AROUND THE NFL

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:

 

1          New England  East     7-0       1          5-0      

2          Kansas City     West    5-2       1          4-2      

3          Baltimore         North   5-2       1          3-2      

4          Indianapolis     South   4-2       1          3-2      

5          Buffalo            WC      5-1       2          4-1

6          Houston           WC      4-3      2          3-1      

7          Oakland          West    3-3      2          2-1

8          Jacksonville    South   3-4       3          3-2

9          Tennessee      South   3-4       4          2-4

 

Kansas City has a head-to-head win over Baltimore.

 

The 4th place Titans are ahead of the 2nd place Browns (2-4 in the AFC North).

– – –

Similar thoughts on Twitter:

 

@danorlovsky7

I don’t get this about fans. I feel like nowadays whether in the NFL or in CFB, if you say something positive about a team or player the auto response from most people is “Yea but they haven’t played anyone good.”

 

Is any player or team any good? Everyone sucks?!?

 

Sheesh

 

Related from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

@MichaelDavSmith

When I write about the Patriots’ D I’m told, “They’ve played terrible QBs!”

When I write about the 49ers’ D I’m told, “They’ve played terrible QBs!”

They haven’t faced any of the same QBs. So either people are not giving them enough credit, or the NFL has a LOT of terrible QB

– – –

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on how the 17th game might be determined if the NFL adopts this idea:

 

With the NFL currently moving toward the potential addition of a 17th regular-season game, a question inevitably will arise for the league (if it hasn’t already) regarding the manner in which the league would identify one extra opponent for every team. A loyal PFT Live viewer from the UK has posed the question directly to us via email, and we’ve decided to take a crack at solving the looming problem.

 

Based on the current scheduling formula, there’s really only one fair way to do it.

 

The league crafted a perfect formula in 2002, when the Texans joined the league and the number of teams hit an even number of 32. Two conferences, four divisions each, four teams each. Each team plays: (1) the other three teams in its division twice; (2) all four teams from one of the other divisions in its conference, on a three-year rotating basis; (3) all four teams from one of the divisions in the other conference, on a four-year rotating basis; and (4) the teams from the other two divisions in its own conference that finished in the same position during the prior year.

 

This results in only two games per year being weighted to reflect the outcome of the prior season. In the AFC East, for example, the Patriots (first place in the AFC East last year) and the Jets (fourth place) play the same slate of games with the exception of two: the Patriots play the AFC South and AFC West champions from 2018, and the Jets play the last-place team from those two divisions.

 

The 17th game provides another opportunity to inject more parity into the schedule. With every team already playing all four teams from one division in the other conference, the 17th game would involve a team from one of the other three divisions in the other conference, based on where the teams finished in those divisions in the prior year.

 

For example, the four AFC East teams play the four NFC East teams this year. In a 17th game, the Patriots would play a team like the Rams (first place in the NFC West) and the Jets would play the Cardinals (fourth place).

 

Next year, when the four teams of the AFC East play the four teams of the NFC West, the 17th game would come from the NFC North. The next year, when the four AFC East teams play the four NFC South teams, the 17th game would come from the NFC East.

 

And with a 17-game schedule allowing teams to play eight true home games, eight true road games, and one neutral-site game, that 17th game that breaks from the current formula also should be the neutral-site game.

 

There’s another important business reason to make the 17th game an extra interconference matchup: With the first-place team in each division playing not one but two first-place teams from the other conference each year, the chances of a Super Bowl rematch in any given year would increase significantly.

 

In some years, the Super Bowl rematch would be played at a neutral site. Like Patriots-Rams could have been this year, if the NFL already had a 17-game season with the formula we’ve proposed. And that would be a great way to generate interest and excitement in other countries.

 

We’re not opposed to Florio’s proposal, but we’re not sure it would deliver more “parity” into the schedule.  Actually with good teams playing each other, wouldn’t that make “less parity” into the schedules, although perhaps the potential for more parity in the results after more uneven schedules.

 

We would give the NFL a little bit more flexibility to create some better matchups.  We would definitely like to have the Jets and Giants play every 2nd year, instead of the current every fourth year.  Same with Rams-Chargers (should the Chargers still be in L.A.), Texans-Cowboys, games with the Buccaneers and the Jaguars/Dolphins.  Maybe Ravens-Redskins at Annapolis?.  Eagles-Steelers at Penn State? 

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Coach Matt Nagy wants you to know he is not an idiot.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Bears offense has been the subject of much criticism this season and much of that is directed at quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

 

His play has not reached the level the Bears hoped to see, but their offensive woes aren’t limited to the quarterback spot. After finishing 11th in rushing yards per game while winning the NFC North last season, the Bears are currently ranked 28th in that metric.

 

Sunday’s loss to the Saints saw the Bears almost totally abandon the run. They wound up with seven rushing attempts to 54 Trubisky passing attempts and two sacks allowed, which head coach Matt Nagy acknowledged is not the kind of balance that the team should have on the offensive side of the ball.

 

“I know we need to run the ball more. I’m not an idiot,” Nagy said at a Monday press conference.

 

Game situations impact how often a team runs the ball and the Bears fell down by as many as 26 points in the second half. It was a two-point game at halftime, however, and the Bears only ran five times while calling for 24 passes in a formula that didn’t result in success.

– – –

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com wants to know if one would be correct in thinking the Bears are likely not to return to the playoffs:

 

Chicago went into its Week 6 bye off a somewhat inexplicable loss to the Raiders in London. It returned with starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky healthy and set for a get-right home game against the Teddy Bridgewater Saints. But the Teddy Bridgewater Saints aren’t undefeated by accident, and they put it on the Bears at Soldier Field. The 36-25 loss dropped the Bears to 3-3, suddenly a distant third place in the NFC North.

 

The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. There was no better candidate for negative regression when this season began than the Bears, who went 12-4 last season against a last-place schedule and set an impossibly high defensive standard.

 

The extent of the Packers’ improvement, coupled with the fact that the Vikings appear to have righted their vessel, leaves the Bears looking way, way up at two division rivals. Chicago has road games left on its schedule in Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Rams), Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota, as well as a late-season home game against the Chiefs.

 

Something’s amiss in Chicago right now. Trubisky doesn’t look like he’s going to be the answer to anything, and the defense is giving up a stunning number of points. It’s going to be tough for the Bears to catch the Packers or the Vikings, let alone both. And while, yes, the division could put three teams in the playoffs, the Panthers and Seahawks could have something to say about that yet.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins won’t be getting anything from rookie RB BRYCE LOVE in 2019.  JP Finlay of NBCSports.com:

 

Redskins rookie running back Bryce Love is expected to undergo another surgery on his previously injured right knee on Tuesday, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

 

Love, currently in Pensacola, Fla., to see surgeon Dr. James Andrews, tore his right ACL last December while he was a senior at Stanford University. The Redskins selected Love in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft but he has yet to play this season. He landed on the Physically Unable to Perform list before training camp opened and many believed the 2019 season would be lost for the runner.

 

Asked about Love’s status last week, Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan was non-committal.

 

“We’ll just see where he’s at,” Callahan said. “He’s still in the rehabilitation process.”

 

Love’s injury-riddled 2018 season damaged his standing in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a junior at Stanford in 2017, Love rushed for more than 2,100 yards and 19 touchdowns. He averaged an absurd 8.1 yards-per-carry that year.

 

Many expected Love to turn pro after his junior year, but he elected to stay at Stanford. Playing on a worse team as a senior, Love was not as explosive even before the knee injury and his stats dropped. In 10 games, he had 739 rush yards but his YPC dipped to 4.5, the lowest of his four-year career and the only time his average fell even below 7.

 

That decision and the subsequent torn ACL probably cost him significantly in draft status.

 

Moving forward, it’s unclear what Love’s rehab schedule will look like. NFL Network reported back in April that some teams had concerns over Love’s injury and lingering knee stiffness. One source explained that Love’s medicals from the NFL Scouting Combine revealed that some doctors believed another surgery would be necessary.

 

Even without Love, the Redskins have other injury concerns at running back. Derrius Guice is on injured reserve but on track to return to the team after their Week 10 bye. Adrian Peterson hurt his ankle in a loss to the 49ers and his status is unknown. Chris Thompson is dealing with turf toe.

 

As a player on the PUP list, Love became eligible to return to practice after the Redskins’ win in Miami. He does not have to play or practice all year, though, and can remain on the PUP for the entire season. The Redskins retain his rights for four years on his rookie contract.

 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

The reeling Falcons have sent WR MOHAMMAD SANU to the Patriots.  Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com cautiously give Atlanta the better rating in the trade:

 

Atlanta Falcons get: 2020 second-round pick

New England Patriots get: WR Mohamed Sanu

 

Falcons grade: B+

Patriots grade: C+

 

There’s always some trepidation in suggesting the Patriots didn’t get the better end of a deal. Bill Belichick is smarter than, well, just about anyone else in the league. The Patriots are prohibitive favorites to win the Super Bowl, with ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) giving them a 36.1% chance of winning their third Lombardi trophy in four years. If they do, simply by being on the roster, Sanu is likely to play a big role along the way. The chances of him throwing for a touchdown on a trick play when the Patriots are struggling to create offense at some point during the postseason are approximately 100%.

 

Belichick has also probably had that pass play drawn up for years. With his affinity for Rutgers products who played under Greg Schiano well-known, it’s no surprise Belichick has repeatedly tried to acquire Sanu. Belichick tried to sign the 6-foot-2 wideout when he hit free agency in 2016, only for Sanu to sign with the Falcons. As Adam Schefter noted, Belichick also tried to trade for Sanu before the 2019 draft.

 

Now, with the Falcons floundering, Belichick gets his man. Sanu should step in quickly for an offense that started Phillip Dorsett and gave the combination of Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski 54 offensive snaps during Monday night’s blowout win over the Jets, although I suspect this move is more about shifting the offense as a whole than trying to create some short-term boost for the Patriots.

 

As previously constructed, the Patriots’ offense simply wasn’t playing up to its usual standard. They might very well have seen how they played during the 2018 playoffs, when they relied on a heavy dosage of Sony Michel, and hoped to run a similar sort of offense again throughout 2019. It hasn’t happened. The offensive line hasn’t been the same without Trent Brown or David Andrews, even before Isaiah Wynn went on injured reserve. The offense sorely misses tight end Rob Gronkowski, perhaps more as a blocker than as a receiver. The same is true for fullback James Develin. Michel has plodded through a frustrating campaign. The Pats are 22nd in points per drive over the past month despite inheriting the league’s fifth-best field position.

 

They have used three or more wideouts on 62.4% of their snaps this season, which is up from 56.8% a year ago, despite the fact that they’re yet to be in a situation where they need to throw to catch up. If New England’s options are to run out inferior players in 21 or 22 personnel and wait for Michel to find his footing, or lean more heavily into 11 personnel and Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady, well, you can understand why the Patriots would prefer the latter.

 

Sanu gives Brady another reliable pass-catcher in and around the line of scrimmage. Take a look at Sanu’s route chart from the NFL Next Gen Stats and you can see that most of what he was running in Atlanta was quick outs and dig routes behind linebackers. He was targeted just four times on passes traveling 15 or more yards downfield. Among 83 qualifying wideouts, Sanu ranks 76th in average air yards per target.

 

Basically, the Patriots are trading for a second Julian Edelman. While Sanu gives the Patriots added depth if Edelman were to become unavailable, it’s likely that Belichick will want to play both Edelman and Sanu in the slot, given that two-thirds of Sanu’s targets in 2019 have come out of the slot. Playing them both in the slot means New England will use more three- and four-wideout sets. Sanu is also a sound blocker, which will help the Patriots when they do run out of smaller sets.

 

Everything the Patriots do is about getting ready for the postseason, of course, and by the time we get to January, this offense could look very different. Wynn should be back at left tackle. First-round receiver N’Keal Harry could return from injured reserve, which would give the Patriots a bigger body on the outside to either supplement, rotate with or replace the injured Josh Gordon.

 

At the same time, this is also a move for 2020. Sanu’s deal, which was signed before wideout salaries really spiked during the 2018 offseason, pays the eight-year veteran $3.5 million in prorated base salary over the rest of 2019 before a $6.5 million base salary in 2020. That’s likely to be cheaper than just about anyone the Patriots would pursue in next year’s free-agent market, unless they go after a player coming off of an injury, as they did with Demaryius Thomas a year ago. The option to keep Sanu in 2020 might have led the Patriots to prefer Sanu to someone like Emmanuel Sanders, who is a free agent after the season.

 

I can understand why the Patriots would make this deal. The Falcons, though, have to be thrilled about this return. They are 1-6 and going nowhere, with a 0.1% chance of turning things around and making it to the postseason, per FPI. A cap-strapped Atlanta team desperately needs to devote more resources to its defense after ignoring it this past offseason. With Sanu playing as the team’s third wideout behind Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, the Falcons can use that $6.5 million more effectively elsewhere. It wouldn’t have been shocking if they had cut Sanu after the year or dealt him for a late-round pick.

 

Instead, the Falcons are getting a second-round pick and saving $3.5 million over the rest of the season. Even given that the Patriots pick could be the final selection of the round, turning a year and a half of Sanu into the 64th pick is good value for general manager Thomas Dimitroff & Co. If the rumors are true and the Patriots offered a second-round pick for Sanu before the draft, it’s a bit of a surprise that the Patriots weren’t able to drive the price down, given that they’ll basically get only 75% of what they would have received before the draft. The Falcons did well to avoid sending a late-round pick in 2021 back to the Patriots as part of the deal.

 

Patriots fans might be able to justify the deal by pointing out that New England is projected to receive two third-round compensatory picks after losing Trent Brown and Trey Flowers in free agency. Getting those picks is great, but it doesn’t make New England’s existing picks less valuable. Former Eagles and Browns executive Joe Banner has a nice way of putting it: “Once the house money is in your pocket, it’s no longer house money.” It’s easy to joke that the Pats just use their second-round picks on disappointing defensive backs every year, but New England also used second-rounders on Jimmy Garoppolo, Jamie Collins and Gronkowski in years past.

 

What Sanu’s price tag also suggests is that there’s an active market for wide receivers. It’s going to be very tough, as an example, for someone to send a second-round pick to the Bengals for A.J. Green when the Patriots needed a second-round pick to get Sanu. The Saints, 49ers, Seahawks, Raiders and Colts could all conceivably be in the market for help at wide receiver in the weeks to come.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Good quote from EDGE

 JASON PIERRE-PAUL as tweeted by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:

 

@NFLSTROUD

#GoBucs OLB Jason Pierre-Paul when asked about coming back from a cervical fracture in his neck.

 

“Not a lot of people have come back from blowing off their hand, too.”

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers have upgraded at WR with EMMANUEL SANDERS per ESPN.com:

 

The Denver Broncos are trading wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers.

 

The trade has not been officially announced but Sanders confirmed as he was leaving the Broncos’ facility that he was traded to San Francisco.

 

San Francisco is sending third- and fourth-round 2020 draft picks to Denver, who is also including a 2020 fifth-round pick with Sanders in the deal, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

“Obviously it’s hard any time you break up,” Sanders told KCNC-TV as he left the Broncos’ facility as the team’s practice began. ” … We had a great run out here in Denver, lot of great teams.”

 

49ers wide receivers have combined for 679 receiving yards this season, the second fewest in the NFL. Marquise Goodwin leads all 49ers wide receivers with 181 yards this season, which ranks 73rd league-wide.

 

Sanders added he was ready to “get out to San Fran and showcase my talents.”

 

Sanders, 32, has 30 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns in seven games this season, his sixth with the Broncos (2-5).

 

The two-time Pro Bowler suffered a torn left Achilles in practice last December and also had surgery on his right ankle in January, but he made a remarkable recovery and was a full participant in training camp workouts by the middle of August.

 

He joins a 49ers receiving corps that includes current starters Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin.

 

Sanders has 7,391 receiving yards and 39 touchdown catches in 134 career games.

 

 

SEATTLE

The Seahawks land a veteran safety.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Seahawks are getting some help at the safety position.

 

Quandre Diggs has been traded from Detroit to Seattle, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports. The trade includes Diggs and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick going to the Seahawks, with the Lions getting a 2020 fifth-round draft pick in return.

 

Diggs has been an important part of the Lions’ defense, playing 66 percent of their defensive snaps, the most of any safety on the roster. His departure likely means more playing time for safeties Tavon Wilson and Will Harris.

 

The Seahawks’ defense has struggled this season, and they likely see Diggs as a player who can step in as an immediate contributor. They need help, and Diggs should provide some.

 

A 2015 sixth-round draft pick, Diggs signed a three-year, $20.4 million contract to remain in Detroit last season. He’s under contract through 2021.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Thoughts from Jon Gruden on the decision to trade away a former first round pick who was starting.

 

The Raiders traded their third former first-round pick in the last two years on Monday when they shipped cornerback Gareon Conley to the Texans for a third-round pick.

 

Conley’s departure means there are now nine players on the Raiders roster who were there before Jon Gruden became the team’s head coach last year. When discussing the deal on Monday, Gruden said it was designed to get players who have been acquired more recently into the lineup.

 

“I think he’s good player. I’m not going to get into it other than that,” Gruden said, via the East Bay Times. “I think he’s a good young player. We drafted two young corners to play also and they’re back ready to go here quickly. We want to give them an opportunity, like we are a lot of young players at other positions.”

 

Trayvon Mullen and Isaiah Johnson were the two players the Raiders drafted at corner, although Johnson has been on injured reserve. He resumed practicing after being designated for return last week and they also have undrafted rookie Keisean Nixon looking for snaps at the position.

 

It should be noted that Conley is too old to be a Raider at age 24.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Some years, it just piles up on a few specific teams.  This year, it seems to be piling up on the Chargers.  Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers lost left guard Forrest Lamp for the rest of the season due to a broken fibula sustained in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

 

Lamp was helping to block Harold Landry when Titans linebacker Reggie Gilbert fell into the back of Lamp’s right leg as he made a swipe at quarterback Philip Rivers.

 

“Tough break for him,” head coach Anthony Lynn said, via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. “He worked his tail off to get back. It’s just unfortunate.”

 

Lamp, a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2017, has played in just nine games over parts of three seasons with the Chargers. While knee injuries limited him to just two games played over his first two years with the team, it’s a fractured leg that will end his 2019 campaign.

 

Dan Feeney replaced Lamp at guard with Scott Quessenberry taking over at center in Sunday’s game against the Titans.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Dan Gaziano of ESPN.com on whether it is an overreaction for Bengals fans to think it is time to see QB RYAN FINLEY:

 

Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in a span of 4:30 in the fourth quarter of Cincinnati’s seventh loss of the season. The offense in general was a nightmare, as Dalton led the team with 33 rushing yards and the rest of the team combined for a net total of zero. But this was a winnable home game for the still-winless Bengals against Jacksonville, and Dalton totally fell apart in the most critical moments.

 

The verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The Bengals are 0-7 and have a host of problems, but it’s not at all crazy to think about a quarterback change. They drafted Ryan Finley in the fourth round in April, which doesn’t make him an automatic NFL starter. But he has been working in Zac Taylor’s system since May and was thought by some to be a legitimate starting quarterback prospect before the draft.

 

This Bengals’ season is clearly going nowhere, and it appears they are on track for an extremely high draft pick in 2020. Dalton has one non-guaranteed year left on his contract after this one and would be very easy to cut financially. It would be worth finding out if Finley is a potential solution for the future before they decide whether to take someone like Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert in next year’s draft.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com is aghast at the reasoning of Bill O’Brien and the Texans in acquiring CB GAREON CONLEY:

 

OAK trades CB Gareon Conley to HOU

Oakland Raiders get: 2020 third-round pick (via Seattle)

Houston Texans get: CB Gareon Conley

 

Raiders grade: B-

Texans grade: D+

 

Two coaches who also have a role in personnel decisions responded to Week 7 by making an emotional trade. One side makes more sense than the other, because Bill O’Brien’s propensity for filling holes on his roster by trading away future draft picks has quickly become a habit. The Texans technically have two third-round picks, but their own third-rounder is likely spoken for as a product of the Duke Johnson trade, which seems like a similar sort of misstep from the O’Brien-led front office.

 

Going after Johnson as a secondary piece to supplement then-starter Lamar Miller made sense at first glance, but when the cost was revealed, O’Brien seemed desperate. The Texans sent a fourth-round pick to the Browns for Johnson which would become a third-rounder if Johnson was active for 10 or more games. Unless the Texans cut Johnson in the weeks to come, the receiving back will trigger the third-round pick, which will force the Texans to send the third-rounder they received from the Seahawks in the Jadeveon Clowney trade to the Raiders.

 

The Johnson deal seemed like a bit of mistaken genius after Miller tore his ACL, but the Texans have mostly built their running game around Carlos Hyde, who was acquired for backup lineman Martinas Rankin just before the Chiefs were going to cut Hyde at the end of camp. O’Brien ended up trading a third-round pick for a running back who has played about half of Houston’s offensive snaps while averaging just over eight touches per game. Johnson is an underrated player, but good franchises find backup running backs on the waiver wire or late in drafts.

 

This brings us to Conley. Jon Gruden likely decided that he was done with the former first-round pick after a disastrous game against the Packers on Sunday. When the Raiders tried to play Cover-0 and send the house on a third-and-4 against a dominant Packers offense, Aaron Rodgers threw a quick out to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Conley slipped coming out of his break and failed to tackle Valdes-Scantling, who turned upfield for one of the easiest 74-yard touchdowns you’ll ever see.

 

Conley struggled elsewhere during the Packers game and hasn’t been good in 2019. As the closest defender in coverage, the NFL’s Next Gen Stats suggest the Ohio State product has allowed opposing quarterbacks to go 21-of-29 for 389 yards with five touchdowns against a lone pick this season. That’s a 139.7 passer rating. The only cornerback who has been targeted at least 20 times who has given up more yards per attempt than Conley’s 13.4 yards per throw is the Chargers’ Desmond King.

 

Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock didn’t draft Conley. The Gruden-led front office has continued to dump as many of former general manager Reggie McKenzie’s draft picks as possible. After trading Conley, there are just five draft picks across McKenzie’s six drafts left on Oakland’s active roster in Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson (2014), Karl Joseph and DeAndre Washington (2016), and David Sharpe (2017). Conley seemed to round into form during the second half of 2018 and had a famously impressive game against Antonio Brown, but it’s no surprise that the Raiders are moving on from a cornerback they didn’t appear to really want.

 

Getting a third-round pick for Conley has to be considered a victory, given that the Giants were able to get only fourth- and seventh-round picks when they traded away fellow first-rounder Eli Apple under similar circumstances last year. Seattle’s pick is likely to come at the bottom of the third round, but so was the fourth-rounder the Giants got for Apple. If anything, Apple had shown more across his first two seasons than Conley did, although most of Apple’s success came as a rookie, while Conley was better in his sophomore season.

 

Either way, the Texans are sending a meaningful pick to try to plug a hole. O’Brien cut 2018 free-agent disaster Aaron Colvin after he struggled during the season-opening loss to the Saints and then moved 2019 free-agent signing Bradley Roby to the slot while promoting second-round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. to the starting lineup. Roby played well before going down with a hamstring injury, leading the Texans to start Johnson and street free agent Phillip Gaines ahead of veteran corner Johnathan Joseph, who himself was coming off a hamstring injury. Joseph played only 14 snaps against the Colts on Sunday, while Gaines was carted off with an ankle injury (he was placed on injured reserve Monday). Jacoby Brissett threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns in a 30-23 victory.

 

In a vacuum, the move to get help at cornerback makes sense. Houston is now perilously thin at cornerback in a year in which it is competing for a playoff berth. Conley is a former first-round pick and still has three cost-controlled years left on his deal, so the Texans might be able to find a starter for years to come. The Texans even play the Raiders this Sunday, so maybe Conley can tip off his new team to some of Oakland’s tendencies.

 

By looking at the bigger picture, though, you can see how one desperate, emotional move begets another. The Texans failed to sign offensive tackle Nate Solder in 2018, which eventually led them to inexplicably sign Matt Kalil to play left tackle in 2019. When Houston failed to draft its left tackle of the future in Andre Dillard and Kalil was predictably injured during camp, O’Brien sent two first-round picks to the Dolphins for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. To help free up the financial space to make that happen, O’Brien agreed to pay half of Clowney’s salary to ship him off to the Seahawks for a third-round pick and two linebackers who have barely suited up for the Texans on defense.

 

Now, after cutting Colvin in frustration after the opener, O’Brien’s used the third-rounder from the Clowney deal to acquire a player who has been one of the league’s worst cornerbacks this season. Across the first three rounds of the next two NFL drafts, the Texans have just two selections: their second-round pick in 2019 and their third-round pick in 2020.

 

For whatever issues I might have with the roster-building philosophy in Los Angeles, the Rams have at least used their draft picks to target superstars such as Jalen Ramsey and Brandin Cooks. Tunsil is a star, but shedding draft capital to get players like Stills, Johnson and Conley just doesn’t make sense. O’Brien seems to know that he won’t be around if this all-in ploy fails and continues to throw future assets toward possible short-term fixes. It’s the opposite of just about what every successful franchise in the league does with their roster and their draft picks. Good luck!

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaugars don’t seem to be in a hurry to choose between QB NICK FOLES and QB GARDNER MINSHEW II.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

As last week wound down, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said that the team expected quarterback Nick Foles to take part in practice this week.

 

It’s the first week that Foles is eligible to practice after being placed on injured reserve with the broken collarbone he suffered in Week One. He’ll be eligible to play after Week Nine, but Marrone was focused on building Foles up in practice rather than any plans for the starting lineup

 

“We’ve got time, so we’ll just kind of gradually work him back in there,” Marrone said, via the team’s website. “I know he has been throwing on the side. I just want to make sure we’re good with the reps and building it up, not trying to do too much too fast. We’ll be smart this week and then we’ll see how it progresses.”

 

Foles is set to work with the scout team in seven-on-seven drills and throw on the side at practice this week. If that goes well, he’ll progress to more work and the Jaguars will ultimately face a question about whether he’ll return to the starting lineup.

 

Marrone said Gardner Minshew is “getting better and better” after going 15-of-32 for 255 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Bengals. That came after a poor outing in a loss to the Saints and three lost fumbles in a loss to the Panthers, so the way the next couple of games play out should provide some idea of which way Jacksonville will go once Foles is an option.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

This is crazy:

 

@MichaelDavSmith

The Patriots’ defense has intercepted 18 passes and allowed 1 touchdown pass this season.

 

The Patriots’ D has been responsible for 10.4% of all the interceptions in the NFL this year and has allowed 0.3% of all the touchdown passes in the NFL this year.

 

That is roughly the inverse of the Cardinals who have allowed 17 TD passes with 1 INT.  The Falcons have allowed 17 TD passes with 2 INTs.

 

The Patriots have held their opponents to a passer rating of 35.6.

 

For example, QB NATHAN PETERMAN’s career rating is 32.5.  The Patriots have held all of their opposing QBs to roughly Nathan Peterman’s level of efficiency.

 

Some more craziness – the Patriots have 18 interceptions, the number two team in the NFL (Pittsburgh) has 8.

– – –

 

Clever Bill Belichick seizes on a loophole.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

With the Patriots leading 33-0 in the fourth quarter on Monday night, they took a delay of game penalty with their punt team on the field. After the Jets declined the penalty, the clock started again, and the Patriots’ punt team waited until they were about to get another delay of game, then false started. The Jets declined the false start penalty, too, the clock started again, and then the Patriots finally punted.

 

When the Patriots’ third-down play ended, 11:05 remained in the fourth quarter. By the time the Patriots actually punted on fourth down, 9:43 remained. The whole point of the play clock is that teams can’t take more than 40 seconds between plays, but the Patriots, thanks to that running clock after their penalties, took 1 minute, 22 seconds.

 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was shown on television smirking on the sideline after that series of penalties, and he acknowledged after the game that the penalties allowed him to take plenty of extra time off the clock. He added that league rules probably shouldn’t allow that.

 

“No, it was just the way the rules are set up. We were able to run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything. That’s probably a loophole that will be closed and probably should be closed but right now it’s open,” Belichick said.

 

The Patriots were so far ahead in the fourth quarter that it really didn’t matter, but Belichick is right that this loophole should be closed. Teams shouldn’t be able to take more than 40 seconds off the clock between plays. Perhaps this is a rule Belichick wants to see changed, and he was waiting until just the right time to demonstrate that it needs to change.

 

Left unsaid here is that if Gase had taken the penalties, what happens to the clock?  We assume it stays stopped, but that is not covered here.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets let NFL Films put a mic on QB SAM DARNOLD – and now they are not happy about a remark that made air.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:

 

One day after a rattled Sam Darnold unwittingly told a national television audience he was “seeing ghosts” on the field, the New York Jets were seeing red.

 

The Jets were angry their quarterback’s mic’d up comment was aired on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

 

“It bothers me, it bothers the organization,” coach Adam Gase said Tuesday, 12 hours after a 33-0 loss to the New England Patriots. Gase acknowledged it’s “part of the deal,” coaches and players being mic’d for prime-time games, but he added: “Obviously, you never anticipate something like that happening. The fact that it did, it gives us pause to really cooperate anymore because I don’t know how we can allow our franchise quarterback to be put out there like that.”

 

Darnold played his worst game as a pro, committing five turnovers. In the second quarter, after his third turnover, he went to the sideline and said, “I’m seeing ghosts.” The clip instantly went viral.

 

Essentially, Darnold admitted he was befuddled by the Patriots’ defense — an embarrassing moment, to be sure. He handled it well after the game, telling reporters he always tries to be honest with his coaches and that he needed to “see the field a lot better” against New England’s blitz-heavy defense.

 

NFL Films determines which audio clips from mic’d up players are used on the air. The teams expect NFL Films to act as a gatekeeper, counting on its producer to disregard in-game comments that might cast teams and players in an unflattering light.

 

NFL Films had a representative at MetLife Stadium and cleared Darnold’s “ghosts” remark for TV.

 

Neither the NFL nor ESPN, which has the freedom to decide which clips to use, had immediate comment on the matter.

 

Jets running back Le’Veon Bell rushed to Darnold’s defense, writing on his official Twitter account that “the NFL screwed Sammy over.”

 

@LeVeonBell

The NFL screwed Sammy over…there’s not one player in the NFL who’s cool with having every sideline convo broadcasted to millions…there’s a reason we’ve never heard other QB’s frustrated on the sideline like that before…that’s crazy, @NFL did Sam dirty as hell https://twitter.com/mmehtanydn/status/1186684810217033729

 

@MMehtaNYDN

Here’s how MNF Mic’d process works: NFL Films signed off on Sam Darnold’s “ghosts” comment to be aired. They had a rep on site. My understanding is that people high on NFL Films totem pole are not happy that their rep cleared this for air. (cont)

 

The Jets were furious after the game. The Patriots, too, seemed stunned that Darnold’s remark was allowed to air. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy asked reporters, “He really said that?”

 

Darnold was out of sync the entire game, throwing an interception on his first pass. He completed only 11 of 32 passes for 86 yards, including four interceptions. His passer rating was only 3.6, one of the worst in franchise history.

 

Gase said he expects Darnold to rebound. The coach saved his anger for NFL Films, although he didn’t identify them.

 

“We’ll be looking into that pretty hard,” Gase said. “That’s one of those things that I was really disappointed to hear about after the game. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that, where somebody that was mic’d up was basically … a comment like that was allowed to air.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

The Patriots and 49ers, the NFL’s two remaining unbeaten teams, continue to rank one-two in the Aikman Combined Ratings after Week 7.

 

Coming off shutouts, each team continues to perform with a defensive efficiency dwarfing anyone in the NFL.  The Patriots rating of 111.7 would easily be a season record for Aikman Defense which extends back to 1995.  The 49ers, at 97.6, are astonishing 18.1 points ahead of the 3rd-place Bills at 79.5.

 

The Cowboys took over the top spot in Aikman Offense from the Ravens in their big win over the Eagles and have moved into 1st in Aikman Offense and 3rd in Aikman Combined.

 

We would note the slight improvement of the Dolphins in recent weeks as they move above 100 in Aikman Combined and within shouting distance of the Jets.

 

2019 Season Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 7                                                                                                              

                                                                                                                       

                                                ——–  Aikman  ———                      ——  NFL  ——

Rank   W-L     Team               Comb.             Off       Def                  Off       Def      Comb.

1          7-0       Patriots            195.8              84.1      111.7               10          1        11

2          6-0       49ers               177.3              79.8        97.6                 7          2          9

3          4-3       Cowboys         171.4              96.2        75.3                 1          5          6

4          5-2       Vikings            165.5              93.1        72.4                 6          6        12

5          5-2       Ravens            162.2              95.9        66.3                 2        13        15

6          5-2       Seahawks       160.8              89.8        71.0                 5        16        21

7          5-1       Bills                  160.8              81.3        79.5               17          3        20

8          6-1       Packers           159.5              87.3        72.2               11        26        37

9          5-2       Chiefs              156.6              88.7        67.9                 3        25        28

10        4-3       Texans            154.4              91.9        62.4                 4        17        21

11        4-2       Panthers          154.3              84.2        70.1               20        12        32

12        6-1       Saints              154.0              85.0        69.0               19          6        25

13        4-3       Rams              153.7              84.8        68.9               12          9        21

14        4-2       Colts                151.4              90.0        61.4               22        20        42

15        3-4       Eagles             151.2              83.0        68.2               23        18        41

16        3-4       Titans              150.8              76.2        74.6               26          8        34

17        3-3       Bears               150.5              75.0        75.4               30        10        40

18        2-5      Broncos           150.0              73.2        76.7               25          4        29

19        2-4       Buccaneers     148.6              79.6        69.0               15        22        37

20        2-4       Steelers           148.2              73.7        74.5               28        15        43

21        2-3       Lions                147.4              85.3        62.1                 8        31        39

22        3-4       Jaguars           146.6              78.8        67.8                 9        19        28

23        3-3      Cardinals          144.0              83.9        60.1               18        29        47

24        2-5       Chargers         142.8              77.8        64.9               14        11        25

25        3-3       Raiders            141.1              84.1        57.0               13        24        37

26        2-4       Browns            138.6              75.1        63.6               21        23        44

27        2-5       Giants              138.4              71.8        66.6               24        28        52

28        1-6       Falcons           136.3              83.8        52.5               16        27        43

29        1-6       Redskins         129.6             64.9         64.7               29        21        50

30        0-7       Bengals           126.2             65.1         61.1               27        32        59

31        1-5       Jets                 117.1             51.5         65.6               32        14        46

32        0-6       Dolphins          109.4             62.1         47.4               31        30        61

                                                                                                                       

                 NFL Average:                              80.5         69.3                                      

 

 

 

WILLIE BROWN RIP

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL announced that former Raiders great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Brown has died at the age of 78.

 

Brown was responsible for one of the most famous highlights in NFL history during the Raiders’ Super Bowl XI win when he stepped in front a pass by Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown with the camera zoomed in on his face as he made his way down the field.

 

Brown produced plenty of other highlights during his career. He was named to the NFL’s All-1970s team, a first-team All-Pro in the NFL twice and a the All-AFL team three times on his way to being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. Brown began his career with the Oilers in 1963 as an undrafted free agent, but got cut and landed with the Broncos.

 

Brown would be traded to the Raiders in 1967 and spent the rest of his career with the team before retiring after the 1978 season. His 54 career interceptions are tied for 21st in NFL history.

 

After retiring, Brown took a job coaching the Raiders’ defensive backs and was part of two more Super Bowl winners in that capacity. Brown spent the last 24 years as an administrator with the team.

 

Our condolences go out to Brown’s family and loved ones on their loss.