure that can be frustrating for him to not have his guys out there. He’s trying to groom guys in the middle of a grueling season.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Pete Prisco notes the Cowboys have improved their position with a pair of wins.  He has them at #12 with a bullet in his rankings:

 

Two weeks ago, there were many out there ready to bury the Dallas Cowboys and fire coach Jason Garrett.

 

After two impressive road victories over the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons, they head home for a Thanksgiving Day game on a roll and with the look of the team to beat in the NFC East.

 

At 5-5, the Cowboys are still a game behind the Washington Redskins, who they play Thursday (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox, stream on fuboTV, try for free), but the Redskins lost quarterback Alex Smith for the season with a broken leg.

 

The defending Super Bowl-champion Philadelphia Eagles are also reeling and the New York Giants aren’t very good.

 

So Dallas is the class of the NFC East right now.

 

Who saw that two weeks ago?

 

The Cowboys are up to 12th in my Power Rankings this week, but I think they will be higher in the coming weeks. The defense is getting better by the week, the offensive line and running game with Ezekiel Elliott have come alive and Dak Prescott is making enough plays now.

 

Garrett was blistered for the first few months, with owner Jerry Jones constantly being asked about his future. Now the Cowboys look poised to make a real push to win the division.

 

After the Redskins, they play a tough game at home against the 9-1 Saints, but the rest of the schedule isn’t daunting.

 

So this week’s game is enormous. I can hardly wait to see the cameras on Jones and his family all during the game on Thanksgiving.

 

Prisco now has the Redskins at #14.  You can see the rest of his rankings here.

– – –

WR MICHAEL GALLUP is not going to let a family tragedy prevent him from playing for the Cowboys on Thursday. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup did not travel back to Dallas with the team after last Sunday’s win over the Falcons so that he could be with his family in Georgia after his brother’s suicide.

 

Gallup’s status for Thursday’s game wasn’t directly addressed by head coach Jason Garrett on Monday, but the coach did say that the team would take everything “moment by moment” with the rookie wideout.

 

According to multiple reports on Tuesday, Gallup plans to play against Washington on Thanksgiving. Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the family is still working out whether the funeral will be held Wednesday or Friday and that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will provide a plane to get Gallup to and from Dallas.

 

Gallup, a third-round pick this year, has 16 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown on the season.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

CB MALCOLM JENKINS states the obvious

 

Malcolm Jenkins: We lacked fight in New Orleans

 

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins flipped Saints coach Sean Payton the bird after getting beaten for a touchdown in last Sunday’s 48-7 loss to the Saints and said after the game that he was upset at himself for letting Alvin Kamara get past him.

 

Jenkins was upset about other things that happened during the blowout loss as well and shared some of those feelings on Tuesday. Jenkins said that “the demeanor of the team really bothered” him during the loss and suggested some of his teammates weren’t as willing to push back at the Saints as he would’ve liked.

 

“It was just embarrassing, quite frankly,” Jenkins said, via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It was one of those things that I didn’t feel like, as a team, we had a lot of fight. I’d rather just get thrown out of a game than lay die and take it. … I think when a team jumps on you like the Saints did and gets rolling, you find out a lot about yourself. You’re going to get blown out regardless. You’re either going to get blown out swinging or blown out laying down. And I think you had a little bit of both.”

 

Hearing a player like Jenkins say these things after such a terrible performance isn’t out of the ordinary. The big question for the Eagles is whether they find that fight in response to hearing what Jenkins and other veteran leaders are saying or if the 4-6 start has already taken the wind out of too many sails.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Positive vibes from Jon Gruden as QB COLT McCOY heads back to Texas as the starting QB of the Redskins.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Coaches and players get asked all sorts of goofy questions all the time. (And I know, because I often ask said goofy questions during interviews.)

 

On Tuesday, Washington coach Jay Gruden was asked by reporters whether he likes his new starting quarterback, Colt McCoy.

 

“Yeah, I like everybody. I even like you,” Gruden said in response, with a laugh. “Yeah, I do like Colt. I like his competitive nature and I think he brings a lot to this football team. When you’re running scout team, it’s not always easy, but he brings a competitive fire to the defense. He helps the defense considerably. He helps our receivers get better, talking to them, our [running backs]. He’s made our team better as a result of him being out here working with the young kids on scout team and now it’s his opportunity to work with the ones and I’m excited to see it.”

 

McCoy and Gruden arrived in 2014, and McCoy has served as a backup to Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Alex Smith. In fact, the organization felt so strongly about McCoy that, before applying the franchise tag to Cousins for a second time in 2017, the team seriously considered letting Cousins leave as a free agent and elevating McCoy to the starting job.

 

“At Texas, he was one of the all-time winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football,” Gruden said. “You’ve got to have a little bit of respect for the guy to know that he can compete and play. But it wasn’t until we really got him that I got to know him and watch him play and progress, that I thought we have a pretty special guy here in the building. When you have a chance to have two quarterbacks, last year we had Kirk [Cousins] and Colt, this year we had Alex [Smith] and Colt, it’s a heck of a benefit. We’re paying him pretty good to be our backup for a reason in case something like this happens, we feel very comfortable. I’ve seen him out here. I know nobody else has. . . . I’ve seen him progress as a player, as a person throughout his stint here. But now it’s a matter of live reps, he hasn’t taken a lot. Last week was the first time he’s taken them since preseason and he didn’t take any last year in the regular season, just in the preseason. So, I think that’s the biggest issue we are going to see, is how he handles the live reps, the entire game plan with the cadence, the protections, all that. It’s just a little bit different than sitting on the sidelines and helping out your buddy. I fully anticipate he is ready to go and I think he’ll have a big day.”

 

McCoy beat the Cowboys in Dallas on a Monday night in 2014. Now, McCoy gets a chance to do it again, before a huge audience on one of the biggest days of the regular season. With first place in the NFC East hanging in the balance.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com doesn’t think it is fanciful to think the Saints will run the table from here:

 

All due respect to this week’s brilliant Monday Night Football matchup, but what’s going on in New Orleans has to be making the rest of the league wonder why it’s even trying. The Saints blew out the Super Bowl champion Eagles 48-7 on Sunday, a week after dropping 51 points on the Bengals and two weeks after dropping 45 points on the previously unbeaten Rams. New Orleans has won nine games in a row since its season-opening loss to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs, and the Saints are playing as if that game made them mad at the whole entire world.

 

Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. Again, the Saints were my preseason pick to win it all, and I see no reason to move off of that pick at this point. The only reason to think the Saints won’t run the table is that their schedule is pretty tough. They still have to play the almost-as-hot-as-they-are Steelers, plus the second-place Panthers twice in their final three games. Plus, they have a trip to Dallas, where the Cowboys are 3-1 this year. The rules of probability dictate that they’re unlikely to win all of those tough matchups, not to mention a couple of playoff games and the Super Bowl. But five weeks ago, I don’t think the rules of probability said they’d be averaging 39.6 points a game while sweeping through the Ravens/Vikings/Rams/Bengals/Eagles stretch of their schedule, either. The Saints don’t seem to care much about probability … or anything else right now.

 

The DB would say that it was only four weeks ago that New Orleans only won a game because Ravens PK Justin Tucker missed a PAT for the first and only time in his life.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

The Buccaneers quest for the NFL passing yards record has taken a hit.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed tight end O.J. Howard on injured reserve, the team announced Tuesday.

 

Howard suffered ankle and foot injuries when he was tackled from behind in the second half of Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. On the play, Howard’s ankle bent sideways.

 

He was able to leave the field under his own power but did not return.

 

A source said the ankle injury will not require surgery.

 

Howard, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick in 2017, finishes the season with 34 catches for 565 yards. His five touchdowns are tied with wide receiver Mike Evans for the team lead.

 

The Tampa Bay Times first reported news of the IR designation.

 

This from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

If the Buccaneers would ever settle on one quarterback, that quarterback would be generating huge numbers.

 

As a reader has pointed out, the two Tampa Bay signal-callers have combined through 10 games for 3,746 passing yards. That puts Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston collectively on pace for 5,993 passing yards for the full season.

 

Peyton Manning holds the single-season yardage record, with 5,477. That year, backup Brock Osweiler added only 95 yards.

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick has 2,366 yards passing. Jameis Winston, who will start on Sunday, has 1,380.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Andy Reid has been known for his clock management gaffes over the years, but last night Sean McVay left Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com perplexed:

 

Here’s another intriguing development from Monday night’s remarkable game between the Chiefs and Rams that easily became overlooked in the flurry of activity in a frenetic fourth quarter.

 

The Rams nearly blew the game by mismanaging the clock after an interception that could have (should have) sealed the victory.

 

Cornerback Marcus Peters ended a Kansas City drive by catching a Patrick Mahomes throw at the L.A. 35. Only 78 seconds remained in the game, but the Chiefs had all three of their time outs.

 

The drive began with a false start from left tackle Andrew Whitworth, forcing the Rams into a first-and-15 situation from their own 30. On first down, quarterback Jared Goff threw a short pass to receiver Robert Woods, who nearly went out of bounds. On second down, Goff threw again — a short pass that Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker nearly intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Instead, the ball hit the ground, and the clock stopped without the Chiefs taking another time out.

 

On third down, another throw. This time, receiver Brandin Cooks gained nothing on a screen play, and the Chiefs took their second time out. As the Rams prepared to punt, the drive had consumed only 14 seconds and only two time outs.

 

Punter Johnny Hekker‘s 68-yard missile (along with punt returner Tyreek Hill‘s decision to bring the punt out of the end zone), put the Chiefs in a tough spot, starting the final drive from the 12 yard line. That went a long way toward keeping the Chiefs from moving toward a possible game-tying field goal.

 

Most importantly, it prevented Rams coach Sean McVay from having to answer plenty of tough questions about what would have been an uncharacteristic and inexplicable failure by one of the best coaches in football to force the Chiefs to use all three of their time outs by keeping the ball on the ground and churning as much of the clock as possible.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

This could be the end of the line for CB ADAM “PACMAN” JONES.  NFL.com:

 

Pacman’s game in Denver is over.

 

The Broncos released 14-year veteran cornerback Adam Jones on Tuesday after he appeared in just seven games with the organization. Jones signed with Denver in late August and started two games in September, but his playing time had waned in recent weeks.

 

He posted one interception and nine tackles for the Broncos, and he occasionally served as a kick returner.

 

At 35 years old, Jones might have a hard time finding another team, although he’s done some of his best work in his 30s. Jones made his lone Pro Bowl in 2015 and was an All-Pro in 2014, both seasons coming during an eight-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals.

 

There was a time that the odds seemed very much against Jones even living to 35 years old, much less wrapping up a somewhat productive NFL career.

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com says a key player could be returning to the Chiefs beleaguered secondary:

 

The Chiefs have kept safety Eric Berry on their 53-player roster all season in anticipation of his return. But Berry hasn’t played, and the Chiefs haven’t committed to a date for his return.

 

Kansas City is hopeful Berry can return to practice next week after the team’s open date.

 

That means there is a chance to could return to the field against the Raiders in Week 13.

 

“If he feels comfortable and the docs are good with it and he’s good with it, then we’ll start easing him in,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.

 

Berry has remained out with a heel injury. It’s the same injury he had in the summer of 2017 before he tore his Achilles in the 2017 season opener against the Patriots.

 

That is the last regular-season game Berry played.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on the big turnaround in Indy:

 

If you knew Andrew Luck was going to come back healthy with his shoulder at full strength, sure, you’d have predicted an improvement for the Colts over last year’s 4-12 finish. But (A) nobody really knew that in September, and (B) you’d still have allowed that the Colts’ roster around Luck needed a ton more work before it could be a contender.

 

If you spoke to Colts officials in the offseason, you knew they believed the defense would be a work in progress as it underwent a scheme change under new coordinator Matt Eberflus, and the offensive line was an area of concern because it had been such a weakness for so long. And that doesn’t even mention the fact that the Colts began their offseason with Josh McDaniels bailing out weeks after agreeing on a deal to be their head coach, leaving them to hire Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich at the last minute.

 

They seem to have lucked out (no pun intended) on that last point, as it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job than Reich did of shepherding Luck through the offseason and building an offense that catered to him while he was working his way back into game shape. Luck is humming now. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of his past seven games — the third-longest such streak in NFL history behind Tom Brady’s 10 in 2007 and Peyton Manning’s eight in 2004.

 

Part of the reason is the offensive line has come together in a way that exceeds any reasonable expectations they could have had for it. The Colts got three second-round picks from the Jets to move down three spots in the first round and still might have found the draft’s best player in Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who could be the offensive rookie of the year if an offensive lineman can win such an award. Obviously, the line is a five-man unit, but one Colts official to whom I spoke in recent weeks said you could “absolutely” credit the addition of Nelson for the line’s resurgence. The team believes he plays with a level of toughness and meanness that rubs off on his linemates, and that he has unlocked a level of performance in those around him that might not have shown up without him. Fellow rookie Braden Smith, taken with one of the second-rounders the Colts got from the Jets, has settled in as a starter at right tackle.

 

On the flip side is that defense and Eberflus, who was one of the coaches who signed a contract when the Colts thought McDaniels was coming and stuck around even after McDaniels flaked. General manager Chris Ballard was a huge fan of Eberflus and was thrilled to have him even without McDaniels, and the performance of his defense so far is likely to land Eberflus some head-coaching interviews in January. Second-rounder Darius Leonard has played like a candidate for defensive rookie of the year at linebacker, and while the defense does have a ways to go, it’s 10th best in the league in yards allowed per game and fourth best in points allowed per game over the past five weeks — during which time the Colts are 4-0. That four-game winning streak has Luck & Co. back at .500 and in contention for a playoff spot — at least a year ahead of schedule.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

Scenes from the Jaguars locker room from Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com:

 

The push notification blared across the smartphone screens of many Jacksonville Jaguars as they entered the stadium, took seats in front of their lockers and began to swap street clothes for warmup gear. BREAKING: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Jaguars will be open to trading all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the offseason. Players filing into the locker room or returning from pre-game tape jobs looked to Ramsey, alone at his locker, his head buried in a hoodie. He would say nothing. The team put out a statement describing the report as a “rumor” with no truth to it, but the damage had been done. The third-year pro, who had earlier in the week sparred with fans on Twitter, donned a black thermal mask usually reserved for cold-weather games and took the field.

 

“Everybody was like, Whoa, where’s this coming from,” says Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack, who sits about 10 lockers down from Ramsey. “Jalen went out there, put his mask on and embraced that villain role. I think he brought that mask out as his answer to that. Everybody knew about the report. It was the elephant in the room. And Jalen went out and addressed it.”

 

What followed was a team performance that typified this era of Jaguars football. Ramsey, criticized this season for his candor off the field and his slipping performance on it, turned in one of the finest defensive performances of the 2018 NFL season, picking off two Ben Roethlisberger passes and holding Antonio Brown in check for nearly the entire game. Brown would finish with five catches for 117 yards and a score, though 78 of those yards and the touchdown were the result of a blown coverage by safety Tashaun Gipson.

 

The Jaguars, remarkably, began three of their 14 drives in Steelers territory, and two more drives at better than their own 40-yard line, yet converted those opportunities into just six points (two Josh Lambo field goals). The defense held the Steelers to just 26 rushing yards, but Jacksonville’s offensive ineptitude, fueled by a struggling front five and the lackluster play of quarterback Blake Bortles (10 of 18 passing, 104 yards) allowed Pittsburgh to hang around until a game-winning end zone plunge by Roethlisberger in the final seconds to deliver Jacksonville its sixth straight loss, 20-16 to the Steelers.

 

Veteran safety Barry Church, when asked if he’d ever been a part of a better defensive performance in a loss: “Oof. Nah. Not like that.”

 

It was a game the Jaguars absolutely had to have to keep their playoff hopes alive, historically speaking. They are now 3-7, and no team with that record has ever gone on to earn a postseason berth. “This sort of thing starts to feel like quicksand,” veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell told me Friday, two days before the Steelers game. “The harder you fight out of it, the more mistakes you make, the more you slip. Nobody is giving us a chance to go to playoffs, but we still believe. I still believe.”

 

Campbell’s is the voice you will hear making sense of all this, squinting at the light at the end of the tunnel as it slowly disappears. Ramsey has more trouble putting on a brave face. “I’ve been pretty pissed off,” Ramsey said after the loss. “I’m not going to lie to you. I have. S—, man, I’ve been battling with my emotions, trying to hold them in.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The Dolphins, oft discounted despite their 5-5 record, are getting starting QB RYAN TANNEHILL back.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will return to the Dolphins starting quarterback job against the Colts this weekend, but he stopped short of declaring himself all the way back from the right shoulder injury that’s kept him out for the last five games.

 

Tannehill said that he experienced a setback a few weeks ago when he tried to step up his rehab work, which led to a slowdown until last week. Tannehill threw more and felt more comfortable, although he admitted to still feeling some pain in his shoulder.

 

He said it is at a “tolerable level” and that doctors are confident he won’t do any further damage by playing. Tannehill also said that he’ capable of doing anything that’s asked of him.

 

“I feel really good,” Tannehill said. “Not quite 100 percent, but I feel confident and have made all the throws I’m going to need to make over the course of a game.”

 

The Dolphins have lost wide receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant to injured reserve since Tannehill last played a game, so the offense won’t be exactly the same but the 5-5 Dolphins will be hoping that everything clicks right off the bat anyway.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS Thru Week 12

 

It’s not that the Bears did anything wrong, but with an overwhelming performance against the Eagles, the Saints have displaced Chicago atop the Aikman Combined Ratings as compiled by Sports Radar after Week 12. 

 

The Bears actually inched up from 167.1 to 167.3 in their Combined Rating with their win over the Vikings.  But New Orleans zoomed up from 161.8 to 167.4 with their dismantling of Philadelphia.  And the defending Super Bowl champions fell from 14th to 20th.

 

The Saints have also taken over the top spot in Aikman Offense at 103.9, surpassing the Chiefs who had been in the lead most of the season.

 

The Bears remain in first in Aikman Defense.

– – –

Another team that continues on the rise is Indianapolis.  The Colts have jumped to 4th with their four straight wins.

– – –

Troy Aikman founded the Aikman Ratings when he noticed the NFL’s method would proclaim a team as having the league’s best offense (or defense) based solely on the compilation of yards.

 

We have a classic case of that this year.  The Buccaneers have the NFL’s official number one offense based on their massive amount of pass yards rolling into total yards.  This comes even as the Buccaneers are drowning in turnovers.

 

Certainly, New Orleans, Kansas City and the Rams, the three top teams in Aikman Offense, meet the eye test for effective offense in 2018 more than the Buccaneers.  And the Aikmans place Tampa Bay as only 15th in offense due to their league-worst turnovers and substandard red zone performance.

 

————–

Aikman

————–

————–

NFL

————–

Rank

Record

Team

Comb

Off

Def

Off

Def

Comb

1

9-1-0

New Orleans Saints

167.4

103.9

63.5

4

16

20

2

7-3-0

Chicago Bears

167.3

88.1

79.2

16

3

19

3

7-2-1

Pittsburgh Steelers

161.9

93.5

68.3

5

6

11

4

5-5-0

Indianapolis Colts

161.4

93.7

67.7

9

20

29

5

7-3-0

Los Angeles Chargers

161.0

90.0

71.1

7

14

21

6

9-2-0

Kansas City Chiefs

160.3

101.0

59.2

3

30

33

7

10-1-0

Los Angeles Rams

159.6

98.2

61.4

2

21

23

8

5-4-1

Minnesota Vikings

157.3

80.0

77.3

14

5

19

9

5-5-0

Seattle Seahawks

157.1

89.6

67.4

20

11

31

10

5-5-0

Baltimore Ravens

157.1

87.6

69.5

12

1

13

11

6-4-0

Washington Redskins

155.9

81.9

74.0

25

15

40

12

4-5-1

Green Bay Packers

154.8

88.2

66.6

8

12

20

13

7-3-0

New England Patriots

153.1

88.5

64.6

10

24

34

14

5-5-0

Dallas Cowboys

152.7

81.7

70.9

27

8

35

15

6-4-0

Carolina Panthers

152.1

91.3

60.8

15

13

28

16

5-5-0

Tennessee Titans

151.2

78.7

72.5

30

9

39

17

3-6-1

Cleveland Browns

148.5

82.4

66.1

18

31

49

18

7-3-0

Houston Texans

148.0

80.1

68.0

13

7

20

19

4-6-0

Denver Broncos

147.7

82.7

64.9

11

22

33

20

4-6-0

Philadelphia Eagles

147.0

80.9

66.1

19

23

42

21

4-6-0

Atlanta Falcons

145.1

93.4

51.7

6

29

35

22

3-7-0

New York Giants

144.4

80.5

63.9

23

25

48

23

4-6-0

Detroit Lions

143.6

81.9

61.7

24

19

43

24

2-8-0

San Francisco 49ers

143.0

80.6

62.5

17

10

27

25

3-7-0

Jacksonville Jaguars

141.3

73.5

67.8

21

4

25

26

5-5-0

Cincinnati Bengals

141.0

89.1

51.9

26

32

58

27

5-5-0

Miami Dolphins

138.8

71.6

67.2

28

27

55

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

2

33

30

3-7-0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

133.7

84.0

49.7

1

28

29

31

2-8-0

Arizona Cardinals

133.6

69.0

64.6

32

17

49

32

2-8-0

Oakland Raiders

132.8

74.6

58.2

22

26

48

NFL Average:

149.7

84.2

65.5

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 11, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

4

New Orleans Saints

103.9

2

3

Kansas City Chiefs

101.0

3

2

Los Angeles Rams

98.2

4

9

Indianapolis Colts

93.7

5

5

Pittsburgh Steelers

93.5

6

6

Atlanta Falcons

93.4

7

15

Carolina Panthers

91.3

8

7

Los Angeles Chargers

90.0

9

20

Seattle Seahawks

89.6

10

26

Cincinnati Bengals

89.1

11

10

New England Patriots

88.5

12

8

Green Bay Packers

88.2

13

16

Chicago Bears

88.1

14

12

Baltimore Ravens

87.6

15

1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

84.0

16

11

Denver Broncos

82.7

17

18

Cleveland Browns

82.4

18

25

Washington Redskins

81.9

19

24

Detroit Lions

81.9

20

27

Dallas Cowboys

81.7

21

19

Philadelphia Eagles

80.9

22

17

San Francisco 49ers

80.6

23

23

New York Giants

80.5

24

13

Houston Texans

80.1

25

14

Minnesota Vikings

80.0

26

30

Tennessee Titans

78.7

27

22

Oakland Raiders

74.6

28

21

Jacksonville Jaguars

73.5

29

28

Miami Dolphins

71.6

30

32

Arizona Cardinals

69.0

31

31

Buffalo Bills

68.1

32

29

New York Jets

66.9

NFL Average:

84.2

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 11, 2018

Aikman

NFL

Team

AER

1

3

Chicago Bears

79.2

2

5

Minnesota Vikings

77.3

3

15

Washington Redskins

74.0

4

9

Tennessee Titans

72.5

5

14

Los Angeles Chargers

71.1

6

8

Dallas Cowboys

70.9

7

18

New York Jets

70.4

8

1

Baltimore Ravens

69.5

9

6

Pittsburgh Steelers

68.3

10

7

Houston Texans

68.0

11

4

Jacksonville Jaguars

67.8

12

20

Indianapolis Colts

67.7

13

2

Buffalo Bills

67.5

14

11

Seattle Seahawks

67.4

15

27

Miami Dolphins

67.2

16

12

Green Bay Packers

66.6

17

23

Philadelphia Eagles

66.1

18

31

Cleveland Browns

66.1

19

22

Denver Broncos

64.9

20

17

Arizona Cardinals

64.6

21

24

New England Patriots

64.6

22

25

New York Giants

63.9

23

16

New Orleans Saints

63.5

24

10

San Francisco 49ers

62.5

25

19

Detroit Lions

61.7

26

21

Los Angeles Rams

61.4

27

13

Carolina Panthers

60.8

28

30

Kansas City Chiefs

59.2

29

26

Oakland Raiders

58.2

30

32

Cincinnati Bengals

51.9

31

29

Atlanta Falcons

51.7

32

28

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

49.7

NFL Average:

65.5