AROUND THE NFL

With the trade of CB JALEN RAMSEY, teams have already moved six future first round picks.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

NFL teams value first-round draft picks, but an increasing number of teams are showing that they’re willing to trade away first-round picks in the future to get a player they want now.

 

In fact, six future first-round draft picks (four in the 2020 NFL draft and two in the 2021 NFL draft) have already been traded. Here’s the rundown:

 

The Jaguars have the Rams’ 2020 and 2021 first-round picks from the Jalen Ramsey trade.

 

The Dolphins have the Texans’ 2020 and 2021 first-round picks from the Laremy Tunsil trade.

 

The Dolphins have the Steelers’ 2020 first-round pick from the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade.

 

The Raiders have the Bears’ 2020 first-round pick from the Khalil Mack trade.

 

The Ramsey trade was a particularly lucrative one for the Jaguars. With two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick going to Jacksonville, the Jaguars got more for Ramsey than the Raiders got for Mack.

 

The NFL trade deadline is still two weeks away, so we may not be done seeing players traded for first-round picks.

 

Or put another way with a very rough approximations of where they might fall

 

2020

 

12 – MIAMI (from Pittsburgh)

18 – LAS VEGAS (from Chicago)

19 –  JACKSONVILLE (from LA Rams)

22 –  MIAMI (from Houston)

 

2021

 

16 – JACKSONVILLE (from LA Rams)

22 –  MIAMI (from Houston)

 

 

 

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

It looks like the Bears will have QB MITCH TRUBISKY back for the big game with the Saints.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Bears head coach Matt Nagy said at his Wednesday press conference that the team is “cautiously optimistic” that Trubisky’s left shoulder injury has recovered to the point that he’ll play against the Saints. Trubisky was injured in Week Four and did not play in the team’s Week Five loss to the Raiders.

 

For his part, Trubisky said that he feels “close” to 100 percent and that he expects to show the team that he’s well enough to take hits while fulfilling all of his job responsibilities. Trubisky also said that he will wear a harness on his left shoulder for protection and doesn’t think that it will affect him outside of a potential impact on how he catches shotgun snaps.

 

Chase Daniel will take some snaps in practice this week in order to keep him ready in the event things take a negative turn with Trubisky, but all signs point to Daniel being on the bench this weekend.

 

 

GREEN BAY

As you might imagine, T DAVID BAKHITIARI did a Vulcan mind meld on the umpire, convincing him to see a non-existent hands to the face penalty.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Nothing in an NFL game happens in a vacuum, including penalties.

 

Players and coaches on both teams consciously lobby referees for calls before the game even starts. Heck, some coaches have used press conferences in the week leading up to a game to attempt to make officials aware of certain things. During the game, the politicking intensifies.

 

And so it was in Monday night’s Green Bay-Detroit tussle, in which two illegal hands to the face penalties against Lions pass rusher Trey Flowers set up the Packers to win the game 23-22. The man who drew those penalties, left tackle David Bakhtiari, said he made the refs aware of the situation before the flags flew.

 

“I went over to the ref,” Bakhtiari said after the tilt, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I said, ‘Hey, are we not calling hands to the face again? Because the past three plays, I’ve been staring at the sky.’ And he’s like, you know, he’s not looking at my side, but I at least made him aware.”

 

The umpire certainly became aware of Bakhtiari’s complaint, later throwing two pivotal flags. Flowers had a different point-of-view of the penalties. NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said Tuesday from the Fall League Meeting in Florida that the first call was correct, but the second one was not a foul.

 

From Bakhtiari’s viewpoint, even if there weren’t contact on the plays in question, there were at other points.

 

“I can definitely tell you,” Bakhtiari said, “for a good portion of the game, I was getting my throat punched in, and I was looking up at the sky a fair amount. If you think about it, if your hand is in my throat, you’re probably hitting my facemask, which is pushing my head up in the sky.”

 

Bakhtiari’s previous plea with officials, coupled with either good acting or fortunate physics that jilted his head backward on the second penalty when the hand didn’t reach his face, made a difference. And that is why no matter how annoying it is to see players and coaches chirp at officials after seemingly every play, it will never stop. No one will ever quit a proven method of getting a favorable call or two here and there.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The words of Jerry Jones puzzle Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Twice this year, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has insisted that coach Jason Garrett would be in high demand, if he were on the open market. Meanwhile, Garrett is 10 regular-season games away from getting to the open market.

 

So the obvious question becomes why haven’t the Cowboys extended Garrett’s contract? That’s the best way to keep Garrett from leaving, if/when other teams are inclined to pursue him in January 2020.

 

In January, Jones talked up the coach that he had under contract for one more season.

 

“If Jason Garrett had been out on the market two weeks ago, he would’ve had five offers for head coaching,” Jones said. “I know that.”

 

On Tuesday, Jones did it again.

 

“He’s had a lot of years that he’s been a part of the Cowboys and he evolved into what, I think, is a top coach,” Jones said. “He would be a very sought after coach if he were out here in the open market.”

 

But would he be? Garrett became a free agent in early 2015, after the #DezCaughtIt game in the divisional round of the playoffs. Seven jobs were open that year. The Falcons waited until after the Super Bowl to hire then-Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Other hires were John Fox in Chicago, Rex Ryan in Buffalo, Todd Bowles with the Jets, Gary Kubiak in Denver, Jack Del Rio in Oakland, and Jim Tomsula in San Francisco.

 

Garrett, who everyone knew was entering the last year of his contract, never had his name come up in connection with any of those vacancies.

 

Five years later, what has changed? Garrett’s team went 4-12 in 2015, 13-3 in 2016, 9-7 in 2017, and 10-6 in 2018.  The Cowboys made it to the playoffs twice, losing both times in the divisional round. While not horrible, it’s not Lombardieqsue.

 

“Everybody is aware that we’re on the last year of his agreement,” Jones said Tuesday. “But that really just means that we can all sit down and take a look at things at the end of the year.”

 

At the end of the year, however, Garrett can walk away. Or he can use the leverage that comes from having other teams want him to get a better deal to stay.

 

And if Jones truly fears a land rush for Garrett’s services, there’s one way to avoid that outcome: Sign him to a new contract now. The fact that the Cowboys haven’t secured their future with Garrett shows that they have no fear that he’ll leave — and that they quite possibly may want him to.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Are the Redskins finally going to ship out holdout T TRENT WILLIAMS?  Matthew Peras of the Washington Times on the Cleveland rumor:

 

With two weeks until the NFL trade deadline, rumors are starting to heat up.

 

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly interested in Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, and one reporter even claimed the seven-time Pro Bowler should be on the Browns’ roster “quite soon.”

 

Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository reported the Williams-to-Cleveland rumor on Tuesday. Four days earlier, Doerschuk suggested “there’s a chance” the Browns could send tight end David Njoku, another player and a “very” high draft pick to Washington in exchange for the tackle, who has now missed six games over a dispute with the Redskins.

 

But soon after the tweet, Redskins officials denied the rumor to multiple reporters, including ESPN.

 

Last week, team president Bruce Allen said in a press conference “there has been no dialogue with any other team” regarding a Williams trade. Asked if he’s considering trading Williams, Allen said, “No. Not at this time.”

– – –

A year ago things were actually okay in Washington with QB ALEX SMITH leading the way.  Thomas Loverro in the Washington Times on what Smith underwent.

 

The last count we got on surgeries for Redskins quarterback Alex Smith was six — an alarming amount of operations on the broken leg he suffered on Nov. 18, 2018, against the Houston Texans.

 

But what if I told you that wasn’t even close to the count?

 

What if I told you that Alex Smith wound up having 17 surgeries on the right leg that was severely broken that Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field?

 

Seventeen operations.

 

That is what Smith told an invited audience of mostly medical professionals attending an Inova Sports Medicine event on Oct. 2 in Fairfax, Virginia, — 17 surgeries, according to someone in attendance who asked not to be identified.

 

They said there was a “gasp” from the crowd when Smith revealed he had 17 surgeries on the broken leg, the person said.

 

The 17 surgeries is a dramatically different figure than the six the NFL Network reported in December. Those nearly half-dozen operations were reportedly part of an effort to remove tissue after Smith developed an infection following the operation he had to repair the broken fibula and tibia he suffered in that 23-21 loss to the Texans.

 

It is not known if all the operations that followed were related to the infections, though the absurd number of operations would indicate that the infections were severe.

 

Redskins spokesman Sean DeBarbieri said the team does not comment on individual player-specific medical questions. They said they would reach out to Smith, and there was no response as of press time. from Inova officials, through their public relations and crisis communications officer, Tracy Connell, gave this statement: “We were pleased to welcome Alex Smith to the dedication of the Inova Sports Medicine flagship location and appreciate him sharing his heartfelt gratitude to the talented team of Inova physicians and clinicians who have cared for him since his injury.”

 

This poor guy had a good life in Kansas City, playing for quarterback-friendly Andy Reid and a Chiefs organization that was a perennial winner — 53-27 and four playoff appearances in the five years Smith was in Kansas City. Then came the fateful day in January 2018 (officially two months later) when he was traded to the Redskins, playing for a coach in Jay Gruden that was frozen out of the trade talks and an organization that has been a perennial embarrassment.

 

Smith’s life hasn’t been the same since.

 

His time as a Redskin, for all intents and purposes, ended 11 months after that trade when he went down with that gruesome broken leg — his football career likely as well, though Smith has said his goal is to come back to play.

 

After 17 surgeries, being able to walk normally for the rest of your life should be your goal.

 

The first time we saw Smith after his broken leg was when he was seen in a wheelchair with his legs covered. Then he was seen at a Wizards game in January wearing a medieval-looking device known as an external fixator.

 

He reportedly wore that device for eight months, but his wife Elizabeth posted a picture on her Instagram account in July of Smith holding the device, which had been removed. Soon after, we saw Smith at Redskins training camp in Richmond riding in a golf cart and using crutches.

 

Last month, Smith made an appearance on the field before the “Monday Night Football” game against the Chicago Bears without any crutches or other devices or support.

 

In a training camp interview with the Redskins, Smith claimed he was pleased with his recovery. “I’m doing well. I am,” he said. “I’m as optimistic as I’ve ever been. I’ve continued to progress. I don’t think I’ve ever anticipated what this road would be like, I don’t think I knew what it would be like. It’s longer than I thought. But like I said, I’m still progressing and really optimistic about what is ahead of me.”

 

What he believes is ahead of him is a possible return to the field — a scenario that, at the age of 35, given the severity of his injury and the complications that followed, is difficult to imagine. But he insisted his goal to play again.

 

“The older you get, you realize how precious these situations are; that it’s not going to last forever, and trying to make the most of it,” Smith said. “You only have so many years left, and to have this challenge set out in front of me. I mean, how often do you get a challenge like that to overcome? And for me to take it on and not worry about anything else … I still feel like I’m young at heart and got a lot left ahead of me. I want to take that on.”

 

Smith, a 13-year veteran, came to Washington in a trade with the Chiefs that sent cornerback Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round draft choice to Kansas City.

 

Smith had one year left on his existing contract. But in a move reeking of arrogance and foolishness, the Redskins immediately gave Smith a four-year, $94 million contract extension. He would lead Washington to a 6-3 record, completing 205 of 308 passes for 2,180 yards, 10 touchdown and five interceptions before his injury — which turned that contract extension into a salary cap nightmare for the franchise.

 

According to various reports, the Redskins are on the hook for $20 million this year to Smith under their salary cap and another $21.4 million next year.

 

Then again, what is the price for 17 surgeries on a broken leg?

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Veteran CB P.J. WILLIAMS has been suspended two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

– – –

With RB ALVIN KAMARA iffy for Sunday, the Saints add a running back reinforcement.  Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

 

The New Orleans Saints have signed former Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner.

 

New Orleans also worked out Travaris Cadet before making this move, signs that lead us to believe Alvin Kamara will truly be limited with his high-ankle sprain until the team’s Week 9 bye.  Originally an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State, the 28-year-old Zenner has served as one of the key backups in Detroit for the pass four seasons before failing to make the final 53-man roster this September.   Zenner most recently rushed for 10/51 with Detroit this preseason and closed out Week 17 with a 22-touch, 123-yard performance. Even if Kamara’s ruled out for Sunday, Latavius Murray is expected to take on the lion’s share of reps against the Chicago Bears in Week 7.

 

To make room on the roster for Zenner, the Saints released veteran linebacker Stephone Anthony.  That move is expected to be a temporary one and the Saints will likely re-sign the well-liked Anthony in the coming weeks.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

This from NFL.com on the big trade:

 

The Jalen Ramsey saga has a Hollywood ending.

 

The Jacksonville Jaguars are trading the disgruntled star cornerback to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks (2020 and 2021) and a fourth-round pick in 2021, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday. The Jaguars later confirmed the trade.

 

Tom Coughlin, Jaguars EVP of Football Operations, issued the following statement on Wednesday:

 

“Given the situation with Jalen, we made this decision based on what we thought is in the best interest of the Jacksonville Jaguars, for this season and well into the future. We feel the trade that we struck with the Rams gives us great value for the next two drafts, and we remain very confident that our team today will compete this season for a division title. Jalen was a productive player, but the time came to move on and we wish him and his family the best in Los Angeles.”

 

It’s quite a haul for the Jaguars, and also quite a coup for a cornerback-needy Rams squad that earlier Tuesday dealt Marcus Peters to the Ravens one day after placing Aqib Talib on injured reserve. The Peters trade left people wondering what other move general manager Les Snead had up his sleeve to shore up a suddenly thin secondary. Now we have our answer.

 

In Ramsey, the Rams now boast one of the finest cornerbacks in the NFL. Ramsey has made two Pro Bowls and earned one first-team All-Pro selection in his three full seasons since being drafted No. 5 overall in 2016 out of Florida State. Boasting nine career interceptions, Ramsey also serves as a defensive tone setter on the outside, playing with a boisterous confidence that can energize an entire defensive group as seen during the Jaguars run to the AFC title game in 2017.

 

The injection of Ramsey into a slumping Rams team — losers of three straight — could also prove to be a bolt of energy that turns around their season. The Rams currently rank 20th in Pro Football Focus’ adjusted pass defense and have seen Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson shred their secondary in recent weeks.

 

The pairing of Ramsey on the outside and Aaron Donald terrorizing QBs from the interior should be a boon for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

 

As for the Jaguars, the bevy of picks should make up for a disappointing end to their relationship with Ramsey.

 

A key member of the Sacksonville defense that took the AFC by storm in 2017, Ramsey seemed set to be the face of the Jaguars for years to come. But 2019 had different plans.

 

Ramsey and Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone engaged in a sideline spat in a Week 2 loss, which was soon followed by the news of a trade request. Ramsey then suited up in Week 3 for a win over the Titans, but a lingering back issue has sidelined him since.

 

Throughout Ramsey’s absence, the Jaguars did their best to maintain a positive relationship with the disgruntled cornerback and owner Shad Khan on multiple occasions indicated that a trade was not in Ramsey’s future.

 

But as we’ve seen before, time plus the right deal on the table can change things.

 

Ramsey is now off to Los Angeles — where he’ll certainly want a new contract sooner rather than later — and the Jaguars have a resolution to a situation that has clouded the franchise for the better part of the season.

 

@FOXSports

Upside for Rams acquiring Ramsey, according to @getnickwright

: Rams have arguably the 2 best defensive players —Donald & Ramsey

 

Downside: Goff, Donald, Gurley & Cooks make up half of Rams salary cap. Rams will have most top-heavy roster in salary cap era

 

And this:

 

@AndrewBrandt

The Rams should be doing a contract extension with Ramsey as a condition to the trade. Without it, Ramsey’s agent will have all the leverage going forward. #JalenRamsey

 

More on the fact that Ramsey isn’t nailed down.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey officially is a member of the Rams. So how long will that continue?

 

Maybe not very long.

 

By giving up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to acquire Ramsey, the Rams supposedly want Ramsey for years to come. But they have Ramsey under contract for only the next 26 games, before the franchise-tag dance would begin. One former player who knows Ramsey believes that Ramsey may not be with the Rams for five or six years, or more.

 

“One thing is that Jalen is a businessman,” Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who like Ramsey played at Florida State, said on NFL Network. “Secondly, I don’t feel like the Rams are the Rams of old. Thirdly, taxes . . . Taxes in California, the cost of living in California is not feasible to a guy who’s just coming out of Florida. . . I don’t know if this is a situation that’s gonna last over a year. This may be for right now.”

 

Florida has no state income tax. In California, state taxes take 13.3 cents from every dollar earned.

 

This makes the decision to trade for Ramsey without a new deal even more surprising. He now has greater leverage in the contract talks to come; at a minimum he’s going to want the Rams to “gross up” his bonus and salary to compensate him for the difference between a state with no taxes and the state with the most.

 

Sanders definitely considered those factors when he became a free agent after the 1994 season. He said that the Raiders were the highest bidder, but that he took less from the Cowboys.

 

“I wanted to go to Texas,” Sanders said. “No state taxes there, baby.”

 

Apart from the issue of taxes, Ramsey may not want to simply be the highest-paid cornerback, which currently has a top-of-market value of $15.1 million per year. He may want to be paid like linebacker Khalil Mack, who gets $23.5 million per year. Indeed, the Rams gave up more to get Ramsey than the Bears gave up to get Mack.

 

Then there’s the fact that Ramsey may not want to stay in L.A. if he doesn’t believe the team has the foundation in place for sustained success. And if Ramsey wants out, he knows how to make that happen. Indeed, he has just created the bad-back playbook in order to make his exit from Jacksonville.

 

If that happens, it could be disastrous for the Rams, who could have gotten up to 160 games from those two first-round picks and another 64 from the fourth-round selection sent to the Jaguars. In the end, the question becomes whether their return for Ramsey via a second trade matches what they gave up to get him.

 

Florio also hears that the Rams only nailed down Ramsey after they had dispatched CB MARCUS PETERS to Baltimore:

 

When the Rams traded cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens, the Rams didn’t have an agreement in principle to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars. After the Peters deal was done, the Rams made their move.

 

Per a league source, the Rams increased their pursuit of Ramsey late Tuesday afternoon, after trading Peters. Before that, roughly six teams had serious interest in Ramsey, and those teams had been checking in periodically with the Jaguars. The Rams knew what it was going to take to get Ramsey, and they moved quickly to get it done.

 

The Jaguars were serious about keeping Ramsey, and they would have unless they had gotten what they wanted. The Rams stepped up with two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick, and the Jaguars were able to trade him out of the AFC.

 

Surely aiding the process was the relationship between Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell and Rams G.M. Les Snead. They worked together in Atlanta before getting the jobs they now hold.

 

Boosting the Rams’ willingness to make the deal without a long-term contract in place for Ramsey likely was the reality that, after trading Peters, the Rams needed to get the Ramsey deal done before one of the other five teams or so realized what the Rams were in the process of trying to accomplish, and potentially mobilized to beat them to the punch.

 

Kimberley Martin on the gambling nature of GM Les Snead:

 

We’re not going to be scared. But we’re not going to be reckless,” Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead said with a smile last Friday, as he opened up about his philosophy on building a team.

 

Those words — uttered near the conclusion of a 45-minute sit-down interview with Yahoo Sports inside the team’s defensive meeting room — proved to be a harbinger of yet another jaw-dropping move orchestrated by Snead. Two weeks before the NFL trade deadline, he reshaped his secondary in a matter of hours, and more importantly, left no doubt about whether or not the Rams still believe they can win it all in 2019.

 

After acquiring center Austin Corbett from Cleveland, they traded cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens in order to set the stage for their biggest coup of the calendar year: Bringing Jalen Ramsey to L.A.

 

The Rams traded two first-round picks (in 2020 and 2021) and a fourth-rounder (in 2021) in exchange for Jacksonville’s disgruntled cornerback — a bold move that sent shock waves across social media and stunned many within NFL circles. While it may seem like the defending NFC champions are a shell of themselves on the field, Snead remains unchanged behind closed doors.

 

Blockbuster deals and big-money contracts have typified his tenure with the Rams, dating back to his 2012 arrival in St. Louis. And now, with his team mired in a three-game losing streak, “Super Bowl hangover” questions hanging overhead and a new, $5 billion stadium on the horizon, Snead isn’t about to stop being aggressive.

 

“We only live once, so don’t live your life scared,” Snead told Yahoo Sports, only four days before orchestrating the Ramsey trade. “… Any time you make a move, you do try to have protocols in place that can help you make sound decisions. But you’re not playing for the tie. You’re trying to go win.”

 

Part executive, part philosopher, part psychologist, the 48-year-old has always been meticulous in his mission of rebuilding the Rams from NFL doormat to proven winner. He’s a voracious reader who spends as much time combing autobiographies and history books for insight he can apply to his daily life as he does studying his football opponents each week. The gluten-free dieter prides himself on being an outside-the-box thinker, a football mind who isn’t afraid to gamble every now and then. And at this pivotal juncture, Snead doesn’t really have a choice.

 

The L.A. luster has worn off these new-look Rams at the worst possible time.

 

The high-octane, Todd Gurley-powered offense that propelled them to Super Bowl LIII was instantly vanquished by Bill Belichick’s masterful game plan. Since then, the Rams haven’t looked the same.

 

Talk of Gurley’s arthritic knee, the subpar play of quarterback Jared Goff and questions about Sean McVay’s genius and their disappearing defense are the backdrop to their current three-game skid — the first such losing streak of McVay’s head-coaching tenure. And while they don’t appear to be as desperate for fan support as their soon-to-be stadium roommates, the Los Angeles Chargers, last Sunday’s loss to San Francisco (5-0) provided a depressing glimpse into the Rams’ potential future if they fail to make the playoffs.

 

Bad teams have a hard time selling PSLs and season tickets. Also, generating buzz in a market like L.A. — where once-proud Rams faithfuls were forgotten about for two decades and later replaced by a transient, fickle fan base nestled next to Hollywood — is far more difficult than it appears.

 

Snead, however, downplayed the pressure of repaving those inroads.

 

“Here’s the positive: The Rams had a history here,” he said, completely unaware that, only 48 hours later, his team would be bullied by the 49ers, 20-7, on a day when Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was awash in shades of red. “So there’s an element of, ‘You’re coming home.’ The difficulty is, there’s that gap. …There was this generation that was left out of seeing the Rams live. So I think that would be the challenge. The nice thing is, we have a nice core fan base, but it’s grabbing back that generation when the Rams weren’t here, and grabbing their kids, and saying, ‘Come on back to Mom and Dad’s hometown team.’ ”

 

The addition of Ramsey, one of the league’s top cornerbacks, won’t assuage concern over Gurley’s dwindling production, nor will it quiet the noise surrounding Goff’s struggles, improve the Rams’ poor offensive line play or help their lack of offensive cohesion. But signing Ramsey to a long-term deal will be key for a franchise looking to make a splash — and draw more fans — in its new stadium.

 

And all it took was surrendering first-round picks. Again.

 

The Rams haven’t had a first-round pick in the draft since 2016, the year they traded picks with Tennessee in order to select Goff No. 1 overall.

 

Snead, as we’ve come to see, is anything but apprehensive.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

The Bengals aren’t getting it done with QB ANDY DALTON.  Is it time to take rookie QB RYAN FINLEY for a spin?  David Carr of NFL.com:

 

The Bengals sit at 0-6 with two games to play (vs. Jacksonville and at Los Angeles Rams) before their Week 9 bye. Just three teams average fewer points per game than Cincinnati (16.2), and while QB Andy Dalton has his lowest passer rating (82.8) since his rookie season, all the blame can’t fall on him. He’s not getting any help from a run game that ranks last in the league, he has one of the worst offensive lines in the game and his best receiver, A.J. Green, hasn’t played a snap all season.

 

That said, it only makes sense that the team should be thinking about giving fourth-round pick Ryan Finley a chance to start some games this year. Whether the rookie QB gets his opportunity coming out of the Week 9 bye or later on, it will be an audition to see if he can be a starter in this league. The N.C. State product played well in his three preseason outings, showing above-average accuracy (73.4 percent completion rate), good touch on the ball and pocket poise.

 

I know there’s a lot of season left, but like Mariota in Tennessee, Dalton doesn’t appear to be the answer in Cincinnati anymore. He’s signed through the 2020 campaign, but the Bengals won’t take a cap hit if they choose to release the veteran after this season. Put it all together, and it’s probably time for Dalton to get a fresh start elsewhere, which would leave the Bengals with a decision: ride with Finley or take a quarterback early in next year’s draft.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

It’s not officially announced, but word on the street is that QB MARCUS MARIOTA will be a healthy non-start for the first time in his career this week.  Turron Davenport of ESPN:

 

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, desperately in need of a spark on offense, has elected to make a change at quarterback, naming Ryan Tannehill the new starter, a source confirmed to ESPN.

 

Tuesday’s move, which was first reported by NFL Network, comes after Tannehill — the former Miami Dolphins starting quarterback — was inserted into the lineup in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Vrabel gave Tannehill a chance to make some plays in relief of an ineffective Marcus Mariota, who threw two interceptions.

 

Tannehill finished with 13 completions for 144 yards on 16 pass attempts. He led the Titans on their only trips into the red zone, but an interception and a turnover on downs kept Tennessee from scoring in a 16-0 loss.

 

The Titans acquired Tannehill, along with a 2019 sixth-round draft pick, from the Dolphins this offseason in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft and a seventh-round pick in 2019. Tannehill signed a one-year deal with the Titans worth $7 million with up to $12 million in incentives to facilitate the trade.

 

While with the Dolphins, Tannehill had a 42-45 record from 2012 to 2018. He missed the 2017 season due to a knee injury. Tannehill has proved in the past that he can put up respectable numbers as a quarterback, passing for more than 4,000 yards in both 2014 and 2015.

 

Although he had been relegated to a backup role, Tannehill never lost the conviction that he can be a successful quarterback.

 

“I have a ton of confidence in myself. You have to, to play this position. I believe in myself a whole lot,” Tannehill said Monday.

 

Mariota had been the unquestioned starter over the past three seasons. Moving him out of the lineup is a difficult situation for the Titans players, who are expected to support Tannehill going forward.

 

“Ryan was an elite QB in this league not longer than a year ago. He can take over a team. He can make plays,” tight end Delanie Walker said Monday.

 

Added safety Kevin Byard, “It’s a tough situation because I think this entire team is and has always been behind No. 8. As long as we’ve been here, that’s been my guy. I support him throughout everything. But that’s a coach’s decision. If they feel like No. 17 can give us the best opportunity to win ballgames, I understand they’ll make the decision they feel is best for our team.”

 

Bet you’re surprised that RYAN TANNEHILL is 42-45 in his career as a starter.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Back to Fitz as the Dolphins seek winning Magic.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Miami Dolphins are going back to Fitzmagic.

 

Coach Brian Flores announced Wednesday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would start Sunday’s tilt versus the Buffalo Bills.

 

The move back to Fitzpatrick comes after Flores benched Josh Rosen in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s one-point loss to the Washington Redskins. Just three quarters after the coach had declared Rosen would get the balance of the season, and reiterated after the loss that the second-year signal-caller was still the starter, Flores changed his mind.

 

In making the flip-flop decision, the first-year coach underscored that Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins the best chance to pull out a victory.

 

“We’re going to start Fitz this week,” Flores said. “Kind of came to that conclusion really over the last few days. Decided, we felt like that was the best thing for this team to give us an opportunity, the best opportunity for this team to go up into a tough environment and try to pull out a win. We do that on a weekly basis. What’s the best way, what’s the best grouping, set of players, offense, defense, kicking game — to help us try to win the game. We felt that was the case this week.”

 

It certainly was the case last week that the Dolphins moved the ball better with Fitzy under center than a struggling Rosen.

 

In Sunday’s tilt versus a previously winless Redskins squad, Rosen was abysmal, completing 15-of-25 passes for 85 yards, 0 TDs, two brutal INTs, and a passer rating of 32.9 in three quarters of play. Fitzpatrick entered in the fourth quarter and immediately led Miami to a scoring drive and a final TD drive to set up a potential game-stealing 2-point try that ultimately failed. In just one quarter of play, Fitzmagic went 12-of-18 passing for 132 pass yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 106.7 passer rating.

 

While a disastrous offensive line and few weapons did Rosen no favors, it’s clear Fitzpatrick’s experience gives the Dolphins a better chance to potentially win games.

 

It felt as though had Fitzpatrick played the entire game Sunday, the Dolphins would have had a better chance to pull off its first win.

 

Against one of his many former teams, Fitzmagic will face a much tougher task Sunday in Buffalo, where the Bills sport one of the best defenses in the NFL.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ATHLETIC POWER RATINGS

From a panel of experts at The Athletic with Lindsey Jones commentating:

 

For the first month of the season, one of the most interesting debates in the NFL was: Who is the third-best team in the AFC? Assuming, of course, the top two teams were the Patriots and Chiefs.

 

Fast-forward to the aftermath of Week 6, and after the Patriots, the AFC looks wide open. So, just how far did the Chiefs fall after their second consecutive home loss to an AFC South team? Right now our voters seem to be grappling with the question of if any of the AFC teams are all that good right now. Just take a look at our Top 5: Four NFC teams, including two from the NFC West.

 

Before we dive into the rest of the rankings, a note about our methodology: This year, The Athletic’s national staff, a mix of reporters, columnists and editors, will be voting on the power rankings, and this list is a composite tally of those votes. If you want more, make sure you listen to our companion podcast, available twice a week on iTunes and The Athletic app.

 

Now, on to the rankings.

 

32. Miami Dolphins (0-5; Last week: 32)

When do you win by losing? Every week, when you’re the Miami Dolphins. We couldn’t have scripted a better ending to the Dolphins-Redskins game than a brutally, beautifully botched two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds of the game. Good for Miami coach Brian Flores for going for two and the win, rather than sending that disaster of a game to overtime. And good for Ryan Fitzpatrick for throwing the screen pass behind running back Kenyan Drake, and good for Drake for dropping it. The loss didn’t secure the Dolphins the No. 1 pick in the draft, but it will definitely help.

 

31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-6; Last week: 29)

Congratulations to the Bengals on becoming the first team to lose six games in 2019, thanks in large part to an embarrassingly bad run defense that allowed the Ravens to rush for 269 yards on Sunday. At this point, we don’t blame Bengals fans for looking ahead to 2020, even if the team — and their insistence that A.J. Green isn’t available for trade — won’t do the same.

 

30. Washington Redskins (1-5; Last week: 31)

Sure, Washington earned its first win, 17-16, against the Dolphins. Sure, quarterback Case Keenum got his first win as a Redskin and interim head coach Bill Callahan got his first win as a head coach since 2003, but there’s little to feel all that great about if you’re a member of this team or its long-suffering fanbase. Next up? The 5-0 49ers.

 

29. Atlanta Falcons (1-5; Last week: 28)

Just in case you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Falcons than last week’s second-half defensive meltdown Houston, we give you a 34-33 loss at Arizona, complete with a missed PAT that should have sent the game to overtime. But we’re not going to blame this on Matt Bryant. This loss, just like last week’s, is on Dan Quinn’s defense, which just keeps finding new ways to embarrass itself.

 

28. New York Jets (1-4; Last week: 30)

The Jets’ month-long mononucleosis nightmare is over: Sammy Spleen is back! Our panel isn’t ready to forget all the concerns we had about the Jets during their 0-4 start and during Darnold’s illness, but we’ll admit it was fun to watch Darnold lead an 83-yard touchdown drive in his first action since the mono diagnosis. Now, can Adam Gase and Darnold, their first win in the books, build off this against the Patriots? Gulp.

 

27. Tennessee Titans (2-4; Last week: 23)

The most exciting moment for the Titans on Sunday came when CBS’ television cameras caught Ryan Tannehill throwing some warmup passes on the sideline in Denver, signaling the beginning of the end of Marcus Mariota’s tenure in Tennessee. Mariota had an awful day against the Broncos before he was benched — just 17 completions for 63 yards, with two interceptions — and while it’s certainly possible the Titans turn back to him next week against the Chargers, it’s a bad sign for his future with the team that they were so ready to bench him. (For what it’s worth, Tannehill didn’t fare much better against the Broncos, with four sacks and one interception in about a quarter of action.)

 

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (2-4; Last week: 22)

Jameis Winston threw five interceptions Sunday before many of us had even finished our first cup of coffee. And yet, to hear Bruce Arians describe Winston’s awful performance against the Panthers in London, those five picks weren’t even the worst stat. No, to Arians, it was the seven sacks Winston took, half of which Arians said were Winston’s fault.

 

25. New York Giants (2-4; Last week: 25)

If only last Thursday’s game in New England had been just three quarters long, we’d be feeling a lot better about Danny Dimes and the Giants. Of course, it wasn’t, and the Giants dismissed all talk of moral victories (a game that was close in the second half, despite being played without the Giants’ top running back, wide receiver and tight end) after losing to the Patriots by 21 points. But the good news for the Giants is that they’ll get those weapons back for Daniel Jones relatively soon, and somehow they’re just one game out of first place in the NFC East.

 

24. Los Angeles Chargers (2-4; Last week: 19)

It just keeps getting worse for the Chargers, who lost their third-consecutive “home” game —this time to Devlin Hodges and the Steelers in a game that wasn’t particularly close until the very end. The Chargers can blame injuries, especially along the offensive line, but it’s hard to make that excuse work this week, when the Steelers were down to their third-string quarterback. With the loss, the Chargers are now in last place in the AFC West.

 

23. Arizona Cardinals (2-3-1; Last week: 27)

Oh, what’s that? The Cardinals have an actual winning streak going on, and they get their best player, cornerback Patrick Peterson, back this week? OK, then. Let us know if and when Peterson helps the Cardinals defense start covering tight ends.

 

22. Cleveland Browns (2-4; Last week: 20)

Perhaps the only good news for the Browns right now is they’ve got a week off — time for Baker Mayfield’s sore hips to heal, and for Freddie Kitchens and his coaching staff to try to figure out how to get their second-year quarterback back on track before a game against Tom Brady and the Patriots in two weeks. (And yes, we agree with Browns fans, and Kitchens and Mayfield that the officiating was especially awful Sunday in the Browns’ loss to Seattle, not that it should excuse the loss or the Browns’ disappointing record at the bye.)

 

21. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4; Last week: 26)

If this was the only game Devlin Hodges ends up starting for the Steelers (should Mason Rudolph be cleared to return after Pittsburgh’s bye), well, at least it was a memorable one for the undrafted rookie from Samford: a 24-17 road* win against the Chargers in L.A. Hodges did exactly what he needed to do: rely on running backs James Conner (119 total yards and two touchdowns) and Benny Snell (75 rushing yards on 17 attempts) and short easy throws, while not taking any sacks.

 

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4; Last week: 21)

The Saints exposed the Jaguars’ biggest weakness on Sunday: the lack of depth and talent in the wide receiver corps. With D.J. Chark effectively removed from the game with double coverage on nearly every snap, the entire passing game disappeared. The good news for Jacksonville is that the Jags’ next opponent, the Bengals, shouldn’t be able to cover Chark like Marshon Lattimore did.

 

19. Denver Broncos (2-4; Last week: 24)

It took a month, but the Broncos’ defense finally looks like what we thought it would under Vic Fangio. Denver shut out the Titans on Sunday and haven’t allowed a touchdown in nine quarters, dating back to the third quarter of the Broncos’ Week 4 loss to Jacksonville. With so much roster turnover, no one is going to confuse this Broncos’ defense with the 2015 version, but suddenly there’s hope in Denver again that this season is salvageable.

 

18. Dallas Cowboys (3-3; Last week: 11)

To be honest, I’m surprised the Cowboys didn’t fall further after a third consecutive loss, this time at the previously winless Jets. Like last week against the Packers, the Cowboys made it interesting and close late, but let’s not let one-score losses obscure the fact that the Cowboys’ offense, with injuries along the line and at wide receiver, looks broken.

 

17. Oakland Raiders (3-2; Last week: 18)

For the Raiders, there probably wasn’t a better way to spend the bye week than watching the Chiefs and Chargers both lose. Next up: road games at Green Bay and Houston, a stretch that looked a lot more intimidating before the Raiders went 2-0 at Indy and against the Bears in London.

 

16. Los Angeles Rams (3-3; Last week: 8)

These aren’t your 2018 Rams. Three straight losses for Sean McVay’s team, including two in a row to division foes. The Rams’ next two games are against 1-5 Atlanta and 0-6 Cincinnati, which should help Sean McVay get his offense rolling again, but we’ve got serious concerns about the Rams’ long-term fate if they don’t start getting better play from Jared Goff and the offensive line soon.

 

15. Chicago Bears (3-2; Last week: 16)

This wasn’t a very happy bye week for the Bears, coming off their loss in London, with news that defensive tackle Akiem Hicks’ elbow injury will likely keep him out until at least December, and that guard Kyle Long’s hip injury is season-ending. But at least Mitchell Trubisky looks closer to returning, if anyone considers that good news. (A slight silver lining: While the Packers and Vikings picked up wins within their division, Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace likely felt slightly reassured when they saw the list of potential wild card contenders who lost this week … so it could be worse).

 

14. Philadelphia Eagles (3-3; Last week: 7)

Silly us, thinking the Eagles’ return to the Top 10 last week would stick. Instead, the team that was our biggest faller three weeks ago and biggest riser two weeks ago tumbles again after an ugly loss to Minnesota, a game that highlighted Philadelphia’s biggest weaknesses, cornerback and pass rush. (But hey, at least they found a scapegoat in Zach Brown?)

 

13. Detroit Lions (2-2-1; Last week: 14)

How many spots would the Lions have moved up here had they held on to beat the Packers Monday night? Thanks to a few, um, questionable, officiating calls (note to referee Clete Blakeman, Trey Flowers’ hands were not on David Bakhtiari’s face either time he was flagged for it), we won’t know. The Lions squandered a 13-point lead against the Packers, and with it, a chance to take over first-place in the NFL’s most competitive division. Brutal.

 

12. Carolina Panthers (4-2; Last week: 17)

So what if Christian McCaffrey’s MVP candidacy took a hit this week? The Panthers won big in London against the Bucs on the strength of their defense, with seven turnovers and seven sacks. But we’re afraid it won’t be a relaxing bye week now for Carolina, not with Cam Newton nearing a return to practice (and all of the “who is your quarterback?” questions that will come with it) and a game against the currently undefeated 49ers in Week 8.

 

11. Buffalo Bills (4-1; Last week: 9)

We can’t exactly explain how the Bills fell two spots during their bye week, but they should probably blame the impressive Week 6 performances of the Texans and Vikings, see below.

 

10. Baltimore Ravens (4-2; Last week: 12)

The Ravens squeaked back into our Top 10, just like they squeaked past division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks. Those games were just the warm-up for Week 7: Earl Thomas’ return to Seattle. We’d like to request a camera trained on Thomas at all times. And we have a feeling we’ll learn a lot more about the Ravens after Week 7 than we did in Weeks 5 and 6 combined.

 

9. Indianapolis Colts (3-2; Last week: 10)

The Colts sat at home on their bye week and watched the Texans beat the Chiefs, a week after they did the same, setting up a huge game this week against Houston, with first-place in the AFC South on the line.

 

8. Houston Texans (4-2; Last week: 15)

Don’t let the stat line fool you: Deshaun Watson went toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes, at Arrowhead Stadium, and played his way into the MVP discussion. Watson led three second-quarter touchdown drives and his one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, to cap a 12-play, 93-yard drive, was the dagger. We wouldn’t mind seeing a rematch of this game in January,

 

7. Minnesota Vikings (4-2; Last week: 13)

Another week, another convincing win for the Vikings …. and another impressive passing day for Kirk Cousins. Maybe, just maybe, the Vikings have learned how to be a balanced offense (29 pass attempts, 30 combined rushing attempts for backs Alexander Mattison and Dalvin Cook), and now with two happy wide receivers, the Vikings could be very, very dangerous.

 

6. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2; Last week: 3)

The Chiefs finally tumbled out of the Top 5 for the first time this year after a second consecutive home loss and there are quite a few concerning things about this team right now. Now we’re back to worrying about the Kansas City defense — a group that underwent significant schematic, coaching and lineup changes in 2019 — with the added concern that the offense is no longer reliably scoring more than 30 points per game. Suddenly this Thursday’s game in Denver is a must-win for the Chiefs.

 

5. Seattle Seahawks (5-1; Last week: 6)

So what if the Seahawks weren’t actually leading the game when four Seattle receivers channeled *NSYNC and waved “Bye Bye Bye” to Browns fans, we should have known right then that there was no way the Seahawks were going to lose to Cleveland. And now, Russell Wilson has made it impossible to ignore his hot start: 14 touchdowns, no interceptions, with a 72.5 completion percentage, nearly eight points higher than his career average.

 

4. Green Bay Packers (5-1; Last week: 4)

Rather than re-officiate the calls that helped the Packers erase a 13-point deficit and steal a win from the Lions on Monday night, we’re going to appreciate just how dangerous Green Bay has become, even when Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have his top receivers available. Rodgers’ fourth-quarter touchdown pass to, checks notes, Allen Lazard, an undrafted rookie receiver from Iowa State, was as beautiful and ridiculous of a throw as we’ve ever seen Rodgers make.

 

3. San Francisco 49ers (5-0; Last week: 5)

No more complaining about the 49ers’ schedule (not that we were convinced that was even a valid argument last week). The 49ers have now put together dominant defensive performances in back-to-back weeks, and the way they thoroughly shut down the Rams shifted the balance of power in the NFC West. The scariest part right now about the 49ers’ defense is how deep the pass rush is. Four players registered at least a half sack against the Rams — and it was a different four players than those that registered a sack six days earlier against Cleveland.

 

2. New Orleans Saints (5-1; Last week: 2)

If anything, Drew Brees’ absence has allowed us to appreciate just how good the rest of the Saints’ roster is, and how good of a coaching job Sean Payton is doing. The Saints are playing smothering defense, and we love this stat from The Athletic New Orleans’ Jeff Duncan: “Before this season New Orleans had won just once in 18 games in which they scored 13 or fewer points in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. Now they’ve already done it twice in six games this season.” These aren’t the same Saints, and that should make them very competitive all year, no matter who is playing quarterback.

 

1. New England Patriots (6-0; Last week: 1)

The Patriots have the NFL’s best scoring offense and most stingy scoring defense. It’s pretty easy to see why the Pats remain our No. 1 team. Can’t wait for November, when the Patriots’ schedule finally gets more interesting.