The Daily Briefing Monday, October 15, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

If The Season Ended Today in the AFC:


                                                                Div            Conf

Kansas City                 West    5-1           2-0             4-1

New England               East    4-2            1-0             4-1 

Cincinnati                    North   4-2            1-1             3-1

Tennessee                  South   3-3           2-0             2-3 

LA Chargers                WC      4-2            1-1             3-1

Baltimore                     WC      4-2            1-2             4-2

Miami                                       4-2            1-1             3-2

Pittsburgh                                3-2-1         1-1-1          1-2-1

Houston                                   3-3            1-1             2-2

Jacksonville                             3-3            0-1             2-2

NY Jets                                    3-3           0-1              2-3

 

Peter King of NBCSports.com expresses the conventional wisdom that the rest of the AFC is now playing to fill playoff berths 3 thru 6, and once they are determined those teams will meekly submit in Divisional Playoff games in Kansas City and New England.

 

Well, America wanted a rematch four decades ago, and, against Apollo’s better judgment, America got “Rocky II.” If we’re lucky, we’ll get a Chiefs-Patriots rematch too, but we won’t have to wait as long. Three months, actually. The AFC Championship Game is 13 weeks away.

 

How often is the most-anticipated game of a young season the best game of that young season? How often does that game exceed expectations? This one did. New England 43, Kansas City 40. Seven scores in the last 16 minutes, the last one a perfectly timed Stephen Gostkowski field goal that sailed through the uprights as the clock went to :00.

 

Here’s what I found interesting, standing in the bowels of Gillette Stadium a minute after this one ended: One by one, the Chiefs came off the field, heads mostly up, no anger, no F-bombs. I almost couldn’t tell they lost. That’s because the young phenom, Patrick Mahomes, left 14 points on the field in the first half, overthrowing what would have been two touchdown passes as the Patriots jumped out to a 24-9 halftime lead. “The 40 we got could have been in the fifties if we executed better,” tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. This is what the Chiefs must have been thinking: Our guy, maybe the MVP, was just OK in the first half, and we still scored 40, and it took a 65-yard drive by the GOAT for the Patriots to survive. We’ll be fine.

 

They will be. The Patriots will be too.

 

 

Every game in almost every sport, you see something you haven’t seen before. In this one, Tom Brady’s 200th regular-season victory (first quarterback ever to do that), his most memorable play from the game will be one that might be unprecedented in his career.

 

Third-and-goal from the Chiefs’ 4-yard line, 5:32 left in the game, Chiefs up 33-30. After watching the replay six or eight times, this sticks out: Kansas City rushes three and drops eight into coverage. Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton did something I’ve never seen before—assuming I saw what I think I saw.

 

• Julian Edelman, double-covered, bracketed by Steven Nelson and Jordan Lucas.

 

• Rob Gronkowski, double-covered by safeties Josh Shaw and Ron Parker.

 

• James White, double-covered by linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Dee Ford.

 

• Two other receivers, Josh Gordon and Chris Hogan, singled.

 

I don’t recall ever seeing a defense double three men on one play, but Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton—who gets a ton of respect from the Patriots—doesn’t play by everyone else’s rules.

 

So Kansas City rushed three: linemen Chris Jones and Allen Bailey, and linebacker Breeland Speaks. Though Speaks almost sacked Brady, and I’ll never figure out why he didn’t follow through on what could have been a drive-stopping sack, Brady got free. (Editor’s note: Speaks had a new rule on his mind.) On the replay, you see these eight cover guys myopically taking their men out of the play. But they weren’t looking at Brady. He had to be looking over the field and thinking, This is the damndest thing I’ve ever seen: three of my guys doubled! But the upshot of that was a big patch of green between Brady around the five and the end zone, and … “I’ve got to watch it tomorrow,” Brady said around midnight, “but I got close to the goal line and figured I’d try to get in. We needed it.”

 

Who does this? Who devotes six men to three of the opposition? Sutton did, and it almost worked. But Brady, who has a ton of one-yard sneaks for scores, rarely runs near the goal line from any length like this one. He dove (Gisele had to be covering her eyes) and made it.

 

Semi-lunacy there, but the last 16 minutes was all of that. Here’s how the score fluctuated in the last quarter-and-a-minute:

 

Third quarter, :56 left: Tyreek Hill TD catch. Pats, 27-26.

Fourth quarter, 10:22 left: Gostkowski field goal. Pats, 30-26.

Fourth quarter, 8:38 left: Hill TD catch. Chiefs 33-30.

Fourth quarter, 5:25 left: Brady TD run. Pats, 37-33.

Fourth quarter, 3:15 left: Gostkowski field goal. Pats, 40-33.

Fourth quarter, 3:03 left: Hill TD catch. Tie, 40-40.

Fourth quarter, :00 left: Gostkowski field goal. Pats, 43-40.

 

Seventeen total scores. No punts in the first 56 minutes. Brady, 41, and Mahomes, 23, dueling to the end. Total offense: 946 yards.

 

The Chiefs have played New England three times in the last five regular seasons, and scored 41, 42 and 40 points.

 

We want more.

 

And by the way, it was the first 43-40 game in NFL history.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

A week after the fact, Peter King with more on the timidity of Jason Garrett vs. the Texans:

 

Week 5, Cowboys at Texans, Dallas ball, fourth-and-one at the Houston 42, fourth quarter, 5:40 left, 13-13 tie. Jerry Jones was right: This was a major miscalculation by coach Jason Garrett, punting here. The conversion percentage was 76.2 percent, and the chance of winning with a conversion was 62.0 percent; the chance of winning with a punt: 17.6 percent. The overwhelming stat to note here, and a big part of the PFF algorithm, is that Dallas was 18 of 19 on fourth-and-one plays since the team drafted Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott in 2016—the best such percentage on fourth-and-one in the NFL. This was a risk very much worth taking, and the punt helped doom Dallas in a 19-16 loss.

 

Nine years ago, I ripped Bill Belichick for going for it against the Colts on fourth-and-two from his 28-yard line, up 34-28, with 2:08 to play and Indy having only one timeout left but also knowing the Colts had shredded the Pats’ defense later in the game. (Thanks to WEEI’s Dale Arnold for pointing out my hypocrisy here, praising McVay and nine years ago criticizing Belichick. The situations were slightly different, because the Rams had probably 1.5 less yards to make. But the risk was about the same: make the attempt, and the game’s all but over.) Looking back, I wish I knew everything then that I know now about probability and analytics.

 

Moral of the story: Don’t overrate risk-taking. Often, it’s the smartest play.

 

That was then, this is now.  After 40-7 over Jacksonville, Dan Graziano thinks the Cowboys can dethrone the reigning world champs:

 

The Cowboys will win the NFC East

 

Dallas scored a total of 83 points in its first five games, then dropped a 40-burger on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. If you saw that coming, I’m picking you up this afternoon and we’re going to Vegas. At 3-3, the Cowboys are tied with the Eagles for second place in the division, just a half-game behind Washington, whom they play next week.

 

Graziano’s verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. If you asked me to pick a team to win this division right now, I’d pick the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles, who got their own offense in gear Thursday night against what used to be the Giants. But it’s not an overreaction to think Dallas can win a knock-down, drag-out NFC East. If you can score on the Jags, you can score on anyone. The key for the Cowboys will be to develop some consistency on offense (and to win a road game), but their passing game isn’t going to be any worse than it was in Weeks 1-5, and here they are.

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Peter King:

 

Since the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl seven years ago:

 

• New England has won at least 12 games every year. New York has not won 12 games in any year.

 

• New England has 11 playoffs wins. New York has zero.

 

• New England has had no three-game losing streaks. New York has had nine.

 

• Tom Brady is 60 games over .500, with a plus-173 touchdown-to-interception differential. Eli Manning is 15 games below .500, with a plus-57 TD-to-pick differential.

 

• The Patriots have had one coach, and he is 89-27 since that Super Bowl. New York has had four coaches since that Super Bowl, and, since then, they are 28-36, 13-15, 1-4 and 1-5.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Peter King on two Hall of Famers to be in the Atlanta passing game:

 

. Matt Ryan (QB rating: 113.6) has had ratings of 148.1, 134.5, 99.1 and 125.5 in the last four weeks, with 12 touchdown passes and no picks. What was all that about Steve Sarkisian being out of his element as an NFL offensive coordinator?

 

Julio Jones: 69 targets, zero touchdowns. That has to be the weirdest stat of 2018.

 

Jones has 707 receiving yards this year.  No TDs.  That’s the most yards in the first 6 games without a TD in NFL history.  Keyshawn Johnson, with Tampa Bay in 2001, went 610 yards in the first 6 games without a score.

 

In 1991, Al Toon of the Jets had 963 receiving yards on 74 catches without a TD to set that mark that Jones could break.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Peter King has this from Sean Payton on QB DREW BREES:

 

His passion for perfection is off the charts. It rubs off on the guys he plays with. It has made us better every single year. I think these teammates become better players than they’re supposed to be. Every week he’ll take the top 15 to 20 plays in the game plan, plays he’s almost sure we’ll run. And he’ll go through every one mentally. He’ll think how he’ll go to his first option, then go through it again and think how he’ll go to the second option, and then again with the third option, ad nauseum. Is that the right word—ad nauseum? He believes in the power of visually seeing something, and every possible option on a route. On the play where he set the [passing-yards] record, the throw to Tre’Quan Smith for the 62-yard touchdown, I can tell you, we worked on that all week, and we never thought the ball was going to Tre’Quan. But he was open, Drew threw it, and it was the right choice. He throws to the guy who’s open. Who was the guy who wrote that book, ‘Throw Me The Damn Ball?’ “

 

Keyshawn Johnson, he was told.

 

“Probably wouldn’t have worked with Drew.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Tampa Bay has sent DC Mike Smith packing after another horrible first half defensively.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Monday, one day after a 34-29 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

 

Linebackers coach Mark Duffner will serve as the interim defensive coordinator. Duffner was the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive coordinator in 2001 and 2002.

 

“I have the utmost respect for Mike Smith as a man and as a football coach,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said in a statement. “These decisions are always difficult, but our top priority here is to ensure that we do everything possible to help this team succeed.

 

“As I have said in the past, the issues we have had as a team are never one person’s fault. During good times, as well as the bad, it is a collective effort between the coaches and the players. We all understand that this is a result-based profession and our results to this point have not met our standards. I want to thank Mike for all the hard work and passion he has displayed here on a daily basis and I wish him well moving forward.”

 

The Bucs defense surrendered 416 yards of offense against the Falcons and allowed them to go 3-for-3 in the red zone Sunday. Tampa Bay fell to 2-3 after an electrifying 2-0 start; things cooled when the Bucs’ high-powered offense slowed.

 

On Sept. 30 against the Chicago Bears, the Bucs allowed second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to throw six touchdown passes in a demoralizing 48-10 loss.

 

The Bears game was so bad that an online petition calling for Smith’s firing was set up by fans. Koetter and the Bucs were widely criticized when the team did not make a change during the bye week. Media members questioned whether Koetter would fire Smith considering their history, having worked together with both the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007 and the Falcons from 2012 to 2014.

 

Koetter said at his news conference Monday that he did not make a change during the bye week because he wanted to give the team a chance to recover from injuries and he wanted to see what adjustments could be made.

 

Koetter, who said the decision was solely his, called dismissing Smith the “second-most difficult” thing he has dealt with during his career, behind the 1999 death of player Paul Reyna while Koetter was coach of Boise State.

 

“It’s difficult when you let (even) a practice squad player go,” Koetter said. “Mike and I worked together in Jacksonville as coordinators and I worked for Mike in Atlanta. So I never did see this day coming, but it’s here so we have to make the best decisions for our football team moving forward. That’s all you can do.”

 

The Bucs were also criticized in the offseason for not making a change at defensive coordinator after their defense gave up 378.1 yards per game last year — last in the league. The one change they made was firing defensive line coach Jay Hayes after they finished with just 22 sacks.

 

The last time the Bucs made an in-season move at defensive coordinator was relieving Jim Bates of his duties in 2009 under Raheem Morris. The Bucs stripped him of his title but kept him on their staff as a consultant. Lovie Smith also demoted Leslie Frazier from the majority of play-calling duties, which Smith took over, in 2015 but he still kept the defensive coordinator title.

 

“It’s a tough business. It’s hard to see a guy like that go because I know what type of person he is outside of football,” linebacker Lavonte David said. “He’s a stand-up guy, never threw [anybody] under the bus, he was always a positive guy. It’s sad to see a person like that go, especially one who has great character.”

 

The Bucs allocated $88 million in 2018 cap space to their defense, sixth-most in the NFL, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Steve Wilks, six weeks into his first NFL coaching position, sees jobs in jeopardy.  Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com:

 

– Cardinals coach Steve Wilks believes his job, as well as those of his assistant coaches, could be on the line if Arizona continues to lose, he said Monday.

 

But a change may be coming to the Cardinals’ offense that could save those jobs.

 

Wilks was asked Monday, a day after a 27-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings dropped the Cardinals to 1-5, if offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s job was safe. The Cardinals’ offense has been one of the worst in the NFL this season, ranking last in yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage and average time of possession, and 31st in yards per play, points per game, and passing yards per game and per play.

 

But Wilks didn’t single out McCoy.

 

“I would say all our jobs are in jeopardy, including mine, if we don’t win,” Wilks said.

 

McCoy, who was the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator last season, was fired on Nov. 20 last season after Denver lost six straight. Including that stretch, McCoy has now lost 11 of his past 12 games as an offensive coordinator.

 

Wilks, who is a defensive-minded coach, said he’s been paying more attention to the offense lately “making sure we’re doing the things we need to do to execute.”

 

On Monday, Wilks said one option Arizona could turn to in order to spark its foundering offense is a no-huddle scheme, similar to what rookie quarterback Josh Rosen ran at UCLA.

 

 

SEATTLE

Paul Allen, the owner of the Seahawks, has died at age 65.  Christine Wang of CNBC.com:

 

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen has died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Vulcan Inc. said Monday on behalf of his family.

 

Allen passed away Monday afternoon in Seattle at 65 years old, Vulcan said. His sister, Jody, said he was “a remarkable individual on every level.”

 

“While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend. Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern,” she said in a statement. “For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.”

 

Through Vulcan, Allen’s network of philanthropic efforts and organizations, the Microsoft co-founder supported research in artificial intelligence and new frontier technologies. The group also invested in Seattle’s cultural institutions and the revitalization of parts of the city.

 

Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf said, “All of us who had the honor of working with Paul feel inexpressible loss today.”

 

“He possessed a remarkable intellect and a passion to solve some of the world’s most difficult problems, with the conviction that creative thinking and new approaches could make profound and lasting impact,” Hilf said in a statement.

 

Earlier this month, Allen revealed that he had started treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same type of cancer he overcame nine years earlier. The Microsoft co-founder left when he was first diagnosed with the disease.

 

It’s a fair question to wonder what happens to the Seahawks, as Allen had no spouse or children.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

The Patriots act quickly to protect future enemy TD scorers from being assaulted with beer.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Fans around the NFL are expected to abide by a code of conduct when attending games.

 

One supporter of the New England Patriots crossed the line Sunday night when he tossed beer on Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who had just scored on a 75-yard touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.

 

The Patriots acted swiftly Monday morning after identifying the perpetrator and announced the fan was sent a letter of disinvite to all future events at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots also announced the matter was turned over to local law enforcement officials.

 

Moments before the incident, Hill was at top speed as he crossed the goal line. His momentum carried him through the end zone to the fence that separates the fans from the playing field, where he came to a stop after using both hands to brace himself.

 

Once there, replay showed other fans throwing up the middle finger in Hill’s face before a spectator to the wide receiver’s right side threw beer from a cup. To his credit, Hill did not retaliate despite the unruly greeting at the barrier.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

Peter King:

 

“Ian Rapaport reported on that Jon Gruden has his own inner circle of personnel that creates entirely separate draft boards, roster boards, and a decision-making process that largely excludes Reggie McKenzie, the front office, and scouting department. This is the same front office which, for the first time in 15 years, built Oakland a young core poised to achieve sustained success. Now, reports have come out that Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph are on the trade block. If Rapaport’s reporting is true, especially given the Mack trade, then is Gruden the de facto GM? How does McKenzie continue to report to work while the team he built is deconstructed and his role as GM is undermined?”

 

This is a smart, informed question that lots of people around the league are asking, Tom. My feeling is that when Mark Davis made Gruden the highest-paid coach in NFL history (we think), he gave him the power to craft the roster the way he sees fit. In my opinion, McKenzie would have found a way to keep Mack. In my opinion, that was a Gruden call. And in the end, it will be a big error. As for the ego-less McKenzie, I’m sure he views this as part of the new normal, and if he wants to work in this system, this is how it’s going to be.

 

You could ask Rich McKay in Tampa about being the GM on the scene when Gruden comes to town,

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Even while gushing over Kansas City and New England, Peter King takes time to note the rise of the Chargers:

 

Every year about this time, through six or seven weeks, a team we didn’t see coming starts coming. Last year, it was Philadelphia, marauding through the NFC in October. This year, that team could be the Chargers. Now, as I just wrote, the Patriots and Chiefs both look powerful this year, and it’s quite possible that the Chargers won’t get hot enough. But they’ve scored 29, 26 and 38 points in a three-game winning streak, and they went into Cleveland and dominated one of football’s most intriguing and competitive teams.

 

Now the Chargers have a quirky schedule. Sunday’s 38-14 win in Cleveland started a long stretch away from home. No NFL team this season will go 41 days without playing at home. But they have a “home” game in London against Tennessee, then their bye, and then open November with games at Seattle and at Oakland. The Chargers return to their home bandbox in Carson, Calif. on Nov. 18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

 

Not only that, but they’re in a bit of no-man’s-land this week, practicing in Cleveland for three days before taking a red-eye flight on Thursday. They’ll practice at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, just a mile-and-a-half from the Browns’ training facility, also in Berea. They’ll have a treatment room for their players at Baldwin Wallace, and another at their downtown Cleveland hotel 20 minutes away. And they’ll pack up for London after practice Thursday. “We’re going to be tested a lot in the next four to five weeks, starting with today,” coach Anthony Lynn told me from Cleveland. “But this was a great start. We told them we were going into a tough environment against a team that could be 4-1 or 5-0, and they stayed focused.”

 

Lynn on the plan for London: “We studied it a lot. We decided to prepare here and go to London late Thursday because we think coaches can prepare better here, and players can rest better here. I don’t know that it has a lot to do with it, but the teams that go over later in the week have a better winning percentage, so we’re going to play the odds.”

 

In the last 11 months, including the final month-plus last year, the Chargers are 10-3—two of the losses coming to Kansas City. Lynn’s not a great believer in the carry-over from one season to another, but he said, “You can’t carry over wins and losses, but you can carry over culture.” And eventually, he’ll be getting one of his best players, pass-rusher Joey Bosa, back from a foot injury. So it looks like both Los Angeles teams could be tough outs this year.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Peter King on his coach of the week:

 

Don “Wink” Martindale, defensive coordinator, Baltimore. When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

 

 

CINCINNATI

The worst/most controversial call of the week did not involve one of the new-fangled player safety rules.  Instead, it involved that the long term perception that when the Bengals meet the Steelers, the NFL is on the side of the team in black.  Peter King:

 

The last six Steelers-Bengals game at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati:

 

Steelers, 42-21.

Steelers, 33-20.

Steelers, 18-16.

Steelers, 24-20.

Steelers, 23-20.

Steelers, 28-21.

 

“The Bengals have to be wondering, ‘What do we have to do against this team?’“ said Ian Eagle on the CBS telecast.

 

It helps when, on the Steelers’ winning touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, the Steelers appeared to get away with an illegal pick springing Brown for the score. The NFL defended the no-call in a Sunday night video posted to Twitter. Said vice president of officiating Al Riveron: “Contact was not initiated by the defender, therefore it is not OPI [offensive pass interference].” My NBC colleagues, Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy, agreed with Riveron during Football Night in America.

 

Riveron is right in saying contact was first made by the defensive player, but Steelers receiver Justin Hunter rode the defender downfield—Hunter didn’t just shrug off the defender. The moderate, play-it-down-the-middle officiating site Football Zebras went hard after the call. Football Zebras said: [Riveron’s] explanation is as fresh as week-old fish. This is a clear OPI call, and to spin it any other way is just completely unsupportable.”

 

For the Bengals, that won’t help.

– – –

On the other hand, the NFL may go easy on multiple offender LB VONTAZE BURFICT after his latest controversy.  Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:

 

Multiple Pittsburgh Steelers players spoke out against Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for his elbow to Antonio Brown’s head in the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s 28-21 win on Sunday.

 

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert said Burfict should be suspended for the play.

 

“That’s pathetic. The NFL has to do something about that,” Gilbert said. “A guy like that, going out there intentionally trying to hurt people, there’s no need for that kind of playing in this league. It’s sad. One of these days he’ll grow up.”

 

According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is reviewing three plays that Burfict was involved during the game to determine the appropriate level of discipline. Those three plays are his elbow on Brown, and two plays in the second half in which he led with his helmet.

 

Brown caught a pass over the middle and was tackled by two Bengals defenders when Burfict flew in with his right elbow, connecting with Brown’s upper body/head area. Brown was down on the turf for a few seconds and got evaluated by the team on the sideline before re-entering the game.

 

Brown finished with a 31-yard, game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.

 

After the game, Brown called the play a “nasty hit.”

 

“Thank God I was able to come back in the game to finish the game,” he said.

 

Burfict has a long history of egregious hits, fines and suspensions since entering the league in 2012. He served a four-game suspension to start the 2018 season for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Burfict hasn’t played more than 11 games in a year since 2013.

 

During the 2015 season, Burfict had a hand in injuring the Steelers’ three best offensive players — Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger — with questionable play.

 

The league has emphasized protecting quarterbacks with revised roughing the passer calls, but guard David DeCastro would like to see receivers protected as well.

 

“It’s tough to see AB get hit like that,” he said. “With all the emphasis on quarterback safety, what about a guy like AB: A superstar he is in this league, how much money he’s getting paid, how much he means to this team? A cheap shot like that, I thought was unnecessary. … If they want to talk about making this game safer, maybe they will do something. Or maybe they will put in a new rule that no one is going to call when it matters. Maybe it’s a PR stunt.”

 

Steelers players consistently praise Burfict’s ability as a player, but wish he would tone down the viciousness.

 

“He’s hurting his team,” Gilbert said. “It could have been a costly penalty right there. Who knows? He should be suspended for that hit. We’ll see. But he’s too good of a football player to be missing games like that.”

 

But this from Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

 

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, according to multiple reports, is not expected to be suspended for any of his actions against the Steelers, which included a second-half hit that sent both Brown and Bengals safety Jessie Bates into concussion protocol and briefly out of the game.

 

On Monday, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin didn’t express issues with Burfict’s play, which is subject to league review for potential fines.

 

“Everybody makes comments on everything No. 55 does,” Lewis said. “They don’t comment on anything anybody else does. Let’s just leave it at that.”

 

Burfict didn’t answer questions in the locker room following the game. But he injected himself into an interaction between reporters and Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

 

More: Cincinnati Bengals’ DC Teryl Austin on TD play call: ‘We’re going to play aggressively

 

More: Cincinnati Bengals notes: Marvin Lewis, NFL disagree on OPI, Nick Vigil injury and more

 

Kirkpatrick was asked if Burfict might get fined for what appeared to be extending his forearm on the hit delivered to Brown.

 

“For what?” Kirkpatrick said.

 

Bengals safety Shawn Williams yelled as he walked by: “It’s football. People hit people.”

 

Kirkpatrick continued: “We’ve got to see what they called. The dude just plays football. I don’t think that was intentional. I didn’t see it. Obviously, you just brought it up to me. Let’s just play football. They’ve got to relax out there, you know, and give him a chance, really evaluate the tackle.”

 

Burfict approached and interrupted: “What they say, Dre?”

 

“I got you,” Kirkpatrick said.

 

“Man, get your (butt) out of our locker room,” Burfict said to a reporter, who responded by asking, “Do you want to talk about it?”

 

Burfict kept walking out of the locker room.

 

He made eight tackles in the 28-21 loss in his second game back after serving a four-game suspension to begin the season. Burfict, who was briefly sidelined with a shoulder injury, played 61 snaps against the Steelers after logging 34 the week before versus Miami.

 

“He’s getting there,” Austin said. “He probably was a little bit more than he was expecting yesterday, because Nick (Vigil) went down and it kind of screws with your rotation a little bit in terms of bringing them back slowly. But he handled it well, he came out a little bit in the second and was back in there for most of the second half. He fought his way through it and that was good to see.”

 

 

PITTSBURGH

No sign of RB Le’VEON BELL on Monday in Pittsburgh and now a “source” says it ain’t happenin’ this week.  ESPN.com:

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not expecting running back Le’Veon Bell to return to the team this week, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

The Steelers are on their bye this week and the players are off Thursday through Sunday. Bell could next report Monday, Oct. 22.

 

Bell told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler earlier this month that he intended to report to the Steelers during the Week 7-8 time frame.

 

“I miss football,” Bell told Fowler then. “When I do get back, I plan to give it my all. I still do want to go out there and win a Super Bowl with the Steelers.”

 

Despite that statement, as of Sunday, Bell had still not been in touch with team officials or players, sources told Schefter.

 

Bell hasn’t signed his $14.5 million franchise tag while preserving his health for a long-term contract in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. During his absence, James Conner has emerged as a productive replacement at running back, rushing for 453 yards and seven touchdowns.

 

After Conner’s 135-yard, two-touchdown performance in Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Bell took to Twitter.

 

@LeVeonBell

 damn james 💪🏾

After its Week 7 bye, Pittsburgh (3-2-1) will next take the field in Week 8 at home against the Cleveland Browns.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Texans started the season 0-3, capped by being the only team to lose to the Giants and that as a home team.

 

Now three weeks later, they are tied for their division’s lead.

 

The three wins?  By a total of 13 points, one in overtime, the other against Nathan Peterman.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

What does the Bills QB situation look like in the aftermath of QB NATHAN PETERMAN’s latest meltdown?  Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:

 

The Buffalo Bills consider rookie quarterback Josh Allen week-to-week after he suffered a right elbow injury in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

 

“We’re going to take it one day at a time,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said Monday.

 

The injury puts Allen’s status for Sunday’s game at the Indianapolis Colts in doubt. McDermott said he and his offensive staff will “work through” whether Nathan Peterman or Derek Anderson would replace Allen as the starter if he cannot play at the Colts.

 

Peterman replaced Allen in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and threw a touchdown pass to give the Bills the lead. With the game later tied in the fourth quarter, Peterman was intercepted by Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown. Peterman was intercepted again on the Bills’ ensuing possession.

 

Despite Peterman having thrown 10 interceptions in seven regular-season and postseason appearances, McDermott continued to express confidence Monday in Peterman while leaving the door open for Anderson to take over the No. 2 quarterback job.

 

“I got to put the right guy out there that I feel is best for our football team,” McDermott said Monday. “I understand the fans and that sentiment, but at the same time, I have to do what we feel is best for the football team moving forward.”

 

Anderson, 35, signed with the Bills last week after spending the past seven seasons as Cam Newton’s backup with the Carolina Panthers. Both McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said Monday there is some carryover in the playbook for Anderson from when he played for a Daboll-coordinated Cleveland Browns offense in 2009.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

This from Peter King on the perfection of the Patriots in two important categories Sunday night:

 

The Patriots were not penalized. The Patriots did not punt. That combo platter has never happened in NFL history.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

LONDON CALLING

The DB saw a hard sellout of 84,922 at Wembley on Sunday for two mid-level NFL teams.  There were plenty of visiting American fans, many from Seattle, but Peter King says the London-NFL relationship is only continuing to grow.

 

Remember when Al Michaels first talked about two franchises in Los Angeles years ago, and the idea was pooh-poohed? We know what happened in L.A. Not saying two franchises are anything close to a sure thing, but it certainly is interesting that the NFL and the owners of Tottenham Hotspur are working on a stadium refurbishing that would accommodate an American football team … at the same time as Jaguars owner Shad Khan is trying to close a deal to buy Wembley Stadium. Last week, a source close to the Wembley process said the last sticking point appeared to be Khan’s willingness—if he is approved to purchase the national soccer stadium—that Wembley would remain the home of English soccer. The source said he expects the Khan purchase to be approved by month’s end, and if it is, “Shad will certainly have a lot of options.”

 

Among them: playing more than one Jaguars game per season at Wembley, while another team could seriously investigate games at Tottenham.

 

Also: England is not the only place where the NFL is increasing its footprint around the globe. TV ratings are up more than 10 percent in Mexico, Canada and Germany—all fertile ground for the NFL game. And live-streaming of NFL games in China has doubled from 2017 to this fall.

 

I stress that NFL owners are continually looking at new ways to make money. Right now, London might look like an ATM to them.

 

This story hit the UK Telegraph over the weekend:

 

The Metropolitan Police is investigating claims of threatening behaviour by billionaire Shahid Khan, it was revealed on Tuesday night, ahead of a make-or-break Football Association meeting to decide whether he should be allowed to buy Wembley.

 

The Fulham owner, whose £600 million bid is being considered by the FA Council on Thursday, is embroiled in damaging claims from a former member of his club staff alleging “systemic corruption” relating to his bid to buy the home of English football.

 

On Tuesday night the Met Police confirmed officers are looking at the case following a report last year of “non-recent threatening behaviour” at Fulham’s Motspur Park training ground.

 

Khan vehemently denied the claims by former assistant director of football, Craig Kline, who also stood by previous damaging allegations against the club of “tapping up” and “racism”.

 

As Kline outlined a dossier of grievances surrounding the Fulham owner’s business dealings to The Daily Telegraph, the FA confirmed it was examining claims he tried to alert the authorities ahead of Khan’s attempt to buy Wembley.

 

Kline repeatedly clashed with senior executives at Fulham in his three years there over recruitment and playing style.

 

Khan dismissed the claims as “bogus” after Kline, who claims still to be close friends with Khan’s son, Tony, posted on Twitter: “Dear FA Council (+relevant police, MPs, regulators, press etc). I have key evidence of systemic corruption relevant to the Wembley vote which I’d like to submit. Please request this info from me.”

 

Kline said to the Telegraph he had told police Khan had threatened him after he reported allegations of financial malpractice. He also said he told officers that senior executives repeatedly ignored allegations that the club were signing off corrupt deals to sign players. Previously, Kline claimed, he was told to stay quiet by Khan over his plans to buy Wembley and move the Jacksonville Jaguars to London in 2022.

 

Craig Kline

@CRK1006

 Dear FA Council (+relevant police, MPs, regulators, press etc). I have key evidence of systemic corruption relevant to the Wembley vote which I’d like to submit. Please request this info from me.#fraud #wembley #MrPringle #teflon #racism #kickbacks #CC #JtL #threats #minors

2:56 PM – Oct 8, 2018

 

Jim Woodcock, spokesman for Shahid Khan, said: “This is nothing more than the same ongoing nonsense and bogus claims made by a former employee who left the club in 2017. Nothing here merits a further response.”

 

Kline initially outlined his complaints to Surrey Police, his local force, last autumn but declined to pursue the case after officers told him he would have to be willing to give evidence in court against Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh and Khan. But he has gone back to Scotland Yard and the FA to say he now wishes to press ahead.

 

On Monday, an officer at Scotland Yard wrote in an email to Kline: “I have had confirmation from your Surrey Police Officer that they have produced a report which is intended to be passed to the Met Police for investigation.”

 

The FA Council will consider whether it will back the board’s recommendation to approve the sale. Some of the 127 council members attended a presentation on Tuesday  where they were told about 40 per cent of the public approved of the sale.

 

Last year Kline accused the club of “tapping up” and “racism”, only to delete the tweets. On Tuesday, he posted: “My friend Tony and I built a paper trail and tried to report and do right for years… So much fraud in football, FA where are you? So much child endangerment and exploitation. I have a lot of evidence authorities, please request.”

 

Kline said that he planned to pursue an employment tribunal to ensure he could tell his whole story.

 

The thought seems to be than Khan intends to keep his team “based” in Jacksonville for tax purposes while playing the bulk of his “home game” in the UK.

 

More from Peter King:

 

Football in London.

A franchise will come. My guess:

Twenty twenty-two.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

More positive ratings news.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

NBC acquired the Sunday Night Football package in 2006. Sunday night’s Week Six game between the Chiefs and Patriots matched the highest Week Six rating that the franchise ever has experienced.

 

The 14.6 overnight rating ties the Week Six 2015 measurement arising from a game between the Patriots and Colts, the first meeting of the two teams since the #Deflategate debacle from January of that year.

 

According to NBC, the 14.6 overnight rating easily won the night, and it was the highest rating for any Sunday Night Football game since Week One of the 2017 season. It also reflected a 34-percent increase over the Week Six game from a year ago, between the Giants and the Broncos.

 

In all, it’s the fifth straight week that Sunday Night Football has generated a double-digit increase over the comparable week in 2017.

 

So, yes, ratings continue to rebound for the NFL.

– – –

Peter King on the travels/travails of Joe Buck of FOX Sports:

 

The turnaround from football to baseball began with Buck watching as many innings as possible of playoff baseball. Then the shift was quick. On Thursday at 11:37 p.m. ET, in East Rutherford, N.J., his signoff on FOX: “A final of 34-13. Eagles win it. Thanks for watching Thursday night football … ” Twenty-one-plus hours later, on Friday at 7:02 p.m. CT in Milwaukee, he said: “It’s the Dodgers and the Brewers tonight from Wisconsin. And now welcome inside the broadcast booth. I’m Joe Buck … It doesn’t always work out this way—doesn’t have to. But the two best teams are left in the National League.”

 

As the primary voice for FOX’s football team with Troy Aikman, and as the lead play-by-play man for its baseball crew with John Smoltz, here’s a rundown of Buck’s travels over the past 11 days, and over the next few days:

 

• Thursday, Oct. 4—Thursday night football in Foxboro, Colts-Patriots.

 

• Saturday, Oct 6—In Minneapolis for the funeral of his wife’s stepfather.

 

• Sunday, Oct. 7—Sunday doubleheader game in Philadelphia, Vikings-Eagles.

 

• Monday, Oct. 8—Home (St. Louis) for a couple of days. Buck and wife Michelle Beisner-Buck have twin five-and-a-half-month-old boys, Wyatt and Blake.

 

• Thursday, Oct. 11—Thursday night football in New Jersey. Eagles-Giants. Buck flies from the Teterboro, N.J., private airport to Milwaukee, and he’s in bed by 1:45 a.m. Central Time.

 

• Friday, Oct. 12—NLCS Game 1 in Milwaukee.

 

• Saturday, Oct. 13—NLCS Game 2 in Milwaukee.

 

• Sunday, Oct. 14—Home.

 

• Today—A 6 a.m. flight to Los Angeles for Game 3 of the NLCS, which starts at 5 p.m. PT.

 

• Tuesday, Oct. 16—NLCS Game 4 in Los Angeles.

 

• Wednesday, Oct. 17—NLCS Game 5 in Los Angeles.

 

• Thursday, Oct. 18—Thursday night football in Glendale, Ariz., Broncos-Cardinals.

 

The rest: If there’s a Game 6 and/or 7 in NLCS, it/they would be in Milwaukee on Friday and Saturday nights, the 19th and 20th … Buck then does the World Series, which starts on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the American League city. If that city is Houston, it would be convenient, because he’d do Game 1 and 2 of the Series on Tuesday and Wednesday, then the Miami-at-Houston NFL Thursday-nighter, then World Series Games 3, 4 and 5 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the National League city.

 

Dizzy yet?

 

“I love this,” Buck said. “This month reminds me of what my father used to do. He’d do St. Louis Cardinals [baseball games], then in the fall NFL games on Sundays, and then Monday night football games on the radio. My dad would laugh that this is overtaxing. It’s not. It’s fun. I’m watching sports.”

 

Odd that his only night at home would be on a Sunday, without declining an assignment.