There was a lot going against the Bears heading into this game. They were the first team in NFL history playing the early Thanksgiving contest following a Sunday night affair, meaning they had almost no time to prepare. Meanwhile, starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was out with an injury, so career backup Chase Daniel was thrust into the starting lineup.
We often see great teams play above expectations when a backup quarterback starts for them for the first time, and that's what we witnessed in this contest. The defense really limited the Lions to just nine points, and it saw ball-hawking safety Eddie Jackson snatch a Matthew Stafford pick-six midway through the fourth quarter, which turned out to be the winning score.
Meanwhile, Daniel played very well. He had a couple of bad misfires, including when he overshot Tarik Cohen in the end zone during the opening half. However, Daniel rebounded from that and was extremely accurate. This was especially true in the second half, as Daniel completed 11 of his 16 passes following intermission. Many of those were of the short variety, but he showed nice touch on some impressive throws.
Daniel finished 27-of-37 for 230 yards and two touchdowns. One incompletion was dropped. Daniel is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL, and he played as well as anyone could have asked him to.
Daniel's two touchdowns were both to running backs, as Cohen and someone named Taquon Mizzell caught passes in the end zone. Cohen commanded a high level of respect from the Lions' defense, as head coach Matt Patricia asked his best defensive player, cornerback Darius Slay, to cover Cohen on some occasions. Cohen didn't do much on the ground (3-14), but he caught seven of his eight targets for 45 receiving yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, Cohen had an impressive run on third-and-10 on the final play from scrimmage to pick up the game-clinching first down.
Jordan Howard, meanwhile, didn't do nearly as much, which was predictable. The Lions have been excellent against the run ever since trading for Snacks Harrison, so they were able to limit Howard to just 13 yards on seven attempts.
While Cohen performed on a high level, tight end Trey Burton was on the other end of the spectrum. Burton caught four of his seven targets for 28 yards, but was the worst player on the field for Chicago. He was so bad that I tweeted, "I'm beginning to think Trey Burton bet Lions +3 this morning." Burton lost a fumble in Detroit territory to give the Lions a touchdown on a silver platter following a long return. He then had a drop to ruin a promising drive to open the third quarter. And if that wasn't enough, he was guilty of a hold on a Daniel scramble in Lions territory to negate a first down.
There were four Bears ahead of Burton on the receiving list: Taylor Gabriel (7-49), Cohen, Anthony Miller (3-41) and Allen Robinson (2-37). Robinson's lack of production can be attributed to Slay's amazing coverage. Miller threw an 8-yard pass to Daniel on a trick play.
The Lions, meanwhile, had a chance to win this game, but Stafford threw two interceptions to clinch the victory for the Bears. The first was the aforementioned pick-six where he telegraphed a throw, allowing Jackson to make a terrific play. The second came on the ensuing drive. Sensing heavy pressure, Stafford lobbed up a pass toward tight end Michael Roberts in the end zone. Roberts stopped his route for some reason, resulting in the turnover.
Stafford finished 28-of-38 for 236 yards and the two picks. His receivers betrayed him with a couple of drops - one of which should've been a Roberts touchdown - and the second turnover wasn't his fault, but his first interception was all on him.
A big chunk of Stafford's yardage went to Kenny Golladay, who caught five of his eight targets for 90 yards. Golladay had a big gain of 43 yards on one play when stellar cornerback Prince Amukamara left the field for one snap. Amukamara otherwise bottled up Golladay well, though Golladay dropped a touchdown on Detroit's final offensive drive. It would've been a difficult catch, but if Golladay wants to be described as a legitimate No. 1 receiver, he needs to make that sort of play.
Aside from Golladay, only two Lions recorded more than 16 receiving yards. Those were Theo Riddick, who snatched all seven of his targets for 48 receiving yards, and Bruce Ellington, who caught six of seven targets for 28 yards. As you can tell, Marvin Jones' absence was felt.
Speaking of injured Lions, Kerryon Johnson didn't play either. LeGarrette Blount saw all of the work as a result. Blount was limited to just eight yards in the opening half, but he trampled the worn-down Bears following intermission, generating 88 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 23
The Cowboys were criticized for trading for Amari Cooper, and rightfully so because they surrendered too high of a draft pick. However, Cooper made a case for Dallas to be the victors of the deal, as he had a huge performance against the Redskins.
Cooper caught four passes for 35 yards in the opening half, as he was clutch on third down. However, he did most of his damage after intermission. Cooper made yet another third-down conversion in the third quarter, this one being a 40-yard touchdown when Quinton Dunbar slipped. He then torched Dallas for a 90-yard score after the Redskins pinned the Cowboys at the 10-yard line.
Cooper finished with a monstrous stat line, hauling in eight of his nine targets for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He was unstoppable in this game, but if he plays like he did in Oakland, he'll have plenty of inconsistent performances in the near future.
Cooper finally had a great receiving performance, and he once again made running lanes available for Ezekiel Elliott. The powerful runner was limited to just 33 yards on 15 carries against the Redskins the first time against Washington. In this contest, he tallied 121 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts to go along with five catches for 22 receiving yards. It seems like Elliott should've had a second touchdown, but the Cowboys didn't run the ball at all on a sequence that began inside Washington's 5-yard line. Dak Prescott threw an incomplete pass, then took a sack to force a field goal.
Speaking of Prescott, he had a misleading stat line of 22-of-31 for 289 yards and two touchdowns. Keep in mind that 130 of his yards came on two throws. Prescott missed some passes he should've made and took a bad sack in the red zone. On one instance, Prescott had a long touchdown to Michael Gallup, but underthrew him. The pass was broken up as a result.
The Cowboys appeared to suffer a serious injury when All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith was knocked out of the game. Fortunately for Dallas, Smith suffered a stinger, so he should be fine for next Thursday's game.
Moving on to the Redskins, it's clear that they're in trouble with Colt McCoy at quarterback. McCoy had some positive moments, but he killed his team with three interceptions. The first was just a bad throw toward Trey Quinn. The second was tipped, while the third was a floating duck into double coverage.
McCoy finished 24-of-38 for 268 yards, two touchdowns and the three picks. As bad as McCoy was on those turnovers, he could've been even worse. McCoy had an interception that was dropped, and he was guilty of an early fumble, but a teammate of his recovered. McCoy is known for beating Dallas on Monday Night Football as a huge underdog back in 2014, but he struggled after that. He had some nice moments in this game, but the negatives outweighed the positives, and it does not appear as though the Redskins can make a playoff run with McCoy at the helm.
McCoy's touchdowns went to Vernon Davis (2-73) and Quinn (5-26). His leading receiver was Jordan Reed, who snatched six of his eight targets for 75 yards. Reed was hit in the helmet on his final reception, which should've given the Redskins a first-and-goal opportunity. The officials, who were horrible in this game, kept their flags in their pockets.
Adrian Peterson appeared to suffer an injury in the first half, but was able to stay in the game. That was the good news. The bad news was that Dallas' elite front seven limited him to just 35 yards on 12 carries.
Saints 31, Falcons 17
If there was one play that epitomized this game for the Falcons, it occurred with about four minutes remaining. Atlanta was driving and had a chance to score to keep the game somewhat alive. Matt Ryan hit Calvin Ridley with a deep pass, and the rookie appeared as though he might score - until he fumbled at the 2-yard line. The Saints recovered, ending the game.
The entire night went this way for Atlanta. Despite the constant double-digit deficit, the Falcons looked good at times - they outgained the Saints by 50 yards - but they constantly shot themselves in the foot. It began early when Ryan fumbled near the goal line. Ridley later dropped a deep pass. Julio Jones lost a fumble in the red zone just before halftime. Ryan later had an interception on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage. That would explain why the Falcons were blown out despite having more net yards and first downs, though they were helped with garbage time production.
The Saints, meanwhile, took advantage of these mistakes and put the Falcons away. They made some mistakes as well in the early going, as both Ben Watson and Dan Arnold dropped passes, but they eventually got their act together and played a clean second half.
Drew Brees had a mostly perfect game, going 15-of-22 for 171 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Brees could've thrown six scores if it wasn't for those drops. The pick, just his second of the year, wasn't his fault, as the officials missed a blatant pass interference.
Despite the four touchdowns, none of them went to the usual suspects, as Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Mark Ingram were kept out of the end zone, while Tre'Quan Smith sat out with an injury. Brees' scores went to Arnold (4-45), Tommy Lee Lewis (1-28), Austin Carr (1-12) and Keith Kirkwood (1-5). Fantasy football can be so fun sometimes!
It was an understandably frustrating night for Kamara, Thomas and Ingram owners. Kamara rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries, but barely did anything in the passing game, catching only one pass for nine yards. Ingram, meanwhile, collected 52 yards on 11 attempts. Thomas also struggled to help his owners, snatching just four receptions for 38 yards. None of these players performed poorly, but game flow just didn't go their way.
Ryan, meanwhile, went 35-of-47 for 377 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The stat line looks pretty, but his two turnovers were crushing. As mentioned, Ryan also had his top two play-makers commit costly errors as well, so it's not like he can be solely blamed for this latest defeat, especially considering that he saw lots of pressure. Ryan took six sacks, as Cameron Jordan had his way with Atlanta's helpless right tackle.
Jones and Ridley committed major errors, but they led the Falcons in receiving. Jones hauled in 11 of his 14 targets for 147 yards, while Ridley secured eight of his 13 targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. Mohamed Sanu (4-74) and Austin Hooper (5-31) were next on the stat sheet.
The Falcons struggled to run the ball once again, as it's clear that they miss Devonta Freeman. Tevin Coleman mustered a meager six yards on eight carries, though he managed to catch a garbage-time touchdown to help his fantasy owners.
Bills 24, Jaguars 21
Jalen Ramsey called Josh Allen "trash" in an interview with GQ magazine during the summer, stating that he was excited to play the Bills this year so he could take advantage of the rookie quarterback's apparent ineptitude. I'm not sure why GQ was talking to football players, or why people still read magazines, for that matter, but the word choice was interesting considering that Jadeveon Clowney called Ramsey's quarterback, Blake Bortles, a similar word last year.
Allen managed to outplay Bortles in this game. Allen wasn't great, but he wasn't quite "trash" either. Buffalo didn't trail throughout the afternoon in a game that saw the two teams get into a fight in the third quarter. That, rather than either quarterback, was the deciding factor in this game.
Donte Moncrief appeared to catch a deep touchdown pass, as he and a Buffalo defensive back wrestled for the ball. Replay showed that Moncrief was short of the goal line, but their actions toward one another sparked a fight. Carlos Hyde appeared to be the first to throw punches, but Leonard Fournette and Shaq Lawson were the ones who got into a major brawl. The two had to be separated, and inept official Walt Coleman ejected both of them. For some reason, NFL security thought it would be a good idea to have both of them enter the tunnel at the same time, and they had to be separated once again.
Fournette being out of the game drastically changed Jacksonville's offense. Fournette had a number of terrific runs earlier in the afternoon, including a 16-yarder in which he juked a defender at the line of scrimmage. One of the announcers called Fournette "The Jaguars' Mr. Everything," as he tallied 95 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in slightly more than a half of action. The Jaguars struggled mightily to move the chains after Fournette was ejected, as Jacksonville was only able to score once, and that was in garbage time.
The Bills, meanwhile, got enough positive plays from Allen to pull out the victory. Allen failed to complete half of his passes, but he launched a 75-yard bomb to Robert Foster and had a 16-yard laser on a third-and-15 negated by penalty. He also picked up a 45-yard scamper to set up a touchdown. Allen actually eclipsed the century rushing mark, but some kneel-downs took that figure below 100.
Allen finished 8-of-19 for 160 yards and a touchdown. He also picked up 99 rushing yards and a score on 13 scrambles. Allen's passing stats should've been better, but his receivers dropped several passes. The Bills must upgrade their weapons around Allen. Here are the 2019 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings.
LeSean McCoy, Allen's only viable weapon, couldn't find much running room against Jacksonville's stalwart front. He mustered just 46 yards on 17 carries, as the Jaguars stacked the box and dared Allen to beat them downfield.
Aside from Foster (2-94), who caught the aforementioned 75-yard touchdown, Buffalo's leading receiver was Kelvin Benjamin, who caught just one of his two targets for 32 yards. He and Foster were the only Bills wideouts to accumulate more than 16 receiving yards.
While Allen's receivers dropped passes, Bortles' struggles were more on him, though one of his interceptions was the result of a James O'Shaughnessy drop. Bortles was off the mark on many of his throws. His other interception was well behind Keelan Cole, and he had another potential pick that was dropped at the beginning of the third quarter. There was one instance where Bortles made a routine short toss to O'Shaughnessy, but the pass was so far behind the tight end that I thought the pass was intended for someone else, but no one else was there.
Bortles, for some reason, was asked to throw more this week after the Jaguars were ultra conservative against Pittsburgh. This decision-making ruined some drives. For example, the Jaguars had an early third-and-1, but instead of running the ball with Fournette, Bortles was asked to throw. He completed the pass, but for no gain. Bortles later flung two ugly ducks downfield on second-and-5 and third-and-5.
Bortles barely connected on half of his passes, going 12-of-23 for 127 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. I have the Jaguars drafting Bortles' replacement in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
Fournette, as mentioned, nearly hit the century mark despite not even playing three quarters. The Bills looked completely inept at trying to stop him, so his ejection changed the course of the game. Hyde (10-33) wasn't nearly as effective as a runner.
Only two Jaguars topped 20 receiving yards: Dede Westbrook (3-44), who caught a touchdown, and Moncrief (1-29), who nearly scored as well.
The Jaguars, already down some offensive linemen, saw their prized free agent signing, guard Andrew Norwell, get carted off the field with a leg injury. He couldn't put any pressure on his leg, so it looked serious.
Browns 35, Bengals 20
On the WF Podcast, former Cowboys and Redskins tight end Jean Fugett mentioned an old joke how George Allen would love to cut his mother and get her back on waivers so that he could have information on the opposing team. The Bengals had the ultimate advantage in that regard, at least theoretically, as former Browns coach Hue Jackson was standing on the Bengals' sideline just mere weeks after he was fired. Jackson was supposed to provide his new team with an advantage. Instead, the Browns absolutely humiliated both Cincinnati and Jackson.
If Jackson knew how to stop Baker Mayfield, he didn't share it with the Bengals, as the Browns went down the field easily on most of their drives in the opening half. They led 28-7 going into intermission. It almost seemed like Jackson was a double agent who was instructed to go to Cincinnati to sabotage the Bengals from within. If the Browns had the foresight to do this, then they were definitely viewing this game as their opportunity to get their first road win in 25 tries. The Bengals should fire Jackson even though they're not paying him at all.
Mayfield was unstoppable in the opening half, going 17-of-22 for 245 yards and three touchdowns. The Bengals, missing some key players like Nick Vigil and Dre Kirkpatrick, allowed Cleveland to rack up 296 net yards of offense prior to intermission. Mayfield's chances of reaching 500 yards for the game vanished quickly, unfortunately, as the Bengals couldn't keep up on the scoreboard, so the Browns took their foot off the gas in the third quarter.
As a result of this, Mayfield threw just four passes after halftime. He finished 19-of-26 for 258 yards and four touchdowns. He made just one mistake, which was overshooting Jarvis Landry for a potential fifth score. For the second game in a row, Mayfield was not sacked on a single occasion.
Considering how much the other first-round rookie quarterbacks have struggled this year, it's very clear that the Browns made the right choice in selecting Mayfield. He's been the best quarterback from the 2018 NFL Draft class, and it's not even close.
Nick Chubb caught one of Mayfield's touchdowns. Chubb was stellar in this game, gashing the Bengals for 84 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries while also catching all three of his targets for 44 receiving yards and another score, which was a terrific grab over a defender. Remember that Jackson was adamant to give Carlos Hyde carries over Chubb earlier in the year.
In addition to Chubb, David Njoku (5-63), Antonio Callaway (4-62) and Darren Fells also scored. Njoku's touchdown was amusing, in that he tried to leap into the end zone from the 4-yard line. He predictably failed, but center J.C. Tretter pushed him across the goal line anyway. Landry (3-30) didn't do much on his five touches, but should've caught a touchdown.
As for the Bengals, they lost Andy Dalton to an injury early in the third quarter. That didn't affect the outcome of this game, which was well decided by then. A bad snap created a turnover, and Dalton hurt his hand while trying to recover the ball. Adding insult to injury, Mayfield capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown pass to Fells.
Dalton was 10-of-17 for 100 yards, one touchdown and an interception prior to the injury. The pick was a weak floater that occurred because of pressure, and that was just one of several poor throws he had in this contest. Another one was when he overshot an open John Ross deep down the sideline. Dalton was errant on several other passes and even gave up on some instances, includng one third-and-14 where he just settled for a 5-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah, which was dropped.
There didn't appear to be any sort of drop-off between Dalton and backup Jeff Driskel, at least on paper. Driskel was 17-of-29 for 155 yards and a touchdown, but was very fortunate to not have two interceptions, as a couple of potential picks were dropped. Driskel, who has a good arm and plus mobility, scrambled thrice for nine rushing yards and a score on the ground.
Driskel's garbage-time touchdown salvaged a mediocre fantasy day for Tyler Boyd, who had just two receptions for 23 yards at halftime. Boyd finished with seven grabs for 85 yards and a score, with one catch being an impressive, leaping reception down the seam from Driskel. Ross (3-31) also found the end zone, but dropped a ball.
Joe Mixon didn't get a touchdown, but he had a big PPR day, catching all seven of his targets for 66 receiving yards. He also gained 89 yards on 14 carries. His low attempt number can be attributed to Cleveland having a big lead throughout the afternoon.
Patriots 27, Jets 13
I don't know how the Patriots do it, but they can sometimes play poorly and yet end up winning by multiple scores. That's what happened in this game, as a comedy of errors New England committed in the first three quarters didn't end up mattering at all.
The trouble for the Patriots started when Rob Gronkowski dropped a pass on third down. New England's defense then gave the Jets a touchdown on a silver platter, as New York got a first down on a roughing-the-passer penalty, negating a punt attempt. The Jets were able to capitalize with a Josh McCown touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. This was just one of six New England infractions in the first 20 minutes of regulation. Meanwhile, Tom Brady threw some uncharacteristically poor passes in the red zone, including one where he completely whiffed on Gronkowski, who should've had a touchdown, and another one, where he missed an open receiver on third-and-long.
Despite all of this, the Patriots put together some quality drives in the final 20 minutes, as Brady finally got into some sort of rhythm, though some long Sony Michel runs helped. The Patriots were able to put the Jets away, eventually widening the margin to 14 even though this was a one-score game for nearly all of regulation.
Brady finished 20-of-31 for 283 yards and two touchdowns. He completed nine of 14 passes after intermission and was even better in the fourth quarter. Perhaps Brady struggled early because of the knee injury that caused him to miss Friday's practice. He heaved some ugly passes, including a wounded duck to Cordarrelle Patterson deep downfield.
Gronkowski, in his return from a multi-week absence, caught three of his seven targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. As mentioned earlier, he would've had a second score had Brady been more accurate.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Julian Edelman snatched four of his five targets for 84 yards and a touchdown. Edelman appeared to be injured at one point where he grabbed his elbow in agony, but he managed to stay in the game. Josh Gordon, meanwhile, hauled in all five of the passes thrown to him for 70 yards.
Michel, like Edelman, appeared to get hurt at one point, but he remained on the field as well after missing only one drive. Michel ended up having a big game, accumulating 133 rushing yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts.
As for the Jets, McCown was able to keep drives alive with accurate, short passes, but he threw some floaters whenever he tried to go downfield. McCown was able to go 26-of-45 for 276 yards, one touchdown and an interception. This was an obvious improvement over his performance prior to the bye, but he's definitely not playing as well as he did last year.
With Robby Anderson (2-22) hampered with an injury, McCown threw mostly to Jermaine Kearse (6-66), who caught a touchdown, and rookie tight end Chris Herndon (7-57). The two combined for 20 targets. Quincy Enunwa (4-73) saw just four balls go his way, but yet was ale to lead the Jets in receiving yardage, thanks to a 41-yard reception.
The Jets haven't been the same since losing Bilal Powell. Isaiah Crowell (6-30) and Eli McGuire (6-19) shared the workload in Powell's absence, but neither was very effective. Crowell at least made a nice jump cut to pick up a first down, while McGuire dropped a pass.
Eagles 25, Giants 22
The Eagles would be able to keep their playoff hopes alive by winning this game, but for the longest while, it didn't appear as though that would happen. The Eagles were down 19-3 at one point and trailed after every quarter. Their injury-ravaged secondary couldn't do anything to stop the Giants in the early going. Yet, New York cooled off in the second half, allowing the Eagles to take a 22-19 lead. It appeared as though New York was going to take the lead, as it entered the red zone, but an uncalled blatant hold on a Philadelphia player tugging on Odell Beckham Jr.'s jersey in the end zone forced the Giants into a field goal. The Eagles were able to engineer one last scoring drive, with Jake Elliott once again drilling a kick to beat New York at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia won to remain one game back of both the Redskins and Giants, but the team still has some major injury issues in the secondary. It was so bad that Eli Manning was able to go 19-of-25 for 236 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the opening half. Manning, however, was limited to just 61 yards following intermission. The Giants couldn't get out of their own way, as they had too many negative plays once they established their big lead. There were three consecutive drives where the Giants punted on fourth-and-18 or longer. Penalties and sacks were the culprits, while several double-digit gains were called back by penalties, while the officials missed infractions they should've whistled on Philadelphia. In addition to Beckham's tugged jersey in the end zone, Saquon Barkley should've drawn a flag for a very obvious pass interference in the red zone.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were able to move the chains easily in their own territory for most of the afternoon, but they constantly killed themselves as well when they reached around midfield. This was apparent early when Josh Adams had a 52-yard touchdown negated by a Jason Kelce hold, and when several receivers dropped passes. However, this changed in the fourth quarter, as the Eagles scored twice to get away with the win.
Carson Wentz finished 20-of-28 for 236 yards and a touchdown. He still doesn't look like he's 100 percent - he didn't scramble at all in this game - but he was able to take advantage of the liabilities the Giants have in their defense. Wentz saw a healthy amount of pressure, as it's clear that his offensive line isn't the same as it was last year. Wentz also endured three drops.
New York's primary weakness on this side of the ball is the inept linebacking corps. Zach Ertz ate up the Giants after doing nothing last week. He torched them for seven catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Elsewhere in the Eagles' receiving corps, half of Wentz's incompletions occurred when he threw the ball to Golden Tate, who snatched just four of his eight targets for only 30 receiving yards. Wentz once again struggled to connect with Tate. He overthrew him initially, then was nearly pick-sixed on a pass to Tate in the flat. Tate followed that up by dropping a pass. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery (3-39) wasn't much more productive.
Doug Pederson promised to use Adams as his primary back, and he kept his word. Adams gained 84 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. As mentioned earlier, Adams had a 52-yard score negated by a penalty. Adams was guilty of a drop.
Going back to the Giants, Manning finished 26-of-37 for 297 yards, one touchdown and a pick, meaning he was just 7-of-12 for 61 yards in the second half. This was extremely disappointing, considering how banged up the Eagles' secondary happens to be. The trouble started when Manning made a rookie mistake on his interception throw, forcing a ball to Beckham into triple coverage when he was in field goal range prior to halftime.
It's obvious that Manning is done and needs to be put out of his misery. Unfortunately, the Giants may have won enough to miss out on the top quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Beckham didn't post great stats, thanks to Manning's second-half struggles. He caught five balls for 85 yards. He should've drawn a penalty in the end zone at the end of regulation, but the officials missed an extremely obvious call. Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard (4-37) struggled mightily and definitely needs to be upgraded as the No. 2 receiver.
Evan Engram was expected to have a big game against the Eagles, thanks to Jordan Hicks' injury. However, he suffered an injury in pre-game warmups. The Giants never announced it, however. They might be punished for this.
The Giants' lost season is nearly over, but their fans at least know that they have a very dynamic play-maker in the backfield. Barkley had a monstrous performance, gaining 101 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while catching seven of his eight targets for 41 receiving yards and another score. Barkley was special. He juked a defender in the backfield on his first long run, then dragged five or so defenders on a gain of seven. His second touchdown featured a nice cut and blazing acceleration to outrun all of Philadelphia's defenders.
That said, tt's mind-boggling why Barkley had just 13 attempts, given that the Giants were leading for most of the afternoon. The fact that he had three double-digit runs negated by penalty had something to do with it, but Barkley had just four carries after halftime, which seems like a colossal mistake. Even the FOX announcer commented in the fourth quarter, "We haven't called Barkley's name at all in the second half." Considering that Barkley sliced through the Eagles' defense prior to halftime, it was very confusing that he was barely utilized, unless, of course, the Giants decided that they wanted to lose on purpose to preserve their draft positioning. If so, kudos to them.
Seahawks 30, Panthers 27
The Panthers were once 6-2, but they've dropped three in a row, including this latest loss to the Seahawks. This was another game they should've won. They outplayed Seattle, outgaining them by 80 yards and averaging 1.8 more yards per play. However, a major defensive injury and many blunders in Seattle territory ended up sinking the Panthers.
Carolina missed plenty of opportunities to score in the red zone, and it began early in the afternoon. The Panthers moved the ball close to the goal line, but Newton was stuffed on a fourth-down sneak. It looked like he was able to move the chains, but the officials called him shy of the line to gain. Replay review confirmed it, though I still think Newton converted. Later in the opening half, Christian McCaffrey was stuffed on a third-and-goal run on a great play by Nazair Jones. Things didn't get better in the second half, as Newton heaved an underthrown pass into the end zone that was picked off. The afternoon ended with another gaffe in Seattle territory. Newton threw a pass short of the first-down marker on a third down, which was caught by D.J. Moore. The Panthers settled for a 52-yard field goal, which was off the mark. This allowed the Seahawks to take over on their own 42-yard line.
What happened next had to do with the aforementioned early Carolina injury. The Panthers' top cornerback, Donte Jackson, left the game, and this made it difficult for Carolina to stop Russell Wilson and his receivers. That was the case when the Seahawks were given possession on the 42-yard line. Continuing to abuse Carolina's undermanned secondary, Wilson hit Tyler Lockett with a deep pass to move into field goal range. The Seahawks connected on the ensuing kick to win the game.
Thanks to Jackson's injury, Wilson was nearly perfect, misfiring on just eight occasions. He went 22-of-30 for 339 yards and two touchdowns, getting almost zero resistance from Carolina's abysmal secondary. Wilson made one mistake, whiffing on a touchdown to an open receiver in the end zone. He saw some early heavy pressure from Carolina's front, that changed as the afternoon progressed.
Doug Baldwin came into this game listed as questionable. He played and saw more targets than any other receiver. However, he wasn't very productive, as he reeled in five of seven passes thrown to him for just 39 yards. Baldwin should've had a better stat line, but Wilson missed him in the end zone. Meanwhile, both Lockett and David Moore were excellent, as they each eclipsed the century mark. Lockett hauled in five passes for 107 yards, while David Moore snatched four balls for 103 yards and a score.
Head coach Pete Carroll apparently forgot how great Rashaad Penny looked two weeks ago, as he mostly ignored him in this contest. Penny was given just four carries, which he turned into four yards. Chris Carson saw most of the workload, gaining 55 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Carson ran hard and broke some tackles. However, he fumbled at one point, but was lucky the ball trickled out of bounds. Carson later appeared to fumble again, losing possession this time, but replay review showed that he was down by contact.
Going back to the Panthers, Newton completed all 14 of his passes in the opening half and finished with just five incompletions. He also had a big rushing day. He's the reason why the Panthers generated 478 net yards of offense and 26 first downs, but the aforementioned blunders in the red zone ruined what probably should've been a Carolina victory.
Newton finished 25-of-30 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to go along with eight scrambles for 63 rushing yards. Newton has improved markedly under Norv Turner's tutelage, and while I'd like to say that he needs to work on playing a cleaner game deep in enemy territory to avoid horrific losses like this, he and Carolina's offense have generally been very productive in the red zone this year..
McCaffrey had a monstrous afternoon. In fact, he was responsible for every single yard on one scoring drive despite the possession being comprised of multiple plays. The sequence started with two long McCaffrey runs, including a 59-yarder. He then leapt into the end zone, but fumbled. Fortunately for the Panthers, Greg Olsen recovered the ball. Olsen dropped a touchdown on the next play, but Newton was then able to record a rare touchdown on a red-zone trip by hitting McCaffrey with a touchdown.
McCaffrey rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and he also caught all 11 of his passes for 112 receiving yards and a second score. He was great, save for two occasions when he fumbled (he didn't lose possession either time.) It's almost difficult to believe that the Panthers didn't trust McCaffrey to be an every-down back last year, as they opted to give Jonathan Stewart touches instead. Turner obviously has more common sense than the Panthers' previous offensive coaching staff.
The Panthers were missing Devin Funchess, but that just gave their better receivers more of an opportunity to contribute. D.J. Moore snatched eight of his nine targets for 91 yards, while Curtis Samuel (2-17) caught a touchdown. Olsen (2-11) crushed his fantasy owners with that dropped touchdown.
Ravens 34, Raiders 17
It's almost impossible to believe, based on the final score, that this was a close game for most of the afternoon. And yet, that's exactly what it was. The Raiders led after the first quarter, then trailed by three after both halftime and the third frame.
The difference turned out to be Baltimore's defense, which took over late in the afternoon. The Ravens were able to generate immense pressure on Derek Carr in the second half. On a span of two drives, Baltimore sacked Carr
three times, one of which included a fumble. Terrell Suggs scooped up the ball and ran back the other way for a touchdown, increasing the margin from 10 to 17, putting the game away.
Part of the reason why the Raiders were in the game to begin with was that Lamar Jackson threw two interceptions in the opening half. Both picks were off deflections, and one occurred deep in Oakland territory, negating a scoring chance. Jackson also fired behind some receivers on third down. He struggled to throw the ball for the most part, as a big chunk of his yardage came on a 74-yard pass to rookie tight end Mark Andrews, who was wide open. That said, he had a long bomb to John Brown wiped out because of a holding penalty.
The Ravens' coaching staff made the appropriate adjustments at halftime, opting to take the air out of the ball. Jackson responded with some spectacular scrambles against Oakland's bewildered defense. Jackson ended up rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown on 11 scrambles. Those running totals were more impressive than his poor passing stats (14-25, 178 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs.) ,br>
Gus Edwards was able to take advantage of the Raiders focusing on Jackson, gashing Oakland for 118 yards on 23 carries. His one blemish was a fumble, but Jackson was alert enough to pounce on the loose ball. Edwards saw most of the workload, while Ty Montgomery (8-51) was mixed in a bit with Alex Collins sidelined. Even when Collins returns, Edwards should continue to handle most of the attempts, as he's been far more impressive than Collins.
Thanks to Jackson's pedestrian passing, no Raven accumulated more than 25 receiving yards, save for Andrews, who didn't catch another pass aside from his 74-yarder. Michael Crabtree (3-21) caught a late touchdown, while Brown (1-25) reeled in just one of his seven targets, though, as mentioned, he had a deep catch negated by a penalty.
As for the Raiders, Carr failed to complete half of his passes, unlike Jackson. He went 16-of-34 for just 194 yards and a touchdown. He had an interception that was dropped by Suggs. Carr's protection couldn't hold up in the second half. This was a problem even earlier in the game, as he had to enter the blue tent after taking a brutal hit upon release. A.J. McCarron even kneeled down prior to halftime because of this, but Carr was able to remain in the game.
Carr's lone touchdown was thrown to Jared Cook (2-32), who made a terrific adjustment on a back-shoulder throw. Cook, however, dropped a pass earlier. Seth Roberts (2-54) led the team in receiving, while Marcell Ateman (3-16) was extremely inefficient. Ateman saw a whopping 10 targets, but reeled in just three passes, thanks to a couple of drops. One drop prompted a poor challenge by Jon Gruden. Still, Ateman was better than Jordy Nelson, who didn't log a single reception.
Gruden compared Jalen Richard to Charlie Garner earlier in the week, so the thinking was that we'd see more of Richard this week. Apparently not, as Richard had just one carry for a single yard. Doug Martin (11-51) handled most of the workload, scoring once in the process.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think it's time to put Nick Mullens in the category of quarterbacks you always need to bet against. Unless he's playing the Raiders, of course.
The night before this game, San Francisco was thrust into turmoil when 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was arrested, and then promptly cut. The former first-round pick was fortunate to skate on a domestic violence issue earlier this year, but his second incident correctly caused his release. Even though the 49ers aren't a good team, they still seemed to be in a funk all game. For more on the state of the 49ers franchise and what the organization should do this offseason, check out this week's Monday Morning Draft.
Jameis Winston is trying to prove to the Buccaneers, and other teams in the league, that he is a starting quarterback. While he let some long touchdown-pass opportunities escape, Winston played well and was efficient to lead the Buccaneers to an easy victory.
Tampa Bay struck first, starting with Winston finding Mike Evans streaking down the sideline for a 42-yard completion. The pass, however, led Evans out of bounds, and the completion would have gone for a long touchdown if Winston had keep Evans' momentum in bounds. A few plays later, Winston rolled out and found Cameron Brate (3-26-1) for a short touchdown. After trading some punts, the 49ers got moving into Tampa Bay territory with George Kittle making a couple of receptions for more than 20 yards and Matt Breida running for eclipsing 30. Dante Pettis ran a good route to get open for a 13-yard touchdown, but Robbie Gould missed the extra point.
Tampa Bay responded as Winston had a 15-yard scramble to move into San Francisco territory. The drive ended in a field goal but it could have gone for more as Winston had DeSean Jackson (3-19) running open for a 61-yard touchdown, but Winston overthrew him. The Bucs added another field goal for a 13-6 lead at intermission.
To start the the third quarter, the 49ers got moving with a 25-yard pass to Pettis and a 24-yard pass to Breida. San Francisco ended up settling for a field goal after some goal-line miscues. Tampa Bay responded with a 34-yard completion to Evans, who got open running away from Richard Sherman. A horribly called 23-yard pass interference penalty on Akhello Witherspoon helped set up Peyton Barber for a short touchdown run. Tampa Bay put the game away early in the fourth quarter when Adam Humphries (4-48-1) got wide open, and Winston found him for a 28-yard touchdown.
Winston completed 27-of-35 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Evans led the Bucs with 116 yards on six catches.
Babrer ran for 31 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
Nick Mullens was only 8-of-19 for 121 yards and an interception. Pettis had three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Breida ran for 106 yards on 14 carries and had 33 yards receiving on two catches.
A few defensive observations: rookie Vita Vea played well for Tampa Bay with a sack and some key run stuffs. Jason Pierre-Paul continued his strong season, and Gerald McCoy had a good game. DeForest Buckner was the only 49ers defensive player to look good, making five tackles and a sack.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The turnover sequence prior to halftime is one of the craziest things I've ever seen. I would've had a blast watching it, except I had Andrew Luck in one Draft Kings entry that looked like it was going to cash, and the interceptions made me cry a little bit.
This battle between 5-5 teams was an essentially an elimination game. Both Miami and Indianapolis were in the wild-card race, but the Colts' hot streak continued as they won their fifth straight game, thanks to 13 points in the fourth quarter. Andrew Luck led the comeback while his team's improving defense came up with some key plays.
The Colts suffered a temporary blow early in the first quarter with star rookie linebacker Darius Leonard going into the locker room with a leg injury. Indianapolis felt the pain of not having Leonard when, a few plays later, a screen pass to Kenyan Drake went for a 33-yard touchdown. Fortunately for the Colts, Leonard returned to the game. They quickly responded with Luck ripping the ball through the Miami defense, and the drive finished with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Eric Ebron.
Indianapolis moved the ball into Miami territory in the second quarter. The Colts pulled out some trickery to convert a fourth down, with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett coming into the game and throwing a pass to Luck, who was split out wide as a receiver and made a leaping catch while taking a hard hit. A 24-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton soon moved the ball to the one-yard line, and Luck finished the drive with a scoring strike to Jack Doyle (4-16-1). A few plays later though, Miami tied the game when Ryan Tannehill threw a deep jump ball and Leonte Carroo out-leapt Pierre Desir for the catch. Desir fell down, lettig Carroo run for another 25 yards to seal the 74-yard touchdown. The next three plays produced turnovers, with Luck throwing a jump-ball interception to Xavien Howard and then Mike Gesicki fumbling the ball right back to the Colts. On the next play, Luck underthrew Ebron, allowing Howard to intercept Luck again and keep the score tied at 14 at halftime.
Kiko Alonso partially blocked a punt in the third quarter, which set up easy field position for Miami to get a field goal. The Colts moved into Miami territory, but a sack by Cameron Wake forced a field goal that was missed. The Dolphins used the good field position to produce a touchdown. Frank Gore ran for 23 yards, and then Kenyan Drake went up the middle on the 14-yard touchdown run. Indianapolis tied the game up with a field goal and a great drive that included a 19-yard pass to Nyhiem Hines, a 36-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton, and then a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ebron.
Some penalties on the Dolphins put them in terrible field position late, and they punted to the Colts with just under three minutes remaining. Luck took over close to midfield, and on a third-and-nine, he made a tremendous play to break a sack and climb the pocket before finding Chester Rogers wide open in busted coverage for a 34-yard gain to inside the Miami 25. A few plays later, Adam Vinatieri hit a short field goal for a 27-24 win on the final play of the game.
Luck was 30-of-37 for 343 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Marlon Mack had 85 yards rushing over 15 carries, but left the game early due to being evaluated for a concussion.
Hilton had 125 yards on seven receptions, and Ebron totaled five catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns.
Tannehill was 17-of-25 for 204 yards with two touchdowns.
Gore (14-67) was Miami's leading rusher. Drake (8-32-1) contributed on the ground while also being the leading receiver with five catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Many would consider this an upset, but maybe it shouldn't be viewed that way. The Steelers and Broncos were eighth and ninth in DVOA, respectively, entering this game. Thus, Denver should've been favored by three. The Steelers, meanwhile, have yet to cover the spread since that misleading blowout win over the Panthers on national TV.
The scheduling gods have not been kind to the Denver Broncos of late, as they've faced a Houston Texans team on a five-game winning streak; then the L.A. Chargers, who had also won five in a row; and this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were riding a seven-game win streak. Amazingly, the Broncos were able to win two of those games, including Sunday's, with some timely offense and defense.
If you were to look at the overall team numbers, you'd probably say Denver lost this game, as they had the ball 25 minutes to the Steelers' 35 minutes and were out-yardaged 527 yards to 308, as they allowed Ben Roethlisberger to complete 41-of-56 passes for 462 yards. But as soon as you look at the turnovers and where many of them happened on the field, you stop wondering how Denver was able to pull out this victory.
This game was close throughout, and the tone was set early when Broncos safety Justin Simmons blocked Chris Boswell's attempted 48-yard field goal on the Steelers' first drive. It was Simmons' second blocked field goal of the season. The block set the Broncos up in good field position to kick a field goal of their own and take an early lead.
The Steelers again moved the ball down field, going 74 yards in over six minutes, ending on what appeared to be a touchdown pass to tight end Xavier Grimble, but a score again wasn't in the works for the Steelers, as Grimble was hit hard at the goal line by safety Will Parks, who dislodged the ball, which went out of bounds in the end zone, forcing a turnover and a touchback.
The Broncos' defense was truly in full bend-but-don't-break mode, while their offense wasn't doing much until they got Phillip Lindsay going in the second quarter with a 32-yard run, which helped set up a Case Keenum 10-yard touchdown pass to back up tight end Matt LaCosse.
Lindsay was excellent in this game. His quickness and burst make defenders look like they are constantly flat-footed and slow, especially when you see Royce Freeman, who looks like molasses crawling up a hill in comparison. Unfortunately, Vance Joseph doesn't seem to want to risk Lindsay getting hurt or wants the "Thunder and Lightning" change-of-pace dynamic, but in the final assessment, Lindsay had just 14 touches despite averaging 7.9 yards per carry and getting into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Toward the end of the first half, the Steelers had their fourth drive and put together more than 47 yards as time ticked away. They moved the ball well, as Roethlisberger hit second-year journeyman receiver Ryan Switzer for 15- and 24-yard completions, moving the ball down to the Denver 2-yard line. They were stopped there once again and appeared to settle for a field goal with three seconds remaining. That field goal ended up being a fake in which Chris Boswell took the direct snap and threw a touchdown to offensive lineman and former Army wide receiver Alejandro Villanueva, who caught the 2-yard touchdown to tie up the game 10-10 at half.
As you can see, the Denver defense gave up plenty of yards but made it extremely difficult for the Steelers to punch anything into the end zone, which was the theme of this game.
The one big offensive play of the day came in Pittsburgh's second possession of the second half. Denver's punter, Colby Wadman, booted a beautifully placed punt that was downed on the Steelers' 3-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Roethlisberger faced heavy pressure up the middle and just got a pass off, which happened to be a beauty to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught it in stride, made a defender miss and then put on the jets to house a 97-yard touchdown. It appeared to be a game-changer, as the Denver crowd was stunned and the Steelers took a 17-10 lead, along with what appeared to be a relentless offense.
The Broncos' defense had other plans though, as Chris Harris picked Roethlisberger off at midfield on the Steelers next possession, the team's third turnover of the game. That set Keenum up at the Steelers' 43-yard line, and just two plays later, Keenum had completed a 38-yard pass and a 5-yard touchdown pass, both to Emmanuel Sanders, tying the game at 17.
Keenum played well in this game, and those two passes were huge, as they rewarded the Broncos' defense for their turnover and completely reversed the momentum, which had been in Pittsburgh's favor just minutes before.
The next big defensive play came two possession later, as Roethlisberger was moving the ball well as the game moved into the fourth quarter. He dumped a pass off to James Conner, who had a ton of room to roam. Conner rumbled for 23 yards, but cornerback Bradley Roby forced a fumble, which was recovered by Darian Stewart. And just like Pittsburgh's previous turnover, the Broncos turned around and put up seven, this time with a 2-yard run by Lindsay to give his team a 24-17 lead. What the Broncos lacked in consistent offense, they made up for in timely offense off of turnovers.
With plenty of time left, there was no-doubt the Steelers would mount another attack on the end zone, and they did just that as Roethlisberger moved the ball down to the 3-yard line with just under two minutes remaining. Then on third-and-goal, a low snap and a fake handoff that wasn't smooth, led to Roethlisberger hurrying a pass that floated, going nowhere near intended receiver Antonio Brown and was picked off in the end zone by defensive lineman Shelby Harris to clinch the win.
This game was a clinic on how to stop a high-powered offense. Yes, you can say the Steelers did much of this to themselves, but the Broncos' defense was up for the task and never let up despite giving up 527 total yards. Turnovers stop scoring chances, set your offense up in good situations more often than not, and quickly change momentum. Denver made its own luck this week and executed when it needed to.
The Steelers still hold a lead in the AFC North, but severely hurt their chances for multiple home games in the playoffs, while the Broncos kept their wildcard hopes alive, and after an extremely tough schedule, their matchups get much easier. They play at the Bengals (5-6), at the 49ers (2-9), versus the Browns (4-6-1), at the Raiders (2-9), and versus the Chargers (8-3).
Chargers 45, Cardinals 10
Philip Rivers had one of the greatest quarterback performances in NFL history in this game. Rivers completed his first 25 passes in this game, setting a league record for most consecutive completions to start a game. He also tied the record for most completions spanning through two games, but his 26th throw hit the ground because he was hit as he released the ball. That was the only misfire he had on the afternoon.
Rivers finished an incredible 28-of-29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. His yardage total could've been higher, but he didn't play in the fourth quarter because the Chargers winning by 35 points. His only real mistake was a lost fumble in the opening half, but the Cardinals couldn't take advantage of it. Rivers constantly attacked the middle of the field, as the Cardinals lost their best linebacker, Josh Bynes, to an injury in the early going. This made it impossible for Arizona to cover all of Rivers' weapons.
The one dark cloud over this victory for the Chargers was that Melvin Gordon suffered an MCL injury on a double end-around in the third quarter. Gordon shouldn't have even played in this easy victory, as he was banged up heading into the game. It was a stupid decision, one that the Chargers will regret if Gordon is unavailable for next Sunday's big game against the Steelers. Gordon finished with 61 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
If Gordon can't play, it'll be up to Austin Ekeler, who has shown that he can be productive when given the chance. Ekler rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown on five attempts while also catching 10 passes for 68 receiving yards.
Keenan Allen was the Chargers' leading receiver, catching all seven of his targets for 72 yards and a touchdown. Mike Williams (4-25) scored twice, including one instance where he tapped both feet inbounds impressively.
Moving on to the Cardinals, they actually held a 10-0 lead in this game, but between the inept defense, hurt by Bynes' injury, and Josh Rosen's incompetence, they were outscored 45-0 the rest of the way.
Rosen was utterly atrocious in this game. The offensive line can be blamed, but Rosen made poor throws and did stupid things at times during the afternoon. For instance, Rosen's interception was thrown way behind his receiver. It wasn't even close. Rosen then gift-wrapped a touchdown for the Chargers. Rosen foolishly threw the ball away on a third down just prior to halftime. Because he was near midfield, Rosen could've taken a sack to keep the clock moving. Thanks to the extra timeout or 40 seconds, the Chargers were able to engineer a touchdown drive prior to intermission.
Rosen finished 12-of-19 for only 105 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Save for a decent debut versus Seattle, and a fourth-quarter comeback against the 49ers, Rosen has not looked like a professional quarterback thus far. However, as we've learned with Jared Goff, it's impossible to make a determination on a young quarterback if his offensive line is a steaming pile of crap. That said, I never liked Rosen very much because he lacks leadership skills and has very low passion for football.
It's unclear why the Cardinals didn't attack the Chargers in the middle of the field. The Chargers are missing their top two linebackers, so David Johnson could've had success as a receiver out of the backfield. Johnson, however, caught just two of three targets for 16 receiving yards. His rushing numbers (17-63) were OK considering the deficit.
Larry Fitzgerald (2-30) caught Rosen's lone touchdown. Christian Kirk (4-41) led the Cardinals in receiving.
Vikings 24, Packers 17
Kirk Cousins took lots of heat for how he performed in the New Orleans and Chicago losses, as he struggled mightily in two prime time games. This prompted Mike Zimmer to even call Cousins during the week to ask him if the offense was too complicated for him. Cousins told Zimmer that it wasn't, and that he just needed to do a better job of connecting on routine throws. Cousins confirmed that to be true against the Packers, leading his team to victory over a hated divisional rival to give Minnesota a much better chance of making the playoffs.
Things didn't start all that well for Cousins, as he threw way behind Aldrick Robinson on a third down. However, he was able to rebound with a strong second quarter. The Vikings should've taken a lead into halftime, but they missed two field goals from 48 and 56, with the latter featuring a missed running-into-the-kicker penalty. Cousins, however, hit a third touchdown in the second half to help put away the Packers.
Cousins finished 29-of-38 for 342 yards and three yards. Save for a couple of throws, Cousins was extremely sharp in this contest. He did a good job of piercing through a banged-up Green Bay defense that lost more players to injury in this game. It was a blood bath for Green Bay, which is something I'll discuss in a bit.
Both of Cousins' dynamic weapons caught touchdown passes, with Adam Thielen hauling in eight balls for 125 yards, while Stefon Diggs reeled in eight grabs for 77 yards. Thielen broke Randy Moss' franchise record for most 100-yard receiving games in a season on a night in which Moss received his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony. Meanwhile, Kyle Rudolph (7-63) caught all seven of his targets.
Dalvin Cook couldn't get much on the ground - 10 carries, 29 yards - but was a factor in the receiving game, catching all three of his targets for 47 receiving yards and a touchdown. Cook fantasy owners had to be frustrated that Latavius Murray (11-33) saw more work on the ground, as Minnesota opted to run with him when trying to eat the clock in the fourth quarter.
The dark cloud over this win for the Vikings was that top cornerback Xavier Rhodes limped off the field at the end of regulation with a hamstring injury. Rhodes is the best player in Minnesota's cornerbacking group by a wide margin, so he'll be missed if he's out for some time.
As hinted at earlier, the Packers suffered numerous injuries in this game. They lost safety Kentrell Brice, guard Lane Taylor and tackle David Bakhtiari, among others. The latter was the big loss. He re-entered the game, but left the field again. As a result, Green Bay's offensive line had immense issues blocking the Vikings' terrific defensive front. Aaron Rodgers took four sacks as a result, which is a high number for him.
Rodgers struggled as a result of the pressure, going just 17-of-28 for 198 yards and a touchdown. He nearly threw a second score at the very end, but missed Davante Adams by mere inches. Had Rodgers connected with Adams on the play, the Packers would've gotten the back-door cover at +3.5 and back-door push at +3. Handicapping football is difficult!
Adams nearly had a big night, but finished with just an average one. He caught five of his eight targets for 69 yards and a touchdown, which was a terrific back-shoulder catch. He also drew an interference flag. Equanimeous St. Brown, meanwhile, saw five targets, tying for second on the Packers with five targets. He logged three receptions for 53 yards.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, neither Jimmy Graham (2-34) nor Marquez Valdes-Scantling (1-3) did anything. Graham's lack of production was predictable, as he was gutting it out with a broken thumb.
Aaron Jones had a tough matchup versus Minnesota's front, but managed to gain 72 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also caught three of his five targets for 21 receiving yards.
Texans 34, Titans 17
This game changed on two plays. The Titans, who led 10-0 to start the game, surrendered a couple of touchdowns, but were in position to take the lead once again. They had a fourth-and-inches play inside the Houston 5-yard line in the second quarter, so the thought was that they'd either sneak the ball with Marcus Mariota or hand it off to Derrick Henry. Instead, Tennessee opted to give a hand-off to a backup tight end, Luke Stocker, who had never had a career carry before. Stocker was predictably stuffed, and the Texans took over on their own 3-yard line. On the very next play, the Texans gave the ball to Lamar Miller, who blazed by a bewildered Tennessee defense that didn't look prepared to be on the field. Thanks to missed tackles by top defenders Wesley Woodyard and Kevin Byard, Miller scored a 97-yard touchdown. And just like that, the Texans were up double digits, and they never looked back.
It's really amazing that the Titans blew their season because they opted to give the ball to a backup tight end for his first career carry in such a crucial situation. They paid the price for their incompetence and now have dropped to 5-6 with a bunch of other teams. They're not out of it, but their chances of making the playoffs have diminished considerably.
The Texans, conversely, have won their eighth consecutive game following an 0-3 start. Their offensive line is a huge concern, and that was prevalent again in this contest, as Deshaun Watson was sacked on four occasions. However, their defense applied more pressure than the Titans did. They swarmed Mariota, sacking him six times. The Titans are supposed to have a quality offensive line, but they couldn't protect Mariota at all in this contest.
Watson, meanwhile, completed all but five of his passes, going 19-of-24 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled nine times for 70 rushing yards and a score. Watson's lone blemish was a fumble in the fourth quarter that was called down by contact. The Titans challenged and should have won because it was clear that Watson lost control of the ball before hiting the ground. However, the NFL's incompetent replay review system couldn't overturn the call for some reason, probably because Alberto Riveron was watching The Voice and didn't want to be bothered.
Both of Watson's touchdowns went to Demaryius Thomas. It was nice that the "new guy" was able to haul in two scores, but Thomas did very little otherwise, as he caught four of his five targets for just 38 yards. Hopkins led Houston in receiving with five grabs for 74 yards.
Miller, who had the 97-yard touchdown, finished with 162 yards and the score on 12 carries. Amazingly, Alfred Blue (13-49) had more of a workload. The Texans don't think Miller can last a full season, which is why he had just six carries after halftime. If you own him in fantasy, you should consider selling high because he's very injury-prone and could break down at any moment.
As for the Titans, it's astonishing that they lost this game by 17 considering that Mariota didn't have a single incompletion prior to the team's final drive! Mariota was perfect entering the last possession, but misfired because of pressure. He ended up completing 22-of-23 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled six times for 28 rushing yards.
How can a quarterback lose by 17 despite misfiring on just one of his 23 pass attempts? Good question. I never would've imagined it beforehand, but the fourth-and-inches gaffe played a huge part. Mariota also took six sacks, so the pressure he saw disrupted way too many drives. Here's a list of 2019 NFL Draft Guard Prospect Rankings for the Titans to make an upgrade.
Mariota's touchdowns went to Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Davis caught all four targets for 96 yards, and he also had a 39-yard run on an end-around. Smith, meanwhile, blew by Houston's defense on a 61-yard touchdown. Despite this, Smith saw only one other target for some reason.
The Titans couldn't run whatsoever against the Texans. Henry mustered just 30 yards on eight carries, and yet he was much better than Dion Lewis, who was limited to only eight yards on seven attempts. Lewis was at least able to contribute in the passing game, catching all seven of his passes for 33 receiving yards.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.