The prophetic Tony Romo said that teams in games like this can stick around and win if they don't turn the ball over, and the give-aways certainly turned out to be the difference in this contest. The Eagles were guilty of just one turnover in the early going, but Carolina's three give-aways proved to be more costly.
The Panthers were up, 10-3, in the second quarter, and it didn't look like the Eagles were going to accomplish much offensively because of Lane Johnson's absence. Carson Wentz came into this contest with just a 2-8 record without his elite right tackle, as opposed to 9-2 with Johnson. Things looked dicey for Wentz in the early going, as Julius Peppers beat Johnson's backup for a strip-sack. It was Peppers' 150th-career sack, making him one sack shy of fourth place, all time. The Panthers recovered, and though they didn't score off the turnover, they looked like the better team in the opening quarter-and-a-half. The Eagles simply couldn't do much because of immense pressure on the right side.
As mentioned, Carolina maintained a touchdown lead in the second frame, but things began unraveling for them. It started when Cam Newton threw his first interception of the evening. Newton couldn't step into his throw because Fletcher Cox, making his return from injury, pushed guard Trai Turner into his quarterback. This forced an errant pass that was picked off deep in Carolina territory. The Eagles capitalized with a Wentz touchdown to Zach Ertz, immediately following a Luke Kuechly concussion.
Kuechly was lost for the entire game, and that had a profound impact on this result. The Eagles were so much more effective offensively following halftime, gaining 188 yards compared to 122 in the opening two quarters, and their yards-per-play average rose to 5.2 compared to the 4.3 figure they maintained at halftime. Meanwhile, the Panthers continued to turn the ball over. Newton had a second pick that bounced off Jonathan Stewart's hands. A third interception sailed over the head of Kelvin Benjamin when Newton was trying a desperation comeback late in the fourth quarter.
Wentz finished 16-of-30 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He had his aforementioned early struggles, but caught fire with Kuechly off the field. He did a great job of converting third-and-long situations again, including a third-and-10 connection in which he stepped up in the pocket amid pressure. This ultimately led to a touchdown. Wentz's only real error, aside from his lost fumble, was not seeing an open Nelson Agholor to convert a first down to ice the game. Luckily for him, the defense did a great job on Newton.
Ertz had a tough matchup going into this game, as Carolina is excellent against tight ends. That changed with Kuechly out, as Ertz was able to score twice. He caught two balls for 18 yards. The other touchdown was caught by Agholor (4-55). Alshon Jeffery, meanwhile, finally had an easy matchup. He hauled in four balls for 71 yards, leading the team with 10 targets.
The Eagles ran the ball well for the most part; LeGarrette Blount did a good job of moving the pile and getting yards after contact. He mustered 67 yards on 14 carries. He also found the end zone on a two-point conversion.
As for the Panthers, Newton struggled with the three turnovers, as his offensive line couldn't hold up against Philadelphia's elite defensive front. Cox's return had a major impact, and Newton frequently found himself under duress even though the Eagles seldom blitzed. Newton went 28-of-52 for only 239 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, Newton was able to scramble 11 times for 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Christian McCaffrey was a big part of the passing offense, catching 10 passes for 56 receiving yards and Newton's sole aerial touchdown. However, he didn't do much on the ground, getting four carries for eight yards. Still, he was way more effective than Jonathan Stewart, who somehow had minus-4 yards on eight attempts on top of his drop that resulted in an interception. Stewart was hit in the backfield almost every single time he touched the ball, and it seemed like a wasted down every time the Panthers tried to involve him. Carolina needs to move away from Stewart, as he's slowing down the offense. Perhaps the coaching staff will figure that out with the extra time off this upcoming week.
Benjamin nearly hit the century mark, catching nine balls for 99 yards. He would have gotten there had he not dropped a pass in the second half. Benjamin was the only Panther non-running back to be productive, as Ed Dickson (4-36) and Devin Funchess (3-36) disappointed. On one instance, Dickson appeared as though he'd convert a first down, but linebacker Nigel Bradham had a tremendous hit to stop him dead in his tracks. Bradham had an unbelievable performance, as he was all over the field.
Dolphins 20, Falcons 17
The Falcons were up 17-0 in this game, believe it or not. They generated 7.1 yards of offense in the opening half, tallying 233 yards in the process. Everything was going their way. Jay Ajayi was dropping passes; Jay Cutler threw an interception deep in Atlanta territory; and Miami couldn't convert third downs to keep promising drives alive. It seemed like the Falcons were going to be able to coast to an easy victory, but they began looking ahead to next week's battle against the Patriots too early. The Dolphins rallied, outscoring Atlanta 20-0 in the second half to pull the upset as massive 13-point underdogs.
While everything went wrong for the Dolphins in the opening half, the complete opposite occurred following intermission. For instance, the Dolphins, down 17-7, were able to get a third-down conversion because of a pass interference. Cutler then tossed another pick, but a horribly blatant roughing-the-passer penalty nullified the turnover. All of this allowed Miami to score to trim the margin to a one-score game. Meanwhile, the Falcons had a promising drive disrupted by a Jake Matthews holding call, and following a sack in which no one blocked Cameron Wake for some reason, the Dolphins were able to take over at midfield because the snap on a punt hit the personal protector. Miami scored, thanks to a Cutler fourth-and-2 conversion, and took the lead.
The Falcons had a chance to either send the game to overtime or take the lead on a final possession. They drove to the Miami 26-yard line, but a Matt Ryan pass to Austin Hooper was picked because cornerback Cordrea Tankersley popped the ball out of Hooper's hands and into the arms of safety Reshad Jones. This gave the Dolphins the victory, allowing them to improve to 3-2 on the year.
Cutler finally showed signs of life in this game. He struggled in the opening half - his pick was a forced throw while under pressure - but he did a good job of moving the chains after intermission. Cutler, who finished 19-of-33 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and the interception, was fiery, showing signs of energy that wasn't there during the loss to the Saints in London.
The reason the Dolphins won this game, aside from Atlanta's second-half blunders, was Ajayi. Though Ajayi had some early drops, he punished the Falcons with some terrific running. The Dolphins opened up huge lanes for Ajayi, who gained 130 yards on 26 carries. Credit the Dolphins for sticking with the run despite being down 17-0 in the second half.
Cutler's touchdowns went to Jarvis Landry (8-62) and Kenny Stills (4-49). Landry would've had a bigger day had he not committed three drops. As for Stills, he was a greater factor with DeVante Parker out. Only two other Dolphins caught multiple passes.
Ryan, meanwhile, had just a middling performance against a weak back seven. He finished 24-of-35 for 248 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned pick at the end of the game. The issue I had with Atlanta's game plan was that the team ran the ball so often on first down, putting Ryan in constant long-yardage situations. Ryan converted those in the opening half, but didn't have nearly as much success after the break. Prior to the final drive, Atlanta mustered only 45 yards in the second half!
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both had some nice runs - 44- and 20-yard bursts, respectively - but couldn't do much else otherwise. Freeman was held to 68 yards on nine attempts, while Coleman gained 32 yards and a touchdown on nine tries. The two runners combined for just 18 yards on six carries in the second half. Miami was able to get excellent penetration with its front four, which makes it puzzling as to why Ryan didn't attack their secondary.
Julio Jones was the only Falcon with more than 50 receiving yards, as he caught six of his seven targets for 72 yards. Hooper (7-48) was next on the list. Someone named Marvin Hall caught Ryan's sole touchdown.
Saints 52, Lions 38
Some scores tend to be misleading, and this is certainly one of them. The Saints dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball, jumping out to a 45-10 lead to help them earn the victory to improve to 3-2 on the year.
The Saints were able to benefit from some turnovers. On Detroit's opening drive, Matthew Stafford was stip-sacked in the end zone because he held the ball for an eternity. The turnover gave the Saints a 7-0 lead. Stafford was strip-sacked once more in the opening half, as a poor protection scheme allowed a defender to just take the ball right out of his hand. The Lions also barely missed out on a score, as their backup tight end was stuffed inches shy of the goal line on a fourth-down attempt just prior to halftime.
Other than that, the Saints just beat the Lions with superior talent. Aside from a poor opening drive, New Orleans was able to get chunk plays throughout the opening half. The Lions had no answer for Drew Brees and his running backs, as they were guilty of some miserable tackling. They also generated zero pass rush. By the time the Saints were up 45-10, they were averaging 7.6 yards per play. That's almost a first down on every single snap!
There was some late-game nonsense to trim the margin to a couple of touchdowns, but make no mistake about it; this game was never close desptite the final score.
Brees finished with some misleading stats. The final numbers say he was 21-of-31 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. However, he was 12-of-14 for 148 yards and a touchdown in the opening half. The Saints fell asleep following intermission, and when Brees had to begin throwing the ball again, he was out of rhythm with his receivers. Neither of his picks were his fault either; the first occurred when Darius Slay ripped the ball out of Michael Thomas' hands, while the second was the result of the ball being tipped.
With Brees not doing much in the second half, the Saints' receiving stats were suppressed. Ted Ginn led the way with four grabs for 66 yards and a touchdown. Mark Ingram (5-36) was next on the list, while Thomas was a major disappointment, logging just three receptions for 11 yards.
Speaking of Ingram, he looked terrific. Showing that he did indeed deserve the starting job over Adrian Peterson, Ingram tallied 114 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries on top of his receiving numbers. Alvin Kamara (10-75) also played extremely well.
As for the Lions, Stafford's five turnovers were absolutely crushing, as the offense needed to keep pace with the Saints because their defense couldn't stop Brees at all. Stafford, as mentioned, was strip-sacked twice, and he threw a trio of picks during a failed comeback attempt in the second half, one of which was a tipped pick-six when the margin was trimmed to 45-38. Stafford finished 25-of-52 for 312 yards and three touchdowns in addition to his five give-aways. Amazingly, he had 12 passes batted at the line of scrimmage.
Golden Tate continued to give the Saints grief, as he caught seven passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. His score, a 45-yarder, occurred because Ken Crawley and Rafael Bush had some pitiful tackling attempts. Unfortunately, he left the game with a shoulder injury. Marvin Jones (6-96) equaled Tate's yardage total and also scored a touchdown, but all of that came in garbage time.
The Lions tried to establish the run with Ameer Abdullah, but weren't very successful. Abdullah gained 54 yards on 14 carries, but nearly all of it came on a 34-yard burst.
Patriots 24, Jets 17
The Patriots had extra time to prepare for this game, but based on their play in the opening half, you definitely wouldn't have known it. New England's defense was putrid versus the Jets in the early going, as Josh McCown was a third-down conversion machine. McCown completed a 23-yard pass to Robby Anderson on a third-and-10, then scrambled for 16 yards on third-and-8. Jeremy Kerley made an acrobatic catch on a third-and-6 at the 1-yard line, and then McCown hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a touchdown on third-and-goal.
The Jets scored once again to go up 14-0, thanks to Mike Gillislee's fumble inside the red zone. McCown once again did his thing, hitting Jermaine Kearse for 16 yards on a third-and-5, and then following that up with a 31-yard bomb to Kerley.
It looked like the Jets were going to upset the Patriots, but that's when Tom Brady happened. Brady caught fire, aside from an interception on a poor deep shot into double coverage. The Jets had issues stopping New England, and it didn't help that McCown began throwing interceptions. He had a poor throw where Malcolm Butler stepped in front of a defender to set up a New England touchdown, and he was also picked on a fourth-and-1 try while under pressure in the second half.
That said, the Jets were screwed at the end of this game, and they should've been able to force overtime. Down 10, they managed to score a touchdown to bring the margin to within three, but the play was overturned because Austin Seferian-Jenkins bobbled the ball. The officials ruled that Seferian-Jenkins fumbled, resulting in a touchback, but it was clear that the tight end had regained possession. The CBS announcers were irate about this, and I agreed. It should've been a Jet touchdown, and New York should have forced overtime. Of course, the Patriots could have just prevailed in the extra session, but the Jets at least would've had the chance to pull a huge upset.
Brady finished 20-of-38 for 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He could have enjoyed a better performance, but was hurt by some drops. One of those was by Brandin Cooks, who still managed to lead the team with six catches for 93 yards. Brady spent most of the afternoon hurling deep balls to Cooks and some of his other receivers, and they had success doing so as the game progressed following some early struggles.
Brady's two touchdowns were thrown to Rob Gronkowski, who caught six balls for 83 yards. He nearly had a third touchdown, as he drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Meanwhile, Danny Amendola (3-40) and Chris Hogan (1-19) didn't do much. Hogan hurt his ribs on a fierce hit, but missed only one drive.
With Gillislee fumbling, Dion Lewis was able to vulture a touchdown away from him. Lewis gained 52 yards on 11 carries otherwise, while Gillislee tallied 44 yards on 10 attempts.
As for the Jets, McCown had a terrific stat line, going 31-of-45 for 354 yards, two touchdowns and the two aforementioned interceptions. This is nothing new for the Patriots' defense, which hasn't been able to stop the pass all year. It's a bad sign that Bill Belichick hasn't been able to figure anything out during his nine days off. It's amazing that New England continued to blow tons of coverage with lots of time to prepare for this game, and it didn't help that McCown had an eternity in the pocket. Perhaps the Patriots shouldn't have cut Kony Ealy.
Despite McCown's massive yardage total, no Jet player had more than 80 receiving yards. Kearse led the way with four grabs for 79 yards, while Robby Anderson (4-76) wasn't too far behind him. Kerley (2-61) and Seferian Jenkins (8-46) both scored touchdowns, though, as mentioned, Seferian-Jenkins should've found the end zone twice.
Matt Forte had a solid game in his return from his multi-week injury. He didn't do much on the ground - nine carries, 22 yards - but he caught all eight of his targets for 59 receiving yards.
Vikings 23, Packers 10
This game was over on the second drive. Just as Aaron Rodgers fired a pass to Martellus Bennett, he was hit and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. He was carted into the locker room minutes later, and even though he was listed as questionable to return, he didn't make it back to the field. It was later ruled that Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, and he'll miss most or all of the season as a result. Check my Disaster Grades for more.
Adding more injuries to injury, the Packers also saw David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and Lane Taylor leave the game with various injuries. Bulaga was concussed.
Brett Hundley quarterbacked the Packers the rest of the way, and Green Bay didn't stand much of a chance with him. Hundley barely completed half of his passes, going 18-of-33 for only 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. One of the picks was tipped, but Hundley simply didn't look like he should be an NFL starter. He didn't even appear as though he was ready to play at all, as he was flagged for a delay of game on a third down during his first full drive. Green Bay had to waste a timeout, only to see Hundley get picked off immediately afterward. Perhaps the Packers can do a good job of preparing him with a whole week of practice, but the early returns aren't promising.
With Rodgers gone, the Packer receivers had their stats suppressed. Jordy Nelson led the team with six catches for only 60 yards. Davante Adams (5-54) caught Hundley's only touchdown. Randall Cobb (3-28) and Martellus Bennett (2-22) might be droppable in fantasy.
The Packers made the mistake of starting an injured Ty Montgomery over Aaron Jones at running back. Montgomery predictably struggled, mustering only 28 yards on 10 carries, and he also dropped a touchdown. Jones, meanwhile, tallied 41 yards on 13 attempts. Jones is clearly the better runner over Montgomery, who is a natural receiver. It's mind-boggling that Green Bay would use Montgomery over Jones, especially when considering that the former is injured.
As for the Vikings, their chances of winning the NFC North have greatly increased in the wake of Rodgers' injury. Even better, it sounds like Teddy Bridgewater will have a chance to play next week.
In what may have been Case Keenum's final start, Keenum did mostly a good job against a Packer defense that lost Quinten Rollins to injury. Despite not having Stefon Diggs at his disposal, Keenum went 24-of-38 for 239 yards, one touchdown and an interception that was tipped. Keenum nearly had a second pick, but he helped his team average nearly five yards per attempt, compared to Green Bay's pitiful 3.5 figure.
With Diggs out of the lineup, Adam Thielen made nine catches for 97 yards. Laquon Treadwell was next on the receiving chart, catching three balls for 51 yards, which includes a ridiculous one-handed grab made along the sideline. Treadwell had a lowlight, however, starting a fight after he was guilty of a dirty block. Kyle Rudolph (5-47) had a solid game, excluding when he dropped a pass.
Jerick McKinnon was the hot waiver-wire addition in fantasy this past week, and he certainly lived up to the billing. He scored two touchdowns, generating 99 total yards. He gained 69 yards on 16 carries and also caught five balls for 30 receiving yards. His one blemish was a lost fumble, which Clay Matthews nearly returned for a touchdown. McKinnon was much better than Latavius Murray, who was restricted to 28 yards on 15 carries. He was stuffed on the goal line on one instance, and McKinnon found the end zone two plays later.
Texans 33, Browns 17
This was the first time in Deshaun Watson's career that he entered a game as a favorite. He had done extremely well as an underdog, so the expectations were that he'd have a dominant performance over one of the worst teams in the NFL, and that's exactly what happened. There was some early drama, as the Browns had the game tied late in the opening quarter, but the Texans were up by three touchdowns by halftime and coasted the rest of the way.
Watson had some early struggles. He overthrew his targets twice while being blitzed on the opening drive, and he did the same thing on the next possession from the back of his end zone. Watson improved after that outside of one instance, and he finished the opening half with only seven incompletions. He ended up with a final stat line of 17-of-29 for 225 yards, three touchdowns (nearly four if it weren't for a deep drop by Will Fuller) and an ugly interception, which is the blunder I hinted at earlier. It was a poor decision, as he forced a pass while rolling left despite being up multiple scores.
Watson's late pick was a rookie mistake - one that Watson surely won't be making in a year or two. For now, the Texans will have to continue to live with Watson's growing pains, though he continues to mature before their very eyes. Watson has experienced unprecedented success. This was the third-consecutive three-touchdown game for him, which is the first time a rookie signal-caller has done that in NFL history.
Watson continued to take advantage of Fuller's speed. Fuller caught another deep pass, this time a 39-yarder, for a touchdown. As a result, he led the Texans in receiving with two grabs for 62 yards, but would've had way more had he not dropped a deep touchdown late in the game. DeAndre Hopkins, meanwhile, had an underwhelming stat line - two catches, 19 yards - but helped his fantasy owners with a touchdown. Braxton Miller caught Watson's other score.
D'Onta Foreman out-produced Lamar Miller once again, thanks to a 39-yard burst. He finished with 59 yards on 12 carries, while Miller was limited to 41 yards on 15 attempts. Foreman should continue to eat into Miller's workload, as it's clear that he's more talented.
Meanwhile, there's not much to say about the Browns. Kevin Hogan started, and he was predictably terrible as a passer. He managed to scramble five times for 36 rushing yards, but he couldn't do anything aerially. Hogan's passes took forever to reach their targets, as the former Stanford signal-caller has absolutely no arm strength. There was just too much air under all of his passes, and he was lucky to get away with not throwing an early interception. His luck ran out, however, as a ball sailed on him, allowing Johnathan Joseph to snatch it and run it back for a pick-six. He was picked off again shortly later on a deep shot that was underthrown.
Hogan finished 20-of-37 for an embarrassingly low 140 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. I wrote last week that DeShone Kizer needed to be benched for a few weeks. I thought Cody Kessler should get the nod, so I'm not sure what Hue Jackson was thinking by starting Hogan. It does not appear as though Hogan belongs in the NFL, even as a third-string signal-caller. He needs to prepare to become a college football analyst of some sort because he's not going to be in the NFL much longer.
Isaiah Crowell gained 58 yards on 12 carries, while Duke Johnson did nothing, actually losing a yard on three catches.
Cleveland's leading receiver was preseason standout Kasen Williams, who caught four balls for 41 yards. Rookie tight end David Njoku failed to log a single yard despite catching two passes.
As for the Browns' top rookie, Myles Garrett registered another sack. Curiously, however, he didn't start the game for some reason. He was on some early special-teams plays, so this was some strange decision-making by Cleveland's incompetent coaching staff.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Tarik Cohen really reminded me of Walter Payton in this game. Seriously. Well, OK, maybe for only one play, when he threw a touchdown pass. Payton had nine touchdown passes in his career, so it was nice to see a Chicago running back continue the tradition.
The Bears enjoyed their first victory with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, but they got the win because their defense played a tremendous game led by cornerback Kyle Fuller, linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. The only reason this game went to overtime was the Ravens' special teams unit producing two touchdowns. If Baltimore narrowly misses the playoffs, the team will look back at this game as one it should have won.
Throughout the first half, both offenses struggled to move the ball. The Bears got moving early in the second quarter with a face mask on Tony Jefferson and Trubisky taking off on a 19-yard scramble. The drive stalled inside the 10-yard line, and Chicago settled for a field goal. Late in the second quarter, Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman was cleaned out on a hit downfield, and Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan caught the deflected ball for an interception. Callahan returned the interception 52 yards to set up Chicago at the Ravens' 20-yard line. Two plays later, Tarik Cohen took a pitch and then threw to a wide open Zach Miller (2-25-1) for a touchdown after Jefferson lost eye discipline to let Miller run free. Before halftime, Joe Flacco led a field goal drive, and the Bears took a 10-3 lead into the locker room.
Chicago's defense continued to control the point of attack in the third quarter, with Hicks notching a sack to get the ball back for the Bears. Trubisky started a drive crossing midfield with an 18-yard completion to Kendall Wright. To end the drive, Trubisky rolled out and found Dion Sims (2-42-1) for a 27-yard touchdown. Baltimore got right back into the game as Bobby Rainey returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown. It was a weird play where Rainey was tripped up by his own teammate and the Bears' coverage unit stopped pursuing thinking he was down, but Rainey got up to dart downfield for the score.
Late in the third quarter, the Ravens got a well-timed turnover as Eric Weddle stripped Cohen (14-32) of the ball, and Baltimore pounced on it to get set up at the Bears' 39-yard line. Flacco moved the ball inside the 10 with a third-down conversion to Nick Boyle, but Chicago's defense held strong to force a field goal and maintain a 17-13 lead. Baltimore got the ball back when Ladarius Webb blindsided Trubisky to force a fumble that the Ravens recovered near midfield.
The Ravens moved well into Chicago territory before Flacco threw to a well-covered receiver. Kyle Fuller tipped the pass away, and Adrian Amos caught the deflection, returning the ball 90 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Bears a 24-13 lead with only five minutes remaining. The Ravens produced a field-goal drive to make it 24-16. Just after the 2-minute warning, Baltimore's Michael Campanaro returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown, and Flacco found Boyle wide open in the flat for a two-point conversion to tie the game at 24 and force overtime. It was a terrible move by Bears punter Pat O'Donnell to give Campanaro a chance.
In overtime, Jordan Howard broke downfield on a 53-yard run to the Baltimore 40. Trubisky made a great play, scrambling to avoid rushers and slinging a pass to Kendall Wright (2-36) for a leaping grab of 18 yards. That set up Connor Barth to hit the game-winning field goal from 40 yards out.
Trubisky was 8-of-16 for 113 yards with a touchdown. Chicago clearly doesn't trust him to throw the ball, as the team had a lot of carries for its running backs. At halftime, Trubisky was only 2-of-7 for 29 yards. Howard ran for 167 yards on 36 carries.
Flacco was 24-of-41 for 180 yards with two interceptions. Alex Collins (15-74) led Baltimore in rushing, while Chris Moore (3-44) paced the team in receiving yards.
The MVP of the game for Chicago was definitely Kyle Fuller. He was targeted all day and kept producing incompletions, including three passes in a goal-line situation. Later, Fuller made the deflection that produced Amos' interception, which was the death blow for Baltimore.
The Ravens' defense played well for their part. Linebacker Matt Judon was phenomenal with 12 tackles and two sacks. C.J. Mosley had 11 tackles, while Terrell Suggs made some big plays in the backfield as well.
EDITOR'S NOTE: So, I had Dak Prescott on bye this week in one of my fantasy leagues, so I thought I'd start Brian Hoyer as a streamer because of Washington's secondary having some injuries. At the very least, I thought I'd get some nice points in garbage time. Whoops! I know you all care so much, so I thought I should tell you about that.
This game shouldn't have been as close as it was. The Redskins had this contest in control in the first half, but they let it slip away after intermission. It took a late defensive stop, aided by a penalty, to give the Redskins their third win of the season.
Though the Redskins struggled in the second half, none of their issues were the fault of Kirk Cousins. Cousins had one of his best performances of the season en route to the team's victory. Despite getting little production from his run offense, Cousins was able to find ways to move the ball and get things done himself.
For a good chunk of the contest, the Redskins ran successful screen plays that Cousins helped to orchestrate. He used his eyes to look the 49ers off the back coming out and was able to get the ball to his teammates for big gains. Cousins also helped to make up for the lack of rushing offense by carrying the ball himself, totaling 27 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
Cousins' throws were almost all accurate, save for one that was behind an intended receiver early in the game. For the most part, he was able to put the passes right in front of the receivers and let them make the catch in stride. His touchdown passes were things of beauty. On the first, he hit Josh Doctson on a post route right in the end zone with a perfect pass. His second was more impressive. It was a dump-off to Samaje Perine that Cousins put just on Perine's fingertips that allowed him to get into space and get the score.
Cousins finished the day 25-of-37 for 330 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. The interception was his only mistake, as he telegraphed a downfield throw to his receiver. However, Cousins' downfield accuracy improved in the second half, so that was a positive for him.
In terms of his receiving corps, Cousins was able to spread the ball around a lot. In fact, no player had more than five targets. The team's leading receiver was Chris Thompson (4-105). Thompson did a lot of his damage out of the backfield and was very elusive in space. He continued his breakout season, and he can be trusted as a FLEX play.
As for the receivers, none really stood out. Josh Doctson (1-11) caught a touchdown. Terrelle Pryor (3-23) was mostly a non-factor. Jordan Reed (4-37) had a nice drive that saw him notch a few catches. Rigth now, there is no de facto top receiver, so it's hard to recommend any as a fantasy option. Doctson probably has the most upside, but even he is inconsistent.
With Robert Kelley out, the Redskins relied on Thompson to carry the load. He received 16 carries but was only able to get 33 yards. Thompson was bottled up in the second half for the most part. Samaje Perine also got a fair amount of action, and he was marginally better, gaining 23 yards on nine carries. The team will be better off when Kelley is back to action, as the Redskins need a true power back for their offense.
In the first half, the San Francisco offense was completely lifeless. Under Brian Hoyer, the unit was barely able to accomplish anything. The 49ers were down 17-0 and Hoyer was 4-of-11 for just 34 yards before Kyle Shanahan chose to remove Hoyer from the game and play C.J. Beathard for the rest of the day. The decision paid off.
Beathard gave life to the 49ers' offense upon coming into the contest, and he led them on a touchdown drive to end the first half that gave them a good deal of momentum. The 49ers would rally to score 17 straight to tie things up before the Redskins were able to pull away.
Beathard was able to throw accurate passes and avoid mistakes for a most of the day. Considering that it was his first NFL action, Beathard looked very good. He was victimized by a handful of drops and generally had good ball placement as he targeted his receivers. He showed a penchant for good decision-making as well, and only held onto the ball for too long in a couple of instances. Late in the day, Beathard was able to find Aldrick Robinson on a deep pass when the Redskins busted in coverage. It was a good find by the rookie, and his quick decision-making was on display.
With more time on the field. Beathard should get better. Overall, he went 19-of-36 for 245 yards, one touchdown and one pick in his debut. The interception came on the final play of the contest, so it doesn't even really count. It was certainly a promising performance, and he nearly led the team to a comeback on the final drive. He will be the starter moving forward, given the struggles that Hoyer has had so far.
The top targets for the 49ers on Sunday were Pierre Garcon (5-55) and George Kittle (4-46). Garcon saw a team-high 12 targets, but was covered well by Bashaud Breeland for most of the day. Garcon had a lot of production on the final drive, which helped him boost his stats. If Beathard continues to improve, Garcon will become more relevant in fantasy. For now, he is a WR3 in good matchups.
Meanwhile, Kittle looked good running routes for the team, but he had a couple of bad drops. The rookie should look to improve that, but he is still a TE2 and a solid streaming option most weeks. Elsewhere, Aldrick Robinson (2-66) led the team in receiving yards and caught the touchdown. Most of his production came on the one play, so he can be ignored in fantasy formats.
When Beathard entered the contest, the 49ers' run game picked up a bit. Carlos Hyde carried the load, garnering 13 carries, but he only turned them into 28 yards. Still, Hyde hammered in two touchdowns on the goal line and totaled 41 receiving yards on four catches. Hyde is the lead back for the team, but Matt Breida could eat into his carries. Breida had 21 yards on four carries and showed good elusiveness. If Hyde is traded, Breida can be an RB2 in fantasy, depending on the matchup.
EDITOR'S NOTE: How scared were Leonard Fournette's fans, family and fantasy owners, as well as the six Jaguar fans in existence when Leonard Fournette's ankle bent sideways? I thought he might be done for the year, but all he suffered, thankfully, was a simple injury that allowed him to be cleared within minutes. Crazy.
Rams head coach Sean McVay has to be an early candidate for Coach of the Year, as nobody was expecting the Rams to get off to a 4-2 start on the season. McVay and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson have gotten huge improvement out of Jared Goff with a rejuvenated Todd Gurley being the backbone of the offense. Six games into the season, Los Angeles is in great position to challenge for the playoffs this year.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, continued its season of up-and-down play, dropping a game at home with some terrible special teams play and the limitations of Blake Bortles being visible again. The Jaguars' defense played well again, but they were unable to bail out their special teams units and quarterback.
Right out of the gate, Rams wideout Pharaoh Cooper returned the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. He made a great spin move away from a scrum to escape to the sideline, where he found open field to run away from the Jacksonville coverage unit. On the Jaguars' first play from scrimmage, Fournette ran untouched for a 75-yard touchdown. At just 15 seconds into the game, the score was tied at seven.
The Rams produced a field goal drive with Greg "the Leg" Zuerlein drilling a 56-yarder. The Jaguars answered with a drive that produced a 22-yard touchdown with a screen pass to Chris Ivory (9-74). The Rams took the lead with a drive that saw them moved down the field with Goff completing passes to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Near the end zone, Goff connected with Gerald Everett on a shovel pass for a 4-yard touchdown.
Late in the second quarter, the Jaguars had a punt blocked by Corey Littleton with Malcolm Brown recovering the ball and charging into the end zone from a few yards out to give Los Angeles a 24-14 lead. Jaguars kicker Jason Myers then missed a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.
Woods (5-70) fumbled the ball at midfield in the third quarter after getting stripped by Telvin Smith, and the Jaguars recovered. Jacksonville got three out of the turnover to make it 24-17. The Jaguars got the ball back and started moving well with Bortles, hitting Allen Hurns (3-37) for 14 yards and Marqise Lee for 20 yards. However, the drive ended when Bortles had an inaccurate throw tipped in the air and Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman picked it off with a return to midfield. That turnover ended the last promising drive for Jacksonville.
Goff completed 11-of-21 passes for 124 yards with a touchdown. Watkins (1-11) didn't do much, although he did have A.J. Bouye beaten for a long would-be completion that saw the throw be a touch too long.
Gurley continued his excellent season with 23 carries for 116 yards.
Bortles was 23-of-35 for 241 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Lee (5-83) led the Jaguars through the air.
Fournette totaled 130 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. He injured his ankle, but was cleared to returrn minutes later.
Calais Campbell continued his tremendous season with five tackles and two sacks. He was a beast at the point of attack. The Jaguars' offensive line struggled to keep the Rams' defense away from their quarterback, as Los Angeles had five sacks, led by Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers causing problems in the interior.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I liked Jim Nantz calling JuJu Smith-Schuster "JuJu Smooth-Shister." I think Smith-Schuster should change his name to Smooth-Shister.
The Steelers were coming off one of the most humiliating losses I've seen in a while against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, and were on the road to take on the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs in the sea of red at Arrowhead Stadium this week. Ben Roethlisberger had lamented his ability after Pittsburgh's Jaguars loss, which makes sense after throwing five interceptions, but somehow, the Steelers ended up pulling off the upset 19-13.
The somehow had a lot to do with Le'Veon Bell. Bell was misused against the Jaguars last week and was rightfully questioning his role in that game, but this week, there was no doubt who the Steelers were going to ride all day long.
Bell showed his usual patience as he ripped off large chunks of yardage, finishing the day with 32 carries for 179 yards and a touchdown, with an additional 3-of-6 receptions for 12 yards. With so many top players going down with injuries, it was a treat to watch Bell show what an elite NFL back can do when at the top of his game.
Kansas City got off to an extremely slow start to this game. That slow start lasted into the third quarter, as the home team had just 25 total yards of offense with four minutes remaining in the third quarter! The Steelers have been playing good pass defense, but they also hadn't faced the caliber of competition Alex Smith and company have been dealing out so far this year. The Steelers have had trouble in the fourth quarters of games - see Leonard Fournette running over them last week - which happened again this week, as the Chiefs made a strong push to make this a game in the end.
Smith ended up completing 19-of-34 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown after the abysmal start. He wasn't at his best this game of course, but he never gave up and kept pushing, making it a 10-12 deficit after a 57-yard touchdown pass to De'Anthony Thomas midway through the fourth quarter. That score probably should have been 13-12, but Andy Reid opted to go for it on fourth down earlier in the game, when he could have kicked a field goal.
The nail in Kansas City's coffin came with just over three minutes left in the game, when Roethlisberger targeted Antonio Brown deep on the left sideline into tight coverage. The ball was tipped and could have easily been intercepted, but Brown grabbed it off the ricochet and sped down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. Brown ended the game with a healthy 155 yards and that touchdown on eight receptions. He now has 48 receptions for 700 yards through six games.
The Chiefs did get a spark from their rookie phenom Kareem Hunt. With a deficit and little offensive output for most of the game, Kansas City needed to pass the ball to try to make up ground, which usually means a bit more Charcandrick West than Hunt, but West suffered a possible concussion and wasn't available, so Hunt took over as the primary receiving back and caught 5-of-6 targets for 89 yards to help bring his team back. The rookie was stifled on the ground, but ran hard and should continue to be a strong performer moving forward.
In the end, it was an untackle-able Bell and a heads-up play by Brown that led the scoring, but the Steelers' defense deserves a big chunk of the credit for this win. Roethlisberger was again not at his best, but was much better than last week and showed signs of his old self at times.
Smith played one of his worst games of the season, but still gave his team a chance to win. I don't think you can knock him and this team too far down the power rankings, as the Steelers have always played well at Arrowhead and were highly motivated after an embarrassing loss.
The Chiefs have a short turnaround, as they play the Raiders on Thursday night, which may make it tough for both Tyreek Hill and Charcandrick West to be cleared to play after suffering concussions in this game.
The Steelers return home to face their division rival the Cincinnati Bengals, who should be an easier opponent than Kansas City, but a division rival after a big win isn't the best recipe for a top-notch game.
Chargers 17, Raiders 16 By Jacob Camenker - Riggo's Rag
EDITOR'S NOTE: Does anyone else find it sad that Younghoe Koo didn't get a chance to redeem himself with a last-second field goal in this game? No? So, I'm the only one then, aside from his parents? OK, then.
This was a pretty sloppy game overall. Neither offense really looked good at any point, and both teams endured their share of struggles. The Chargers were able to emerge victorious thanks to a game-ending field goal by Nick Novak, who had recently replaced rookie kicker Younghoe Koo. It's fair to wonder what could have been for the Chargers if they had Novak all year, but for now, both teams sit at 2-4 at the bottom of the AFC West.
The Chargers were carried by their running attack for a good chunk of the contest. Melvin Gordon was able to find a lot of holes against a leaky Oakland defense, and he was a major difference-maker for the Chargers. Gordon used his speed and strength to get to the holes quickly and power through defenders. His offensive line wasn't very good, and allowed him to be hit early often. Still, Gordon was able to power ahead for 83 yards on 25 carries.
Additionally, Gordon was able to make a big impact as a receiver for another week. He saw a team-high 12 targets and caught nine of them for 67 yards and a score. Gordon will continue to get a boatload of touches as the only proven back on the Chargers' offense. He was instrumental to setting up his team for the game-winning field goal at the end, and he should continue to see 30-plus touches each week.
In the passing game, Philip Rivers had a fairly solid performance against a weak Oakland defense, but he certainly could have been better. Rivers demonstrated nice accuracy and was able to put the ball on his receivers for most of the day. He dealt with spotty pass protection against Khalil Mack and company, but he managed to only get sacked once.
Overall, Rivers was able to go 25-of-36 for 268 yards and the one score. He played very well on the team's final offensive drive and showed the veteran poise that has been a staple of his skill set in his career. If Rivers continues to be efficient, the Chargers could continue to improve and may make some noise in the wild-card picture.
Rivers' top receiving targets on the day were Hunter Henry (5-90) and Keenan Allen (5-45). Henry had one of his best performances of the season, and he was able to consistently find space against the Raiders' linebackers. Henry has TE1 upside, but he has been inconsistent this year due to the presence of Antonio Gates. As the year goes along, Henry should overtake Gates officially, and for that reason, Henry deserves a spot in most leagues.
As for Allen, this performance was a bit disappointing, given that the Raiders' corners had underperformed this season. Rivers spent most of the day targeting his tight ends and Melvin Gordon in checkdowns, so it really wasn't Allen's fault. Allen is a high-end WR2 most weeks, so he should bounce back.
The other receiver of note, Mike Williams, made his NFL debut. He had just one catch for 11 yards, but demonstrated solid ability when he was on the field. Williams should be monitored, as he could produce once he is off his snap count.
For the Raiders, this was a wildly disappointing loss. They were expected to get back on track and take care of business against the lowly Chargers. Instead, the Raiders fell far short of expectations and fell to 2-4.
Derek Carr deserves part of the blame for this loss. He didn't have a strong performance, and it is clear that he is still not 100 percent as he recovers from his back injury. Carr was pedestrian for most of the contest and struggled to get the ball down the field.
For most of the game, Carr focused on throwing checkdowns to his running backs and receivers. The team ran a lot of shallow routes and consistently had Carr throwing the ball in under two seconds. It seemed as though the coaches were afraid of Carr getting hit, which they were right to be concerned about. At the same time, it clearly impacted the Raiders' offense in a negative way, so you have to wonder why they didn't wait an extra week to start him.
Carr's final stat line looked like this: 21-of-30 for 171 yards, one touchdown and two picks. One of the interceptions was not his fault, as it glanced off the hands of his receiver. Still, he just didn't look like himself, and the Raiders suffered as a result. Perhaps he will be healthier for Thursday's matchup with the Chiefs, though the short week will make that difficult.
Once again, Michael Crabtree was the favored target of Carr. Crabtree saw 10 targets and caught five of them for 52 yards and the lone receiving touchdown of the day. Crabtree ran crisp routes and continues to have excellent chemistry with Carr. He is a WR2/WR3 each week, and he'll definitely see a lot of targets each week.
Elsewhere, Amari Cooper saw eight targets, but only grabbed five of them for 28 yards. It's unclear why Cooper is struggling so much. He was supposed to be the team's top target, but he hasn't developed any chemistry with Carr. Cooper may need a change of scenery, and if the Raiders lose to the Chiefs, they may want to consider moving him for a draft pick. Perhaps the receiver-less Giants would demonstrate interest in him.
The Raiders had a couple of players do well in the running game. Marshawn Lynch only saw 13 carries, but he managed to get 63 yards. He ran with the same hard-nosed, tackle-breaking style that brought him success in Seattle. Lynch may not be able to shoulder a full workload, but he can still definitely be effective.
Meanwhile, Cordarrelle Patterson performed well with only three carries. Patterson had a long touchdown run on a reverse, and it seems like the Raiders are figuring out how to involve him in the offense. They also ran a razzle-dazzle lateral to Patterson on a pass play. He ended up with 60 scrimmage yards and could earn a bigger role if he continues to perform well.
Final note: Joey Bosa continues to be a major threat as a pass-rusher. Bosa had another sack on Sunday and constantly got in Carr's face. Bosa was one of the reasons that the Raiders had to throw short passes. Their offensive line just couldn't deal with him.
Cardinals 38, Buccaneers 33
Don't be fooled by the final score of this game. The Cardinals led 31-0 early in the third quarter before they took their foot off the gas, allowing for some late-game nonsense. The Buccaneers made things interesting for sure, but they ran out of time, ending what happened to be their pathetic excuse of an effort in Arizona.
Let's focus on the one team that tried in this contest. I don't know what happened to Arizona this past week, but it may have involved Bruce Arians finding an elixir of immortality of sorts, which he gave to all of his veterans. That's because his aging players in their mid-30s, namely Carson Palmer, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald, all had magnificent performances.
Peterson, especially, was the difference. He struggled to do anything in New Orleans, so trading for him seemed like grasping at straws. It was a life boat instead, as Peterson was absolutely dominant. He gashed the hapless Buccaneers for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. This stat line was not the byproduct of fluky runs; Peterson showed the same sort of burst, power and juke moves that he displayed in his prime. I can't explain it, but it happened. Peterson was amazing, and if he keeps running like this, Arizona will be able to compete for the NFC West title.
Palmer, meanwhile, was also terrific. I can't believe I wrote that sentence after watching him struggle for the first five weeks of the season, but Palmer didn't even have an incompletion in this contest until the third quarter! He was 13-of-13 for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the opening half alone. Palmer didn't do much following halftime, which would explain why his stats didn't change much - he finished 18-of-22 for 283 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on a careless deep shot into double coverage - but this is obviously an encouraging development for the Cardinals. It's hard not to forget how much Palmer struggled in the five previous weeks - plus, Palmer had a pick dropped by a linebacker in the fourth quarter - but perhaps he'll continue to play better now that he appears to have a strong running game aiding him.
The last of the veterans, Fitzgerald snared 10 of his 11 targets for 138 yards and a touchdown. As with Peterson and Palmer, Fitzgerald performed as if he were in his prime, though unlike the other two veterans, he had thrived earlier this season. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he made a mistake when he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Along with Fitzgerald, John Brown (3-63) and Troy Niklas (2-20) caught Palmer's touchdowns.
Let's discuss the losers for a bit. The Buccaneers showed an appalling lack of effort in this contest, as they thought they could just waltz into Arizona and defeat a struggling Cardinal team. The Buccaneers are not 31 points worse than Arizona, yet that's how much they trailed by once the Cardinals let up and allowed Tampa to get back into the game. This has to be a stain on Dirk Koetter's young head-coaching career, as he needs to be blamed for not getting his team prepared to play.
Winston must shoulder some of the responsibility as well. And speaking of Winston and shoulders, he hurt that part of his body in the second quarter. He finished just 5-of-10 for 61 yards, as he was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Winston, at one point in the second half, began warming up as if he were going to re-enter the game, but that never happened. I suppose that's a promising sign for next week, at the very least.
As for Fitzpatrick, he did the best he could. He misfired just 10 times, going 22-of-32 for 290 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The first was a poor throw, as he lobbed up a dumb floater into double coverage. The second occurred from the back of his own end zone, setting up Arizona with a touchdown the team didn't know it needed at the time.
Mike Evans did nothing in the first half. He didn't catch a single pass. He finished with three receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown, taking advantage of Patrick Peterson's absence. Peterson left the game with a quad injury.
Along with Evans, Cameron Brate (6-76) and DeSean Jackson (3-38) caught Fitzpatrick's touchdowns. Doug Martin, who had 53 yards on 14 carries, also found the end zone. He was guilty of a drop in the second quarter.
Giants 23, Broncos 10
The Broncos were 3-1, coming off their bye, favored by two touchdowns over the hapless, winless Giants, who lost Odell Beckham Jr. and their other two primary receivers. There was no way New York was going to win this game.
And yet, the Giants blew out the Broncos to conclude an insane week in the NFL. I thought New York could play close to the offensively challenged Broncos, but the Giants were the better team on the field, at least on this night. They generated lots of pressure on Trevor Siemian, while their offense established the run extremely well. They led from start to finish as a result, maintaining a 20-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Many people may not have heard of Orleans Darkwa before this game. A few individuals may have even confused his name with Darkwing Duck. Darkwa, however, gashed the Broncos' No. 1 ground defense for 117 yards on 21 carries. Darkwa looked good, but it was more of the Giants' new blocking scheme that did the trick. That, and it looked like the Broncos were half-asleep in this game, as they were caught off-guard by a winless foe they were supposed to vanquish quite easily.
Eli Manning was pretty sharp considering he didn't have Beckham and Sterling Shepard at his disposal. Manning went 11-of-19 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Manning made sure to release the ball quickly to avoid Von Miller and the rest of Denver's ferocious front. Manning made no mistakes as a result, using his veteran leadership to help will the Giants to victory.
Manning targeted rookie tight end Evan Engram primarily, and it paid off. Engram caught five of his seven targets for 82 yards and a touchdown. No other Giant saw more than three targets, and besides Engram, no New York player logged more than 15 receiving yards.
Siemian, meanwhile, generated 376 passing yards, but that was a very misleading figure. Much of that came in garbage time. By intermission, he was 11-of-23 for 148 yards and a pair of picks. he suffered an injury while trying to tackle Janoris Jenkins on an interception return, and Brock Osweiler took the field in his absence. However, Siemian was able to return in the third quarter. It didn't matter very much for the Broncos, however, as Siemian really struggled.
Siemian was strip-sacked in the early going by Jason Pierre-Paul, but was lucky to have the ball bounce to him. He wasn't as fortunate a bit later, as he was picked on an overthrow in Giants territory. He nearly tossed another interception after that on a pass behind Bennie Fowler, and then he was pick-sixed by Jenkins, who jumped the route. Siemian was more careful in the second half, but he still felt lots of pressure from Pierre-Paul, who dominated both right tackles in this contest.
Siemian finished 29-of-50 for 376 yards, one touchdown and the two picks. This was a poor showing for sure, but he was battling a tough defense that was desperate to avoid 0-6. Siemian should be better against the Chargers next week.
Adding injury to insult, Emmanuel Sanders was helped off with a leg injury. Sanders, who caught five balls for 76 yards, was missed in a second-half comeback attempt. It didn't help that Demaryius Thomas hobbled on and off the field with an injury. Thomas wasn't 100 percent, but he had a huge performance outside of a lost fumble. On top of his impressive stat line - 10 catches, 133 yards - he also drew a pass interference flag.
Contrary to the Giants, the Broncos couldn't run the ball at all. C.J. Anderson was limited to 17 yards on just nine carries. Jamaal Charles (5-19) actually outgained them.
Titans XX, Colts XX
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.