I had two concerns about the Panthers heading into this game, despite their 6-2 record: their offensive line and their cornerbacks. Both liabilities were exposed horribly in this embarrassing blowout.
Cam Newton had poor protection throughout the evening. This was especially prevalent on the second drive. Newton was immediately swarmed and backpedaled into his end zone. Attempting to avoid a safety, Newton hurled the ball recklessly over the middle of the field. Steelers linebacker Vince Williams snatched the ball and returned it 17 yards for a pick-six to give the Steelers a lead that they would never relinquish.
Newton was harassed by countless pass-rushers throughout the night. He took five sacks, which is a considerable number for a quarterback with his scrambling ability. He also fumbled the ball on a strip-sack, but Christian McCaffrey showed great awareness to pounce on the loose ball.
Meanwhile, Carolina's secondary was torched relentlessly. The Steelers' first-string offense scored on nearly every possession, and Ben Roethlisberger completed his first eight passes. The Panthers' inability to cover Pittsburgh's dynamic receivers allowed the Steelers to convert 8-of-9 third downs. Pittsburgh's offense produced 8.5 yards per play, compared to 4.5 for the Panthers.
Roethlisberger's final numbers were amazing. He misfired on just three attempts, going 22-of-25 for 328 yards and five touchdowns. One of the scores shouldn't have counted because Vance McDonald (4-44) clearly didn't maintain control of the ball before falling out of play, but the game was such a blowout that the NFL replay crew didn't even bother reviewing it.
Roethlisberger's other touchdowns went to Antonio Brown (6-96), JuJu Smith-Schuster (3-90), Jaylen Samuels (3-22) and Jesse James (1-8). Smith-Schuster's touchdown was Pittsburgh's initial score, as he caught a 75-yard bomb on the first play from the Steelers' offense. This occurred right after a lengthy Carolina drive, so this had to be disheartening for the Panthers. Brown, meanwhile, torched cornerback Donte Jackson, who thought he was victimized by a push-off on a long score. Jackson, clearly frustrated, had one of the worst tackling efforts you'll ever see on another play later in the game.
James Conner wasn't his usual dominant self, but he picked up some nice runs while gaining 65 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. Conner left the game at the end of the third quarter with what seemed like a concussion. Fortunately for Conner, he'll have some extra time to clear protocol.
Back to the Panthers, Newton finished with a nice completion percentage, going 23-of-29 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and the pick-six. Newton was accurate, but seldom had the time in the pocket to locate his receivers. Newton also barely used his legs, scrambling just twice for 10 rushing yards.
McCaffrey was absolutely brilliant, rewarding anyone who took a chance on him in DFS. He scored thrice and accumulate 138 total yards. McCaffrey rushed for 77 yards on 14 carries while catching all five of his targets for 61 receiving yards. He's a dynamic threat out of the backfield, and he was Carolina's lone offensive bright spot in this ugly blowout loss.
Aside from McCaffrey, Greg Olsen led the Panthers in receiving with four grabs for 40 yards. Devin Funchess (3-32) was next, while D.J. Moore (4-20) drew a late pass interference flag in the end zone during garbage time.
Panthers safety Eric Reid was ejected for elbowing Roethlisberger in the helmet during a slide. He clearly hit him late, sparking some pushing and shoving from the two teams. I'm not sure Reid's hit should've warranted an ejection, but the game was a blowout at that point, so perhaps the officials were just preventing a larger fight from starting.
Bears 34, Lions 22
It's almost difficult to believe that these two teams had similar records a few weeks ago. It's now apparent that they're heading in different directions. While the Lions are floundering without Golden Tate, the Bears, now 6-3, appear to have a legitimate chance to claim the NFC North.
The Bears have a great defense, a solid running game and some dynamic weapons at the skill positions, but Mitchell Trubisky has been the sole concern. Trubisky has been very inconsistent this year, struggling at times while posting a couple of brilliant performances in between. This one certainly qualified as the latter.
Trubisky completed all seven of his initial passes for 108 yards. He also had a nifty scramble in the red zone to pick up a first down and then was hit late of bounds, prompting a scuffle between the two teams. Trubisky actually didn't use his legs on many occasions otherwise, which is important because he'll need to beat great competition with his arm.
Trubisky at least thrashed Detroit's putrid defense with his arm, so that's something. Trubisky went 23-of-30 for 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled thrice for 18 rushing yards and a fourth score on the ground. The Lions, missing their top cornerback, Darius Slay, had no answer for Chicago's aerial assault.
It must be noted that Trubisky, while strong for most of the afternoon, had some bad moments late in the game. He took a shot downfield while throwing off his back foot, then nearly took a sack in the end zone for a safety. Still, this was a mostly positive outcome for Trubisky.
The return of Allen Robinson helped Trubisky immensely. Robinson caught six of his eight targets for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson also drew an interference flag in the end zone. He was a monster in this game, though it's worth noting that he had the luxury of avoiding Slay's elite coverage.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Anthony Miller caught five of his six targets for 122 yards and Trubisky's third touchdown, while Taylor Gabriel failed to haul in any of his three targets. It seems as though Miller has overtaken Gabriel as the Bears' second receiver. The rookie is very talented, so this shouldn't be a surprise.
The Bears couldn't run on Snacks Harrison and the rest of Detroit's defensive front. In fact, Trubisky nearly led the team in rushing. He was three yards shy of Jordan Howard, who mustered just 21 yards on 11 carries. Tarik Cohen (7-15) didn't have much success either, though he scored and also caught six of his seven targets for 29 receiving yards.
The sole dark cloud over this victory for Chicago was the performance of Cody Parkey. The kicker missed two field goals and a pair of extra points, doinking the ball off the upright on all four occasions somehow. The whiffs weren't even of the long variety; he missed from 41 and 34 yards.
Meanwhile, the Lions struggled once again to sustain any sort of offense. A touchdown of theirs came in garbage time, so the 22 points aren't even indicative of how they performed in this contest.
Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times last week, and the pass-protection issues were once again prevalent in this game. Stafford took six sacks, as he looks completely lost without his best offensive weapon, Golden Tate. One of the sacks took Detroit out of field goal range in the early going.
Stafford's numbers - 25-of-42, 274 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions - look OK, but he did not play well. His first interception was a killer; a telegraphed throw set up the Bears with a touchdown. The second pick occurred in garbage time. Stafford had a third potential interception that was dropped after that.
If there's a silver lining for the Lions, it's that both of their young, dynamic play-makers, Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay, had strong outings. Johnson gained 51 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries, while catching all six of his targets for 38 receiving yards and a second score. Johnson lost a fumble, but he was still far better than LeGarrette Blount, who wasted six carries for just four yards.
Golladay, meanwhile, snatched six of his 13 targets for 78 yards and a touchdown. He did most of this in garbage time, though he drew a pass interference flag in the end zone earlier in the game. Elsewhere in Detroit's receiving corps, Marvin Jones hauled in three of his seven targets for 55 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. Theo Riddick (6 catches, 60 yards) was also a big factor in the passing attack.
Bengals 51, Bengals 14
All I heard from the Sunday morning pre-game shows was that this was a trap game for the Saints. New Orleans, of course, was coming off a huge victory over the undefeated Rams and had the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles on deck. The Bengals, without A.J. Green, didn't seem to present much of a challenge, and they lived down to that. The Saints, conversely, were extremely sharp, scoring on every single possession in this game until the end when they were kneeling down. You read that correctly: They scored every time they had the ball until they were up 51-14. New Orleans took a 35-7 lead into intermission and never looked back.
Drew Brees continued to play some of the best football of his career, as the Bengals' banged-up defense had no answer for him. Cincinnati was missing its top two linebackers, Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, as well as a starting cornerback. Vigil is Cincinnati's best coverage linebacker, so it's no surprise that Brees attacked this area all afternoon.
Brees misfired just twice in each half, going 22-of-26 for 265 yards and three passing touchdowns to go along with a fourth score on one of his patented sneaks on the goal line. Brees could've posted a much better stat line, but barely played in the fourth quarter. He had 214 yards by halftime, so had the Saints needed to keep their foot on the gas, Brees may have eclipsed the 400-yard barrier.
With Vigil and Burfict out, it's no surprise that the two New Orleans running backs were the second- and third-leading receivers on the team. Mark Ingram caught three passes for 58 yards and a receiving touchdown, while Alvin Kamara hauled in four balls for 46 yards.
Both Ingram and Kamara were effective on the ground, which, again, wasn't shocking because the Bengals were missing their top linebackers. Ingram had the better rushing yardage performance, gaining 104 yards on 13 attempts, but Kamara (12-56) scored twice.
New Orleans' leading receiver happened to be Michael Thomas, who caught all eight of his targets for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Watson, meanwhile, caught one pass for a single yard, but nearly scored twice. He dropped a touchdown in the opening half, then had a score wiped out by replay review because it was determined that his knee was down just shy of the goal line.
The Saints are now 8-1, but there's bad news. Left tackle Terron Armstead suffered a shoulder injury and had to leave the game early. It remains to be seen how long he'll be sidelined.
As for the Bengals, they scored easily on their opening possession, averaging 10 yards per play, as an Andy Dalton touchdown to John Ross tied the game at seven. However, Cincinnati didn't score again until the end of the afternoon when Dalton was removed from the game in favor of backup Jeff Driskel.
Save for the opening drive, Dalton performed poorly without his top weapon. With Green out of the lineup, Tyler Boyd had to serve as the No. 1 receiver. Unlike Green, Boyd is incapable of bailing out Dalton with amazing receptions. Dalton, as a result, struggled to maintain drives. He was 0-of-6 on third down, and he misfired on a fourth-down try, missing a wide-open Ross on a fourth-and-13 that would've moved the chains.
Dalton went just 12-of-20 for 153 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His first pick was awful, as he heaved it up for grabs in New Orleans territory right before halftime, and it was returned into Cincinnati territory, setting up a New Orleans score. Dalton's second interception was batted high up in the air on a deflection.
Boyd led the Bengals in receiving with three grabs for 65 yards. Ross (2-39) scored the lone touchdown. C.J. Uzomah (3-23) barely did anything.
Joe Mixon was the most productive Cincinnati play-maker, though he couldn't carry the ball very much because of the constant deficit. Mixon tallied 61 yards on 11 attempts, and he caught two passes for 24 receiving yards. Giovani Bernard, meanwhile, returned from injury to catch two passes for 30 receiving yards. Bernard didn't enter the game until the second quarter, which seemed like a mistake.
Browns 28, Falcons 16
Baker Mayfield had been the best of the five first-round rookie quarterbacks heading into this week, though not by the greatest of margins, thanks to some sluggish performances recently. Mayfield erased those concerns in this game, greatly widening his lead over the other first-year signal-callers.
Mayfield completed every single pass he threw in the opening half. And this wasn't some dink-and-dunk showing where he fired the ball just three or four times, like Mitchel Trubisky did because of John Fox's poor coaching last year. Mayfield took shots downfield and was successful with all of them. Mayfield completed all 12 of his attempts for 165 yards and two touchdowns prior to intermission.
Despite this, the Browns led by just four points at the break because of one of the dumbest coaching decisions you'll ever see. Despite Mayfield being perfect, the Browns attempted a trick play where someone named Dontrelle Hiliard launched a pass to Mayfield. The ball appeared to be right on the money, but it hung up in the air forever, allowing Falcons safety Damontae Kazee to snatch the interception. This not only disrupted a promising drive for Cleveland, but it set up a touchdown possession for Atlanta.
The Browns, however, stopped the nonsense in the second half. With the help of a Mohamed Sanu lost fumble that gave Cleveland a touchdown on a short field, and a 92-yard Nick Chubb scoring rush, the Browns were able to put the Falcons away to give them their first victory since defeating the Ravens back in Week 5.
Mayfield's first incompletion was thrown away because no one was open. He misfired on just two other occasions, finishing 17-of-20 for 216 yards and three touchdowns. He fumbled once on a strip-sack, but was able to pick up the ball and run for positive yardage. Mayfield was very sharp, and it appears as though Cleveland made the correct decision to select him first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Mayfield would've posted an even better stat line, but the Browns were way ahead for most of the second half, thanks to Sanu's fumble and Chubb's long run.
Chubb's 92-yard touchdown, by the way, was the longest play from scrimmage thus far in 2018. The "other" Cleveland offensive rookie registered 176 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He also caught three passes for 33 receiving yards and another touchdown. Chubb looks like the total package. He made nice jukes and cuts throughout the game and was able to accelerate through holes and break numerous tackles.
Chubb wasn't the only Cleveland runner with a receiving score, as Duke Johnson caught four balls for 31 receiving yards and a touchdown. Johnson appeared to fumble in the second half, but replay review showed that he was down by contact.
It's nice that the Browns are involving Johnson more in the aerial attack, given their problems at receiver. Antonio Callaway led the way with just two catches for 39 yards, while former Raven Breshad Perriman (2-33) wasn't too far behind him. Rashard Higgins caught a 28-yard touchdown on his only catch, while Jarvis Landry (2-22) was almost shut out. This is an area Cleveland must address this spring (check out the 2019 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings.)
As for the Falcons, they struggled to run the ball, which coincided with the return of talented linebacker Joe Schobert to the lineup. Schobert has been out since Week 6, and Cleveland's been terrible versus the run as a result. Save for an 18-yard burst, Tevin Coleman did nothing, as he was limited to 44 yards on 11 attempts. He also dropped a pass.
The Falcons were able to move the chains aerially, however, as Matt Ryan finished 38-of-52 for 330 yards and two touchdowns. Despite these numbers, Ryan had major issues with the Browns' defensive front, which disrupted some drives. Of Ryan's total passing yardage, 213 came in the second half, as he was able to pad his stats in garbage time.
Ryan was prolific last week at Washington because he was deadly on third down. That was the opposite in this game. There were five occasions in which Ryan failed to convert key third downs. The initial third down of the game failed because of heavy pressure. Another one, just prior to halftime, resulted in a Ryan sack after he pump faked twice. A Ryan third-and-7 pass was nearly picked by Denzel Ward. Ryan then tried to avoid a sack on third-and-10 by scrambling, but was able to just muster a short run. The fifth third down was a failure in the red zone, as Atlanta stalled at Cleveland's 1-yard line.
Julio Jones scored for the first time last year, and he managed to find the end zone again. Once again, he scored on a screen, though this one was for just a single yard. Jones finished with seven catches for 107 yards and a score. Austin Hooper (10-56) caught Ryan's other touchdown, doing so in garbage time.
Elsewhere in the Falcons' receiving corps, Sanu (6-47) had a lost fumble that set up Cleveland with a touchdown on a short field, while Calvin Ridley (3-37) was a big disappointment.
Titans 34, Patriots 10
If there was any hope for the Patriots to have home-field advantage, it may have vanished in the wake of this loss. Not only that, but New England is no longer in control of its own destiny in regard to a first-round bye. The Patriots are now two games back of the Chiefs, while the Steelers, at 6-2-1, have one fewer loss.
New England's defense had no answer for Tennessee's scoring attack, which was missing right tackle Jack Conklin. The Titans averaged one more yard per play than the Patriots in the opening half, as they took a 24-10 lead into intermission.
The Titans were able to establish a quick, 14-3 advantage on two drives to open the game. Both possessions featured great plays by Marcus Mariota. The first was when he could've run for a substantial gain on his first play, but instead stepped up in the pocket and found Corey Davis for a long connection to reach the red zone. That set up a touchdown where Mariota rolled right to find Jonnu Smith. The second great play was a beautiful rainbow touchdown to Davis for 23 yards.
Mariota was excellent in this game, and he didn't even need to use his legs very much. The threat of him running was enough for the Patriots, who played in a zone to prevent his scrambles. They did a good job in doing so - Mariota ran just twice for 21 rushing yards - but Mariota beat them with his arm. He misfired on just eight occasions, going 16-of-24 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. All but 76 of his passing yards came in the opening half, as the Titans took the air out of the ball with a large lead at halftime.
Davis had a huge afternoon. He caught seven of his 10 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown, constantly abusing Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. One catch was an impressive, leaping grab. He was well ahead of every other Titan on the receiving list, as Smith (3-45) was next.
Derrick Henry had one of his better games in a while. He trampled a lifeless New England defense in the second half, picking up 58 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 attempts. He saw less work than Dion Lewis (20-57), who caught two passes for 11 receiving yards.
As for the Patriots, their offense seemed discombobulated all afternoon. There were some signs of life - Tom Brady hit Josh Gordon with a 44-yard pass over multiple defenders on a third-and-long - but there were far too many mistakes. Gordon, for example, dropped a pass later on that drive. On another occasion, Brady sailed an inaccurate, helpless pass to Gordon on a third-and-4. Perhaps the most telling moment occurred on a fourth-and-4 in the third quarter on the Tennessee 41-yard line. Bill Belichick is often aggressive in these sorts of situations, but he opted to punt. He obviously had zero confidence in the offense, which was manhandled by Tennessee's excellent defense. Still, it ended up being the incorrect decision because the Titans scored on their ensuing drive despite starting at their own 9-yard line.
Brady barely completed half of his passes, going 21-of-41 for 254 yards. Pass protection was a big issue in this game. The Titans sent exotic blitzes to rattle Brady, and New England's usually solid front couldn't protect him whatsoever. Brady was also strangely inaccurate. He missed way too many passes he usually hits, including those on the rare occasions in which he had time in the pocket. As a whole, however, Brady seemed rattled by the pressure.
Adding injury to insult, Julian Edelman, who caught nine passes for 104 yards, left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Already without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are in need of a week off. Luckily for them, that's exactly what they have coming up.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Gordon (4-81) was the only other Patriot with more than 31 receiving yards. He hurt his team with a dropped pass, and he managed to reel in just four of his 12 targets. Meanwhile, Chris Hogan didn't catch a single pass.
The Patriots welcomed Sony Michel back from injury, but they couldn't run the ball often because they trailed the entire game. Michel managed just 31 yards on 11 carries, and making matters worse for his fantasy owners, James Develin vultured a goal-line plunge away from him. James White, on the other hand, did all of his work as a receiver, snatching five receptions for 31 yards.
Colts 29, Jaguars 26
The Jaguars were one win away from reaching the Super Bowl last year, but this has been a lost season for them. They are now 3-6 in the wake of this loss, as they are all alone at the bottom of the AFC South.
While Blake Bortles was the favorite to let the team down heading into this game, he wasn't at fault for this loss. The defense, on the other hand, had no answers for what Indianapolis was doing. Andrew Luck torched the Jaguars relentlessly, particularly with the tight ends.
With barely any pressure in his face throughout the entire afternoon, Luck finished 21-of-29 for 285 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, which wasn't his fault. The pick occurred on a throw to third-string tight end Mo Alie-Cox, as the ball popped out of his hands and into the arms of a Jaguar defender. That play, as well as a Nyheim Hines drop that negated a big gain, plus a surprising Adam Vinatieri missed field goal in the fourth quarter, were the only reasons why the Jaguars even had a chance at the end.
Jacksonville, down 29-13 at one point, had one final shot because of Indianapolis' mistakes. The Jaguars moved into Indianapolis territory despite a T.J. Yeldon drop, but they gave the ball away on a Rashad Greene fumble. The Colts took over and were able to kneel down.
Luck, as mentioned, torched the Jaguars by targeting his tight ends frequently. Eric Ebron scored three touchdowns, two in the air and one on the ground on a sweep, as he hauled in three balls for 69 yards. Doyle (3-36) didn't find the end zone, but Alie-Cox (2-28) did before costing his team with an error.
While the tight ends did lots of work, T.Y. Hilton led the Colts in receiving with three grabs for 77 yards. Dontrelle Inman (4-41) snatched all of his targets. Inman was the victim of a brutally late helmet-to-helmet hit by Myles Jack.
Save for a 53-yard scamper from Jordan Wilkins, the Colts couldn't run the ball successfully. Marlon Mack, who had performed well lately, was limited to just 29 yards on 12 attempts.
As for the Jaguars' offense prior to the Greene fumble, Bortles actually had a strong outing, going 26-of-38 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Things were dubious for Bortles early when he audibled to an inside run on a third-and-9, but he made several impressive connections downfield. That included when he lobbed an 80-yard touchdown to Donte Moncrief, which featured a horrible missed tackle by Malik Hooker.
Moncrief led the Jaguars in receiving, though he didn't do much outside of that touchdown. He caught three passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Dede Westbrook (5-30) nearly scored, but was tackled shy of the goal line. Meanwhile, tight end James O'Shaughnessy caught all but one of his six targets for 46 yards in his return from his multi-week injury.
Leonard Fournette played for the first time since Week 4, and he posted a terrific fantasy stat line. He tallied 109 total yards and two touchdowns. However, the Jaguars' offensive line couldn't open up holes for him, as Fournette was limited to 53 rushing yards on 24 carries. More than half of his yardage came aerially with five grabs for 56 receiving yards.
Speaking of Jacksonville's blocking, center Brandon Linder was carted into the locker room. Losing Linder for an extended period of time would be the final nail in the coffin for the Jaguars, as he is the best player on the offensive line.
Bills 41, Jets 10
This game is hardly worth talking about. That didn't appear to be the case several weeks ago when the apparent matchup was between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. Instead, we had Matt Barkley versus Josh McCown, as both rookie signal-callers were nursing injuries.
The edge between Barkley and McCown was predicted to favor the latter, as he played well last year. Barkley, on the other hand, was out of football in 2017 and had barely practiced with the Bills prior to this game. And yet, the Bills demolished the Jets, who put forth one of the most pathetic performances you'll ever see from an NFL team.
The Jets had no answer for Barkley, who actually made some nice throws. He moved the chains throughout the opening half, connecting on a couple of long passes. This includes a perfect 33-yard lob to Zay Jones. Barkley, somehow, went 15-of-25 for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Unlike Derek Anderson, Barkley took chances downfield, and unlike Nathan J. Peterman, he avoided turnovers.
With some competency at quarterback, LeSean McCoy had the luxury of some open running lanes. Of course, the Jets' effort level wasn't very high. Still, it was nice to see McCoy thrive for the first time in a long while. McCoy tallied 113 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He wasn't featured much in the passing attack, catching just one ball for five yards. Left tackle Dion Dawkins, on the other hand, was, as he caught a touchdown on a trick play.
Despite Barkley's solid afternoon, Kelvin Benjamin didn't catch a single pass. Instead, someone named Robert Foster led the way with three grabs for 105 yards. Zay Jones, meanwhile, caught eight of his 11 targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. Jones posted a monstrous stat line, but neither he nor Foster is worth adding in fantasy, especially with Buffalo's bye week coming up.
As for the Jets, Josh McCown looked like a decrepit, 39-year-old quarterback. His stat line - 17-of-34, 135 yards, two interceptions - doesn't even tell the whole story. Much of that came in garbage time. Through a quarter-and-a-half, the Jets were averaging just 0.2 yards per play. Yes, 0.2 yards per play. That means they would need 50 plays to achieve a single first down!
McCown was horrible, so with that in mind, the silver lining for the Jets in the wake of this loss is that Sam Darnold didn't have an opportunity to play poorly. The Jets will also have a chance to move ahead of the Bills in the 2019 NFL Draft, which is loaded with front-seven talent. Still, this does not excuse the complete no-show. The players gave up on Todd Bowles, who will likely be fired soon. It wouldn't surprise me if ownership axed him during the bye week.
Isaiah Crowell scored a touchdown, but struggled otherwise. His halftime stat line of four carries for minus-8 yards was a joke. He finished with 19 yards on seven attempts, thanks to garbage time. Elijah McGuire (6-30) looked like the better back. McGuire also caught three passes for 27 receiving yards.
Aside from McGuire, only one Jet player had more than 18 receiving yards. That was rookie tight end Chris Herndon, who continued to play well. Herndon caught three balls for 34 yards. Meanwhile, Quincy Enunwa (4-18) limped off the field after his first catch, but managed to return to action.
Redskins 16, Buccaneers 3
If I were to tell you that the Buccaneers outplayed the Redskins by a wide margin in this game, you may not believe me. After all, Tampa scored just three points and lost by nearly two touchdowns. However, that's exactly what happened in this extremely frustrating contest for Tampa.
The Buccaneers had nearly double the number of first downs as the Buccaneers (29-15). They outgained the Redskins by more than 200 net yards. They averaged 2.2 more yards per play. And none of this, by the way, occurred in garbage time. As proof, consider that the Buccaneers had more than double the net yardage Washington had at halftime, averaging 1.4 more yards per play.
So, what happened? Quite simply, the Buccaneers happened. Tampa took SIX possessions into the red zone, yet scored just three points. Yes, you read that correctly. They had half as many points (3) as trips to the red zone (6)! How does that happen? I watched this game, and I don't even know.
Let's go through the gaffes...
Red-zone trip No. 1: Ryan Fitzpatrick's opening drive concluded with an interception on an overthrow to Chris Godwin.
Red-zone trip No. 2: Fitzpatrick had a first-down run secured, but for whatever reason, began running backward and didn't end up crossing the first-down marker. The next play, which should've been first-and-goal, was a third down that saw Cameron Brate drop a pass. That forced the Buccaneers into a 30-yard field goal, which Chandler Catanzaro missed!
Red-zone trip No. 3: Fitzpatrick took a bad sack in the red zone, forcing the team into another field goal. This one was good.
Red-zone trip No. 4: There was a botched snap on a third-and-7 that resulted in a big loss. Catanzaro whiffed from 48. Not even close.
Red-zone trip No. 5: Jacquizz Rodgers lost a fumble after a nice gain. The ball popped into the end zone for a touchback.
Red-zone trip No. 6: Mike Evans dropped a touchdown, then Fitzpatrick coughed up the ball on a strip-sack.
These constant, mind-numbing mistakes have been a hallmark of Dirk Koetter's coaching tenure. Koetter must be fired the very second the season ends.
The final numbers look like this: Fitzpatrick was 29-of-41 for 403 yards and two interceptions. Fitzpatrick could've had a great fantasy day, but he and most of his weapons all made mistakes in the red zone.
Tampa's leading receiver was Godwin, who wasn't guilty of any errors. Godwin caught seven balls for 103 yards. Godwin needs to play more. Evans (3-51) seldom tries hard and always makes stupid blunders, while DeSean Jackson (5-67) is an inefficient player. To no one's surprise, he dropped a pass in this game. Adam Humphries (2-53) took a step backward this week.
Peyton Barber had a mediocre day running the ball, gaining 61 yards on 13 carries. Rodgers, meanwhile, didn't run very much, but was a big-time receiving factor, hauling in all eight of his targets for 102 yards. However, he hurt his team by losing the fumble that negated a scoring chance.
As for the Redskins, they didn't produce much offense because of their offensive line woes. They were missing three starters, while a fourth one, Morgan Moses, was banged up. Blocking was a problem, including on one instance when a 40-yard Alex Smith-to-Kapri Bibbs pass was wiped out by a hold. The Redskins had nothing going for them prior to the 2-minute drill just prior to halftime. That was a positive drive, and the Redskins had a couple more decent possessions in the second half to give them enough points to put away the blunderous Buccaneers.
Smith ended up completing most of his passes, 19-of-27, but for only 178 yards and a touchdown. With a banged-up offensive line and an injury-plagued receiving corps, Smith couldn't go downfield very often.
Maurice Harris was Washington's leading receiver, as he hauled in five balls for 52 yards. Jordan Reed (4-51) wasn't too far behind him. Josh Doctson (4-46) caught Smith's lone touchdown pass, but he made a mistake on one occasion when he ran a 12-yard route on a third-and-14.
Adrian Peterson didn't have much running room. He was able to burst for an 18-yard gain in the second half, but didn't do much else. Peterson mustered 68 yards on 19 carries.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Cardinals never had a chance in this game; it was whether Kansas City would cover the spread or not. The Chiefs nearly did on a late interception. They were very sloppy in this game, so they better clean up their act if they're going to beat the Rams in Mexico City.
As one could expect, the Chiefs rolled over the hapless Cardinals, controlling the game from start to finish. The talentless team from Arizona was incapable of matching up with the Chiefs, and the Arizona offense managed to make the Kansas City defense look good. If the Chiefs' defense can play like this in the postseason, they should be hoisting a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. However, the performance of the Chiefs' defense was more of an indictment on how bad Arizona was.
On the first play from scrimmage, Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for 38 yards, and that set the tone for the game. Two plays later, Mahomes threw a strike down the middle of the field to a wide open Hill for a 37-yard touchdown. Arizona responded with Josh Rosen moving the ball down the field using tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (5-51) for a 21-yard reception. After some third-down conversions, Rosen found David Johnson wide open in the flat for a 9-yard touchdown. The Cardinals then attempted an onside kick that backfired and set up the Chiefs at Arizona's 38-yard line. Mahomes used his legs to move the ball plus connected with Travis Kelce (6-46), but Chandler Jones whipped Eric Fisher to force the Chiefs to settle for a field goal.
Kansas City once again moved into Arizona territory after that, but Jones got the better of Fisher again to get a sack on a third down and force a field goal to keep the Chiefs' lead to 13-7. Midway through the second quarter, Mahomes fired a bullet to Hill for a 14-yard touchdown. Kansas City took a 20-7 lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, Arizona put a drive together led by David Johnson. It appeared to be stopped, but a third-down roughing-the-passer penalty on Dee Ford gave the Cardinals a first-and-goal that was turned into a short rushing touchdown for Johnson. Justin Houston later picked off a screen pass to set up his offense at the Cardinals' 30-yard line. A pass to Kareem Hunt soon moved the ball to the 3-yard line, and Spencer Ware ran the ball into the end zone. That touchdown put Arizona away with a 26-14 lead.
Mahomes completed 21-of-28 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns. Hunt ran for 71 yards on 16 carries with two receptions for 25 yards.
Hill lead the Chiefs through the air with seven receptions for 117 yards and two scores. He also had 20 yards on the ground.
Rosen was 22-of-39 for 208 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His second pick came in garbage time when he stared down his target and threw inaccurately to get picked off by Steven Nelson.
David Johnson ran for 98 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown and led Arizona in receiving with seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Derek Carr sucks. It's amazing that a professional quarterack doesn't even know what down it is. He threw the ball away on a fourth down at the very end and then yelled in frustration because he forgot that he'd give the ball over on downs anyway. It's unbelievable that he would not know this, and I have to imagine that the Raiders will look into adding a quarterback to compete for the job this offseason. Perhaps it'll be someone like Will Grier on Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. I have the Raiders taking Grier in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
Both teams got the result that they needed, as the Chargers cruised over the rebuilding Raiders. That left Los Angeles at 7-2, maintaining its prime position for a wild-card spot. Oakland fell to 1-8, holding onto its draft positioning with the second-overall pick and a real shot at landing the No. 1 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Raiders pulled out a trick play on a fake punt during the opening drive of the game that caught Los Angeles by surprise. Punter Johnny Townsend raced down the field for 42 yards. A third-down conversion went to Brandon LaFell, but on fourth-and-goal, Derwin James made a tackle to keep Oakland out of the end zone. The Raiders' defense forced a punt, and the ensuing good field position ended up spotting the Raiders a field goal. Oakland had another drive into Los Angeles territory, but Melvin Ingram strip-sacked Derek Carr. Corey Liuget scooped up the loose ball and ran it 24 yards to get into Oakland territory. Melvin Gordon soon came through with an excellent run on fourth-and-1 to set up a short field goal and tie the game. A 31-yard pass to Tyrell Williams got the Chargers moving late in the second quarter. The drive ended in the final seconds when Keenan Allen (6-57-1) got open in the front corner of the end zone for a score. That gave Los Angeles a 10-3 lead at halftime.
Gordon ripped off a 66-yard touchdown on a check-down pass to open the third quarter, and that iced the win for the Chargers. Oakland's offense got moving with a nice run by Doug Martin before Carr found Jared Cook (4-52) in the middle of the field for 31 yards, but the Raiders settled for a second field goal. One of the terrible new penalties of getting flagged for tackling a quarterback was called on Johnathan Hankins, and that gifted Los Angeles a critical first down and yardage. That set up a field goal for the Chargers and a 20-6 final score.
Philip Rivers completed 18-of-26 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gordon ran for 93 yards on 18 carries while also being the Chargers' leading receiver with five receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Carr completed 24-of-37 passes for 243 yards. Martin ran for 61 yards on 15 carries.
Jalen Richard led the Raiders through the air with five receptions for 52 yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I have to imagine that this was Brock Osweiler's final start. If so, I'm sad that we won't be able to bet against him anymore. I feel as though I didn't make nearly enough money as I should have fading Osweiler. I thought the Packers would be looking ahead to Thursday night, and they were, and yet they still won by 19 points.
The Miami Dolphins came into this game with three of their offensive linemen out with injuries, and barely hanging onto their winning record of 5-4 after losing four of their last six games. Adding in a mediocre backup quarterback in Brock Osweiler running the show, it was somewhat surprising that the Dolphins pushed into the red zone on three of their first four possessions, but what wasn't surprising was that they were only able to kick field goals or turn over the ball, while the Packers were able to score touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers completed 18-of-28 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, which when combined with a breakout rushing day for second-year running back Aaron Jones, was plenty to get the job done.
Both of Rodgers' touchdown passes went to Davante Adams. He has been superb this season, as he now has nine touchdowns, trailing only Antonio Brown, who has 10. Adams and Rodgers get in synch, especially around the goal line, and a quick 7-yard slant got the Packers on the board and showed why you never let Adams run free in the end zone. His second touchdown was a great read by Rodgers to find Adams open between three defenders near the goal line, which then saw Adams make a great cut to walk in for the score.
The true star of this game, however, was Jones, who ran the ball 15 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught three of his five targets for 27 more yards. Jamaal Williams ended up with just three carries for three yards, and I think we can finally say that Jones has won the lead-back job without any qualms. Unfortunately, it took Mike McCarthy way too long to use Jones effectively and enough, while still giving work to the plodding Williams. Add in the fact that the Packers let Ty Montgomery go and gave five targets to Jones and zero to Williams, and you have yourself a running back who shouldn't come off the field too often.
It's always fun to see the old guys continue to play well, and Frank Gore has done just that. He started the game with a beautiful 39-yard run on which he made a slight, but great, cut to add 15 or more yards to the play. Kenyan Drake was pushed from the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter, but by that time, Gore already had 10 touches to Drake's four. Gore finished the day with 13 carries for 90 yards and caught two passes for another 12 yards and is the preferred early-down runner for Adam Gase's team. I can't say I agree with the call, as Drake is more dynamic on offense, but Gore's ability to pass protect, especially with so many linemen injured, will keep him on the field.
The Dolphins came into this game hurting and added to their injury list as the game went on. Drake went down with the already mentioned shoulder injury; DeVante Parker also went down with a shoulder injury; Jakeem Grant had to be carted off the field with an Achilles injury; and cornerback Bobby McCain left with a concussion after.
Danny Amendola continues to be Osweiler's favorite target, as he caught 7-of-10 targets for 72 yards, but the reason Osweiler likes him is because he can't throw the ball downfield with enough accuracy to be worth a damn. This Dolphins team needs a quarterback, and the fact that Osweiler was their backup when Ryan Tannehill got hurt this season and was already out all last season, is a good reason to get rid of all the people in charge.
Osweiler was sacked three times in a row late in the game and threw an awful interception when there was still some reason to think the Dolphins had a chance down 21-12. He is not good.
The Packers' win puts them at 4-4-1 and in third place in the NFC North. The Bears lead the way at 6-3, but the Packers have a win against them already. Now that Green Bay is using Jones better and Rodgers is healthy, I expect the offense to show more signs of life in the second half of the season. Up next, the Packers face the Seahawks on Thursday night in Seattle, which will not be an easy task. If the Packers can get out of there with a win, I like their chances to make a run.
The Dolphins get a bye week, which should give Ryan Tannehill enough time to be ready to go in Week 12 against the Colts in Indianapolis, which will likely be a loss with the way the Colts have been playing. At 5-5, it would seem that there is some hope for the Miami's playoff chances, but the team has now lost five of its last seven games and hasn't looked anything like a playoff team, except for in extremely short instances.
Rams 36, Seahawks 31
The Seahawks really needed a win over the Rams to improve their playoff chances, as falling to 4-5 would put them in a big hole with a battle against the Packers coming up on Thursday. They fought the Rams down to the wire, as they entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, but a huge mistake and a failed, final drive did them in.
The costly Seattle error occurred when the team was down five in the fourth quarter. Dante Fowler, who was responsible for keeping two Seattle drives alive with stupid penalties earlier in the afternoon, scorched past a blocker and knocked the ball out of Russell Wilson's hand. The Rams recovered and quickly scored a touchdown to go up 12.
That would've put most teams away, but not those quarterbacked by Wilson. The perennial Pro Bowler engineered a quick scoring drive to get within five again. Following a Rams punt, Wilson moved the Seahawks into Los Angeles territory, but a fourth-down pass of his fell incomplete when it seemed as though he was caught between deciding to scramble for a first down or throw to his receiver. The pass sailed high, and the Rams held on to a victory to improve to 9-1.
This was a nice win by the Rams in an obvious look-ahead situation with a Mexico City battle with the Chiefs coming up, but it came at a cost. Cooper Kupp, Jared Goff's favorite receiver, suffered a non-contact knee injury in the fourth quarter. Sean McVay told the media afterward that it didn't look good. The Rams can survive without Kupp (5-39), but their offense will take a hit. Goff loves throwing to Kupp in key situations, but Los Angeles still has two dynamic receivers remaining.
Those receivers, by the way, both outgained Kupp, as Goff peppered Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods with a 17 combined targets. Cooks hit the century mark exactly, snatching 10 of his 12 targets, while also scoring once on the ground. Meanwhile, Woods reeled in four passes for 89 yards. He also had some carries, running the ball thrice for 17 rushing yards.
As for Goff, the third-year quarterback had a prolific day against Seattle's depleted defense, going 28-of-39 for 318 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams orchestrated tons of screens to the running backs and receivers, fooling the Seahawks at nearly every turn. Goff also made some excellent downfield throws, including one attempt where he converted a third-and-15 to Woods, who, for some reason, was wide open over the middle of the field.
Todd Gurley didn't have the dominant, multi-touchdown game we're used to. Instead, he had a dominant, single-touchdown game. Gurley rushed for 120 yards and a score on just 16 carries. He also caught three passes for 40 receiving yards.
As for the Seahawks, Wilson had issues with the Rams' defensive front, taking four sacks, which included the play where he lost a fumble. Wilson was forced out of the pocket often, and he took advantage of his great mobility, scrambling nine times for 92 rushing yards. Aerially, Wilson went 17-of-26 for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson played well, but needed the help of three Rams personal foul penalties to keep drives alive.
Wilson's scores went to Tyler Lockett (5-67), Mike Davis and Nick Vannett. Doug Baldwin (5-39) couldn't score, while David Moore (1-16) dropped another crucial pass, this one on third down.
Davis, by the way, took many of the early carries, and he ended up gaining 58 yards on 11 carries. However, he wasn't the story coming out of Seattle's backfield. That would be Rashaad Penny. The rookie running back finally showed signs of life, trampling the Rams' defense with ease. Penny gained 108 yards and a touchdown on just 12 attempts.
The Seahawks made a very curious decision in the fourth quarter. Down 26-24 after a field goal, they attempted an onside kick with nine minutes remaining. The problem with this is that Sebastian Janikowski has one of the worst onside conversion percentages in NFL history. The attempt failed, of course, and the Rams had a short field, which they converted into a field goal.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 20
It goes without saying that the Eagles are in big trouble. They're 4-5, which wouldn't be a huge deal if they had an easy schedule coming up. Instead, Philadelphia has to travel to New Orleans next week, then has a road tilt against the Rams several weeks later.
If the Eagles had most of their roster intact, perhaps they'd be able to pull an upset in New Orleans or Los Angeles, but they were missing two of their top three cornerbacks heading into this game. That was before losing cornerback Ronald Darby to an injury. Down three corners, the Eagles had no chance of stopping Dallas' offense, so how can they possibly deal with Drew Brees and all of his weapons?
Meanwhile, it's unclear if right tackle Lane Johnson will be able to suit up. With Johnson out, Carson Wentz faced constant pressure in this game. He was sacked just twice, but the pressure didn't allow him to do what he wanted. Perhaps Johnson will play next week - he was questionable heading into this contest - but he may not be 100 percent. If that's the case, Wentz will continue to feel more heat from New Orleans' excellent defensive line.
Wentz ended up going 32-of-44 for 360 yards, two touchdowns and an interception where he didn't see stud rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. The Eagles were constantly trailing, but had a chance to tie the game late in the final quarter on two separate drives. The first saw Vander Esch disrupt what seemed like a promising play. Vander Esch forced a loss on downs, and that affected the next snap. Wentz, on fourth-and-7, could only complete a 6-yard pass because the pressure forced him into a hurried throw. Philadelphia had one more chance after that, but more pressure forced Wentz to throw the ball into the middle of the field as time was expiring. The Eagles were tackled in the red zone as the clock hit zero.
Golden Tate made his first appearance with the Eagles, and it was a complete dud. Tate saw a target on the opening drive, but was tackled shy of the marker on third-and-long. Tate caught one other pass. His two receptions went for 19 yards. Tate should've drawn a deep pass interference in the third quarter, but the officials missed a very obvious pass interference call. This was one of several horrible instances by the officiating crew in this game.
While Tate didn't do much, Zach Ertz dominated the Sean Lee-less Cowboy defense, catching 14 of his 16 targets for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery (4-48) didn't produce much either.
The Eagles continued to struggle to run the ball, excluding Josh Adams' 29-yard burst in the first half. Adams led the Eagles in rushing with 47 yards on seven attempts, but was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 try in the opening half. Corey Clement (5-13) and Wendell Smallwood (2-4) couldn't find much running room. Smallwood was more of a factor as a receiver, snaring three passes for 30 yards.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, were able to expose Philadelphia's defense, which, again, didn't have its top three cornerbacks in the second half. Dak Prescott, as a result, was terrific following intermission, going 9-of-12 for 94 yards.
Prescott's night overall was 26-of-36 for 270 yards and a passing touchdown, and he also scrambled for nine rushing yards and a score on the ground. Things looked grim for Prescott early on when an Eagles linebacker dropped a pick-six as Prescott was staring down Amari Cooper. Prescott also missed Cole Beasley on a third-and-2 and later didn't see Michael Gallup for a potential big gain. However, he finished on a strong note because of all the injuries to Philadelphia's secondary.
The star for the Cowboys was Ezekiel Elliott, who had 151 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries. The highlight was when Elliott hurdled a Philadelphia defender on a 35-yard scamper. It looked like he would score on the play, but he got tripped up by what he called the "turf monster." Elliott was also a big factor in the passing attack, catching six of his seven targets for 36 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Cooper led Dallas in receiving with six catches on 10 targets. He accumulated 75 yards. He was the only Cowboy with more than 40 receiving yards. Beasley (4-37) and Gallup (2-34) posted meager numbers, partly because of some poor plays from Prescott. Gallup, however, converted a third-and-15 during the 2-minute drill when the Eagles were calling timeouts in an attempt to get the ball back. The Cowboys continued the drive and ended up scoring a touchdown to go up 13-3. That was one of the most crucial plays of this contest.
Two things of note for Dallas: First, Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin got hurt in the opening quarter. Things looked very dubious when he held his knee and then went into the locker room, but he eventually returned to the field. Second, kicker Brett Maher whiffed from 42 yards. He also nearly missed a chip-shot field goal earlier in the game.
Giants 27, 49ers 23
The Giants may have been victorious in this game, but the real winners were the Raiders, as well as the Broncos, Jaguars and perhaps the Buccaneers, depending on what they plan to do with Jameis Winston. New York previously had control of the No. 1 overall pick and the right to select the quarterback of their choosing - most likely Oregon's Justin Herbert - but that's not the case anymore. The Broncos, Jaguars and maybe the Buccaneers all have a chance to leapfrog the Giants now for Herbert. The Raiders, meanwhile, will be able to hold an auction for the No. 1 overall selection, so they'll be able to collect even more first-round picks (assuming they just don't want to take Herbert themselves.) And all of this occurred because the Giants won an absolutely meaningless game. Unbelievable.
Eli Manning has been a decrepit train wreck over the past few years, but he had a decent showing tonight. Granted, the 49ers were missing some talented defenders, including Reuben Foster, but Manning engineered several scoring drives, including one in the final minute with the help of some very questionable officiating. Beyond the refs, the biggest take-away is that the 49ers, for some reason, couldn't generate any sort of pass rush against New York's poor blocking group. Solomon Thomas, at this rate, might as well be on a milk carton. He was invisible in this game. He's been a total bust.
Manning finished 19-of-31 for only 188 yards and three touchdowns. The stats look good, and he had a great drive at the end, but he missed some throws, including a deep Beckham touchdown. He also had an interception that was dropped. Manning has done a great job of ruining the Giants' playoff chances the past two years, so it's almost poetic that he also happened to ruin the Giants' aspirations for being successful once they move on from him this offseason.
Two of Manning's touchdowns went to Odell Beckham Jr. (4-73), who drew a key pass interference flag late in the game on one of multiple questionable calls. Beckham also drew another flag earlier, but dropped Manning's first pass of the evening. Sterling Shepard didn't do much (2 catches, 9 yards) until he reeled in the game-winning score.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Evan Engram snatched four balls for 46 yards. He wasn't doing much until a clutch 31-yard reception on the final drive.
Saquon Barkley had a disappointing fantasy night. But even with that said, he tallied 100 total yards, rushing for 67 yards on 20 carries while catching four balls for 33 receiving yards. He did not find the end zone, however. The 49ers did a good job of bottling up Barkley, though there was one occasion in which he appeared to be taking a big loss, yet was able to juke out of it and get back to the line of scrimmage. It was one of the more impressive zero-yard gains you'll ever see.
As for the 49ers, Nick Mullens had his ups and downs. He did a great job on third downs, converting 8-of-13 of those. He was accurate on most throws. However, he made some grave mistakes in the 2-minute drill. He threw the ball over the middle of the field too often, which wasted too much time. He also didn't appear to know when to spike the ball. He tried to run plays instead, and both opportunities failed. One play resulted in a near-interception, while another saw the 49ers false start, which forced the coaching staff to use the final timeout of the second half.
Mullens ended up going 27-of-39 for 250 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Only one of the picks was his fault, as he threw the ball late toward the sideline, allowing Janoris Jenkins to tip the ball into the air. The second interception was the fault of Marquise Goodwin, who stopped his route, then began running again. Mullens threw behind Goodwin because he started running again, and that resulted in another tipped interception.
Mullens went to George Kittle on so many occasions on third down. He peppered Kittle with 10 targets, and Kittle caught nine of them for 83 yards. Goodwin was next on the receiving list with four grabs for 69 yards.
Matt Breida had a huge game, both as a runner and a receiver. He broke the century mark on the ground, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. He also caught three of his four targets for 31 receiving yards and another score. Breida limped off the field at one point, but didn't miss much time. He showed off his trademark burst, rewarding those who played him in Draft Kings tonight.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.