The Daily Briefing Wednesday, October 31, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

A tweet from Andrew Siciliano:

 

Over 1/3 of 1st round of 2015 @NFL Draft now traded or released.

 

#3 Dante Fowler, Jr.

#4 Amari Cooper

#9 Ereck Flowers

#12 Danny Shelton

#18 Marcus Peters

#19 Cameron Erving

#26 Breshad Perriman

#28 Laken Tomlinson

#29 Phillip Dorsett

#30 Damarious Randall

#31 Stephone Anthony

 

The two QBs at the top, JAMEIS WINSTON and MARCUS MARIOTA are still with their teams, although neither has set the world on fire.  Winston could be on his last legs.

 

WR KEVIN WHITE of the Bears at #7 is still there but oft-injured.  #14 WR DaVANTE PARKER of the Dolphins is so-so. 

 

Good players in the first round in 2015 include #5 G BRANDON SCHERFF of the Redskins, #10 RB TODD GURLEY II of the Rams (thought to be a reach at the time), #8 DE VIC BEASLEY of the Falcons, #11 CB TRAE WAYNES of the Vikings and #15 RB MELVIN GORDON of the Chargers among others.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Trading WR GOLDEN TATE III was a vintage “Patriot” move says Jeff Risdon of USA TODAY:

 

The Golden Tate trade to the Philadelphia Eagles caught a lot of Detroit Lions fans, players, even Tate himself, by surprise. Not New England Patriots followers, however.

 

Trading Tate at Tuesday’s deadline is yet another great example of the Lions deep roots transplant from the New England Patriots. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia tapped into those Patriot roots and pulled off a trade eerily reminiscent of some moves from their New England heritage.

 

Sending a productive starter with an expiring contract away at the trade deadline is familiar turf. The Patriots did just that in 2016 by dealing LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns at the deadline. The price? A third-round pick, one which the Patriots included in the Brandin Cooks trade with the Saints.

 

Collins was the team’s leading tackler at the time of the trade, a multi-year starter who did a little of everything (he also had a sack and two INTs) for a Patriots defense that didn’t have much proven depth to replace him.

 

The Patriots knew from preliminary negotiations Collins was going to want more money than what they were going to be willing to give him once he hit free agency. It was a preemptive move, sacrificing immediate value with a look to the long-term salary cap and viability of paying a quarterback over $20 million a year. Ironically, the Patriots wound up replacing Collins with failed Lions draft pick Kyle Van Noy.

 

That wasn’t the first time the Patriots dispatched a highly productive player in lieu of paying him open-market value. Months before dealing Collins, New England traded Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. Jones was coming off a career-high 12.5 sacks at just 25 years of age, his second double-digit sack season and his first Pro Bowl.

 

It didn’t matter. The Patriots traded Jones to the Cardinals for a 2nd-round pick and disappointing guard Jonathan Cooper. In an odd turn, Cooper got cut in preseason and the Patriots traded the 2nd rounder for Malcolm Mitchell and Joe Thuney, the man who ultimately beat out Cooper for the left guard spot. Mitchell caught 32 passes as a rookie for the Super Bowl champs but has not played since. Jones is an All-Pro and the reigning NFL sack champ, though he’s toiling on a team destined to pick in the top 10 once again.

 

Two years before that, New England dealt away perennial Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, a player Bill Belichick called “the greatest guard I’ve ever coached”, for reserve TE (and future Lion) Tim Wright and a 4th-round pick from Tampa Bay. That pick became current starting DE Trey Flowers.

 

Mankins was about to start his fifth season into a six-year mega-deal that wasn’t perceived worth the return on investment for the Patriots, even though the only players on the roster to replace him were nobodies.

 

That Patriots team also won the Super Bowl.

 

That’s the hope for Detroit in parting with Tate: trading a highly productive player, one popular with fans and one the team doesn’t appear to have anyone who can replace him, will pay off long-term and erase the short-term anguish.

 

It’s the blueprint Quinn and Patricia learned well from their days in New England. The Patriot Way is alive and (hopefully) well in Detroit.

 

Kyle Meinke of MLive.com on how the Lions will cope without Tate who was having a big year:

 

Golden Tate led the Lions in catches in 2014, and 2015, and 2016, and 2017. Not bad for a guy who played half those seasons with Calvin Johnson, and he shot up all the way to fifth on the team’s career catches list because of it.

 

He was back at it again this year with another 44 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns. All are team highs.

 

So, yeah, the Lions have a bit of a void to fill now that they’ve shipped Tate to Philadelphia for a third-round pick.

 

TJ Jones and Brandon Powell are the leading candidates to replace him in the slot. Jones is the more experienced option, a fourth-year vet who has played inside and out. He caught 30 passes as Detroit’s do-everything backup last year, but has been used sparingly this year.

 

He has just three catches heading into Sunday’s game against Minnesota, and was a healthy scratch for last week’s loss against Seattle.

 

Powell, on the other hand, was up for that game over Jones. He has more athleticism too, and led the Lions in receiving during the preseason.

 

“I think the best thing about him, once he gets the ball in his hand, he’s kind of a like a running back,” Tate once said. “He could be the YAC king some day.”

 

But Powell is also an undrafted rookie who has played just one career offensive snap, and has never caught a pass. And at 5-foot-8, he’s locked into the slot.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com has no problem with the Packers sending S HA HA CLINTON-DIX to Atlanta.

 

Say this much about Brian Gutekunst: The first-year general manager isn’t afraid to clean house and rebuild the Green Bay Packers’ roster with his own mold.

 

If there was any doubt about that, it should have been answered Tuesday at the NFL’s trade deadline, when he shipped out safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and running back Ty Montgomery for future draft picks — a fourth-rounder next year from Washington for Clinton-Dix and a seventh-rounder in 2020 from Baltimore for Montgomery.

 

While neither move made the middling 3-3-1 Packers instantly better for 2018, it might not have made them much worse. Montgomery’s spot on the team became untenable, especially after his comments Monday following his fumbled kickoff return in the final minutes of Sunday’s loss at the Rams, and after Clinton-Dix’s unpredictable play became a point of frustration for the team.

 

Meanwhile, Gutekunst’s first draft looks strong. No less an authority than Bill Belichick gave a glowing review of first-round pick Jaire Alexander in advance of Sunday’s Packers-Patriots game in New England.

 

Gutekunst’s stock of draft picks is replete next year with 10 selections: his own in every round plus an extra first (from the Saints in the draft-day trade), an extra fourth (from the Redskins) and an extra sixth (from the Seahawks for quarterback Brett Hundley this summer) plus whatever compensatory picks he’s awarded.

 

The fourth-rounder for Clinton-Dix was a solid value at the trade deadline, even for a former first-round pick. That’s probably about what the Packers would have gotten for him in the compensatory-pick formula had he left in free agency — something Clinton-Dix said he expected — but that pick wouldn’t come until the 2020 draft. And it also could’ve been jeopardized had Clinton-Dix gotten hurt or flamed out in the second half of the season and didn’t sign a high-priced deal with another team.

 

It also created salary-cap space. A total of $3,533,028 will come off the Packers’ books for this season — $3,153,705 (or nine-seventeenths of Clinton-Dix’s $5.957 million salary) plus $379,323 (nine-seventeenths of Montgomery’s base of $716,500). There will be some cap charges for the players who replace those two on the roster, but if they’re minimum-salaried players it will be less than $1 million. That cap savings can be carried over to next year.

 

The Packers weren’t exactly stellar at safety with Clinton-Dix. In the interim, don’t be surprised to see veteran cornerback Tramon Williams play some at safety; he moved inside to a slot position Sunday against the Rams. That could get rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson on the field more after he played only three defensive snaps against the Rams. It also might force the Packers to finally play 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones, who had a standout special-teams game in Los Angeles but surprisingly has played only four defensive snaps all season while sitting behind former undrafted free agents Kentrell Brice and Jermaine Whitehead. There’s also the possibility that cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was signed last month but has yet to play in a game, could move to safety.

 

In moving Montgomery, Gutekunst all but closed the book on the 2015 draft class, which might go down as Ted Thompson’s worst in his 13 years as GM. There’s not a player from that class left on the 53-man roster, and the only one even still tied to the Packers is fourth-round linebacker Jake Ryan, who is on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in training camp.

 

As it now stands, here’s how the 2015 class turned out:

 

First round: Damarious Randall (traded to the Browns in March)

 

Second round: Quinten Rollins (out of the NFL)

 

Third round: Montgomery (traded to the Ravens on Tuesday)

 

Fourth round: Ryan (on IR)

 

Fifth round: Hundley (traded to the Seahawks in August)

 

Sixth round: Aaron Ripkowski (out of the NFL)

 

Sixth round: Christian Ringo (Cowboys practice squad)

 

Sixth round: Kennard Backman (out of the NFL)

 

If Gutekunst can continue to build through strong draft classes — like Thompson did in his first decade on the job — it could make up for those last three drafts, which combined have the third-fewest current starters in the NFL.

 

Alexander looks like a cornerstone player, although he’s not the only potential star; Jackson and fifth-round receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling have the makings, while sixth-round receiver Equanimeous St. Brown also has shown flashes.

 

Alexander, the 18th pick of the draft, shined against the Rams, with five pass breakups and seven tackles (without a miss). He played all 78 defensive snaps and spent a good portion of the game as Rams receiver Brandin Cooks’ shadow.

 

When asked what stands out about Alexander, Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call: “Everything.”

 

“He’s going to have a great career in this league; we thought that in the draft,” Belichick said. “I thought that was an excellent pick. It was a little bit ahead of where we were picking [at No. 31] and he was certainly one of the top players on the board. He’s a great kid. He’s got great energy. He loves football and has great football skills — fast, athletic, good hands, good ball skills, can tackle, can play inside in the slot, can play outside on the perimeter, good zone vision, breaks on the ball, good man-to-man coverage, has good quickness, can match up with fast receivers, can match up with quick receivers. The guy’s a really good football player, and I think he’s got a great future in this league. I think he’ll be one of the top corners in the game for a quite a while here.”

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

Three ESPN writers call the acquisition of WR GOLDEN TATE their favorite draft deadline move:

 

Matt Bowen, NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles. Tate’s route running and versatility can be highlighted in the Eagles’ offense. He will be a middle-of-the-field target for Carson Wentz, and his ability to create after the catch can lead to explosive plays on high-percentage throws. Think quick passing game here, with targets off RPO concepts (bubble, pop pass) and the inside verticals from a slot alignment.

 

Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles. Thanks to this move, Wentz, who has been fantastic over the past few weeks, now has one of the best receiving trios in the league. The Eagles already get solid production of out the slot, and the addition of Tate, a shifty yards-after-catch monster, should put this passing offense over the top.

 

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Golden Tate to the Eagles, and Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams. The two acquiring teams are contenders flush with projected 2019 compensatory picks, making it easier for them to pay what they needed to pay. Both coaching staffs seem well-equipped to use these new acquisitions properly. Tate adds toughness to the Eagles, which should help for the stretch run. And Fowler has been a pretty good pass-rusher, so even if he leaves after the 2018 season, the Rams could pick up a 2020 compensatory pick if another team signs him.

 

This from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Eagles beat the trade deadline to swing a deal for wide receiver Golden Tate on Tuesday.

 

Tate comes to Philadelphia from Detroit and the Eagles will be sending a 2019 third-round pick to the Lions as compensation for the veteran wideout. Tate is in the final year of his contract, so that may wind up making him a pricey rental for the Eagles but executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said that the focus is only on the present in Philly right now.

 

“The message to our fans, to our players, to our coaches, to everyone in this organization is our foot’s always going to be on the gas,” Roseman said, via Zach Berman of Philly.com. “We’re always trying to win. . . . What we can do now is try to do that for this season and this moment.”

 

Roseman said Tate “fits what we do offensively” and he’ll have the rest of this week and all of next week to work on making sure he has the system down before the Eagles resume their schedule with the Cowboys in Week 10.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Field Yates of ESPN.com liked the Redskins’ acquisition of S HA HA CLINTON-DIX:

 

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins. The Redskins have a vision of their roster that seemingly puts an emphasis on building from the inside out. That doesn’t just mean up front with linemen; it extends to the third level of the defense in acquiring a productive and dependable safety in Clinton-Dix. He was a near every-snap player for most of his Green Bay career and figures to play a massive role in Washington, as well.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

There is a chance the 49ers will start someone you have never heard of at quarterback on Thursday.  The AP:

 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard missed practice with an injured right wrist that could keep him out of Thursday night’s game against the Oakland Raiders.

 

“His wrist hurts,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s struggling today to hold a ball. So, we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

 

Beathard got hurt in the second quarter of a loss on Sunday at Arizona when he hit his hand on a helmet. He stayed in the game and finished 14 for 28 for 190 yards and a touchdown, falling to 1-9 in his career as a starter, including losses in all five starts this season.

 

“I definitely felt it during the game,” Beathard said. “I felt it when it happened. But, I think with adrenaline going, I don’t think it was affecting the way I was throwing the ball.”

 

Shanahan said he believed Beathard would be able to play if the game this week were on Sunday but doesn’t know if he’ll be ready on the short week for the 49ers (1-7). Beathard remained hopeful he’ll be able to go, otherwise the Niners will turn to untested Nick Mullens.

 

Mullens joined the 49ers as an undrafted free agent last year after breaking all of Brett Favre’s records in college at Southern Mississippi. He earned himself a practice squad spot.

 

Mullens played well in the preseason this year and got promoted to the active roster following a season-ending knee injury to starter Jimmy Garoppolo in September.

 

“Nick comes in there, moves the chains, competes hard, made some plays with his legs and his arm,” Shanahan said. “Guys believe in him and he’s as competitive and confident as a guy I’ve been around. If he needs to play this week, he’ll be on it.”

 

Mullens has not taken an NFL snap and has worked mostly with the scout team in practice.

 

Mullens won’t get much practice time this week either if he plays, with the Niners holding only a walkthrough on Tuesday and then a light practice Wednesday before playing the game.

 

Mullens threw 87 career TD passes in 41 games at Southern Miss.  He had a 20-21 record.

 

He is from Hoover, Alabama near Birmingham, but he did not go to Hoover H.S. whose football team was featured in a reality TV series.  His alma mater is Spain Park H.S.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

The Rams continue to load up on talented, troubled players.  So far so good and now they add LB/DE DANTE FOWLER.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

The Los Angeles Rams have their pass rusher.

 

L.A. acquired pass rusher Dante Fowler from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick, the Jags confirmed Tuesday.

 

The Rams reportedly outbid the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers for Fowler’s services just 30 minutes before Tuesday’s trade deadline, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added. The Jaguars were initially asking for at least a second-round pick and change for their former high selection.

 

In a corresponding move, the Rams waived backup guard Jamon Brown.

 

In Fowler, the Rams’ defense has its seventh former first-round pick. The 2016 third-overall pick joins Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Mark Barron on a Super Bowl-contending unit piloted by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

 

Having solidified the interior of their defensive line in the offseason with Donald and Suh, the Rams had been searching for months for an edge rusher worthy of a title run. They may have found one in Fowler.

 

It’s unclear where Fowler fits in on the roster as of now. L.A. could slot him in for outside linebackers Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre or defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

 

It’s an unceremonious departure from Duval for the former third-overall pick. Fowler couldn’t find playing time on a stacked Jaguars defensive line in 2018. He played just 32.7 percent of Jacksonville’s snaps through eight weeks, recording just eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.

 

Fowler has had discipline and injury issues. He missed his entire rookie season with a torn left ACL and began this year’s training camp on the PUP list with a left shoulder injury. Fowler was suspended for the first game of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy and was banned for a week during the preseason for jawing with reporters.

 

Fowler is in the final year of his rookie deal after the Jags neglected to pick up his fifth-year option. His stay with the Rams will act as an audition for future employment after the 2018 season. Helping L.A. stay undefeated and the defense get pressure on opposing quarterbacks will go a long way toward a pay day.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

WR COURTLAND SUTTON becomes the winner in Denver with WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS off to Houston.  At least from a Fantasy view.  Scott Pianowski of YahooSports.com:

 

Denver rookie WR Courtland Sutton was the biggest winner of the day. Simply put, the Thomas deal pushes Sutton into a starting gig. Sutton has two touchdowns and 182 yards over the last four games, playing about two-thirds of the time. Now, he’ll be heavily utilized as a primary player. Not every rookie receiver is ready to contribute in his first season, but Sutton is an exception to the rule.

 

Thomas’s value stays close to lateral, though he could push forward if he quickly connects with Deshaun Watson. The Texans obviously were in dire need of a receiver after Will Fuller got hurt. Thomas’s first game, coincidentally enough, is against the Broncos in Week 9.

 

Collateral Tweaks: Watson gains a little bit; Keke Coutee loses a little bit. Also, given how limited Case Keenum is, I’m not investing in a Broncos wideout past Emmanuel Sanders or Sutton.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders did not make any further moves on Tuesday.  Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

Some two hours later,  2017 first-round draft pick Gareon Conley was still a Raider and was on the field to start practice. Same with strong safety Karl Joseph, the team’s first-round pick in 2016, and defensive end Bruce Irvin. So too was quarterback Derek Carr. In fact, the only player missing was veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who announced his own retirement on social media earlier in the day, after telling his fellow cornerbacks of his plan the night before.

 

It made for a relatively quiet trade-deadline day for a 1-6 team expected to make a splash with a full-blown fire sale heading into Thursday night’s game at the San Francisco 49ers. Besides, the deconstruction of the Raiders under returning coach Jon Gruden had already been well underway, what with Oakland having dealt its first rounders from 2014 and 2015 in All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack on Sept. 1 and Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper on Oct. 22.

 

The signs were there all along. All you had to was sift through the noise.

 

Because almost from the moment Gruden returned, both he and owner Mark Davis talked about the need to “build this thing up” in Oakland. Wait, what?

 

Sure, the Raiders were coming off a down season in which they only won six games a year after going 12-4 and playing in the postseason for the first time in 14 years.

 

But wasn’t Gruden and his incoming coaching staff supposed to be the difference in getting the Raiders back into contention? The team just needed a good scrub down from Chucky, rather than a full-blown teardown and rebuild, no?

 

Plus, that would counter what Davis said after the Raiders received approval to move to Las Vegas in March 2017 — they would do everything in their power to win a Super Bowl for Oakland before relocating in 2020. The future seemed bright after the highs of 2016.

 

But deconstruction and reconstruction takes longer than two years. Remember, the Raiders went through this after Al Davis died in 2011. As Mark Davis said at the time, it was a two-phase, four-year project — two years of deconstruction overseen by then-new general manager Reggie McKenzie in 2012 and 2013, followed by two years of reconstruction, in 2014 and 2015.

 

It worked, too, the Raiders becoming a league darling in 2016, with Carr a league MVP candidate and the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in Mack.

 

And yet, here we are. Again. Seemingly building for Las Vegas, and giving Oakland a parting gift not quite as shiny as a Lombardi Trophy. The team’s highest-paid player is not exactly thrilled, either.

 

“This is my fifth year,” quarterback Derek Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million extension in the summer of 2017, said after the Raiders were pummeled by the Seahawks on an international stage in London two weeks ago. “I don’t, we don’t like [talk of a rebuild], you know? I feel like we’ve done that a little bit, right? Nobody likes to do that … this being my fifth year, you want [success] now, you want everything now. I know our fans want it now, and trust me, we’re trying to do it now.”

 

Currently, just eight of McKenzie’s 50 pre-Gruden draft picks are on Oakland’s 53-man roster (that number will jump to 10 when defensive tackles Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis get activated off the PUP and IR lists, respectively, in the coming weeks).

 

Plus, only 21 players on the Raiders’ current 53-man roster spent any time on the team’s active roster last year.

 

And no, McKenzie does not take it personally. Not even with the roster he built being so dismantled. Because if you take him at his word, the 2016 NFL Executive of the Year is a willing participant in this teardown.

 

The way McKenzie sees it, his job as general manager is to provide his coach with players the coach wants, rather than give him a roster he likes with the coach expected to, well, coach it up.

 

That’s what happened in 2016, when Jack Del Rio and the explosive offense authored by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave got Oakland off to a 12-3 start. Then Carr broke his leg in Week 16 and Del Rio fired Musgrave and replaced him with Todd Downing.

 

Regress much?

 

“We’ve got to understand, coaching plays a part from the standpoint of systems,” McKenzie said recently. “We’re talking [about] the 12-4 team and the staff that made a couple of changes, schematically, and we didn’t win last year. You know what I’m saying?”

 

Indeed, that the scheme Del Rio switched to with Downing did not fit the personnel. And don’t fix something that ain’t broke — or some-such.

 

“I’m not going to sit here and point to the players,” McKenzie continued. “It’s a lot of change, and those teams that really do well consistently, [there’s] not a lot of change, organizationally, when you’re talking about coaches. That’s probably on me — too many coaching changes since I’ve been here.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

And so, no trade for RB Le’VEON BELL who remains out of camp.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Now that the Steelers can’t trade running back Le’Veon Bell, the possible outcomes to the relationship are more limited.

 

Here are the options: (1) Bell shows up, signs his franchise tender by 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 13, and finishes the season as a member of the Steelers; (2) Bell doesn’t show up by 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, November 13, which prevents him from playing for the Steelers or anyone else in 2018; or (3) the Steelers rescind the franchise tender before Bell can sign it, making him a free agent.

 

If Bell signs the tender before November 13, he’ll get credit for fulfilling the contract in 2018, forcing the Steelers to choose between applying the franchise tag in 2019 (they won’t, because by rule it would be the quarterback tender), applying the transition tag (they possibly would, but likely wouldn’t match an offer sheet he signs elsewhere given the presence of James Conner), or letting him walk away in free agency. If Bell doesn’t sign the tender before November 13, the Steelers could apply the franchise tag in 2019 at the same amount as it was in 2018, i.e. $14.54 million. The Steelers also could use the transition tag or let Bell walk away in 2019.

 

Here’s a thought that emerged during Tuesday’s #PFTPM podcast, in response to a question from a listener. What if the Steelers privately tell Bell that if he doesn’t show up at all in 2018 (saving them $855,000 per week for the remaining seven weeks of the regular season) the Steelers won’t tag him again in 2019?

 

It would be an unenforceable agreement, and technically a CBA violation, but teams and players routinely strike unenforceable agreements that technically violate the CBA. In this case, the Steelers would avoid spending nearly $6 million on a player they no longer want, and Bell would avoid feeling compelled to show up for the final seven weeks in order to ensure that he’ll become a free agent.

 

It would be a win-win outcome, with the Steelers letting Bell leave in March and getting consideration toward compensatory draft picks in 2020. And it makes the most sense, even if no one would ever admit that it happened.

 

So, basically, don’t be shocked if Bell doesn’t show up, and if the Steelers don’t tag him next year. That would be at best circumstantial evidence of a wink-nod agreement that allows Bell to get to free agency without forcing him or the team to continue a relationship that neither side seems to be interested in continuing.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Evan Bleier of RealClearLife.com on the growing strength of the Texans:

 

The NFL season did not start well for the Houston Texans.

 

The team dropped their first three games of the season to the Patriots, Titans, and Giants, struggling to move the ball and failing to score more than 22 points in any of those contests.

 

Star quarterback Deshaun Watson looked out of sorts coming off a torn ACL that ended his season a year ago and Houston’s defense, while solid, failed to get the stops it needed.

 

But then their season really began. Watson and the offense kicked into gear in Week 4 during a 37-34 win over the Colts. Then it was the defense’s turn to roar back to life in Weeks 5, 6, and 7 as the Texans held the Cowboys, Bills, and Jaguars to 36 points combined with none of the three scoring more than 16.

 

Which brings us to Week 8 when the Texans thumped the Dolphins 42-23 on Thursday Night Football behind five touchdowns passes from Watson to take complete control of the AFC South and sit atop the division at 5-3.

 

With eight games remaining on their schedule, the Texans are in prime position to stay in first place as only two of their remaining opponents, the Eagles and Redskins, have a .500 record or better.

 

Adding to the Texans’ odds of making some noise in the rest of the season and beyond is the fact that they added wide receiver Demaryius Thomas from the Broncos at the trade deadline in exchange for a fourth-round pick.

 

A 30-year-old wideout with a big contract, Thomas gives the Texans an elite receiving option next to DeAndre Hopkins and lessens the pressure on emerging pass-catcher Keke Coutee. The acquisition also dramatically reduces the impact of losing wide receiver Will Fuller for the season to a knee injury in Week 8.

 

Now armed with a clear No. 1 target in Hopkins and a well-above-average second option in Thomas, Watson should be ready to roll and sustain the momentum he generated with his quintet of TD passes against the Dolphins.

 

While they likely won’t run the table, the Texans do have a legit chance go going 6-2 or 5-3, marks which would both likely put them in the mix for the third or fourth, and possibly even second, seed in the AFC.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaguars weren’t just shipping out DE/LB DANTE FOWLER on Tuesday.  They signed former Steelers QB LANDRY JONES.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

We haven’t seen the last of QB NATHAN PETERMAN.  Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:

 

With Derek Anderson recovering from a concussion, the Buffalo Bills are expected to start Nathan Peterman at quarterback against the Chicago Bears, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

 

Bills coach Sean McDermott said Tuesday that Anderson was in the concussion protocol but did not rule out him playing Sunday.

 

“We’ll see where things stand as we go through the week with Derek,” McDermott said. “Then we’ll take it from there.”

 

McDermott ruled out rookie quarterback Josh Allen for Sunday’s game, meaning he will miss his third consecutive contest after spraining his right elbow in an Oct. 14 loss to the Houston Texans. McDermott said Allen remains week-to-week and is “making good progress” in his recovery but has yet to resume throwing.

 

Anderson was escorted off the field after he was sacked by New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy with 1:25 remaining in the Bills’ 25-6 loss Monday night. Anderson completed 22 of 39 passes for 290 yards but threw a fourth-quarter interception to Patriots safety Devin McCourty that was returned 84 yards for a touchdown.

 

Peterman has started three games since the Bills selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He has thrown seven interceptions in those games and his 16.8 passer rating in starts ranks last among all NFL quarterbacks to have started since last season.

 

Overall, Peterman has thrown 10 interceptions on 84 pass attempts in eight appearances, including playoffs. Peterman replaced an injured Allen against the Texans, throwing a go-ahead touchdown before he threw two interceptions, including one returned for a score, to lose the game.

 

“We’re going to support Nathan if, in fact, he is called upon to play,” McDermott said. “We’re going to support him with everything we’ve got and we expect him to go out and execute, and execute at a high level.”

 

The Bills’ 2-6 record is their worst start since 2010, when they began 0-8. They have a 0.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

 

The injuries to Anderson and Allen leave Peterman as the only healthy Bills quarterback. McDermott said Tuesday that he and general manager Brandon Beane were “looking at” whether they need to sign another quarterback.

 

The Bills also made official their signing of free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who visited with the team Monday.

 

McDermott did not want to say whether Pryor, a former quarterback, would be a candidate to serve as Peterman’s backup Sunday.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Bill Belichick sounds anxious to get RB SONY MICHEL back despite New England’s solid results of late.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The New England Patriots’ leading rusher in Monday’s win over the Buffalo Bills was Cordarrelle Patterson, a wide receiver.

 

In a game the Pats won by 19 points, they ran the ball just 25 times (including Tom Brady’s 8-yard lope) for 75 yards. Running back James White had just eight carries for 15 yards and Kenjon Barner earned two totes for four.

 

Despite the need at running back, the Pats did not make a move ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline.

 

Coach Bill Belichick noted on WEEI Radio in Boston on Tuesday that the position is a concern for New England.

 

“We just got back a few hours ago, so we’ll kind or recalibrate here and see where we’re at relative to who’s available and how we want to structure our game plan and what we want to do there,” Belichick said, via NBC Sports Boston. “That’s one of the things we’re going through (Tuesday). But it’s a consideration, and I’d say it’s a concern.”

 

Rookie running back Sony Michel missed last week’s game with a knee injury. The pounding tailback, however, avoided a major injury and is considered week-to-week. Michel’s return down the line was likely a factor in the Patriots not shelling out an asset in return for a short-term option at running back.

 

Until the rookie is back to full force, New England will make it work piecemeal in the backfield, and rely on Brady’s arm to stack wins, which is just fine with Pats Nation.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

Kellen Winslow the Younger says he’s innocent of all three rape charges.  They got together to take his money, he says, while throwing him in prison.  ESPN.com:

 

Former NFL player Kellen Winslow II spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since being accused of raping three women.

 

Winslow, 35, had been set for arraignment in San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday on three rape charges, two from 2018 and one from 2003, but the hearing was rescheduled for Nov. 15.

 

On Tuesday, Winslow maintained his innocence, telling Fox 5 that the charges are an attempt to take his money.

 

“It’s a money grab, and unfortunately that’s the society we live in now,” Winslow said.

 

Prosecutors said Winslow began a crime spree last March that included rapes, kidnappings, indecent exposure and burglary and continued until just before his arrest.

 

According to charging documents, he allegedly kidnapped and raped a 54-year-old woman on March 13 and then a 59-year-old woman on May 13.

 

On May 24, prosecutors said, he exposed himself in a public place, the location of which wasn’t disclosed.

 

The burglary charges involved alleged break-ins at the home of a 71-year-old woman on June 1 and an 86-year-old woman on June 7.

 

Winslow played 10 seasons in the NFL and was a 2007 Pro Bowl selection. His final season was 2013, his lone campaign with the New York Jets.