This game is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I know the Jaguars could be tied for first in the AFC South depending on what happens Sunday, but it doesn't matter. There's no way Jacksonville is ever going to make any sort of noise in the playoffs, so let me say this:
Games like this make handicapping the NFL very frustrating. Especially during a year like I'm having. It's incredibly discouraging to see your three-point dog have a lead with four minutes remaining and then lose the cover at the very end because of a punt return and some idiot named Supernaw fumbling the ball while diving for the first-down marker. The Titans, as underdogs, had more net yardage and first downs than the Jaguars, yet failed to come within the number because of two fluke plays. If this weren't my full-time job, a game like this would make me think about quitting. It really would.
In case you're a Jacksonville fan and are wondering why your team can't do anything significant, part of the reason is that your offensive line is horrible. Blake Bortles was constantly under pressure all evening. He did a good job of escaping tacklers in the backfield, but was still sacked four times.
Bortles was able to complete 21-of-30 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and an interception when a linebacker jumped in front of his target in the red zone. Bortles also missed Marcedes Lewis for a potential score and lost a fumble just over midfield on a sneak. His numbers weren't bad, but keep in mind that he was battling one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Some of the Tennessee defensive backs looked completely lost in coverage. It was embarrassing. I have the Titans taking a corner in the first round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
NFL Network referred to Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns as the "Allen Brothers." Only one of the siblings played well. Robinson caught five balls for 113 yards, including an impressive, leaping reception in between two defenders in the fourth quarter. Hurns, on the other hand, logged three receptions for 19 yards. I have to wonder if his injury hindered him at all in this contest.
Julius Thomas caught Bortles' sole touchdown. He saw more targets than anyone on Jacksonville (8). He snared five of them for 28 yards. His score came immediately following Rashad Greene's punt return down to the 5-yard line.
T.J. Yeldon looked good at times, gaining 54 yards on 14 carries. However, I don't know where he was on a series at the goal line that saw Denard Robinson (7-27) receive three consecutive carries. Robinson predictably failed to reach the end zone. Jacksonville was guilty of this in London when Toby Gerhart couldn't reach the goal line on consecutive tries. I don't know why Jacksonville isn't giving the ball to Yeldon at the most crucial times.
As for the Titans, their offensive line might have been more disappointing than Jacksonville's front. Tennessee gave up four sacks as well, but it seemed as though Marcus Mariota was under more duress. Perhaps the worst moment for the blockers occurred just prior to the 2-minute warning at the end of regulation. The linemen took their time getting to the line of scrimmage as Mariota tried to get one more play off. They showed absolutely no sense of urgency, and as a consequence, Tennessee was flagged for a procedural penalty. The lack of effort was alarming.
Mariota went 22-of-35 for 231 yards to go along with 29 rushing yards and a touchdown on five scrambles. He missed some throws, which was discouraging. He threw behind Dorial Green-Beckham in the red zone and couldn't hit an open Delanie Walker downfield. I also think he should have ran more. His best trait are his legs. He's holding himself back by not utilizing them enough.
I thought Tennessee's offensive game plan sucked. The team ran the ball way too much on first down, resulting in predictable play-calling. Tennessee didn't get anything on the ground from its backs, save for two long carries, so Mariota was constantly in second-and-long situations, which was a tough task behind a weak offensive line. Antonio Andrews gained 78 yards on 15 carries, but most of that came on a 26-yard burst.
Walker had a big game. He had more than double the receiving yardage compared to any other Titan, catching eight balls for 109 yards. Green-Beckham (3-40) was next. In fact, no Titan receiver caught a pass in the second half until the final drive. It's safe to say that Kendall Wright was missed.
A quick word on Phil Simms: He was awful once again. He did that "we talked about this" thing repeatedly, but I thought he was at his worst when Jim Nantz pointed out the pool and the golf course at the stadium. The exchange went something like this:
Jim Nantz: You never thought you'd see a pool or a lifeguard at a stadium, did you?
Phil Simms: Yeah, we talked about it, Jim. They're trying to get fans to the stadium. But there's only one real way to do that...
Me (thinking during his 10-second pause): Please don't say the generic "win football games." Please don't do it. If you have any respect for yourself, please don't say it.
Phil Simms: You gotta win football games, Jim!
Me (Thinking): F*** you, Phil Simms! F*** you!
Broncos 17, Bears 15
Brock Osweiler is an upgrade over Peyton Manning. I never thought I'd write that, but Osweiler, at least in this game, looked so much better than Manning has all year. Of course, Manning isn't nearly the same quarterback we've seen over the years, so I'm not proclaiming that Osweiler is going to be a Hall of Famer, or anything, but he at least gives the Broncos a chance to move the chains consistently.
Better yet, Osweiler didn't commit any turnovers, which Manning has been guilty of throughout this season. Osweiler began the game with a scoring drive, as a 48-yard score of his was thrown to Demaryius Thomas, who ran into the end zone easily as a result of a blown coverage. The drives were inconsistent for the rest of the first half after that, as Osweiler was sacked five times. However, Osweiler picked up some momentum following intermission and ended up completing 7-of-10 passes for 106 yards and a score in the second half, leading the Broncos on a 71-yard scoring drive to put this game away.
Osweiler's final numbers were 20-of-27 for 250 yards and two touchdowns - impressive, considering how much pressure he was under all afternoon. He showed some zip on his passes and was able to scramble a couple of times, which was a vast change from what the Broncos have been used to from the decrepit Manning.
Despite the early touchdown, Thomas didn't really do much after that. He and Osweiler simply couldn't hook up, as Thomas snagged just three of his eight targets for 59 yards and the score. Osweiler had way more success hooking up with his tight ends. Owen Daniels (4-69) and Vernon Davis (6-68) both had big performances. Davis had one more target than Daniels, 6-5.
Ronnie Hillman continued to run as Denver's primary ball-carrier. He had a strong outing, gaining 102 yards on 21 carries. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he missed out on a touchdown because Osweiler tripped him up after handing the ball off to him. Meanwhile, C.J. Anderson did well with his attempts, though he didn't have as many; he totaled 59 yards on 12 attempts.
Jay Cutler has played brilliantly under Adam Gase, but he didn't have his best performance in this contest. The Cutler of old appeared to surface at times, as he was guilty of two turnovers in this contest. One was a fumble on a strip-sack that almost could've been ruled a pick. The other was an ugly interception that he foolishly forced into tight coverage. However, Cutler had some bright moments as well, repeatedly leading his team down the field on impressive drives in the fourth quarter. The possessions were ultimately spoiled, though the final one ended when the Bears couldn't convert on a two-point try.
Cutler finished 18-of-32 for 265 yards and the two turnovers. Not included in those numbers are two deep pass interference penalties that Martellus Bennett drew on Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby. Cutler has been better, but to be fair, he didn't have Alshon Jeffery at his disposal despite battling one of the NFL's top defenses.
Cutler spent most of the afternoon throwing to the likes of Marquess Wilson (4-102), Josh Bellamy (4-57) and Zach Miller (3-47). There was Bennett as well, but he caught just two balls for 26 yards. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, they weren't awarded any points for the flags that he drew.
The Bears struggled to run the ball into one of the NFL's top ground defenses. Jeremy Langford was limited to just 25 yards on 13 carries, though he did score a touchdown at the very end. He also caught three passes for 17 receiving yards. Ka'Deem Carey, however, led the team in rushing yardage, gaining 32 yards on nine tries. Carey appeared to lose a fumble in the third quarter, but the officials strangely ruled that it wasn't a turnover.
The Bears remarkably weren't whistled for a single penalty in this game. That's either a positive or a negative. The former is a possibility because Chicago played with lots of discipline. However, the negative is that despite some favorable officiating, the Bears still couldn't win this game.
Cowboys 24, Dolphins 14
I guess you can say that this game is proof of how important the quarterback position is in the NFL. The Cowboys began the year 2-0 with Tony Romo, but dropped seven in a row after they lost him to an injury. Romo returned for this contest and managed to lead his team to a much-needed victory.
Romo definitely looked rusty in his return, and understandly so. He threw an interception early in the red zone when he and Dez Bryant screwed up on a miscommunication. His second pick was more his fault, as he lofted a high pass on a checkdown to Robert Turbin. Having said that, Romo had more positives than negatives. He showed off his great elusive ability early on when he avoided a sack and flipped a left-handed pass to Darren McFadden, escaping the back of his own end zone amid a sudden monsoon. He made a number of terrific throws, including a 31-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams.
Romo finished 18-of-28 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and the two picks. Romo nearly had a third score, but Cole Beasley dropped the ball in the end zone.
Romo's scores were thrown to Williams (4-79) and Bryant (4-45). Williams drew a taunting penalty following his touchdown and that allowed the Dolphins to drive the field when they were struggling, but they didn't really have many successful drives other than that, so it didn't matter.
With Romo back under center, things opened up for Darren McFadden, who was able to gash the Dolphins for 129 yards on 29 carries. Robert Turbin was mixed in with seven attempts for 35 yards. McFadden converted a big fourth down in the opening quarter when Dallas was on its side of midfield, which was a big statement that established the tempo of the game.
As for the Dolphins, they had yet another ugly showing. Ryan Tannehill posted respectable numbers - 13-of-24, 188 yards, two touchdowns and an interception - but he definitely did not play well. He began the game 2-of-9 for 12 yards and a pick-six in which he didn't see Rolando McClain, who had a fantastic afternoon. Tannehill was once again befuddled by the blitz, as it's pretty apparent why the Dolphins don't allow their quarterback to make audibles.
Not all of it was Tannehill's fault, however. He was hurt by several drops, including a few by Jarvis Landry. An early drop by Landry allowed the Cowboys to establish momentum. Despite this, Landry still led the team in receiving, catching four balls for 66 yards. However, most of his production came on a 47-yard reception.
Tannehill's two scores went to Kenny Stills (2-52) and Jordan Cameron (2-21). Landry and Stills were the only Dolphins who accumulated more than 23 receiving yards.
The Dolphins were behind all afternoon, so they didn't get a chance to establish their ground attack. Lamar Miller appeared as though he could have done well, as his seven carries went for 44 yards. Jay Ajayi was mixed in with 13 yards on four carries to go along with two catches for 23 receiving yards.
Colts 24, Falcons 21
The Falcons have sputtered with a series of underwhelming performances since their Week 4 blowout against the Texans. The thinking was that a bye week might fix that, but apparently, that's not the case. Atlanta's downward spiral continued with a loss against an Indianapolis team missing its Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's remarkable that the Falcons lost this game, given how many gifts the Colts gave them throughout the early stages of the contest. Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on a miscommunication with Coby Fleener in the first quarter. On the next drive, the Colts were moving the chains impressively and advanced into Atlanta territory, but Frank Gore lost a fumble. Hasselbeck later took a bad sack on a third-and-1 when he had enough space to step up into the pocket and scramble for the first down. In the third quarter, an awful hands-to-the-face ticky-tack penalty, which had nothing to do with the play, gave the Falcons a first down when they would've been forced into a field goal. A few plays later, Matt Ryan found Leonard Hankerson in the end zone to go up two touchdowns. Hasselbeck followed that up with a horrible pick into double coverage.
And yeah, the Colts somehow won! It was a combination of factors that did the Falcons in, beginning with Matt Ryan. Atlanta's signal-caller was guilty of three interceptions himself. The first wasn't really his fault, as it was a tipped pass that appeared to hit the ground. Mike Carey said that it should've been ruled incomplete. Ryan's third pick was on a Hail Mary attempt that was actually snatched by Coby Fleener. The middle interception was the horrible one, as the Falcons were backed up on their own 1-yard line. Ryan dropped back to pass and inexplicably didn't see D'Qwell Jackson, who scored the easiest pick-six of his life.
Ryan also missed plenty of open receivers. One play stands out in the fourth quarter, as Ryan had an open Julio Jones on third down. Converting would've moved the chains and put the Falcons close to midfield to potentially win the game, but Ryan simply sailed the ball wide of his stud receiver.
Ryan finished 25-of-46 for 280 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. The trio of scores helped his few fantasy owners, but don't let those fool you into thinking that Ryan had a decent performance. He was awful by his standards, and it's not like this is a one-game abberation. Ryan has been struggling all season, and I have to wonder if he's playing through an undisclosed injury.
Another reason the Falcons fell to the Colts was Devonta Freeman's concussion. Freeman left in the middle of the opening quarter, leaving Tevin Coleman as the primary ball-carrier. Coleman proved to be a massive downgrade, mustering just 48 yards on 17 carries as well as a lost fumble. Freeman, by comparison, nearly had as much yardage (43) on just three attempts.
Some of Atlanta's receivers had some drops as well. Leonard Hankerson had a crucial ball slip through his hands, though he did enjoy a strong fantasy performance because of a touchdown. He caught four passes for 36 yards. He was second on the team in receiving, trailing Jones, who logged nine receptions for 160 yards. Meanwhile, Roddy White continues to be very inefficient; he saw nine targets, but reeled in just four of them for 24 yards. The sooner the Falcons stop using him, the better. He's done.
Hasselbeck, remarkably, was the better quarterback in this matchup. I referenced his two interceptions already, but he was solid otherwise, going 23-of-32 for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hasselebck, at one point, completed 10 consecutive passes. He nearly had a third score, but Andre Johnson was able to get just one foot inbounds in the end zone.
Hasselbeck was limited to a dink-and-dunk approach, as none of his receivers accumulated more than 50 yards. His leader was Gore, who caught all five of his targets for 46 yards. Fleener (3-45) and Donte Moncrief (5-41) were next, while T.Y. Hilton (2-21) barely did anything. Both of Hasselbeck's touchdowns went to Ahmad Bradshaw, who logged four receptions for 20 yards.
Despite Gore and Bradshaw's solid receiving numbers, neither could really get going on the ground. Gore was limited to just 34 yards on 14 carries, while Bradshaw had 32 yards on nine tries.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I have to wonder why the Jets stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick the entire game. It was clear he wasn't 100 percent coming off thumb surgery. It was silly to keep him in the contest the entire time. Todd Bowles was impressive earlier in the season, but this is definitely a major downgrade for him, as he didn't make the switch to the healthier quarterback.
J.J. Watt dominated the Jets' offensive line, and DeAndre Hopkins destroyed the New York cornerbacks to lead Houston to maintain a tie for first place in the AFC South. The Texans' defense entered this game having not allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters, the longest streak of any team in the NFL this season, and they were going against former teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick nine days after surgery on his hand. They extended the streak to 12 quarters before the Jets scored a touchdown, but Houston's defense still locked down New York to lead the Texans to their third-straight victory and a 5-5 record. The Jets have lost four out of five to fall to 5-5 as well.
Early in the first quarter, Texans quarterback T.J. Yates missed DeAndre Hopkins on an overthrow for what would have been a 70-yard touchdown after he burned Darrelle Revis running down the sideline. Houston got on the board first as its second drive netted a field goal. The Texans were moving the ball again before a blindside blitz by Marcus Williams led to a strip-sack that was recovered by New York. Houston's defense limited the Jets to a field goal. In the second quarter, Yates didn't miss again as Hopkins beat Revis on a deep post for a 61-yard touchdown. The Texans took a 10-3 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, a 44-yard pass interference penalty on Quintin Demps set up the Jets inside the Texans' 30-yard line. Fitzpatrick hit Brandon Marshall with a 21-yard touchdown pass after he got open against Kevin Johnson to tie the game at 10. Yates answered with two receptions to Cecil Shorts for 50 yards as he beat Revis for 15 yards and Antonio Cromartie for 35 yards. The Texans pulled out some trickeration with a throwback pass to Shorts, and he lofted in a 21-yard touchdown to Alfred Blue. J.J. Watt terrorized Fitpatrick and quickly got the ball back for Houston. The Texans' next drive was led by Blue running well, and it ended with Yates throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hopkins.
In the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick led a touchdown drive with a quarterback draw from five yards out to cut the Texans' lead to 24-17 with just over four minutes remaining. The Jets' defense forced a three-and-out, but on a fourth-down play, Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Eddie Pleasant. Still, the Jets had one more shot starting at their 20 with 2:19 remaining. After a couple of plays, Fitzpatrick had a route jumped by Andre Hal for another interception to clinch the win for Houston.
Yates was 16-of-34 for 229 yards with two touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins had five receptions for 118 yards and two scores. Cecil Shorts collected two catches for 51 yards, four carries for 26 yards and a 21-yard touchdown pass.
Alfred Blue had 58 yards on 21 carries with three receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was 19-of-39 for 216 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Eric Decker had four receptions for 81 yards, while Brandon Marshall totaled five catches for 47 yards and a score.
Chris Ivory was shut down by the Texans as he had only eight carries for 36 yards. Bilal Powell led New York in receiving with five receptions for 67 yards and four carries for 22 yards.
J.J. Watt was absolutely dominant with eight tackles, three run tackles for a loss, two sacks, and a drawn holding penalty. Jadeveon Clowney had .5 sacks and a number of pressures, and batted a few passes. Brian Cushing also turned in a very strong performance for Houston.
The Jets sustained some significant injuries as Nick Mangold went out early with a hand injury. In the third quarter, Darrelle Revis left the game with a head injury.
Panthers 44, Redskins 16 By Pat Yasinskas - @PatYaz33
EDITOR'S NOTE: I've been terrible with my picks this year, while the sharps have been killing it, so it might seem strange that I'd question their decision-making. However, the Panthers have absolutely murdered them this season, so I have to wonder why they keep betting against them. In recent games, the sharps took the Eagles, Titans and Redskins all against Carolina, and I have no idea why. The Panthers are so much better than all three of those teams, and the spreads haven't been inflated at all, so it's not like they've been getting good value.
The Carolina Panthers finally played up to their record.
The 10-0 Panthers had played a lot of games in which they played down to the level of their competition and escaped with narrow victories. But that wasn't the case against Washington.
Riding one of the best days of quarterback Cam Newton's career, the Panthers dominated all the way. The offense and the defense were both stellar as the Panthers won their 14th-straight regular-season game, including eight straight at home.
The victory kept the Panthers on track for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
The loss was Washington's ninth straight on the road, but it didn't hurt the Redskins' playoff chances all that much. At 4-6, Washington is only a game behind the first-place New York Giants (5-5) in the NFC East.
Newton has had days with more passing yards. But he threw for a career-high five touchdown passes, including four in the first half. He's a quarterback you should be starting in any fantasy league or DFS format because he's been playing the best football of his career in recent weeks. Newton finished with 21 completions on 34 attempts for 246 yards.
Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart remains a player you should consider starting in your fantasy league. Stewart finished with 102 yards on 21 carries. He didn't have a rushing touchdown, but he did score on a pass reception.
Carolina rookie receiver Devin Funchess is a guy you might want to pick up in your fantasy league. After a slow start, Funchess is starting to play up to his potential. He had four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, and that could earn him more playing time and targets. He tied for the team lead with eight targets against Washington.
Carolina tight end Greg Olsen remains a dominant fantasy option.. Olsen had three catches for 54 yards with a touchdown.
Carolina's defense continues to excel. The Panthers forced five turnovers, which led to 27 points.
For Washington, quarterback Kirk Cousins cooled down after playing well in recent weeks. Cousins completed 22-of-30 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Carolina's defense prevented the Redskins from getting much of anything going on the ground. The Redskins had only 14 rushing yards.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson was the closest thing the Redskins had to a fantasy bright spot. Jackson collected five catches for 87 yards with a touchdown.
Washington's only other touchdown came on a 99-yard kickoff return by Andre Roberts.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jeff Fisher might be one of the worst head coaches in the NFL. His performance in this game was a work of art. Fisher, who benched Nick Foles in favor of an inferior Case Keenum, asked his backup quarterback to throw a horrible out to Tavon Austin instead of eating up the clock with his best player late in the game. An incompletion later, the Rams tried a long field goal and missed, setting up the Ravens close to midfield. Justin Tucker missed, however, giving the Rams new life. They squandered it, as Fisher stuck with Keenum, who was concussed on a big hit. Keenum missed an open Wes Welker and didn't see the blind-side pressure, losing a fumble. Tucker converted as a result, and the Rams dropped to 4-6 as a result. The Ravens had no business winning that game after losing Justin Forsett to an injury, but Fisher sucks.
If you didn't watch this game, well, I am very happy for you, because if you were rooting for the Rams, they lost, and looked pitiful for most of the game, and if you were backing the Ravens, well, they lost their two best offensive players, Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett, for the season.
The Rams' woes on offense continued, as Case Keenum, who got the nod ahead of Nick Foles due to the latter's complete ineptitude, was equally horrid. Keenum completed just 12-of-26 for 136 yards, one touchdown and three fumbles, two of which were lost. We, of course, knew he wasn't a starting-caliber quarterback, but this performance was downright awful at all times, and even more so against a Baltimore defense giving up an average of 288 yards passing and two passing touchdowns per game.
To add insult to horribleness, Keenum suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter, but the team either didn't notice or they also all had concussions they were dealing with. I actually think Jeff Fisher may just have a perpetual concussion. There's a decent chance we see one Mr. Nick Foles at the helm next week in Cincinnati.
The Ravens were slightly better on offense, but had similar results. Really, if you can say anything good about this win for the Ravens, well, you are the most optimistic person of all time.
Midway through the first quarter, Justin Forsett was slammed to the ground by defensive tackle Aaron Donald and had his forearm broken like some old dried-up peanut brittle from last Christmas, which was not pleasant for anyone involved, especially him.
Rookie running back Javorius Allen took over after Forsett went down and had plenty of work, with 27 touches for 115 yards. He was stifled on the ground though, with 22 carries for 67 yards, which came out to a poor three yards per carry. Of course, this is a St. Louis defense that had allowed just 3.7 yards per carry on the season.
There weren't many bright spots for the Ravens, but tight end Crockett Gillmore did catch 5-of-8 targets for 101 yards and Kamar Aiken caught a 3-yard touchdown to go along with five receptions on eight targets for 50 yards. These two and Allen are the core of this group, which going forward will be weakened by Matt Schaub, but Allen should at least see plenty of work, as he is competent in both the receiving and rushing game.
The first score in this matchup came from the rookie running back on the other side, Todd Gurley. Gurley scored from one yard out to give his team a 7-0 lead, and despite Keenum completing just 3-of-10 passes for 31 yards and the whole team at 73 total yards of total offense at halftime, the Rams led 7-3.
If it weren't for the Ravens also making mistakes, they would have probably had an easier time in this game. It always looked like the winner would be the team that capitalized on a turnover last, and that's exactly what happened when Keenum was hit by Courtney Upshaw, fumbling the ball away with 54 seconds to go in a tie game.
Flacco then came in and moved the ball into field goal range, but in the process, tore his ACL and possibly his MCL, ending his season. He had never missed a game in his eight years in the league, so I guess that's why they invested in the likes of Schaub to back him up. Justin Tucker was then able to hit a game-winning 47-yard field goal, but it was a hollow victory, having already lost Forsett and Flacco.
Schaub will take over as quarterback, which hurts the Ravens' chances of winning, while also hurting the offensive players all around. The only possible upside of Schaub playing is that opposing defenses should be able to average a pick-six or two against him.
The Rams totaled 213 yards on the day for a measly 3.8 yards per play with Keenum at the helm, and they continued to waste a good defense and a great running back. It had looked like there was some chance the Rams could win games based solely on those two parts of their offense, but the incredibly poor quarterback play was just not able to sustain even a run-based offense with a stud running back. Becoming one-dimensional on offense is not going to be sustainable.
The Ravens' defense had been their Achilles heel this season, but once Steve Smith Sr. went out for the year, it felt somewhat hopeless if you wanted to see Flacco and company to have any consistency moving the ball. Of course now, they are without Flacco and Forsett, which means they are truly done, just as the Rams look to be with no startable quarterback in the building.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Lions are now 2-0 since firing their general manager. Other teams should take note of this. Perhaps an organization like the Browns would take off if they axed Ray Farmer... but then who would text in nifty plays during the games?
The Raiders were in the thick of the AFC playoff race, but their postseason hopes were dealt a serious blow with their second-straight loss to a NFC North team. Detroit's defense picked up where it left off against Green Bay and put together an impressive performance to shut down Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. Matthew Stafford produced enough for the Lions to win their second-consecutive game.
After the opening kickoff, Stafford ripped the ball through the Raiders' secondary with passes to Golden Tate and Lance Moore to move inside the 10-yard line. A holding call on Laken Tomlinson and a dropped touchdown by Eric Ebron led to a Detroit field goal. After a Raiders punt, Stafford kept moving the ball using Calvin Johnson and Joique Bell as the Oakland defense was on its heels. Riley Reiff was beaten for a sack by Vincent Mayowa, so the Lions settled for another field goal. Late in the second quarter, Stafford connected with Johnson for a 36-yard reception to give Detroit a 9-0 at halftime. The Lions' defense played a tremendous first half, shutting out the Raiders while holding Carr to only 57 yards and keeping Cooper without a catch.
To open the third quarter, Carr connected with Seth Roberts down the deep middle for a 43-yard gain. The officials blew a penalty that canceled out a Quandre Diggs interception, and Carr used his legs to run ball inside the 5-yard line. To finish the drive, Latavius Murray plunged into the end zone. Carr quickly led two field goal drives to take a 13-9 lead with one of the three-pointers being a 56-yarder from Sebastian Janikowski.
Detroit's offense finally started moving again thanks to a shovel pass to Theo Riddick and a pass to Johnson to the Raiders' 30-yard line. Stafford took off on a run of about 15 to Oakland's 5-yard line. On the next play, he ran into the end zone on a quarterback draw to give the Lions a 16-9 lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, Ziggy Ansah beat Donald Penn for a sack and then drew a holding from Penn in the end zone to give Detroit a safety. At 18-13, Riddick stepped up with some big receptions to take the ball into Oakland territory so the Lions were able to run out the clock.
Stafford was 22-of-35 for 282 yards. He also ran the ball six times for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Calvin Johnson caught five passes for 88 yards, and Golden Tate had eight receptions for 73 yards. Ameer Abdullah had 12 carries for 33 yards. Theo Riddick had six carries for 14 yards and five receptions for 72 yards.
Carr was 13-of-25 for 169 yards. Surprisingly, Detroit's secondary limited Cooper to only one catch for four yards. Michael Crabtree led Oakland through the air with six receptions for 50 yards.
Latavius Murray totaled just 28 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
The Lions' defense got some clutch plays out of Ziggy Ansah and rookie cornerback Quandre Diggs. Khalil Mack was very good to lead Oakland's defense with eight tackles. The Lions' offensive line continued to struggle as they allowed sacks to Ben Heeney, Benson Mayowa and Denico Autry. Detroit rookie first-round guard Laken Tomlinson had a rough game.
Buccaneers 45, Eagles 17 By Pat Yasinskas - @PatYaz33
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Eagles are horrible, and this can't even be blamed on Mark Sanchez. Chip Kelly's horrible roster mismangement has depleted the roster, so Philadelphia can't be competitive if it has some injuries to deal with (i.e. to Jordan Hicks). This all won't matter to Kelly, as he'll be coaching at some high-profile college program in the near future.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did something Sunday that they had never done under coach Lovie Smith before.
They won back-to-back games for the first time under Smith. They followed last week's victory against Dallas with a blowout win against Philadelphia. The victory gets the Bucs to 5-5. That's the first time they've been at .500 this late in a season since they started 6-4 under coach Greg Schiano in 2012.
More importantly, the Bucs have put themselves in the playoff race. They still are well behind undefeated Carolina in the NFC South. But they now are in the mix for the wild-card spots in the muddled NFC playoff picture.
It came on a day in which rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and running back Doug Martin had huge performances. And it came on a day in which Tampa Bay's defense had no problems with Philadelphia's fast-paced offense.
For the Eagles, the lopsided loss at home was embarrassing, but it didn't do all that much harm to their standing in the NFC East. At 4-6, they're only a game behind the first-place New York Giants.
Winston had what was easily the best game of his young career. He threw five touchdown passes (to five different receivers). Winston tied the rookie record for most touchdown passes in a game and didn't throw an interception. Winston completed 19-of-29 passes for 246 yards. With the way, he has played in recent weeks, he now is worthy of being a starter in your fantasy league.
Martin had a monstrous day after being relatively quiet in recent weeks. He finished with 27 carries for 235 yards and cracked the 200-yard mark for only the second time in his career. Martin didn't find the end zone, but he had runs of 84 and 58 yards that set up touchdowns.
Even with Vincent Jackson back from an injury, Mike Evans continued to be the No. 1 wide receiver. Evans is a must-start receiver in your fantasy league. He had four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson had a nice first game back after dealing with a knee injury. He had four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are supposed to be the two cornerstones of the Tampa Bay defense. They had been taking some heat for being relatively quiet in recent weeks. But David and McCoy both had bounce-back games. David had two interceptions and McCoy had 1.5 sacks.
For Philadelphia, Mark Sanchez started at quarterback in place of the injured Sam Bradford but wasn't able to spark the offense. Sanchez completed 26-of-41 passes for 261 yards, with much of his yardage coming after the game already had been decided. Sanchez threw for two touchdowns, but was intercepted three times.
Philadelphia wasn't able to get much going against Tampa Bay's run defense. DeMarco Murray finished with 64 yards on 13 carries.
Philadelphia's passing game was spread out too much to have any of its players help your fantasy team much. Tight end Brent Celek was the closest thing to a bright spot with seven catches for 79 yards.
Darren Sproles, who is supposed to be one of the top pass-catching running backs in the league, had his first touchdown catch in over two years.
Chiefs 33, Chargers 3
The Chargers got King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, D.J. Fluker, Manti Te'o, Corey Liuget, Ladarius Green and Denzel Perryman back from injury in this game. This was one of eight reasons I made the Chargers my Pick of the Month. They were 2-7 entering this game, but I thought they'd play better with all of their players back. Apparently not, as my $880 went up in flames.
The big issue for the Chargers has been their pass protection. Philip Rivers has barely had any time to hook up with his receivers. Dunlap, Fluker and Franklin returning should've helped, but apparently not. Dunlap was so bad that he was even worse than his replacements, prompting the Chargers to bench him. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston exposed the horrible blocking, as Rivers was constantly under pressure. Here's a sequence at the beginning of the second half:
First drive: Dunlap was flagged for a hold, then Rivers took a sack.
Second drive: Dunlap surrendered a sack to Hali, then Rivers missed a wide-open Gates for a potential touchdown.
Third drive: Rivers tossed a pick-six on a play in which he effectively just handed the ball to Houston because he was under so much pressure.
Fourth drive: Never happened because some idiot named Javontee Herndon muffed the punt.
The Chiefs weren't really doing much on offense this entire time. That's because they lost Jeremy Maclin and Charcandrick West to injuries. Maclin was concussed on a dirty ht by Jahleel Addae that inexplicably wasn't called. West, meanwhile, injured his hamstring. However, replacement Spencer Ware picked up the slack soon enough, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Ware isn't an impressive player; his production was a byproduct of San Diego's defense giving up at the end. There was no effort on his 52-yard burst.
Alex Smith finished 20-of-25 for 253 yards to go along with seven scrambles for 33 rushing yards. He played relatively well, and his numbers could've even been better had Travis Kelce not dropped a touchdown pass at the end of the first half.
Maclin, who had three catches for 29 yards, was out for about half the game, which would explain why Albert Wilson (4-56) led the Chiefs in receiving. It would've been Kelce (5-46), but he dropped two balls.
As for the horrible Chargers, Rivers finished 19-of-30 for 178 yards and the aforementioned pick-six. He was sacked just three times, but that's a very misleading number. He had no protection whatsoever.
It didn't help that Rivers had no support from his running game. Melvin Gordon was a huge disappointment once again, mustering just 37 yards on 15 carries. The Chargers had this terrible tendency to run the ball on second-and-1 every time. It was such predictable play-calling. Mike McCoy, who deserves to be fired, simply was too incompetent to make any adjustments.
Rivers also didn't have anyone to throw to besides Stevie Johnson (7-54). After that, it was Dontrelle Inman (3-51) and Herndon (5-37), who dropped a pass. Those three players were the only Chargers who accumulated more than 12 receiving yards. Gates, who logged only a 6-yard reception, could've had a big gain, as mentioned, but Rivers missed him.
Packers 27, Vikings 13
I guess those who were shoveling dirt on the Packers were premature to do so. Green Bay was mired in a three-game losing streak that culminated in an embarrassing loss to the Lions at home last week. Aaron Rodgers simply didn't look right, and Green Bay, as a consequence, went from being a three-point favorite in the pre-week look-ahead to one-point underdogs.
Rodgers didn't say the five-letter R-word this time, but he didn't have to, as his play spoke for itself. Rodgers didn't look hindered by any sort of injury like he did versus Detroit, as he torched Minnesota's secondary all evening. Rodgers didn't complete half of his passes - he went 16-of-34 for 212 yards and two touchdowns - but he was victimized by many drops - several by Randall Cobb - and he hit big plays when he needed to.
The only concern for the Packers here is that Rodgers was still pressured heavily at times in this contest. He took two sacks, but was able to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid more sacks. The protection might only get worse, as center Corey Linsley got knocked out with an injury.
A positive sign for Green Bay is that the running game appears to be back on track. Eddie Lacy, who was fat and lethargic earlier in the season, suddenly had this inexplicable burst in this contest, rushing for an even 100 yards on just 22 carries. James Starks got the start, but quickly gave way to Lacy, who looked like the talented runner of old. Starks managed just 14 yards on eight carries.
I mentioned earlier that Cobb had numerous drops. He saw nine targets, but was able to reel in just two of them for 24 yards. He did score a touchdown, however. Rodgers' other touchdown went to James Jones, who had a tremendous performance. He caught six of his 11 targets for 109 yards, highlighted by a juggling, diving catch at the end of the third quarter to set up a Green Bay score.
Linsley wasn't the only Packer who left the game with an injury. Davante Adams exited with an ankle. He had three catches for 36 yards. He, Jones, Cobb and Starks (one catch, 30 yards) were the only Green Bay players who accumulated more than 10 receiving yards.
I mentioned that Lacy was a positive sign for the Packers. An even better one was the play of their defense. They absolutely swarmed Teddy Bridgewater, giving him no room to breathe. They sacked Bridgewater six times. Five different players got to him, with Datone Jones racking up a pair of sacks. Green Bay also dominated the trenches in respect to the ground game. Adrian Peterson scored a touchdown, but was limited to 45 yards on 13 carries otherwise. Peterson also lost a fumble in the red zone during the fourth quarter, which was a crushing blow for the Vikings, as they were just about a dozen yards away from trimming the margin to a one-score game.
As for Bridgewater, he went 25-of-37 for 296 yards and a touchdown. He also scrambled four times for 43 rushing yards. The numbers were fine, but Bridgewater didn't have an opportunity to keep drives alive because of all the sacks he took. He was very sharp early, converting some third-and-long situations, but he never was the same when he took a crushing blow on a sack late in the second quarter. Bridgewater missed just a couple of snaps, but he wasn't as effective after the jarring hit.
Bridgewater targeted Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs the most, throwing the ball to them nine times each. Rudolph surprisingly had a big outing, reeling in six receptions for 106 yards and a touchdown. Diggs, meanwhile, also caught six balls, but for only 66 yards. Mike Wallace, meanwhile, didn't catch a single pass, thanks in part to a crucial drop that would've moved the chains on the opening drive.
I received an e-mail from someone who suggested that this was one of the most fixed games of the year. I could get behind that, as Walt Coleman was either very incompetent or corrupt. It seemed like the Vikings were flagged for offensive holding on almost every drive. There were also bogus defensive holding calls, and on one instance, Datone Jones somehow wasn't flagged for spiking the ball right after sacking Bridgewater. All of the major penalties went against the Vikings, who never had a chance with such biased officiating.
Seahawks 29, 49ers 13
I don't think we can learn much from this game. The Seahawks managed to win to temporarily save their season, but are they good enough to truly compete for a deep run in the playoffs? That's not clear. The 49ers have a depleted roster coached by a pizza shop owner and run by an idiot who built a disappointing stadium, so of course they both lost and failed to cover. The Seahawks took care of business against San Francisco once again, but they were favored by two touchdowns, so that can't be a surprise.
What was a surprise was Thomas Rawls. Everything about him. Marshawn Lynch was expected to play, but was a very late scratch. This allowed Rawls to start, and he had a game-breaking performance. Rawls rushed for a whopping 209 yards on 30 carries, all while catching all three of his targets for 46 receiving yards. He also scored twice.
Rawls has played in limited action this year, but there's no doubt that the Seahawks' offense has looked better with him compared to Marshawn Lynch. Of course, Lynch has been one of the league's best runners throughout the years, but he hasn't been the same this season. He hasn't maintained the same sort of burst. Rawls, meanwhile, is an explosive, powerful runner who deserves to be featured even when Lynch returns.
With a strong running game aiding him, Russell Wilson was able to put together his best performance of the season. Wilson misfired on just five occasions, going 24-of-29 for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled nine times for 30 rushing yards. Granted, he was playing the 49ers, but Wilson will be so much better if he continues to get strong support from his ground attack.
Wilson threw a touchdown to Rawls, while his other scores went to Tyler Lockett, who caught four balls for 48 yards. The 49ers displayed some horrific tackling on Lockett's second touchdown. Meanwhile, Doug Baldwin (6-60) led the team in receiving.
As for the 49ers, Blaine Gabbert once again proved to be an upgrade over the 2015 version of Colin Kaepernick. I can't believe I just wrote that. Gabbert went 22-of-34 for 264 yards and a touchdown. He pulled a Kaepernick early by carelessly sailing passes out of bounds, but got into a rhythm beginning in the middle of the second quarter. However, it should be noted that he was extremely fortunate to get away with three interceptions. Richard Sherman dropped the first; K.J. Wright couldn't come up with the second, which occurred in the red zone; the third was nearly reeled in by Marcus Burley.
Anquan Boldin paced the Cardinals with five catches for 93 yards, but limped off the field at the end of the game. Torrey Smith logged just one reception (16 yards), but made it count by snatching it with one hand. Vance McDonald (4-65) caught Gabbert's sole touchdown.
With Frank Gore out, Shaun Draughn got every single carry, garnering 37 yards on 12 attempts. He did most of his damage as a receiver, catching eight balls for 40 yards.
The 49ers were already a mess, but things just got worse for them, as defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey was lost for the year with a torn ACL. He was one of the team's top run-stuffers.
Cardinals 34, Bengals 31
It didn't appear as though the Cardinals were going to prevail in the first half. Carson Palmer was guilty of two horrible interceptions early on and could barely complete half of his passes. Arizona trailed at intermission, but rallied back with a strong second half. The team actually led by two touchdowns at one point. The Bengals ultimately came back to tie the game, but Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald hooked up several times on the final drive to improve to 8-2.
Palmer finished 20-of-31 for 317 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The first pick was a lazy pass in which Leon Hall cut in front of the receiver. The second was a deep shot to no one in particular that had both Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth completely baffled. Palmer also nearly had a third pick thrown into triple coverage that was dropped. His halftime line of 7-of-12 for 81 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions doesn't even properly indicate how poorly he was performing.
However, Palmer caught fire in the second half, going 13-of-19 for 246 yards and three scores following intermission. He converted on numerous bombs and came up big when it mattered most. setting up Chandler Catanzaro for the game-winning field goal.
It shouldn't shock you to learn that Fitzgerald led the Cardinals in targets. He saw 13 of them, catching eight balls for 90 yards. However, the player next on the target list was surprising. It wasn't Michael Floyd, who was sidelined with an injury. It wasn't John Brown either, though Brown did catch a touchdown on his three receptions for 43 yards. None of the running backs held that distinction. Speedy rookie J.J. Nelson was that player, as he snatched four of his six targets for a whopping 142 yards and a touchdown. Nelson's 64-yard score tied the game in the third quarter. He caught a deep pass and made an amazing juke on the defender, then used his elite speed to fly into the end zone.
The Cardinals didn't run the ball very well. The Bengals did a great job of bottling up Chris Johnson, limiting him to 63 yards on 18 carries. David Johnson vultured a receiving touchdown.
The one dark cloud over this victory was that cornerback Patrick Peterson had to sit out the final couple of drives because he couldn't put any weight on his ankle. It's unknown how serious this injury is, but the Cardinals couldn't stop Cincinnati when he wasn't on the field.
As for the Bengals, they made the mistakes in the second half when the Cardinals stopped shooting themselves in the foot. They dropped several passes, while Andy Dalton lost a fumble that led to an Arizona field goal. The most egregious blunder occurred at the end of the game when the Bengals were flagged for simulating the snap. Suddenly, Catanzaro's 44-yard field goal attempt turned into an easy 32-yarder.
Dalton finished 22-of-39 for 315 yards, two touchdowns and a lost fumble. Unlike Palmer, he was less effective following intermission, going 14-of-28 for 188 yards and the fumble in the second half. Drops were part of the reason for his regression, but Dalton also sailed some passes out of bounds, much like he did in Monday night's loss to the Texans.
Dalton's two touchdowns went to Tyler Eifert (3-22). He had issues connecting with A.J. Green. He threw to him 12 times, but Green managed to catch just four passes for 79 yards. They were close, however. Green nearly caught a touchdown, but one foot was barely out of bounds. Dalton missed Green by mere inches on another downfield shot. It was that type of game.
Dalton's leading receiver happened to be Giovani Bernard, who snatched eight catches for 128 receiving yards. Bernard, who dropped a pass, barely did anything on the ground (6-18), as Jeremy Hill handled most of the workload. Hill mustered just 45 yards on 13 attempts, but was able to score two touchdowns. Hill was flagged for taunting at one point, which was just one of many dubious calls made tonight by Terry McAulay's overmatched officiating crew. Perhaps the worst call was when McAulay gave the Bengals a first down on a third-and-19 because of a Kevin Minter hold. It didn't even look like Minter even touched the opposing player, so giving a team a fresh set of downs on a third-and-19 was just appalling.
Patriots 20, Bills 13
The Patriots have improved to 10-0, but there's more concern than ever with them. Tom Brady lost Dion Lewis two weeks ago and Julian Edelman last Sunday, and now Danny Amendola is hurt. Amendola injured his knee in this contest during the second half. He left the game, but never returned. It doesn't appear as though Amendola is going to be out for the season or anything, but there's potential that something like this could linger.
Amendola's injury isn't the only issue. The offensive line was a train wreck in this matchup. Marcus Cannon returned to play left tackle, but it didn't matter, as he was absolutely atrocious. He was flagged multiple times and had major problems keeping the defenders out of the backfield. The same can be said for most of the linemen, as the Patriots shuffled them in and out of a lineup to find a combination that worked. They were never successful, as Brady saw 19 pressures - the most he has faced in more than a decade, per an ESPN stat.
With Brady under duress so frequently, the offense struggled to keep drives alive. New England converted just four of its 14 third downs, as Brady spent most of the evening tossing balls into the ground in disgust. At one point, he gathered all the linemen on the sideline and shouted at all of them. That didn't help, as Buffalo dominated the trenches throughout the entire contest.
Brady barely completed half of his passes, going 20-of-39 for 277 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which was a lazy throw downfield into double coverage. Brady made a few great passes, but was seldom in position to find his weapons on a frequent basis. His score was a short toss to James White, who was able to find the end zone thanks to a blown assignment and a missed tackle by Corey Graham. Brady was robbed of a 70-yard touchdown to Amendola when the referees blew an inadvertent whistle (more on that later).
Amendola played great until he left the game. He caught nine passes for 117 yards, and as mentioned, he should've had a 70-yard touchdown as well. Amendola set up White's second touchdown with a 41-yard reception that featured a great juke move. He'll be missed if he's out for a while. Aaron Dobson (1-17) was also hurt.
Rob Gronkowski had a very disappointing performance. The Bills smothered him, but he still had a chance to post decent numbers, rather than his meager stat line (2-37). Gronkowski had two drops, one of which bounced off his hands and into the arms of a Buffalo defender for an interception, but that was nullified by a defensive hold.
The Patriots struggled to run the ball. LeGarrette Blount simply couldn't find any running room. He broke free for a 17-yard gain, but otherwise did nothing, mustering only 56 yards on 16 attempts.
The Bills did a great job on Brady, for sure, but they didn't win because of the same old story for them. They screwed up the little things. Untimely penalties, drops, missed throws and other miscellaneous errors did them in once again versus their arch nemesis.
It began early with the defensive hold that nullified the Gronkowski-drop interception. An illegal formation negated a first-down scramble. Tyrod Taylor underthrew Chris Hogan for a touchdown. LeSean McCoy dropped two passes, one of which would've been a score. Leodis McKelvin fumbled a punt return, giving the Patriots a field goal. The 2-minute drill, meanwhile, was an abomination. The Bills wasted 20 seconds after the first play because their headsets weren't working for some strange reason. Later, Taylor had a dropped pick-six by Patrick Chung and then Sammy Watkins was incorrectly ruled inbounds when he fell out of play.
Taylor finished 20-of-36 for 233 yards. He had just one rushing yard on four scrambles. Taylor did some nice things, but he missed way too many passes, including a potential touchdown to Hogan that was underthrown. Taylor appeared to be injure his shoulder in the fourth quarter and struggled a bit after that.
LeSean McCoy had a big game, rushing for 82 yards on 20 carries to go along with six catches for 41 receiving yards. He found the end zone once. However, McCoy, as mentioned, dropped a couple of passes, including a potential touchdown.
Hogan was Buffalo's leading receiver, racking up six catches for 95 yards. He also missed out on a touchdown on an underthrow. He was such a big part of the offense because Bill Belichick made sure to erase Watkins from Buffalo's game plan. Watkins made a sick one-handed catch at one point, but that's pretty much all he did all evening. He finished with three catches for 39 yards.
A couple of extra things:
1. The officiating in this contest was horrible. There were numerous sketchy calls throughout. The inadvertent whistle was mind-boggling. Brady hit Amendola for what appeared to be a 70-yard touchdown, but a referee blew his whistle while the pass was in the air. There was no reason for him to do so, and the officials huddled up for five minutes to try to figure out what happened. They compounded their mistake with another error, as Gene Steratore gave New England the reception, ruling it dead at the spot of the catch when the play should've been a do-over since the whistle blew before Amendola obtained possession. It appeared as though Steratore just wanted to appease the crowd.
The Watkins play at the end was ridiculous as well. Watkins fell backward out of bounds, and the Bills should've had some time left, but the officials signaled for the clock to keep running. Watkins was never touched, so it's not like his forward progress was stopped. I don't understand how Steratore let this happen.
2. The Patriots were robbed of a cover. On top of the inadvertent whistle, Taylor, who was hurt, somehow completed a deep pass to Hogan to set up the back-door field goal. Chung, at the very end, could've ran back an interception for a touchdown, but inexplicably dropped the pass.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.