AROUND THE NFL

Some trends –

 

True home teams were 11-0 on Sunday.  Not counting the “road” Texans winning in London and the road teams, SF and DAL, did win on Thursday and Monday.  Still Home has battled back to take a 68-66-1 mark on the year.

 

Even though the AFC went 4-1 on Sunday, the NFC is still up 24-17 on the year.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

It didn’t work, so that’s not a good thing – but the DB thought Detroit’s 4th-and-1 play call had a chance, especially if a Raiders rusher hadn’t come through clean.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Detroit Lions came up one yard shy of potentially sending Sunday’s game in Oakland into overtime. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has regrets about the failed play, but not the specific call.

 

“I want to call plays that score touchdowns,” Bevell said in a Tuesday conference call, via MLive’s Kyle Meinke. “It didn’t score a touchdown.”

 

No, coach, it did not. And now the Lions are 3-4-1.

 

After a third-down pass got the Lions to the Oakland 1-yard-line with no timeouts left, Detroit scrambled to get in a fourth-down play. Jon Gruden took a timeout that appeared to give the Lions reprieve. Bevell had time to get his preferred play call in with eight seconds on the clock. The apparent gift quickly turned into coal.

 

Bevell’s play call enigmatically included taking Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones off the field.

 

The OC, however, defended the decision.

 

“We were on the 1-yard line, so we ended up going with goal-line package, which we practice all the time,” Bevell said. “We have a number of personnel groups, we have a number of formations that we line up in. I think as you could see during the game, felt like we, from the 1(-yard line), we’re running the ball well enough during the game to be able to go with a little bit of a play-action. Thought we had good matchups, we had good size. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to execute it exactly the way we wanted to.”

 

Whether it’s the 1 or 21, taking your best players off the field to design a play for Logan Thomas seems like faulty logic. Yes, several Raiders defenders made good plays, including Clelin Ferrell getting pressure on Matthew Stafford, but to take your best weapons completely out of the game is playing into the defense’s hands.

 

“Like I said, we were on the 1-yard-line,” Bevell said. “We went with a goal-line package, which with those guys are not involved in that package. Like I said, during the game, there are all kinds of packages, there are things that we did earlier in the game that we were down inside the 5 that we used as well. That was the one in that moment that we decided to go with.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

It had been more than a decade since QB MATT RYAN missed a start – but it looks like he will be back on Sunday.  D. Orlando Ledbetter in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

 

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle sprain) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (turf toe) are set to return to practice on Wednesday, coach Dan Quinn said. 

 

“Matt will get some practice work today,” Quinn said. “(It) will be in a limited fashion today and Trufant as well. It will be great to have both of those guys back in action in some form of participation today. Hopefully, we’ll ramp them up as the week goes. It will be good to have both of them back in action today.” Backup running back Ito Smith out of the concussion protocol, but has a neck injury and will not practice.Ryan  missed the last game, snapping a streak of 163 consecutive starts. Matt Schaub started in the 27-20 loss to Seattle and passed for 460 yards.

 

In seven starts, Ryan has completed 202 of 285 passes (70.9%) for 2,170 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a passer rating of 98.7.Ryan’s injury, which was suffered after he was sacked by Rams defensive star Aaron Donald, was described as a “high ankle sprain” by Dr. David. J. Chao, a former NFL team doctor for 17 years. He also projected that Ryan would miss a week or two.Quinn said Ryan pushed hard to play in the last game against Seattle.

 

Ryan missed two games during the 2009 season with a turf toe injury suffered in Week 11.

 

 

CAROLINA

Former Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams doesn’t like QB CAM NEWTON being shuttled to IR.  Jaclyn Hendricks of the New York Post:

 

Former Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams shredded his former team Monday over the treatment of injured quarterback Cam Newton, as backup Kyle Allen has taken the reins in the interim.

 

Williams contends that Carolina has made the offense much simpler for Allen.

 

“I’m mad at [offensive] Norv Turner, I’m mad at [head coach] Ron Rivera. And this is why I’m mad at them,” Williams began during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.”

 

“What you’re asking Kyle Allen to do is not what you asked Cam Newton to do. You ask Cam Newton to win it with his legs, you ask Cam Newton to pass out water bottles, you ask Cam to read defense, you ask Cam to beat you in so many other ways.”

 

Newton, who played with Williams for four seasons in Carolina, has been sidelined with a foot injury after the team started 0-2. Allen has helped lead the Panthers to five victories in his first six starts.

 

“All Kyle Allen is doing is stepping back, throwing the ball and handing the damn ball off to [running back] Christian McCaffrey,” Williams continued.

 

Williams later stated the West Coast offense “doesn’t bode well for quarterbacks that are mobile,” adding, “what you’re asking Kyle Allen to do, when Cam come back, ask him to do the same thing, and compare apples to apples, not oranges to apples.

 

“You’re asking Cam not to just manage a game, and not lose one, you’re asking him to go win one, and all Kyle Allen is doing is managing the game and not losing.”

 

Allen has thrown nine touchdowns and four interceptions for a total of 1,291 yards this season. His next test comes Sunday against the Packers.

 

It only sounds like smart football though, to let a young QB run a simpler offense.  To let a QB who does not have the mobility of Newton, not throw.

 

Is Williams mad that the Panthers aren’t asking Allen to do very much or mad that they asked Newton to do too much?

 

Meanwhile, QB KYLE ALLEN is singing the praises of Newton.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

After news broke that Cam Newton has been placed on injured reserve, Kyle Allen posted on Instagram an image of the two of them hugging, and wrote a message about how much Newton has meant to him and to the Panthers.

 

“I watched this man do everything in his power to come back from his injury,” Allen wrote. “I watched him lead and be a great teammate day in day out. Thank you for setting the example. We got you.”

 

In the offseason, the Panthers will have some tough decisions to make about whether Newton or Allen is their quarterback for 2020 and beyond. For now, Allen has felt nothing but support from Newton.

 

Some seem anxious to push Cam out the door, but not Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com:

 

A little less than seven years ago, when it became painfully apparent that Carson Palmer had taken too many hits and gotten too old too quickly, the inevitable fire sale was simply a matter of time and a few phone calls. Palmer was a 33-year-old depreciating asset with the Oakland Raiders, and when he told onlookers there was still “plenty of tread left” on his tires, all you could do was look away and hope the end was more dignified than embarrassing.

 

This is the story that comes to mind as the rest of the world writes off Cam Newton. I think about Palmer, a player who was so certainly done in the NFL until timing and circumstance delivered him to the right offensive coordinator, with the right surrounding pieces and a clean slate that he badly needed.

 

I know the anti-Newton crowd doesn’t want to hear this, but I’ll say it anyway: Given the right situation, he’s not done being a high-impact player in the NFL. Let me stress part of that phrase because it’s important.

 

Given the right situation, the 2015 NFL MVP — who has looked like a shell of himself the past 12 months of his football life — can be a saving grace for a franchise. Maybe it’s not the Panthers, although the current iteration of this team is quite suitable. Certainly, there will be some ideal landing spots for Newton this offseason. And maybe even a place that will allow him to have one more career flourish before his growing critics can write him off.

 

Perhaps even something as ideal as what Palmer experienced when the Arizona Cardinals acquired him in 2013 at the ripe age of 33. That acquisition should have delivered a few lessons that should weigh on this decision by the Panthers. Chief among them is that Palmer went from a largely talent devoid and mismanaged Raiders franchise to one in Arizona that had a balanced running game, an undoubtable No. 1 wideout in Larry Fitzgerald, a defense stocked with talent and a coaching staff that knew exactly the kind of system that Palmer should be operating. From Day 1, it was crystal clear that Arians not only knew how to use Palmer, but also what kind of offensive talent would suit him in the downslope of his career.

 

The results: Palmer went from an aging talent who had never quite reached his peak following a 2006 knee injury to a player who threw for at least 4,200 yards in three of the next four seasons. Then at age 36, he put together his second-life opus, notching an All-Pro season that saw him throw for 4,671 yards with 35 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. Ultimately, that would be the best season of his 14-year career. Achieved largely because he landed with a franchise that believed his past uneven play was either an issue with health, coaching, surrounding talent or some combination of all three.

 

So how does this apply to Newton? Well, start with the statistical analysis that has critics cursing him since his MVP season in 2015. Considering Newton’s health and surrounding talent, the Panthers failed him just as often as he failed the franchise. Jonathan Stewart? He was a fading talent. Kelvin Benjamin? Look at his litany of football problems that didn’t have anything to do with his overall fitness, Newton was arguably the only thing keeping Benjamin in the NFL, a reality we quickly discovered when that relationship ended. Aside from Trai Turner, the offensive line has never been right since, defined by a shuffling set of players and a supposed anchor left tackle spot that featured either middling talent or guys playing out of position. The skill positions? Aside from Greg Olsen, who has strung together consecutive seasons of Pro Bowl-caliber play?

 

All of which brings us to the salient point: the best team Newton has been a part of since 2015 is the one he is on now. This edition of the Panthers that we’re watching under the guidance of Kyle Allen is the best product that Carolina has put on the field since the Super Bowl. Which makes sense, given that Dave Gettleman was fired as general manager in the summer of 2017 and Marty Hurney has been busy finding the right pieces to accentuate some of the talent that Gettleman accumulated on his way out the door. Christian McCaffrey was meant to be this backfield centerpiece. D.J. Moore was meant to be the true No. 1 wideout Newton had lacked for years. Curtis Samuel was meant to develop into a multitalented player who could actually catch the football (a trait that took root only this past summer). None of which even considers a defense that has been restocked and balanced out with young and veteran talent.

 

The only thing that didn’t take place in the middle of this grand plan? Newton remaining healthy.

 

That happens to talented quarterbacks at times. It happened to Palmer. And he wasn’t alone. Go back and look at Kurt Warner’s last two years with the St. Louis Rams and his dark period with the New York Giants. Some people forget about the 2002-2004 stretch that had most believing he had suddenly lost all of his considerable talent and was headed to retirement. One change later, landing with the Cardinals, he underwent a five-year renaissance that reminded people why he had once been a league MVP.

 

The coaching in those years mattered. The surrounding rosters mattered. And the fact that Newton hasn’t walked onto the field healthy enough to run a Carolina offense that was built for him also matters. And yet, here we are. With Newton’s last 12 months looking awful on his resume, but with the asterisk that he had a serious shoulder and foot problems in that span. So he’s 30 and washed up and Kyle Allen is suddenly the heir apparent at the position, despite the reality that Carolina is a team driven by surging defense and a running back who is possibly the NFL’s MVP.

 

Stop and consider that for a moment. The Panthers are looking at Newton’s relatively modest $21 million salary in 2020 through the prism of Allen costing the team basically nothing. They’re looking at Allen having a fantastic winning streak through the prism of a clearly hurt Newton losing his last eight starts. And they’re looking at the Panthers’ future as one that needs to move on without the best player in franchise history, yet completely forgetting that the past three seasons have been a process of building the current set of talent to suit Newton.

 

Some mistakes are being made in that line of thinking. And they’re being skewed by a winning groove that nobody wants to tinker with, combined with a general frustration with Newton’s health. Not to mention stupid things that don’t matter, like Newton’s wardrobe somehow being a piece of data proving that he doesn’t care about being a good football player anymore. If you believe that’s true, then you should still want Newton on another team, even if Allen suddenly falters down the stretch. Which he might, considering that he has been nothing more than a solid game manager for most of this season.

 

None of this is to say Newton is perfect. His playing style has hurt him at times — and that might be the problem that undermines everything. But it’s worth noting that Newton was off to a fantastic start through eight games in 2018, before lingering issues in a surgically repaired shoulder became an issue. Beyond that and the foot injury from a preseason game that he shouldn’t have been playing in, there’s no denying that Newton has had a three-year run in which the franchise had all sorts of holes that he couldn’t control.

 

To take that period and ignore the injuries is to suggest that he can’t heal, can’t find a rhythm with a team that seems ideal for his skills, and can’t ever be anything but the shell of a player we’ve seen the past 12 months. That’s a lot of doubt to buy into, particularly when the quarterback who would remain has yet to prove that he can elevate a franchise. Allen hasn’t done that yet. As an exclusive rights player, he’ll still be cheap in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, too. He and Newton could very easily be rostered in 2020, giving the Panthers one more season to make very sure that they aren’t pulling the plug one season too early, rather than one season too late.

 

Of course, that kind of patience isn’t a popular theme around Newton right now. Things are going well without him, so it feels like he was part of the problem. If the Panthers believe that, Newton will be gone in a few months. He’ll be someone else’s solution. Maybe Matt Nagy with the Chicago Bears or John Elway with the Denver Broncos. Or maybe even Bruce Arians down in Tampa Bay — the Carson Palmer resurrector who would love nothing more than another shot at a distressed asset that still has plenty of upside.

 

Despite reports to the contrary, Newton can still be that guy. And when this is all over, the Panthers will regret not seeing it.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers have gone 8-0 even with the offensive tackle position devastated.  They get T JOE STALEY back on Monday against Seattle. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

49ers left tackle Joe Staley suffered a broken leg in Week Two. He says he’s ready to return in Week 10.

 

“I feel good,” Staley said Tuesday, via Matt Maicco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be out there this week. Today, I was out there for the full practice, which was the first time. . . . Barring any type of setback, the plan is to play.”

 

The 8-0 49ers host the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

 

“I haven’t done anything for two months and you don’t want to just jump out there,” Staley said. “You want to be able to ramp it up, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, feel good and be ready to go.”

 

Rookie Justin Skule has replaced Staley. The fact that the 49ers have continued to win has made it easier for the 49ers and Staley to not rush back.

 

“The record helps the situation,” Staley said. “We were able to be patient with it and make sure everything was really healed and I didn’t come back too early and make the situation worse and the rest of the season being done.”

 

The 49ers will get a major lift with Staley’s return. As the schedule gets more challenging, they’ll need it.

 

FB KYLE JUSZCZYK is also expected back.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

“I feel amazing,” Juszczyk said Tuesday, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I feel 100 percent, ready to ride. If we had had a chance to practice and I actually had a chance to hit some people last week, there might have been an opportunity for me to play, but since it was a Thursday it made things tough.”

 

On the other hand, TE GEORGE KITTLE has a knee injury and missed practice.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has a conspiracy theory that the story floated on the Chargers going to London was designed to get the Jaguars in gear.

 

The Chargers’ return to Los Angeles isn’t going well. And that reportedly is making them a candidate to become the NFL’s first permanent team in London.

 

According to Vincent Bonsignore, who covers the Rams for TheAthletic.com, “[T]he possibility of the Chargers moving to London has been broached among league personnel.”

 

It’s an unusual report, to say the least, and it invites speculation as to the motivations of those who have leaked to the media the notion that the Chargers could be the team to relocate to another continent.

 

Consider this reality, which isn’t mentioned in Bonsignore’s lengthy story: It has become a given within league circles that Jaguars owner Shad Khan has secured a de facto right of first refusal on moving to London. At a minimum, the Jaguars would need to say that they aren’t moving before the Chargers or anyone else would. (Unless the NFL plans to place two teams there.)

 

So maybe someone is trying to force Khan’s hand, nudging him to poo or get off the loo regarding a move to England by throwing the Chargers into the mix. Or maybe someone connected to the Rams is trying to bring to a head whatever issues may be percolating behind the scenes regarding the actual or perceived inability of the Chargers to pull their financial weight in the stadium the Rams and the Chargers will share.

 

Indeed, before the Chargers could play in any city except L.A., Rams owner Stan Kroenke would have to agree to let the Chargers out of their 20-year lease. Given the unprecedented expense of the stadium that is nearing completion in Inglewood, it’s highly unlikely that Kroenke would cut the inventory of annual games to be played there from 20 to 10 without significant compensation from someone.

 

Then there’s the question of whether Chargers ownership would want to move the team so far from California.

 

As a source with knowledge of the situation has explained it to PFT, no one from the league has ever talked to owner Dean Spanos or any of the Spanos family members about a potential move to London. For years, the family has made a ritual of traveling from their home base in Stockton to Chargers home games. If those home games will be played more than 5,000 miles away, that’s a tradition that would be very difficult to continue.

 

“We are fully committed and focused on Los Angeles and look forward to continuing to build our fanbase as we transition to our new stadium,” Dean Spanos told Bonsignore. “We’re seeing progress every day, and we look forward to building on that.”

 

So, frankly, this report feels like it flows from a deliberate effort by the unnamed sources who have fueled it to pushing some other agenda. Whether it’s related to nudging the Jaguars to London or working out whatever issues may linger between the Rams and Chargers regarding their new home, something more seems to be going on than the early stages of an eventual breaking of the Chargers’ 20-year lease in L.A. and a departure to a city that is more than 20 percent of the circumference of the planet away from their current home.

 

The more Florio thought about it, he sees the artful hands of the Rams on the story:

 

The Chargers’ struggles in L.A. continue to be exacerbated by periodic reports that they won’t be staying in L.A. for very long. And that’s very good news for the other NFL team in L.A.

 

It also makes the Rams the prime suspects in the endless stream of rumor, speculation, and innuendo regarding a potential relocation of the Chargers.

 

Whether it’s a return to San Diego, a relocation to St. Louis, or a 5,400-mile move to London (none of which are happening), the whispers that the Chargers won’t be long for Los Angeles continue. Given that they’re coming at a time when both the Chargers and the Rams are trying to sell PSLs, tickets, and/or suites at the new stadium they’ll share as of 2020, lingering uncertainty regarding the Chargers inures directly to the benefit of the Rams.

 

In every market, sports fans have only so many dollars to spend. With two NFL teams in the same market, and with both teams trying to establish a base of paying customers in a 70,000-seat venue when the paying customers can choose to patronize either team, one way win the battles for the hearts, minds, and wallets of Angelenos would be to perpetuate the notion that one of the two contenders may remove itself from the competition.

 

While fans picking the Rams over the Chargers hurts the Rams indirectly by depressing the revenue the Chargers will generate at the stadium owned by Rams owner Stan Kroenke, fans of teams facing the Chargers will still buy the tickets to games (with 20-plus years of no NFL teams in L.A., thousands of fans of every team reside there), making the stadium full or close to it regardless of the size of the Chargers’ fan base in L.A.

 

So Kroenke will still make money from having the Chargers play at his stadium, and the Rams will preserve their top-dog position in the L.A. market if the Chargers’ struggles to establish a foothold continue to be undermined by the perception that they already have one foot out the door.

 

To be fair, the Chargers have done little to protect themselves. Last year’s 12-4 season generated little or no local excitement, and the team has made decisions in free agency and the draft without regard to the importance of having players that fans will pay to see. The Rams have found a way to operate with substance and style, and style definitely becomes a big part of the equation in L.A.

 

Whether the Chargers adjust their roster-management strategy accordingly, they definitely have dramatically changed their P.R. approach. The deliciously profane comments from owner Dean Spanos ooze with the frustration that comes from the perception/reality that the Rams are working the media to establish and maintain a false narrative that the Chargers may leave. Hopefully, Spanos and company will work behind the scenes to tell the league and the Rams that the Chargers understand what the Rams are doing, and that if the Rams keep it up the next batch of quotes from Spanos will include both profanity and a direct claim that the Rams are behind the leaks of #fakenews.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on the potential for the Ravens to have two 1,000-yard rushers:

 

NFL passing numbers have skyrocketed in recent years, while running has been de-emphasized. The Ravens, however, are doing something different.

 

Baltimore is running far more effectively than any other NFL team, and the stat that most encapsulates that may be this: Both quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Mark Ingram are on pace to top 1,000 rushing yards this season.

 

At the halfway point of the 2019 season, Jackson has 637 rushing yards, putting him on pace for 1,274 yards this season, and Ingram has 585 rushing yards, putting him on pace for 1,170 this season.

 

Only once before in NFL history has a quarterback-running back combination both topped 1,000 rushing yards. That happened in 2006, when Falcons quarterback Michael Vick had 1,039 yards and running back Warrick Dunn had 1,140 yards.

 

Five times, a pair of running back teammates have both topped 1,000 yards: Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris with the 1972 Dolphins, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier with the 1976 Steelers, Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner with the 1985 Browns, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward with the 2008 Giants, and Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams with the 2009 Panthers.

 

As a team, the Ravens have totaled 1,639 rushing yards this season, putting them on pace for 3,278 for the season. That would break the all-time NFL record of 3,165 yards, set by the 1978 Patriots. The Ravens are running the ball like no other team in NFL history.

 

The Ravens are passing at a 222 yards per game clip and rank a respectable 20th.

 

It all adds up to 427 yards in offense per game which is 2nd in the NFL.  And the Ravens lead the NFL with 31.4 points per game and are now 1st on offense in the Aikman Ratings.

 

 

CINCINNATI

Nick Shook of NFL.com on the return of WR A.J. GREEN:

 

The long wait is over. A.J. Green is returning to an NFL field.

 

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor told reporters Wednesday Green will make his season debut Sunday against the division-leading Baltimore Ravens.

 

It comes at about the best time possible for the winless Bengals. The Ravens (6-2) are rolling after taking down the previously undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football and will present a tremendous challenge for the Bengals, who are starting rookie quarterback Ryan Finley for the first time in his career.

 

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Green was no present during the team’s open portion of practice on Wednesday. Green told Pelissero that he wasn’t ready to put a percentage on his chances for playing this weekend.

 

Green has missed Cincinnati’s season up to this point with an ankle injury suffered during training camp, and the Bengals have floundered in his absence, going half of the season without a win for their first-year coach Taylor. The struggle-filled campaign has also seen an internal dispute with starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, a benching of longtime starter Andy Dalton in favor of Finley, and even included talks of Green’s potential departure via trade near the deadline.

 

Without Green, the Bengals have managed to remain among the upper half of teams in passing yards per game (11th at 257.8 yards per game), but fall to the bottom fourth of the NFL when it comes to finding the end zone through the air. Only the Bears, Broncos, Jets and Browns — three of the four having dealt with quarterback changes at least once this season — have fewer passing touchdowns than Cincinnati.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Will the Browns be a different team as RB KAREEM HUNT comes off suspension?  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

The Browns might not be in the hunt anymore, but their Hunt is back.

 

With the Browns trying to put Sunday’s devastating 24-19 loss to the Broncos behind them, help is on the way for the final eight games of the season in the form of running back Kareem Hunt.

 

Kitchens not worried about job security at 2-6 in his first season

 

Hunt, the 2017 rushing yardage leader as a rookie in 2017 with 1,327 yards, is eligible to play Sunday at home against the Bills after serving his eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

 

“I’m very much looking forward to Kareem (Hunt) being with us, being able to play,’’ Kitchens said Monday in his press conference. “He will definitely have a role.”

 

Hunt, signed by the Browns on Feb. 11 after he was waived by the Chiefs in last November, was cleared to practice Oct. 21st because the NFL was pleased with his progress and adherence to his program.

 

There were several times during Sunday’s loss where Chubb was taken off the field on third down in favor of Dontrell Hilliard, and the results weren’t good. Hilliard was stopped for no gain on a third and 3 draw, and stopped a yard short on a third-down in the third quarter. It brought up a fourth and 1, and Baker Mayfield was stopped short on a sneak — also with no Chubb on the field.

 

Hilliard gained 8 yards on a five carries for a 1.6-yard average.

 

Kitchens said he opted to use Hilliard in those situations because he’s the third down back, but Hunt, who averages 4.7 yards per carry, will undoubtedly get some of those reps going forward.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

QB JACOBY BRISSETT provides an optimistic update.  George Bremer of the Herald-Bulletin:

 

Brissett made a couple of attempts to return to the game, but a lack of lateral movement prevented him from gaining clearance.

 

He said Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center he feels significantly better than he did two days earlier, but he’s not yet ready to confirm he’ll practice Wednesday.

 

“I think we will see in about 24 hours,” Brissett said.

 

It could be a very interesting week under center for Indianapolis (5-3) as it prepares to host the Miami Dolphins (1-7).

 

The team wants to allow Brissett all the time he needs to prove he’s healthy and ready to go. But that must be balanced with enough reps to prepare backup Brian Hoyer in case he must make his first start of the season.

 

Hoyer was 17-of-26 for 168 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in relief of Brissett against the Steelers.

 

The playbook won’t undergo major adjustments regardless of the starter, but the coaches make an attempt to tailor parts of the game plan to the quarterback’s preferences.

 

“We will wait to see until (Wednesday) how everyone is feeling and what it looks like, but (we’re) just trying to again, go through the process the same way,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “Go through the process the exact same way like we normally would and just kind of getting the ideas from both of them of what they feel good about. Obviously, we are talking to them about what we like and seeing what they are comfortable with as well.”

 

Reps are extremely valuable for Hoyer. He did not join the roster until the opening week of the regular season after being released by the New England Patriots.

 

Whoever plays QB, they are not likely to have WR T.Y. HILTON to throw to.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Colts don’t know if Jacoby Brissett or Brian Hoyer will be their starting quarterback against the Dolphins this Sunday, but either quarterback should be prepared to play without the team’s top wide receiver.

 

T.Y. Hilton missed last Sunday’s game against the Steelers with a calf injury and the team’s pessimistic about his chances of returning to action this week. Head coach Frank Reich said Hilton won’t practice Wednesday and that he’s unlikely to play against Miami.

 

“I don’t ever want to count him out until we absolutely have to,” Reich said, via Mike Wells of ESPN.com.

 

Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell led the Colts in receiving with Hilton out of the lineup last weekend. Campbell fractured his hand in the game, however, and that has the Colts looking awfully thin at wideout for this week.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

The Bills won last week despite allowing RB ADRIAN PETERSON to rush for 100+ yards.  They have tried to plug up that rush defense with a signing.

 

The Buffalo Bills signed former Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Corey Liuget to a one-year contract Tuesday, the latest of three roster moves on the defensive line over the past week.

 

Buffalo released defensive tackle Kyle Peko on Saturday before calling up Vincent Taylor from the practice squad. The Bills also replaced rookie first-round pick Ed Oliver with Jordan Phillips in their starting lineup. They then brought Liuget in for a workout Monday, a league source confirmed, ultimately signing him Tuesday.

 

In a corresponding move, the team placed linebacker Maurice Alexander (knee, calf) on injured reserve.

 

Originally drafted by the then-San Diego Chargers in the first round in 2011, Liuget’s strength was primarily in the Chargers’ pass rush as a 3-4 defensive end. After collecting 24 sacks in seven seasons, he signed with the Raiders this past offseason to play defensive tackle in the team’s 4-3, one-gap penetration scheme — similar to what the Bills run under Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

 

The Bills could use the help on their interior defensive line; they’ve allowed a league-high 422 rushing yards over the past three weeks on inside zone runs. While their pass defense keeps them third in the NFL in total yards allowed per game, the Bills allow 111.6 rushing yards per game, which ranks 19th.

 

Liuget was released by the Raiders on Oct. 30, having played only three games and 46 combined snaps this season.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AIKMAN RATINGS

We have a new leader in the Aikman Combined – and a new team at the bottom as well.

 

The undefeated 49ers have slipped just ahead of the Patriots who just three weeks ago held a lead of 9.5 points.  Even though San Francisco was tested in Week 9 by the Cardinals, they still performed better than the Patriots who were only 23rd of 28 teams last week with their Combined Game Score of 127.8 against the Ravens.

 

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the table, the Dolphins not only beat the Jets on the field, they moved ahead of NYJ for 31st in Aikman Combined.  Three weeks ago, Miami’s Aikman Combined Rating was just 100.7 and they trailed the 31st place team (at that time Cincinnati) by 23.8 points.

 

The Ravens big game against New Englad moved them ahead of the Cowboys for 1st in Aikman Offense.  The Patriots still lead in Aikman Defense, but their season number fell a startling 12.5 points in one week from 108.6 to 96.1.  The 49ers and Patriots both remain above the 90-point mark in Aikman Defense, with the 3rd-place Cowboys well behind at 76.7.

 

2019 Season Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 9                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                               

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

Rank      W-L        Team                     Combined           Off         Def         Off        Def         Comb

1              8-0          49ers                     178.4                     86.7        91.6           7             1              8

2              8-1          Patriots                178.2                     82.1        96.1        15            2            17

3              5-3          Cowboys             172.0                     95.3        76.7           1             6              7

4              6-3          Vikings                  165.0                     91.2        73.8           8             7            15

5              6-2          Ravens                 163.4                     96.5        66.8           2           15           17

6              7-2          Seahawks            161.0                     92.7        68.2           4           25           29

7              7-1          Saints                    158.6                     87.4        71.3        14            5            19

8              6-2          Bills                        158.3                     82.6        75.8        23            3            26

9              6-3          Texans                  157.8                     93.2        64.6           3           20           23

10           7-2          Packers                156.9                     87.7        69.1        17          26           43

11           5-3          Rams                     156.7                     86.3        70.5        10          12           22

12           5-4          Eagles                   155.3                     85.8        69.5        18          10           28

13           5-3          Colts                      153.8                     88.0        65.8        21          14           35

14           6-3          Chiefs                   153.1                     88.0        65.0           6           22           28

15           4-5          Titans                    151.3                     79.1        72.2        26          13           39

16           4-4          Steelers                               150.3                     75.4        75.0        28          11           39

17           3-6          Broncos                150.3                     74.3        76.0        27            4            31

18           4-5          Chargers              147.7                     78.9        68.8        16            8            24

19           3-5          Bears                     147.6                     73.6        74.0        29            9            38

20           5-3          Panthers              147.3                     82.5        64.7        22          19           41

21           2-6          Buccaneers         146.8                     82.3        64.5        13          23           36

22           4-4          Raiders                 145.9                     88.4        57.6        11          27           38

23           4-5          Jaguars                 145.4                     77.6        67.7        12          16           28

24           3-4          Lions                      144.1                     84.8        59.3           5           31           36

25           3-5          Cardinals              140.2                     83.0        57.2        20          30           50

26           2-6          Browns                 139.6                     73.5        66.1        19          18           37

27           2-7          Giants                   138.7                     72.6        66.1        24          28           52

28           1-7          Falcons                 134.9                     82.7        52.2           9           24           33

29           1-8          Redskins              128.5                     64.2        64.4        31          21           52

30           0-8          Bengals                125.8                     65.8        60.0        25          32           57

31           1-7          Dolphins              120.2                     67.3        52.8        30          29           59

32           1-7          Jets                        119.4                     55.5        63.9        32          17           49

                                                                                                                                                               

                                    NFL Average: 149.8   81.4     68.4    

 

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

When things break down, these are the five QBs former NFL QB David Carr sees as doing the best job in making things happen:

 

How many times did Rich Eisen say “What a play by Deshaun Watson!” on the Sunday morning broadcast of the Texans’ win over the Jaguars in London? Too many to count.

 

Watson mesmerized the crowd all game long as he slipped through sack attempts that would have stopped a lot of other NFL quarterbacks, extending plays and keeping drives alive. The highlight of the Watson Show came in the second quarter, when he threw a backward pass to Carlos Hyde with three Jaguars defenders draped all over him.

 

The thing is, Watson makes these kinds of plays every week. So I started thinking, who are the best off-schedule playmakers at the quarterback position? Here are my top five:

 

1) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Nobody improvises like Wilson. The thing that sets Wilson and Aaron Rodgers apart from quarterbacks who just scramble is they have a plan for when the play breaks down. Their supporting casts adjust when the first four reads aren’t there, moving with them and to them. And Wilson has the extra advantage of being more explosive and more dynamic than Rodgers. In Pro Football Focus’ scramble drill metric, which considers passes that are thrown late in the progression either after QB movement, after the receiver changes the route or both, Wilson ranks near the top in most categories among qualifying quarterbacks this season, completing 21 of 35 pass attempts for 378 yards (10.8 yards per attempt), five TDs, no picks and a 136.7 passer rating on scramble drill plays. Wilson’s running ability poses a huge threat, but he does a phenomenal job keeping his eyes downfield in an effort to earn chunk plays.

 

2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: As I mentioned in Wilson’s blurb, Rodgers is a regular at buying time with his legs, and he has a plan (or two) when plays break down. Former Packers receiver James Jones has said previously that Rodgers only really trusts certain receivers, so he’ll hold the ball and dance in the pocket until his target is open. And it’s a known fact that the Packers will practice off-schedule plays with receivers, defensive backs and linebackers — but no linemen — during 7-on-7 drills, where Rodgers won’t throw the ball on time and roll out of the pretend pocket to teach his receivers to move toward him and where to run when the play goes off-schedule. It’s obvious that the Packers practice this, because Rodgers has routine success when improvising and extends plays more than any other quarterback in the league, as 19.5 percent of Rodgers’ pass attempts are on extended plays (when the time to throw is 4-plus seconds), per Next Gen Stats. (Wilson is second in extended plays, with a rate of 15.4 percent.) One more quality that is underappreciated is Rodgers’ spatial awareness in the pocket. He keeps his eyes downfield and rarely looks at the defensive linemen when improvising, but is still able to move and evade pressure.

 

3) Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: Watson’s athleticism allows him to improvise as well as the two veterans above him, but he’s a little too much of a wild card for me. While he’s tossed two touchdown passes and no interceptions on scramble drill plays this season, per PFF, I don’t see him consistently try to stay in a position to throw the ball downfield when he extends. Instead, it feels like he is freelancing instead of moving with a purpose or with a plan. That said, I’d take Watson’s physical ability and God-given talent any day of the week.

 

4) Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: The reigning MVP can throw the ball from so many positions and in 100 different ways, even left-handed, and the Chiefs’ offense thrives when Mahomes extends plays above the original play call. And because of his incredible arm strength, no area of the field is out of the question. Of quarterbacks with 20 passing attempts during extended plays, Mahomes ranks No. 1 in yards per attempt (12.7), completion percentage (65.4) and passer rating (147.1), per NGS. The reason Mahomes sits behind Watson here is because the Texans QB is a bigger threat to run the ball and often finds a way to make a play in the middle of absolute chaos.

 

5) Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles: Jameis Winston has better numbers on off-schedule plays, but Wentz brings more to the table athletically. And while Wentz might not look for the big throw as much as the passers above him on this list (7.0 yards per attempt on extended plays, which is more than a yard less per attempt than any of the other four QBs), he’s been able to sustain drives because of his pocket awareness and ability to make defenders miss. One aspect Wentz must get better at is protecting himself when he’s outside the pocket. He plays very similarly to how Andrew Luck did, and the former Colts star retired before his 30th birthday, citing the “cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab,” he’d gone through as a player.

 

Not saying he is in the top five, but the DB thinks QB JOSH ALLEN of the Bills is underrated when things go bust – he can run and throw well on the move.

 

 

2020 DRAFT

Dan Parr of NFL.com looks at the current draft order.

 

Keep in mind — teams 21-32 would make the playoffs if the season ended today and are marked as PL (short for playoffs) in the order below. The draft order for playoff teams is determined by the results of postseason play.

 

We’re on to Cincinnati! The 0-8 Bengals are now alone in the driver’s seat for the first overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft following the Dolphins’ dismissal of the Jets on Sunday.

 

Before Miami fans get all hot and bothered about falling to third in the order this week when so many folks have been acting like it was a done deal that their team would be picking first in 2020, just remember that the Dolphins hold three first-rounders and two second-rounders in next year’s draft and two firsts and two seconds in the 2021 draft. No matter what happens in the rest of 2019, this franchise will have the flexibility to move up or down the board with draft capital out the wazoo for the next two years.

 

Plus, the Dolphins still have the opportunity to lose to the Bengals when the two teams meet in Week 16, potentially vaulting back to the top of the order just before the buzzer. All hope of picking first is not lost.

 

The needs for each team listed below offer just a snapshot of the areas that project to require the most attention as of today. Draft needs for NFL teams don’t crystallize until the spring, after free agency plugs some holes and creates others, but we are firm believers that it’s not too soon to see what might be coming around the corner.

 

The order and needs will evolve as we go along. Stay tuned. It’s going to be a rather inglorious ride.

 

1 – Bengals

Record: 0-8 (.649 strength of schedule)

Previous week: No. 2

This week’s game: vs. Ravens

Biggest needs: QB, OL, LB

 

The buzz about the Bengals potentially having their choice of QBs in the 2020 NFL Draft reaches a new high just as rookie QB Ryan Finley prepares to make his first career start against a defense that made the GOAT look rather ordinary on Sunday night. Good luck, young man.

 

2 – Redskins

Record: 1-8 (.579)

Previous week: No. 3

This week’s game: On bye

Biggest needs: OL, CB, pass catcher

 

The Redskins limp into the bye week firmly in the hunt for the first overall selection. They have gone three straight games without a TD for the first time since 1950, but they could still beat the flat-lining Jets in Week 11 and potentially cost themselves highly valuable leverage by moving down the board.

 

3 – Dolphins

Record: 1-7 (.522)

Previous week: No. 1

This week’s game: at Colts

Biggest needs: QB, OT, edge rusher

 

This might be surprising to some folks, but the Dolphins have had a lead in seven of their last 11 quarters. Brian Flores is DOING WORK considering what the front office handed him this year. At least a couple more wins are well within reach as they’ll play the Jets again and host the Bengals in December.

 

4 – Jets

Record: 1-7 (.574)

Previous week: No. 5

This week’s game: vs. Giants

Biggest needs: OL, edge rusher, CB

 

Man, that triumph over the Cowboys feels like a long time ago. Now the Jets face the prospect of losing to the previously winless Dolphins and the other Big Apple team in consecutive weeks. That would be embarrassing, Adam Gase.

 

5 – Falcons

Record: 1-7 (.593)

Previous week: No. 4

This week’s game: at Saints

Biggest needs: Edge rusher, DB, OL

 

In a sign of how things are going for Atlanta, the Falcons told Vic Beasley they were shopping him ahead of the trade deadline and apparently couldn’t find any takers. The former first-round pick still leads the team’s edge rushers in sacks with … 1.5. Oof.

 

6 – Giants

Record: 2-7 (.526)

Previous week: No. 6

This week’s game: vs. Jets

Biggest needs: OT, edge rusher, DB

 

In a season where both New York teams are going nowhere fast, the winner of next week’s game at MetLife Stadium actually loses by giving up draft positioning. Sad times.

 

7 – Browns

Record: 2-6 (.618)

Previous week: No. 9

This week’s game: vs. Bills

Biggest needs: OT, S, interior OL

 

The Browns had a better record at the midway point (2-5-1) last season — the week in which Hue Jackson was fired — than they do halfway through the 2019 campaign. Things were supposed to be different this year! I’d like to say some home cooking is just what the doctor ordered with four of the next five games in Cleveland, but this team is 0-3 at home.

 

8 – Buccaneers

Record: 2-6 (.642)

Previous week: No. 8

This week’s game: vs. Cardinals

Biggest needs: QB, edge rusher, OL

 

Jameis Winston’s glass is full of air, and his defense is full of holes. Only the Dolphins are allowing more points per game than Tampa Bay (31.5).

 

9 – Broncos

Record: 3-6 (.506)

Previous week: No. 7

This week’s game: On bye

Biggest needs: Interior D-line, OL, DB

 

The Broncos go on the road for four of their next five games coming out of the bye, and all four road games are against teams with a record of 6-3 or better. Not an optimal situation for Denver. But hey, there’s good news. The team might have at worst a serviceable future backup QB in Brandon Allen.

 

10 – Raiders (via Bears)

Bears’ record: 3-5 (.529)

Previous week: No. 11

This week’s Bears game: vs. Lions

 

The Raiders acquired this pick in the Khalil Mack trade. See No. 16 for the Raiders’ needs and the bottom section of this file for analysis of the Bears’ needs.

 

11 – Cardinals

Record: 3-5-1 (.534)

 

12 – Lions

Record: 3-4-1 (.528)

 

13 – Titans

Record: 4-5 (.427)

 

14 – Chargers

Record: 4-5 (.480)

 

15 – Jaguars

Record: 4-5 (.494)

 

16 – Raiders

Record: 4-4 (.572)

 

17 – Dolphins (via Steelers)

 Steelers’ record: 4-4 (.582)

 

18 – Eagles

Record: 5-4 (.447)

 

19 – Jaguars (via Rams)

Rams’ record: 5-3 (.492)

 

20 – Panthers

Record: 5-3 (.507)

 

Playoff picks 21-32)

 

Cowboys

Colts

Vikings

Dolphins (via Texans)

Chiefs

Bills

Ravens

Seahawks

Packers

Saints

Patriots

49ers