The Cowboys can be dominant offensively when they have their entire line intact. That was the case in this game, as elite left tackle Tyron Smith was in his second game back from injury, while All-Pro guard Zack Martin managed to clear concussion protocol after suffering a head injury on Thanksgiving. With the group together for the first time in nearly a month, the Cowboys were able to dominate Washington on the ground in the second half. They ate lots of time off the clock with a pair of long drives in which Alfred Morris seemingly gained eight or nine yards on every first-down try, giving Dak Prescott plenty of short-yardage opportunities.
This was crucial for Dallas at the beginning of the second half. Prescott injured his thumb in the second quarter and even had X-rays taken. Prescott didn't miss a snap, but it wasn't clear if he was healthy. Some of his initial throws were off the mark, but he looked like his normal self by the final frame. When Prescott found Dez Bryant in the end zone, it was clear that he was just fine. This put the Cowboys up 24-7, and the game was over.
Prescott finished 11-of-22 for 102 yards and two touchdowns. The fantasy performance overall wasn't bad because of the two scores, but the completion percentage was a byproduct of the thumb injury and some jitters early in the evening. Prescott missed some early plays, but the Redskins failed to capitaize for reasons I'll discuss later.
Prescott's touchdowns went to Dez Bryant (5-61) and Jason Witten (1-8). Bryant became the franchise's all-time touchdown leader with the score. He spent some time yelling at no one in particular after getting the touchdown. Bryant also drew a pass-interference flag in the end zone. Bashaud Breeland simply couldn't cover Bryant, and the question needs to be asked why the hell the Redskins didn't use Josh Norman to shadow Dallas' only viable receiver.
Morris, as mentioned, couldn't be stopped in the second half. It was tough sledding in the early going, as he gained just 38 yards on 12 carries, but his final stat line illustrated how much he dominated after intermission. Morris finished with 127 yards and a touchdown on 27 attempts. Dallas' offensive line simply dominated as the game progressed, and the exhausted Redskins had no answers for Morris.
Washington's problems stopping the run was just one of many reasons the team suffered its season-ending loss. The team made what seemed like countless errors throughout the opening half to put itself in a 17-0 hole that it couldn't crawl out of. There were four crucial mistakes that crushed the Redskins. The first was an interception by Kirk Cousins that was on Jamison Crowder; the receiver had the ball bounce off his hands and into safety Jeff Heath's. The Redskins would've had first-and-goal inside the Dallas 5-yard line, but the Cowboys came away with the turnover instead. The second was also Crowder's fault, as he fumbled a punt return to give Dallas possession in Washington territory. The third was when Cousins was strip-sacked to set up a Dallas field goal. The fourth was surrendering a punt return for a touchdown, which made the margin 17.
The Redskins actually were outgaining the Cowboys at halftime and were averaging nearly two more yards per play, yet they were trailing by 10 because of all their blunders. They have no one but themselves to blame for this defeat.
Another big factor for the Redskins was the injury to right tackle Morgan Moses. The Redskins had their entire offensive line, save for their center and terrible left guard, on the field for this game, but Moses getting knocked out destroyed Washington's chances. That's because the Redskins had to use a backup to block DeMarcus Lawrence, who has been one of the top edge rushers in the league this year. Lawrence was the one who forced the aforementioned strip-sack on Cousins.
Moses' absence forced Cousins into many short throws. Cousins had to dink and dunk too often far too often. He was able to make some nice throws, but it was telling that the Redskins had no faith in their ability to block the Cowboys when they settled for ineffective screens and swing passes on third-and-8s.
Cousins finished 26-of-37 for 251 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The first pick was Crowder's fault, while the second was a desperation throw, down 31-14 in the fourth quarter. Cousins did what he could, and he even had a brilliant play where he completed a 33-yard pass to Crowder while falling down, but the blocking simply didn't hold up.
Speaking of Crowder, he finished with five catches for 67 yards, trailing only Ryan Grant (5-76), who scored a touchdown, but also had a bad drop. It was a nice PPR performance from Crowder, but he killed his team with those two horrible mistakes. Josh Doctson, meanwhile, also found the end zone, catching three passes for 26 yards in the process. He dropped a pass as well. It's clear that the Redskins need a No. 1 wideout. Here are the 2018 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings.
Samaje Perine missed some drives because he was in concussion protocol, but he cleared it and was able to return to the field. It didn't really matter, as the Cowboys clamped down on him aside from one 15-yard burst. Perine mustered just 38 yards on 12 carries, but he was able to help out his PPR owners with three catches for 31 receiving yards.
Vikings 14, Falcons 9
Considering everything going against the Falcons entering this game - two of their top cornerbacks missing with injuries, a matchup coming up on Thursday night against the Saints - they did their best to hang around with the Vikings. Keeping Minnesota's offense to 14 points without Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole was impressive, but in the end, Matt Ryan couldn't do enough against the Vikings' stop unit.
A big problem for the Falcons was that Ryan didn't have many options, as Mike Zimmer erased Julio Jones from their game plan. Ryan tried throwing to Jones on six occasions, but managed to complete only two passes for 24 yards. Xavier Rhodes smothered Jones, and Ryan didn't really have anyone else to throw to. As a result, the Falcons were dismal on third-down tries, converting just one of their 10 chances.
Another issue was some of the untimely penalties that ruined drives. The Falcons had just one more infraction than the Vikings, but it seemed like most of the flags thrown on Atlanta negated big gains.
Ryan finished 16-of-29 for 173 yards. With Jones shut down, his top receiver was Mohamed Sanu, who logged just three receptions for 43 yards. Austin Hooper (3-21) barely did anything either.
Devonta Freeman made his return from injury, and he had a nice stat line, running for 74 yards on 12 carries. As mentioned earlier, the Falcons had some penalties that nullified big gains, and that included a 25-yard burst by Freeman. Tevin Coleman, meanwhile, was relegated to backup duties. He gained just 22 yards on eight attempts, though he did manage to convert a fourth-and-2 in the opening half.
The Vikings, meanwhile, should have scored more than 14 considering that Atlanta entered this game with just three active cornerbacks. Minnesota also had its offensive penalty problems, as a number of its possessions started with a first-and-20 or a first-and-25. Still, this was a heoric effort by Atlanta to keep the Vikings to just two touchdowns.
Case Keenum, despite posting just 14 points on the scoreboard, misfired on only five occasions. He went 25-of-30 for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He had a great game, though the one blemish occurred right before halftime. The Vikings blew a scoring chance because Keenum held the ball way too long in the pocket with no timeouts. Keenum completed a pass to Adam Thielen, but time ran out in the opening half.
Speaking of Thielen, he failed to log five-plus receptions for the first time all year. Despite this, he still led the Vikings in receiving, hauling in four balls for 51 yards. Stefon Diggs (2-32) also had a disappointing stat line.
Keenum's touchdowns went to Kyle Rudolph (4-36) and Jerick McKinnon (5-28).
Speaking of McKinnon, he saw about half as many carries as Latavius Murray (16 to 9), with Murray outgaining McKinnon, 76-24.
Jets 38, Chiefs 31
This game was a perfect microcosm of the Chiefs' season. Kansas City began its 2017 campaign on fire, winning its first five games. The team was equally hot to start this game, going up 14-0 right away. Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce for 32- and 22-yard completions on the opening drive, as Alex Smith was a perfect 4-of-4 to start the afternoon. Smith then connected with Kelce for a 36-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession.
The Chiefs were looking like they were going to run away with the AFC West early in the year, and it appeared as though they were going to absolutely destroy the Jets in the opening quarter. But neither of those things happened. The Jets came back to win this game, and the Chiefs, now 6-6, have lost control of the AFC West.
The problem for Kansas City was its defense. Despite the addition of Darrelle Revis, the Chiefs had no answer for Josh McCown and his receivers. The Jets sucked the life out of this game with multiple, long drives. One possession in the second half lasted 9:30. The next drive featured a sequence where the Jets had nine plays inside the Kansas City 5-yard line. The Jets kicked a field goal with four minutes left, but a personal-foul penalty gave them a first down. The Jets then got another first down on a third-down Kansas City hold. The Jets eventually found the end zone, and on the two-point conversion, there was another Chiefs penalty, prompting a frustrated Marcus Peters to throw the yellow flag into the stands. It appeared as though he was going to be ejected because he walked off the field, but he was just going into the locker room to change his socks...? Yeah, I don't know either, because he came back on the field without his socks.
At any rate, the touchdown gave the Jets a 38-31 lead, and the Chiefs eventually turned the ball over on downs, with Jamal Adams dropping an interception before a fourth-down incompletion. The Jets prevailed, and the Chiefs are now in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West.
While Alex Smith had struggled prior to this contest, you can't blame this one on him. Smith played an incredible game prior to the final drive. He went 19-of-33 for 366 yards and four touchdowns. He hit Kelce and Tyreek Hill for numerous bombs, as he made up his mind and decided to become more aggressive for a change. It worked well, but his defense couldn't provide him the proper support. Smith also had a 70-yard scramble in the opening half, thanks in part to a missed tackle by Adams.
Hill and Kelce caught two touchdowns each. Hill tallied six receptions for 185 yards, while Kelce snatched four balls for 94 yards. Both players were amazing, but the Chiefs could use another receiver. I have them drafting one in the second round of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
While Smith broke out of his slump, Kareem Hunt did not. That said, Hunt didn't really get much of an opportunity to run the ball because the Chiefs barely had possession and constantly trailed in the seocnd half. Hunt was given nine carries, which he turned into 40 yards.
McCown had a terrific performance against Kansas City's inept defense. Following a slow start, he finished 26-of-36 for 331 yards and a touchdown. He converted 13-of-20 third-down opportunities, doing a great job of moving the chains and sucking the life out of the game. McCown was also great on sneaks, picking up a fourth-and-1 that way, and also reaching the end zone by bulldozing through the line of scrimmage. The CBS announcers remarked how McCown has surprising size at 6-4, 218, and he used that size to his advantage. McCown missed a couple of deep passes, but he did a great job overall.
As you might suspect, Robby Anderson was McCown's top target. Anderson saw 12 balls go his way, and he converted eight of those into receptions for 107 yards. Anderson actually trailed Jermaine Kearse, with Kearse snatching nine of his 10 targets for 157 yards. Austin Seferian-Jenkins didn't do much - two catches, seven yards - as the Chiefs are usually excellent against tight ends.
Matt Forte started this game, but he split touches with the other two running backs. Forte gained 58 yards on 15 carries, and he caught three balls for 33 receiving yards and a touchdown. Bilal Powell also scored, doing so on the ground. He gained 48 yards on 18 carries. Powell actually vultured a touchdown from Eli McGuire, who gained 20 yards on five attempts. McGuire appeared to score a touchdown when he reached the ball for the pylon, but he was ruled down inches shy of the goal line.
Titans 24, Texans 13
Derrick Henry did it again. For the second time this year, Henry broke free for a long touchdown run at the very end of the game to cover the spread. While these sort of plays are fluky, Henry's ability to do them is definitely not. Henry is a great talent, and if the Titans want to make some noise down the stretch, they'll give him more of an opportunity to handle the workload. Henry had just three carries heading into the fourth quarter, while DeMarco Murray was handling most of the touches. Save for a 22-yard burst, Murray wasn't very effective, so it's curious that the Titans aren't feeding the ball more to Henry.
By the end of the game, Henry had 109 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts, with most of it coming on his 75-yard covering score. Murray, meanwhile, gained 66 yards on as many carries. Murray is much better as a receiver at this stage of their careers - he caught two passes for 13 yards - but Henry should be handling most of the running workload. Of course, I've been writing this for most of the season, yet head coach Mike Mularkey has yet to make any sort of adjustments.
The Titans didn't need Henry's long run to win the game, as they were up 17-13 when they were trying to chew up the clock. However, it was disappointing that they scored just 17 points on a decimated Houston defense. Sure, Ryan Succop missed a 40-yard field goal, but the Titans should've been able to generate a better offensive performance.
The passing game, quite simply, wasn't very effective. Marcus Mariota completed 15-of-23 passes, but for only 150 yards. He managed to score twice - once aerially, once on the ground - but the Titans constantly stalled once they reached around midfield. Part of the problem happened to be poor throws, including one pass that was nearly intercepted by Andre Hal, but the other issue was that his receivers let him down. Rishard Matthews was out, and Eric Decker dropped what would've been a gain of about 15 yards deep in Houston territory.
One pass-catcher who didn't let Mariota down was Delanie Walker, who hauled in all five of his targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. Decker was next on the stat sheet, and the disappointing wideout logged just three receptions for 27 yards.
As disappointing as Tennessee's offense was, the defense was far worse. The Titans allowed Tom Savage to throw for 365 yards - on 31-of-49 passing - and failed to bait him into any turnovers until very late in the game. Savage is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL right now, and the fact that Tennessee couldn't put the clamps on him speaks volumes, especially in a revenge game.
Savage nearly led the Texans to victory. He converted a fourth-and-19 - three consecutive false starts by guard Jeff Allen set that up - with a 22-yard pass to tight end Stephen Anderson, but he made his first mistake of the day when throwing the ball up for grabs into the end zone on a first down. The pass was picked off, allowing Tennessee to improve to 8-4.
The Titans had no answer for DeAndre Hopkins, who made some ridiculous catches in this contest. He started right away with a one-handed grab on the opening drive. He then made a terrific toe-tap reception for 17 yards along the sideline. Hopkins tortured Tennessee's secondary, but didn't finish with a great stat line; he had eight catches for 80 yards. He nearly scored a touchdown in the opening quarter, but managed to get just one foot inbounds.
As for Savage's other weapons, tight end Stephen Anderson was next on the stat sheet with five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Braxton Miller (4-71) did most of his damage on a 57-yard reception, though that play never should've happened because Adoree Jackson should've drawn an offensive pass interference flag. Jackson, by the way, lost a fumble on a punt return to set up a Houston scoring opportunity.
While Tennessee's secondary was incompetent, the front seven at least contained the run. Lamar Miller was limited to 56 yards on 15 carries.
Jaguars 30, Colts 10
Blake Bortles has been a major bust in the NFL thus far, but perhaps he can take the NFL schedule-makers out for drinks to set up a schedule where he can play the Colts every week during the 2018 season. If that happens, the Jaguars will be 16-0, and Bortles will be the MVP.
The Colts had no answer for Bortles at all. They surrendered a third-and-13 in the opening quarter even though the Jaguars have been awful on third-and-long situations this year. Bortles had no pressure in his face at all. On the next drive, the Jaguars surrendered a 16-yard completion on a third-and-8 that got Jacksonville into the red zone, and then they allowed a touchdown on a third-and-goal on the 8-yard line. In total, Jacksonville converted four third downs on that possession to give them a 16-7 lead, which they never relinquished. After all, Indianapolis couldn't score more than 10 points.
Bortles finished with an incredible stat line, going 26-of-35 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He was as good as those numbers indicate. That, or Indianapolis' defense was as bad as those numbers indicate. Considering that Bortles was terrible the week before against the Cardinals, I would refrain from saying that he has developed into a solid quarterback. Bortles is still a poor player, but he was battling an already-abysmal defense missing its top cornerback, Rashaan Melvin.
Marqise Lee and Dede Westbrook were Bortles' primary receivers, as expected, as they saw 10 and nine targets, respectively. Lee hauled in seven balls for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Westbrook logged six receptions for 78 yards. The Jacksonville receivers made acrobatic catches all afternoon and came up very clutch on third down. The Jaguars actually converted nine of their initial 11 third downs!
The Jaguars couldn't even run the ball, which just shows how bad Indianapolis' secondary was. Leonard Fournette was limited to 57 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He limped off the field at one point in the second half, which wasn't a surprise considering he wasn't 100 percent entering this game.
The Colts, meanwhile, didn't have much success offensively, as the final score indicates. Jacoby Brissett once again saw lots of pressure, and that was apparent early, as he took two sacks on the second drive. Brissett did not have a good game, holding the ball too long and making a huge mistake on one of the few promising drives Indianapolis was able to muster. Brissett tossed an interception in the red zone to no one in particular.
Brissett finished 21-of-36 for only 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The second pick occurred in garbage time, but the damage had already been done. In fact, most of Brissett's yardage transpired in meaningless action as well. By halftime, Brissett accumulated just 47 passing yards on 7-of-12 completions!
T.Y. Hilton fantasy owners should be grateful for garbage time because that's when he scored. Hilton had just two catches for 11 yards in the opening half, but he scored on a 40-yard touchdown following intermission. His final numbers were three receptions for 51 yards and a score. Donte Moncrief (5-37) was next on the stat sheet.
Frank Gore ran hard, gaining 61 yards on 13 carries. Despite his fumble last week, Marlon Mack was mixed in as well. He registered 46 yards on six attempts, most of which came on a 25-yard burst.
Ravens 44, Lions 20
The Ravens may have won this game in an utter blowout, but this was a Pyrrhic victory in that they lost their top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, to a torn Achilles.
Smith, like Richard Sherman several weeks ago, was on the field despite playing through a balky Achilles. Smith should have spent some time on the sidelines, recovering from his injury, but as with Sherman, he was penalized for pressing the issue on a short work week. This is going to hurt the Ravens going forward, as Smith had been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL this year, at least prior to his injury. The ill effects of Smith's absence were felt late in the game, as the Lions generated a good amount of offense in the second half, but Baltimore was able to hold on to the lead and prevail, improving to 7-5.
Offensively, Baltimore couldn't do anything Monday night, but the team was much better in this contest despite a slow start. Joe Flacco threw behind Mike Wallace and then Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass on the third down on the opening drive. However, the Ravens picked up the slack after that and roasted Detroit's incompetent defense.
Flacco finished 23-of-36 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He has struggled for most of the season, but this was one of his best performances. He hit some bombs, particularly to Wallace, and he didn't make many mistakes.
Wallace ended up leading the Ravens with five catches and 116 yards. He snared a 66-yard reception in the second quarter to set up a short touchdown pass to Ben Watson (3-24). Maclin, meanwhile, wasn't as effective, logging four receptions for 41 yards.
Alex Collins didn't get to perform his Irish jig Monday night, but he was able to showcase his dance moves following his touchdowns in this contest. He found the end zone twice, finishing with 75 yards on 15 carries. Danny Woodhead, meanwhile, barely did anything; he was given three carries, which he turned into nine yards, while his two receptions went for 14 receiving yards.
Moving on to the Lions, I saw a stat during the week that said that other than Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford has had the worst spread record in December onward since 2003. Stafford played exactly like that in the early going, struggling against a stout Baltimore defense before Jimmy Smith got hurt.
Stafford mishandled a poor snap from his backup center in the opening quarter to take the team out of field-goal position for Matt Prater. The snap was bad, but Stafford still should've caught it. That ruined a chance to get points in a scoreless game. Following a stalled drive in Baltimore territory that culminated with a missed 43-yard field goal by Prater, Stafford was strip-sacked in Baltimore territory, as he failed to sense the blind-side pressure. Stafford put together some solid drives in the second half, but his afternoon ended when he injured his hand. He went in for X-rays, but they came back negative. Jake Rudock finished the game, but Stafford, diagnosed with just a bruise, should be able to play next week in a do-or-die contest for the Lions.
Of course, Stafford doesn't deserve nearly all the blame for his offense's poor showing in this contest. He was without starting center Travis Swanson, and his two best linemen, T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner, left the field with injuries. They'll need to play to give the Lions a better chance against the Buccaneers.
Stafford finished 24-of-29 for 292 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which he threw up for grabs in the second half. Stafford was hot following intermission with Smith gone, throwing no incompletions prior to the pick. The offensive line simply couldn't hold up.
Marvin Jones and Golden Tate each had decent stat lines. Jones caught four passes for 90 yards, while Tate paced the team in receptions, catching eight balls for 69 yards.
Ameer Abdullah was out with an injury, but reports indicated that the Lions planned on going with a new running back anyway. That was Tion Green, who ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. He'll need to be picked up in fantasy leagues this week.
49ers 15, Bears 14
The Bears had the rookie quarterback in this matchup, but the 49ers were using the signal-caller with less experience. All eyes were on Jimmy Garoppolo, as he made just his third start as a pro, and his first with his new team.
Garoppolo certainly didn't disappoint. Granted, he was battling a defense missing two starting defensive backs, but he went on the road and threw the ball well with a strong front seven bearing down on him. Garoppolo made a number of sharp throws, including a bullet on a third-and-10 of the opening series. Garoppolo was able to lead the 49ers down the field on a game-winning drive in the final minutes, thanks to a 33-yard completion to Trent Taylor on a third-and-9. This set up the decisive field goal.
Garoppolo finished 26-of-37 for 293 yards and an interception, which wasn't his fault; the ball was completed to Louis Murphy, but the ball was ripped out of his hands as soon as the catch was made. Garoppolo nearly threw a touchdown, but tight end George Kittle (2-20) drifted out of bounds after making a leaping catch in the end zone.
Garoppolo's primary receivers were Taylor, who caught six passes for 92 yards, and Marquise Goodwin, who logged eight receptions for 99 yards. Both receivers converted all of their targets. Taylor is a slot receiver, so perhaps he can become Garoppolo's Julian Edelman.
Carlos Hyde couldn't find much running room against the Bears, who had Danny Trevathan back from injury. Hyde gained 54 yards on 17 carries. He nearly scored a touchdown at the very end of the game, but was stuffed in the backfield. He also dropped a pass.
The Bears, meanwhile, barely had possession of the ball. Part of the reason for that was a dazzling Tarik Cohen punt return, where he scored after running backward, but the Bears' defense couldn't get off the field, allowing the 49ers to convert 10-of-18 third downs. As a result, Chicago had the ball for only 21 minutes.
Mitchell Trubisky threw just 15 passes as a result, completing 12 of them for 102 yards and a touchdown. His defense prevented him from really doing anything.
In addition to scoring on the punt return, Cohen led the Bears in receiving with four catches for 39 yards. He didn't do much on the ground (2-5), as Jordan Howard (13-38) handled the majority of the workload.
Excuding Cohen, Kendall Wright (2-25) led the Bears in receiving. Dontrelle Inman (2-21) scored Trubisky's sole touchdown.
Packers 26, Buccaneers 20
If the Buccaneers were still alive for a potential playoff berth, they'd have to feel horrible for how this loss transpired. The Buccaneers absolutely dominated this game, outgaining the Packers in regulation, 395-206. However, they made so many mistakes, particularly in the red zone, to ruin a potential victory (or, optimistically, help preserve their draft position.)
Tampa's first mistake was a blocked punt that set up a Green Bay punt. Jameis Winston was then strip-sacked in Packer territory, and the Packers scooped and scored. This put Green Bay up 17-10 at halftime even though the Buccaneers had 47 more net yards at that point of the game.
The blunders continued in the second half. The Buccaneers fumbled a snap at the 3-yard line on third-and-goal. On the next drive, the Buccaneers had another fumbled snap at the 2-yard line, but Winston recovered. Winston appeared to throw a touchdown after that, but was way over the line of scrimmage upon his release of the ball.
Tampa eventually established a 20-17 lead, but the team blew it with poor defense on two drives; one at the end of regulation, and one that went 75 yards in overtime for the Packer win.
Jameis Winston finished 21-of-32 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned lost fumble. He played somewhat well in between the 20s, torching the Packer secondary with well-timed screens and other short passes that were necessary because of two key offensive linemen being out of the lineup, but mistakes in the red zone buried him and his team.
Despite Winston's solid performance, Mike Evans barely did anything, catching two balls for 33 yards on six targets. He had an opportunity for a deep reception, but couldn't keep his feet inbounds. DeSean Jackson (2-24) also struggled. Conversely, Cameron Brate had a rebirth with Winston back on the field, as he scored twice on both of his receptions for 39 yards. One of his touchdowns was an impressive, one-handed catch
Doug Martin was out with a concussion, so Peyton Barber handled the majority of the workload. Barber eclipsed the century mark, gaining 102 yards on 23 carries. He also led the team in receiving with four catches for 41 yards.
Green Bay ended up prevailing to improve to 6-6. It could be argued that the Packers didn't really deserve this victory, but they'll take it. If they can beat the Browns next week, they'll be 7-6 with Aaron Rodgers due back in Week 15.
Brett Hundley didn't play poorly overall in this game, as he helped put together the decisive drive in overtime with some scrambles. He moved well against Tampa's porous defense, scrambling seven times for 66 yards. However, his passing was far worse than it was Sunday night. He completed 13-of-22 passes, but for only 84 yards and an interception. When Hundley wasn't scrambling around, he was dinking and dunking. His pick was horrible, as he showed zero regard for a safety lurking over the middle of the field. He also missed a wide-open Geronimo Allison in the end zone in the opening quarter.
Aside from Tampa's errors, the Packer running game was the primary reason why Green Bay prevailed. Jamaal Williams was tremendous, gaining 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. However, Aaron Jones was the one who scored the game-winning touchdown. Spelling a tired Williams, Jones blew by the Buccaneers, scoring on a 20-yard burst on his only touch of the afternoon.
With Hundley struggling, only one Packer had more than 20 receiving yards. In fact, Davante Adams had half of Hundley's total, catching four balls for 42 yards. Jordy Nelson (5-17) once again barely did anything.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to the Broncos for showing up to this game. Great job, guys. You really should be proud of yourselves.
This was a reunion game of sorts with Broncos head coach Vance Joseph taking on the team that he was the defensive coordinator of last year. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was an offensive coordinator with Denver under John Fox during the great years of Peyton Manning's Broncos run. Miami starting quarterback Jay Cutler started his career with the Broncos, and it was the Miami contingent that was able to enjoy this game, routing Denver in South Florida. The Dolphins keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while the Broncos continue their downward spiral.
The first half was rough for Denver with a deflected pass going for an interception and then a snap over the head of Trevor Siemian in the end zone for a safety. Denver had a field goal drive thanks to Siemian connecting with Virgil Green for 36 yards, but after that, it was all Dolphins. Miami responded with Cutler connecting with Kenny Stills for 22 yards and Jarvis Landry (5-62) for 25 yards. To end the drive, another former Bronco did some damage with a 9-yard touchdown fade pass to Julius Thomas (3-20-1). Quickly, the Dolphins added to their lead with Xavien Howard getting a 29-yard pick-six. It was a quick out that was thrown behind Demaryius Thomas (2-27), and Howard jumped the route to give Miami a 16-3 lead. The Broncos got some momentum when Chris Harris was able to control a deflected deep ball for an interception, and that held the Miami lead in place at the half.
Early in the third quarter, Cutler led a field-goal drive, and was set up for more points after an excellent pass to Stills inside the 10-yard line, but Bradley Roby forced a fumble from Stills that Denver recovered. Miami got the ball back, but Cutler had a pass into tight coverage get deflected by Justin Simmons, who controlled it for an interception. Simmons raced down the field for a 65-yard for a touchdown. The Dolphins, however, re-took control of the game with Kenyan Drake taking off on a 42-yard touchdown run. It was phenomenal run by Drake to go up the middle, make two lightning cuts to dodge blockers, and then explode down the field for the score. That gave Miami a 26-9 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Dolphins defensive tackle Jordan Phillips late deflected a pass, and Xavien Howard tracked the ball down for his second interception of the game. The next play saw Cutler hit Stills for a 23-yard touchdown as Stills beat Simmons on an out-and-up.
Cutler completed 18-of-31 passes for 235 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Stills led Miami through the air with five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown with a fumble.
Kenyan Drake totaled 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. He also had three receptions for 21 yards.
Siemian was 19-of-41 for 200 yards and three interceptions. C.J. Anderson led the Broncos in rushing with 67 yards on 15 carries and receiving yards with 43 on four catches.
The Dolphins' defense played well, suffocating Siemian. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and cornerback Xavien Howard had an impressive games for Miami.
EDITOR'S NOTE: What the hell are sportsbooks going to do? They keep losing every single week, and this game was a major reason why. They can't make these lines high enough because the Patriots just keep on covering.
New England completely dominated the Bills in the second half to secure the victory. The Patriots' offense and defense are both playing at a high level right now, and they are looking like serious contenders moving forward.
While many would have expected the Patriots to utilize their passing game to beat the Bills, they actually used a balanced offense to them take down. The Patriots were able to dominate the time of possession battle in the second half, and that was largely due to their efforts on the ground.
Per usual, the Patriots operated with a backfield-by-committee approach, but they actually supported two high-level backs on Sunday. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead carried the load for the team, and it worked well.
Lewis was able to rip off some big runs against the Bills' defense. On one play, he managed to take a carry to the sideline and used a stiff arm to get past a Buffalo defender for a 44-yard gain. Lewis looked very good between the tackles, and he possesses excellent strength comparative to his size. He finished the day with 92 yards on 15 carries and appears to be cemented as the lead back in the rotation.
Meanwhile, Burkhead saw fewer carries, but he got a brunt of the work in goal-to-go situations. He was able to power into the end zone on two occasions and demonstrated a solid ability to find holes in short yardage situations. Burkhead finished the day with 78 yards on 12 carries and the two touchdowns. He can be trusted as a FLEX play, given that he appears to be the team's new goal-line back.
In the passing game, Tom Brady had a very strong performance. He had some issues dealing with pressure in the first half, as the Bills were able to beat his tackles repeatedly. However, he was still able to get passes off, but they were mostly checkdowns early in the afternoon. At one point, Brady overthrew Brandin Cooks on a downfield pass where he was wide open. Josh McDaniels went to speak to McDaniels about it, and Brady started screaming at him. He was clearly frustrated with his performance early on.
Brady and the Patriots adjusted to throw downfield more in the second half. His protection was much better, and as a result, he was able to use the middle of the field more. Brady's accuracy improved as the game progressed, and that really allowed the Patriots to improve as the day went along. Brady finished 21-of-30 for 258 yards and an interception.
Brady's top receiver was Rob Gronkowski. The talented tight end had a quiet first half, but he exploded in the second half and finished with nine catches for 147 yards. He was able to easily beat the smaller Bills linebackers and safeties, and the team had nobody to cover him.
Gronkowski, however, had a very dirty play in this game after Brady's lone interception. Tre'Davious White had picked off Brady on a throw to Gronkowski, and it looked like White may have interfered with him on the play. After White went out of bounds on the ground, Gronkowski launched himself at White's head and hit him hard. There was no reason for the hit, and the NFL should heavily fine Gronkowski for the hit. He probably should have been ejected.
Elsewhere, Danny Amendola (2-34) and Brandin Cooks (2-17) both were virtually non-factors in the run-based offensive attack.
For the Bills, this was a tough loss. They didn't play very well on offense and may have lost their quarterback.
Late in the game, Tyrod Taylor suffered a knee injury and limped around the field for a couple of plays after it. He stayed in, but later took another hit to the knee. Taylor was carted off in the fourth quarter with a towel on his head. It looked like it could have been a severe injury, so the Bills have to hope that he ends up being OK.
Taylor's performance in the game to that point hadn't been anything special. He had only gone 9-of-18 for 65 yards and a pick. The interception was particularly bad, as it was on the opening drive of the day. Taylor was able to lead the Bills inside the 10-yard line, and they were ready to score. Instead, he threw an ill-advised pass into coverage as he was getting hit. It resulted in the turnover, and the Bills never came close to scoring again.
Still, Taylor performed better than Nate Peterman. The rookie came in during garbage time and went just 6-of-15 for 50 yards. He has some upside, but he's clearly not ready to be an NFL starter, as seen by his performance against the Chargers in his lone start. If Taylor's injury is serious, the Bills' playoff hopes may be dashed.
Because of Taylor and Peterman's struggles, the Buffalo receivers didn't do much. Zay Jones and Deonte Thompson were targeted a total of 15 times, but they only caught four passes for 43 yards combined. Jones had a couple of chances to make other receptions, but he had a couple of drops and a few passes that were overthrown to him. The Bills' receivers are not worthy of starting in fantasy, though Charles Clay (3-20) can be streamed as a tight end in the right matchup.
On the ground, the Bills had a much better performance as LeSean McCoy was able to succeed. McCoy had some nice outside runs and had a couple of 10-yard bursts up the middle of the field, too. He is clearly the best player on the Buffalo offense and should continue to be heavily utilized. He finished with 93 yards on 15 carries and was nearly able to get into the end zone off a short catch.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I fail to bet against the Browns all year, and they never cover. I finally bet against them, and they cover. Go figure.
With the Chiefs losing to the Jets in the early afternoon, the Chargers were in perfect position to take control of the AFC West with a victory over the winless Browns. Just months ago, the Chargers moving into a first-place tie seemed like a pipe dream when Los Angeles was 0-4 and Kansas City was 4-0. However, it is a testament to the coaching of Anthony Lynn and the roster that was built by general manager Tom Telesco to have Los Angeles in a first-place tie entering the final month of the season. The Chargers are now the team to beat and playing the best football of any team in the AFC West.
After a scoreless first quarter, Philip Rivers led a field-goal drive, using Keenan Allen to move the ball into Cleveland territory. Rivers led another field-goal drive, and then he Browns moved into Chargers territory with Josh Gordon making a leaping 28-yard reception over Casey Hayward. David Njoku then got open down the seam for a 28-yard touchdown to give the Browns a 7-6 lead. In the final minutes of the half, the Chargers responded with former Brown Travis Benjamin catching a pass and taking it 39 yards downfield to get to midfield. A few more completions to Melvin Gordon and Benjamin moved the ball inside the five with nine seconds left in the half, but the Chargers had to settle for a field goal and a 9-7 lead at intermission.
Early in the third quarter, Los Angeles moved down the field, and Rivers found Allen for a short touchdown toss. The Chargers then added a field-goal drive late in the third quarter. That gave them a 19-7 lead. The Browns put a field-goal drive together in the fourth quarter. Cleveland was in the process of making a game of it as Kizer led the Browns deep into Chargers territory, but then he made a mistake of holding onto the ball too long, which led to him eventually being chased down from behind by Joey Bosa for a strip-sack that Los Angeles recovered. The Browns got the ball back and moved into Chargers territory, but then Kizer threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Adrian Phillips to clinch the win for Los Angeles.
Rivers completed 31-of-43 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown with zero interceptions. Allen led the Chargers in receiving with 105 yards and a score on 10 receptions.
Melvin Gordon totaled 77 yards on 19 carries.
Kizer was 15-of-32 for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 46 yards. He made some good plays, but had some rookie mistakes.
Josh Gordon was back on the field for Cleveland, and he showed his rare natural talent with four receptions for 85 yards. Njoku (4-74-1) had a good game as well.
Joey Bosa played well for Los Angeles with seven tackles, a sack and forced fumble.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Larry Fitzgerald is now fourth on the all-time receiving list, passing the Reverend Isaac Bruce. He'll likely eclipse Randy Moss next week for third all time. It's amazing that he can still produce despite being paired with Blaine Yo! Gabbert Gabbert.
Jared Goff versus Blaine Gabbert last season would have been too awful to imagine, but this season, the Rams are in first place and Goff is playing like a true NFL quarterback in a diverse offense run by child prodigy Sean McVay, while Gabbert has been at least competent since taking over in Arizona.
Unfortunately for Arizona, that competence took a downturn early in this game, as Gabbert threw two interceptions in the first quarter, with one of those being returned for a touchdown and the other setting up a short field for Goff, who only had to go 30 yards for the touchdown, a 1-yard toss to tight end Gerald Everett.
Those two first-quarter scores gave the Cardinals a commanding 16-0 lead, but the Cardinals weren't going to roll over just yet, as Gabbert helped bring them back with two touchdowns in their two second-quarter possessions.
Arizona's first touchdown was led by Kerwynn Williams, who was taking over for injured Adrian Peterson, who took over for Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, who took over for David Johnson. Williams rushed 47 yards on five carries only to lose the touchdown to Elijah Penny, who had two carries from the 4-yard line and got in on the second. It was a fairly dominant drive, especially with Williams as the point man, and reminds us that the Rams' biggest weakness remains their run defense.
The second touchdown in the quarter was again sparked by Williams, who took the first handoff for 25 yards, but then Gabbert hit J.J. Nelson for 26 yards and capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown to the living legend, Larry Fitzgerald. That touchdown and subsequent blocked extra point would bring the Cardinals within three points, but would also be the closest they'd get for the rest of the game.
The Rams' special teams are truly elite, as seen by all aspects of the unit. In this game, they blocked a field goal, blocked an extra point, recovered a pooch kick, made a 56-yard field goal, along with three others; Greg Zurlein went 4-for-4 and leads all kickers in points by a wide margin. There was also a 30-yard punt return by Pharaoh Cooper to set up a touchdown drive and a 70-yard punt by Johnny Hekker from his own end zone, which flipped the field position after Aaron Donald sacked Gabbert and forced the Cardinals to punt from their own 20-yard line.
Special teams play might not be the most exciting aspect of an NFL game, but when it's at its best, you can only admire the ability to push and coach these players to perform at such a level. And in this game, it truly was the difference-maker, because the Rams weren't putting up big points, but they were able to keep their field position, consistently pushing into Arizona's territory, and when you have Greg Zurlein at your disposal, you know that's three points.
Before we wrap up a disappointing day for the Cardinals, Fitzgerald deserves his own paragraph, as he caught 10-of-10 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. He's of course been inconsistent this season, but when you go through three quarterbacks and you lose your all-world running back in Week 1, it's going to be tough to put up big games each week, but he sure has done well for a 33-year-old receiver who hinted at retirement. He has now put up seven games over 70 yards and has five touchdowns. And last season, we saw a sharp decline in his numbers, with just one touchdown in his final 10 games. But even with a dud last week, where he caught two passes for 13 yards, he's caught 32 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns over his last four games. Fitzgerald says he plans to keep playing, and there's no doubt that he has the ability to do that at a high level once again next season.
The 5-7 Cardinals will stay at home this week and welcome the 8-4 Titans to Scottsdale.
The Rams, on the other hand, have no thoughts of next season, as they lead their division with a 9-3 record, and currently have the No. 3 seed, but have room to move up, especially with a matchup against the Eagles next week at home.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It would be cool if the Panthers had a No. 1 receiver to take advantage of Marshon Lattimore's absence. Ah, if only Carolina had one of those...
The winner of this game was going to have the best chance at winning the NFC South. At the end of the day, the Saints emerged victorious for the second time this year against the Panthers and now have a good chance to win the division.
New Orleans' offense has been reborn this year, and it is all thanks to the addition of Alvin Kamara. The rookie out of Tennessee has been one of the most explosive players in the league this season, and he once again was on fire on Sunday afternoon. Kamara saw only nine carries, but he managed to burst through the Saints' strong run blocking line for 60 yards and two scores. Kamara has excellent tackle-breaking ability and can make a lot of men miss at the second level. This was evident on one of his touchdown runs when he ran through an arm tackle and used his speed to accelerate into the end zone.
In addition to Kamara's strong running ability, he caught five passes for 66 yards. This included a catch off a screen pass that effectively iced the game for the Saints. Kamara should be in the running for one of the top picks in fantasy next season given his consistent workload and combination of running and receiving ability.
Mark Ingram, meanwhile, saw a lot of action in the running game as well. He led the team with 14 carries and managed 85 yards and a score. He is a good complement to Kamara, as he is a strong between the tackles runner.
The Saints' passing offense also looked good on Sunday afternoon. Drew Brees' career has been rejuvenated by the improvement on the ground, and his strong ability was on display this week. Brees was able to throw sharp, accurate passes for almost all of the day. His lone mistake came when he almost threw an interception to a Carolina defender.
Overall, Brees went 25-of-34 for 269 yards and a touchdown. He did well to find open receivers and was very effective off play action for a majority of the day. He should continue to have success as the Saints continue to run a very balanced offense.
Though the Saints were without their top tight end Coby Fleener today, the team showed few problems in the receiving corps. Michael Thomas (5-70, 1 TD) predictably led the team in targets and catches, and he was the recipient of Brees' lone touchdown pass. On the touchdown, Thomas did well to work across the defense and stop on a dime while Brees moved the linebacker away from him with his eyes. Thomas will continue to be a high-end WR2 as the season winds down.
New Orleans' defense deserves praise for its performance in this game. Despite missing their top cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Saints were able to cover Carolina's top receivers for most of the day. They surrendered little yardage in the second half until they were already up 17 points. It was a strong performance, and they'll be even better when Lattimore is back.
For the Panthers, this loss was a major disappointment. The team should have been able to do better given the state of the Saints' secondary, but instead, Carolina struggled to get anything going until later in the game.
Cam Newton shouldn't get too much of the blame. Though Newton's numbers may not look great on paper, he actually played very well. For most of the day, Newton was under pressure due to the performance of his offensive line. Matt Kalil continued to struggle at left tackle, and the Saints were able to take advantage of that. The Saints did well to stay at home in the rush lanes to contain Newton. As a result, he was not permitted the usual space he had to scramble, so most of his production had to come from the pocket.
Newton's biggest weakness was his inconsistent accuracy. He had some overthrows during the contest and occasionally put balls too far in front of his receivers. At the same time, his receivers did commit a lot of drops, so that didn't help his case.
By the end of the contest, Newton had 17-of-27 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled for 51 yards on six runs, including a great 30-yard scramble in the fourth quarter. Both of the touchdowns throws were nice, but the Panthers have to wish that Newton could have done more earlier to keep them in the game.
In terms of receivers, Devin Funchess (4-60, 1 TD) led the way for the Panthers, albeit in a strange fashion. Funchess didn't record a single reception until the very last play of the third quarter. He had a couple of drops, but he proved to be effective down the stretch. His touchdown catch was a thing of beauty, as he outjumped a defender, grabbed it right in front of his eyes, landed, and turned and ran into the end zone. Funchess isn't consistent enough to be a No. 1 receiver, so the Panthers need to find a complement for him in the future. Their decision to trade away Kelvin Benjamin hasn't looked like a smart one so far.
Elsewhere, Russell Shepard (3-29) and Christian McCaffrey (5-33, 1 TD) were the other leading receivers for the Panthers.
Speaking of McCaffrey, he had another solid day. He saw a lot of action as a pass catcher, as mentioned above, and he motored into the end zone on a wide-open swing pass early in the game. That said, the Panthers didn't use him enough on the ground. The rookie running back only saw six carries that went for 16 yards. Jonathan Stewart got 11 carries for 45 yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown, but he doesn't offer anything more than short-yardage ability at this point.
Final Note: Carolina's special teams were abysmal today. The punter, Michael Palardy, flubbed a punt by dropping it in front of his foot and not being able to kick it. He had to throw it away, costing the team field position. Later, Kaelin Clay fumbled on a punt return that was recovered by the Saints. The Panthers were trailing by 14 at the time but would have had the ball at midfield if not for the fumble. The coaching staff has to focus on these issues moving forward, as these mistakes really took away from the Panthers chances to win.
Raiders 24, Giants 17
Much was made about the Giants benching Eli Manning this week, but it didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. The Giants are so beaten up with injuries on both sides of the ball that most signal-callers wouldn't succeed there, so it was best to see what the 27-year-old Geno Smith could accomplish. Smith didn't look bad, but the result was the same.
Smith finished 21-of-34 for 212 yards and a touchdown. He made some nice throws, but had poor ball security. He was strip-sacked twice in the opening half. The first time wasn't really his fault, as he didn't have any time to do anything, though the sack took the Giants out of field-goal range. The second was more on Smith, as he held the ball too long, allowing Khalil Mack more time to beat overmatched right tackle Chad Wheeler.
Smith played better in the second half - 13-of-19, 119 yards, one touchdown after intermission - and he kept the Giants in the game, but his defense couldn't come up with stops on Oakland's offense.
Helping Smith were Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, both of whom made terrific catches. Engram, who hauled in seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, made a great one-handed reception. Shepard, meanwhile, logged three catches for 56 yards, most of which came on a 46-yard ball thrown behind him.
The Raiders shut down the run pretty well, limiting Orleans Darkwa to just 32 yards on 14 carries. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, he managed to find the end zone.
As for the Raiders, they managed to move into a three-way tie with the Chiefs and Chargers with this victory. It wasn't as easy as people expected, but the Raiders were able to grind out a victory despite missing their two starting receivers.
Derek Carr finished 22-of-36 for 287 yards and a touchdown. Carr didn't end up making any mistakes on the stat sheet, but he was very fortunate not to throw two interceptions. He had a dropped interception in the red zone during the second quarter, and he had another potential pick that was dropped when he took a risky deep shot into double coverage.
With Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree out, Cordarrelle Patterson led the Raiders with four catches for 97 yards. Carr's sole score went to Johnny Holton, who made an acrobatic catch near the sideline. Holton caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown, though he lost a fumble in Giants territory.
Marshawn Lynch picked up the slack with Cooper and Crabtree missing in action. Lynch burst for a 51-yard touchdown in the early going, giving the Raiders a lead they would never relinquish. Lynch finished with 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He had a vintage "Beast Mode" run in the fourth quarter when running out the clock.
Seahawks 24, Eagles 10
The Eagles began the year with a 10-1 record for a number of reasons, primarily Carson Wentz's terrific play. Despite Wentz's inexperience, the Eagles weren't shy about allowing Wentz to take aggressive, deep shots downfield, even on third-and-long situations. That completely changed in this game, however. For whatever reason, Doug Pederson had Wentz dinking and dunking throughout the opening half. As a result, Wentz's nine completions and 13 attempts prior to halftime went for just 45 yards.
Philadelphia opened things up more following intermission. Wentz was way more successful in moving the chains as a result, allowing the Eagles to more than double their yardage output. However, some key mistakes ruined their chances. The biggest blunder was when Wentz fumbled at the 1-yard line on the opening drive of the second half. The ball trickled out of bounds for a touchback. Had the Eagles scored there, they may have won, or at least forced overtime. Elsewhere, the Eagles unnecessarily sent on all-out blitz against Seattle's already-outmatched offensive line for no reason, allowing Russell Wilson to torch them with an easy pass down to the 1-yard line. A bit later, Wilson threw a forward lateral on a third down to Mike Davis, which the Eagles didn't challenge. Replay review showed that the pass was a yard forward, so the Eagles could've prevented a Seattle touchdown.
Wentz finished 29-of-45 for 348 yards, one touchdown, an interception and the lost fumble. The pick was a desperation heave into double coverage with a couple of minutes remaining in regulation. Wentz overshot an open Nelson Agholor on the second drive of the evening, but his passing improved in the second half. He completed a 51-yard reception to Nelson Agholor while falling down, for instance. Unfortunately for Wentz and the Eagles, they simply just couldn't overcome all of their errors.
Speaking of Agholor, he posted some monster numbers, catching seven passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He outclassed Alshon Jeffery (4-61) and Zach Ertz (2-24). Ertz couldn't finish the game because he suffered a concussion in the third quarter. Trey Burton is an athletic backup who can pick up the slack if Ertz has to miss next week's game; Ertz caught two passes for 24 yards.
The Eagles split carries evenly between Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. Ajayi had one more carry, 9-8, and he also had more yardage, 35-26. It's pretty clear that Ajayi is the superior talent, so he should be given a greater share of the workload.
As for the Seahawks, they were able to jump ahead of the Falcons for the sixth seed in the NFC, improving to 8-4. They'll need to stay ahead of Atlanta, thanks to the inexplicable home loss to the Falcons a few weeks ago.
Russell Wilson was majestic in this victory. The Eagles were able to put pressure on him, but he danced around in the pocket and bought time to complete crucial passes. Of course, he does every game, so it's scary to think what he could do with an improved offensive line. Check out the top blockers available in our 2018 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings.
Wilson finished 20-of-31 for 227 yards and three touchdowns. He scrambled six times for 31 rushing yards. Based on how much he moved around, I'm shocked he only gained 31 yards on the ground, but most of his movement was maneuvering the pocket.
Wilson's three scores went to Jimmy Graham (3-26), Tyler Lockett (2-17) and J.D. McKissic. Doug Baldwin appeared to score as well, but his foot scraped the white out-of-bounds chalk at the 1-yard line.
The Seahawks welcomed back Mike Davis back from injury, and he proved that he's the best runner on Seattle's roster right now. Davis gained 64 yards on 16 carries, showing some impressive shake and bake on his runs. Seattle could have a viable ground attack as long as Davis remains healthy.
Steelers 23, Bengals 20
Some rivalries in sports are overrated, but this one is most definitely not. The Steelers and Bengals legitimately hate each other, and that was apparent in this game. This contest featured numerous plays in which athletes on both teams blatantly tried to injure one another. As a result, numerous stars from both teams suffered injuries in this field-goal Pittsburgh victory.
The worst injury was actually not anyone's fault; star linebacker Ryan Shazier had his head down when he went for a tackle, and he collapsed onto the field and couldn't move his lower body. There was a haunting moment where he reached his arm for his back, seemingly making sure it was there. Shazier was carted off the field in a stretcher and taken to the hospital. There's no update on his status, but it unfortunately did not look good. Hopefully he'll be able to move his lower body soon so he can walk again. It's really not even a question of whether he can play football again. It's unfortunately seems way worse than that.
Much later in the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster blasted into Vontaze Burfict on a similar play that Burfict made in the preseason to get suspended. Burfict was knocked out, and like Shazier, he had to be carted off the field in a stretcher. Fortunately, he didn't have to go to the hospital, and it sounds like he could play again this year. Despite this, Smith-Schuster stood over Burfict as the star linebacker was on the ground and was flagged for taunting. The Steelers kept the drive going despite the penalty, and capped it off with a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. As Brown caught the ball, two Bengal players came in to hit him late. One blasted him with a helmet-to-helmet collision, seemingly sacrificing his body to injure Brown. Fortunately, Brown was OK and celebrated the game-tying touchdown. The Steelers kicked the decisive field goal minutes later.
This game was an absolute blood bath. In addition to Shazier and Burfict, other players who suffered injuries include Joe Mixon (concussion), Pacman Jones and Shazier's replacement, Tyler Matakevich. The Bengals set a season-high total for penalty yards for any team this year, racking up 173 yards' worth of infractions. That was actually the most penalty yards the Bengals have ever accumulated in franchise history.
The Steelers prevailed to keep the No. 1 seed, but this was a Pyrrhic victory for sure. Shazier is the captain and quarterback of the defense, and without him, the Steelers really struggled to stop the Bengals. Cincinnati moved the chains with ease until the team began making mistakes, including a long touchdown to A.J. Green negated by a ticky-tack hold, a late hit on the quarterback by Geno Atkins, and a Green drop on the team's final offensive drive of the evening. The Bengals should have won this game, but this wasn't the first time they choked away a potential victory against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh's offense, meanwhile, wasn't clicking early. Antonio Brown struggled on his foot in pre-game warmups, and he and Ben Roethlisberger didn't look like they were in rhythm. In fact, Roethlisberger yelled at Brown on one instance because of a miscommunication. Brown clearly wasn't 100 percent, as he dropped just his second pass of the season, but he still was able to catch the game-tying score, and he ended up catching eight balls for 101 yards and a touchdown. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, was 24-of-40 for 290 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Roethlisberger saw lots of pressure early and was nearly picked on a couple of other occasions. However, he was hot late in the game, going 16-of-24 for 171 yards and two scores following halftime.
Brown actually didn't lead the Steelers in receiving. That distinction belonged to Le'Veon Bell, who hauled in five receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. He didn't do as well on the ground, but wasn't bad in that regard either, gaining 76 yards on 18 carries, showing his trademark patience.
Aside from Brown and Bell, only one Steeler logged more than 20 receiving yards, and that was Martavis Bryant (4-40), who drew a deep pass-interference flag. Smith-Schuster (4-17) didn't contribute anything on the stat sheet, but helped the Steelers by taking Burfict out of the game. I'll be shocked if he isn't suspended.
As for the Bengals, Andy Dalton was hot early, going 21-of-36 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Dalton often receives flak for the Bengals' losses, but this certainly wasn't his fault. He should've thrown a third touchdown, but that was nullified by penalty, and he should've been able to keep a drive alive late had Green not dropped the aforementioned pass. Dalton showed great accuracy in this contest, particularly in the first half, when he was 16-of-23 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Mixon, as mentioned, left the game with a concussion, which is a shame because it seemed like he was in for a big night because of Shazier's absence. Mixon gained 34 yards on seven carries. Following his departure, Giovani Bernard (13-77) handled the entire workload.
Green made a killer mistake late in the game, but still was able to salvage a huge fantasy night, catching seven passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns. If it wasn't for that previously mentioned penalty, he would've cleared the century mark and scored thrice.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.