This has been the season from hell for the Panthers, and things just keep getting worse. Sure, they won to improve to 4-6, preserving their wild-card chances, but they sustained two key injuries in this contest that could make things even worse for them moving forward.
Carolina had a healthy advantage in this contest, leading 23-3 in the third quarter. They established this 20-point margin via New Orleans mistakes (more on those later) and some solid offensive play. The key was the return of center Ryan Kalil, who had been out the past two games. However, Kalil was knocked out with a shoulder injury, and Carolina's offense sputtered after that. In fact, the Panthers mustered just one first down in the fourth quarter alone.
Sadly, that wasn't even the most prominent injury that the Panthers sustained. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was tackled awkwardly with several minutes remaining. He was sobbing on the field and had to be carted off. It appeared as though there might have been some serious leg injury that could've ruined his career, but Kuechly was diagnosed with a concussion. It's unclear as to what was going on exactly, however, since Kuechly was extremely shaken and still had to be assisted into the locker room with a cart. He's missed multiple games because of a concussion in the past, so it's possible that he could be out for a while.
The Panthers nearly lost this game despite establishing their huge lead. The Saints came charging back, shrinking the lead to 23-20. The Panthers were stuck with a third-and-10 deep in their own territory with about 2:30 remaining. A failed conversion would've given New Orleans plenty of time for a final drive to either win or force overtime - with no Kuechly on the field, by the way - but Cam Newton managed to connect with Kelvin Benjamin for an 18-yard gain to seal the victory. That was Carolina's only first down of the final frame.
Newton finished with underwhelming numbers, going 14-of-33 for 192 yards and a touchdown. It's noteworthy that Newton was especially awful after halftime; he was 6-of-14 for 58 yards following the break. Keep in mind that this occurred against New Orleans' putrid defense. Kalil's absence had that much of an impact.
Newton's sole touchdown was thrown to Ted Ginn, who impressively tapped his legs inbounds for a 40-yard completion right before halftime. Ginn nearly scored earlier, but was tackled at the 1-yard line. At any rate, this was his first touchdown of the season after scoring 10 times in 2015.
Elsewhere, Benjamin led the Panthers in receiving yardage, catching three balls for 56 yards. He missed a couple of drives with a shoulder injury, but turned out to be OK. Greg Olsen (4-33) was a disappointment, considering the favorable matchup.
Jonathan Stewart had a couple of nice runs early on, but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage often, as the Saints have suddenly improved against the run with Sheldon Rankins back in the lineup. Stewart mustered just 31 yards on 18 carries, but he bailed out his fantasy owners with a touchdown.
Speaking of disappointing fantasy numbers for running backs, Mark Ingram managed only 28 yards on seven carries, but he played just slightly more than a half because he sustained a concussion. Tim Hightower took over and was much better. He gained 69 yards on the ground (12 carries) and also happened to be a big factor in the passing game, snatching eight receptions for 57 yards.
As for Drew Brees, he had a shaky start to this game. He lost a fumble on a third down of the opening drives because he held on to the ball too long. The Panthers turned the short field into three points, though it was nearly worse for the Saints because the Panthers were stuffed at the 1-yard line on an impressive goal-line stand by New Orleans. After that, Brees launched an inaccurate interception, which led to a Carolina touchdown. Those two give-aways, plus a blocked field goal at the end of the first half that was immediately followed by Ginn's touchdown, is pretty much why Carolina had such a big lead. New Orleans' three turnovers turned into 17 points for Carolina, and the Saints just didn't have enough time to come back from that.
Brees shook off the early turnovers and finished strong, going 35-of-44 for 285 yards, two touchdowns and the interception. Two passes of his were dropped, one of which was in the end zone.
Michael Thomas ended up leading the Saints in receiving yardage, but that deserves an asterisk, as a 21-yard completion of his came on the last play of the game that was a failed Stanford Band-type attempt that never got going. Brandin Cooks (7-42) and Willie Snead (4-33) also disappointed on the stat sheet, with the latter dropping a potential score. Coby Fleener (3-17) and Brandon Coleman (1-9) caught the touchdowns.
Vikings 30, Cardinals 24
Both of these teams have been trending downward, and they desperately needed a victory to turn their season around. The Vikings, following a slow start, were able to establish a two-score lead that they maintained throughout most of the afternoon, as they managed to prevail with the formula that worked for them at the beginning of the season.
It was all about playing great defense and making big plays on special teams for Minnesota. The former didn't look like that was going to happen when the Cardinals were gashing the Vikings for big plays, especially on the ground. There was one sequence at the end of the opening quarter and beginning of the second frame when David Johnson had consecutive runs of nine, 10 and 11 yards. This opened a play-action chance for Carson Palmer, who hit Larry Fitzgerald with a 13-yard strike. The Cardinals took the lead on the drive, but they didn't do much after that. The Vikings made the appropriate adjustments and made Palmer's afternoon a living hell.
Things began trending southward for Palmer when he was picked off in the end zone, as Xavier Rhodes ran the turnover back 100 yards for the defensive touchdown. The pass wasn't even close to the mark, so John Brown must have run the wrong route. Palmer later tossed a second pick, an overthrow into double coverage. Palmer had a chance at the very end because of a Sam Bradford fumble turned into a touchdown, but Palmer was sacked on numerous occasions on the final couple of drives. It appeared as though the officials felt so sorry for Palmer that they gave him a free first down on a clean hit that should've ended the game, but Palmer was ultimately sacked on fourth down, allowing Minnesota to prevail.
Palmer finished 20-of-38 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of interceptions. However, he was brutal in the second half, going 9-of-19 for 45 yards, one touchdown and a pick following intermission. He took "only" four sacks, but it really felt like 14. Palmer was hit hard all afternoon. In fact, I'm surprised he made it through the game without an injury. The second half was a mess for the entire team, as Arizona managed just five first downs.
As for David Johnson, he didn't do much in the second half either. In fact, he was given just five carries after the break, which was a huge error on Arizona's part, given how well Johnson had been running. Johnson finished with 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
Johnson was also second on the team in receiving yardage, as he reeled in seven of 11 targets for 57 yards and a touchdown. He was only behind Fitzgerald (6-63), who made an amazing one-handed catch in the opening half.
Elsewhere in the passing game, Jermaine Gresham (2-33) snared Palmer's touchdown. The play featured a misplay by Harrison Smith, who thought he had an interception, and a missed tackle from Smith as well. Michael Floyd (2-21) didn't do much, while neither John Brown (4 targets) and J.J. Nelson (5 targets) managed a single receiving yard.
As for Minnesota's offense, it wasn't pretty, but the Vikings did enough to get the job done. Sam Bradford finished 20-of-28 for 169 yards and a touchdown. It has to be noted that T.J. Clemmings actually did a good job of protecting Bradford's blind side for the most part, though that changed late when Bradford was strip-sacked by Chandler Jones in the fourth quarter, giving Arizona a quick touchdown to trim the lead to 30-24. However, Clemmings does deserve credit for playing well outside of that instance.
Patrick Peterson smothered Stefon Diggs, which would explain why he caught six passes for only 37 yards. All of his production came after halftime. With Diggs taken away, Bradford focused instead on throwing to Adam Thielen (5-65) and Cordarrelle Patterson (4-53). Thielen caught a touchdown, which was originally thrown to Kyle Rudolph (2-12), but a penalty negated it. Patterson also scored, but did so on a kickoff. Patterson's big offensive play came on a third-and-1 in the second quarter. The Vikings had been using Matt Asiata in such instances recently, and have failed to move the chains when trying to do so, so it was refreshing to see Bradford throwing on a play like that.
Speaking of Asiata, he managed to score a touchdown, but didn't see much action, gaining only 20 yards on five carries. Jerick McKinnon (16-44) was featured more, but couldn't find the end zone.
Colts 24, Titans 17
The Titans had a huge victory against the Packers last week that had everyone buzzing about them possibly stealing the AFC South away from the Texans. Apparently, the Tennessee read their news clippings a bit too much because the players were extremely flat in this game, making countless mistakes in the early going.
Marcus Mariota opened up with a near-interception when he stared down his receiver, allowing Vontae Davis to get a great jump on the route. Mariota was then sacked, as a bewildered Taylor Lewan was beaten by a spin move via a decrepit Robert Mathis. Lewan then false started, and the Titans botched a snap a bit later, which was ruled a false start. On defense, the Titans didn't appear to have their heads in the game either. During one instance, two players ran into each other, causing a big opening downfield for a big gain. The Titans came into this contest completely overconfident, and it quickly showed, as they fell into a 21-0 hole that they couldn't climb out of.
Tennessee did come close, however. The team trimmed the lead to four points because the offense caught fire. Following a Colts field goal, the Titans were driving to perhaps tie the game. They once again began committing errors, however. Mariota scrambled for a first down inside the Indianapolis 10-yard line, but the play was called back because of a hold. DeMarco Murray was then stuffed on a fourth down because he curiously opted to bounce the run outside rather than attack the interior of the defense. The Colts took over on downs, and Luck was able to move the chains by buying time and finding T.Y. Hilton in between two defenders. That completion allowed Indianapolis to kneel down in victory formation.
Mariota got off to a shaky start, but had a strong performance overall. He finished 25-of-38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled five times for 29 rushing yards. Perhaps a bit more was expected against the Colts, but Indianapolis was able to get stud safety Mike Adams back from injury. Still, Mariota engineered some great drives that started deep in his own territory.
Mariota's top target was once again Rishard Matthews, who had a monstrous afternoon, catching nine of his 13 targets for 122 yards. He didn't score, however. Mariota's touchdowns went to Tajae Sharpe (4-68) and DeMarco Murray. Delanie Walker, meanwhile, was a major disappointment. He caught four passes for 36 yards despite the fact that many tight ends have abused Indianapolis' defense throughout the year.
Speaking of disappointing numbers, Murray couldn't muster much on the ground, as Tennessee's offensive line didn't block as well as usual. Murray mustered only 70 yards on 21 carries, though he helped his fantasy owners with the receiving touchdown.
Moving on to the Colts, Luck had that clutch conversion at the end of regulation, but struggled for most of the second half. He was brilliant early, going 12-of-16 for 186 yards and two touchdowns prior to intermission, but his second-half numbers were just 3-of-12 for 76 yards and an interception on an underthrown pass, thanks to some very shaky pass protection. The Colts were holding on for dear life, as Tennessee's defense finally woke up, but it was too late for the Titans.
Luck's touchdowns went to the usual suspects: Hilton (5-97) and Donte Moncrief (4-37). Neither Jack Doyle (1-7) nor Dwayne Allen (0 catches) did anything, as both saw just two targets each. Allen was guilty of a horrendous drop. Hilton also had a bad drop, negating what should've been a touchdown of about 40 yards.
Frank Gore had a big game. He didn't gain much on the ground versus Tennessee's great run defense (18 carries, 50 yards), but he was a big factor in the aerial attack, snatching four balls for 71 receiving yards.
Adam Vinatieri needs to be mentioned because he missed a field goal, a 42-yarder that went wide right. It was his first errant kick in 45 attempts, which would be amazing regardless of his age.
Buccaneers 19, Chiefs 17
The Chiefs had an impressive five-game winning streak entering this week, and they also had prevailed on nine consecutive occasions at home. All of that came to an end ... against the Buccaneers? It's crazy, but true, as Kansas City failed to achieve sole possession of first place in the AFC West because of an inexplicable defeat to the Buccaneers despite being touchdown favorites.
The story of this game was how efficient the Buccaneers were on third down in this contest. They converted 11-of-15 third-down chances Sunday afternoon, which includes a crucial conversion on a third-and-3 to Mike Evans at the very end as they were attempting to run down the clock. That gave them the victory after the Chiefs scored on a touchdown on the preceding drive.
Jameis Winston finished 24-of-39 for 331 yards and a touchdown. The result may surprise many, but Marcus Peters wasn't playing in this game, which was a big factor. The Chiefs lost Sean Smith this offseason, but still had a great corner in Peters. He was set to cover Evans, but wasn't around to do so. As a result, Evans had a big performance, catching six of 13 targets for 105 yards. He didn't reach the end zone, but came very close; Steven Nelson knocked a potential touchdown out of Evans' hands at the last second in the opening half.
Despite Evans having a big performance, Winston was able to spread the ball around very well, as he had a strong afternoon following a weird fumble on the opening drive in the red zone, where the ball inexplicably slipped out of his hands. Winston was almost picked off in the end zone as well, but improved as the afternoon progressed. Including Evans, five Buccaneers reeled in at least three receptions. Cecil Shorts (5-62) and Russell Shepard (3-54) were next on the receiving list, followed by Adam Humphries (4-47) and Doug Martin (3-42).
Speaking of Martin, he had a tough time finding any running room, gaining 63 yards on 24 carries, and this includes a gain of 12, meaning his other 23 attempts went for only 51 yards. Martin at least helped his team as a receiver, but he dropped a pass on what appeared to be a very promising screen.
Moving on to the Chiefs, Alex Smith had a solid afternoon except for one glaring error. That occurred in the second half, as he entered the red zone. Smith threw a pass into the end zone, but he telegraphed it, and the Buccaneers were able to snatch the interception and return it to midfield. This was a crushing blow for the Chiefs, who may have won the game had they just settled for a field goal on that drive.
Smith finished 24-of-31 for 261 yards, one touchdown and that interception. He also found the end zone on a second occasion on the ground, though he scrambled just twice for 10 yards.
Smith's one aerial score didn't go to the usual suspects, as Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill - playing the No. 1 receiver role with Jeremy Maclin out of the lineup - were held out of the end zone. Albert Wilson (4-19) hauled in Smith's sole aerial score. Kelce (7-108) was a big contributor even though he sustained an injury on the opening possession. Kelce managed to stay in on the game on the drive, but failed to haul in a catchable pass inside the 5-yard line. He later drew a holding penalty in the end zone. Hill, meanwhile, caught four balls for 53 yards.
Spencer Ware shouldered the entire workload for backfield rushes, as he gained 69 yards on 17 attempts. Ware couldn't muster much because the Buccaneers happen to be very good against the run. Charcandrick West was knocked out with a concussion.
Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
I was wondering if the Cowboys would enter this game completely flat. They were coming off a huge victory at Pittsburgh and had to battle the Redskins in just four days on national TV. As it turned out, they most definitely were unfocused. They struggled in the early going, trailing for most of the opening half. Baltimore's stout run defense clogged the running lanes and did a lot of shifting to confuse Dak Prescott, who was pressured quite frequently. This must have been shocking for Prescott, who has been protected extremely well throughout his entire rookie campaign.
As a result of all of this, Prescott was just 4-of-10 for 31 yards to begin the afternoon. Elliott wasn't having much luck either, mustering only 26 yards on six carries in the opening half. It appeared as though the Cowboys were going to lose because they overlooked the Ravens. At the very least, it seemed as though they would have to grind out a tough, defensive victory at the very end.
And then, the second half happened. Dallas' offensive line was much better following the break, both in terms of pass protection and run blocking. Ezekiel Elliott began gashing the Ravens' worn-down defense, while Prescott made all of the throws he needed to. The Ravens appeared to have a chance in the fourth quarter after scoring a touchdown, but the Cowboys held possession for about seven minutes on a soul-crushing drive that culminated with a field goal, making the margin 10 points with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. Thus, Dallas was able to prevail by double digits despite playing poorly for a half, which shows just how good they are.
Remember how I said Prescott began 4-of-10 for 31 yards? Well, he finished 27-of-36 for 301 yards and three touchdowns, meaning he was an unreal 23-of-26 for 270 yards and three scores following that slow start. Considering how utterly confused Prescott was in the opening quarter, it's insane that he was able to rebound like he did. Almost every single rookie quarterback in NFL history would've continued to struggle, but Prescott and the coaching staff figured things out and were able to thrive afterward.
Elliott, meanwhile, failed to eclipse the century mark, but he did finished with 97 yards on 25 carries, running extremely well in the second half, especially on the final offensive drive I referenced earlier. He also caught four passes for 30 receiving yards.
Dez Bryant had an emotional performance in this contest, as he buried his father this week. Bryant managed to snare six passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Beasley (5-59) also scored. Jason Witten, meanwhile, failed to do much (5-37), becoming just the latest tight end to struggle against the Ravens when C.J. Mosley is on the field.
Moving on to the Ravens, they lost sole possession of first place in the AFC North per the results this week. However, the consolation prize was that Steve Smith was able to reach 1,000 career receptions, becoming just the 14th player in NFL history to do so. Smith had a big game, reeling in eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Smith had a huge chunk of Joe Flacco's passing yardage, as the former Super Bowl victor was once again mediocre. Flacco finished 23-of-35 for 269 yards and the late touchdown to Smith. His best throw on the afternoon was a 27-yard dart to Mike Wallace in which Flacco was able to thread the needle. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Flacco's great plays have been few and far between this season, and that was once again the case in this game.
Speaking of Wallace, he caught five passes for 62 yards. Aside from Smith, Wallace was the only Raven to accumulate more than 35 receiving yards.
Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon split the workload almost evenly, which is a disappointment because Dixon is way more talented and deserves to have a greater role. Both backs had good runs in this contest, with West (8-42) outgaining Dixon (6-40) by a slim margin. West scored a touchdown.
Lions 26, Jaguars 19
The Jaguars have played well defensively in recent weeks, but they've made mistakes that have allowed opponents to win without doing much on offense. That occurred once again in this game, as the only reason Detroit was even tied at halftime was because the Jacksonville special teams surrendered a punt return touchdown. The Jaguars should've led 9-3, and perhaps that's even an underestimation because Chris Ivory lost a fumble in Detroit territory.
Things didn't change in the second half, as Bortles threw a pick-six to give the Lions the lead in the third quarter. The pass was high for Marqise Lee, and a tipped pass sailed into the arms of Rafael Bush, who ran into the end zone.
The Jaguars were able to re-claim the lead after that, but ultimately lost by a touchdown. Their defense limited the Lions to 12 offensive points, but the rest of the team surrendered 14 points. If Jacksonville had been more careful with the football, it may have prevailed. However, the Jaguars have been incredibly sloppy ever since foolishly firing Greg Olson, and that once again proved to be the case in this game.
I don't want to take much away from Matthew Stafford, however. Stafford didn't post the best fantasy numbers - he went 24-of-33 for 278 yards - but he played well considering how well Jacksonville's defense has been performing recently. Stafford struggled a bit in the early going, overshooting an open Anquan Boldin for a big gain, but he was once again very effective at the end each half. He led the team into field goal range prior to intermission, and he engineered an 8-minute drive to maintain possession at the very end, killing any chance the Jaguars had of prevailing.
The Lions scored just one offensive touchdown, which was an Eric Ebron rush on a jet sweep, of all things. Ebron caught three passes for 70 yards overall, most of which came on a 61-yard completion on a completely busted coverage by a linebacker. Ebron tied Theo Riddick (8 catches, 70 yards) for the team lead in receiving yardage.
It's hardly a surprise that the two prominent Detroit wideouts struggled against Jacksonville's elite secondary. Golden Tate caught only three balls for 27 yards, while Marvin Jones secured just one reception for 15 yards.
It was also predictable that the Lions couldn't run very well. Dwayne Washington handled most of the workload, but his 13 carries went for only six yards. Riddick, meanwhile, gained 13 yards on just four tries.
As for the Jaguars, I alluded to Bortles' struggles by mentioning his pick-six. That wasn't the only error he made, as he was nearly strip-sacked in the opening half because he held on to the ball too long. The play was ruled incomplete. There were also numerous occasions in which Bortles had receivers open for significant gains, but didn't see them. Bortles has seemingly regressed ever since Olson was let go, which is not surprising in the slightest, given that Bortles simply doesn't care enough to improve the mental part of his game, preferring to party frequently instead.
Bortles finished 22-of-35 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. It was a disappointing showing, considering how poor Detroit's defense has been recently. Bortles was checked for a shoulder injury throughout the first half, but didn't miss any action, aside from a kneel-down right before intermission, which Chad Henne handled and then laughed afterward, for some reason.
It's unclear why the Jaguars insist on giving Ivory plenty of touches. Ivory wasted 17 carries, which he turned into 39 yards, whereas T.J. Yeldon was more effective on his tries (4-16). Ivory did catch six balls for 75 receiving yards, but as mentioned, he lost a fumble in Detroit territory.
Ivory led the Jaguars in receiving yardage. In fact, aside from him and Lee (4-52), no other Jacksonville player accumulated more than 18 yards through the air. Allen Robinson (3-18) barely did anything aside from catching a touchdown. Allen Hurns, meanwhile, made just one catch for nine yards. With the Jaguars not having an opportunity for garbage-time stats, it's no wonder that both Robinson and Hurns failed to post significant yardage.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm wondering if the officials in this game haven't ever heard of offensive pass interference penalties. I was watching this in the background and even though I didn't see every play, I lost track of how many times Odell Beckham Jr. pushed off in this contest. It's unbelievably how truly incompetent these officials were. Meanwhile, the Bears never had a chance after they lost their best offensive weapon (Zach Miller), best offensive lineman (Josh Sitton) and best corner (Tracy Porter) all to injury by the middle of the third quarter. The Bears were up when these injuries began taking place, so I have to imagine that they may have won. Instead, the Giants have become quite possibly the worst 7-3 team of all time.
The Giants are 7-3, but came close to a let-down loss against Chicago. The Bears outplayed New York in the first half as the Giants were flat, but in the second half of the game, New York's defense pitched a shutout to keep the Giants in prime position for a wild-card slot. The Bears (2-8) are already out of the playoff race, so losing maintains their draft position.
The Bears struck first early in the first quarter as they moved down the field before Jay Cutler threw a beautiful 19-yard pass to Zach Miller. New York quickly responded with an 11-yard run from Paul Perkins (4-16), a completion to Odell Beckham Jr., and a fourth-down conversion to Sterling Shepard (5-50-1). To finish the drive, Rashad Jennings had a short touchdown run. The score was tied at six, as both Connor Barth and Robbie Gould missed the extra points. Cutler threw another great pass to lead Miller down the seam for a gain of 34 yards, and that set up a 40-yard field goal for Barth.
Chicago kept moving the ball with Jordan Howard running the ball well on New York and Jeremy Langford (6-8-1) plunging into the end zone from a yard out. Another fourth-down conversion helped the Giants cross Chicago's 30-yard line, but New York settled for a field goal after the Bears' Adrian Amos dropped an interception. The Bears took a 16-9 lead into the half, but suffered a huge loss with Miller leaving the game due to an injury.
The Giants took the opening possession of the second half down the field, and Manning threw a short touchdown pass to tight end Will Tye (2-12-1). New York got in position to take the lead as Victor Cruz (1-48) got behind the coverage for his only reception. To finish the drive, Shepard got wide open down the seam for a 15-yard score. Gould missed the extra point again.
Late in the third, Cutler made a great play, escaping a sack and hitting Cameron Meredith (4-49) to convert a third down. A screen to Jordan Howard then moved the ball into New York territory. Barth, however, missed a long field goal. The Giants' defense did a good job of stopping Chicago on a few drives. Late in the fourth quarter, Cutler made some great plays and threw some dimes to move the ball into New York territory, but Landon Collins intercepted Cutler to clinch the win for the Giants.
Manning completed 21-of-36 for 227 yards and two scores with zero interceptions. Beckham saw tons of double coverage and totaled 46 yards on five catches.
Rashad Jennings ran for 85 yards on 21 carries with a score.
Cutler played very well even though the numbers don't clearly indicate it. He completed 17-of-30 for 252 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Jordan Howard ran for 77 yards on 17 carries. Meanwhile, Zach Miller (3-61-1) led the Bears in receiving even though he only played half the game.
Defensively, Landon Collins continued his breakout year with six tackles and an interception. Jason Pierre-Paul was superb as he notched 2.5 sacks, five tackles and one forced fumble. Olivier Vernon, Johnathan Hankins and Snacks Harrison overwhelmed Chicago's offensive line. Part of the reason was Bears guard Josh Sitton being carted off the field with an injury.
Danny Trevathan, meanwhile, played well for the Bears with 11 tackles. Rookie edge rusher Leonard Floyd was getting into the backfield a lot, but in the fourth quarter, he lowered his head into a big collision. That led to him being carted off the field on a stretcher. Hopefully, the talented young rookie will check out OK.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If you were ever wondering what it would look like if the Bengals lost A.J. Green, and the Bills had LeSean McCoy knocked out, well, you finally had your answer after watching this beauty.
This was a game that neither team really deserved to win. Both teams blew opportunities to pull away from one another, but neither was able to do it. At the end of the day, the Bills emerged victorious because they were able to make fewer mistakes than the Bengals.
Andy Dalton was mediocre for the entire day. His numbers may not look bad at a glance, as he went 24-of-43 for 207 yards, a touchdown and two picks, but he really did not do much. Dalton spent a majority of the day dinking and dunking to his receivers. He rarely threw more than 10 yards down the field, and that really hurt the Bengals during the contest.
That said, Dalton did have some nice throws. In particular, his touchdown to Tyler Boyd was a pretty pass. Dalton lofted it to the perfect spot in the back of the end zone where only his rookie receiver could grab it. That was Dalton's best play of the day. However, his interceptions were both brutal. The first was underthrown, and it was wobbling like crazy. On the second, he threw well behind Tyler Eifert, and it was tipped to Stephon Gilmore. Overall, Sunday was a tough day for Dalton, and the loss can partially be blamed on him.
Of course, there was another major reason for Dalton's struggles today. On the second offensive play of the day for the Bengals, A.J. Green left the game with a hamstring injury. He would not return. The stud receiver was writhing around in pain, and it frankly did not look good. The Bengals are fearing that Green tore his hamstring.
With Green bound to miss time, look for Tyler Boyd to pick up some extra catches. The rookie looked fairly solid during the contest and emerged as Dalton's top target with Green out. Boyd ended up catching six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. This could be the beginning of a strong stretch for the second-round pick. Elsewhere, Brandon LaFell (4-32) and Eifert (3-37) were both decent. LaFell is still just a middling fantasy option at best. If Green is out longer term, LaFell could be a valuable bench asset.
In the running game, Jeremy Hill looked strong for the Bengals. Hill got 16 carries for 62 yards, but he performed better than those numbers. He ripped off a few nice gains and was able to move the pile in short-yardage and red-zone situations. Hill had a nice 20-yard burst that reminded many that he can be explosive when he needs to be. Hill should continue to be the starter for the Bengals.
Meanwhile, Giovani Bernard put together a good game as well. He only got 21 yards on seven carries, but he made an impact in the receiving attack. Bernard was Dalton's top checkdown, recording five catches for 40 yards. Unfortunately, Bernard tore his ACL.
The late-game clock management from Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton was not too good. Dalton had just over two minutes to drive the ball down the field without any timeouts. Dalton was able to get the ball moving, but he constantly threw checkdowns over the middle of the field. The team needed a touchdown to have a chance at winning, but as a result of the play-calling, the Bengals were only able to have enough time to try a 30-yard Hail Mary. They were unable to convert as time expired.
Sunday was a bad day for kickers, and Mike Nugent was no exception. He missed both extra points, which were crucial to the outcome. Had Nugent made even one, the Bengals may have had a chance to kick a game-winning field goal at the end.
For the Bills, this was a big win. However, their offense suffered a blow when they lost their top running back, LeSean McCoy.
Late in the second half, McCoy took a carry out of bounds and got hit in the thumb. He grabbed at his hand and headed to the locker room early. He would not return with what was determined a dislocated thumb. Sources are saying that he will be OK and that the injury should not keep him out long.
In limited action, McCoy had five carries for 33 yards and a touchdown. He waltzed into the end zone untouched on his score as the blocking was perfect. McCoy also had a 20-yard carry where he demonstrated his elusive ability. He is still one of the better runners in the league and is the catalyst for the Bills' offense.
In McCoy's stead, Mike Gillislee took over as the lead back. He performed relatively well, getting 14 carries and turning them into 72 yards. He helped to run the clock in the second half as well. Gillislee was able to gain yardage on almost all of his carries, and he helped take the pressure off of Tyrod Taylor. If McCoy misses a game, Gillislee is a viable FLEX in all fantasy formats.
Speaking of Tyrod Taylor's performance, he had a mixed day as well. He was definitely better than Dalton, but he still had some issues of his own.
In particular this week, Taylor had issues finding open receivers. In his defense, he lost his top receiver Robert Woods to an injury early in the game, so he did not have much to work with. Still, Taylor looked indecisive in the pocket and too often tried to scramble for first downs. It seemed like he was not fully going through his progressions; he just ran if his first option was not open. Taylor also was guilty of staring down his receivers, and that almost resulted in a couple of picks.
Taylor's final stat line was as follows: 19-of-27 for 166 yards and an interception. He also scrambled nine times for 39 yards. Moving forward, Taylor needs to improve his accuracy and hope that his receiving corps can improve in the coming weeks. Otherwise, Taylor could continue to have more issues.
In terms of the Bills' receivers, Woods (3-41) would have posted a big stat line had he not gotten hurt. Woods had a good first quarter and was able to make some nice moves against the Bengals' defenders. After he went down, Brandon Tate (2-48) and Charles Clay (5-23) led the team in receiving. It was a pretty poor day for Buffalo's unit.
Two defenders stood out in the game for the Bills. Stephon Gilmore had a great performance after struggling for the first half of the season. He recorded two interceptions and was able to shut down Cincinnati's receivers. On the defensive front, Kyle Williams had a big day. He was able to get some penetration and disrupt the interior of the Bengals' offensive line. That gave the unit some fits, and it contributed to the late struggles for Cincinnati.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Steelers were such dicks in this game. I can't believe they kept trying to go for the touchdown at the end of the first half even though there was no time on the clock. They finally got the touchdown after a few tries, and if that was bad enough, they went for two. It was akin to throwing poop at a bum. The Browns, of course, are the bums of the NFL.
The Steelers came into Cleveland on a four-game losing streak and needing a win against the winless Browns. I won't keep you in suspense: Pittsburgh won.
The wind was a big factor in how these offenses approached the game. Gusts into the 30-plus-mph range, and sustained winds around 20 mph made it extremely difficult for either team to push the ball downfield. The Steelers were still able to move the ball on Cleveland's weak defense though, as they force-fed Le'Veon Bell early and often. By halftime, Bell had 25 touches for 135 yards and a touchdown. That's more than a full game for most running backs.
The Browns knew what was coming and still couldn't stop Bell, while the Steelers also knew that Cody Kessler wasn't going to beat them deep and were able to stop the run completely. Cleveland's running backs totaled 10 carries for 20 yards on the day.
Ben Roethlisberger dinked and dunked in the passing game, as his first deep throw fell to the ground like a wounded pigeon. The effective rushing and dink and dunking led to a massive discrepancy in time of possession until garbage time for the Browns.
With the field shortened, the Steelers' defense teed off on Cody Kessler, which eventually knocked him out of the game with a concussion. That brought in Josh McCown, who was then beaten up as well. The Steelers, who were dead last in sacks coming into this game with just 13, sacked Cleveland's quarterbacks eight times!
Cody Kessler had just three completions when he was knocked out in the third quarter. Yes, it was that ugly. Josh McCown brought a bit of a spark with him, largely due to his stronger arm, which was able cut through the wind better than Kessler's. McCown was able to throw his first touchdown, a strike to Gary Barnidge with 9:45 left in the game to make it 17-9. Unfortunately for the Browns, McCown giveth and almost always taketh away, as he held the ball too long near the goal line and was stripped of the ball, which was then recovered for a touchdown by the Steelers to make it 24-9.
This was a much-needed win by the Steelers, and especially helpful to them was the Baltimore Ravens' loss in Dallas, which give both teams 5-5 records atop the AFC North. The Ravens currently own the tiebreaker from having beaten the Steelers earlier this season.
The Browns, on the other hand, are now trying not to reach the depths of the 0-16 2008 Detroit Lions. Cleveland has five games left, against the Giants, Bengals, Bills, Chargers and then Steelers again. The Browns will of course be underdogs in each and will have to pull out an upset to keep from going winless in 2016.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Congratulations to the 49ers for their goal-line stand at the end of the game, which helped push the spread for people in the Supercontest. Aside from beating the Rams in Week 1, that might just be their proudest accomplishment this season.
The Patriots (8-2) were without Rob Gronkowski, but that didn't matter as Tom Brady was in his typical excellent form to spread the ball around and cruise over San Francisco. For a time, the 49ers kept the game close, but New England eventually pulled away to drop the 49ers to 1-9 and maintain San Francisco's draft position.
Early in the first quarter, Danny Amendola had a 30-yard punt return, and that set up a short touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. Surprisingly, the 49ers answered with a field goal drive thanks to a 26-yard pass to Shaun Draughn on a wheel route and an 11-yard run by Carlos Hyde. New England quickly tacked on another touchdown as LeGarrette Blount took off on a 42-yard run before a screen pass to James White (6-63-1) found the end zone from nine yards out. The 49ers closed the lead to three after Colin Kaepernick took off on a 17-yard run, Hyde ran for 11 yards, and Kaepernick hit Garrett Celek (3-41) for 19 yards. Kaepernick then connected with Vance McDonald for an 18-yard touchdown. The Patriots took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the middle stretch of the game, the Patriots' offensive line was struggling as New England couldn't establish a consistent rushing attack and was allowing heat on Brady. However midway through the second half, New England put a drive together built mainly on a series of passes - 21 yards to Malcolm Mitchell, 14 yards to White, 14 yards to Martelllus Bennett (1-14), 13 yards to Edelman - before a five-yard pass to Amendola for a touchdown. The Patriots put the game away a few minutes later when Brady made a great play scrambling forward before lofting in a strike to lead Mitchell (4-98-1) down the field for a 56-yard touchdown. New England tacked on a field-goal drive midway through the fourth quarter as well. In garbage time, Kaepernick threw a touchdown pass to Draughn.
Brady completed 24-of-40 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. Edelman led the Patriots in receiving with eight catches for 77 yards and a score.
LeGarrette Blount totaled 124 yards on 19 carries to lead New England on the ground.
Kaepernick was 16-of-30 for 206 yards with two scores. He ran for 32 yards on four carries. Vance McDonald caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Carlos Hyde ran for 86 yards on 19 carries with three receptions for 24 yards.
The Patriots' defense had a good team effort with four sacks and three forced fumbles.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Based on everything my Philly fan friends are saying, it sounds like Nelson Agholor is now persona non grata in the City of Brotherly Love. If Agholor is still on the roster by Tuesday, the people downtown may stop protesting free democratic elections and begin chanting for Agholor to be cut. The Eagles should just "misplace" him with some luggage on the flight back to Philadelphia.
The Seahawks absolutely dominated the Eagles. The final score says that Seattle won by just 11, but the margin of victory felt like it was a lot more than that. The Seahawks controlled the contest from start to finish and really solidified themselves as a contender after a tough start to the year.
The running game for the Seahawks was very impressive. Despite the unceremonious release of Christine Michael early in the week, the team was able to utilize its backs to the best of their respective abilities. Thomas Rawls led the way for the Seahawks with 14 carries for 57 yards. He did not miss a beat in his return from injury, and his physical running style will be hugely beneficial for the offense.
C.J. Prosise looked great as well. He had a 72-yard touchdown run where he burst through the line and ran around some would-be tacklers. Prosise displayed great speed and looked like he would be the third-down/change-of-pace back going forward. In all, he totaled four carries for 76 yards and the touchdown, before leaving the game hurt. Unfortunately, Prosise' injury turned out to be a broken scapula, which will result in him missing approximately eight weeks.
Russell Wilson was yet another Seahawk who put together a strong performance. Wilson finally looks to be back after an injury-plagued start to the 2016 season. In the contest, Wilson went 18-of-31 for 272 yards and a touchdown. He displayed excellent downfield accuracy, tossing numerous perfect deep balls. On one in particular, he lofted the ball to Tyler Lockett for what was nearly a touchdown. Wilson hit the speedster in stride, but Lockett went out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
Wilson was also able to have an impact in terms of scrambling around. His mobility has returned as his ankle has gotten healthier, and that was on display today. He ran the ball five times for 23 yards, but he was also able to move around the pocket, avoid sacks, and complete passes downfield. On a trick play, he caught a 15-yard pass from Doug Baldwin went for a touchdown. Overall, this was a great day for Wilson, and he is certainly returning to his peak performance level.
Because of the improved play of Wilson, Seattle's receivers were able to find some success. Doug Baldwin (4-104) was the top target of the quarterback during the game. He was constantly getting open downfield, and he was able to get some serious yards after the catch as well. On one short completion, Baldwin managed to turn upfield and avoid tacklers to get a big gain. He should be a low-end WR1 so long as Wilson is healthy.
Jimmy Graham (3-46, 1 TD) was Wilson's second-favorite target. Graham put together yet another solid performance, and he continues to defy the odds coming off of a devastating knee injury. His touchdown was a highly impressive play, as he caught the ball and used his physicality to push the defender away as he brought it in. Graham then scampered to the end zone for the 35-yard touchdown. He is one of the top-five tight ends in fantasy right now.
Elsewhere, Tyler Lockett (2-39) looks to be at full speed again. He had just two catches, but he had some opportunities that were wiped out by penalties. He will be a factor down the stretch and is worth picking up if he is available in your league.
Defensively, Bobby Wagner once again stood out. Arguably the best linebacker in the league, Wagner had 15 total tackles on the day and was constantly making plays in the backfield. He recorded a sack and two tackles for a loss. He is probably the most important player on the Seahawks' defense.
The Eagles have to be disappointed in the result of this contest. They were hanging with the Seahawks early, but they absolutely fell apart as the game went on. Part of that can be blamed on the inexperience of Carson Wentz.
Wentz had a tough day, going 23-of-45 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He simply did not have it. Early on, he made some sharp throws against the Seahawks' defense, but eventually the talent of their secondary caught up with him.
Wentz had some issues with staring down receivers, and that helped to lead to one of the picks by Kam Chancellor. Wentz telegraphed his throw and allowed the roaming safety to come across and grab the pass. That seemed to shake Wentz's confidence, and from there, he had more problems.
Still, Wentz was not altogether terrible. He had a below-average game against a tough defense. The contest will be a learning experience for the rookie, and it will be interesting to see if he improves following this contest.
Part of Wentz's issues stemmed from issues with Philadelphia's receiving corps. At one point, the receivers had 15 receiving yards, which was the same amount as Russell Wilson. Nelson Agholor was guilty of some brutal drops, as always.
By the end of the game, Jordan Matthews (5-59) and Dorial Green-Beckham (5-54, 1 TD) were leading the Eagles in receiving. Matthews will be a low-end WR2 most weeks, but the performance from Green-Beckham is encouraging. He has a lot of talent, so maybe he can become a weapon in the Eagles' offense. I would not recommend adding him yet though, as a chunk of his production came in garbage time.
Tight end Zach Ertz had a good performance as well. He led the team with six catches, totaling 35 yards and a touchdown. On the score, he used his athletic ability to stretch himself into the end zone. It was an impressive play.
The running game continues to be an enigma for the Eagles. Ryan Mathews (7 carries, 31 yards) and Darren Sproles (2 carries, 15 yards) both left injured, and it was unclear how severe their ailments were. Rookie Wendell Smallwood led the team with 13 carries for 48 yards, and Kenjon Barner was mixed in a bit, too. If Sproles and Mathews miss time, Smallwood would likely be the top option for the team.
The Eagles actually dealt with a myriad of injuries during this contest. Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox, Leodis McKelvin, Connor Barwin and many more left the game at various points. The Eagles will have to hope that all of them are OK moving forward.
Dolphins 14, Rams 10
All eyes were on Jared Goff, as he was making his first professional start. His first pass was deflected at the line of scrimage by Ndamukong Suh, but his second real pass was an impressive strike to Kenny Britt. Goff did a number of positive things in his debut, including a conversion on a third-and-10 in which he found his target for a first down after avoiding the pass rush. Goff later spun out of a sack and picked up some yardage to move his team into field goal range. Goff had a nice pick-up on the ground a bit later, but his 10-yard scramble was negated by a Greg Robinson hold.
There were plenty of negatives, however. Goff was nearly picked in the first quarter, and on the same drive, he held on to the ball too long and took a sack on a third-and-4. Goff later fired a poor pass to Todd Gurley, who was double covered, and then missed Lance Kendricks on a low throw. At the very end of the game, Goff showed absolutely no urgency. Starting around his own 40-yard line, Goff threw just a seven-yard pass in the middle of the field and then walked to the line of scrimmage despite there being about just 20 seconds remaining in regulation. Jeff Fisher had to bail out his rookie quarterback with a timeout. After two incompletions that weren't even close, Goff attempted a Hail Mary on the final snap, but threw the ball into the end zone before any of his teammates could get there.
Goff finished 17-of-31 for only 134 yards. I'd give him a "C" for this performance. He did some good things, and the heavy rain prevented him from completing anything downfield. However, he had accuracy issues at times, and the lack of both awareness and urgency was alarming. I don't understand how any NFL quarterback can throw a short pass over the middle and then walk to the line of scrimmage when there's less than half a minute remaining in regulation.
As for the Dolphins, I still have no idea how they won this game. They literally did nothing all afternoon. Of their first 11 offensive drives, 10 resulted in a punt, while the other finished with a Ryan Tannehill interception. However, following a Greg Zuelein missed field goal without five minutes remaining, the Dolphins inexplicably caught fire. Ryan Tannehill led two touchdown drives with the help of some horrible Los Angeles penalties, including a ridiculous Aaron Donald helmet-to-helmet cheap shot. Tannehill's second score was to DeVante Parker, which was the decisive touchdown.
Tannehill finished 24-of-34 or 172 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which was a deep shot into the end zone from midfield. Tannehill, despite the 10 incompletions, had a very rough afternoon. He threw some ugly passes and easily could've been picked off three times. Unfortunately for the Rams, T.J. McDonald and Mark Barron were guilty of drops. McDonald's bobble ruined what would've been the easiest interception of his career, as the pass sailed right to him. Tannehill also took four sacks, but was hit hard on so many occasions that it's a minor miracle that he survived the game without sustaining an injury.
Tannehill's touchdowns went to Parker (8-79) and Jarvis Landry (5-28). Parker was a monster down the stretch, while Landry suffered an injury on the final drive.
Jay Ajayi posted 77 yards on 16 carries despite missing two of his best offensive linemen. However, that's misleading because most of Ajayi's yardage came on one 36-yard burst. Ajayi couldn't find any room otherwise against Los Angeles' stout front.
Ajayi just barely outgained Todd Gurley, who tallied 76 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. As with Ajayi, a big chunk of Gurley's yardage came on one attempt, a 24-yarder that happened to be a first-quarter touchdown. The Dolphins stacked the line of scrimmage, much like every other team this year, daring the Los Angeles quarterback to beat them. Goff, like Case Keenum, couldn't get the job done to open up some running room for his stud running back.
No Ram accumulated more than 50 receiving yards. Britt led the way with five grabs for 43 yards, though he did draw a pass-interference flag on third down near midfield. Kendricks was next (4-38), but he lost a fumble in his own territory when Kiko Alonso stripped the ball out of his arms.
Redskins 42, Packers 24
Everyone wants to talk about Aaron Rodgers' struggles when discussing why the Packers have been disappointing this year, but Rodgers deserves none of the blame for this latest defeat. His defense was the culprit, as the injury-ravaged "stop" unit surrendered numerous big gains against the Redskins and couldn't get off the field whatsoever when it mattered most in the second half.
Much was made of the wind in this game, as NBC announcers Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth harped about the strong gusts traveling from right to left from the TV camera's perspective. The Redskins even eschewed an extra point heading in that direction. However, the strong gusts didn't affect Kirk Cousins whatsoever.
Cousins was spectacular in this contest, going 21-of-30 for 375 yards and three touchdowns. He constantly launched perfect bombs to his targets, who torched the beleaguered Green Bay defensive backs. He hit Pierre Garcon with a 70-yard bomb going into the wind in the fourth quarter, and then struck gold once again in the same direction with a 53-yard strike to Jamison Crowder. Rodgers had very little success heading in that particular direction, so it's remarkable that Cousins was able to rip through Green Bay's secondary that easily, despite the numerous injuries. Cousins made just two mistakes during the evening; he threw a pass wide of Robert Kelley in the flat and then didn't see a wide-open DeSean Jackson standing in the end zone. However, Cousins made up for it with a nearly flawless fourth quarter. He misfired just twice after intermission.
As mentioned, Garcon (6-116) and Crowder (3-102) caught deep touchdowns, as the two led the Redskins in receiving yardage. Jackson (4-51) also scored. Jordan Reed, meanwhile, snatched five of his six targets for 79 yards. He dropped a pass in the first quarter.
Kelley, meanwhile, continued to impress after supplanting Matt Jones as the starting running back. Kelley scored a whopping three touchdowns, generating 139 yards on 24 carries. A big chunk of his yardage came at the very end following a Green Bay fumble that effectively ended the game, but Kelley was once again an extremely strong runner, moving the pile on most occasions to pick up three or four yards when he had no running room. Kelley's sole mistake was a dropped pass in the opening half.
As for Rodgers, he started very slowly. In fact, the Packers didn't pick up a first down on their opening three drives in a game for the first time since 2010. The heavy winds really bothered Rodgers, unlike Cousins, which would explain why he generated most of his production in the second and fourth quarters when he was playing with the wind.
Rodgers finished 26-of-41 for 351 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers look great, and while Rodgers didn't play poorly or anything, he still wasn't quite himself. He didn't see some things the Rodgers of old would've noticed. He also was errant on some passes that pre-2015 Rodgers would've completed in his sleep. There were two occasions in which Rodgers was guilty of a delay-of-game penalty, though he got to use a timeout to negate one. His head just doesn't seem to be completely in the game.
Rodgers' score went to Jared Cook (6-105), James Starks (5-46) and Jordy Nelson (3-28). Starks, who dropped a pass, found the end zone on a busted coverage, but Cook is worth talking about the most. He was amazing, looking like the dynamic tight end the Rams thought they were getting when they signed him to a huge contract several years ago. Cook's fumble, punched out by Josh Norman, did end the game for the Packers, but Cook was a terrific, intermediate play-maker for the Packers that Rodgers has been pining for.
Elsewhere, Randall Cobb (3-84) and Davante Adams (3-42) both had very long gains of 47 and 37 yards, respectively. Cobb's 47-yard reception featured two broken tackles. Adams, meanwhile, was guilty of a bad drop.
The Packers once again struggled to run the ball, as Rodgers led the team in rushing with 33 yards on three scrambles. Starks (9-25) didn't do much, so it'll be interesting to see if Christine Michael sees a substantial workload next week.
Raiders 27, Texans 20
The Raiders set the NFL record for penalties in a single game and happened to prevail in that contest, so they definitely are familiar with the concept of winning while not playing their best. That's exactly what happened in this Monday night victory over the Texans.
To say that Oakland was sluggish would be an understatement. The defense left receivers open all evening, dropped numerous interceptions and couldn't put any pressure on the quarterback despite Houston having a huge void at right tackle. Meanwhile, the offense was guilty of several drops. In the early going, Michael Crabtree had the ball slip through his hands on a deep shot, and the same thing happened twice to Seth Roberts a bit later. Crabtree had another drop in the second half; this one happened to negate a potential score. Meanwhile, Derek Carr hurled an uncharacteristic interception, which was a lob up for grabs that he released while under pressure. It was the sort of mistake Carr made when he was a rookie, so it was strange to see him temporarily regress.
The Raiders, however, got their act together when it mattered most. They got help from the officials - more on that later - but they capitalized in the fourth quarter and were pretty much unstoppable, as Houston's secondary had no chance. Perhaps the altitude had something to do with it, but the Raiders scored their game-winning touchdown in just five plays. Their offense was a blur, and Carr's 35-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper proved to be the game- (and spread-) winner.
Carr finished 21-of-31 for 295 yards, three touchdowns and the interception. Carr's pick was horrible, but that was the only mistake he made all evening. His numbers could've been so much better if his receivers didn't drop so many passes. He should have finished with four scores, and it's clear that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL right now, as he 0happens to be playing at the top of his game.
Carr's touchdowns went to Cooper (4-57), Jalen Richard (3-50) and Jamize Olawale (3-90). The latter scored on an inexplicable 75-yarder in which the Texans blew a huge coverage. Meanwhile, Crabtree hauled in three passes for only five yards, which had to be depressing for his fantasy owners. Crabtree drew some pass interference penalties, but he only has himself to blame for the disappointing stat total. The two drops were killers, as he should've accumulated about 60 yards and a touchdown.
Latavius Murray predictably didn't do much on the ground when it comes to the stat box; he mustered just 33 yards on 12 carries. However, he picked up a fourth-and-1 at the end to seal the victory. He also caught all five of his targets for 59 yards.
Let's transition to the Texans, and by "Texans," I mean the officiating that absolutely screwed the Texans. There was an atrocious call in the first quarter in which DeAndre Hopkins should've scored a long touchdown. An official ruled that he was out of bounds, but TV instant replay showed that wasn't the case. Bill O'Brien tried to challenge, but he was told he couldn't because the play was whistled dead. To be fair, it did appear that Hopkins may have stepped out of bounds from the one official's vantage point, but I don't see why he blew the play dead if he wasn't sure.
Fast forwarding to the fourth quarter, the Texans were given a horrible spot on a third-down run. I thought it was obvious that the Texans converted, but the officials disagreed. If you don't believe me, here's actual visual evidence:
O'Brien didn't challenge for some reason, but he did so after the next run. The Texans clearly converted again, but were marked short. Following replay review, the officials stated the call would stand without offering any sort of explanation. It was one of the shadiest things I've ever seen. If, in 10 or 20 years, it's revealed that a Mexican cartel threatened the officials and asked them to make sure that the Raiders covered the 6.5 points, I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest.
Though it ended up costing O'Brien the game, he should be thankful for this atrocious/crooked officiating, as no one will remember his coaching blunders at the end of the game. O'Brien passed on a field goal to give him the lead with a few minutes left, opting instead to go for it on that fateful fourth-and-1. I don't understand why he wouldn't try to go up, as the score was tied at 20 at the time. O'Brien then punted while trailing by seven on a fourth-and-5 on his own 44 with 3:10 remaining and one timeout in his pocket. The Texans had the tired Raiders on their heels, so failing to go for it not only was the chicken-wuss move; it was also the wrong one. O'Brien then called the timeout following the two-minute warning when it would've been better to do so beforehand. It didn't end up mattering, but he would've had more time on the clock had Murray been stuffed on the aforementioned fourth-and-1.
The other take-away for the Texans is that Brock Osweiler had his best game with the team against a decent opponent. Osweiler wasn't all that great though; he simply wasn't terrible like he was versus the Jaguars.
The good news for Osweiler is that he went 26-of-39 for 243 yards, one touchdown and an interception in which he didn't see an open receiver and fired the ball to a covered one. Osweiler, like Carr, endured numerous drops. However, the bad news is that Osweiler should've been intercepted several more times, as the Raiders dropped a couple of his passes thrown right to them. It could've been a much worse evening for Osweiler if the Oakland defenders didn't have butter fingers.
C.J. Fiedorowicz was the primary culprit for Osweiler's drops, as he had three of them. He was solid otherwise, catching six balls for 82 yards. DeAndre Hopkins was next on the list, catching five passes for 58 yards. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, they were robbed of a touchdown.
Houston's best offensive player was Lamar Miller, who ripped through an improved Oakland run defense for 104 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. He nearly had a second score, but was ruled just short of the goal line upon replay review. The officials actually got that one right.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.