As I wrote in my book, A Safety and a Field Goal, the NFL really needs to revamp Thursday Night Football. Asking teams to play on three days of rest is irresponsible, as it's cost many talented players their seasons, or even their careers, because of injuries.
Patrick Mahomes entered this game with a bum ankle. It's unclear if that contributed to what occurred Thursday night, but it's likely that it did. Mahomes performed a fourth-down sneak in the red zone in the opening half, but injured his knee in the process. He walked off the field and entered the locker room, and he was quickly ruled out following an X-ray. Indications are that he has a dislocated knee cap. He'll have an MRI on Friday to determine what needs to happen next. Mahomes could be out a few weeks, or he could miss the rest of the season.
This obviously changes the landscape of the AFC. If Mahomes misses lots of time, suddenly the Raiders, or even the Chargers become in play to win the AFC West, although they still have a lot of ground to make up.
One team came into this game unable to pass protect, thanks to injuries on the offensive line. Their quarterback, suddenly immobile, has been taking sacks. The defense, meanwhile, hasn't been able to stop anything.
Prior to kickoff, the Chiefs were the team that could refer to, but that was before the Broncos put forth one of the most pathetic performances in recent memory. The Broncos scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, thanks to a pair of third-down penalties on the Chiefs. Following that score, the Broncos posted just 150 net yards. They converted just 1-of-13 third downs.
Denver's offensive line was a disaster. They surrendered a ridiculous nine sacks to a defense that doesn't place any sort of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Left tackle Garett Bolles, in particular, was an abomination. He was guilty of three holding penalties in this contest. He needs to be replaced as soon as possible, so here are the 2020 NFL Draft Offensive Tackle Prospect Rankings.
With poor blocking in front of him, Joe Flacco couldn't do anything. He wasn't even capable of compiling garbage-time yardage. He finished 21-of-34 for 213 yards and two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Flacco looked lifeless, playing with no sense of urgency, even when in a big hole in the second half. He was so slow to avoid the pressure in the pocket, and when he had time, he constantly misfired toward his receivers and sailed helpless passes out of bounds. If he were a horse, he would be on his way to the glue factory right now.
There is, at least, some bit of good news for the Broncos as far as quarterback is concerned. Drew Lock will be eligible to play in a couple of weeks, so Denver can at least see what it has in him in the second half of the year. Vic Fangio better replace Flacco with Lock when Lock is eligible to play. There's no way Flacco should keep his job after this performance.
Something that was especially odd about this game was that the Broncos couldn't run the ball at all. The Chiefs have been gashed on the ground by everyone this year, including Carlos Hyde and Kerryon Johnson, two runners who have done very little versus other opponents. And yet, neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman could find any sort of running room despite playing well in other weeks.
This result was so nonsensical that I have no idea what to make of it. Freeman, at the very least, scored a touchdown to save his fantasy owners. Still, he was limited to 35 yards on 10 carries, while catching four passes for 32 receiving yards. Lindsay (11-36) wasn't used as a receiver at all, which just proves that the Denver offensive coaches don't understand how to evaluate the talent on their own roster.
Just two Broncos had more receiving yardage than Freeman. Predictably, it was Courtland Sutton (6-87) and Emmanuel Sanders (5-60). Noah Fant, who had just one catch for seven yards, dropped two more passes. He's looking like yet another John Elway draft bust.
Speaking of busts, Tyreek Hill looked like one of the fantasy variety in the third quarter when he had zero targets. That quickly changed when Mahomes' replacement, Matt Moore, found him for a 57-yard bomb. Hill finished with three grabs for 74 yards and a touchdown. Mecole Hardman (2-28) hauled in Mahomes' sole touchdown. Travis Kelce (6-44) disappointed yet again, but that wasn't his fault.
Moore did a good job of managing the game, but that just means that he didn't commit any turnovers, though he would've been responsible for an interception if a Denver defender didn't drop the ball. Still, this made Moore better than Flacco. Moore went 10-of-19 for 117 yards and a touchdown. Hilariously, Mahomes had as many completions as Moore despite playing far less. Mahomes was 10-of-11 for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs may have scored in the 50s had Mahomes played the entire night.
The Chiefs ran mostly with LeSean McCoy when the game was still in question. McCoy tallied 64 yards on 12 carries, while Damien Williams mustered just seven yards on nine attempts.
Cardinals 27, Giants 21
Daniel Jones' primary problem during his brilliant preseason was ball security. That festered in this game in a very crucial moment. The Giants, down 17-0 almost instantly, were trying to fight back. They trimmed the margin to three and had possession in Arizona territory. However, a Jones' strip sack allowed the Cardinals to take over at midfield. The Cardinals parlayed the give-away to reestablish a double-digit lead in the second half. That, along with a missed 37-yard field goal off the right upright on the ensuing possession ruined the Giants' chances of prevailing.
Conversely, the Cardinals' win had very little to do with Kyler Murray. In fact, Murray barely logged more than 100 passing yards, and he didn't do much as a scrambler either - 10 runs, 28 rushing yards - as he had a very disappointing fantasy afternoon. Murray also made some harmful mistakes. He was nearly picked on a deep shot; he took a terrible sack for a 15-yard loss that set up an Arizona blocked punt - he had two chances to throw the ball away, but refused to - and he also stepped out of bounds late in the game when the Cardinals were trying to run out the clock.
Murray finished 14-of-21 for an underwhelming 104 yards. With Christian Kirk and David Johnson out with injuries - Johnson started, but left the game right away - Murray's passing options were simply limited.
So, how did the Cardinals score 27 points with Murray struggling, and Kirk and Johnson sidelined? It was all Chase Edmonds, who had a monstrous rushing performance. The horrible Giants linebackers had no answers for Edmonds, who dashed for 126 yards and a whopping three touchdowns on 27 carries. Edmonds also caught two passes for 24 receiving yards. Edmonds must be added in all fantasy formats in case he has to be the starter in the near future with Johnson nursing an injury.
With his 24 receiving yards, Edmonds was second on the Arizona stat sheet in that category. He was behind Pharoh Brown (4-29) and in front of Larry Fitzgerald, who had an abysmal afternoon. Fitzgerald caught just one of his three targets for only 12 yards.
Moving back to the Giants, Jones finished 22-of-35 for 223 yards, one touchdown and an interception where he stared down the receiver and heaved a pass into double coverage. He also had two lost fumbles, as the second one occurred late in the game when he was trying to make a play in desperation time. Jones scrambled a bit as well, running four times for 35 rushing yards.
Jones made some nice passes, including a fourth-down conversion where he fit the ball through a very tight window, but he must avoid mistakes and improve his ball security.
Saquon Barkley made his return since he suffered an injury in the Tampa Bay game. He looked completely healthy, making his great cuts and showcasing his incredible speed when he had the ball in his hand. Barkley rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, though he didn't do much as a receiver; he caught three passes for eight receiving yards. Barkley should've posted better numbers, as he had a 32-yard run negated by a hold. However, he hobbled off the field following a run in the second half.
Those expecting Evan Engram to do well versus an Arizona defense that can't cover tight ends were very disappointed. Engram caught just one of his five targets for a mere six yards, and he was guilty of a drop This was a stunning performance, and I imagine it had something to do with Patrick Peterson's return to action, which allowed Arizona to do different things, defensively. Engram's drop didn't help matters, nor did Rhett Ellison's touchdown.
With Engram struggling, the Giants' leader in receiving yardage was Golden Tate, who hauled in six balls for 80 yards. Tate, however, was guilty of two drops, one of which nearly resulted in an interception.
Bills 31, Dolphins 21
For a while, it looked like the Bills would suffer the ultimate humiliation by losing to the Dolphins. They trailed, 14-9, and Miami had the ball inside the Buffalo 5-yard line. The Bills, gifting the Dolphins quality drives with sloppy penalties and roughing-the-passer infractions, looked like they were going to trail the worst team in NFL history by two scores. Meanwhile, Miami was in jeopardy of blowing its chance to obtain Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft.
And that's when the Dolphins began doing Dolphin-type things. Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted when he forced in a pass into tight coverage right outside the end zone. Following a Buffalo touchdown, Dolphins receiver Preston Williams fumbled to allow the Bills to take over at the Miami 16-yard line. Josh Allen capitalized on the turnover, finding Cole Beasley in the end zone to put the game out of reach.
Allen was part of the reason why the Bills were trailing in the third quarter. He was 6-of-15 for 90 yards in the opening half, and I thought the hand injury he suffered versus Tennessee prior to the bye was affecting him. I don't know what transpired during intermission, but perhaps the Bills found Allen a new hand because he was so much better after halftime. Allen was a near-perfect 10-of-11 for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Allen finished 16-of-26 for 202 yards and a pair of scores. He also scrambled four times for 32 yards. This was a disappointing output from a fantasy perspective, but Allen's improved play in the second half is encouraging. He made a tremendous touch pass to Duke Williams and then fired a great strike to John Brown for a touchdown. Earlier in the contest, however, Allen had Brown open for what would've been a 40-yard completion, but he overshot him.
Brown had a dream matchup versus a Xavien Howard-less Miami secondary, and he took advantage despite Allen's early accuracy issues. He caught five of his six targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. He was the only Buffalo player with more than 20 receiving yards. Beasley (3-16) had the other touchdown. Dawson Knox (2-22) was guilty of a drop.
Devin Singletary returned to action following his multi-week absence. However, Singletary saw slightly less work than Frank Gore. The veteran gained 55 yards on 11 attempts in a failed revenge game, while Singletary gained 26 yards on seven tries.
The Dolphins are barely worth discussing because they're intentionally trying to lose. Still, Fitzpatrick was exciting, and his stats weren't bad either. He went 23-of-35 for 282 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and the aforementioned pick.
Mark Walton was someone Chet Gresham recommended as an add on his fantasy waiver wire page. Walton had a nice afternoon despite battling a tough defense, gaining 66 yards on 14 carries.
Despite his gaffe, Preston Williams caught six passes for 82 yards, while DeVante Parker (5-55) caught Fitzpatrick's lone aerial touchdown.
49ers 9, Redskins 0
Going into this game, I questioned if Adrian Peterson would even hit double-digit yardage against San Francisco's elite defense. He did that right away with a 14-yard burst on the very first play of the afternoon. This was part of a sequence in which the Redskins ran the ball on the first 11 plays of the game. They drove well into San Francisco territory, but missed a 39-yard field goal.
It was a promising start to the afternoon for the Redskins, however, but things just got worse from that point forward. They barely accumulated 100 net yards the rest of the game, as the combination of the San Francisco defense and the windy and rainy conditions made it impossible for Washington to move the chains with any sort of consistency. The 49ers didn't have better luck either, but a couple of big plays - two deep shots to Kendrick Bourne and a 40-yard reception by Richie James where James caught a short toss and did the rest of the work - allowed them to come away with a victory to improve to 6-0.
The 40-yard pass to James was more than a quarter of Jimmy Garoppolo's overall passing yardage. Garoppolo had no chance to do much in the deluge in Washington, as the swamp-like conditions made downfield passing impossible. Garoppolo finished 12-of-21 for 151 yards and an interception, which was a weak floater off his back foot on fourth down. This occurred right after another pass of Garoppolo's was dropped by a defender. Garoppolo was just 3-of-10 for 10 yards by halftime, so his passing improved following intermission, despite the pick.
James, with his one catch, was second on the team in receiving yards behind Bourne (3-69). George Kittle was the only other 49er with double-digit receiving yards, as he caught three balls for 38 yards. Kittle also drew a pass interference flag.
Given that passing was very difficult, the Redskins were able to play closer to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Tevin Coleman, as a result, managed just 62 yards on 20 carries, while Matt Breida (8-35) was less productive on far fewer opportunities because he left the game with a concussion (surprise, surprise.)
Peterson gained more yardage than any running back in this contest, as he tallied 81 yards on 20 attempts. Peterson looked spry, but this can't be considered a positive afternoon for him. He was stuffed on a fourth-and-1, which prompted the crowd to cheer - there were many San Francisco fans in the stands - and later lost a fumble near the red zone.
All Case Keenum could do was dink and dunk, as the veteran went 9-of-12 for only 77 yards. If Redskins head coach Bill Callahan had his way, he wouldn't have thrown at all in this game.
No Redskin tallied more than 30 yards through the air. In fact, only one (Trey Quinn; 2-30) had more than 20 receiving yards.
Jaguars 27, Bengals 17
Though the Jaguars led by 17 points late in the game and had a double-digit advantage for most of the fourth quarter, this game was very much in doubt for most of the afternoon. The Bengals were actually leading 10-9 entering the final frame. However, once Gardner Minshew found Keelan Cole for a touchdown, the wheels completely fell off for the Bengals. Andy Dalton began firing interceptions, with his first being deep in Jacksonville territory that ended a drive that had great promise.
Dalton's next interception was a pick-six on what was a futile attempt at a screen. Suddenly, the Jaguars were up 27-10, with this game concluding with a garbage-time touchdown on a Dalton sneak.
Dalton will be replaced at the end of the year, if not sooner, but these losses aren't completely his fault. He was missing four starting offensive linemen in this game and often didn't have much time to throw. He was able to string together some consecutive completions from time to time in this contest, but Cincinnati ultimately had trouble moving the chains for most of the afternoon. The Jaguars outgained them by nearly 200 yards, despite some garbage time late in regulation.
Dalton finished 22-of-43 for 276 yards, one passing touchdown and three interceptions. He also scored on the ground via a sneak with barely any time remaining in regulation. The Bengals almost certainly will use their first-round pick on Justin Herbert, but they might as well see what they have in rookie quarterback Ryan Finley when/if Cordy Glenn returns from his lengthy concussion.
Though Dalton played poorly - he had two other potential picks that were dropped - it wasn't all on him. His offensive line continued to block poorly, while Tyler Boyd was very inefficient on his 14 targets; he hauled in just five of them for 55 yards, thanks to a whopping four drops, including two on consecutive plays.
Someone named Alex Erickson had a monstrous receiving afternoon. He caught eight passes for 137 yards. Erickson is Cincinnati's third passing option, so he's not a viable fantasy player, though he looks like someone Bill Belichick would love to have in his offense.
Elsewhere in the Cincinnati receiving corps, Auden Tate caught three passes for 65 yards. Tate made a fantastic catch over two Jaguars.
If it weren't for a short receiving touchdown, Joe Mixon would've put together a dreadful afternoon. He rushed the ball 10 times - for only two yards! Mixon, who had zero running room, was not in the game late in the afternoon when he would've had a shot at another score because the game was out of hand.
While Mixon was a huge fantasy disappointment, Leonard Fournette wasn't fully able to take advantage of a terrific matchup either. He rushed for 131 yards on 29 carries, but couldn't find the end zone despite multiple chances at the goal line. Fournette also caught just two passes for 14 receiving yards. I thought it was a very dubious coaching decision not to exploit Cincinnati's dreadful linebackers by not giving Fournette more receptions.
Minshew also had a great matchup coming into this contest, as Cincinnati was down its top two cornerbacks and top two edge rushers. Despite this, Minshew failed to complete half of his passes. He finished 15-of-32 for 255 yards and a touchdown. He did a good job scrambling, however, as he ran nine times for 48 rushing yards.
Still, Minshew's stat line doesn't tell the whole story. He missed two of his receivers for potential touchdowns because of poor throws, and he would've been intercepted had a Cincinnati defender not dropped the ball. Minshew has enjoyed some nice moments as a rookie, but he really struggled in this contest.
A Jaguar receiver eclipsed the century receiving mark, but it wasn't D.J. Chark. In fact, Chark (3-53) wasn't even second on the receiving list! Dede Westbrook caught six passes for 103 yards, while Chris Conley hauled in three balls for 83 yards. Westbrook, however, made a mistake when he dropped a touchdown.
Packers 42, Raiders 24
Remember when everyone was concerned about the relationship between Aaron Rodgers and new head coach Matt LaFleur? That seems like a million years ago, as Rodgers has caught fire in recent weeks. He was especially hot in this contest despite missing his top receiver, Davante Adams, as he maintained a perfect passer rating.
Of course, Oakland's horrible defense made things easy for Rodgers, but that doesn't mean that he wasn't prolific. Rodgers went 25-of-31 for 429 yards and six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing). The Raiders had no answer for him.
All five of Rodgers' aerial touchdowns went to different players. It initially appeared as though a traditional Packers stack wouldn't work on DraftKings because Rodgers' first scores were thrown to his two running backs, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. The third was to Jake Kumerow (2-54), which included more fuel for those who believe the Packers get all the calls at home, as it seemed as though Kumerow stepped out of bounds prior to scoring. The play was reviewed, but it stood for some reason.
Rodgers' final two touchdowns ensured that the ideal Rodgers stack cashed. Rodgers found Jimmy Graham (4-65) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2-133) for scores, with Valdes-Scantling's touchdown being a 74-yarder.
Two prominent Packer receivers were scoreless: Geronimo Allison and Allen Lazard, both of whom caught four passes. Lazard and Allison had 42 and 33 yards, respectively. Allison appeared to score in the second half, but that was negated by replay review. Lazard, meanwhile, made a great, leaping catch in the second half.
Despite having a big lead in the second half, the Packers didn't run the ball very much. Jones saw way more carries than Williams, 12-3. Jones had 50 yards, while Williams logged just five. Luckily for their owners, Jones and Williams were able to find the end zone.
The leading rusher in this game was on the losing team, which is not a common thing to see. Josh Jacobs gashed the Packers for 124 yards on 21 carries to go along with three catches for 10 receiving yards. He didn't find the end zone, but was very close on several occasions, including once where he was stuffed on a goal-line leap.
It's worth noting that Jacobs suffered a scare on the opening drive when he left the field and entered the locker room. However, he was able to return to action after missing two halves of separate drives.
Derek Carr had a nice performance, though it paled in comparison to what Rodgers was able to do. Carr misfired on just six occasions, going 22-of-28 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He made a couple of consecutive poor throws early on when he had open receivers downfield, but was able to rebound after that.
Carr, however, killed his team with a brutal mistake that he also made earlier in his career. While trying to score a touchdown on the ground, Carr extended his arm and almost heaved the ball at the pylon. The play was ruled a touchback, negating an Oakland score when the game was close. Carr did this on a Sunday night game versus Dallas a couple of years ago, so it's disappointing that he hasn't learned from his mistake.
Both of Carr's scores went to Darren Waller, who had a monstrous performance. Waller caught seven of his eight targets for 126 yards and two touchdowns, as the Packers left him wide open on several occasions, due to blown assignments by the safeties. As great as this day was for him, it could've been even better! Waller had what appeared to be a third score negated by a hold.
Colts 30, Texans 23
Deshaun Watson has been Jekyll and Hyde this year. He's been prolific versus the Chiefs and Falcons, and he was dreadful against the Panthers and Jaguars. The difference between the two groups is that the former can't pressure the quarterback well, while the latter is capable of putting tons of heat on opposing quarterbacks. The Colts belong in the latter category, thanks to Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard, so it's not a surprise that Watson didn't have another great performance.
The pass rush was quite apparent when Watson was swarmed during some failed fourth-quarter drives. There was another sequence in the second quarter when Indianapolis' pass rush had Watson wrapped up. Watson somehow broke out of it and found DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown, but the officials ruled that he was in the grasp. That would've been a key score, as the Texans would've needed just a field goal to win at the end before they intentionally took a safety on a punt to help with field position.
That was just one of several mistakes the Texans made to shoot themselves in the foot. One other sequence really stands out as well. The Texans forced the Colts into a field goal in the red zone, but a dumb penalty on Benardrick McKinney gave the Colts a fresh set of downs. McKinney hit Eric Ebron in the helmet, even though Ebron was not involved on the play. And if that wasn't enough, a Houston defensive holding penalty gave Indianapolis another first down. The Colts scored a touchdown right after that. This was one of three defensive holding penalties that extended touchdown drives for the Colts on the afternoon.
The Colts had great success moving the chains, even when Houston wasn't helping Indianapolis with dumb penalties. The Texans have injury woes in their secondary that were prevalent in this contest, as Jacoby Brissett threw four touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing. He was excellent for the most part, though a lost fumble on a mishandled snap gave the Texans a scoring opportunity.
T.Y. Hilton didn't post the monstrous numbers I expected him to have in this great matchup, but he still had a strong fantasy performance. He caught six of his 11 targets for 74 yards and a touchdown, while Ebron (4-70) also found the end zone via an amazing one-handed grab. However, it was Zach Pascal of all people who posted the best numbers. Pascal reeled in six of his seven targets for 106 yards and two scores. If you want an indication of how horrible Houston's secondary is, just look at its inability to stop Zach freaking Pascal.
The Texans stop the rush very well, so it wasn't a surprise that Marlon Mack couldn't find much running room. Mack was limited to just 44 yards on 18 carries.
As for Houston's offense, Watson finished 23-of-34 for 308 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Both picks occurred in the fourth quarter. The first was a reckless pass off his back foot with 10 minutes remaining, while the second was a high throw that went off Coutee's fingertips on the final drive. Watson didn't do very much running, scrambling just thrice for 32 rushing yards.
Two Houston receivers eclipsed the century mark, but one wasn't Will Fuller, who was knocked out of the game on the opening drive with a hamstring injury. Hopkins led the way with nine catches of his 12 targets and a touchdown, while Kenny Stills had four grabs for 105 yards. Stills made a ridiculous over-the-shoulder catch along the sideline in the second half.
It was hardly a surprise that Carlos Hyde plummeted back down to Earth following last week's great matchup versus Kansas City. The Colts' run defense, aided by the return of Darius Leonard, limited Hyde to 35 yards on 12 carries. He was also guilty of a drop, which made me wonder why Duke Johnson wasn't getting that target.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Lions suffered so many injuries on defense this week. They need a bye week to heal up. When's their bye? Let me see... Week 5? Oh, that's not good...
The NFC North is one of the toughest division in football, and both of these teams needed a win to keep pace with the surging Packers while also remaining in the wild-card race of the very competitive NFC. Detroit's offense was very good, with Marvin Jones playing like Al Bundy, scoring four touchdowns in a single game. However, the Lions' defense was completely inept, letting Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook shred them. The Vikings remain in the NFC North and wild-card race, while the Lions have dug themselves a big hole after back-to-back losses to division rivals.
On their second drive, the Lions got on the scoreboard with Matt Stafford finding Jones for a 16-yard touchdown. Minnesota quickly tied the game with a superb run by Dalvin Cook, a 26-yard pass to Irv Smith (5-60), and then a 25-yard touchdown to Adam Thielen (1-25-1). However, Thielen injured his hamstring on the play and sat out the rest of the game. Detroit promptly got moving when Stafford found Danny Amendola (8-105) in busted coverage for a gain of 36 yards. A pass to Ty Johnson moved the ball inside the 15, and Stafford found Jones again on a short touchdown toss. Minnesota came back to tie the game after pass interference in the end zone and Cousins connecting with Bisi Johnson for the score.
The Vikings got the ball back and produced another drive down the field that ended with a Dalvin Cook touchdown. In the final minute of the first half, Stafford went down the field, but Marvin Jones dropped the would-be touchdown. A couple plays later however, Jones held on for the score with two seconds remaining, leading the division rivals tied at 21 heading into intermission.
The Vikings picked up where they left off with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins tossing a five-yard score to C.J. Ham. Stafford responded with a 47-yard bomb to Marvin Hall, and that set up a field goal for Matt Prater to cut Minnesota's lead to 28-24.
The Vikings were in position to put Detroit in dire straits, but Stefon Diggs dropped a touchdown pass and then they missed a chip shot field goal. Just past midfield, the Minnesota defense came through with a fourth-down stop that saw Eric Kendricks break up a short pass. The Vikings took advantage of the good field position by using Dalvin Cook to set up a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph (5-58-1). Stafford tried to mount a comeback, and with just over three minutes remaining, Marvin Jones caught his fourth score of the game. The two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete, leaving the Vikings holding a 35-30 lead.
To put the Lions away, Cousins found Diggs on play-action pass for a 66-yard completion and then Cook ran into the end zone from four yards out. Trae Waynes picked off Stafford to clinch the win for Minnesota.
Cousins was 24-of-34 for 337 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Cook dominated the Lions, running for 142 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns.
With Thielen knocked out early, Diggs picked up the slack with seven receptions for 142 yards.
Stafford was 30-of-45 for 364 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.
Marvin Jones had a great performance with 10 receptions for 93 yards and his four scores.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If Matt Ryan is out for a while, the Falcons might just be the worst team in the NFL not named the Dolphins. Actually, the case could be made for them to have that distinction anyway.
Both the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons came into this game on downward skids, as the Rams had lost three in a row after winning their first three. Los Angeles' most recent loss was of the humiliating variety, as Jared Goff threw for a pitiful 78 total yards against the 49ers at home. The Falcons' defense had led them to a 1-5 record to start the season, and any positive sign would likely go a long way for them and Dan Quinn, who is teetering on the ledge of dismissal. In the end, only one team came out with hope, and it wasn't the Falcons, as they were crushed, 37-10 in front of their home crowd.
In a game that easily had the highest over/under of the season, the scoring started out pitifully, as the teams traded field goals in the first quarter to make it 3-3. The scoring would come, but only the Rams would be the team doing so, as they scored three touchdowns and a field goal over their next five drives. The Falcons' defense once again showed they are in no way imposing, even against a quarterback who looked shell-shocked last week as he converted 0-of-9 third-down chances and completed just 13 passes all game. For a defensive-minded coach like Quinn to put this atrocity out on the field is embarrassing.
The Falcons began to show their frustration, as a scuffle broke out when they were down 20-3 and running back Devonta Freeman decided it was a good idea to throw a punch at Aaron Donald. If you look up "stupidity" in the dictionary, it says, "throwing a punch at Aaron Donald." Freeman was then ejected, but had done little to nothing at that point, as he had rushed seven times for 19 yards and caught two passes for six yards. Before Freeman's ejection, backup running back Ito Smith had already left the game after he was trucked by Corey Littleton while in pass protection. Smith had to be carted off with head and neck injuries. That left Brian Hill as the main back to continue Atlanta's futility against the Rams defensive line.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey played much of the first half, matched up with Julio Jones. and even though Jones beat him a few times, there's no-doubt that Ramsey's presence helped the rest of the pass defense, which held Matt Ryan to just 16-of-27 for 159 yards and one interceptions to no touchdowns before Ryan was forced to the sideline early in the fourth quarter with a leg injury when Donald strip-sacked him and recovered the ball. That sack was the fifth of the game for the Rams, and put a point on an impressive defensive performance.
We don't have much information on Ryan's injury yet, as there's no way he was returning to that monstrosity of a game no matter his injury status. He was walking gingerly to the locker room and had a boot on after the game. With the Falcons' season in the tank and their bye following next week, there's a decent chance we don't see Ryan against the Seahawks in Week 8.
Jared Goff, on the other hand, rebounded from his disastrous performance last week to throw for 268 yards and two touchdowns while running for another on the way to the rout. His trouble with pressure wasn't much of an issue this week, as the Falcons rank dead last in adjusted sack rate and have now gone four straight games without getting to the quarterback.
Goff spread the ball around well to his top four targets, getting Robert Woods 5-of-7 receptions for 80 yards, Brandin Cooks 4-of-7 for 49 yards, Cooper Kupp 6-of-8 for 50 yards and Gerald Everett 4-of-10 for 50 yards and a touchdown, while Todd Gurley turned his one target into a gorgeous 13-yard touchdown reception. Darrell Henderson backed up Gurley and looked better as a runner, but neither put up much yardage against an Atlanta defensive line that has only middling run defense as a positive.
The Rams (3-2) and Goff were lucky to run into the perfect defense to play after getting stomped by the 49ers last week, and it's tough to know if the Rams can handle an actual pass rush, but thankfully they head to London next week to meet the Bengals, which, like the Falcons, feature a horrid defensive unit.
The Falcons (1-6) stay at home to take on a strong Seattle team that should be able to beat them easily, especially if Matt Schaub is behind center.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We really need chips in the balls. There's no excuse not to have it, and it's something the NFL could've installed a decade ago. How in the world did Ryan Tannehill lose yardage on a sneak when it was clear that he gained yardage? I don't know if he got the first down, but the officials said he lost yardage somehow! Call me crazy, but having old men with poor eyesight determine the outcomes of games is just stupid.
Both the Titans and Chargers were in dire need of a win to stay in the divisional and wild-card races, and it was Tennessee that screwed up less in this game. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel made a terrible decision late in the fourth quarter, but a Melvin Gordon fumble at the goal line with less than 10 seconds remaining bailed out Vrabel. The good news for Tennessee is that Ryan Tannehill had a solid performance in his first start with the Titans.
Tannehill's first pass went for 24 yards to Jonnu Smith, and a few more gains set up a field goal for Tennessee. The Chargers promptly responded with a field goal drive to tie the game. Philip Rivers kept attacking, spreading the ball around using Keenan Allen (4-61), Mike Williams (4-47) and Hunter Henry (6-97). A dart to Allen moved the ball inside the five, and then Rivers hit Melvin Gordon wide open in the flat for the touchdown. Tennessee put a drive together with a trio of receptions to A.J. Brown (6-64) and Derrick Henry getting rolling. The drive ended with Tannehill lacing a fastball to Corey Davis for an eight-yard score to tie the game at 10 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Tannehill was hit as he threw by Uchenna Nwosu and the ball fluttered in the air for an interception by Roderic Teamer. However, Los Angeles couldn't do anything with the turnover as Philip Rivers was surprisingly inaccurate, missing some open receivers downfield. In fact, the Chargers had only two yards of offense in the third quarter due to Rivers being off the mark.
The Titans used the arm of Tannehill to lead them to fourth-quarter points, as he moved the ball down the field. The Chargers then forgot to cover Tajae Sharpe in the back of the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was missed to keep Tennessee's lead to 16-10.
Rivers got back on track with a few passes to Hunter Henry to get the Chargers a field goal, but Tannehill was in a groove, moving the ball to set up Derrick Henry to run in the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown. Rivers quickly got the Chargers back within a score by lofting in a perfect 41-yard touchdown pass to Austin Ekeler.
Just past midfield at the Chargers' 48-yard line, Tennessee decided to go for it on fourth-and-a foot, but the spot marked Tannehill's sneak short. It was a risky and foolish call by Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, as Los Angeles was only 15 yards from field goal range. It would have made more sense to pin the Chargers deep with only a few minutes remaining and make them move down the field.
Rivers hit a few passes to move into Tennessee territory, including two passes to Ekeler for 35 yards to the 1-yard line. But on second-and-goal with 22 seconds remaining, Gordon was stuffed short and fumbled the ball away to Tennessee to clinch the Titans' victory.
Ryan Tannehill was 23-of-29 for 312 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Derrick Henry ran for 90 yard and a touchdown on 22 carries and also had an 18-yard reception.
Corey Davis led the Titans in receiving with six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Rivers was 24-of-38 for 329 yards with two touchdowns.
Gordon ran for 32 yards on 16 carries. Ekeler had seven yards on five carries, but he was the Chargers' leading receiver with seven receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans enjoyed their first game with first-round pick Jeffery Simmons, and he had a superb debut notching a sack, two tackles for a loss and four tackles. Joey Bosa was excellent for the Chargers with two sacks and six tackles.
Saints 36, Bears 25
Don't be fooled by this final score. This game was nowhere near an 11-point margin. The Saints were up 36-10 before Chicago scored a pair of garbage-time touchdowns, thanks in part to the first recovered onside kick in the NFL this year. In fact, the 36-10 score is even misleading because seven of Chicago's 10 points came on a Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return. This was a completely lopsided blowout, as evidenced by the yardage totals. The Saints were outgaining the Bears, 316-83, prior to garbage time.
Teddy Bridgewater continued to play well for the most part. He missed some open receivers in the opening half, but caught fire following intermission. He was 9-of-14 for 144 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Bridgewater was close to a second score in the second half, as a Ted Ginn 45-yard bomb was just shy of the goal line. Latavius Murray scored on the ensuing play.
Bridgewater finished 23-of-38 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He could've scored thrice, as mentioned, and even really four times because Ginn dropped a touchdown in the second quarter.
The two Hills - Josh and Taysom - scored Bridgewater's touchdowns. They trailed Michael Thomas and Ginn (2-48) on the box score. Thomas had a monstrous afternoon, hauling in nine of his 11 targets for 131 yards, while Ginn would've posted far better numbers had he not dropped a deep touchdown, as referenced earlier.
Alvin Kamara was absent with an injury, but that didn't affect the Saints. Latavius Murray had a great performance in relief, rushing for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. He also was a factor as a receiver, catching five of his six targets for 31 receiving yards.
The sole dark cloud over this victory for the Saints was Eli Apple's injury in garbage time. It's a shame for Apple, who has been playing at a high level for the first time in his career.
Bridgewater's stats weren't much better than Mitchell Trubisky's final numbers. Trubisky went 34-of-54 for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Box-score observers will think that Trubisky had a solid performance, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Trubisky was absolutely dreadful. Most of his yardage came in garbage time, as he was 13-of-23 for only 78 yards in the opening half. Trubisky completed checkdowns and nothing else. When he went deeper than 10 yards, he missed his receivers left and right. He committed several horrible overthrows, prompting a frustrated crowd to boo him heavily, and rightfully so. Trubisky didn't end up throwing an interception, but he should have; Patterson had to break up what seemed like an easy interception in the end zone.
Allen Robinson was able to benefit from garbage time. He caught 10 of his 16 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown at the very end of the game. He and Anthony Miller (5-64) were the only Chicago receivers who had more than 25 receiving yards.
David Montgomery also had a horrible performance. He was given just four touches. He gained six yards on two carries and caught a pair of passes for 13 receiving yards. However, a big blemish for him was a lost fumble, which the Saints turned into a touchdown.
Ravens 30, Seahawks 16
This score might make it appear as though the Ravens dominated this game, but that's not accurate. This was a 13-13 affair well into the third quarter. The Ravens were faced with a fourth down in the red zone and seemed set on kicking a field goal to take a three-point lead. However, Lamar Jackson talked the coaching staff into going for it on fourth-and-2 on the Seattle 8-yard line. Jackson didn't just convert the first down; he scored a touchdown on an 8-yard scramble to establish a touchdown lead that his team wouldn't relinquish. The Ravens would then expand their lead when D.K. Metcalf had a lost fumble return for a score.
That Jackson score was a microcosm of how this game went for the Seahawks. They had no answer for Jackson's rushing. They couldn't tackle Jackson at all, and the mobile quarterback was able to eclipse the century mark on the ground once again. Jackson gracefully eluded the bewildered Seattle defenders, who couldn't wrap up the second-year signal-caller.
Jackson ended up rushing for 116 yards and a touchdown on 14 scrambles. This was hardly a surprise, however. We all know Jackson is lethal as a runner. What's important is how he's progressing as a passer. The stat box says Jackson is moving along slowly, as he failed to even register double-digit completions. He finished 9-of-20 for 143 yards. Jackson had his usual accuracy woes, but it's worth noting that he endured some drops, including two by Mark Andrews on the same drive.
With Marquise Brown out, and Andrews dropping three passes in total, only one Raven accumulated more than 40 receiving yards. That was Miles Boykin, thanks to a 50-yard reception. Boykin caught both of his targets for 55 yards, followed by Andrews, who snatched just two of his eight targets for 39 yards.
The Ravens didn't struggle to run the ball, but their rushing numbers don't look great outside of Jackson. Ingram gained 46 yards on 12 carries, while Gus Edwards picked up 35 yards on eight attempts. Jackson simply is dominating the workload on the ground, which is preventing the running backs from posting great statistics.
As for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson made a rare, horrible mistake in this game. His team was winning, 10-6, when he didn't recognize new Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters in zone coverage. Peters snatched the interception and returned it for six.
This misfire ensured that Wilson had a sub-.500 completion percentage, which was odd for a very efficient quarterback like him. Wilson finished 20-of-41 for 241 yards, one touchdown and the pick-six. He also didn't run very much, scrambling just thrice for 27 rushing yards. Wilson will rebound when he gets his left tackle, Duane Brown, back from injury.
Tyler Lockett snatched Wilson's sole score, as he caught five of his seven targets for 61 yards. Meanwhile, Metcalf had a disastrous afternoon. Not only did he lose a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, but he also dropped a pass on third down. Metcalf (4-53) reeled in half of his targets. Jaron Brown (3-60) also dropped a crucial pass - this one being in the end zone.
Chris Carson didn't get a chance to run very much in the fourth quarter, so he had just 21 carries, which he turned into 65 yards.
Cowboys 37, Eagles 10
The Eagles had been playing very sloppily heading into this game. They committed so many penalties, drops and fumbles in the previous two weeks, and that sort of horrible play was prevalent in this contest.
Philadelphia coughed up the ball right away, with Dallas Goedert losing a fumble. That set up Dallas' first touchdown, and the Cowboys found the end zone the second time after a Carson Wentz strip-sack. Suddenly, the Cowboys were up 14-0. The lead forced the Eagles to run a game script that took them out of their running attack, resulting in just 10 points for the entire evening.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, were far more efficient offensively, as they were able to benefit from all of their injured players returning to action. Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb were all back from their absences, and their presence on the field made all the difference in the world.
Smith and Collins being on the field gave Dak Prescott all the protection he needed. He misfired just six times as a result, as he went 21-of-27 for 239 yards, two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and an interception. The pick was a dumb one, as he heaved the ball carelessly downfield into double coverage when the game was well in hand. Prescott was great otherwise, as he had a second passing score negated by an Amari Cooper offensive pass interference.
Speaking of Cooper, he reeled in all five of his official targets for 106 yards, which included a great diving reception along the sideline. Smith and Collins being on the field helped immeasurably, and the same can be said of Cooper, who opened things up for everyone else.
This includes Michael Gallup (3-34), who dropped a pass inside the 5-yard line, and Jason Witten (4-33). Blake Jarwin caught Prescott's sole passing touchdown, as he was wide open by a mile because the Eagles feared the Ezekiel Elliott play-action so much.
The Eagles were correct to be fearful of Elliott. Running behind a healthy offensive line for the first time in weeks, Elliott was unstoppable. He rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on just 22 carries, while also catching six passes for 36 receiving yards.
Philadelphia couldn't run the ball very often because of the constant, two-score deficit. It looked like the team could've had some success in that regard, as Jordan Howard rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries, though Miles Sanders (6-21) was less successful. Still, the Eagles couldn't exploit a positive matchup, which was even better when Leighton Vander Esch left the game with an injury.
Carson Wentz had a poor showing. Forced into throwing in unfavorable situatins, Wentz went 16-of-26 for 191 yards, one touchdown and three turnovers. In addition to the aforementioned fumble, he heaved an interception where he didn't see the safety, while the third turnover was a weird instance in which Wentz dropped a shotgun snap.
Goedert, despite the fumble, was the recipient of Wentz's sole aerial score. He caught all four of his targets for 69 yards. Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz both had two catches for 38 yards.
Two other notes for the Cowboys: First, Brett Maher drilled a 63-yard field goal prior to intermission, making him the first kicker in NFL history with three 60-yard field goals. Second, Vander Esch (neck) wasn't the only Dallas player to leave the game with an injury. Robert Quinn left with a rib, while safety Jeff Heath got hurt near the end of regulation. As nice as this victory was for Dallas, it won't matter if the team loses all of these players. The good news is that the Cowboys will be on bye next week, so everyone will have time to heal. Conversely, the Eagles lost Fletcher Cox late in the game, and they may have to battle Buffalo without him next week.
Patriots 33, Jets 0
If you ever wondered what happened to the kid in the Sixth Sense movie, you finally have your answer. Bruce Willis' patient saw dead people, and that's still the case, as Sam Darnold, now all grown up, told his teammates on the sideline that he was seeing ghosts.
Bill Belichick owned Darnold in this game. He bewildered the second-year quarterback, who constantly threw off his back foot, including an instance where he lofted a pass toward Robby Anderson on a crucial fourth-and-4. Darnold was responsible for five turnovers: four interceptions and a lost fumble. Darnold displayed poor mechanics throughout the entire evening, especially when he was pressured heavily behind his injury-ravaged offensive line, which was down three starters when center Ryan Kalil left the game.
Darnold finished 11-of-32 for 86 yards and the five give-aways. He constantly tossed helpless balls off his back foot up for grabs. He was so bad, it was almost comical. That said, Darnold has plenty of talent and was very good the previous week against Dallas. Many will overreact to this, but Darnold will bounce back from this dreadful showing unless he's mentally broken.
The Patriots, meanwhile, moved the chains methodically to start the game, scoring on a 16-play drive. It would have been 15 plays had Ben Watson not seen the ball hilariously doink off his face mask, but the Patriots were flawless otherwise. They didn't have as much success offensively as the evening progressed, as it seemed as though the Jets' defense figured things out a bit - Brady was even intercepted when Leonard Williams hit his arm - but it didn't matter because the touchdown on the opening drive, a Sony Michel 3-yard run, ended up being the winning score of the evening.
Speaking of Michel, that was the first of three touchdowns he scored. Though his yardage count wasn't impressive - 19 carries, 42 yards - Michel's fantasy owners were thrilled with this output. Michel also caught a pass, and he would've had two receptions had he not dropped a ball thrown his way. That drop was on a perfect screen, which Michel may have turned into another score.
Tom Brady was terrific for most of the evening, going 31-of-45 for 249 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Brady made a high number of great throws in the open half, which included a fourth-and-6 conversion to Ben Watson that set up his lone aerial score to Phillip Dorsett, which expended the lead to 17-0. As mentioned earlier, his interception was the result of his arm being hit as he released the ball.
Julian Edelman and James White were Brady's primary receivers. Both caught seven passes for 47 and 59 yards, respectively. Edelman dropped a ball, while White had a touchdown called back because of an Edelman penalty.
Some quick notes on the Jets' skill-position players:
- Le'Veon Bell didn't have a bad night, considering the tough matchup and the deficit. He rushed for 70 yards on 15 carries, displaying his trademark patience and vision. He also saw four targets, but caught only one of them for six receiving yards.
- Anderson had a mere one catch on eight targets for 10 yards. He was smothered by Stephon Gilmore, yet Darnold foolishly continued to throw in his direction. A smart quarterback would've avoided the best cornerback in the NFL.
- Demaryius Thomas led the Jets in receiving with three grabs for 42 yards. He struggled in this revenge game, dropping a pass in the opening half.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.