The Daily Briefing Monday, October 29, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

If The Season Ended Today – it was a big week for the Bears as everyone else in the NFC North lost.  The Redskins also were the lone winners in the East.

 

NFC                                                          Div             Conf

Los Angeles Rams      West      8-0          3-0              5-0                                                   

New Orleans               South     6-1           1-1            4-1                                                    

Washington                 East       5-2           2-0             5-1     

Chicago                       North     4-3           0-1             3-1       

Carolina                       WC       5-2           0-1             3-2                                                   

Seattle                         WC       4-3           1-1             3-2                  

Minnesota                                4-3-1        0-0-1         3-2-1

Green Bay                                3-3-1       1-1-1          2-3-1   

Philadelphia                              4-4           1-0            2-3       

– – –

Peter King with trade rumors galore:

 

A few teams I’m hearing about:

 

• Denver could well be a seller—and wants to be, after falling to 3-5 on Sunday in Kansas City. Chief targets: wideout Demaryius Thomas, who turned 31 Thursday, could probably be had for a third-round pick, and defensive end Shane Ray and linebacker Brandon Marshall could move too. Less likely: cornerback Bradley Roby.

 

• The Rams, speaking of “baseball trades,” want a pass-rusher. I hear defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is lukewarm on Denver’s Ray (having coached him two years ago), and if the Jags make disappointing high first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr., available, the Rams would have interest. L.A. is unlikely to deal swing guard Jamon Brown for a late-round pick, though there’s been interest. He’s a low-cost insurance guy for the line.

 

• Oakland, which owns first-round picks from Dallas and Chicago as well as its own, could have three picks in the top 20 (let me guess: 3, 15, 18) and might not be done dealing. I would not be surprised to see pass-rusher Bruce Irvin moved, and the organization has soured on 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley, the disappointing cornerback.

 

• The Giants could deal cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who still has some value despite inconsistent play and being owed $3.5 million for the rest of this year with an $11.15-million-salary-plus-roster-bonus deal next year, per Over The Cap. They’d like to keep their young offensive core together. Eli Manning? It makes too much sense to deal him to Jacksonville for a pittance in the wake of another poor performance by Blake Bortles on Sunday in London, but there’s no indication Manning would waive his no-trade clause.

 

• The Colts, showing life the last two games, would like to add a receiver. But I don’t believe they will do anything to affect their draft status next April; picks are too important to GM Chris Ballard.

 

• San Francisco: Multiple reports say wide receiver Pierre Garcon could be dealt. It makes sense because the Niners will be all in on the 2019 draft and season. That is when Jimmy Garoppolo will be a factor again and this organization is all about building around their franchise quarterback, knee surgery and all.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Could WR GOLDEN TATE III be moved in the next 20 hours or so.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Lions are receiving inquiries about receiver Golden Tate, Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports. The question is: Do the Lions want to move him?

 

Pelissero adds the Lions would have to be “blown away” to deal him.

 

Even though the Lions are 3-4 and last in the NFC North, they are only a game behind the first-place Bears.

 

Tate, 30, leads the Lions with 69 catches for 517 yards and three touchdowns. Eight of his receptions have gone for 20-plus yards.

 

He has gone over 1,000 yards receiving in three of the past four seasons with Detroit. Tate joined the Lions in 2014 after four seasons in Seattle, signing a five-year, $31 million contract that pays him a $7 million base in this his last year of the deal.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Michael Silver of NFL.com, a proud Cal alum, sniffed out a story in the Packers locker room that did not reflect well on RB TY MONTGOMERY, a Stanford product.

 

Jared Goff took off his helmet, put on a baseball cap and stared across the L.A. Coliseum field, feeling as helpless as a quarterback with a near-flawless game in the books and a two-point lead in the final minutes can feel.

 

Standing on the opposite sideline was Aaron Rodgers, a quarterback he’d once idolized as a young Cal fan whose parents are proud alums, and one he later emulated as a Golden Bears star turned NFL standout — a notorious dream-wrecker whose Green Bay Packers trailed Goff’s Los Angeles Rams, 29-27, with 2:05 remaining in Sunday’s game and were about to receive the ball.

– – –

And then, in a surreal sequence Goff and the Rams might regard as a pre-Halloween miracle — and Rodgers and virtually everyone in the Packers’ organization would likely depict in language not fit for print — one Green Bay player made an executive decision that snuffed out Rodgers’ Hollywood ending before it could begin, and left the Packers a bitter, frustrated bunch as they departed Tinseltown.

 

As Greg Zuerlein’s kickoff sailed into the end zone, Rodgers fully expected return man Ty Montgomery to kneel down for a touchback, given that the running back had been instructed by his coaches to do just that. Instead, Montgomery caught the ball 2 yards deep and raced up the middle of the field, crossing the 20 before being met by the Rams’ Ramik Wilson. And then, a green-and-gold nightmare: Wilson’s hard hit on Montgomery dislodged the football, which the L.A. linebacker would recover under a pile.

 

The recovery provoked loud cheers from about half of the 75,822 fans and aghast groans from the other half (hey, the Packers travel well) — and, according to witnesses, a very conspicuous display of anger from the quarterback who’d been denied the type of opportunity for which he lives.

 

“Aaron was hot,” one Packers coach said. “And he had a right to be. He yelled, ‘Take a f—— knee!’ He was very, very mad.”

 

In the eyes of many of Rodgers’ teammates, his ire was justifiable. According to more than a half-dozen Packers players and coaches who witnessed it, Montgomery had thrown a tantrum of his own on Green Bay’s previous offensive series, becoming noticeably enraged on the sideline after being removed from the game. At least one player believed there was carryover from that incident to Montgomery’s decision to disregard his coaches’ instruction and return the kickoff.

 

“They took him out (the previous drive) for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit,” one Packers player said. “Then (before the kickoff) they told him to take a knee, and he ran it out anyway. You know what that was? That was him saying, ‘I’m gonna do me.’ It’s a f—— joke.

 

“I mean, what the f— are you doing? We’ve got Aaron Rodgers, the best I’ve ever seen, and you’re gonna take that risk? I mean, it’s ’12’! All you gotta do is give him the ball, and you know what’s gonna happen.”

 

Rodgers’ trademark magic had bailed out the Packers (3-3-1) in their previous game, a 33-30 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on “Monday Night Football,” just as it had in their season-opening, Sunday night triumph over the Chicago Bears, when the quarterback returned from what had appeared to be a serious knee injury to spark a sublime second-half comeback.

 

Beating the Rams (8-0) would have been a different level of epic. Yet despite holding a 10-0 lead until the final three minutes of the first half, and despite a Rodgers-led comeback from a 10-point deficit that put Green Bay up 27-26 on his 40-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 8:50 left, this was a clear case of a team failing to capitalize on its opportunities — a familiar story for those who believe the franchise has squandered a shot at multiple championships during the Rodgers era.

 

As he exited the tunnel outside the Coliseum locker rooms and walked toward the team bus Sunday evening, Rodgers (18 for 30, 286 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions) didn’t shy away from the notion that a lack of aggressiveness had come back to burn the Packers.

 

“Our defense was playing really well and stopping them over and over again,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to get more than 10 points while that’s happening. And then to have it end the way it did, obviously, it’s frustrating.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The Cowboys have fired a coach, not Jason Garrett, but O-Line mentor Paul Alexander. Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

They aren’t the Great Wall of Jones they were in 2016, and apparently, that’s enough to warrant a termination.

 

The Dallas Cowboys fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander on Monday, the team announced. Assistant OL coach Marc Colombo will replace Alexander, with Hudson Houck serving as an advisor to Colombo.

 

“While approaching the midpoint of the season, and going through an overall evaluation of our entire operation during the bye week, we felt that this move would serve the best interests of our team moving forward,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in a statement. “We have great respect and admiration for Paul and what he has accomplished in a very successful career in the NFL. These are not easy decisions to make at any time of the year, but we will move ahead with the utmost confidence in what Marc Colombo and Hudson Houck will bring to our team in their new roles.”

 

Colombo, a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Chicago, Dallas and Miami, has been in his role since 2016. That season, the Cowboys were selected as the league’s best offensive line.

 

That hasn’t been the case this season, though fingers could probably point elsewhere to identify greater issues for the Cowboys than the offensive line.

 

But someone has to take blame for a Cowboys team that is under increasing pressure, owning a 3-4 record and showing more discouraging play than positive through eight weeks. It’s surprising that it falls on the shoulders of Alexander, though, seeing as the Cowboys feature the No. 2 rusher in the NFL in Ezekiel Elliott. Those arguing in favor of the firing can, of course, point to Dallas’ sack total of 23. But we as a football society need to acknowledge that QB hits (and sacks) are also a quarterback sack (for more on why, click here).

 

Dallas ranks 10th in the NFL in run blocking, and 16th in pass blocking through eight weeks, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades. The Cowboys’ rate of pressures allowed (26.6 percent) ranks right near the middle of the league.

 

But it’s true that this isn’t the crushing offensive line of just a year or two ago. Dallas lost All-Pro center Travis Frederick to an autoimmune disorder before the start of the season, and was forced to fill a hole at left guard with rookie Connor Williams, who has exhibited expected struggles in his first season. Those are two rather large hurdles, and ones Dallas was at least weathering.

 

When things aren’t going right in the NFL, changes must be made — even if it means creating a peculiar scapegoat at the end of Week 8.

– – –

WR AMARI COOPER hasn’t met the eye test for Peter King, but he decides to check with some pals in analytics:

 

You may know my opinion about Amari Cooper, the receiver Dallas acquired from Oakland. (It’s not that high.) But I asked a more analytic entity, Pro Football Focus, for its opinion. The facts, as PFF sees it:

 

• One of the PFF’s big metrics for receivers is yards per route run, which is a player’s receiving yards divided by the number of routes he’s run. Cooper was 46th last year and is 53rd this year. His drop rate last year (percentage of catchable balls dropped) was 17.2 percent last year, fifth highest in the league, and is 8.3 percent this year, 29th highest.

 

• PFF also charts separation by receivers. That he’s been very good on—he had what PFF deemed significant separation on 62.2 percent of the routes he ran last year, and he’s at 80.0 percent this year. His 2018 number is second in the league.

 

That last metric potentially comes into play in Dallas because of this: He has a consistently high grade among all quarterbacks when throwing to open receivers. So that could propel Cooper to better results in Dallas than he had the last year and a half in Oakland. There certainly will be pressure on him to produce more than he did in Oakland.

 

 

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Peter King:

 

The Giants have lost 21 of 25. The Browns have lost 22 of 25. What team would you rather be right now?

– – –

Can this possibly be true?  Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com:

 

The drama that follows around Odell Beckham isn’t scaring off other NFL teams.

 

Teams have inquired about Beckham’s availability ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline but the Giants are not interested in moving him, according to FOX’s Jay Glazer.

 

“Giants sources told me this week that teams actually called about Odell Beckham Jr.,” Glazer said on the Sunday pregame show. “Came with some decent offers but they’re saying we’re gonna pump the brakes on it for right now.”

 

Beckham’s name was on the trade market in March, when the Giants were unhappy him following a string of off-field headlines. The Rams reportedly made the biggest push and Beckham has hinted that he prefers living in Los Angeles to on the East Coast.

 

This time, maybe it is the Patriots as his top suitor?

 

Glazer also separately reported the Patriots are looking to acquire a premium wide receiver and are offering high draft picks. The Patriots traded their No. 1 receiver, Brandin Cooks, to the Rams after the Giants opted to hold on to Beckham.

 

The Giants signed Beckham to a five-year contract extension worth $95 million with a wide receiver-record $65 million guaranteed that keeps him under team control until 2023.

 

If the Giants trade Beckham, all of his $20 million signing bonus money accelerates into the salary cap instead of being spread out evenly over five years. That makes any trade scenario unrealistic for the cap-strapped Giants without corresponding moves.

 

If Beckham is traded before the 2019 season, the Giants will have $16 million in dead cap and only $5 million in savings, according to overthecap.com.

 

The Giants are off to a 1-6 start and already traded defensive starters Eli Apple and Damon Harrison, with Janoris Jenkins said to be on the market.

 

Would Beckham have re-signed with the Giants in August if he knew the team was going to be in a rebuild rather than competing for a Super Bowl?

 

As Beckham pragmatically pointed out, he didn’t have much of a choice given the structure of the NFL, where the Giants had him on a rookie-contract option year in 2018 and could have franchise tagged him on high-paying one-year deals with no long-term security in 2019 and 2020.

 

“I don’t really know,” Beckham said. “It’s not really re-sign, I signed something. I could have been here another three years. It’s hard to think about that right now, and it’s really irrelevant to think about that now because I’m here and I will be here.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

RT LANE JOHNSON suffered a knee injury in London, a grade 2 MCL sprain to be precise, and is expected to miss “several weeks.”

 

 

WASHINGTON

Peter King on how RB ADRIAN PETERSON, who has been a key figure in Washington’s rise to the top of the NFC East, has big dreams:

 

Adrian Peterson will not give up on the Emmitt Smith chase. Good for him, I say.

 

Since his third or fourth year in the league, Peterson, a big fan of football history, has fancied somehow, some way, breaking Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record. Well, he’s only 5,493 yards away, after the best game any rusher in football had Sunday (26 carries, 149 yards, one touchdown) in Washington’s win over the Giants.

 

Peterson is 33. He is probably the only one who thinks he can play multiple more years, and play well. But he does. And when I asked him after Sunday’s game if he thought it “ludicrous” that he could challenge Smith’s record, he said over the phone from New Jersey: “It’s not ludicrous at all. I still think I can string great years together. The way I view it is, I could have a 1,500-yard season, maybe a 2,000 season again. I believe in myself.”

 

To do it, Peterson, minimum, would have to play 3.5 or 4.5 more seasons as a starting back. That’s almost inconceivable. Not to him, though. On the day he passed Tony Dorsett into ninth place on the all-time rushing list (he has 12,863 yards; Smith, for the record, has 18,355), Peterson said he was playing at 75 or 80 percent, in part because of a shoulder injury he claims is healing by the week.

 

“I can see where the nagging injuries are slowing me down,” he said. “But even at 75, 80 percent, I know I can find holes. Each week, my shoulder feels better. It’s basically mind over matter. I’m getting better.”

 

A 33-year-old back, not feeling his best, ran for the most yards of anyone in the league this weekend. After his 64-yard touchdown gallop put the game away Sunday, Peterson has as many rushes of 50 or more yards as Barry Sanders. It’s an amazing run. For now, stay out of Peterson’s way. He’s got rehabbing to do, and a ghost to chase.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

 

 

 

CAROLINA

At the midway point, the collaboration between OC Norv Turner and QB CAM NEWTON is going just fine.  Scott Fowler in the Charlotte Observer:

 

Cam Newton will turn 30 in May, and his natural exuberance has been tempered just a bit by all that life offers. He brought two of his young children to his press conference Sunday and gently tried to keep them quiet for a few minutes while he answered questions.

 

“Hold on,” Newton told his son, Chosen, and his daughter, Sovereign-Dior, as they squirmed in his arms. “Daddy gotta work.”

 

Newton had actually had another fine workday by then in Carolina’s 36-21 home victory over Baltimore, throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third against a Ravens defense that came into the game No. 1 in the NFL and left in a crumpled heap.

 

It wasn’t all Newton in Carolina’s most complete victory of the season, but a lot of it was. He never turned the ball over, led the Panthers (5-2) in rushing and threw for 219 efficient yards.

 

The quarterback also let discretion be the better part of valor at the end of the first half, telling coach Ron Rivera he would rather not throw the ball 65 yards through the air on a desperation Hail Mary pass in an effort to save the wear and tear on his arm. The Panthers sent out second-string quarterback Taylor Heinicke to make the heave instead, and then Heinicke ended up throwing a short pass anyway to set up a Graham Gano field goal.

 

“I just knew how I was feeling at that time and felt that (Heinicke) put our team in the best situation,” Newton said.

 

I have a hard time imagining Newton taking himself off the field in a scenario like that, or saying something like that, during the first few years of his career. But he has matured in several ways, as coach Ron Rivera has often said.

 

“It was a heck of a decision by him,” Rivera said of Newton benching himself for a play, “just being upfront. We have a little bit of a new normal with him as far as we have to be smart (not to strain Newton’s throwing shoulder), and we had an opportunity to not make a bad decision.”

 

Newton is making bad decisions at a very low rate in 2018. He has now accounted for 17 touchdowns (13 throwing, four running) and only four interceptions through seven games.

 

And after years of talking about his below-average completion percentage, Newton and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner have finally done something about it.

 

Newton is completing 66.4 percent of his passes this season, after finishing at under 60 percent in each of the past four seasons. He also ducks down or slides at the end of a run if the situation isn’t extremely crucial.

 

If Newton is playing OK, the Panthers themselves are only OK. But when he is great, the Panthers have a chance to be great themselves. On the right afternoon, with Newton at the right level, they can beat anyone in the NFL.

 

So on Sunday, the Panthers blasted a Baltimore team that had been slightly favored. It was Carolina’s ninth straight win in Charlotte, which ties the Panthers with New England for the longest current home win streak in the NFL.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

QB JAMEIS WINSTON pitched four INTs on Sunday – and not one of them seemed to be defendable.  By game’s end, the DB can’t envision anyone in Tampa Bay who remained a supporter.  Peter King:

 

This could be the end for Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay. I’m not saying it is, or it will be for sure. But this is the fourth season for Winston, and it’s been a star-crossed time, and the 37-34 loss in Cincinnati was the perfect illustration of what’s gone wrong on the field for Winston—and that’s not including a thing about his multiple off-field issues.

 

Winston has a nagging problem that, in three-and-a-half years, hasn’t gotten fixed. In fact, I’d argue his tendency to make high-risk, low-percentage throws has, if anything, gotten worse.

 

I will never forget going into Tampa the day after the first round in 2015. Bucs GM Jason Licht was desperate for a quarterback of the long-term future, and he, coach Lovie Smith and then-coordinator Dirk Koetter were smitten with Winston. They loved his arm, his quick-twitch brain after putting him on the whiteboard for a 45-minute session. The Bucs were far behind the other three teams in the division at quarterback, and they decided to live with his off-field issues (including sexual assault charge at Florida State) and picked him first overall in the draft.

 

In the weeks before the draft, Koetter had a long classroom session with Winston. They discussed his last year at FSU, when he threw 18 interceptions and had at least seven other passes dropped or missed by the opposition. Koetter pressed Winston about it, and Winston, according to Koetter, told him: “I’m not afraid of making any throw.”

 

“You need to be,” Koetter told Winston.

 

What the Bucs thought they were buying—a productive long-range passer with a solid arm and good game savvy—has turned into a dud. Koetter, now the head coach, yanked Winston after a four-interception performance. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game at Cincinnati and played so well, rallying the Bucs to a late tie before losing, that it would be a surprise if Winston gets his job back—either this week or the rest of the year. In fact, this performance, on the heels of other bad ones, has to have the Bucs thinking they need to get another quarterback for the long haul.

 

Check this comparison of Winston to the vastly more efficient quarterbacks of his division. Interceptions, game by game, by NFC South quarterbacks in their last five games:

 

Drew Brees, Saints: 0, 0, 0, 0, 1.

Matt Ryan, Falcons: 0, 0, 0, 0, 0.

Cam Newton, Panthers: 0, 2, 1, 0, 0.

Jameis Winston, Bucs: 3, 2, 2, 2, 4.

 

The Bucs were down by 11 late in the third quarter, with the ball deep in their own territory. Winston spied wideout Adam Humphries downfield and threw it. Bengals safety Jessie Bates, streaking in from the left near Humphries, absolutely should have been seen by Winston. It figures Winston missed Bates. The pick-six was so easy. Koetter yanked Winston. After the game, Koetter wouldn’t say who would quarterback the team this week at Carolina.

 

But he has virtually no choice. Winston has 54 picks in 49 career games. That’s not a sustainable rate, unless you’re throwing 45 touchdown passes a season. And for those who think, Fitzpatrick isn’t the future; he shouldn’t play, I would say the object of the game is to try to win as many games as you can. Coaches’ jobs depend on that. There may be no saving Koetter’s job anyway, but he can’t keep putting out a guy who, lately, is throwing two or three interceptions every week.

 

“I feel like I give this team the best chance to win,” Winston said in Cincinnati on Sunday. “But I have to back that up.”

 

He may have to back it up as a backup, and not in Tampa Bay.

 

Coach Dirk Koetter sends Jameis to the bench for Sunday’s game in Charlotte.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback this week against the Carolina Panthers, coach Dirk Koetter announced Monday.

 

“We’re gonna start Fitz this week. That’s what we feel like we need to do to give ourselves the best chance,” said Koetter, who would not commit to a starter beyond this week. “This is just for right now. Right now. I mean, the most important thing we got is this week. We’ll just have to see how things go. I don’t like switching quarterbacks. That’s not in my make-up to switch quarterbacks. But I just feel like we’ve got to make the switch at this time.”

 

Fitzpatrick vs. Winston in 2018

 

Ryan Fitzpatrick has outperformed Jameis Winston this season for the Buccaneers. A look at some key statistics:

 

FITZPATRICK            WINSTON

TD-INT            13-5     6-10

Total QBR       78.7     56.1

Comp. pct.      68.1%  64.9%

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

This from Peter King:

 

“We’re about to win this (expletive) game, that’s what he said. Excuse my French. (But) that’s what he said.”

 

—Cardinals offensive lineman D.J. Humphries, on what quarterback Josh Rosen told his teammates in the huddle prior to driving them to the winning score in Arizona’s 18-15 win over San Francisco.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

RB TODD GURLEY II teased bettors and Fantasy players alike late in Sunday’s game.  David Perdum of ESPN.com:

 

Running back Todd Gurley broke free and was headed toward the end zone for a touchdown in the final minute of the Los Angeles Rams’ 29-27 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

 

What happened next — a heady play by Gurley that prevented the Packers from getting the ball back but also impacted the point spread and over/under total — will go down in sports betting and fantasy football lore.

 

The Rams had just recovered a fumble on a Green Bay kickoff return deep in Packers territory and were in position to salt away the victory. On third-and-10 from the Green Bay 21-yard line, Gurley took a pitch, ran through the line untouched, picked up the first down and appeared to be on his way into the end zone. But instead of scoring, Gurley slowed up at the 10-yard line and allowed himself to be tackled at the 4 with just over a minute remaining. The Rams kneeled on the next play and ran out the clock.

 

“Man, forget fantasy and forget Vegas,” Gurley said after the game. “We got the win, so that’s all that matters.”

 

First, the point spread: The Rams closed as 7.5-point favorites at most sportsbooks. If Gurley had scored, Los Angeles would have gone up nine.

 

The line had been as high as Rams -9.5 earlier in the week, but it started to shrink after money poured in on the Packers, who were the biggest underdogs they’ve been in the regular season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. On Sunday morning, 91 percent of the money that had been wagered on the game at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas was on Green Bay.

 

Secondly, the total closed around 57.5. If Gurley had scored, the game would have gone over the total.

 

The reaction from Las Vegas sportsbooks was mixed.

 

“We needed him to score in the worst way,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN in a text message.

 

“If Gurley goes in there,” a Caesars Palace sportsbook manager said, “we lose a ton of teasers, get middled on the game, and the over crushes us. We’re fans of his smart play.”

 

A teaser is a form of parlay bet that allows bettors to move the spread, normally six points in their favor. A sportsbook loses on both sides of a game when it gets “middle.”

 

MGM and William Hill sportsbooks said Gurley not scoring created six-figure swings against the house for them, and the South Point sportsbook said the Rams’ two-point win produced the worst decision of the “worst Sunday of the season so far.”

 

“It’s not a ‘bloodbath,’ but a solid loser,” Tim Fitzgerald, South Point sportsbook director, summarized the day in an email.

 

Gurley finished with 114 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. A rushing touchdown and the added yardage would have given him 6.4 more fantasy points, per ESPN’s standard scoring system.

 

 

SEATTLE

After a win in Detroit, the Seahawks are inside the playoff envelope.  But Brady Henderson of ESPN.com says the schedule is about to get harder.

 

The Seattle Seahawks are looking more and more like legitimate playoff contenders.

 

It started to seem that way when they went blow-for-blow with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5, nearly upsetting the NFL’s only unbeaten team for what would have been a third-straight victory.

 

It continued two weeks ago in London, where the Seahawks turned in a dominant performance in a blowout of the Oakland Raiders.

 

The latest evidence: a stress-free 28-14 victory over the Lions in Detroit. It was the Seahawks’ fourth win in their past five games and it came against a team that had knocked off the Packers and Patriots for two of its three wins entering Sunday.

 

“Now we’re just showing that this is really who we are,” receiver Doug Baldwin said.

 

You’d have to look hard to find something that wasn’t working for the Seahawks (4-3) Sunday at Ford Field.

 

Russell Wilson completed his first 10 attempts, tossed three first-half touchdown passes and finished the game with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the first time in his seven-year career. The running game, which has again become Seattle’s offensive identity, produced 176 yards, including 105 yards and a touchdown from Chris Carson. The defense, with its remade and largely inexperienced secondary, held up with the help of a pair of fourth-quarter takeaways and kept Detroit to only 34 yards on the ground. Seattle’s special teams iced the victory just ahead of the two-minute warning with some improvisation from rookie punter Michael Dickson, who took off running — from his own end zone — for a first down on what was supposed to be an intentional safety.

 

Indeed, an all-three-phases victory for Seattle.

 

One of the only real miscues was Tedric Thompson — Earl Thomas’ replacement at free safety — allowing Marvin Jones to get behind him on a scramble play for a touchdown on Detroit’s opening possession. But Thompson redeemed himself by forcing a fumble on a kickoff to set up Seattle’s second touchdown.

 

Strong safety Bradley McDougald was asked what Seattle’s defense showed.

 

“That we got grit, you know what I’m saying? We got guts,” he said. “First drive of the game they shoved it down our throat, 91 yards. They went all the way down the field and after that we kind of buckled in. We kind of honed in. Everybody just went back to their responsibilities. We just started playing ball. You kind of felt the guys get settled into the game and once we did I felt like we imposed our will on them.”

 

Part of Carroll’s claim about the Seahawks being the healthiest they’ve been all year following last week’s bye was due to the returns of linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson, who both made their 2018 debuts Sunday. Wright finished with five tackles while Dickson caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His 42-yard reception was the result of a nifty play design that got him wide open after a play-action fake — a part of Brian Schottenheimer’s offense that has produced one big gain after another.

 

The Lions were threatening to make it a one-score game before Justin Coleman’s interception at the goal line slammed the door.

 

The type of efficient and mistake-free day that Wilson had — 14-of-17 for 248 yards and no turnovers — is becoming the norm. He hasn’t attempted more than 26 passes since Week 2 nor has he thrown for more than 300 yards all season. With the way the Seahawks are running the ball, he hasn’t needed to.

 

“We really were able to play right within the framework of how we want to do it,” Carroll said. “We want to get the football, we don’t want to give it up — no turnovers today — and take advantage of that and run the heck out of the football. We ran it 42 times today. Matter of fact, I couldn’t be more fired up about it. That’s just commitment and it’s attitude and it’s what we’re trying to do. So, I’m really fired up about really this whole month plus, and hopefully we’ll just keep on cranking it and it’ll keep unfolding.”

 

 

The Seahawks are very much in the thick of the wide-open NFC playoff race even with the Rams running away with the division. But it’s about to get tougher. Of Seattle’s first seven opponents, only the Rams had a winning record entering Sunday while the Seahawks’ next four opponents — the Chargers, Rams, Packers and Panthers — are all above .500 with a combined record of 19-6-1. All four have quarterbacks that are above average — or in Green Bay’s case, elite.

 

That stretch will tell us more about how far the Seahawks might be able to go. But as of now, they look more like a playoff team than one merely in transition.

 

“I’m always going to regret the fact that we started lousy,” Carroll said. “And it’s a 14-game season for us to try to do something with it after screwing up the first two games. But this a nice team. I like our team. I like what’s going on. I like the way it’s going and I like how they feel about it. It’s really clear; there’s no mystery how we’re trying to get it done. We’re not going to fool anybody.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

This tweet from Nicki Jhabvala:

 

@NickiJhabvala

 Since John Elway joined the Broncos’ front office in 2011 he’s drafted five quarterbacks. None are still on the roster.

 

Brock Osweiler (2012), Zac Dysert (2013), Trevor Siemian (2015), Paxton Lynch (2016), Chad Kelly (2017)

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

The relationship between Hue Jackson and Todd Haley was bound to be toxic and few thought both would long co-exist.  But instead of one or the other being gone, GM John Dorsey fired them both on Monday after a loss at Pittsburgh.  Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and GM John Dorsey met with coach Hue Jackson on Monday morning and fired him, a league source told cleveland.com.

 

A short while later, they also fired offensive coordinator Todd Haley, a league source told cleveland.com.

 

The two men were involved in a power struggle over the underperforming offense, which Haley had full rein over this season, and both lost their jobs.

 

Jackson leaves with a 3-36-1 record in 2 1/2 seasons, including 0-20 on the road. He was under contract through next season.

 

His firing came a day after the Cavs fired head coach Tyronn Lue.

 

The Browns have not yet announced who the interim coach is.

 

Jackson was fired a day after the Browns lost 33-18 to the Steelers, their third straight loss and the fourth in the last five games.

 

He was the sixth straight Browns coach to be fired after a loss to the Steelers in the second meeting of that season. The others were Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski and Mike Pettine. The last four of those were fired by the Haslams since they agreed to purchase the Browns in 2012.

 

According to a source, Jackson was told by ownership that the team had quit on him and that he wasn’t doing a good job of leading. They told him that his offense and defense had regressed.

 

 

Jackson dismisses a report Haley could be fired

 

Jackson had a 2-5-1 record this season, including a 1-2-1 mark in overtime games.

 

Jackson and Haley were both fired after a rift with Haley that began in training camp and was played out on HBO’s Hard Knocks. It continued through Haley defiantly starting Josh Gordon in the opener against Jackson’s wishes, and refusing to play Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson more, which led to the trade of starting running back Carlos Hyde.

 

A report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport surfaced before Sunday’s Steelers game that Haley might be fired over the dysfunction that had been occurring on offense.

 

Jackson planned to meet with ownership Monday in hopes of taking back the offense, which has struggled all season, and possibly getting the Haslams to agree to firing Haley. He had been led to believe the Haslams would be open to that based on the woeful offensive performance this season.

 

Instead, both men were let go.

 

The Haslams brought Jackson back this season after his 1-31 record the first two years with Sashi Brown as the head of football operations. The all-analytics front office did a poor job of upgrading the talent, and passed on quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

 

They believed Jackson deserved a chance to coach a better roster, which features 31 new players this season.

 

But they determined that the team wasn’t trending in the right direction, a league source said.

 

The Browns will begin searching soon for their next head coach, and could even look to the college ranks for an up-and-comer like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Baker Mayfield’s former coach.

 

Dorsey will also rely on longstanding relationships with coaches he’s worked with in Green Bay and Kansas City in compiling his list.

 

Despite four overtime games this season, ownernship felt the Browns were getting worse instead of better. They also believed that Baker Mayfield wasn’t being developed the way he needed to be.

 

The writing was on the wall last week that Jackson could lose his job when Mayfield backed Haley after Jackson stated he wanted to get more involved in the offense. Mayfield said “we don’t need to reinvent the wheel” and “we don’t need to change much.”

 

The top assistants on offense now are senior offensive assistant Al Saunders and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.

 

Sources said ownership and Dorsey also didn’t like some of the culture issues they were seeing recently on the team, including Myles Garrett criticizing the defensive gameplan after the loss to the Steelers and the officiating the week before that.

 

The firing comes just months after they pledged their unwavering support for Jackson.

 

“I think we’ll see the real Hue Jackson,” Jimmy Haslam said during training camp. “I think you’ve heard me say this several times, you have to give Hue credit for bringing in (offensive coordinator) Todd Haley, which I think will allow Hue to be the head coach.

 

“I think this will be the first opportunity Hue will have to do what we know he can do as head coach as a leader. Even though Todd will be calling all of the shots on offense, I think Hue will obviously have some impact there like he will defense. We are excited to see it.”

 

The firing comes a week after Jackson said he still had the full support of the Haslams and Dorsey.

 

“No doubt. No doubt. None. No question,” he said.

 

After some hesitation, by Wednesday afternoon it appeared that DC Gregg Williams would be the sure-to-be-entertaining interim coach for the final eight games.

 

Thoughts from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jackson arguably should have been fired during the 2017 season. He definitely should have been fired after the 2017 season. The fact that the move came now, two weeks before the start of the team’s bye, suggests that something tangible occurred to give G.M. John Dorsey the ammunition he needed to break whatever spell Hue has had on ownership.

 

Last year, Jackson successfully blamed former V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown for the mess that the organization had become, escaping all accountability and prompting Jimmy Haslam to declare on multiple occasions that Hue Jackson would remain the coach for years to come. The arrival of Dorsey suggested otherwise; every G.M. wants to hire his own coach, and Dorsey surely wanted to move on much more quickly from Hue Jackson than Dorsey did.

 

But Dorsey needed the Haslams to come to that conclusion on their own. And Hue’s apparent attempt to shove offensive coordinator Todd Haley out the door likely forced the situation to a head, because Haley was hired by Dorsey and essentially forced onto Hue.

 

Now Hue has been forced out, and the question becomes who the interim coach will be.

 

This tweet from Jay Glazer:

 

@JayGlazer

Baker Mayfield… it’s normally not like this in the NFL. Seriously, it’s not

 

And this:

 

@MikeSilver

There is no next Sean McVay

 

@beartastic45

Replying to @MikeSilver @nflnetwork

In your opinion who is the next Sean McVay on a current NFL staff that would be a viable option for the Browns?  Right now on Cleveland sports radio Urban Meyer or Lincoln Riley will be the next Head Coach which is laughable and such a Browns move

 

So “the next Sean McVay” isn’t available, but Bob McManamon of ESPN.com says good coaches should want the job:

 

– The Cleveland Browns are again seeking a coach after the firing of Hue Jackson on Monday, but this situation is far different than it was for other previous new hires.

 

The Browns job is an attractive opening that should draw interest around the NFL and the college coaching circles.

 

Many of the pieces a coach wants are present.

 

The first is the quarterback. The drafting of Baker Mayfield and his play have provided reason to believe he will be the guy going forward. He’s had good moments and he’s had rookie struggles, but his overall approach, effort, competitiveness and football smarts give reason to believe in his future.

 

Compare the presence of Mayfield on the roster to the quarterbacks past new Cleveland coaches inherited or acquired. Rome Crennel had Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. Eric Mangini had Brady Quinn, Anderson, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy. Pat Shurmur had Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden. Rob Chudzinski had Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell. Mike Pettine had Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown. And Jackson had Robert Griffin III, McCown, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan before the drafting of Mayfield.

 

With Mayfield, the next coach has more certainty, and talent. He also has a guy Drew Brees said can be better than he (Brees) has been.

 

That quarterback is the most important factor for any coach taking a job.

 

Second is the Browns roster has talent, much of it young. On offense, running back Nick Chubb played well enough to force a Carlos Hyde trade. Jarvis Landry will be one of the receivers, joined by Antonio Callaway, who had one of his better overall games in Pittsburgh.

 

Defensively, ends Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah, tackle Larry Ogunjobi, corner Denzel Ward and safeties Damarious Randall and Jabrill Peppers provide a foundation.

 

None of the defensive players are past their fourth year in the league.

 

Those young players were supplemented in the offseason by the roster overhaul of general manager John Dorsey, who transformed 60 percent of the roster via trades and free agent signings.

 

Dorsey also will have a boatload of salary cap room to work with in the next offseason as well, the third reason this job is attractive.

 

ESPN’s Roster Management System states the Browns have $59 million in salary cap space. That number is fluid, but Dorsey should have plenty of cap space to add pieces to the team.

 

The last reason this job is attractive: Dorsey and the front office he’s built.

 

Dorsey is a Ron Wolf guy, a man who treats people with respect but a guy who will not tolerate unnecessary drama (witness Jackson and Todd Haley both being let go on the same day). He’s also an aggressive guy who will do all he can to improve a team.

 

The front office that he built includes Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf, like Dorsey former Packers front office types whose beliefs are rooted in scouting and personnel. They join holdover Andrew Berry to give any new hire an experienced, credible front office.

 

The Browns job in the past has been a leftover of sorts, the job folks did not want to take.

 

That isn’t true with this opening.

 

This is a job a lot of coaches will want to pursue.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Peter King:

 

I think the key numbers for the Colts in their unexpectedly prolific 42-28 win at the Raiders were these: zero sacks, 222 rushing yards. Now it’s not all on Andrew Luck to evade the rush and produce all the offense himself.

 

We’re not sure why King is surprised.  In their four previous games, the Colts had scored 34, 24, 34 and 37 points – so that’s better than 34 PPG in the last five games.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

An update on the throwing status of QB RYAN TANNEHILL from Safid Deen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is throwing footballs again as he continues to recover from a sore right shoulder injury that has caused him to miss the past three games.

 

The issues for Tannehill now are whether he has enough power in his throws and if he is sore the day after throwing, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said on Monday.

 

Gase has not yet ruled Tannehill out the Dolphins’next game, against the New York Jets on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. But Gase hopes to have an idea of who his starting quarterback will be before the Dolphins begin their practice week on Wednesday.

 

If Tannehill is unable to play, Brock Osweiler will start his fourth consecutive game.

 

“He can throw a football. It’s just how much power he can put behind a ball,” Gase said of Tannehill’s progress. “Even that week, when he tried to throw, he’s throwing it, everything looks normal, but for him, he’s like, ‘I’m not getting that stroke that I want. I’m not able to get the velocity, that power.’

 

“That’s really what it’s going to come down to, when he does throw the next day how does he feel? And can he repeat what he did the day before? We’ve got to be careful here.”

 

Before missing three games this season, Tannehill was out due to a knee injury suffered in December 2016 and again in August 2017.

 

Tannehill has now missed 23 games due to injury since Gase became Dolphins coach in 2016. Gase has a 20-20 record in that span.

 

With each game, Tannehill and the Dolphins are surrounded by outside noise suggesting it is time to move past Tannehill and find a new starting quarterback to build around.

 

“Before I got here, it was ‘Hey, he had played however many games and never got hurt.’ The narrative swings so fast,” Gase said.

 

Gase said Tannehill’s ACL injury and his shoulder injury suffered in Week 5 against the Bengals were sustained during quirky plays with him out of position.

 

Gase also believes Tannehill was making steady progress in his return as the Dolphins starter this season before he suffered the shoulder injury.

 

“I think mentally, he’s in a great spot. His body was in a decent spot everywhere else until that happened,” Gase said of Tannehill. “We were headed in a good direction. We just had a little bit of a setback.”

 

Tannehill practiced during Week 6 before his shoulder worsened, causing the Dolphins to rule him out for the Bears game. He was then ruled out the next two games, against the Lions and Texans, during a stretch in which the Dolphins played three games in 11 days.

 

Althought Gase says Tannehill is “gaining strength” in his shoulder, the Dolphins are dealing with a lot of gray area when evaluating Tannehill’s progress.

 

“It’s just kind of an unusual injury,” Gase said. “There’s a lot of gray. When we ask for information, we get a lot of gray back, so that makes it tough.”

 

The Dolphins are encouraging Tannehill to be honest with his feedback in hopes of continuing to make progress while avoiding a setback.

 

“I feel like [Tannehill is] in a good place. It’s killing him because he wants to do anything he can to help us. But at the same time, we have to be smart,” Gase said. “I don’t want this to turn into, we try one week and it gets a huge setback and its worse than what it was before.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

WR JOSH GORDON has been in New England for a month.  He is being disciplined for the first time that we know of.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Patriots will reportedly play the first part of Monday night’s game against the Bills without wide receiver Josh Gordon in the lineup.

 

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Gordon will be benched for “several series” or the entire first quarter as a disciplinary measure. Per the report, Gordon is being disciplined because he has been late for work. He is expected to play a regular workload beyond that point.

 

Gordon was traded to the Patriots earlier this year after showing up late to work for the Browns on a Saturday. That was the last straw after several suspensions and other issues in Cleveland, but Gordon apparently still has some strikes left in New England.

 

The Patriots have some history with similar in-game disciplinary actions. Former wideout Wes Welker sat out the opening series of a playoff loss to the Jets after the 2010 season for making repeated references to feet while talking to the media about former Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

MYCHAL KENDRICKS

 

LB MYCHALE KENDRICKS is heading to prison, but before he does he thinks he should be able to earn some honest bucks.  Adam Schefter of ESPN.com:

 

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks met last week with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at league headquarters in New York in an effort to have his indefinite suspension curtailed or even lifted, a source familiar with the meeting told ESPN.

 

The visit was Kendricks’ third to NFL offices but his first meeting with Goodell, according to a source. Kendricks pleaded his case to Goodell, just as Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll also has done with the commissioner.

 

Kendricks explained to Goodell that he never profited off his insider trading, paid back the money involved and demonstrated contrition, according to the source. As early as this week, Goodell could place an actual term on the linebacker’s suspension rather than leaving it at an almost unprecedented indefinite status.

 

Goodell could have ruled even sooner, but he had to travel to California last week for a memorial service in addition to going to London for Sunday’s game between the Jaguars and Eagles.

 

But once Goodell returns to New York this coming week, one of his orders of business will be determining whether and how soon Kendricks can resume his NFL career. It could be, in the words of one source, “very, very soon.”

 

Kendricks, who will be sentenced in January, publicly apologized when he was charged in August, saying, “I wholeheartedly regret my actions.”

 

Kendricks recorded 15 tackles and a pair of sacks over his three games with the Seahawks, who signed him on Sept. 13 to a one-year deal worth $743,529 — the prorated amount of a $790,000 minimum salary.

 

 

NFL WEEK 8 GAMBLING

David Perdhum of ESPN.com with thoughts on the state of NFL gambling in Week 8:

 

Notable bets is a regular Monday roundup of wagers — some sharper than others — made recently at sportsbooks across the nation.

 

It took awhile for MGM sportsbook director Jeff Stoneback to find a game that his shop came out ahead on as he scrolled through the early NFL results Sunday afternoon. But that’s not what stood out most.

 

“It’s very unusual to have so many games with the sharps on the same side,” Stoneback said. “You don’t see that all that often.”

 

Is the betting public getting sharper?

 

Odds are against it, but for a second straight Sunday, the Joes held their own with the Pros, delivering another jolt to the hard-luck sportsbooks, which can’t ever seem to catch a break. (Note: Nevada sportsbooks have not had a losing month statewide since July 2013.)

 

Here are the notable bets from the week that was:

 

NFL

 

• Email from Caesars Palace at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday: “Two-way action is non-existent. We need every underdog on the board, except the Packers. This is the first week where we will need the Rams, barring a large wager. Right now, our biggest needs are the Jets and Giants.”

 

• The Rams, Jets and Giants all failed to cover the spread.

 

• “Worst Sunday of the season so far. Not a bloodbath but a solid loser,” South Point sportsbook director Tim Fitzgerald said Sunday night.

 

• Respected money came in early in the week at MGM on the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. “We had early money on the Bears during the week from the professionals,” Stoneback said, “and then the public was all over the Bears, too. That was not a good game for us.” Chicago won 24-10 over the Jets and covered the eight-point spread.

 

• Last Sunday, when the SuperBook posted its opening lines on the NFL, a bettor placed a $50,000 bet on the Bears -6 vs. the Jets, and $48,000 on the Texans -7 (-120) vs. the Dolphins in the Thursday game. Both were winners.

 

• The New Orleans Saints’ 30-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night sealed a losing day for multiple Nevada sportsbooks. “We took some money, close to six figures, on the Saints +1.5, +1 and even at -2 today,” Stoneback said. “That was another game where the sharps and public were on the same side.”

 

• Running back Todd Gurley’s decision not to score a touchdown late in the Rams’ 29-27 win over the Packers impacted the point spread and total, and produced mixed results for Las Vegas sportsbooks.

 

• The only significant win MGM had out of the eight early kickoffs was the underdog Seattle Seahawks winning outright over the Detroit Lions.

 

• “The Cardinals coming back and winning [over the favored San Francisco 49ers] kind of saved the day for us,” Randy Blum, SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas manager, said in an email.