NFL analysts tend to focus on offense and defense, but this was a game decided by special teams. Indianapolis dominated on fourth down in this pivotal divisional matchup, particularly in the second half.
The Titans had the lead, 17-13, when punter Trevor Daniel shanked a punt off his foot. The ball spiraled out of bounds at the Tennessee 30-yard line. The Colts converted the short field into a Nyheim Hines touchdown, taking the lead for the first time all night. Daniel took the field at the conclusion of the next drive, only to see this punt blocked and returned for six. Now trailing by 10, the Titans finally put together a quality drive, but stalled near the red zone. Stephen Gostkowski, however, whiffed on his eighth field goal of the year, a 44-yarder. The Titans could have trimmed the deficit to seven, but the Colts hung on to their double-digit advantage and even expanded it on the ensuing possession.
Philip Rivers did well to bounce back from last week’s dreadful performance. Rivers couldn’t do anything against the Ravens, but was far better versus Tennessee. It helped, of course, that T.Y. Hilton was on the field for a change. Hilton didn’t even do much statistically, but his presence on the field forced the Titans to respect the deep ball, despite Rivers’ diminished arm strength.
Rivers finished 29-of-39 for 308 yards and a touchdown. He did a great job of moving the chains, as his team didn’t even punt until three minutes remainied in regulation. Rivers made a couple of mistakes when he nearly fired an interception (Malcolm Butler was able to get just one foot inbounds) and hesitated to throw the ball to a couple of his targets for potential touchdowns, but this was a positive outcome overall.
As for Hilton, he was third on the team in receiving with four catches for 40 yards. He finished behind promising rookie Michael Pittman, who snatched seven balls for 101 yards, and Hines, who reeled in five of his six targets for 45 yards and a receiving touchdown.
In addition to scoring aerially, Hines also reached the end zone on the ground. He was the best of the Colts’ three running backs, and it wasn’t even close. Hines gained 70 yards on 12 carries to go along with the two touchdowns. He was nimble and elusive, making a case that he deserves to handle the majority of the workload. He greatly outclassed apparent bust Jonathan Taylor (7-12) and Jordan Wilkins (8-28), both of whom were stuffed at the goal line on a drive. Hines scored in the same situation on the next possession.
Naturally, the game’s leading rusher was Derrick Henry, who pummeled through Indianapolis’ great rush defense for some tough yards. He tallied 103 yards on just 19 attempts, and he had a gain of 20 negated by a penalty. Henry was certainly not to blame for this loss.
Ryan Tannehill, conversely, didn’t do as well, at least on paper. Tannehill was just 15-of-27 for 147 yards and a touchdown. He missed some throws he should have made, but he was robbed of a deep touchdown to A.J. Brown, who committed a terrible drop.
Speaking of Brown, this was a nightmare game for him. He caught only one pass for 21 yards, yet he was guilty of two drops, one of which would’ve gone for a 78-yard touchdown. Despite his poor numbers, Brown still finished second on Tennessee in receiving, only behind Corey Davis (5-67), who lost his older brother to cancer this week.
Lions 30, Redskins 27
I have been pleading for Matt Patricia to “Get Swifty,” as in to allow D’Andre Swift to handle much more of a workload over the decrepit Adrian Peterson. It took Patricia way too long, but he finally came to his senses when he named Swift the starting running back over Peterson in this contest.
Swift instantly rewarded his coach. He ripped off some nice runs on the opening drive, including a 16-yard scamper in which he hurdled over an opponent. With the Redskins worried about Swift, Matthew Stafford capitalized by throwing a 55-yard touchdown bomb to Marvin Hall to open up a quick lead.
The Lions didn’t have to do anything after that, as the Redskins constantly self-destructed with dumb mistakes once again. Alex Smith took a sack to get knocked out of field goal range. Smith missed a wide-open J.D. McKissic for a touchdown. Dustin Hopkins whiffed on a 43-yard field goal. Terry McLaurin lost a fumble right outside the red zone. All of this, by the way, was in the first half alone! The result was the Lions taking a 17-3 lead into intermission.
Detroit actually led 24-3, thanks to some other great Swift runs. It looked like the Redskins had no hope, but the Lions once again reverted to their habit of blowing leads. Smith engineered three touchdown drives to tie the game, but the defense couldn’t get a stop after that. Stafford took possession with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation, and yet he somehow drove into field goal range, setting up Matt Prater with a 59-yard attempt. Prater nailed the kick, giving the Lions their fourth victory of the season.
Stafford finished 24-of-33 for 276 yards and three touchdowns. This was an impressive showing, given that Stafford was down his top receiver (Kenny Golladay) and an offensive lineman (Halapouli Vaitai), all while battling a stout Redskin pass defense. Stafford struggled in the third quarter, but came through in the clutch.
Swift, as referenced earlier, had a tremendous first game as a starter. He rushed for 81 yards on 16 carries to go along with five catches for 68 receiving yards and a touchdown. Adrian Peterson (4-21) didn’t get much work. It’s amazing that it took Patricia this long to figure out that he needs to feed Swift as many touches as possible, but given that the Lions are still in position to reach the playoffs, it’s better late than never.
The only Detroit player with more receiving yards than Swift was Marvin Jones, who had a nice game, catching eight of his 10 targets for 96 yards and a touchdown. Hall (2-61) also scored. T.J. Hockenson (2-13) was a disappointment.
Jones edged out McLaurin as the receiving leader in this game by a single yard, as McLaurin’s seven receptions went for 95 yards. He drew an interference flag on the Redskins’ final offensive drive, but the penalty was complete nonsense.
Elsewhere in the Redskins’ receiving corps, Logan Thomas (4-66), Isaiah Wright (6-59), Cam Sims (4-54) and Steven Sims (5-46) all contributed.
Smith finished with a big stat line, going 38-of-55 for 390 yards. Don’t be fooled by this, as Smith wasn’t very good. He spent the afternoon dinking and dunking, but had to throw a lot because of the huge deficit. Smith is very limited, and his mobility is gone because of his broken leg.
Gibson had a nice fantasy day despite the deficit. This was because of his two touchdowns on 13 carries for 45 yards. He also caught four balls for 20 receiving yards. McKissic, meanwhile, had seven catches for 43 receiving yards, thanks to Smith’s checkdown habits. McKissic had an adventurous game. He dropped a touchdown, but Smith missed him for a score. Smith also didn’t see an open McKissic inside the 10-yard line for an opportunity that could have been a touchdown.
Packers 24, Jaguars 20
The Packers were set to battle the Colts in the upcoming game, so they didn’t have anything to look forward to next week. Yet, they were unexpectedly sluggish in this game. They allowed the Jaguars to score on a kickoff return, and they also had some mental mistakes to negate big plays. Two of those instances were Davante Adams catches, including one touchdown. The Packers could have led 28-3 entering intermission had they avoided their blunders. Instead, they were up just 17-10 at the break, as the Jake Luton-quarterbacked Jaguars still had a chance.
The Jaguars inexplicably took the lead in the second half, as an Adams fumble turned into a quick Jacksonville touchdown. However, Adams redeemed himself in the final quarter, catching the game-winning touchdown pass to put the Jaguars away in a game that was much closer than it should have been.
The weather was severe in Green Bay, which would explain a much lower output for Green Bay than expected. Still, despite scoring just 24 points, Aaron Rodgers had a strong fantasy performance. He went 24-of-34 for 325 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also scored on the ground.
Close to half of Rodgers’ yardage went to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The deep threat somehow came down with four catches for 149 yards and a touchdown despite the heavy winds. This had to be a very tilting outcome for those who have played Valdes-Scantling in previous weeks, only to see him not do anything. Adams, meanwhile, caught eight of his 12 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown, but would have secured two touchdowns if it wasn’t for Billy Turner’s holding penalty.
Speaking of tilting fantasy outcomes, Aaron Jones didn’t see many more carries than Jamaal Williams, 13-8. Jones outgained Williams, 46-30. Jones caught five passes for 49 receiving yards, but Williams was also a big part of the passing game with three catches for 25 receiving yards. The Packers did this last year, using Jones less often than usual versus horrible teams they should beat easily.
Because Jones and Williams split touches, James Robinson had the most rushing yards of anyone in this contest. He abused the Packers’ poor run defense, gaining 109 yards on 23 carries, despite the fact that the Packers had the luxury of placing extra men in the box. Robinson also appeared to score twice, but had both touchdowns negated by penalties.
The Packers didn’t take Luton seriously, and rightfully so. Luton barely completed half of his passes, going 18-of-35 for 169 yards, one touchdown and an interception that occurred when his receiver fell down. Luton was fortunate to get away with a couple of other picks, but the Packer defenders were guilty of some drops. Luton’s accuracy was woeful in this game.
With Jaire Alexander sidelined, D.J. Chark didn’t have to deal with tough coverage. Chark led the team in receiving, but with only four catches for 56 yards. Keelan Cole (5-47) caught a touchdown, but dropped a pass in addition to his kickoff return score.
Giants 27, Eagles 17
Carson Wentz has regressed tremendously this year, but there was a chance he’d rebound in an easy matchup this week. Given that the Eagles were coming off a bye and were getting some players back from injury, there was plenty of optimism for Philadelphia. In fact, the sharp bettors wagered on Philadelphia aggressively, taking the line from -3 to -5 prior to kickoff.
And yet, it was the same, old Wentz that we saw struggle in the first half of this year. Wentz was putrid despite the favorable matchup, as he constantly overshot his receivers. He was seeing lots of pressure, as usual, but it doesn’t excuse the poor accuracy he maintained throughout this contest, which featured countless sloppy mistakes by the Eagles, who did not take advantage of their bye.
Wentz’s inability to keep drives alive allowed the Giants to establish an early, double-digit lead, as Daniel Jones outperformed his counterpart by a wide margin. While Wentz had difficulty locating his targets, Jones was very precise, completing all but four of his 17 passes in the opening half. The Giants took a 14-3 lead into the locker room, and while the Eagles made things interesting for a while, thanks to a big run, the Giants were able to pull away with a double-digit victory.
Wentz had a miserable stat line, going 21-of-37 for 208 yards. This was a horrible outcome in a good matchup. As mentioned, Wentz saw lots of pressure, but he should be playing much better than he is. The Eagles will be stuck with him for one more year, but if he doesn’t improve, the team will need to find a new quarterback following the 2021 season.
The Eagles were able to keep this game close because of Boston Scott’s 56-yard touchdown run in the second half. That’s all Scott did, as Miles Sanders (15-85) handled most of the workload. Sanders didn’t get a touchdown, but scored on a two-point conversion.
Despite the return of Alshon Jeffery, the emergence of Travis Fulgham and the improved health of Dallas Goedert, the Eagles’ leader in receiving yardage was Richard Rodgers, who caught four balls for 60 yards. Jalen Reagor (4-47) was next. Jeffery didn’t catch a single pass, while Fulgham came up with just one grab for eight yards. Goedert (4-33) was a disappointment.
Meanwhile, Jones misfired on just seven passes, showing improvement that lacked earlier in the season. Jones went 21-of-28 for 244 yards. He did lots of damage on the ground, scrambling nine times for 64 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Darius Slayton was the Giants’ leading receiver by a wide margin, making five grabs for 93 yards despite missing most of the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Sterling Shepard (6-47) was next on the stat sheet.
Despite the Eagles being strong against the run, Wayne Gallman had a nice fantasy output because of two rushing touchdowns. Gallman mustered 53 yards on 16 attempts otherwise.
Buccaneers 46, Panthers 23
Two weeks ago, Ronald Jones lost a fumble in his own territory to kick start a tight game for the Giants on Monday Night Football. History quickly repeated itself in this contest, as Jones lost a fumble on the opening possession deep in his own territory. The Panthers quickly turned the give-away into a touchdown, giving them momentum to either hold a lead or tie throughout the opening half. The Panthers were excellent in the early stages of this game, with Teddy Bridgewater completing his first 10 passes, while the Buccaneers continued to make mistakes. Jones dropped a pass, while Mike Evans stopped running a route in the end zone for some reason, resulting in an incompletion instead of a touchdown.
Despite this, the Buccaneers were able to open up a lead in the second half. Jones, making amends for his previous mistakes, ripped off a 98-yard touchdown run to give the Buccaneers a two-score advantage. Bridgewater followed that up with a telegraphed interception, giving the Buccaneers even more points. Tampa completely dominated the second half, outscoring the Panthers, 29-6.
Tom Brady has a pristine record off a bye, so it’s not a surprise that he performed so well in this game. It was an easy matchup to boot, so that would explain why Brady finished 28-of-39 for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He also scored on the ground via one of his patented sneaks.
It’s worth noting that Brady could have enjoyed an even better outing. He was victimized by some drops, and Evans, as mentioned, stopped running a route on what could have been Brady’s fourth aerial score.
Speaking of Evans, he finished second on the team in receiving with six catches for 77 yards and a great, leaping touchdown. He trailed only Chris Godwin (6-77), but could have had a much better game. In addition to that stopped route, Evans dropped a pass and was tackled inches shy of the end zone. He was also tripped up in the red zone; had he kept his feet, he would have scored.
As for Brady’s other targets, both Rob Gronkowski (2-51) and Cameron Brate (3-31) caught touchdowns. Antonio Brown had a nice outing with seven grabs for 69 yards, including a one-handed catch. Brown would’ve had a better day had Brady not whiffed on a pass toward him for what should’ve been a big gain.
Jones, who seemingly crushed his team with another early fumble, finished with a great stat line, thanks to his 98-yard burst. He ran for 192 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts. He left Leonard Fournette (8-19) in the dust.
Meanwhile, Bridgewater, who began the game 10-of-10, went just 8-of-14 after that. His final numbers were 18-of-24 for 136 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was clutch early, converting a fourth-and-3 to Robby Anderson, but the Buccaneers did a much better job of not blowing coverages this week. That said, Bridgewater would’ve had a better stat line had D.J. Moore not dropped a 42-yard pass.
Bridgewater wasn’t able to finish the game, as he exited with some concern to his knee. It’s unclear how severe the problem is. If Bridgewater is sidelined next week, XFL all-star Phillip Walker will get the start.
Despite the drop, Moore led his team in receiving by a large margin with four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Anderson (4-21) was the only other Panther with more than 12 receiving yards.
Mike Davis was a disappointment as a replacement for Christian McCaffrey. Missing about a quarter of action with a thumb concern, Davis mustered 32 yards on seven carries, and he caught four passes for 12 receiving yards. The Buccaneers have the NFL’s best run defense, so Davis’ struggles shoud have been expected.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Did you benefit from Nick Chubb’s non-touchdown, or were you hurt by it? Both for me! I had the Texans against the spread in an office pool, so I was happy for the win. However, I played Chubb in many DraftKings lineups, so I could have used the extra 6.1 points.
The Browns improved to 6-3, thanks their defense and rushing attack overwhelming the Texans. Cleveland’s defense dominated the line of scrimmage, with Myles Garrett harassing Deshaun Watson and Houston’s anemic rushing offense failing to support its quarterback. The Browns remains in the playoff race, while the Texans just look like their next head coach and general manger will have to perform a massive overhaul, thanks to a roster Bill O’Brien left devoid of talent.
Cleveland got moving on the opening drive with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt running through the Houston defense thanks to some pathetic tackling attempts. The Browns settled for a field goal, but they held that 3-0 lead until the fourth quarter. After trading punts, Watson got the Texans close to the end zone with completions to Will Fuller (5-38) and Jordan Akins, helped by a good run from Duke Johnson. However on fourth-and-goal, Garrett snuffed out a quarterback draw for a loss. Late in the first half, Baker Mayfield returned the favor on a fourth down, making an inaccurate throw when he had Jarvis Landry (3-29) open downfield inside the 10-yard line, and that left points on the field for the Browns.
Watson led a drive into Cleveland territory in the third quarter, but Ka’imi Fairbairn missed a 46-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter, Mayfield converted a third-and-18 with a pass to Rashard Higgins, and pass interference on Vernon Hargreaves converted another third down. Chubb finished the drive by charging into the end zone.
Houston finally got moving when Watson made a tremendous pass to Randall Cobb for 29 yards. A few plays later, Watson connected with Pharaoh Brown for a 16-yard touchdown to cut the Browns’ lead to 10-7. Cleveland executed its 4-minute offense to perfection, using some runs by Chubb and a 19-yard run by Hunt to drain the clock. With under a minute remaining, Chubb exploded down the field, and he could have scored on a 60-yard play, but he wisely stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line. That let Cleveland take a knee twice to clinch the win and not give the ball back to Watson.
Mayfield was 12-of-20 for 132 yards. He missed some open receivers on some key plays, but he avoided turnovers and big mistakes.
Chubb (19-126-1) and Hunt (19-104) were phenomenal, combining with their defense to control the game.
Rashard Higgins (3-48) led the Browns in receiving.
Watson was 20-of-30 for 163 yards with a touchdown while running for 36 yards on eight carries.
Duke Johnson (14-54) led the Texans in rushing, and their ground offense continued to give proof why it is among the worst in the NFL.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Burrow has played very well in most games this year, but he’s gotten wrecked by the two elite defenses he has played so far. He needs plenty of help.
Color analyst Jonathan Vilma said “this was an all-around butt whipping for Cincinnati,” effectively summarizing this game in a nutshell. The Bengals were dominated in all three phases – offense, defense, and special teams – while the Steelers cruised to a home victory to remain unbeaten and improve to 9-0 for the first time in franchise history. Cincinnati improved its draft positioning with the loss, which is ultimately more important than meaningless wins down the stretch.
Early in the first quarter, the Steelers’ special teams took the ball away with a fumble recovery on a punt return by Adam Erickson. Pittsburgh turned that opportunity into a field goal. The Steelers would tack on another field goal before Ben Roethlisberger hit Diontae Johnson for a 46-yard completion, presaging that the duo would connect for a 12-yard touchdown a few plays later. On Cincinnati’s ensuing possession, Tee Higgins was stripped of the ball, and Stephen Nelson recovered the ball near midfield for the Steelers, but the Cincinnati defense forced a punt.
Higgins bounced back to get open for a 54-yard gain to end up deep in Pittsburgh territory. On fourth-and-goal, Burrow connected with Higgins for a short touchdown. The Steelers responded with Roethlisberger using JuJu Smith-Schuster (9-77-1) for a few receptions, including an eight-yard score. A 24-yard pass to Eric Ebron led to another Pittsburgh field goal and a 22-7 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, Roethlisberger led a drive to open up a 22-point lead after a short touchdown pass to Chase Claypool (4-56-2). Pittsburgh’s Ray-Ray McCloud returned a punt 45 yards early in the fourth quarter,finishing up close to the end zone, and from there, Roethlisberger tossed his fourth score, hooking up with Claypool again.
Roethlisberger completed 27-of-46 passes for 333 yards with four touchdowns.
James Conner (13-36) and the Pittsburgh rushing offense were held in check.
Diontae Johnson led Pittsburgh with six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown.
Burrow was 21-of-40 for 213 yards with a touchdown.
Samaje Perine (7-48) led Cincinnati in rushing.
Higgins caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Raiders 37, Broncos 12
The Raiders entered this game missing three starting offensive linemen: Trent Brown, Kolton Miller and Richie Incognito. While the Broncos couldn’t fully take advantage of this because they were missing their entire starting defensive line, it was still expected to be a challenge for the Raiders, as Denver’s defense still has loads of talent.
The Raiders opened the game with a beautiful touchdown drive, but struggled a bit after that, entering halftime with just a 10-6 lead. Derek Carr, however, eventually got into a rhythm and was able to open up a multi-score lead despite multiple dropped touchdowns. It helped, of course, that his counterpart was extremely inept, offering no threat to a Raider defense that isn’t exactly an imposing unit.
Carr went 16-of-25 for 154 yards. The stats weren’t pretty, but Carr saw two potential touchdowns that were dropped. This matchup wasn’t easy either, as Denver had two of its starting cornerbacks back from injury. Bryce Callahan made a number of nice plays.
Of course, it helped that the Raiders were able to lean on their running game, as Josh Jacobs rumbled for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries versus a defense missing its entire front line. He also caught four passes for 24 receiving yards. Jacobs owners had to be pleased with this result, though his owners have to feel salty that Devontae Booker was able to pick up some great stats (16-81, 2 TDs) late in the game when the Raiders were running out the clock in a blowout.
Darren Waller, who dropped one of the potential Carr touchdowns, led the Raiders with three grabs for 37 yards. Henry Ruggs (3-31) was next on the stat sheet. Ruggs dropped a deep pass, so his stats should’ve been better.
Drew Lock, as mentioned, was dreadful. He once again continued his habit of needlessly drifting backward in the pocket, even when not seeing any pressure. This resulted in many poor throws, four of which were interceptions. The first pick was an overthrow into triple coverage. The second was the result of Lock’s decision to force the issue into heavy coverage. The third was a heave while drifting backward under heavy pressure. The fourth was a desperation throw in garbage time.
Lock also had some misfortune as well. He rushed in a touchdown when the game was close in the opening half, but that play was negated by a hold. On the very next play, Lock tossed his second interception. Had the play stood, the Broncos would’ve entered halftime with a 13-10 lead instead of a 10-6 deficit.
Lock finished 23-of-47 for 257 yards, one touchdown and the quartet of picks. Some of his other lowlights include: missing Jerry Jeudy for a touchdown; nearly getting DaeSean Hamilton killed on a poor throw off his back foot; and a fumble on a strip-sack right near his own goal line that he was able to recover.
Jeudy won’t reach his full potential until the Broncos have a real quarterback. Still, he led the team with four catches for 68 yards. As mentioned, he should’ve scored a touchdown, but Lock overthrew him. Tim Patrick (4-61) and K.J. Hamler (4-50) were close, with the former being ejected for fighting with Raider cornerback Isaiah Johnson in the second half.
The Broncos got nothing out of their running game, as Melvin Gordon (11-46) and Phillip Lindsay (4-2) couldn’t run very much in the second half. Gordon’s best run was an 8-yard burst in which he broke three tackles.
Dolphins 29, Chargers 21
Tua Tagovailoa’s ugly debut against the Rams seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? Tagovailoa improved last week in Arizona and was mostly solid once again this week against the other Los Angeles defense. With Tagovailoa performing well, and the Dolphins’ special teams and defense dominating with big plays, the team was able to cruise to an easy victory to improve to 6-3.
Tagovailoa went 15-of-25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns, as he once again displayed his precise accuracy while on the move. He was robbed of a third potential score when there was a botched snap fumble in the red zone. Tagovailoa was lucky to not throw a couple of interceptions, but he should continue to improve, and his upside will give the Dolphins a chance to become a Super Bowl threat as early as 2021.
Tagovailoa’s leading receiver also caught the first touchdown of this game, as Jakeem Grant (4-43, TD) made the most of his opportunity to start in place of an injured Preston Williams. DeVante Parker (2-31), meanwhile, was a disappointment despite seeing seven targets. He appeared to score a touchdown at one point, but replay review overturned it.
Speaking of injured Dolphins, with Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida sidelined, a rookie named Salvon Ahmed started and did a great job. Ahmed tallied 85 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts.
Tagovailoa outshined his top-six rookie counterpart, as Justin Herbert took a step backward against a tough defense. Herbert’s accuracy wasn’t there, and he telegraphed an interception in a close game, as the pick gave Miami a 13-point lead in the second half. This, along with a blocked punt, aided the Dolphins greatly in their victory.
Herbert finished 20-of-32 for 187 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 10 rushing yards and a third score on the ground. Despite the meager passing stats, much of what Herbert did was in garbage time, as he had just 83 yards in the opening half.
Keenan Allen caught the ultimate garbage-time touchdown, though he’s lucky he wasn’t called for fumbling the ball for a touchback. Allen led the team in receiving with three catches for 39 yards, as the Dolphins eliminated him from the game plan by constantly sending double teams his way. Hunter Henry (4-30) also got a late touchdown. Mike Williams (2-38) should have scored, but Herbert missed him badly in the end zone.
Kalen Ballage tried to get revenge against his former team. He did very well, rushing for 68 yards on 18 carries to go along with five catches for 34 receiving yards. He also had some nice blitz pick-ups.
Cardinals 32, Bills 30
Wow, what a finish! The Cardinals appeared to be in control of this game when, up a field goal, they intercepted Josh Allen with a few minutes remaining in regulation. However, following a three-and-out in which the Cardinals inexplicably passed twice, the Bills were given one more chance. Josh Allen made the most of it, moving the chains well, albeit with some help via an incredible catch by Cole Beasley along the sideline. The Bills got into the red zone and had a sure field goal to tie, but Allen went for it all, connecting with Stefon Diggs, who made a sliding touchdown grab that appeared to win the game.
The Cardinals still had a sliver of hope with 37 seconds and two timeouts remaining. They moved the ball to midfield when Kyler Murray took the snap, spun away from an apparent sack and launched the ball into the end zone while falling down. There was only one Arizona player surrounded by three Buffalo defenders, but that one Arizona player was DeAndre Hopkins, who skied over the trio of Bills to secure an inexplicable, game-winning touchdown.
With the win, the Cardinals have not only improved to 6-3, but moved into first place in the division in the wake of Seattle’s loss to the Rams. The Cardinals will meet the Seahawks in the rematch on Thursday night.
Murray was incredible on the final drive and at various other points in the second half. He had some issues early – he saw an interception dropped and accumulated only 102 yards in the opening half – but he made a strong case for him to win MVP with his play late in the afternoon.
Murray finished 22-of-32 for 245 yards, one touchdown and an interception that was thrown behind Larry Fitzgerald. He was magical as a runner, scrambling 11 times for 61 yards and two other scores.
The other hero of the game, Hopkins snatched seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. It’s still amazing that the Cardinals were able to obtain him for a decrepit running back and a second-round pick. Die-hard Cardinal fans should put Bill O’Brien on their Christmas card list.
Hopkins outgained all other Arizona players by a wide margin, as Dan Arnold (4-34) was next on the stat sheet. Christian Kirk (4-27) was a big disappointment as a fantasy player, considering that the Bills were down several defensive backs. Kirk drew an interference flag, but that didn’t help his owners.
Kenyan Drake got the start after a brief hiatus. He rushed for an even 100 yards on 16 carries, but lost a fumble in the third quarter to set up a quick Buffalo touchdown. Drake did nothing in the passing game, save for catching a 9-yard pass.
Meanwhile, it seemed like Allen would come away with a tremendous victory, but wasn’t as fortunate. Still, he was great on the final drive, so that shouldn’t be forgotten. That said, Allen made one too many mistakes earlier in the second half, including one interception that was a terrible decision, as he fired into tight coverage toward Patrick Peterson.
Allen went 32-of-49 for 284 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He also scrambled seven times for 38 yards and caught a receiving touchdown from Isaiah McKenzie on a trick play. It should be noted that Allen was fortunate to have some potential picks dropped, including two from Peterson.
Diggs and Beasley both had huge performances, with Diggs catching 10 passes for 93 yards and Beasley securing 11 balls for 109 yards. Both reeled in touchdowns. John Brown didn’t score, but was able to catch six passes for 72 yards despite having a 24-yard reception on a third-and-23 negated by a penalty.
Devin Singletary was barely seen once again. Zack Moss had three more carries, 7-4, and he outgained Singletary, 20-15.
Rams 23, Seahawks 16
Russell Wilson has maintained a pristine record off a loss, but he certainly did not play like that in this game. Pressure was an issue for him – Leonard Floyd had a monstrous afternoon – but Wilson made some mental mistakes that were very uncharacteristic of him.
One such example of this occurred when the Seahaks obtained possession following a Jared Goff lost fumble. Wilson had a wide-open field in front of him, with only one defender remotely in position to potentially make a tackle before Wilson ran into the end zone. Instead of running for a possible score, Wilson fired a pass across his body that was intercepted in the end zone. Later, Wilson inexplicably was flagged for a delay of game on a crucial third-and-4. Wilson’s third-and-9 ended in disaster, as he launched a second interception on a telegraphed pass.
The FOX announcers agreed with the sentiment that Wilson lacked focus. “He’s not totally in tune with what’s happening in this game,” Troy Aikman said when Wilson failed to run out of bounds during a 2-minute drill.
Wilson didn’t even manage to reach 250 passing yards, and he failed to trim the margin to three at the end, which is something he would normally do. Granted, he was battling an elite defense, but Wilson made some strange mental errors that are unheard of from him. He also missed throws, including a potential touchdown to an open Freddie Swain in the second quarter and another possible score to D.K. Metcalf, which would have trimmed the margin to 23-20 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Wilson later had Metcalf available for about a 17-yard gain along the sideline, but led his receiver too far out of bounds.
Wilson struggled to connect with Metcalf. The elite receiver has gotten open against Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White, but he was no match for Jalen Ramsey, who limited Metcalf to just two receptions for 28 yards. Instead, Wilson had to focus on throwing to Tyler Lockett (5-66), Swain (3-37) and Greg Olsen (2-33).
DeeJay Dallas was expected to handle the majority of the workload. Instead, it was Alex Collins, who rumbled for 43 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.
The Rams, meanwhile, moved into a three-way tie with this win, but this was a Pyrrhic victory for them. Perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth was carted off the field just prior to halftime with what looked like a season-ending injury. Goff needs elite protection to thrive, and he won’t have that anymore with Whitworth sidelined.
Goff played well for most of this game, at least until Whitworth left the field. Goff went 27-of-37 for 302 yards and the lost fumble, which was the result of him holding on to the ball too long, allowing Jamal Adams to strip it out of his hand. Goff moved the chains well in between the 20s, especially off play-action, and then the Rams leaned on their running game in the red zone.
Speaking of which, Malcolm Brown scored twice, but rushed for 33 yards on six carries. Darrell Henderson (7-28) also found the end zone, while Cam Akers (10-38) led the team in rushing. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Sean McVay will do with his running back rotation on any given week.
Neither Cooper Kupp (5-50) nor Robert Woods (5-33) led the Rams in receiving. Instead, it was Josh Reynolds, who secured eight catches for 94 yards despite dropping a pass.
Saints 27, 49ers 13
The Saints won to improve to 7-2, but that doesn’t matter if Drew Brees’ injury is severe. Brees took a rough hit and landed hard on his side in the second quarter. He remained in the game until halftime, but he wasn’t healthy enough to keep playing in the third quarter. Already nursing some sort of shoulder injury, Brees could miss some action.
If Brees is out, Jameis Winston will get his opportunity. Winston went 6-of-10 for 63 yards (Brees was 8-of-13, 76 yards, TD), and he made a couple of nice throws, including one in the red zone where he showed nice touch on a pass to Alvin Kamara. However, he also whiffed badly on two attempts when targeting Michael Thomas, one of which nearly resulted in an interception. Winston also took a dumb sack on second-and-goal to move outsde of the 10-yard line, but was bailed out by a face mask penalty by San Francisco on the next play to give him a fresh set of downs.
Given the Saints’ struggles at quarterback, it was a miracle that they won by two touchdowns. With that in mind, San Francisco’s repeated miscues on special teams might constitute as a miracle. The 49ers muffed two punts in this game, setting up a pair of touchdowns for the Saints. Otherwise, this game may have gone down to the wire.
Nick Mullens did not play very well. He had some nice moments – he misfired just five times on his 18 passes in the first half, accumulating 134 yards and a touchdown – but he fell apart in the second half. He threw two picks following halftime, including one where he simply didn’t see Malcolm Jenkins. That pick was a killer because the 49ers were down just 17-10 and in field goal range to potentially trim the margin to four.
Mullens finished 24-of-38 for 247 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. This was not a pretty showing, as Mullens was even removed from the game on one third-and-21 in the final quarter because he didn’t have the arm strength to make the necessary throw. Hilariously, his brief replacement, C.J. Beathard was nearly picked on an underthrow, but the Saints dropped the potential turnover.
Brandon Aiyuk was the only top weapon available for the 49ers, and he made the most out of this opportunity. He caught seven passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He barely eclipsed Jordan Reed (5-62), who made an amazing catch when he scooped a ball up that almost grazed the ground.
Jerick McKinnon was given the majority of the workload, but he struggled against the Saints’ strong run defense. He was limited to 33 yards on 18 carries. He caught just one pass for 13 receiving yards.
McKinnon was outgained by both Latavius Murray (9-57) and Alvin Kamara (8-15). Kamara had a disappointing rushing yardage total, but he found the end zone three times, all while catching seven passes for 83 receiving yards. He also had a reception of about 20 yards negated because of offensive pass interference.
Save for Kamara, Michael Thomas was the Saints’ leading receiver, but with only two catches for 27 yards. Thomas struggled with Brees hurt and Winston errant on two passes.
Patriots 23, Ravens 17
The Ravens couldn’t lose this game if they wanted a good chance to win the division. With the Steelers improving to 9-0, Baltimore had to prevail to stay within two gams of their arch rival. Instead, the Ravens fell to the Patriots in a torrential downpour.
The lost division is only part of the concern for the Ravens, who are suddenly stricken with injuries. Already down Calais Campbell and Jimmy Smith, the Ravens lost Brandon Williams and some others in this contest. Williams’ absence made it very difficult for them to stop the run. The Patriots took advantage of this liability by ramming the ball down Baltimore’s throat. They accumulated 173 rushing yards, as Cam Newton, Damien Harris and Red Burkhead trampled the Ravens.
Newton had the fewest rushing yards of the three, but had some clutch scrambles, including his rushing touchdowns. Newton picked up 21 yards and the score on 11 scrambles to go along with his passing that featured nice accuracy. Newton went 13-of-17 for 118 yards and another touchdown.
Damien Harris led New England with 121 yards on 22 tries. He was excellent yet again. He missed a bit of action with an injury, but was able to return to the game without being sidelined for too long. Harris didn’t score, but Rex Burkhead did. Burkhead tallied 31 yards on six attempts, and he also caught four passes for 35 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jakobi Meyers continued to play well. His opportunities were limited by the heavy rain, but he still was able to catch five passes for 59 yards. He and Burkhead were the only Patriots with more than 20 receiving yards.
Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, had a dreadful game. The stats don’t exactly show it – 24-of-34, 249 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; 11 scrambles, 55 rushing yards – but Jackson made a high number of mistakes. He made a dumb decision right before halftime when he launched an interception while in field goal range on an underthrown pass. He was fortunate not to throw a second pick when he fired a ball right to a New England player with no teammate in sight.
To be fair, Jackson and his center had some major issues with the weather. There were multiple botched snaps between the two, which ruined some potential scoring drives. One snap mishap was on fourth down. Center Matt Skura really struggled in the downpour.
Both of Jackson’s touchdowns went to Willie Snead, who caught five passes for 64 yards otherwise. Mark Andrews (7-61) was next, and he actually had a solid output, given how well New England tends to play against tight ends. Marquise Brown (2-14) was nowhere to be found.
Save for Jackson, Gus Edwards led the Ravens in rushing with 42 yards on seven carries, while J.K. Dobbins gained 13 yards on five tries. Neither of them started, giving way to Mark Ingram, who looked like a rotting corpse with his five carries and five yards.
Vikings 19, Bears 13
Matt Nagy decided to relinquish his play-calling duties to Bill Lazor, thinking that it would spark Chicago’s morbid offense. It had the opposite effect, as the Bears barely accomplished anything when they had the ball against the Vikings. They had just 117 net yards of offense in the opening half, and things only got worse after intermission. They generated just three net yards of offense on their first four second-half drives. The fifth possession had a bit of promise, but a dreadful third-down horizontal pass forced the Bears into fourth-and-9. Nick Foles heaved a desperation shot toward an open Anthony Miller, overthrowing him for the potential game-winning score.
What we saw out of the Bears resembled 1920s football. They tried way too many horizontal plays that don’t work in the NFL. They ran the ball with their fourth-string running back for some reason. They refused to attack the injured Minnesota cornerbacks with their talented receivers. They ran ineffective plays out of the Wildcat. It was nauseating to watch, and the only reason the Bears even scored double-digit points was because of Cordarrelle Patterson’s kickoff return touchdown to open the second half.
Patterson’s return seemed like it would be enough to give the Bears a chance to win, given Minnesota’s struggles to run the ball. Dalvin Cook mustered just 32 rushing yards in the opening half, as he found absolutely no running room. Cook, however, suddenly found wide-open running space when Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was knocked out with a hamstring injury. Cook suddenly began ripping off substantial runs, opening up better throwing opportunities for Kirk Cousins, who found Adam Thielen for the game-winning score in the fourth frame.
Cook finished with 96 yards on 30 carries. He also caught four passes for 16 receiving yards. Cook’s owners may not be too happy with this result, but they should be, as Cook’s numbers would have been worse had Hicks not gotten injured.
Cousins, winner of his first Monday night game of his career, did very well, considering the sort of defense he was battling. Cousins went 25-of-36 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which was more of a miscue by Adam Thielen.
Thielen, by the way, made up for it by catching two touchdowns, beating a beleaguered Buster Skrine. Half of his catches were scores, as his four receptions went for 43 yards. Though he did all the work in the end zone, he was greatly outgained by stellar rookie Justin Jefferson, who snatched eight of his 10 targets for 135 yards. Jefferson’s biggest gain, a 54-yarder, really opened up the game when the Bears were in a long-yardage situation following a 35-yard run by Cook that was negated by a hold.
Going back to the Bears’ offense, it was a rough night for Foles, quite literally, as he was hit often in the backfield. He was pressured heavily, and Lazor had no idea how to make adjustments for it. Foles took a shot to the helmet in the fourth quarter that wasn’t called, which would’ve put the Bears in field goal range. And to make matters even worse, Foles took a huge hit on the final drive of regulation and had to be carted off the field. It’s likely that Foles’ season is over.
Foles finished 15-of-26 for 106 yards and an interception, which was another pass overthrown in Miller’s direction. Foles was as bad as those numbers indicate, though Lazor’s shoddy play-calling didn’t do him any favors. Foles was lucky he wasn’t intercepted on another occasion, as a Viking defender dropped the ball in the end zone.
Only two Chicago players logged more than 20 receiving yards: Allen Robinson (6-43) and Miller (2-28). Miller’s night could have been so much better had Foles not overshot him for the potential touchdown.
Patterson, in addition to scoring on the kickoff return, led the team in rushing. He gained 30 yards on 12 carries. Someone named Artavis Pierce (3-9) had three too many carries.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.