When a bad team doesn't show up and the opponent has a ton to play for, results like this tend to happen. It was apparent from their early mental mistakes and missed tackles that the Dolphins weren't too keen on trying hard in this game, while Baltimore had to win to avoid a 3-5 record. The Ravens, as a consequence, demolished Miami in a lopsided affair that featured several dirty plays.
The prominent instance of this occurred late in the first half when Joe Flacco scrambled and slid just shy of the first-down marker. Linebacker Kiko Alonso dived right at Flacco's head, delivering a forearm blow at his helmet. Flacco's helmet popped off, and he didn't look like he knew what planet he was on. A fight naturally ensued, and I have no idea how several players weren't ejected because of it. Better yet, I don't know why Alonso was allowed to keep playing. He blatantly tried to injure Flacco, and he was successful in doing so. I'd be shocked if he doesn't receive a suspension for what he did.
Flacco was naturally knocked out for the rest of the game with a concussion. If there's a silver lining for the Ravens, it's that they have nine days off for Flacco to clear protocol before they battle the Titans. They'll need Flacco back, as Ryan Mallett is not a viable NFL quarterback. Mallett was just 3-of-7 for 20 yards and a touchdown in relief. Flacco, by the way, was 10-of-15 for 101 yards and a deep touchdown to Jeremy Maclin.
Speaking of Maclin, he led Baltimore with three catches for 53 yards and the score. The only other Ravens with double-digit receiving yards were Alex Collins (2-30) and Nick Boyle (4-29). Ben Watson (2-6) hauled in Mallett's touchdown.
The difference-maker for Baltimore's offense was Collins. Nicknamed the "Irish Dancer" by Tony Romo, Collins gained 113 yards on 18 carries. The Dolphins had no answer for him, though it didn't exactly look like they were trying too hard to bring him down. The effort was absolutely non-existent. Still, Collins should be added in all fantasy leagues.
Jay Ajayi was the superior running back talent entering this contest, and he looked like he was going to have a huge performance when he had a 21-yard burst on the opening drive. Instead, he was limited to just two rushing yards the rest of the evening. Ajayi finished with 23 yards on 13 carries, meaning he averaged .167 yards per carry if you exclude his 21-yard gain! Baltimore's run defense came to play with Brandon Williams back, and the Dolphins were lethargic.
Some examples of Miami's lack of concentration was that the team was guilty of numerous pre-snap procedure penalties, including one on the very first play of the game. They had an illegal formation ruin their second third down of the evening. They also had 12 men on the field on Flacco's touchdown to Maclin, yet they still couldn't prevent a big play from happening.
Of course, the Dolphins didn't have much of a chance because of Matt Moore's atrocious play. Moore was 25-of-44 for only 176 yards and two pick-sixes. Both turnovers came in the fourth quarter. One was a great play by C.J. Mosley, while the second was a lazy, telegraphed throw toward the sideline that Jimmy Smith took back to the house. Moore's accuracy was terrible, as he missed numerous open receivers. His completions were mostly checkdowns, save for a nice, 28-yard touch pass to Kenny Stills. But that was about it. Moore looked so good in Sunday's comeback versus the Jets, but he was abysmal in this contest.
Stills led Miami with five catches for 65 yards. Jarvis Landry (5-33) and Leonte Carroo (6-48) were the only other Dolphins with more than 20 receiving yards.
Vikings 33, Browns 16
The Browns, at 0-7, came into this game as huge underdogs. No one gave them a chance, especially since they would be missing Joe Thomas, Myles Garrett and top cornerback Jason McCourty. Yet, despite the injuries, Cleveland fought hard and even had a lead at halftime. Unfortunately for the Browns, NFL games are 60 minutes instead of 30, and they collapsed in the second half because of numerous mistakes.
Cleveland didn't waste any time making errors following intermission. Isaiah Crowell lost a fumble on the very first play, setting up a Minnesota field goal. Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez then missed a field goal (in addition to an earlier extra point). David Njoku dropped two passes. There were multiple defensive penalties, including a roughing-the-passer infraction that helped the Vikings score a touchdown. Before the Browns knew it, they saw their 13-12 halftime lead turn into a 30-16 deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
If there's a silver lining for the Browns, aside from them maintaining their draft position, it's that DeShone Kizer didn't commit any turnovers. Kizer, however, had some accuracy issues, as indicated by his stat line; he was 18-of-34 for only 179 yards to go along with 18 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Kizer threw some passes into the dirt and sailed a ball over Njoku's head for a big gain. However, he also had several passes that were dropped, as his receivers screwed him out of a potentially decent game.
Crowell, who had the aforementioned crucial fumble, actually had a strongfantasy performance for once. He rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and he also caught four passes for 54 receiving yards. Crowell was a greater part of the passing game because Duke Johnson suffered a concussion. Johnson caught four balls for 10 receiving yards.
Crowell led the Browns in passing. After that was Ricardo Louis (2-42) and Njoku (2-19), who had a miserable outing in London because of all of his mistakes.
As for the Vikings, Case Keenum didn't play his best game. He finished 27-of-43 for 288 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was tipped into the air on the opening drive. Keenum made some errors in this game. For example, he overthrew an open receiver on a third down on the second possession. He also settled for too many checkdowns. On one occasion, he had an open Stefon Diggs screaming down the field, yet Keenum made a short toss to a running back instead.
The good news for the Vikings is that Teddy Bridgewater could play following the bye. If Bridgewater is even 75 percent of what he used to be, that'll be a huge boon for a Viking team that is a huge favorite to win the NFC North.
Adam Thielen had a huge performance. He caught five balls for 98 yards and a touchdown, his first of the year. Thielen also drew a pass-interference flag in the end zone to set up a rushing touchdown. And speaking of pass interferences, Diggs drew two of them downfield, which would explain why his stat line - four catches, 27 yards - was so disappointing. Diggs was close to having a big game, and he should've had a nice catch in the fourth quarter, but incompetent officiating ruled that he didn't secure the ball prior to falling out of bounds (even though it was fairly obvious that he did.)
At any rate, Keenum's other touchdown went to Kyle Rudolph, who caught six of his seven targets for 27 yards. Rudolph dropped a pass, though a Cleveland linebacker made a nice play on him.
Jerick McKinnon was a big part of Minnesota's offense. He had fewer carries than Latavius Murray, 19-14, but he outgained his counterpart on the ground, 50-39. He also scored a touchdown and caught six balls for 72 receiving yards. Murray, by the way, had just 39 yards on the ground. It's not a surprise that last week's performance was a mirage.
Eagles 33, 49ers 10
The Eagles won this game easily, but only because the 49ers are terrible. They've improved to 7-1, but there has to be some concern, particularly with the offensive line. Carson Wentz's blocking held up poorly in the first game without Jason Peters, and this will be an issue going forward.
Wentz was sacked "only" three times, but it could've easily been more, as he was under heavy pressure. One sack was his fault because he held on to the ball too long, but the protection was still poor because the 49ers don't even have a very good pass rush. Peters' absence is a huge deal, so perhaps the Eagles will pull off a trade with the Texans, who are rumored to be shopping talented left tackle Duane Brown.
Wentz ended up going 18-of-32 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He struggled early, overshooting Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown in the opening quarter. His pick was also poor, as his turnover led to San Francisco's only touchdown. However, Wentz also made some great plays at times, leading the Eagles to their seventh victory of the season.
Wentz's touchdowns went to Zach Ertz and Jeffery, which was very fortunate for Jeffery's fantasy owners because the wideout converted only two of his six targets otherwise. The touchdown was impressive, as he caught the ball with one hand over a San Francisco defender. Ertz, meanwhile, snatched four balls for 34 yards.
Corey Clement led the Eagles in rushing, gaining 54 yards on 10 carries. Don't read too much into this, however, as most of this came late in the game during garbage time. LeGarrette Blount handled most of the significant workload, churning out 48 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Curiously, Wendell Smallwood (one carry, five yards) didn't do anything.
Moving on to the 49ers, it was another rough afternoon for C.J. Beathard. The rookie looked shaky right away, firing behind Carlos Hyde on a third down during the opening drive. He then had Hyde open in the flat, but threw so poorly that Hyde had to twist his body oddly, resulting in a drop. Beathard followed that up with an interception on a deflection, and he then tossed a pick-six late in the first half on what looked like a miscommunication.
Beathard finished 17-of-36 for 167 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The good news is that he was able to scramble six times for 40 rushing yards. The bad news is that Beathard looks completely overwhelmed. He does not appear as though he can be a viable NFL starter because of his atrocious accuracy, so perhaps the 49ers will be able to acquire Kirk Cousins next offseason.
Beathard led the 49ers in rushing, as Carlos Hyde (12-25) didn't have any room to run because massive right tackle Trent Brown was out. Making matters worse, left tackle Joe Staley got hurt as well. He suffered an injury to his eye, which is more serious than it sounds because he didn't even board the team plane back to San Francisco. It was not a pretty sight - pun intended - as Staley was bleeding all over the place. Another serious injury occurred to talented safety Jimmie Ward, who suffered a broken forearm and could be out for the rest of the season.
No 49er player had more than 40 receiving yards. Matt Breida led the way, catching for balls for 39 yards and a touchdown in garbage time. Pierre Garcon caught only two balls for 17 yards. He seemed to be limited by a neck injury he suffered in the second quarter when he collided with a coach on the sideline.
Panthers 17, Buccaneers 3
This was an absolutely miserable game to watch. Both quarterbacks had to battle extremely windy conditions with different sort of handicaps. The end result was a sloppy victory by the Panthers, who improved to 5-3. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have to be scratching their heads at 2-5, wondering what went wrong for them after they looked so impressive in a near-victory against the Patriots on a Thursday night game several weeks ago.
Cam Newton's handicap in this divisional battle was his poor blocking. Center Ryan Kalil was out again, and this allowed the Buccaneers to dominate the trenches. Newton saw tons of pressure and had trouble maintaining drives as a result. Despite the final score, the Buccaneers actually outgained the Panthers, and they had more first downs, 16-14. Newton was just 18-of-32 for 154 yards, one touchdown and an interception on an underthrown pass. Newton was nearly intercepted on another instance when he hurled a poor downfield shot - one of many that came out of his hand on Sunday afternoon.
The Panthers, however, were able to prevail because of Jameis Winston's shoulder injury. Winston didn't look right, going 21-of-38 for 210 yards and two interceptions. The first pick was off a tipped pass, while the second was a telegraphed throw that was affected by a blitz. Winston also had a lost fumble on a weird flip that occurred as he was getting sacked by Julius Peppers. This was a historic sack, by the way, as Peppers passed Chris Doleman for fourth all time in that category. Peppers now only trails Hall of Famers Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Kevin Greene.
The turnovers proved to be the big difference, as the Panthers were able to stay clean outside of the one interception. They tried to control the clock by running the ball, but aside from Newton's scrambles - 44 yards on 11 attempts - they didn't have much success. Jonathan Stewart looked as sluggish as usual, gaining 34 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Curiously, Cameron Artis-Payne had as many attempts as Christian McCaffrey (4), and he outgained the rookie, 8-3. Artis-Payne had an impressive 11-yard burst, but did nothing else.
McCaffrey, at least, was able to lead the Panthers in receiving, catching five balls for 49 yards. That should be an indication of how windy the game was, as Carolina's next-leading receiver was Kelvin Benjamin, who hauled in three balls for 39 yards and a late touchdown. Ed Dickson (4-24) was the only other Panther with more than 20 receiving yards.
Going back to the Buccaneers, the windy conditions suppressed their receivers' stats as well. Cameron Brate led the way with four catches for 64 yards, while Mike Evans (5-60) wasn't too far behind. Evans nearly had a deep touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Winston just barely missed him.
DeSean Jackson (3-37) didn't do much, though he was open for a deep play, but as with the throw to Evans, Winston couldn't connect with him. O.J. Howard (2-16) was nearly invisible following last week's brilliant performance. Still, Howard's usage should increase in the second half of the season.
Doug Martin had a tough matchup with Luke Kuechly back on the field. He didn't do that poorly considering the circumstances, gaining 71 yards on 18 carries.
Saints 20, Bears 12
The Bears were able to dominate the Panthers last week in a defensive grinder, but there was little doubt that they would have to attempt way more than seven passes in this contest, as it would be impossible to keep Drew Brees and his high-powered offense off the board in the Superdome. Chicago's defense did a good job, limiting the Saints to 20, but Mitchell Trubisky just didn't have the experience or the supporting cast to pull the big upset.
While the Saints technically scored 20, it was really just 16, as an early field goal turned into a touchdown because the Bears were offside on the kick. Alvin Kamara scored a touchdown on the very next play, which was huge because it allowed New Orleans to maintain the lead throughout the afternoon.
Drew Brees, as a result, didn't have to force poor throws against Chicago's fierce defense. Brees actually misfired on just five occasions, going 23-of-28 for 299 yards. He failed to throw a touchdown for the first time all season, but he didn't need to.
Mark Ingram had a solid statistical performance, gaining 75 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries to go along with six catches for 24 receiving yards. However, he drew the ire of Sean Payton for fumbling in the red zone late in the game when the Saints were up just 17-12. The Saints ended up kicking the middling field goal anyway because of the Bears turning the ball over on downs. Still, Ingram needs to take care of the ball because Payton is more than eager to give Kamara more touches. Kamara had 28 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He also snatched three catches for 48 receiving yards.
Michael Thomas was the Saints' receiving leader, catching seven of his eight targets for 77 yards. Ted Ginn (2-68) was't too far behind him.
As for the Bears, Trubisky's numbers do not look good, to say the least. He went just 14-of-32 for 164 yards and an interception. The pick wasn't really his fault, as it occurred on a desperation attempt at the very end of the game. However, Trubisky's other passes were a mixture of inaccuracy and drops. Trubisky had a wide-open Tarik Cohen in the middle of the field in the third quarter, but completely missed him, for example.
Meanwhile, Trubisky should've thrown a couple of touchdowns, but there were drops by Jordan Howard and Zach Miller. I wouldn't blame Miller, as he had the ball drop out of his hands because he tore dislocated his knee on the play. Miller was one of three prominent Bears hurt in this contest, as Kyle Long and Cody Whitehair also suffered injuries. Long was the most significant one, given that he happens to be Chicago's best offensive lineman.
Howard was guilty of a drop, but he had a nice game on the ground, gaining 102 yards on 23 carries. He also caught three passes for 19 yards, but saw Tarik Cohen vulture a touchdown.
With Dontrelle Inman inactive, Tre McBride was the leader in receiving, catching three passes for 92 yards. McBride was actually the only Bear who tallied more than 25 receiving yards. Kendall Wright was next on the list with two grabs for 23 yards.
Bills 34, Raiders 14
The Raider offense that dominated the fourth quarter against the Chiefs was nowhere to be seen in this game. They put on a terrible showing at Buffalo, making lots of mistakes and mustering nothing aside from an impressive opening drive, despite battling a secondary missing two talented players. Oakland dropped to a disappointing 3-5, while the Bills, thanks to their impressive defensive performance, have improved to 5-2 heading into their Thursday night battle against the Jets.
The key to this victory for Buffalo was three turnovers that began occurring in a 7-7 tie. The Raiders were driving, close to midfield just prior to halftime, but DeAndre Washington had the ball pop out of his hands. Linebacker Matt Milano secured it, and he ran back the distance to give the Bills the lead. Milano would recover another fumble in the third quarter when Jalen Richard coughed up a punt return. That set up a field goal. The Bills drilled another three-pointer a bit later when Derek Carr lofted an underthrown pass that was picked off. And just like that, the Bills were up 20-7 and never looked back.
Despite what I said about the Bills turning the Raiders over numerous times, I don't want to take anything away from Tyrod Taylor and the rest of the offense, which was extremely efficient in this contest. The Raiders, like the Bills, were missing multiple starters in the secondary, and Taylor took advantage of it. Taylor misfired just seven times, going 20-of-27 for 165 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). The passing yardage number isn't an impressive figure, but because the Bills had the lead for most of the afternoon, Taylor didn't have to force anything downfield. What's important is that any time that Buffalo needed a big play to keep a drive alive, Taylor would deliver.
Of course, Buffalo's best player happened to be LeSean McCoy, who gashed NaVorro Bowman and the Raiders for 151 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He also caught six passes for 22 yards. Oakland simply had no answer for McCoy despite Bowman now being in the center of the defense.
Buffalo's leading receiver was Andre Holmes, who got revenge against his former team, catching three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Matthews (3-21) had a big gain nullified by penalty. Even Zay Jones got into the mix, snatching three receptions for 32 yards. It was a miracle that he didn't have any huge drops.
Meanwhile, Carr posted some misleading stats. He finished 31-of-49 for 313 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. A bulk of Carr's yardage came on a meaningless drive in the fourth quarter. He didn't look like himself, and it didn't appear as though the Raiders were willing to trust him in the early going, as they called for a run on a third-and-2 play. Carr spent most of the afternoon dinking and dunking, so it's fair to wonder when he'll be 100 percent.
While Carr regressed, the same could be said for Amari Cooper, who was a shell of the dominant player we saw on a recent Thursday night. Cooper caught five of his 10 targets for 48 yards. Michael Crabtree was way more productive, hauling in five balls for 83 yards.
Despite the fumble, DeAndre Washington had a strong fantasy outing as a receiver, catching eight passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team in rushing (6-26), outgaining Richard (5-21), so despite the error, the Raiders should consider utilizing Washington over the ineffective Marshawn Lynch.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Falcons didn't exactly make believers out of skeptics in this game. They won, and that's great and all, except they really struggled to put a bad Jet team away. In fact, New York led most of the way. That's not supposed to happen!
Atlanta needed a win after losing three straight, and while it wasn't a clean game, the Falcons did what they needed to get the victory. Rain and wind were problems for both teams, as Matt Ryan had numerous fumbled snaps and there were a lot of dropped passes from both teams. Once again, the Jets almost pulled off a win, and if it weren't for some missed field goals, the Jets could have knocked off the defending NFC champs.
The Jets struck first as they marched 75 yards after the opening kickoff. A pass interference penalty on Falcons safety Ricardo Allen set the Jets up in the red zone. From there, Josh McCown found tight end Eric Tomlinson (1-20) wide open down the seam for a 20-yard touchdown. New York was set up for more points, as Ryan fumbled a snap and the Jets recovered at the Falcons 34-yard line, but Chandler Catanzaro missed the 46-yard field goal attempt. Atlanta got moving with Ryan hitting tight ends Levine Toilolo (2-20) and Austin Hooper (4-47-1) for 50 yards combined over three receptions. To end the drive, Ryan found Hooper in the back of the end zone.
Ryan later fumbled another snap, and Jamal Adams was Johnny on the spot to recover the ball, which set up the Jets at the Falcons' 20-yard line. New York went backward from there, but this time, Catanzaro was good on a 43-yard field goal. Atlanta responded with a drive down the field. Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu (3-74) for 16 yards, had a 14-yard scramble, and then found Devonta Freeman for 20 yards to get inside the 10. Hooper dropped a touchdown, leaving Atlanta to settle for a field goal to the tie the game at 10. The Jets came back with McCown leading New York down the field, and Robby Anderson burned Desmond Trufant for a 24-yard touchdown. The Falcons tacked on a field goal drive before the half to cut the Jets' lead to 17-13 at the half.
In the third quarter, Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a 54-yard reception on a deep post. Atlanta settled for another field goal on that drive. Anderson would set up the Jets to get those three points back after a fantastic 32-yard catch, but Catanzaro missed the 48-yard attempt. The Falcons took advantage with Tevin Coleman (14-82, 1-22) breaking off a 64-yard run to start the fourth quarter. To finish the drive, Sanu made an excellent catch in the back of the end zone for six. That gave the Falcons a 22-17 lead.
New York moved into Atlanta territory with a completion to Anderson and a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty. This time, Catanzaro hit a 46-harder to cut Atlanta's lead to 22-20. In a gust of wind and rain, Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt, allowing the Falcons to recover the ball at New York's 13-yard line. Darron Lee made a nice play in coverage on Freeman to force a Matt Bryant field goal for Atlanta. The Falcons' defense took care of business from there on a couple of Jets possessions to close out the victory.
Ryan was 18-of-29 for 254 yards with two touchdowns. He had three fumbled snaps in the rain, with New York recovering two of them. Jones had three catches for 74 yards.
Freeman totaled 41 yards on 12 carries with one reception for 20 yards.
McCown was 26-of-33 for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson had six receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Bilal Powell had 33 yards on 14 carries.
Defensively, Muhammed Wilkerson was superb for New York. He racked up five tackles with a few for a loss and a sack. Atlanta's defense played at its best in crunch time with Takk McKinley, Dontari Poe, and Grady Jarrett registering sacks in the second half.
Patriots 21, Chargers 13 By Jacob Camenker - Riggo's Rag
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Chargers killed themselves with two touchdowns overturned by penalty, but what I want to focus on was an early fourth-and-1. Going up against one of the worst defenses in the NFL with Philip Rivers and Melvn Gordon, it would've made sense to have the offense on the field on a snap in New England territory. Instead, head coach Anthony Lynn called for a 51-yard field goal with a kicker he tried to replace this week. Yes, this actually happened. The Chargers are stupid. Very stupid.
The Patriots emerged from this game victorious, but they are still obviously a work in progress. For the second time this season, their opponent had a chance to have a late comeback in the fourth quarter. New England's defense bent but didn't break, and that's how the team won.
Instead of utilizing a traditional running attack, the Patriots opted to use their backs mostly as receivers. Tom Brady threw a great deal of short passes to the receiving backs for the team, and that, in effect, was the Patriots' rush offense. Both Rex Burkhead (7-68) and James White (5-85) had big days as receivers, and they were Brady's favorite targets for most of the game. Burkhead looked particularly good, as his elusive ability was on display and he was able to get a great deal of yards after the catch. Burkhead is worth a speculative add if you need a depth running back.
Meanwhile, in terms of actual carries, the Patriots split the carries four ways. The aforementioned Burkhead and White only saw a combined five carries, so that left most of the workload for Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee. Lewis was used as the primary running back and showed some of the ability that made him a dangerous weapon two years ago. He was able to make men miss at the line of scrimmage and turn gains that should have been gone nowhere into four-to-five-yard gains. Lewis took 15 carries for 44 yards and also handled most of the goal-line work, a trend that has continued since Gillislee fumbled a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking of Gillislee, he took 11 carries for 34 yards. He saw more action later in the contest as the Patriots tried to wear down the Chargers' defense. Gillislee seems likely to continue in this role, and he won't have any fantasy value until he regains his goal-line role.
In the passing game, the Patriots had a solid performance, and much of that was thanks to the efforts of Brady. The future Hall of Famer continued to look sharp, as he has for most of the season. For all of the contest, Brady was able to throw accurate, well-placed balls that only his receivers had a chance at grabbing. Brady spent a lot of the day working the short and intermediate part of the field to hit his receivers. He never had trouble finding an open player.
A couple of plays stood out from Brady's performance. One actually came on an incompletion when he heaved a ball from his own 35-yard line in an attempt to hit Chris Hogan down the field for a touchdown. He nearly was able to get the ball to Hogan, but the more impressive thing is that Brady threw the ball 60 yards in the air with good accuracy.
Brady's other excellent throw came on the final offensive drive of the game. On a second-and-20, he lofted a perfect ball over a linebacker to Rob Gronkowski to get the first down. That allowed the Patriots to run more time off the clock and seal the win.
Overall, Brady finished 32-of-47 for 333 yards and a touchdown. He has been carrying the Patriots so far this season and is currently one of the leaders of the MVP race.
Aside from the running backs, Brady's top receivers were Gronkowski (5-57, 1 TD) and Hogan (5-60). Gronkowski didn't make a lot of catches, but he had the touchdown catch and made the big play on the final drive when it counted. He is still the best tight end in football and should have some big performances as the year goes along. Meanwhile, Hogan made a nice catch over the middle of the field and continued to operate as the team's top deep threat.
Elsewhere, Brandin Cooks (5-26) had a decent performance. He was able to find open space in the first half, but he had to deal with Casey Hayward for some of the contest.
For the Chargers, this was a strong showing. While they were unable to ultimately win the contest, their defense played very well, and they had a chance to beat the Patriots late in the fourth quarter.
Philip Rivers did as much as he could to help the Chargers win. Rivers was his usual solid self, and showed great accuracy during the contest. His ability to hit receivers on out routes to the sideline was very strong, and that allowed him to methodically move the ball down the field.
At the same time, Rivers was forced to throw mostly short passes against the Patriots, as the team did well to protect against the deep ball. As a result, the Chargers ended up with a lot of third-and-shorts, but they couldn't convert them. Part of this was due to Rivers' inability to find open receivers in these situations, and some of it was due to Matt Patricia's ability to call the right plays at the right time.
Overall, Rivers went 17-of-30 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was a solid game, but he was unable to lead the team to victory at the end of the day. He had a chance on the final drive, but he was killed by a lack of timeouts and a key drop.
Rivers' top receivers during the contest were Keenan Allen (4-61) and Travis Benjamin (5-61, 1 TD). Allen was able to get open often early in the contest. Allen can be trusted as a WR2 in fantasy and may have a chance to improve. Benjamin had an impressive performance on offense, and his explosive play-making ability was on display. His touchdown saw him outrun the Patriots' defense, and he almost had a second touchdown as well, but it was called back by a penalty. He is worth adding as a boom-or-bust type of play-maker.
It is worth noting, however, that Benjamin produced one of the worst punt returns in NFL history in this contest. He muffed the ball around the 15 before picking it up at the 10. He then proceeded to run backward into the end zone, where he was tackled for a safety. Those two points gave the Patriots a lead they never relinquished.
Finally, the running game for the Chargers was a strength. Melvin Gordon ran for 132 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Most of his yardage came on an 87-yard burst that saw him show great patience on an outside run then outrun the defense. Gordon is an RB1 in fantasy, and his performance today was indicative of that.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Want to know how worthless this game was? Just look at Jack Doyle's stat line. If you don't feel like scrolling down, he caught 12 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. I told you, worthless.
The Bengals came into this game as 10-point favorites, while the Colts were reeling after getting manhandled by the Jaguars 27-0, when quarterback Jacoby Brissett was sacked a whopping 10 times. The Bengals had also just lost badly to division rival Pittsburgh on the road, so back at home against a weak opponent was what the doctor ordered, that is, until the order got there and the Colts got a big helping of horse hoof in their guts. Thankfully for the Bengals, a last-minute transplant of the ball from the Colts' possession to the Bengals, gave them a much-needed win.
This game started well for the Bengals, with two sacks of Brissett, forcing the punt, which set up a day of bad offensive line play from both teams. This includes special teams, as the Bengals blocked a punt to set up their first field goal and the Colts blocked a field goal a couple drives later. Brissett ended up getting sacked four times, while Dalton was sacked three times, but pressured more often than a poor Indianapolis pass rush should be able to accomplish.
The Colts' passing offense was dink and dunking their way all day, but effectively, as tight end Jack Doyle caught 12-of-14 targets for 121 yards and one touchdown. His second-most targeted receiver, T.Y. Hilton, was kept under wraps, as he caught just 2-of-7 targets for 15 yards.
This week, we saw a bit of a resurgence from Frank Gore as well. He rushed 16 times for 82 yards and caught all four of his targets for 19 yards. His previous rushing high this season had been 57 yards, but on 25 carries against Cleveland in Week 2. Cincinnati had kept running backs rushing at a 3.6 yards-per-carry clip so far, this year, so old man Gore taking it to the Bengals was a bit of a surprise.
The Bengals once again started their offense with Jeremy Hill as the lead back for some reason. Hill did fine with a couple of good runs on their first drive, but then, as usual, Joe Mixon came in as the lead back. Mixon, on his first carry, tripped over himself as he tried getting outside, and later, he lost a fumble. Mixon is Cincinnati's best running back and deserves to start, despite his troubles this week, and giving Hill the honorary start is just ludicrous. Mixon did show his ability on a middle screen, which he took for 67 yards. Right now, I'd say he needs his coach to show more faith in him and take the good with the bad, because with Hill, all you are really getting is the bad.
Mixon did little on the ground, but ended up with three receptions for 91 yards, while no other receiver topped 46, as the Colts did all they could to slow down A.J. Green. Green did find the end zone on a crucial third-and-goal, but ended the day catching just 3-of-8 targets for 27 yards and a touchdown. The Colts came into this game allowing the most 20-plus-yard receptions, which of course fit perfectly into Green's deep-ball ability, but not this week. It was a big reason the Colts were able to stay in this game.
Colts rookie running back Marlon Mack continues to shine in his limited role, but with Gore touching the ball 20 times, Mack's workload, though decent, is going to remain capped. He ran the ball 11 times, but for just 27 yards, but was able to do his best work in the air and at a crucial point in the game. With the Colts down after a 25-yard touchdown from Andy Dalton to rookie Josh Malone, the Colts, who aren't known for their quick answers, answered that touchdown with a nice 88-yard drive that capped off in a perfectly timed screen to Mack, which avoided the blitz on third down and went for a 24-yard touchdown, giving the Colts the lead, 20-17 as they went into the fourth quarter.
This game had six lead changes in all, but the biggest one, as it always is, was the last. With the Colts tacking on an Adam Vinatieri field goal, his third of the day, to make their lead 23-17, they were able to keep that lead deep into the fourth quarter. With 6:58 left in the game and the ball at their own 24-yard line, defensive end and two-time Pro Bowler Carlos Dunlap took it upon himself to win the game for Cincinnati. He made a fantastic play, deflecting a pass at the line of scrimmage - an ability he led in last season - and then making the interception before returned it for the game-winning touchdown. It was a play you watch football for.
This was a hard-fought game by two not-great football teams, but an extremely enjoyable game, which you can't always say when two two-win teams meet.
The Colts will stay on the road and head to Houston, who just lost an extremely close game in Seattle. That game will take a monumental effort by the Indianaplis to come out on top.
The Bengals stay on the road and head to Jacksonville, which is a different and better team than the one they've beaten four times in a row.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I thought about what to write here for 20 minutes, and I've got nothing. This game was so awesome that I don't really have anything to add.
These two teams have been known for vigorous defenses, but Seattle was able to win a shootout as neither team was capable of stopping the other's quarterback. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were incredible, as they made one great pass after another. However, ball security for Seattle ended up giving the Seahawks enough of an edge to avoid the road upset from Houston.
On the first drive of the game, Watson laid out a perfect bomb for Will Fuller, who burned Shaquil Griffin and Earl Thomas for a 59-yard touchdown. Quickly, Houston got the ball back and DeAndre Hopkins beat Richard Sherman for a 27-yard reception to get inside the 30, but Watson made an ill-advised pass that was jumped by Thomas for an interception. He raced 78 yards for a pick-six to tie the game at 7. Watson shook off the bad play and got moving with a 15-yard completion to Hopkins and then a 22-yard pass interference on Jeremy Lane, who had to grab Fuller to prevent a long touchdown. Lamar Miller ran for 12 to set up a first-and-goal and then darted into end zone from a few yards out.
Seattle got moving with a Tyler Lockett snatching a 27-yard completion. Jadeveon Clowney had a third-down strip-sack on Wilson, but the ball flew forward and Seahawks tight end Luke Willson scooped up the ball at the 20 to give Seattle a lucky first down. Russell Wilson dodged Clowney and then found Paul Richardson for a 20-yard touchdown. That tied it at 14 to end the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Texans took the lead. Watson ran for 18 yards, and Houston made a fourth-down conversion with Miller. The Texans then picked on Sherman, with Hopkins getting him for 24 yards, and then Fuller getting open in the front of end zone for a 20-yard touchdown with Sherman getting turned around by the speedy receiver. The Seahawks came right back with Wilson hitting Tanner McEvoy for 53 yards to the Texans' seven-yard line. The next play saw Wilson roll out and hit Richardson for a short touchdown to tie the game at 21 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Houston produced a field-goal drive. The Seahawks then got a 66-yard gain after Houston had busted coverage to let fullback Tre Madden get wide open. A nine-yard gain to Jimmy Graham moved the ball inside the five-yard line, but Thomas Rawls dropped a touchdown, so Seattle settled for a tying field goal.
Watson then had a critical mistake as he was pressured and threw off the mark, leaving Richard Sherman to pick him off deep in Houston territory. Seattle took the lead with a field goal to go up 27-24. The Texans came back with Watson hitting Hopkins for 34 yards and then Fuller for 36 yards to set up a first-and-goal. Watson made a phenomenal play to break a sack and throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Miller. That put Houston up 31-27 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Wilson came right back, hitting Lockett for 55 yards to the Houston 20. The drive ended with Jimmy Graham getting wide open for a 1-yard touchdown. That put Seattle up 34-31 with five and half minutes remaining. The Texans caught Seattle in a great play call with a screen to Hopkins, and he exploded down the field for a 72-yard touchdown. That gave the Texans a 38-34 with 4:49 remaining.
Wilson quickly moved the ball across the midfield with a few completions and a 21-yard scramble to put Seattle inside the 30. Houston's defense finally came up with a big play, as cornerback Marcus Williams jumped a route for an interception. The Seahawks were able to get a stop and get the ball back. They were at their 20-yard line with 1:39 left. Wilson promptly connected with Richardson for 47 yards. Wilson then hit Lockett for 19 yards and before throwing an 18-yard touchdown to Graham. In the final seconds, Sherman picked off Watson on a desperation throw to clinch the 41-38 win for Seattle.
Wilson completed 26-of-41 passes for 452 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also was Seattle's leading rusher with 30 yards on the ground.
Lockett (6-121), Richardson (6-105-2) and Graham (4-39-2) all made clutch receptions and beat up on Houston's secondary.
Watson was 19-of-30 for 402 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 67 yards.
Hopkins had eight receptions for 224 yards with a touchdown. Fuller (5-125-2) and Miller (21-54-1, 3-19-1) also played well.
Defensively, both teams saw their secondaries really struggle. Sherman had two interceptions, but he and Shaq Griffin were torched by the Texans' receivers. Houston's secondary was completely incapable of defending the Seahawks' receivers. Jadeveon Clowney was excellent for Houston with a sack, a forced fumble, three tackles for a loss and multiple quarterback hits. Frank Clark (2 sacks) and Michael Bennett (1.5 sacks) were excellent for Seattle's defense.
Cowboys 33, Redskins 19 By Jacob Camenker - Riggo's Rag
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kirk Cousins had the worst 2-minute drill of all time in this game. With no timeouts, he attempted a slip screen, which had his teammate tackled in the middle of the field, and then he attempted a screen, which would've resulted in the same outcome had the pass not been tipped and picked. Does Cousins know that the clock stops if a player goes out of bounds?
The Redskins were leading this game for most of the first half, but it looked like it was going to be a close battle. Washington was attempting to extend its lead to 16-7 on a field goal attempt when the momentum abruptly shifted. The kick was blocked by Dallas and returned all the way to the Redskins' 5-yard line, from where Ezekiel Elliott punched it in for a touchdown. That gave the Cowboys a 14-13 lead from which they never looked back from.
During the contest, the Cowboys heavily relied on Ezekiel Elliott to carry them. From the start, they were content to hand the ball off to Elliott and allow him to shred the Redskins' defense. Washington was missing two key members of its front seven, Jonathan Allen and Mason Foster, leaving the home team unable to stop Elliott.
On many plays, Elliott was able to run straight through the defense. His offensive line provided excellent blocking for a majority of the day, and there were several instances where he went untouched for at least five yards. Elliott finished the day with 33 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and he should continue to succeed, provided that he doesn't get suspended.
Elsewhere on offense, Dak Prescott had an efficient game, but wasn't asked to do much. Given the success of Elliott, Prescott just had to focus on completing short passes on third-and-shorts to convert first downs. The Cowboys did that well in most areas, expect for in the red zone.
Prescott's ended up going 14-of-22 for 143 yards. He also scrambled for 16 yards in this uneventful performance. He did what was asked of him, but will have much bigger performances in the future, especially if Elliott gets suspended.
Because of the general lack of passing plays called on Sunday, the Cowboys' receivers didn't need to do much in the contest. Dez Bryant (4-39) was the leading receiver, and he was actually frustrated that he didn't get more targets on the afternoon. Bryant is a WR2 most weeks in fantasy, but he has upside as a WR1 if Elliott is suspended.
As for the other receivers, Jason Witten (3-35) and Terrance Williams (2-36) led the way. Witten is a fine TE2 and can be used as a streamer in good matchups, but for the most part, Bryant is the only Cowboys pass catcher who is worth owning.
Kirk Cousins had a pretty strong day for the Redskins. Though his stat line may not look like anything more than average - 26-of-39 for 263 yards, one touchdown and one pick - he did well in the very rainy conditions. Cousins' ball placement was very good, but he was victimized by drops from his receivers and a couple of throws that were taken by gusts of wind. For the most part, he was able to hit his receivers with accurate passes.
Cousins' best throw came on his touchdown pass to Doctson. Cousins showed poise in the pocket and took a hit while delivering a perfect strike to Doctson in the back of the end zone. It was lofted just over the linebacker where only Doctson could get it. Cousins has clutch abilities, and that will help him get a big deal if he hits the open market this offseason.
Though the receivers didn't play particularly well for the Redskins on Sunday, they finally got one of their top guys going. Jamison Crowder (9-123) had his best game of the season by far. Crowder was explosive from the start and had a couple of nice long receptions. For the first time this year, he was able to get separation and find space to make moves in. He should be able to build on this performance and has upside as a potential WR3 moving forward.
Meanwhile, the other receivers for the team didn't do very well. Josh Doctson (1-1, 1 TD) and Terrelle Pryor were both virtual non-factors. Doctson had another drop on a catchable ball. Cousins put in on his body, and though Doctson had to come back to it, the ball hit him in the arms. Meanwhile, Pryor just didn't see many targets and failed to log a catch. Neither player is worth owning in fantasy at the time.
In the run game, the Redskins once again had trouble gaining yards on the ground. Though Rob Kelley returned and had a nice 3-yard touchdown run, he simply couldn't get much going. The Cowboys were able to stuff him at the line, and the makeshift offensive front the Redskins fielded didn't help the cause. Kelley finished the day with eight carries for 19 yards and didn't see much action in the second half.
Chris Thompson was marginally better as a runner, totaling 18 yards on four carries, and did very well as a receiver, garnering 76 yards on eight catches. He may surprisingly be the best all-around offensive weapon on Washington's offense right now.
Final Note: The Redskins' offensive line injuries are getting ridiculous. They were without three starters entering this game and lost a fourth, Shawn Lauvao, during the contest. It's amazing that the team could field a unit that was even slightly competitive.
Steelers 20, Lions 15
The Lions racked up 500 yards of offense in a big game versus a division-leading Super Bowl contender, but it didn't matter. As with the defeat to Atlanta back in Week 3, Detroit lost because of what transpired in the red zone.
Detroit came into this game ranked fifth in red zone offense, but that rating will surely drop, as it was 0-of-5 in the red area. The Lions had 18 plays inside the 20-yard line, but failed to score a touchdown on any of them. This included multiple chances at the 1-yard line. A crushing play was a fourth-and-goal try when a field goal would've taken the lead. The decision to forgo the kick was nonsensical, as Detroit wouldn't have trailed regardless of how many points it scored in that instance. Eschewing the chip-shot field goal came back to haunt them, as the Lions could've just kicked a field goal at the end of the game had they gone for three on that fourth-and-goal instance. Instead, they had to attempt a fourth-and-7 at the 8-yard line, and the pass fell incomplete.
It's a shame that the Lions couldn't win this game, as it spoiled a tremendous effort from Matthew Stafford. The former No. 1 overall pick went 27-of-45 for 423 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he had a ball dropped in the end zone by Darren Fells. The backup tight end was one of several players who dropped Stafford passes, as Eric Ebron was guilty of this as well. Stafford put forth a gritty effort, considering he had a third-string left tackle blocking for him. The Lions also lost right tackle Ricky Wagner in the middle of the game.
While Golden Tate didn't technically drop a pass, he had a ball fall through his hands at a crucial moment. Tate caught a pass inside the Pittsburgh 30-yard line on a fourth-quarter drive that appeared as though it would end with some sort of points. However, Tate had the ball slip out of his hands despite not getting contacted. It was ruled a fumble, and it was one of the most important plays of the game. Again, a field goal there would've set up a short kick to win the game at the very end.
Tate had a strong performance otherwise, catching seven of his eight targets for 86 yards. This was impressive, considering he wasn't even supposed to play. Tate trailed Marvin Jones (6-128) and T.J. Jones (4-88) on the stat sheet.
The Lions tried to run the ball, but didn't have much success. Ameer Abdullah had an impressive 8-yard burst in which he juked a defender out of his cleats, but did nothing else. Abdullah gained 27 yards on 11 carries.
As for the Steelers, they've improved to 6-2, but there are still some concerns. Those center around Ben Roethlisberger, who continues to miss players downfield. Roethlisberger had an early interception on an overthrow, and he later missed an open Darrius Heyward-Bey for a touchdown. He followed that up by sailing a pass over a free Jesse James. His accuracy is way off the mark, and that has been the case all year.
Roethlisberger finished 17-of-31 for 317 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The numbers look great, but they don't tell the whole story, as indicated by the drops. Plus, most of his stats came on a 97-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who beat his man easily. Roethlisberger delivered an intermediate throw, and Smith-Schuster did the rest. Smith-Schuster was tremendous, catching seven balls for 193 yards and the long score. It's scary how good he can become, as he's not even 21 years old yet! His only blunder was dropping a pass on a third down.
Following Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown led the Steelers with five catches for 70 yards. He, Smith-Schuster and James (2-42) were the only Steelers with double-digit receiving yardage. Eli Rogers dropped an early touchdown.
Le'Veon Bell had a tremendous matchup heading into this game, but he was a disappointment. He mustered just 76 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown, and he lost a fumble in Detroit territory right before halftime. The Lions made sure to bottle him up, and they left receivers open downfield as a consequence. It's telling that the Steelers scored just 20 points, as Roethlisberger simply couldn't consistently deliver the ball to his teammates.
Chiefs 29, Broncos 19
The Chiefs prevailed in this game by 16 points, but in reality, it was Denver losing this game by 16 points. That may sound the same, but for anyone who watched the game, they definitely know that it's not.
The Broncos had an epic meltdown in this important divisional battle, constantly making mistakes throughout the evening. The most prominent one, which set the tone for the contest, was a lost fumble on the second possession. Jamaal Charles had a nice burst of 18 yards to move the Broncos close to midfield. He was given the ball again, but after being stood up for several seconds, the Chiefs stripped the ball out of his hands and returned it for six. It was a scoreless affair at the time, so the turnover caused the Broncos to play from behind the entire evening, which they are obviously not suited to do.
The reason, of course, is Trevor Siemian, who had his own screw-ups. There were countless errors, three of which were interceptions. His first pick was atrocious, as he threw the ball right to Marcus Peters, who was blanketing a tight end. His second pick, which occurred just prior to halftime, was a wobbly pass thrown downfield when Siemian had an opportunity to scramble for a first down. Siemian's third, which occurred in the final quarter, was a horrendous decision on his part, as he was scrambling right and threw way across his body over the middle of the field. It was a mistake a raw rookie would make, and it was inexcusable.
It was more than just the picks, by the way. Siemian's accuracy was all over the place. He missed an open Bennie Fowler on his first throw, and then heaved the ball wide of Demaryius Thomas. He skipped a ball to A.J. Derby on a third-and-7. He missed a wide-open target for a touchdown. And on a crucial fourth-and-4, he got out of the huddle too late and then stared down his target, allowing the linebacker to easily break up the pass.
Siemian finished 19-of-36 for only 198 yards, one garbage-time touchdown and three interceptions. He is a limited quarterback, so he needs to be smart and accurate with the football to maintain his job. He has been severely lacking in intelligence and ball placement, however, and he needs to be benched. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Paxton Lynch, according to some news reports, hasn't put in the appropriate amount of work to warrant a chance, and he's injured right now anyway. Brock Osweiler, who had some amount of success in Denver once upon a time, deserves a chance to start. Osweiler isn't any good, but Siemian is a lost cause.
Demaryius Thomas led the Broncos with 66 yards on five catches. He should've had a better game, but he and Siemian weren't on the same page on several occasions. In fact, Denver had to burn a timeout in the second half because of a miscommunication between the two. Thomas did manage to draw a pass-interference flag inside the red zone, however.
The only other Broncos with more than 20 receiving yards were Fowler (2-35) and Derby (2-21), who scored a late touchdown. Fowler had a chance for a touchdown as well, but he dropped an easy ball in the end zone. Denver needs a better No. 3 receiver than Fowler; it's embarrassing that the team doesn't have a better solution for when Emmanuel Sanders or Thomas happen to be out.
C.J. Anderson gained 78 yards on 15 carries, but he had a touchdown vultured by Devontae Booker (6-40). He also had a long run negated by a hold. Charles gained 39 yards on eight attempts, but had that aforementioned killer fumble.
As for the Chiefs, Kareem Hunt was restricted to fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career. He was limited to 46 rushing yards on 22 carries, and he caught three balls for 22 receiving yards. It's not a surprise that Hunt was bottled up, as Denver's defense is one of the best stop units in the NFL.
Don't blame the Broncos' defense for the 29 points allowed, by the way; seven was the result of the aforementioned Charles fumble, and several other field goals came off turnovers. Even the sole offensive touchdown occurred because safety Justin Simmons had a hit on a defenseless receiver, allowing the Chiefs to keep their drive going.
Denver's defense gave Alex Smith some fits, as Smith failed to complete half of his passes. He went just 14-of-31 for 202 yards and a touchdown. Smith made some mistakes, like Siemian, as he overthrew an open Tyreek Hill and also lost a fumble in the second quarter. He was able to use his feet to scramble for some timely first downs, however, as he rushed for 33 yards on four attempts.
If the Broncos' stop unit has a fault, it's that they can't defend tight ends. That was apparent Monday night, as Travis Kelce caught seven passes for 133 yards and a touchdown where he was wide open. Denver's inability to stop tight ends is why I have them selecting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
Elsewhere, the only Chief who had double-digit receiving yards aside from Kelce and Hunt happened to be Hill, who converted just two of his six targets for 38 yards. Hill's fantasy owners may have noticed that they were deducted a point or two, and that's because of an interception Hill threw on a nonsensical trick play in the red zone.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.