NFL PREVIEW: WEEK 5 CAPSULES
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-2) VS. BUFFALO BILLS (3-1)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023 GAME TIME: 9:30 AM ET
NFL Network: Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner, Jamie Erdahl
Westwood One: J.P. Shadrick, James Lofton
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) JAX: 109 or 384 BUF: 104 or 225 National: 133 or 229
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: BUF leads series, 9-7 (Home team won past 4)
POSTSEASON: JAX leads series, 2-0
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 11/7/21: BUF 6 at JAX 9
POSTSEASON: 1/7/18 AFC-WC: BUF 3 at JAX 10
JAGUARS will be playing 11th game in London all-time, most among NFL teams. Can become 1st team ever to win 2 international games in one season. • QB TREVOR LAWRENCE completed 23 of 30 atts. (season high 76.7 pct.) with 249 yards (207 pass, season-high 42 rush) & TD vs. 0 INTs with season-high 105.8 rating last week. Has 90+ rating & 0 INTs in 2 of 3 career games in London. • RB TRAVIS ETIENNE aims for 3rd in row with 70+ scrimmage yards. Has 234 scrimmage yards (117 per game) in 2 career games in London. • WR CHRISTIAN KIRK led team with 8 catches for 84 yards last week, his 2nd game this season with 8+ catches. Aims for 4th in row with 50+ rec. yards. • WR CALVIN RIDLEY had 30th-career TD catch in Week 4. • TE EVAN ENGRAM had 7 catches for 59 yards last week & is only TE in NFL with 5+ catches in each of 1st 4 weeks of season. Aims for 4th in row with 55+ rec. yards. Had 6 catches for 48 yards in only career game vs. Buf. (9/15/19 w/ NYG). • LB JOSH ALLEN had 3 sacks & 1st FF of season last week, most sacks ever in an NFL international game. Is 5th player since 2000 with 3+ sacks in 2 of team’s 1st 4 games of a season. Had 8 tackles, sack, INT & FR in last meeting. • LB FOYESADE OLUOKUN led team with 9 tackles & had season-high 3 TFL & FR last week. Has FR in 2 of past 3. Is 1 of 3 in NFL with 9+ tackles in each of 1st 4 weeks of season. • S ANDRE CISCO had TFL & 2nd INT of season last week. Has INT in 2 of past 3. • CB DARIOUS WILLIAMS had 3 PD, incl. 61-yard INT-TD, last week, 1st-career TD. Has PD in each of 1st 4 games of season.
BILLS will be playing franchise’s 2nd London game (2015 vs. Jax.). • QB JOSH ALLEN became 2nd player ever with 300+ pass yards (320), 4 TD passes, rush TD & 158.3 rating in single game last week, his 3rd-career game with 4+ TD passes & rush TD, tied for 2nd-most all-time. Aims for 3rd in row with rush TD. Has 3+ TD passes & 120+ rating in 2 of past 3. Leads NFL with 74.8 comp. pct. this season & ranks tied-2nd with 9 TD passes. • RB JAMES COOK had 77 scrimmage yards (career-high 48 rec., 29 rush) & 1st rush TD of season last week. Aims for 4th in row with 75+ scrimmage yards. Ranks 3rd among RBs with 411 scrimmage yards (296 rush, 115 rec.) this season. • RB LATAVIUS MURRAY has rush TD in 2 of past 3. Has 3 rush TDs in 3 career games vs. Jax. • RB DAMIEN HARRIS had 2 rush TDs in only career game vs. Jax. (1/2/22 w/ NE). • WR STEFON DIGGS led team with 6 catches for 120 yards & 3 TDs last week, his 4th game with 3+ rec. TDs since 2019, most in NFL. Is 1 of 3 in NFL with 100+ rec. yards in 3 games this season. Had 6 catches for 85 yards in last meeting. Ties for NFL lead with 4 rec. TDs. • WR GABE DAVIS had rec. TD in 3 straight games, longest active streak in NFL. Has 60+ rec, yards in 2 of past 3. • DE GREG ROUSSEAU had season-high 2 sacks & PD last week, 3rd-career game with 2 sacks. Has TFL in all 4 games this season & aims for 3rd in row with sack. • DT ED OLIVER aims for 3rd in row with 2+ TFL & sack. • LB MATT MILANO led team with season-high 10 tackles & had 1st FF of season in Week 4. Has 5+ tackles in 12 of his past 13. • S MICAH HYDE aims for 3rd in row with INT. Has 5 tackles in 3 of 4 games this season. Had TFL & PD in last meeting.
Josh Allen was searching for any British phrases he might know in preparing for his first trip to England, when the Buffalo Bills quarterback smiled and said: “Mind the gap.”
Not bad for someone from Central California in referencing how London Underground commuters are cautioned to not trip over the space between the platform and car when entering or exiting at each Tube stop.
It serves as a useful reminder to the Bills (3-1) as a whole in being mostly unfamiliar with traveling to England and yet designated the “home” team for their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
The gap for the Bills in making the trip across the Atlantic is a large one in comparison to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars are 5-5 since making London their home for a once-a-season game (excluding 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) since 2013. And on Sunday, they’ll become the NFL’s first team to play consecutive games outside the United States, following a 23-7 win over Atlanta at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“I guess the advantage goes to them,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said in noting how the Jaguars have previously played at Tottenham and enjoy the benefit of being acclimated to the time change with Buffalo not arriving in London until Friday morning.
Allen acknowledged it doesn’t feel like a home game and isn’t sure how the Bills will be received even though his No. 17 jersey is among the top-sellers in the United Kingdom.
“I’m not sure if I’m liked, loved or hated there,” Allen said. “I guess we’ll find out on Sunday.”
Buffalo might be on a roll in having blown out its past three opponents by a combined margin of 123-33. And yet the uniqueness of the setting is reason for pause even for a team accustomed to scheduling quirks. In November, a major snowstorm forced the Bills to relocate to Detroit to play a “home” game in a win over Cleveland last season.
In acknowledging the Jaguars having an edge, quarterback Trevor Lawrence said the key is taking advantage of it.
A year after enjoying a breakthrough by winning just their second AFC South title since the divisions were realigned in 2002, and first since 2017, the Jaguars are off to an inconsistent start.
Jacksonville followed a season-opening win against Indianapolis with a pair of duds in losses to Kansas City and Houston.
The outing on Sunday represents another shot on the big stage against an AFC power, after Lawrence acknowledged the Jaguars “laid an egg offensively” in a 17-9 loss to the Chiefs.
“This is a big game, an AFC matchup, a team that’s been playing really good football right now who’s been one of the top teams in the AFC for the past few years,” Lawrence said.
“It’s a challenge for us,” coach Doug Pederson said of the Bills. “It’s something we can maybe learn from that Chiefs game with preparation and hard work and all of that.”
And a little extra rest.
The one home advantage the Bills had was choosing to stay at The Grove, a luxury golf resort hotel and spa located a 45-minute drive from Tottenham. The Jaguars were staying at the hotel and forced to relocate to the Hanbury Manor Hotel and Country Club, 41 minutes from the stadium.
While Pederson gave his team Sunday night and Monday to enjoy London with their families, the coach spent the time preparing for Buffalo.
“My wife is here, and she’s had a chance to experience the city and surrounding area,” he said. “She says it’s great. I’ve been right here.”
No Bills players or coaches are left from the Rex Ryan-coached team that dropped a 34-31 decision to Jacksonville at Wembley in 2015, the only time Buffalo has played a regular-season game in London.
The Jaguars are 4-5 at Wembley and 1-0 at Tottenham all as the home team. Their 23-30 win over Miami at Tottenham in 2021 snapped an 0-20 skid.
The Jags are struggling in short-yardage situations and hope left tackle Cam Robinson can make a difference.
The veteran returned to practice this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.
“There’s physicality there and a mindset that he brings,” Pederson said. “Cam definitely brings that leadership and maybe a little more stability to the offensive line.”
Robinson will be evaluated in practice this week. Walker Little started in his absence.
Lawrence is well aware the Bills enter the week tied for the league lead in sacks with 16. And that’s not counting Von Miller.
“One thing that stands out about them is they play through the whistle every play,” Lawrence said. “Even if their initial pass rush doesn’t get home, when you step up, they’re retracing, they’re folding back in to make the play.”
Miller practiced this week for the first time since being sidelined by a right knee injury in late November. Though he’s eager to play, the 34-year-old said it might be smarter to not have to rush back into action.
HOUSTON TEXANS (2-2) AT ATLANTA FALCONS (2-2)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 1:00 PM ET
FOX: Brandon Gaudin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) HOU: 113 or 385 ATL: 85 or 226
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: HOU leads series, 3-2 (Home team won past 5)
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 10/6/19: ATL 32 at HOU 53
QB C.J. STROUD (rookie) passed for 306 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs with 111.3 rating last week. Ranks 4th in NFL with 1,212 passing yards this season, 2nd-most ever by player in 1st 4 career games (Cam Newton – 1,386). Joined Gardner Minshew (2019) as only QBs ever with 0 INTs in 1st 4 career starts (min. 30 atts. in each start). Aims for 4th in row with 2+ TD passes. • RB DAMEON PIERCE had season-high 108 scrimmage yards (season-high 81 rush, 27 rec.) last week, 7th-career game with 100+ scrimmage yards. Has rush TD in 2 of past 3 on road. • RB DEVIN SINGLETARY had 1st-career TD pass last week & is 1 of 2 RBs (Derrick Henry) with TD pass this season. Had careerhigh 110 rush yards in only career game vs. Atl. (1/2/22 w/ Buf.). • WR NICO COLLINS had 7 catches for career-high 168 yards & 2 TDs last week, most rec. yards by Hou. player since 2020 (171 by Will Fuller). Is 1 of 2 in NFL (Tyreek Hill) with 125+ rec. yards & rec. TD in multiple games this season. Has 6+ catches in 3 of 4 games in 2023. Ranks 5th in NFL with 428 rec. yards this season. • WR TANK DELL (rookie) has 5+ catches, 70+ rec. yards & rec. TD in 2 of past 3. Ranks 2nd among rookies with 267 rec. yards in 2023. • TE DALTON SCHULTZ had 1st TD catch of season last week. • LB CHRISTIAN HARRIS led team with season-best 12 tackles in Week 4. Has 5+ tackles in 4 of his past 5 on road. • LB HENRY TO’OTO’O (rookie) aims for 4th in row with 7+ tackles & 3rd in row with PD. Leads rookies with 27 tackles this season. • DE JONATHAN GREENARD had 3 TFLs & 2 sacks last week. • DE JERRY HUGHES had 1st sack of season in Week 4. Aims for 3rd in row with TFL. Has sack in 2 of his past 3 vs. Atl. • CB STEVEN NELSON had 2nd INT of season last week. Has PD in all 4 games this season.
QB DESMOND RIDDER passed for 191 yards & TD last week. Is 4-0 as starter at home with 5 TDs (4 pass, 1 rush) & 96.6 rating. Has TD pass in 4 of his past 5 starts. • RB BIJAN ROBINSON (rookie) had 5 receptions & 137 scrimmage yards (105 rush, 32 rec.) in Week 4. Is 1 of 4 RBs (De’Von Achane, Christian McCaffrey & D’Andre Swift) with 2+ (2) games of 100+ rush yards in 2023. Leads RBs with 19 receptions & ranks 2nd among RBs with 452 scrimmage yards. • RB TYLER ALLGEIER has 851 scrimmage yards (85.1 per game) & 4 TDs (3 rush, 1 rec.) in 10 career home games, incl. 50+ scrimmage yards in 9 of 10. • WR DRAKE LONDON had 2nd rec. TD of season last week, his 6th-career TD catch. Has 5+ catches in 4 of his past 5 at home. • TE JONNU SMITH led team with 6 receptions & 95 rec. yards last week & aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ receptions. • S JESSIE BATES had 8 tackles, TFL & FF last week & is 3rd player since 2000 with 3+ INTs (3) & 2+ FFs (2) in team’s 1st 4 games of season. • S RICHIE GRANT led team & tied his career high with 11 tackles last week, his 4th-career game with 10+ tackles. Has 5+ tackles in 10 of his past 11 at home. • DL GRADY JARRETT had FF in last meeting. • DL CALAIS CAMPBELL has 9.5 sacks in 9 career games vs. Hou. & aims for his 3rd in row vs. Hou. with sack. • DL DAVID ONYEMATA tied his career high with 7 tackles & had 1.5 sacks in Week 4, his 3rd-career game with 1.5+ sacks. Has TFL in 4 of his past 5 & aims for his 3rd in row with TFL. • LB NATE LANDMAN had career-high 10 tackles in Week 4. • CB A.J. TERRELL has 3 PD in his past 3 at home.
ATLANTA (AP) A fast start, and a home win, could take some heat off Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Back-to-back losses have dropped the Falcons (2-2) to .500 entering Sunday’s game against rookie C.J. Stroud and the Houston Texans (2-2). The Texans will be trying for their first three-game winning streak since 2018.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith said “the easy thing is to jerk the wheel” by benching Ridder after only four games in his first full season as the starter. Smith said he is not making a change this week.
It could be argued that grabbing the wheel is a dangerous tactic only when a car is moving, and too often the Falcons’ transmission has been stuck in park with Ridder driving. The Falcons have scored only one touchdown in their past two games.
Veteran Taylor Heinicke, who was signed to be Ridder’s backup, would move up if Smith changes starters.
The Falcons won two of four games in Ridder’s audition as the starter to close a 7-10 finish in 2022. The last two games of another 2-2 stretch this season have been ugly. Ridder was hurt by three turnovers last week as the Jaguars beat the Falcons 23-7 in London. Jacksonville led 17-0 at halftime.
Smith said a good start could do wonders for Ridder, who has three touchdown passes and three interceptions.
“So you’re talking about eight starts, 4-4, the biggest obstacle we’ve got is starting fast,” Smith said. “The last two results were hard to win, not getting off to a start and putting yourself in a hole like that.”
Atlanta’s offense also struggled two weeks ago in a 20-6 loss at Detroit. Another poor performance by Ridder and the offense at home could force Smith’s hand.
“I don’t let the outside noise affect me,” Ridder said Wednesday. “I just know what I have to do every single day and that’s improve.”
There are no questions about Stroud’s job security. The rookie’s 1,212 passing yards rank fourth in the league and are the second-most in a player’s first four games, behind Cam Newton’s 1,386 in 2011.
Stroud has thrown 151 passes without an interception, an NFL rookie record. He has six touchdown passes.
Houston coach DeMeco Ryans said Stroud’s experience at Ohio State has helped him flourish as a rookie.
“He played a lot of football in college, and you’ve seen some of the same things,” Ryan said. “Whether it’s looking off safeties, moving curl flat defenders, he’s done that in college, and it continues to show. He’s a good quarterback.”
Houston’s injury-plagued offensive line should get a boost this week with the expected return of two key players. Star left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) and right tackle Tytus Howard (hand surgery) have practiced this week after both missed significant time.
Howard, who signed a three-year, $56 million contract extension in July, can’t wait to get on the field with Stroud.
“Oh, yeah, C.J. is a baller,” Howard said. “I’m just excited to be part of the team, being able to help do what I can for us to win more games.”
HOME SWEET HOME
The home team has won each of the last five games in the series. The Falcons are 2-0 at home this season. Ridder is 4-0 at home in his two seasons.
CHALLENGE FOR STROUD
The Falcons rank fifth in the league in pass defense and seventh overall, and cornerback Jeff Okudah returned from an ankle injury last week. The secondary also includes cornerback A.J. Terrell and safeties Jessie Bates and Richie Grant. Bates has three interceptions.
“They’re all really good players,” Stroud said. “They fly around, they’re aggressive, they want to guard you man to man and they’re going to be in your face all game. For us, we’ve got to be ready to play a really, really hard game.”
AN INCH AWAY
Ridder says the Falcons’ offense is “just a few simple things” away from success. Maybe just an inch at times.
“One is that it’s an inch or a guy away from a play breaking or busting from us being able to carry that momentum and keep the drive going,” Ridder said. “… Whatever it may be, it’s just one little thing here or there on each of those plays.”
NICO’S BREAKOUT SEASON
Houston receiver Nico Collins, a 2021 third-round pick, is just 54 yards shy of surpassing his career high of 481 yards receiving from last season.
Collins had seven catches for a career-high 168 yards – the most receiving yards by a Texan since 2020 – and two touchdowns last week. He’s become Stroud’s favorite target and his 428 yards receiving ranks fifth in the league.
“We’re not done,” Collins said. “We’ve got to keep growing.”
CAROLINA PANTHERS (0-4) AT DETROIT LIONS (3-1)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 1:00 PM ET
FOX: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Pam Oliver
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) CAR: 158 or 385 DET: 83 or 227
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: CAR leads series, 8-3 (won past 2)
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 12/24/22: DET 23 at CAR 37
QB BRYCE YOUNG (rookie) completed 25 of 32 atts. (78.1 pct.) for 204 yards & 93.2 rating in Week 4. Aims for his 4th in row with 20+ completions. • RB MILES SANDERS has 231 scrimmage yards (115.5 per game) & rush TD in 2 career games vs. Det. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Det. with 100+ scrimmage yards. • RB CHUBA HUBBARD had 53 scrimmage yards (41 rush, 12 rec.) in Week 4 & has 50+ scrimmage yards in 9 of his past 10. Had career-high 125 rush yards in last meeting. • WR ADAM THIELEN had 7 catches for team high 76 rec. yards in Week 4. Aims for his 4th in row with 7+ catches & 50+ rec. yards. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Det. with rec. TD. • WR TERRACE MARSHALL had career-high 9 receptions for 56 yards last week. Had 55 rec. yards in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ catches. • WR DJ CHARK had 30 catches for 502 yards & 3 TDs last season with Det. • LB BRIAN BURNS has 3 sacks, 5 TFL & FF in 2 road games in 2023 & has 9 TFL in his past 6 road games. Aims for his 3rd in row on road with sack. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Det. with 2+ sacks, TFL & PD. • LB FRANKIE LUVU has 9 TFL in his past 6 on road. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Det. with TFL. • LB KAMU GRUGIER-HILL had 3rd-career INT last week. • S SAM FRANKLIN had 99-yard INT-TD last week, his 1st-career INT & TD. Aims for his 3rd in row with PD. • S VONN BELL led team with 7 tackles last week & aims for his 4th in row with 6+ tackles. • S JEREMY CHINN had 4th-career sack last week.
QB JARED GOFF had TD pass & 86.9 rating in Week 4. Has 38 TDs (37 pass, 1 rush) vs. 6 INTs for 110.8 rating in his past 15 home starts, incl. 2+ TD passes in 13 of 15 starts. Passed for 355 yards & 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 110.7 rating in last meeting. • RB DAVID MONTGOMERY had 141 scrimmage yards (121 rush, 20 rec.) & career-high 3 rush TDs in Week 4, his 9th-career game with 100+ rush yards. Aims for his 4th in row with 70+ scrimmage yards & rush TD. • RB JAHMYR GIBBS (rookie) aims for his 4th in row with 50+ scrimmage yards. • WR AMON-RA ST. BROWN had 5 catches for 56 yards & 2nd rec. TD of season in Week 4. Has 5+ catches & 50+ rec. yards in each of 1st 4 weeks. Aims for his 6th in row with 5+ catches. Had 7 receptions for 76 yards in last meeting. • TE SAM LAPORTA has most receptions (22) & 2nd-most rec. yards (242) by TE in 1st 4 career games in NFL history. • DL AIDAN HUTCHINSON had 1.5 sacks last week & aims for his 3rd in row with 1.5+ sacks. Has 0.5+ sacks in 4 of his past 5 at home. • DL ALIM MCNEILL had sack & 2 TFL last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with sack. Had career-high 6 tackles & TFL in last meeting. • DL ISAIAH BUGGS & DL JOHN COMINSKY each had 1st sack of season in Week 4. • LB ALEX ANZALONE has 5+ tackles in 21 consec. games, tied 4th-longest active streak in NFL. • CB JERRY JACOBS had 5 tackles and set career highs with 4 PD & 2 INTs last week. Aims for his 6th in row with 5+ tackles. • DB BRIAN BRANCH (rookie) led team with 7 tackles last week. • S TRACY WALKER had 2nd-career FF in Week 4.
DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Lions are rolling as they head into a matchup with Carolina – just as they were last season.
Detroit hopes to have a different result.
The Panthers played a part in keeping the surging Lions out of the playoffs, beating them by two touchdowns with a franchise-record 570 yards of offense in Week 16. It was Detroit’s second and final loss in a 10-game stretch.
“Different coach, different players, but a lot of those guys are still there,” Lions quarterback Jared Goff said. “Yeah, we’d like to get our chance back now and I know they’re going to come with it.
“They need a win and so do we.”
The NFC North-leading Lions (3-1) host the winless Panthers (0-4) on Sunday, aiming to hold onto their first outright division lead since Week 2 in 2017.
Carolina, with first-year coach Frank Reich and rookie quarterback Bryce Young, is off to its worst start since losing the first five games of the 2010 season.
“In one respect, we’re close,” Reich said. “In other respects, we’re making too many mistakes to even say that.”
Young, the No. 1 pick overall, is off to a rough start in part because he has been sacked 11 times in three games. He’s averaging 167.7 yards passing per game and has two touchdown passes, two interceptions and two lost fumbles.
Young insisted he’s not worried about comparisons with the No. 2 overall pick, Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud, who is off to a strong start.
“I’m always rooting for him and it’s great to see,” Young said. “But I’m just try to run my own race and try to control what I can control.”
Lions receiver Jameson Williams is eligible to play – two weeks earlier than expected – after the NFL reduced his six-game suspension for gambling.
Williams, whose training camp was cut short by a hamstring injury, will probably play sparingly against the Panthers as he gets into game shape and shows he knows where to line up and where to go in the offense.
When the No. 12 pick from the 2022 draft does get on the field, he will likely give Goff a deep-play threat as he did for Young at Alabama.
“He brings a different element that us and many other teams don’t have in terms of speed and the way he runs down the field,” Detroit receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said.
Detroit appears to have an edge at tight end.
Rookie Sam LaPorta has 22 receptions, the most by an NFL tight end in his first four games, for 242 yards and a touchdown.
Carolina’s four tight ends have combined for 13 catches, 114 yards and one score. They were held to a total of one catch for 7 yards in last week’s loss to Minnesota at home.
Hayden Hurst, who signed a three-year, $21.7 million contract with the Panthers in free agency, started strong with five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in the opener. He has been held to five receptions and 38 yards over the last three games.
Goff has thrown one interception in three straight games, starting with a pick-6 in the Week 2 loss to Seattle, after he went 383 pass attempts without one.
“Those are the ones that really sting,” Goff said. “Just got to take care of the ball better. That is something I’m focused on.”
Carolina might be without three starters in the secondary because cornerback Donte Jackson has a shoulder injury, safety Xavier Woods hurt his hamstring and cornerback Jaycee Horn is on injured reserve.
The Panthers’ 0-4 start has put them in a predicament. Out of 164 teams that lost their first four games in the Super Bowl era, only the 1992 Chargers made the playoffs.
TENNESSEE TITANS (2-2) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (2-2)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 1:00 PM ET
CBS: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta, Amanda Renner
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) TEN: 109 or 384 IND: 104 or 225
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: IND leads series, 35-21 (TEN won past 5)
POSTSEASON: TEN leads series, 1-0
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 10/23/22: IND 10 at TEN 19
POSTSEASON: 1/16/00 AFC-DIV: TEN 16 at IND 16
QB RYAN TANNEHILL completed 18 of 25 atts. (72 pct.) for 240 yards & TD vs. INT with 98.8 rating last week. Has 95+ rating in 2 of past 3. Is 5-0 in his past 5 starts vs. Ind. with 102.1 rating. Has 2+ TD passes in 3 of his past 4 vs. Ind. Has 0 INTs in 4 of his past 5 starts vs. division. • RB DERRICK HENRY rushed for season-high 122 yards & 2nd TD of season & had 3rd-career TD pass last week. Has 95+ scrimmage yards in 3 of 4 games this season & 7 of his past 8 overall. Has rush TD in 2 of past 3. Had 135+ scrimmage yards in both games vs. Ind. last season & has 100+ scrimmage yards in 6 of his past 7 vs. Ind. Has 100+ rush yards in 13 of his past 14 vs. division, incl. each of past 6. • RB TYJAE SPEARS (rookie) had 58 scrimmage yards (40 rush, 18 rec.) last week. Has 55+ scrimmage yards in 2 of past 3. • WR DEANDRE HOPKINS led team with 63 rec. yards in Week 4. Aims for his 6th in row vs. Ind. with TD catch & 3rd in row with 90+ rec. yards. Has 50+ rec. yards in 5 of 6 career games at Ind. • WR NICK WESTBROOK-IKHINE had season-high 5 catches for 51 yards last week. • TE CHIG OKONKWO had rec. TD in last road meeting. • TE JOSH WHYLE (rookie) had 1st-career TD catch in Week 4. • DT JEFFERY SIMMONS had sack last week & has sack in 3 of 4 games this season. Had 6 tackles, 2 TFL & sack in last meeting. • LB ARDEN KEY had sack in Week 4. • LB JACK GIBBENS led team with 10 tackles & had PD last week. Aims for 5th in row with 5+ tackles. • LB AZEEZ AL-SHAAIR had 2 PD & 9 tackles in Week 4. • S KEVIN BYARD had 6 tackles & 1st FR of season last week. Has 6+ tackles in 3 of 4 games this season.
QB ANTHONY RICHARDSON (rookie) totaled 256 yards (200 pass, career-high 56 rush) & career-high 3 TDs (2 pass, 1 rush) last week. Is 1st QB in SB era with rush TD in each of 1st 3 career games. Can become 1st QB in SB era with rush TD in each of 1st 4 games of a season. Aims for his 3rd in row with 0 INTs. • RB ZACK MOSS has 70+ rush yards in each of his 3 games this season, with 100+ scrimmage yards in 2 of 3. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. division with 100+ scrimmage yards & rush TD. • WR MICHAEL PITTMAN has 8+ catches & 55+ rec. yards in 3 of 4 games this season. Has 6+ catches in 3 of his past 4 vs. Ten. Has rec. TD in 2 of his past 3 vs. division. • WR JOSH DOWNS ranks 5th among rookies with 17 catches. • TE DREW OGLETREE led team with career-high 48 rec. yards & had 1st-career TD catch in Week 4. • TE MO ALIE-COX had 1st rec. TD of season last week. Had 6 catches for 85 yards in last home meeting. • LB ZAIRE FRANKLIN led team with 12 tackles last week & is only player in NFL with 12+ tackles in each of 1st 4 weeks. Can join Zach Thomas in 2005 as only player since 2000 with 12+ tackles in each of team’s 1st 5 games of season. Has TFL in 2 of past 3. Leads NFL with 57 tackles in 2023. Had TFL in last meeting. • DT DEFOREST BUCKNER aims for his 3rd in row vs. division with sack. Has TFL in 4 of his past 5 at home. • DE KWITY PAYE has sack in 3 of 4 games this season. Has FR in 2 of past 3. Had sack in last home meeting. • DE DAYO ODEYINGBO had season-high 7 tackles & 1.5 sacks, PD & 2nd FF of season in Week 4. Has FF in 2 of past 3. • CB KENNY MOORE had season-high 8 tackles, 2 PD & 1st INT of season last week. Had sack in last meeting.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) When the Indianapolis Colts watch video of prior matchups against Derrick Henry, they see a whole lot of failure.
They’ve spent seven years trying to slow down the powerful 6-foot-3, 247-pound, two-time NFL rushing champ, and nothing seems to work.
The Tennessee star has run through them, around them, even stiff-armed them for seven 100-yard outings in 14 career games against Indy. And if the Colts want to snap their five-game losing streak to the Titans, the defensive game plan is no secret.
“With Tennessee, you know (coach Mike) Vrabel is going to have them ready to play, that they’re going to rally behind No. 22,” Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin said, referring to Henry’s jersey number.
Henry had 1,287 yards against Indy (2-2) – although the Titans’ AFC South rivals Houston and Jacksonville have allowed even more yards to the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner.
In his last seven games against the Colts, Henry has topped 100 yards six times. The lone exception came on Halloween in 2021 when Henry was limping to an uncharacteristic 28-carry, 68-yard performance. The next day, Vrabel announced Henry had a broken bone in his foot.
Now, Henry appears to be rounding into form. Last week at Cincinnati, he had 22 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown while throwing a 2-yard TD pass.
Henry could get even more help this week if two projected starting linemen – rookie left guard Peter Skoronski, who had an appendectomy Sept. 16, and tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, who is eligible to return from his four-game gambling suspension this week – return.
“We’ll start working Peter back in there and kind of see how everybody goes throughout the week,” Vrabel said. “Nic’s been able to probably work a little bit more than Peter has. We’ll see where they both are, but Nic’s been able to kind of work through, even though he hasn’t been here.”
The Titans (2-2) could be facing a more complete Colts team if 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor plays.
He practiced for the first time in 10 months after being activated from the physically unable to perform list early this week. Taylor could work his way into a backfield that has leaned heavily on veteran Zack Moss and new dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson.
“He’s big, he’s fast, he’s willing and he knows where the goal line is,” Vrabel said of Richardson. “He knows where the first down (is), what he needs to get to. So it’ll be a huge challenge.”
The Colts’ mission remains the same – clogging up Henry’s running lanes.
“It’s getting population on the football, getting to his feet early because when he gets rolling, he gets downhill, he’s pretty hard to stop,” Colts two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. “Guys have to be on the details, on their assignments, run to the ball and get population on the ball.”
OLDER AND BETTER
Tennessee signed defensive lineman Denico Autry when Indy let him go following the 2020 season. Since then, he’s posted 20 1/2 sacks, including eight last season and 3 1/2 this season – all team highs. How is Autry still doing this at age 33?
“Just experience, you know, a seasoned vet,” the 10-year veteran said. “You know I’ve seen some of the stuff over a thousand times, so I about know what I’m getting when I get it. I know what’s going (to happen) on the field.”
Richardson has 23 carries for 123 yards and four TDs through his first three NFL starts – a historic pace. He became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to tally four TD runs in his first three games and the first Colts quarterback to run for scores in three straight games.
One more TD run would tie Andrew Luck’s single-season franchise record by a quarterback and he can tie the franchise mark for most games in a season with a TD pass and a TD run (three). The others are Andrew Luck (2014), Peyton Manning (2001, 2006, 2007), Bert Jones (1975) and the late John Unitas (1958).
Three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught four passes for a game-high 63 yards last week, including a 38-yarder that jump-started the Titans’ offense in the second quarter. And he’s tied for the most third-down conversion receptions in the AFC.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill appreciates what Hopkins has brought to the offense.
“Just that match-up ability for him to win his one-on-one matchup and find some space on crucial downs and sustain drives has been huge for us so far,” Tannehill said.
The Colts have lost six straight games on their home field. Their last win came nearly a year ago, 34-27 over Jacksonville on Oct. 16, 2022.
“Having not won here in a year is pretty wicked, so we definitely need to break that streak,” three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard said.
The Titans come in with the NFL’s fourth-best defense against the run, allowing 70 yards per game and a league-best 2.9 yards per carry. They have gone 10 straight games without allowing an opponent to run for 100 yards total, the longest active streak in the NFL.
NEW YORK GIANTS (1-3) AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-1)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME:1:00 PM ET
FOX: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) NYG: 132 or 388 MIA: 133 or 229
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: NYG leads series, 7-3 (won 4 of past 5)
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 12/5/21: NYG 9 at MIA 20
QB DANIEL JONES completed 27 of 34 atts. (season-high 79.4 pct.) & had 269 yards (203 pass, 66 rush) in Week 4. Is 1 of 2 QBs (Lamar Jackson) with 2 games of 50+ rush yards in 2023. Has 300+ pass yards & 90+ rating in 2 of his past 3 road starts. • RB SAQUON BARKLEY aims for his 6th in row on road with rush TD & 10th in row on road with 50+ scrimmage yards. Has 217 scrimmage yards (108.5 per game) & 2 rush TDs in 2 career games vs. Mia. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Mia. with 70+ scrimmage yards. • RB MATT BREIDA had 5 catches & 78 scrimmage yards (48 rec., 30 rush) in Week 4, his 3rd-career game with 5+ receptions. Had 350 scrimmage yards in 12 games with Mia. in 2020. • TE DARREN WALLER aims for his 3rd in row vs. Mia. with 5+ receptions & 50+ rec. yards. • WR WAN’DALE ROBINSON had 5 receptions last week. • LB KAYVON THIBODEAUX had career-high 2 sacks & 1st PD of season in Week 4. Aims for his 3rd in row with sack. • LB BOBBY OKEREKE led team with 10 tackles & had 2 TFL & PD in Week 4, his 10th-career game with 10+ tackles. Had 8 tackles & PD in his last game at Mia. (10/3/21 w/ Ind.). • LB MICAH MCFADDEN had 1st-career PD last week. Has 7 TFL in his past 5. • DL D.J. DAVIDSON had 1st-career TFL last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with PD. • DL LEONARD WILLIAMS has 7 TFL in 10 career games vs. Mia. • CB ADOREE’ JACKSON aims for his 5th in row on road with PD. • S XAVIER MCKINNEY aims for his 3rd in row on road with 7+ tackles. Had 6 tackles & TFL in last meeting. • CB DEONTE BANKS ranks tied-5th among rookies with 3 PD.
DOLPHINS lead NFL with 2,044 total yards of offense this season, most by a team in their 1st 4 games in NFL history. • QB TUA TAGOVAILOA completed 25 of 35 (71.4 pct.) for 282 yards & TD vs. INT with 92.8 rating last week. Is 1 of 2 in NFL (Brock Purdy) with 90+ rating in all 4 games this season. Passed for 244 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs with 104.1 rating in last meeting. Has 13 TDs vs. 3 INTs with 110.9 rating in his past 8 home starts. Leads NFL with 1,306 pass yards & ranks 2nd with 114.4 rating in 2023. • RB DE’VON ACHANE (rookie) had 120 scrimmage yards (101 rush, 19 rec.) & 2 rush TDs last week. Has 353 scrimmage yards (176.5 per game) & 6 TDs (4 rush, 2 rec.) over past 2 weeks. Is 4th player all-time with 6 TDs through 1st 3 career games. • RB RAHEEM MOSTERT is tied for NFL lead with 7 scrimmage TDs & 6 rush TDs this season. Achane (309) & Mostert (249) are only pair of teammates each with 200+ rush yards this season. • WR TYREEK HILL had 58 rec. yards last week. Is 1 of 2 in NFL (Mike Evans) with 5+ catches & rec. TD in 3 games this season. Had 12 catches for 94 yards & TD in his last game vs. NYG (11/1/21 w/ KC). Tied for NFL lead with 4 rec. TDs & ranks 3rd with 470 rec. yards. • WR JAYLEN WADDLE has 75+ rec. yards in 2 of his 3 games this season. Had 9 catches for 90 yards in last meeting. • WR BRAXTON BERRIOS had season-high 6 catches last week. • CB XAVIEN HOWARD has PD in 3 of 4 games this season. Has 5 PD in his past 4 at home. Had INT in last meeting. • LB ANDREW VAN GINKEL tied career highs in TFL (3) & sacks (2) in Week 4. Aims for 4th in row with TFL & has sack in 2 of past 3. • LB DAVID LONG led team with season-high 10 tackles & had 2 TFL last week. Aims for 4th in row with 7+ tackles. Has TFL in 2 of past 3. Had 8 tackles & TFL in last meeting
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) Mike McDaniel watched quarterback Daniel Jones scramble as the New York Giants’ offensive line gave up 11 sacks in a loss to Seattle on Monday night.
The Miami Dolphins’ coach understands how easily things could turn around for his team’s next opponent.
“From my perspective, I see an offense that’s close,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “Eleven sacks with the completion percentage that (Daniel Jones) had, it felt like to me when I was watching that it was either completion or sack. Which means the way I see it … the difference between sack and completion is that finite. If you take the sacks out, he’d probably have a pretty high quarterback rating because the completion percentage was high.”
That’s why McDaniel doesn’t expect to easily replicate the Seahawks’ success when Miami (3-1) hosts New York (1-3) on Sunday.
The Dolphins could use a dominant performance from their defense, which has been inconsistent at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and allowed the Bills’ Josh Allen to record a perfect 158.3 passer rating last week.
Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker said the Giants, like any team, can be expected to attack Miami’s weaknesses.
“It’s the National Football League,” Baker said. “They’re going to go back, watch the film and they’re going to be working on it all week. They’re going to make sure they understand what we’re going to do. I’m sure they’re going to fix it. We’re going to have to come up with new things. At the end of the day, it’s about a man beating another man, so we’ll have to do that.”
Both teams dealt with protection issues last week and have injuries along their offensive lines.
Against Buffalo, the Dolphins were without starting center Connor Williams (groin) and lost veteran left tackle Terron Armstead to a knee injury in the second quarter. The result was a season-high four sacks allowed.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was hit nine times. McDaniel said part of that was because he abandoned the run game too quickly. He hopes not to repeat that mistake against a Giants defense that ranks 25th against the run.
The Giants are last in scoring with 46 points, and much of that is because of the offensive line, which has been missing star left tackle Andrew Thomas the last three games. The line has started four different combinations and this week may bring a fifth if rookie center John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) can’t go. New York has allowed 23 sacks.
Coach Brian Daboll said the Giants’ goal is to play more complementary football.
“Which we haven’t yet,” he added. “That’ll be the focus. It’s always the focus but results haven’t been there.”
NUMBERS DON’T TELL THE WHOLE STORY
The Giants rank 30th in the NFL with 122 points allowed, but not all of that total is the fault of coordinator Wink Martindale’s defense.
Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle combined for 94 points in games the where the Giants’ offense barely did anything, scoring 15 points. The Seahawks got 17 points off three turnovers Monday night, including an interception return for a touchdown by Devon Witherspoon and a 7-yard drive after a strip-sack.
The defense is rounding into form and has a chance to slow down Miami with defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux, linebacker Bobby Okereke and safety Xavier McKinney all playing well. The unit has yet to force a turnover.
ON THE RUN
The Dolphins lead the NFL with 707 yards rushing, 6.3 yards per carry and 10 rushing touchdowns – a stark turnaround from a year ago when Miami’s rushing attack was inconsistent. The Dolphins rushed for 142 yards against Buffalo – 101 of those from rookie De’Von Achane, who is ranked seventh in the league in rushing.
The run game has made Miami’s passing attack even tougher to stop.
“It’s been helpful to offset some of the actions that we do in the pass game,” Tagovailoa said, “and then off of those run actions we can marry some of the ways we motion and do our action fakes to some of the pass plays that we have in, so I think it’s been really, really good.”
Dolphins edge rusher Bradley Chubb feels like the defense is almost where it needs to be under new coordinator Vic Fangio.
“A play or two might resort back to old things and not do stuff how we know we can do it,” Chubb said, “and those one or two plays end up hurting us in the long run. That’s when they get their explosive plays. I feel like if we minimize trying to go outside the defense and try to do the next person’s job … I feel like we can take this to a whole other level.”
The Dolphins are allowing 251 yards passing and 29.8 points per game.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (2-2) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-3)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 1:00 PM ET
CBS: Kevin Harlan, Trent Green, Melanie Collins
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) NO: 121 or 389 NE: 111 or 230
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: NE leads series, 10-5 (won 2 of past 3)
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 9/26/21: NO 28 at NE 13
QB DEREK CARR passed for 3 TDs vs. INT in his last game vs. NE (12/18/22 w/ LV). Aims for his 3rd in row vs. NE with 2+ TD passes & 5th in row vs. NE with 20+ completions. QB TAYSOM HILL had rush TD in last meeting. • RB ALVIN KAMARA had 13 receptions & 84 scrimmage yards (51 rush, 33 rec.) in season debut in Week 4. Has 6 career games with 10+ receptions, tied-3rd most by RB all-time. Aims for his 6th in row with 80+ scrimmage yards. Had 118 scrimmage yards (89 rush, 29 rec.) & TD catch in last meeting. • WR CHRIS OLAVE has 6+ catches & 85+ rec. yards in 3 of 4 games this season. Has 60+ rec. yards in 4 of his past 5 on road. • WR MICHAEL THOMAS led team with 53 rec. yards last week. Has 50+ rec. yards in 10 of his past 11. Aims for his 7th in row on road with 5+ catches. Had 5 receptions for 89 yards in his only career game vs. NE (9/17/17). • DE CAMERON JORDAN had TFL & PD in last meeting & aims for his 4th in row vs. NE with TFL. • DT BRYAN BRESEE (rookie) had 1st-career full sack & 3 TFL in Week 4, 2nd rookie with 3 TFL in single game in 2023. • LB DEMARIO DAVIS had 2 TFL & 2 PD in last meeting & aims for his 3rd in row vs. NE with 2+ TFL. Has 5+ tackles in 11 of 12 career games vs. NE. • LB PETE WERNER tied for team lead with 8 tackles last week & aims for his 5th in row with 7+ tackles. • CB MARSHON LATTIMORE aims for his 4th in row on road with 5+ tackles & PD. Had 10 tackles & INT in last meeting. Ranks tied-3rd in NFL with 6 PD in 2023. • CB ALONTAE TAYLOR & CB ISAAC YIADOM rank tied-1st in NFL with 7 PD each. Yiadom had 2nd-career INT last week.
HC BILL BELICHICK can become 3rd coach in NFL history to win 300+ reg. season games, joining HOFers Don Shula (328) & George Halas (318). • QB MAC JONES passed for 270 yards in last meeting. Has 10 TDs vs. 2 INTs with 93.9 rating in his past 7 home starts. • RB RHAMONDRE STEVENSON has 60+ scrimmage yards in 3 of 4 games this season. • RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT has TD in 2 of 3 career games vs. NO. • WR KENDRICK BOURNE has 4+ catches in 3 of 4 games this season. Had 6 catches for 96 yards & TD in last meeting. Has 3 rec. TDs in 3 career games vs. NO. • WR JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER has 4+ catches in both home games this season. Had 11 catches for 115 yards in only career game vs. NO (12/23/18 w/ Pit.). • TE HUNTER HENRY led team with 4 catches for 51 yards last week. Is 1 of 3 TEs (Evan Engram & Sam LaPorta) with 50+ rec. yards in 3 games this season. Had 5 catches in last meeting & has TD catch in 2 of 3 career games vs. NO. • LB JOSH UCHE had 2nd sack of season last week. Aims for his 5th in row vs. NFC with sack. • LB JAHLANI TAVAI had PD, 2 TFL & 1st sack of season in Week 4. • DE DEATRICH WISE had 1st sack of season last week. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. NO with 0.5 sacks. • CB MYLES BRYANT set career highs in tackles (10) & FFs (2) in Week 4 & is 1 of 2 players (Khalil Mack) with 10+ tackles & 2+ FFs in a game this season. Has PD in 2 of past 3. • S KYLE DUGGER led team with career-best 15 tackles & had TFL last week, tied-most tackles by a DB in a game this season. Aims for 4th in row with TFL & 3rd in row with 7+ tackles.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Points have been hard to come by for the Saints and the Patriots.
Over the first four weeks, each team has scored 20 points only once. They enter Sunday’s matchup ranked in the bottom third of the league in points per game. New Orleans (2-2) is averaging 15.5, tied for 25th in the NFL. New England (1-3) ranks 30th at 13.8 points.
It’s a major fall-off for offenses once led by Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who rank first and second all-time in touchdown passes.
This latest meeting will feature a third-year quarterback in Mac Jones who has displayed only minimal improvement under new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.
Jones understands he needs to bounce back from his worst performance of the season. He threw two interceptions, including a pick-6, and had a fumble returned for a touchdown in last week’s loss to Dallas. He was ultimately benched for Bailey Zappe.
Jones is confident he can return to form.
“Confidence is something that comes from years of practice, and it grows over time,” he said. “I think that’s what I have to look back on, is I’ve played well at times and I just have got to be more consistent. I know it’s there.”
The Saints are likewise hoping to see a lot more from veteran Derek Carr. New Orleans has managed just four offensive touchdowns, its fewest through four games since 1975.
New Orleans’ most recent loss to Tampa Bay also saw its streak of 11 consecutive games of holding opponents to 20 or fewer points end.
While Carr acknowledged the Saints are not playing to the level they expected, he said he’s leaning on the fact that he’s been through tougher times.
Carr pointed to his Raiders team starting 0-10 during his rookie season in 2014. “This,” he said, “is not that.”
“This is football. It’s tough. It’s hard,” Carr said. “Your back’s against the wall a little bit. What are you going to do about it? You going to fight? Are you going to quit? And so, I think we’re finding out a lot about our guys this week.”
The Patriots’ 38-3 loss to the Cowboys was the worst of Bill Belichick’s 29-year coaching career.
It also denied him a chance to join Don Shula and George Halas as the only coaches in NFL history with 300 regular-season wins.
He’ll get his second shot against the Saints, against whom he has a 5-2 record.
STUMBLING AND BUMBLING
The Saints average 87.5 yards rushing per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. Improving that number has become a point of emphasis for New Orleans’ beleaguered offensive line, which also has allowed 15 sacks.
“We haven’t given people a reason to respect the run,” guard James Hurst said. “So, that’s a position we’re in and that’s something that we obviously have to get better if we’re going to be an effective offense.”
The return of Alvin Kamara from suspension in Week 4 offered a small measure of hope. Kamara rushed for 51 yards on 11 carries against Tampa Bay, a 4.6-yard average against a defense that ranks eighth in the NFL against the run.
The Saints entered the week ranked 23rd in yards per game (285.3) even after managing less than 200 last week. The bigger problem for the Saints has been stalling out inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
They have attempted 10 field goals, nine of which have been made by rookie kicker Blake Grupe, who is the team’s leading scorer.
New Orleans’ red-zone conversion rate of 33.3% (4 of 12) ranks last in the NFL.
Even struggling New England has a far superior red-zone success rate of 62.5%.
“Everything happens faster in the red zone, and so the attention to detail has to be much improved,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “That’s what it’s all about down there is being able to play fast, make quick decisions and be extremely detailed in terms of where you’re supposed to be at and when you’re supposed to be there.”
The Patriots will be missing their most productive player on defense with linebacker Matt Judon sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his biceps. Judon suffered the injury late in New England’s loss at Dallas last week.
He led the Patriots with four sacks through four games.
Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez also likely will be sidelined after injuring his shoulder against Dallas. Gonzalez has a sack and interception and was named the league’s rookie defensive player of the month for September.
BALTIMORE RAVENS (3-1) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2-2)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 1:00 PM ET
CBS: Ian Eagle, Charles Davis, Evan Washburn
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) BAL: 134 or 387 PIT: 82 or 228
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: PIT leads series, 3-24 (won 5 of past 6)
POSTSEASON: PIT leads series, 3-1
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 1/1/23: PIT 16 at BAL 13
POSTSEASON: 1/3/15 AFC-WC: BAL 30 at PIT 17
QB LAMAR JACKSON set season highs in comp. pct. (78.9), TDs (4 – 2 pass, 2 rush) & rating (142.5) last week, his 4th-career game with 2+ rush TDs & pass TD, tied 4th-most all-time. Can become 1st QB in SB era with 2+ rush TDs in 3 straight games. Aims for his 6th in row with 70+ comp. pct. & 4th in row with 0 INTs. Has 6 TDs (4 pass, 2 rush) vs. 0 INTs with 124.1 rating in 2 games vs. division this season. Has 10 TDs (8 pass, 2 rush) vs. 0 INTs in his past 5 on road. • RB GUS EDWARDS aims for 4th in row with 45+ rush yards. Rushed for 66 yards in last road meeting. • TE MARK ANDREWS led team with 5 catches for season-high 80 yards & 2 TDs last week, his 8th-career game with 2+ rec. TDs, 3rdmost among active TEs. Has 5 catches & rec. TD in 2 of 3 games this season. Had 9 catches for 100 yards in last meeting & has 50+ rec. yards in 3 of his past 4 vs. Pit. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. division with TD catch. Tied for lead among TEs with 3 rec. TDs this season. • WR ZAY FLOWERS (rookie) has 55+ rec. yards in 3 of 1st 4 career games. Ranks 2nd among rookies with 24 catches & 3rd with 244 rec. yards this season. • WR NELSON AGHOLOR had 6 catches for 110 yards & TD in his last game vs. Pit. (9/18/22 w/ NE). • LB ROQUAN SMITH led team with 10 tackles & had 2 PD & TFL last week, his 3rd game with 10+ tackles this season. Aims for 3rd in row with PD. Has sack in 2 of 3 career games vs. Pit. • LB PATRICK QUEEN had season-high 3 TFL & 2nd sack of season last week. Aims for his 14th in row with 5+ tackles. • S KYLE HAMILTON had 5 tackles & 1st-career INT in Week 4. Aims for 3rd in row with PD. Had 6 tackles in last meeting. • S GENO STONE had INT last week & has INT in 2 of past 3. • CB BRANDON STEPHENS had 1st-career INT in Week 4.
QB KENNY PICKETT has 0 INTs in 4 of 5 career starts vs. division. • QB MITCH TRUBISKY completed 3 of 5 atts. in season debut last week. Can make 6th start with Pit. • RB NAJEE HARRIS led team with season-high 103 scrimmage yards (71 rush, 32 rec.) last week, 12th-career game with 100+ scrimmage yards. Aims for 3rd in row with 65+ rush yards. Rushed for 111 yards & had TD catch in last meeting. Aims for 3rd in row vs. Bal. with TD. Has TD in 6 of his past 7 vs. division. • RB JAYLEN WARREN aims for 4th in row with 50+ scrimmage yards. Had career-high 98 scrimmage yards (76 rush, 22 rec.) in last meeting. Has 85+ scrimmage yards in 2 of past 3 vs. division. • WR GEORGE PICKENS has 75+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. Had 78 rec. yards in last home meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. division with 70+ rec. yards & TD catch. Has rec. TD in 3 of his past 4 at home. • WR ALLEN ROBINSON aims for his 3rd in row vs. Bal. with 5+ catches, 50+ rec. yards & rec. TD. • TE PAT FREIERMUTH had TD catch in last home meeting. • LB T.J. WATT has sack in 3 of 4 games this season, with 2+ sacks in 2 games. Aims for his 9th in row vs. Bal with 0.5+ sacks & 7th in row with full sack. Has 13.5 sacks in his past 9 vs. division. Aims for his 3rd in row at home with sack & FR. Tied for NFL lead with 6 sacks. • LB ALEX HIGHSMITH aims for his 3rd in row vs. division with 7+ tackles & sack. Has sack in 3 of his past 4 at home. • S MINKAH FITZPATRICK aims for 3rd in row with 11+ tackles. Had 9 tackles & INT in last meeting. Has PD in 5 of his past 6 vs. Bal. • CB PATRICK PETERSON aims for his 6th in row with PD & 3rd in row with 5+ tackles. Has PD in both of his 2 career games vs. Bal. • CB LEVI WALLACE aims for 3rd in row with 2+ PD.
PITTSBURGH (AP) Lamar Jackson can dazzle with his legs one play and drop dimes with his right arm the next.
Except, it seems, when he faces the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For all the electricity the Baltimore Ravens quarterback provides on a seemingly weekly basis, things tend to get sideways when he’s on one side of the line of scrimmage and T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are on the other. And Jackson knows it.
“The atmosphere is different,” he said. “It’s more intense, more aggressive.”
More difficult, too.
Jackson is 2-3 as a starter against the Steelers, although he missed both of Baltimore’s games against Pittsburgh last season due to injury. He’s thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (four) when facing Baltimore’s longtime rival. The next time he runs the ball into the end zone against Pittsburgh will be his first.
So while the Ravens (3-1) easily looked like the best team in the AFC North in September, they are taking nothing for granted when they open October by visiting the wildly uneven Steelers (2-2), who are struggling to play with any consistency or cohesion.
“Hopefully, it’s a different outcome this season,” Jackson said.
It can’t be if Pittsburgh wants to be considered a threat in what could be the most balanced division in football. The Steelers were pushed around by Houston a week ago, and coach Mike Tomlin said team simply didn’t play hard enough.
While he promised “changes” in the aftermath, Tomlin’s only real tweak was to do something he was probably going to do anyway: have his players practice in pads for the first time in a few weeks in hopes of helping them hit the reset button.
Pittsburgh doesn’t really have much of a choice. The Steelers have struggled to get a handle on opposing running games without injured defensive tackle Cam Heyward. Now here comes Jackson and the NFL’s fourth-ranked running offense.
In a way, it may be the best thing for the Steelers.
“It kind of forces you do to your job, for younger guys to grow up, for everybody to just play harder,” defensive tackle Montravius Adams said. “It’s a divisional game. You know what they’re doing. They know what you’re doing. It’s really about who is going to whip who.”
The Ravens have 12 touchdowns in 15 red-zone opportunities, and their defense has allowed just three TDs in 10 trips. Jackson’s running has been a big threat in that area. He already has four rushing touchdowns, three shy of his career high.
“The defense gives us the look for me to run, or my number’s called, and whatever it’s going to take for us to get in the end zone, I’m going to do it,” Jackson said. “I’m going to try to do it at least 100 miles per hour. If the defense gives us that look, that’s what it’ll be.”
Pittsburgh’s offense was expected to take significant strides forward after a promising preseason. It hasn’t happened. The Steelers are near the bottom of the league in points, yards and first downs through four games, intensifying the scrutiny around offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Running back Najee Harris, however, doesn’t think the game plan is the problem. Harris believes the offense was too “soft” against the Texans. He’d like to see a return to the run-first approach the Steelers used while going 7-2 over the second half of last season, a run that included a 16-13 victory at Baltimore in which they rolled up 198 yards on the ground.
“I think we all know that we’ve got to get better if we want to be where we want to be at,” Harris said. “We want to be at the mentality we were last year against the Ravens and this is a good time to do it.”
Baltimore already has road victories over Cincinnati and Cleveland. A win over the Steelers this week would give the Ravens a road sweep of the AFC North, something they’ve done only twice since the current alignment of divisions began in 2002. The last time Baltimore pulled that off was in 2019 when the team went 14-2.
Pittsburgh has won five of six over Baltimore since.
“I remember (from) last year, you’re not a Raven until you beat the Steelers,” said Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith, who was acquired in a trade in the middle of last season. “I carry that over into this year, as well. I feel like this season is a totally new season, so I’m not a Raven this season until I beat the Steelers. That’s my mindset.”
Steelers second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett spent the week practice wearing a large brace to protect the bone bruise in his left knee he suffered while getting sacked in the second half against Houston. He expects to be ready on Sunday, though he’s well aware it’s time – maybe past time – for the offense to get it together.
“Obviously you’re frustrated, it hasn’t been good, we know it’s nowhere near where it needs to be, but it can’t be a pain,” Pickett said. “Guys have to continue to showing up, putting the work in, and going out there and playing hard on Sundays.”
CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-3) AT ARIZONA CARDINALS (1-3)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 4:05 PM ET
FOX: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) CIN: 158 or 386 ARI: 83 or 227
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: Series tied, 6-6 (ARI won 4 of past 5)
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 10/6/19: ARI 26 at CIN 23
QB JOE BURROW completed 20 of 30 atts. (season-high 66.7 pct.) for 165 yards with 0 INTs last week. Aims for 3rd in row on road with 0 INTs. Has 100+ rating in 4 of his past 5 vs. NFC. • RB JOE MIXON rushed for season-best 67 yards last week. Has 70+ scrimmage yards in all 4 games this season. Had 109 scrimmage yards (93 rush, 16 rec.) in last meeting. Has 7 TDs (6 rush, 1 rec.) in his past 4 vs. NFC. Needs 45 scrimmage yards to become 5th player in franchise history with 7,500 career scrimmage yards. • WR JA’MARR CHASE led team with 7 catches for 73 yards last week, his 12th-straight game with 5+ catches, longest active streak in NFL. Aims for 3rd in row with 70+ rec. yards. Has 50+ rec. yards in each of 10 career games vs. NFC. Needs 3 catches to tie as 4th-fastest player ever (34 games) to reach 200 career catches. • WR TEE HIGGINS has 5+ catches in 6 of his past 7 vs. NFC. • WR TYLER BOYD has 5+ catches in 2 of past 3. Had 10 catches for 123 yards & TD in last meeting. • DE TREY HENDRICKSON has 0.5+ sacks in 3 of 4 games this season. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. NFC West with sack. • DE SAM HUBBARD aims for 3rd in row with sack. Had sack in last meeting. • DE MYLES MURPHY (rookie) had 1st-career sack in Week 4. • S DAX HILL had 8 tackles & 2nd INT of season last week. Has PD in 3 of 4 games this season. Aims for 4th in row with 8+ tackles. • S NICK SCOTT led team with 10 tackles & had TFL in Week 4. Has 9+ tackles in 3 of 4 games this season. Had 9 tackles & FF in his last game vs. Ari. (11/13/22 w/ LAR). • CB CAM TAYLOR-BRITT had 6 tackles & 2nd-career FF last week. Aims for 4th in row with 5+ tackles.
QB JOSH DOBBS completed 28 of 41 atts. (68.3 pct.) for 265 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 102.2 rating & rushed for 48 yards in Week 4, his 1st-career start with 2 TD passes. Is 1 of 3 NFC QBs (Kirk Cousins & Brock Purdy) with 95+ rating in 3 of 1st 4 weeks. Aims for his 4th in row with TD pass vs. 0 INTs & 95+ rating. • RB JAMES CONNER rushed for 52 yards last week & has 50+ scrimmage yards in 24 consecutive games, tied 2nd-longest active streak in NFL. Aims for his 6th in row at home with 100+ scrimmage yards & 7th in row at home with TD. • TE ZACH ERTZ had 6 catches for 53 yards last week. Is 1 of 3 TEs (Evan Engram & T.J. Hockenson) with 6+ catches in 3 of 1st 4 weeks. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Cin. with 7+ catches & 70+ rec. yards. • WR MARQUISE BROWN had 7 catches for team-high 96 yards last week. Aims for his 4th in row with 5+ catches & 50+ rec. yards. Aims for his 3rd in row at home with TD catch. Has 5 rec. TDs in 5 career games vs. Cin. • WR MICHAEL WILSON (rookie) had 7 catches for 76 yards & had his 1st 2 career rec. TDs in Week 4. • LB DENNIS GARDECK had 4th sack of season in Week 4. Is 1 of 3 in NFC (Danielle Hunter & Micah Parsons) with TFL in each of 1st 4 weeks. • LB ZAVEN COLLINS has TFL in 4 of his past 5 at home. Aims for his 3rd in row at home with 0.5+ sacks. • LB KYZIR WHITE has TFL in 3 of 4 games this year. Aims for his 7th in row with 7+ tackles. • CB KEI’TREL CLARK (rookie) had 1st-career TFL last week. Aims for his 3rd in row at home with 2+ PD. • S K’VON WALLACE aims for his 5th in row with 7+ tackles.
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals haven’t looked much like an elite team through four weeks.
There’s time for that to change. But it needs to happen soon.
The Bengals (1-3) travel to face the Arizona Cardinals (1-3) on Sunday in a game that Burrow has already declared a nearly must-win matchup.
Cincinnati has enjoyed deep playoff runs the past two seasons, including a trip to the Super Bowl during the 2021 season.
“I’m still very confident in what we have,” Burrow said. “We’ve got to get better. We’ve scored three touchdowns. That’s not near good enough. We’ve got a ways to go, but we have the guys in that room to do it, we’ve got the coaches to do it.”
Burrow – who before the season became the highest-paid player in the NFL – has been slowed by a calf injury that’s limited his mobility. The quarterback said he felt good at practice on Wednesday and hasn’t had any setbacks with the calf since aggravating the injury late in a loss to Baltimore on Sept. 17.
“I try not to be frustrated,” Burrow said. “That’s not going to get anybody anywhere. You just adapt to what you’re dealing with, adapt to how you need to play. And you take that week to week, day to day.”
The Cardinals might have the same record as the Bengals, but are in a much better mood about their situation.
Arizona was widely considered to be one of the worst teams in the league coming into the season, but the Cardinals have been surprisingly competitive, and even knocked off the Dallas Cowboys at home a few weeks ago.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs has been a solid fill-in for the injured Kyler Murray, a two-time Pro Bowl selection still working his way back from a knee injury suffered last season. Dobbs has completed 71% of his passes for 682 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 106.1 passer rating over his past three games.
Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins said he’s aware that the Bengals have been struggling, but noted that their roster is full of the same guys who helped the team advance to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
“You’ve got to give credit where it’s due, every team is an NFL team and they’ve all got dudes on the roster,” Collins said. “They all do. We’ll treat those guys with the same respect if they’re 0-4 or 4-0.”
STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM
The Cardinals defense is led by linebacker Dennis Gardeck, who has four sacks this season, which ranks sixth in the NFL. Gardeck has slowly risen the ranks from undrafted free agent to a vital part of Arizona’s defense. Gardeck has 12 sacks in his career, which is tied for the most in franchise history for an undrafted free agent.
The Bengals could be without one of their top receivers on Sunday. Tee Higgins left last week’s loss to the Titans with a rib injury and hasn’t practiced. He’s considered day to day. Higgins has caught just 12 of 32 targets in four games for 129 yards, but has two of Cincinnati’s total three touchdowns this season. Ja’Marr Chase doesn’t have any touchdown catches – more the fault of a limited Burrow and the offensive line – but is starting to get some traction, getting 141 and 73 passing yards in the past two games.
The Cardinals look as if they might have found a steal in the third round of this year’s draft. Receiver Michael Wilson – who played in college at Stanford – has emerged as one of the team’s big playmakers and had the first two TD catches of his career against the 49ers last week. He’s currently second on the team with 237 yards receiving, just behind Marquise Brown’s 239.
“He’s so locked into the game plan,” Dobbs said. “One, he executes at a high level and his effort is tremendous. Just being a rookie receiver, a lot of times just to get on the field sometimes you have to do dirty work. You’ve got to play ‘Z’ where you’re a little more involved in the run game. You’re on the front side of runs and you have to do kind of the dirty stuff that some receivers don’t like to do, and he seems to like to do it.”
BENGALS TE COULD RETURN
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said tight end Irv Smith Jr. is working his way back. He was listed as having limited participation in practice on Wednesday after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. The former Viking was signed as a free agent in the offseason to replace Hayden Hurst, who had 414 receiving yards and two TDs last season and then signed with Carolina.
“We’ll be smart how we utilize him,” Taylor said.
PARIS VS. CINCINNATI
Cardinals rookie right tackle Paris Johnson Jr. will be facing his hometown team. This year’s sixth overall pick played his high school ball in Cincinnati before going to Ohio State. Johnson has immediately moved into a starting role for the Cardinals, anchoring the right side of the offensive line all season.
“I think that everything that we’ve asked him to do on and off the field, he has done that and probably more,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said. “I guess if I say it like that, he has exceeded some expectations, but he was taken where he was taken for a reason.
“He plays a premium position and he’s played well.”
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-0) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (2-2)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 4:05 PM ET
FOX: Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) PHI: 134 or 387 LAR:82 or 228
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: PHI leads series, 21-18-1 (won 6 of past 7)
POSTSEASON: LAR leads series, 2-1
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 9/20/20: LAR 37 at PHI 19
POSTSEASON: 1/27/02 NFC-C: PHI 24 at STL 29
PHILADELPHIA improved to 4-0 for 2nd-straight season. • QB JALEN HURTS passed for 319 yards & 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 112.3 rating, his 9th-career 300-yard game. Became 2nd QB in SB era (Patrick Mahomes) with 2 win streaks of 10+ games within 1st 4 career seasons. Is 10-0 with 19 TDs (10 pass, 9 rush) vs. 4 INTs in his past 10 road starts. • RB D’ANDRE SWIFT had 79 scrimmage yards (56 rush, 23 rec.) & 2nd rush TD of season last week. Ranks 2nd in NFL with 364 rush yards in 2023. Had 8 catches, 144 scrimmage yards (96 rec., 48 rush) & TD catch in his only career game vs. LAR (10/24/21 w/ Det.). • WR A.J. BROWN led team with 9 catches for 175 yards & 2 rec. TDs in Week 4, his 6th-career game with 2+ TD catches. Ranks 3rd in NFC with 414 rec. yards in 2023 & aims for his 3rd in row with 125+ rec. yards. Has 12 games with 125+ rec. yards since 2019, 4th-most in NFL. • WR DEVONTA SMITH had 7 catches for 78 yards last week. Has 5+ catches in 5 of his past 6 road games. • LB HAASON REDDICK had 1st sack of season last week. Aims for his 4th in row vs. LAR with TFL. • DE JOSH SWEAT had sack last week & has 0.5+ sacks in 3 of 4 games in 2023. Has 5 sacks & 5 TFL in his past 5 on road. • LB ZACH CUNNINGHAM led team with 13 tackles last week, his 26th-career game with 10+ tackles. • LB NICHOLAS MORROW had 11 tackles, career-high 3 sacks & 3rd-career FF in Week 4, his 7th-career game with 10+ tackles. • CB DARIUS SLAY had career-high 11 tackles last week. • S REED BLANKENSHIP had 8 tackles & 2 PD last week. Aims for his 4th in row with 7+ tackles & PD.
QB MATTHEW STAFFORD passed for 319 yards in Week 4 & is 1 of 2 (Kirk Cousins) with 3 games of 300+ pass yards in 2023. Has 60 career 300-yard games, 2nd-most among active players. Has TD pass in each of 1st 13 home starts with LAR. Has 11 TDs (10 pass, 1 rush) vs. INT for 98 rating in 5 career starts vs. Phi. • RB KYREN WILLIAMS had career-high 127 scrimmage yards (career-high 103 rush, 24 rec.) & 2 rush TDs in Week 4. Ranks tied-3rd in NFL with 6 scrimmage TDs (5 rush, 1 rec.) & is only player with 3 games of 2 TDs in 2023. • WR PUKA NACUA (rookie) had 9 catches for 163 yards & 1stcareer rec. TD in Week 4. Leads NFL with 39 receptions & ranks 2nd with 501 rec. yards, both most by player in 1st 4 career games in NFL history. Is 2nd player ever (Harlan Hill) with 100+ rec. yards in 3 of his 1st 4 career games. • WR TUTU ATWELL had 5 catches last week & has 5+ catches in 3 of 4 games in 2023. • TE TYLER HIGBEE had 5 catches for 64 yards last week & aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ receptions. Had career-high 3 rec. TDs in last meeting. • DT AARON DONALD aims for his 3rd in row with sack & 2 TFL. • LB ERNEST JONES led team with 10 tackles & had 2nd-career sack last week, his 6th-career game with 10+ tackles. Is only NFC player & 1 of 3 in NFL (Zaire Franklin & Foyesade Oloukun) with 9+ tackles in each of 1st 4 weeks. • LB BYRON YOUNG is 1 of 3 rookies with 2+ sacks (2) in 2023. • LB MICHAEL HOECHT had 1st-career PD last week. • CB AHKELLO WITHERSPOON had 1st-career FR in Week 4. Aims for his 3rd in row with PD. • DB JORDAN FULLER had 2nd FF of season last week. LOS ANGELES RAMS LAR (Offense) PHI (Defense)
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) The rest of the NFL has swiped plenty of ideas out of Sean McVay’s playbook over the past seven seasons, so the Los Angeles Rams’ head coach didn’t hesitate to take the “tush push” out of Philadelphia’s game plan this year.
Trouble is, nobody can do it quite like Jalen Hurts and the unbeaten Eagles.
“We tried it,” McVay said with a grimace, recalling the Rams’ attempt at the Eagles’ signature short-yardage gainer during their season opener at Seattle. “It didn’t look very good. That’s why we had to go for it on fourth-and-1. We tried it on second down. It looked nothing like Philly’s. We’ve got some other things maybe we’ll try.”
The Eagles’ formidable play is just one thing for the Rams to worry about when Philadelphia visits SoFi Stadium on Sunday, when rebuilding Los Angeles has an opportunity to sneak up behind a Super Bowl contender that looks a bit more vulnerable than its record.
The Eagles are 4-0 for the second straight season, yet there’s some simmering frustration among the defending NFC champions’ fans because of their relatively narrow victories and their struggles on defense, particularly the NFL’s 27th-ranked performance against the pass.
On the other coast, the Rams are only 2-2 in the second season after their Super Bowl triumph, yet most fans are pleasantly surprised by their team’s competence and exciting offensive play in what the franchise has acknowledged to be a reset season for their salary cap concerns and their roster depth.
With Matthew Stafford and rookie receiver Puka Nacua racking up impressive numbers at the forefront of the offense, the Rams feel they’ve got a shot against the NFL’s best despite their overall talent deficit, particularly on defense. But Los Angeles’ relatively undersized defensive line might find it difficult to stop many aspects of the Eagles’ powerhouse offensive game, and the tush push is no exception.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said the play relies on both precision and brute strength, but Los Angeles is ready to take a shot at it.
“It’s a play that is not legal anywhere else in football, to be able to push another player,” Morris said. “Whenever you have something that works that many times in a row, clearly it was ingenious of them to think of it. I’m sure they thought it was going to be outlawed by now, and it’s not. They continue to go with it, and we’ve got to do our best to push them back.”
At least the Rams have Aaron Donald, who has done more damage to offensive lines than any player of his generation.
“You’ve got to be stout in the middle,” Donald said. “Offensive line gets low, so you’ve got to try to get as low as you can. I think it starts with the center. You try to get under his pads and pop them up, and then guys crowd the ball and maybe you can stop it. It’s definitely tough.”
Donald is off to a strong start to his comeback season with 2 1/2 sacks and six quarterback hits in four games. The seven-time All-Pro has recorded a sack against 29 of the Rams’ 31 opponents during his career, only missing out against the Eagles and the New York Jets.
“Always have to be alert for the best player on the field,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “You don’t have to have the tape on very long to know where (No.) 99 is and how disruptive he is. … That doesn’t mean you do something crazy and completely do a bunch of different things that you haven’t done before, but knowing where he is on every snap is going to be critical, because we know how much of a force he is.”
PUKA AND COOP?
Nacua has toppled a slew of NFL rookie records while catching 39 passes for 501 yards in the Rams’ first four games. Los Angeles could get another boost if Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp is healthy enough to return from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since early in training camp.
STOP THE RUN
Los Angeles’ ground game has been moderately effective with Kyren Williams, who’s coming off his first career 100-yard rushing game and has scored five touchdowns already this season. The Rams are likely to find it harder to run against the Eagles’ defense, which has allowed just 252 yards rushing all season – second-fewest in the league.
Eagles defensive lineman Jalen Carter and Rams left guard Steve Avila already matched up at SoFi earlier this year when Carter’s Georgia Bulldogs beat Avila’s TCU Horned Frogs for the College Football Playoff championship. They’ll face off again Sunday as two promising NFL rookies on the interior lines.
Former Rams and Eagles coach Dick Vermeil will be honored during a halftime ceremony recognizing his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.
The 86-year-old coach was a Rams assistant coach for four seasons in Los Angeles before becoming UCLA’s head coach and then taking over the Eagles in 1976, eventually leading them to the Super Bowl. He became the St. Louis Rams’ head coach in 1997 and won the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship in his third and final year in charge.
NEW YORK JETS (1-3) AT DENVER BRONCOS (1-3)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 4:25 PM ET
CBS: Andrew Catalon, Tiki Barber, Matt Ryan, AJ Ross
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) NYJ: 113 or 385 DEN: 85 or 226
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: DEN leads series, 21-17-1 (won 2 of past 3)
POSTSEASON: DEN leads series, 1-0
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 10/23/22: NYJ 16 at DEN 9
POSTSEASON: 1/17/99 AFC-C: NYJ 10 at DEN 23
QB ZACH WILSON set season highs in completions (career high 28), comp. pct. (71.8), pass yards (245), TD passes (2) & rating (career-high 105.2) last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 0 INTs. Has 0 INTs in 3 of his past 4 road starts. • RB BREECE HALL led team with 69 scrimmage yards (56 rush, 13 rec.) last week. Rushed for 72 yards & TD in last meeting. Has 60+ scrimmage yards & TD in 4 of 5 career road games. • RB DALVIN COOK had rush TD in only career game vs. Den. (11/17/19 w/ Min.). • WR GARRETT WILSON tied career high with 9 catches for 60 yards last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 5+ catches. Has 60+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. Aims for his 3rd in row on road with 80+ rec. yards. Had 4 catches in last meeting. • WR ALLEN LAZARD led team with season-high 61 rec. yards & had 1st TD catch of season in Week 4. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. AFC West with rec. TD. • TE TYLER CONKLIN had season-best 58 rec. yards last week. Has 50+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. Had 4 catches in last meeting. • TE C.J. UZOMAH had 1st TD catch of season in Week 4. • DL QUINNEN WILLIAMS had 1st half sack of season last week. Had PD in last meeting & has TFL in 2 of 3 career games vs. Den. • LB QUINCY WILLIAMS led team with season highs in tackles (13), TFL (2) & PD (2) last week. Aims for his 9th in row with 7+ tackles & 3rd in row with TFL. Has PD in 4 of his past 5. • LB C.J. MOSLEY had season-best 11 tackles & 1st INT of season in Week 4. Aims for 3rd in row with 10+ tackles. Has PD in 2 of past 3. Had 7 tackles in last meeting. • CB SAUCE GARDNER had career-high 10 tackles & 3 PD in last meeting. Has 16 PD in 10 career road games.
BRONCOS overcame 21-point 2nd-half deficit to win last week, tied for biggest comeback in NFL this season (NYG in Week 2). • QB RUSSELL WILSON completed 21 of 28 atts. (75 pct.) for 223 yards & 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs for season-high 133.5 rating last week, his 30th-career game with 3+ TD passes & 0 INTs, 1 of 7 players alltime with 30+ career games. Is 1 of 2 QBs (Brock Purdy) with 105+ rating in 3 games this season. Is 3-0 with 9 TDs vs. INT & 132.6 rating in 3 career starts vs. NYJ, with 2+ TD passes & 120+ rating in each game. Aims for his 5th in row at home with 2+ TD passes. • RB JAVONTE WILLIAMS has 55+ scrimmage yards in 3 of 4 games this season. Had 62 scrimmage yards (33 rush, 29 rec.) with rush TD in last meeting. • RB JALEEL MCLAUGHLIN (rookie) led team with career-high 104 scrimmage yards (72 rush, 32 rec.) & 1st-career rec. TD last week. Has TD in 2 of his past 3. • WR COURTLAND SUTTON had rec. TD last week & is 1 of 4 in NFL with TD catch in 3 games this season. • WR JERRY JEUDY aims for 3rd in row with 50+ rec. yards. Had 7 catches for 96 yards in last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. NYJ with 60+ rec. yards. Has 70+ rec. yards in 4 of his past 5 at home. • WR MARVIN MIMS (rookie) has 70+ rec. yards in 2 of past 3. • S JUSTIN SIMMONS has 10 tackles in 2 of his past 3 at home. Has 27 career INTs, tied-4th most among active safeties. • S KAREEM JACKSON had 8 tackles & game-sealing INT in 4th qtr. last week, 2nd INT of season. Aims for 3rd in row with 8+ tackles. • LB NIK BONITTO had career-high 2.5 sacks & 2nd-career FF in Week 4. Has sack in 2 of past 3. Aims for 4th in row with 2+ TFL • LB ALEX SINGLETON led team with season-high 12 tackles last week, his 2nd-straight game with 10+ tackles.
DENVER (AP) The spice that Sean Payton injected into the Jets-Broncos matchup by trashing Nathaniel Hackett last summer has mostly dissipated with both teams awash in bigger concerns than the flap that raised hackles in New Jersey and eyebrows everywhere else.
Still recovering from losing Aaron Rodgers minutes into his debut in gotham green, the Jets (1-3) have lost three in a row.
They’re encouraged, however, by Zach Wilson’s performance last weekend when he did a spot-on impression of Patrick Mahomes before the Chiefs escaped the Meadowlands with a 23-20 squeaker.
Payton has been plagued by many of the same problems for which he excoriated Hackett, such as game management and communication issues, and he lost his first three games with Denver, including a 50-point blowout at Miami, before winning his first game last week.
After Denver rallied from a three-touchdown deficit to hand the Bears their 14th consecutive loss, Payton promised not to sugarcoat the ugly win but did say the team could celebrate “then get ready to go next week and we can dive into the whole Jets fiasco stuff.”
Yet, he deflected a day later when asked if he’d reached out to Hackett or Jets coach Robert Saleh to apologize as he said he would. Payton insisted he sufficiently addressed the matter two days after his critical comments were published, calling them a mistake and saying he regretted saying what he did.
Saleh, too, demurred when asked this week if Payton had reached out – “I will leave that between he and I” – and besides, he added, it’s ancient history as far as he’s concerned.
“In football terms, that was 15 years ago, 20. It’s more like 25 now,” Saleh said. “But it’s long gone. We are a different football team than we were in training camp, so are they. We are just going out to play a football game. The reality is that coaches don’t play, it’s the players.”
Hackett, who was fired after going 4-11 in Denver, said he never heard from Payton. Asked if he would be open to chatting with him Sunday, Hackett said, “Let’s put it this way, everyone: This game is about those guys out on that field. This game is not about me.”
And no, Hackett insisted, he doesn’t take any satisfaction in knowing that the problems he dealt with last season persist in Denver under his successor.
“I haven’t really watched their offense,” Hackett said.
Had he paid attention, he’d see that Russell Wilson is having a much better season. He already has nine touchdown throws, seven shy of what he had all of last season.
But the O-line is plagued by pre-snap penalties and Wilson often has to burn timeouts just as he did in 2022.
Safety Justin Simmons embraced ex-Broncos coach Vic Fangio, now coordinating the Dolphins’ defense, in Miami last month and he said he plans to do the same if he sees Hackett after this game.
“I have nothing but amazing things to say about him,” Simmons said. “I loved him as my coach. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out. It was tough throughout the year he was here but for me it was still a lot of fun and I have nothing but respect for him and how he takes care of his business.”
Saleh spent two years in Seattle with Russell Wilson and four years scheming against him in San Francisco. He said he sees a vintage Russell Wilson his season.
“He’s lost weight from last year. He looks good. He’s moving around really well. He’s creating off schedule, like I’m used to seeing,” Saleh said. “His arm is alive. He’s throwing the ball accurately. They’re doing a really nice job. They’re moving the ball.”
ZACH ON TRACK
Zach Wilson silenced his naysayers – including Hall of Famer Joe Namath – for at least one week when he had perhaps the best performance of his career against K.C.
With fans clamoring for newly signed backup Trevor Siemian, Wilson completed a career-best 28 passes, threw for two TDs and ran for a 2-point conversion to go with a career-high 105.2 passer rating.
Next he’ll face a struggling Broncos defense with a chance to show last week was no fluke.
“I’m proud of him,” center Connor McGovern said. “Like everybody says – Coach Saleh, everybody in the locker room – we trust him. … We all have his back.”
BACK TO THE SCENE
Jets running back Breece Hall (left ACL) and right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker (torn triceps) will play their first game in Denver since they both suffered season-ending injuries against the Broncos last season.
“I think last year was just a very unfortunate turn of events,” said Vera-Tucker. “I really don’t think about that at all. I’m just going to go out there and play my game and pray I come out healthy this time.”
Hall leads the Jets with 210 yards rushing and Saleh said this week that Hall no longer has any snap limits.
OLB Nik Bonitto will get his second start for the Broncos. He had a 2½-sack performance last week highlighted by a fourth-quarter strip-sack of Justin Fields that Jonathon Cooper returned for the tying TD after supplanting veteran Randy Gregory in the starting lineup.
Seventy-two hours later, the Broncos jettisoned Gregory, who had just three sacks and missed 11 of 21 games since signing his $70 million, five-year free agent deal in 2022.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (3-1) AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-3)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023
GAME TIME: 4:25 PM ET
CBS: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson
SiriusXM (team name linked to SXM App) KC: 109 or 384 MIN: 104 or 225
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: KC leads series, 7-5 (Home team won past 6)
POSTSEASON: KC leads series, 1-0
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 11/3/19: MIN 23 at KC 26
POSTSEASON: 1/11/70 SB IV: MIN 7 at KC 23
QB PATRICK MAHOMES totaled 254 yards (203 pass, season high 51 rush) last week, his 8th-career game with 50+ rush yards. Has 2+ TD passes in 3 of 4 games this season & 95+ rating in 2 of his past 3. Has 200 career TD passes, becoming fastest player ever (84 games) to reach milestone. Is 4-1 as starter vs. NFC North, with 9 TDs (8 pass, 1 rush) vs. INT. • RB ISIAH PACHECO had career-high 158 scrimmage yards (115 rush, 43 rec. – both career highs) & rush TD last week. Aims for 4th in row with 70+ scrimmage yards & 3rd in row with rush TD. • RB JERICK MCKINNON spent 1st 4 seasons of career (2014- 17) with Min., totaling 2,902 scrimmage yards & 12 TDs. • TE TRAVIS KELCE aims for 3rd in row with 6+ catches & 60+ rec. yards. Has TD catch in 2 of 3 games this season & 5 of his past 6 overall, incl. playoffs. Has 5+ catches & 60+ rec. yards in both career games vs. Min. Aims for his 4th in row vs. NFC North with rec. TD. • TE NOAH GRAY had 3rd-career TD catch in Week 4. • WR MARQUEZ VALDES-SCANTLING had 123 rec. yards & TD catch in his last game at Min. (11/21/21 w/ GB). • WR JUSTIN WATSON has 50+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3. • DT CHRIS JONES has sack in each of his past 6 reg. season games, longest active streak in NFL. Had sack in last meeting. • DE GEORGE KARLAFTIS has 0.5+ sacks in 2 of his past 3. Has TFL in 5 of his past 6 on road. • LB NICK BOLTON aims for his 12th in row with 7+ tackles. • LB DRUE TRANQUILL led team with 8 tackles & had 2nd-career FF in Week 4. Aims for 3rd in row with 8+ tackles. • S MIKE EDWARDS had 1st sack of season last week. Aims for 3rd in row with PD. Has TFL in 2 of his past 3 on road. • CB TRENT MCDUFFIE has 5+ tackles in 3 of 4 games this season.
QB KIRK COUSINS is only QB with 2+ TD passes in each of 1st 4 weeks. Leads NFL in pass TDs (11) & ranks 3rd in pass yards (1,214). Aims for his 5th in row at home & 5th in row overall with 2+ TD passes. Had 3 TD passes vs. 0 INTs in last meeting. Has 49 career 300-yard games & can become 5th QB ever with 50 300-yard games in 1st 12 seasons. • RB ALEXANDER MATTISON rushed for 95 yards last week & aims for his 3rd in row with 90+ rush yards. • RB CAM AKERS had 51 scrimmage yards (40 rush, 11 rec.) in team debut last week. • WR JUSTIN JEFFERSON had 6 catches for 85 yards & 2 rec. TDs last week, his 5th-career game with 2 TD catches. Leads NFL with 543 rec. yards, 4th-most ever by player in team’s 1st 4 games of season. Has rec. TD in 5 of his past 6 at home. Aims for his 5th in row at home with 120+ rec. yards. • TE T.J. HOCKENSON aims for his 4th in row at home with 8+ receptions. Had TD catch in his only career game vs. KC (9/29/19 w/ Det.). Ranks tied-1st among TEs with 25 receptions in 2023. • S HARRISON SMITH led team with career-high 14 tackles, had career-high 3 sacks & had 2nd FF of season last week, 7th DB since 2000 with 3 sacks in single game. Is 5th DB since 1982 with 3+ sacks in 4+ (4) career seasons. Had sack & FF in last meeting. • LB DANIELLE HUNTER leads NFL with 8 TFL & leads NFC with 5 sacks in 2023. Aims for his 5th in row with TFL. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. KC with 0.5+ sacks. • LB D.J. WONNUM had 1st-career FR-TD in Week 4. • LB JORDAN HICKS had 13 tackles last week. • S CAMRYN BYNUM has 12 tackles last week & is only DB with 3 games of 10+ tackles in 2023.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) There’s only one team in the NFL that Patrick Mahomes has yet to beat.
The Minnesota Vikings, it figures, are the only one he’s never faced.
Matching up with the two-time NFL MVP and his defending champion Kansas City Chiefs is hardly a recipe for maintaining the momentum generated last week by their vulnerable defense, but the Vikings of course don’t get to choose their schedule.
What players with any pride would want it any other way? It’s time for the team that won 13 games and the NFC North last season to show it can still be a factor in 2023 and keep those long-frustrated fans from obsessing over next year’s draft position.
Playing the Chiefs (3-1) ought to be as accurate of a measuring stick as the Vikings (1-3) could find for the first weekend in October.
“You want to play against the best,” Vikings safety Harrison Smith said, “and these guys certainly have been that in recent history.”
With two Super Bowl titles in his first five seasons as the starter, all those statistical accomplishments and his unique blend of fearlessness and improvisation that has gone a long way toward redefining quarterback play for a new generation, Mahomes doesn’t have much left to accomplish on the field.
Defeating the Vikings to complete the checklist of 31 other teams would be an impressive feat, considering half of the league only appears on the schedule every four years in the NFL’s formula for interconference competition.
“I just want to win every week,” said Mahomes, who is 67-17 in the regular season and 11-3 in the playoffs as a starter. “It’s not necessarily beating this team because I haven’t played them. It’s going in with the mentality to do what I need to win the game.”
When the Chiefs beat the Vikings in 2019, Matt Moore was behind center while Mahomes recovered from a dislocated kneecap. Though Mahomes has lost to Indianapolis in his only two regular-season matchups, he and the Chiefs beat the Colts in his first career start in the playoffs.
“Right now, we’re just all focused on trying to get things right,” coach Andy Reid said, “but it is an amazing stat for him for sure.”
The Chiefs are favored by 5½ points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook odds, but even with a defense that ranks just 21st in the league in passing yards allowed the Vikings might well be catching their opponent at the right time in what’s sure to be a raucous U.S. Bank Stadium.
With a wide receiver group still trying to find its way, Mahomes has thrown four interceptions over four games and is only 15th in the NFL in passer rating (92.0).
“I have to put us in better positions and make better decisions so guys can go out there and make plays for me,” Mahomes said.
PICKING HIS SPOTS
Mahomes isn’t feared for his speed, but his ability to use his feet has still been a useful tool in Kansas City’s offense. He showed that in last season’s playoffs, when his scramble set up the winning field goal against Cincinnati in the AFC championship game and again last week when a 25-yard run on third-and-22 kept alive the Chiefs’ final drive to seal a 23-20 victory over the Jets.
“He’s got a good feel for the coverage, who is dropping out of there and the time element that is involved with that,” Reid said, “and he’s smart when he does it in certain situations. He knows he can do it, and other times it’s not going to be available.”
HELP ON DEFENSE
The Chiefs hope to have linebacker Nick Bolton (ankle), who is responsible for setting the defense, and cornerback Jaylen Watson (shoulder) back from injuries this week. Bolton’s absence from the past two games has been noticeable, and missing Watson has minimized the depth in the secondary. The Chiefs could use their full complement of defensive backs to deal with Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson.
“It’s hard to stop him play after play,” safety Mike Edwards said. “If he gets a 5-yard catch, he can turn 5 yards into 60. We have to stop the explosive gains, and we’ll be good.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is apparently not too preoccupied with Taylor Swift to mentor his young teammates. Wide receiver Rashee Rice singled out the All-Pro this week for helping him learn how to identify defenses, including ways to escape the line of scrimmage against man-to-man coverage and where the soft spots should be in zones.
“He’s always pulling me aside, during games, during practices,” said Rice, a rookie from SMU who was drafted in the second round. “We get a lot of good looks out here.”
Vikings center Garrett Bradbury, one of only seven players remaining who played against the Chiefs in 2019, is on track to return from a back injury that knocked him out of the season opener. With guards Ezra Cleveland and Ed Ingram leaving room for improvement, the Vikings have also begun to work newcomer Dalton Risner into the mix during practice. This would seem to be the right time for Risner to at least rotate in or take over as a starter.
“When you add a player like Dalton in-season, you want to give him an opportunity,” coach Kevin O’Connell said.
DALLAS COWBOYS (3-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-0)
DATE: Sunday, October 8, 2023 GAME TIME: 8:20 PM ET
NBC: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Melissa Stark
Westwood One: Ryan Radtke, Ryan Harris
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) DAL: 83 or 227 SF: 85 or 226 National: 88
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: SF leads series, 15-14-1 (DAL won past 3)
POSTSEASON: DAL leads series, 5-4
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 12/20/20: SF 33 at DAL 41
POSTSEASON: 1/22/23 NFC-DIV: DAL 12 at SF 19
QB DAK PRESCOTT completed 28 of 34 atts. (82.4 pct.) for 261 yards & TD vs. 0 INTs for 108.5 rating last week. Has 6 TDs (5 pass, 1 rush) vs. 0 INTs for 123.4 rating in 2 career reg. season starts vs. SF. Aims for his 3rd in row in reg. season at SF with 2+ TD passes & 110+ rating. • RB TONY POLLARD had 132 scrimmage yards (69 rush, 63 rec.) & 2 rush TDs in last reg. season meeting. Aims for his 5th in row with 60+ scrimmage yards. Aims for his 3rd in row on SNF with 2+ rush TDs. • WR CEEDEE LAMB had 1st rec. TD of season last week. Had 10 catches for 117 yards in 2022 NFC-D vs. SF. Had 5 catches for 85 yards in last reg. season meeting. Aims for his 4th in row on SNF with 75+ scrimmage yards. • WR MICHAEL GALLUP aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ catches & 60+ rec. yards. Had rec. TD in last reg. season meeting. • TE JAKE FERGUSON led team & set career highs with 7 catches & 77 rec. yards last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ catches. • LB MICAH PARSONS has 4 sacks, 9 TFL & 3 PD in 6 career SNF games. Aims for his 3rd in row on road with sack. • LB LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH had 1st-career FR-TD in Week 4. • DT OSA ODIGHIZUWA aims for his 4th in row on road with TFL. Had sack in 2022 NFC-D vs. SF. • DE DEMARCUS LAWRENCE has 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 FFs & FR in 4 career games vs. SF, incl. postseason. Aims for his 4th in row overall vs. SF with TFL. • S DARON BLAND had career-high 3 PD & 2 INTs in Week 4, his 2nd-career game with 2 INTs. Had 11 tackles & PD in 2022 NFC-D vs. SF. • S JAYRON KEARSE had 3rd-career game with 2 PD last week
49ERS improved to 4-0 for 1st time since 2019 & have won 14 consecutive reg. season games. Became 1st team since 2012- 13 Broncos with 30+ points in 7 straight reg. season games. • QB BROCK PURDY completed 20 of 21 atts. (95.2 pct. – 4thhighest in single game in NFL history, min. 20 atts.) for 283 yards & had 2 TDs (1 pass, 1 rush) vs. 0 INTs for 134.6 rating in Week 4. Can become 3rd QB to begin career since 1970 (Ben Roethlisberger & Mike Tomczak) to win each of 1st 10 career starts. Leads NFL with 115.1 rating in 2023. • RB CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY became 4th player in SB era with 100+ rush yards (106), 3 rush TDs, 70+ rec. yards (71) & rec. TD in single game last week. Can tie HOFer Emmitt Smith (1995) with most consecutive games, incl. playoffs, (14) with TD since 1990. Has 12 career games with both rush TD & rec. TD, tied-2nd most in NFL history. Is 2nd player in SB era (Smith – 1995) with 600+ scrimmage yards (600) & 7+ scrimmage TDs (7) in team’s 1st 4 games of season. Has 9 TDs (5 rush, 4 rec.) in 10 career primetime games. • WR DEEBO SAMUEL has 100+ scrimmage yards & TD in 4 of his past 5 primetime games at home. Has 166 scrimmage yards (83 per game) & rush TD in 2 career games vs. Dal. (both playoffs). • WR BRANDON AIYUK had 6 catches for career-high 148 rec. yards in Week 4 & has 100+ rec. yards in 3 of his past 5. • TE GEORGE KITTLE had 5 catches for 95 yards in 2022 NFC-D vs. Dal. Aims for his 4th in row in primetime with 80+ rec. yards. • DL NICK BOSA aims for his 7th in row in primetime with sack & 9th in row in primetime with TFL. • DL JAVON HARGRAVE had 3rd sack of season last week. • LB FRED WARNER had 9 tackles & INT in 2022 NFC-D vs. Dal. • S TALANOA HUFANGA has INT in 3 of his past 5 primetime games.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The questions about getting past the San Francisco 49ers hurdle were directed at the Dallas Cowboys as soon as their latest victory was complete.
Quarterback Dak Prescott bristled at the premise, but the only way for the Cowboys to change that story will be to start beating the team that knocked them out of the postseason the past two years.
Dallas gets another shot at doing that Sunday night when the Cowboys (3-1) visit the 49ers (4-0) in a game with much less meaning than the losses the past two Januarys, but could impact where a rematch is played this season if the teams meet again in the playoffs.
“This is not all about what happened last year,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is not walking down the street and get in a fight with a guy and then every time you turn the corner you’re looking for him. This is about winning the game. This is about winning the next game. But we know who we’re playing.”
That’s because of what happened the past two seasons. The Cowboys lost 19-12 at the Niners in the divisional round last season, following a 23-17 loss at home in the wild-card round the previous season.
Prescott and the offense struggled in both contests and the Cowboys made too many mistakes on both sides of the ball to prevail.
Winning on Sunday won’t lessen the blow from those losses, but will serve as a sign that there has been improvement in Dallas. The Cowboys have won three games by at least 20 points already this season, but did have a slip-up in a loss at Arizona in Week 3.
“You just use it as a game like this is where we were at last year, this is where we’re at now,” star edge rusher Micah Parsons said. “I’m all about now and how can we define ourselves now and how can we say this is who we are and get a statement win and come back here and show how good we really are?”
The playoff meetings the past two seasons have revived a rivalry that was the most important in the NFL in the 1990s when the teams met in three straight NFC title games with the winner capturing the Super Bowl each time.
Neither franchise has won it all since the 1990s with both still seeking a sixth title. This is the first time since 1994 that they meet in the regular season with both teams multiple games over .500.
“It’s a huge test,” Niners linebacker Fred Warner said. “To say that it isn’t would be naïve and downplaying the moment.”
San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy was nearly perfect last week, setting a franchise record for completion percentage by completing 20 of 21 passes in a win over Arizona. Purdy improved to 9-0 as a starter in the regular season and has won all 12 games when he has played at least three quarters. The Cowboys provided his biggest challenge as he threw for only 214 yards with no TDs in the game.
Purdy has overcome every challenge he has faced. But he hasn’t had to lead a team from behind in the clutch. Since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 last season, Purdy has completed only one pass when trailing in the fourth quarter. That was a 1-yard pass to George Kittle in the NFC title game loss at Philadelphia when Purdy had a torn ligament in his elbow.
SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE
The Cowboys are tied for second in the NFL with 11 takeaways, and both teams are among three that have committed a league-low one turnover through four games. Purdy hasn’t thrown an interception, and Prescott has the only Dallas giveaway with a pick a season after tying for the NFL lead with 15 despite missing five games.
“I don’t think he’s played perfect,” Parsons said of Purdy, “but I think he’s played really good and I think there’s opportunities there. People just haven’t capitalized on them.”
The Cowboys held Christian McCaffrey to 57 yards from scrimmage in the playoff meeting last season, but repeating that will be tough to do. McCaffrey has 600 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in four games, marks previously reached only by Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1958 and ’63) and Emmitt Smith (1995).
He scored a TD in the playoff win against Dallas and has at least one in a franchise-record 13 straight games in the regular season and playoffs.
“He’s just a complete running back,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. “I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do. He can run between the tackles, he can run outside, he can run routes, he can pick up blitz protections. He’s just such a complete football player.”
Dallas running back Tony Pollard is returning to the stadium where he broke his leg in the second quarter of last season’s divisional loss. At that point, Pollard had replaced two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott as the most explosive playmaker in Dallas’ backfield.
Now Pollard is the lead back after Elliott was released in the offseason in a cost-cutting move. Pollard is second to Christian McCaffrey in touches in the NFL through four games with 88 (his San Francisco counterpart has 98). The fifth-year back, playing on the $10.1 million franchise tag, is the only Dallas offensive player with two touchdowns.
“Last game, I was hurt and couldn’t finish the game,” Pollard said. “So yeah, this will be a big one for me.”
GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-2) AT LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (1-3)
DATE: Monday, October 9, 2023 GAME TIME: 8:15 PM ET
ESPN: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Lisa Salters
Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Mike Golic
SiriusXM (also available on the SXM App) GB: 81 or 226 LV: 83 or 225 National: 88
ALL-TIME SERIES HISTORY
REG. SEASON: GB leads series, 8-5 (won past 8)
POSTSEASON: GB leads series, 1-0
THE LAST TIME …
REG. SEASON: 10/20/19: OAK 24 at GB 42
POSTSEASON: 1/14/68 SB II: GB 33 vs. OAK 14
QB JORDAN LOVE completed 23 of 36 atts. (63.9 pct., career high in start) for 246 yards & had both pass TD & rush TD. Aims for his 3rd in row with both pass TD & rush TD. Aims for his 3rd in row on road in 2023 with 3+ TD passes & 100+ rating. • RB AARON JONES has 50+ scrimmage yards in 3 of his past 4 on road. Had 83 scrimmage yards (50 rush, 33 rec.) & TD catch in last meeting. Has 512 scrimmage yards (128 per game) & 8 TDs (5 rec., 3 rush) in his past 4 Monday games. Aims for his 5th in row on Monday with 100+ scrimmage yards & TD. • WR ROMEO DOUBS led team & set career highs with 9 catches & 95 yards in Week 4. Aims for his 3rd in row with 5+ receptions & 70+ rec. yards. • WR CHRISTIAN WATSON had 1st rec. TD of season last week. Has 10 TDs (8 rec., 2 rush) in 15 career games. • WR JAYDEN REED (rookie) had 55 rec. yards last week. • LB RASHAN GARY leads team with 3.5 sacks. • LB QUAY WALKER led team with career-high 19 tackles & had TFL last week. Has 5+ tackles in 19 of his 21 career games. Aims for his 4th in row on road with PD. Has 2 PD, sack & FF in his only career Monday game (12/19/22 vs. LAR). • DL KENNY CLARK has 0.5+ sacks in 3 of 4 games this season & aims for his 3rd in row on road with 0.5+ sacks. • CB JAIRE ALEXANDER has PD in each of his 2 games this season. Has 10 PD & 4 INTs in his past 7 on road & aims for his 8th in row on road with PD. • CB RASUL DOUGLAS has 5 PD & 2 INTs in his past 3 on road & aims for his 4th in row on road with PD. • S RUDY FORD had 5th-career INT last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with PD & 4th in row with 7+ tackles.
QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO has 4 TDs & 106.9 rating in 2 career reg. season starts vs. GB. Is 4-1 with 10 TDs vs. INT & 104.2 rating in 5 career starts on MNF, with 0 INTs & 100+ rating in 4 of 5 games. • QB AIDAN O’CONNELL (rookie) completed 24 of 39 atts. (61.5 pct.) for 238 yards & rushed for TD in NFL debut last week. • RB JOSH JACOBS led team with season-high 139 scrimmage yards (career-high 81 rec., 58 rush), had 1st rush TD of season & season-best 8 catches last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 80+ scrimmage yards. Rushed for 124 yards in last meeting. Has 508 scrimmage yards (101.6 per game) & 5 rush TDs in 5 career games on MNF. Needs 94 rush yards to become 4th player in franchise history with 5,000+ career rush yards. • WR DAVANTE ADAMS aims for 5th in row with 6+ catches & 4th in row with 75+ rec. yards. Has rec. TD in 2 of past 3. Aims for his 5th in row on MNF with 115+ rec. yards. Has 31 career rec. TDs in primetime, tied with Antonio Brown for 4th-most all-time. Spent 1st 8 seasons of career (2014-21) with GB & ranks 2nd in franchise history in catches (669) & rec. TDs (73) & 4th in rec. yards (8,121). • WR JAKOBI MEYERS has 7+ catches & 80+ rec. yards in 2 of 3 games this season. Has 60+ rec. yards in 2 of his past 3 in primetime. • DE MAXX CROSBY had season-high 8 tackles & 2 sacks last week. Has sack in 3 of 4 games this season & 4 of his past 5 overall. Had sack in last meeting. Has sack in 4 of his past 5 in primetime. • DT JOHN JENKINS had 6 tackles & PD last week. • LB DIVINE DEABLO aims for his 5th in row at home with 8+ tackles. • S TRE’VON MOEHRIG had season-high 2 PD & 2nd-career INT in Week 4. Has PD in 2 of past 3. • CB MARCUS PETERS had PD last week. Ranks tied 3rd among active players with 32 career INTs.
LAS VEGAS (AP) Green Bay has had extra time to think about its 34-20 loss to Detroit, a Thursday night game that gave the Packers last weekend off.
The Packers, who are 2-2, certainly don’t want to spend extra time stewing over another defeat should they lose Monday night at Las Vegas. But that’s exactly what will happen if the Raiders properly defend their home field.
This is the Packers’ only game in a 23-day span.
“I take every game personally,” Green Bay cornerback Rasul Douglas said. “I don’t like losing at anything. If there’s a way I can win, I’m going to win. So I just hate losing, and then I hate just not being myself and what I mean to the defense. I hate being that person.”
The feeling isn’t all that different in the opposing locker room.
Las Vegas is off to a 1-3 start, having lost three games in a row after opening with a 17-16 victory at Denver. If the Raiders win, they have a stretch of games that includes New England, Chicago and both New York teams where they have a shot of success.
If the Raiders lose, then memories of last season’s 6-11 record truly begin to hang over this team.
“I don’t want to come here and (expletive) lose, I want to win,” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “It’s as simple as that. There are no excuses. We’ve got to do it. The players have got to do it, the coaches. Everybody has got to look at themselves in the mirror and figure out how to get better.”
CARLSON VS. CARLSON
Packers rookie kicker Anders Carlson is the younger brother of Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, a 2022 All-Pro selection.
Anders said about 27 family members will be heading to Las Vegas to watch this sibling rivalry. That group includes the Carlsons’ oldest brother, Nils, who will travel from Sweden.
Which team’s colors they’ll be wearing remains uncertain.
“Hopefully, my wife’s in Packers gear,” Anders said. “We’ll see about that. She should be. My parents definitely are going to have to split colors. I don’t know what they’re going to do. They’ll figure that out. But super excited to see them gameday.”
Anders acknowledged he wouldn’t be rooting against his brother even while playing on the other team.
“I hope he makes every kick,” Anders said. “I just hope we win by a lot of touchdowns.”
RUNNING IN PLACE
Both the Packers and Raiders have struggled to run the ball, even though both teams feature an accomplished running back.
Josh Jacobs, the NFL’s rushing leader last season, has run for only 166 yards while gaining just 2.7 yards per carry. The Raiders found other ways to use him Sunday against the Chargers. Jacobs caught eight passes for 81 yards to go with his 58 yards on the ground.
“I tell the quarterbacks all the time, ‘I’m always open,’” Jacobs said. “It helps you get in the rhythm of the game.”
As a team, the Raiders are last in the league in yards rushing per game (65.3) and 31st in yards per carry (3.0).
The Packers haven’t been much better. They’re 30th in yards rushing per game (74.5) and 29th in yards per carry (3.3). Aaron Jones missed two games with a hamstring injury and had just five carries when he returned to action in the Packers loss to Detroit on Sept. 28.
“I’m feeling good,” Jones said. “Just still taking it day by day. The hamstring, it can linger so don’t want any of that. That’s why they’ve been so cautious.”
The Packers have been outscored 44-3 in the first half of their last two games.
They erased a 17-0 halftime deficit by scoring 18 points in the final 11 minutes of an 18-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints. They couldn’t come all the way back after falling behind 27-3 in the first 30 minutes of the loss to the Lions.
“I think we’ve just got to get into a rhythm faster … just finding completions early, get the ball moving and kind of just getting ourselves out of maybe the third-and-long situations we put ourselves in, cleaning up penalties, just all the pre-snap things that is hurting ourselves,” Packers quarterback Jordan Love said. “So I think once we get that, get that rhythm going again, we’ll be good.”
Las Vegas has a slightly different issue.
The Raiders have outscored opponents 53-40 in the first and fourth quarters, but have been outscored 61-9 in the middle two periods.
Those mid-game struggles forced the Raiders to play catch-up the past two games. They had to rally against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers, only to come one drive away from at least tying the game in the final minutes.
“I don’t think we lack urgency, or it’s not like we need a ‘Win one for the Gipper’ speech out there in the middle of the game” Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels said. “I know that the play might not have necessarily reflected the effort that we were trying to play with in terms of our overall production.
“But I think you can see in the second half of both of the last two games. Everybody’s trying to do everything they can to fight, and it’s not like they’re not doing that in the second quarter or the third quarter.”