compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Cincinnati Bengals 7 at Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Bryan Knowles: Leonard Fournette has been benched this week for missing several team events, including the team photo. A bit of a bizarre situation, but Tom Coughlin's not one to tolerate ... well, anything, basically. Chris Ivory gets the start instead.
Woah, did anyone see what happened in Jacksonville live? A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey involved in some kind of MMA action. Ramsey shoves Green after a play -- not exactly a friendly maneuver, but nothing you don't see on a semi-regular basis. Green goes bananas, throwing punches and locking Ramsey in a chokehold. Both are tossed, though it feels like Ramsey really didn't deserve the heave-ho. You can't choke a guy out on the field! I'll be a little surprised if there's not a suspension coming out of this for Green.
Dave Bernreuther: Perhaps inspired by the Ric Flair special airing right now on ESPN, A.J. Green just went berserk and suplexed and started punching Jalen Ramsey. That seemed like a bit of an overreaction.
Vince Verhei: Since I haven't weighed in on this yet: the Jaguars already had the ugliest uniforms in the league, and what they were wearing today was uglier than ever.
Dave Bernreuther: On this, I agree completely.
Rob Weintraub: Fortunately I'm out enjoying a beautiful day with the family, not watching this abomination. Just checking in to note that the Bengals activated Cody Core and made John Ross a healthy scratch today. You know, the first-round pick and No. 9 overall selection, that John Ross. The guy specifically taken to give some speed and life in the moribund offense that is totally reliant on A.J. Green. The reason was to be better on special teams. Seriously.
So now Green is ejected, Ross is watching, the offense is going nowhere, and the Jags just iced the game with a punt return touchdown, helped massively by a missed tackle by ... Cody Core.
The Browns may be the most self-immolating franchise in the league, but believe me, the Bengals aren't far off.
Scott Kacsmar: Wow, the Jaguars were 12-of-18 on third down today, and that includes a half-hearted rush on the final drive of the game. The Bengals only ran 37 offensive plays, including a Dalton knee at the end. So you might see 23-7 and figure Dalton imploded on the road against a tough pass defense, but the Jaguars just held onto the ball with long drives, constant third-down conversions, and over 40 minutes in time of possession. The only turnover in the game was by Jacksonville actually. Still, that punt return touchdown really swung things and made sure we had yet another dull finish on this Sunday afternoon.
Rob Weintraub: For the record the 37 offensive snaps are the fewest in franchise history for Cincy. That was without Fournette, by the way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at New Orleans Saints 30
Vince Verhei: Saints get a field goal on their first drive. Tampa Bay then goes three-and-out on two runs and a short completion, with A.J. Klein making a nice tackle on Charles Sims on the third-down stop. Bucs line up to punt but flags fly, and I'm thinking that a penalty on New Orleans will be a Tampa Bay first down, but no, false start Tampa Bay, so they'll punt again. But this time it's rookie defensive back Justin Hardee with the Steve Gleason special, blocking the punt. Even better, he recovers the ball and returns it for a touchdown.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander though -- Bucs block the extra point, so Saints lead is only 9-0.
Andrew Potter: Look, I get that Bryan Anger is one of the best situational punters in the league, but why is Dirk Koetter punting on fourth-and-4 from the Saints' 43? You're trailing 9-0 in a hostile environment, and this game is probably your last chance to save the rest of the season. Even without those added incentives though, this is one of the most obvious go-for-it spots in the game.
Saints go three-and-out, but only because Drew Brees overthrows a WIDE-open Ted Ginn on a bomb that would have been an 87-yard touchdown. Ginn was 10 yards beyond the deep coverage, and Brees simply missed.
Dave Bernreuther: Is there a stiff breeze in the Superdome? I just watched Drew Brees miss a wide-open Ted Ginn by 5 yards, deep and behind him toward the seam. That's the kind of throw I'd expect Tom Savage to make, not Brees. It looked more like it sailed too, as opposed to him making a different read than Ginn did on the safety. He's 8-of-10 otherwise though so I guess I'll just chalk that one up as an anomaly.
Comedy in New Orleans as the Saints attempt to hide Tommylee Lewis in the end zone on a punt return and then pass it back across the field to him. Bounce passes don't work as well with footballs as they do basketballs, so that one didn't work out as well as they had hoped.
Meanwhile, Jameis Winston took a shot earlier and has looked hurt ever since. I have no sound on, so I don't know if they've talked about this, but his body language is telling me his right shoulder is not right. He's inaccurate anyway, but that isn't going to help.
Andrew Potter: The Buccaneers defense, which has played well in chunks during the first half, follows up its first sack by allowing consecutive 33-yard plays for the first offensive touchdown of the game. On the first, on second-and-17, Kwon Alexander was distracted by Drew Brees scrambling around and lost Coby Fleener over the middle of the field. On the second, Alvin Kamara broke a tackle attempt by Justin Evans and weaved through the Buccaneers secondary for the score. Prior to that, the Saints only had one field goal and barely 150 yards of total offense.
And now Jameis Winston looks like he may have aggravated his shoulder injury on a hit by Alex Okafor. Winston had already been very erratic throughout the first half, and immediately short-armed a ball short left to Mike Evans on second-and-1. Okafor then sacked Winston on third down, and Winston now looks visibly upset on the sideline with his right arm sitting awkwardly across his lap.
Aaron Schatz: No, like, seriously, how did the Tennessee Volunteers give more carries to Jalen Hurd (3.7 yards per carry) than Alvin Kamara (5.8 yards per carry) last season?
Andrew Potter: Third-quarter update: Ryan Fitzpatrick is in the game.
After Fitzpatrick came in, the Saints went from leading 16-3 to leading 30-3 in roughly six minutes of game time. On the next Bucs drive, Fitzpatrick misses DeSean Jackson deep left, prompting some jawing between Jackson and Marshon Lattimore. As Lattimore walks down the Buccaneers sideline toward the line of scrimmage, Jameis Winston steps on the field and pokes Lattimore in the back of the head, which sets off an altercation between those two. As that proceeds, Mike Evans races across the field and blasts Lattimore in the back, sparking a team-wide melee. There's a good chance somebody's going to be making some charitable donations after all that.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 5, 2017
Saints take over after the punt and are now driving, up 30-3.
Baltimore Ravens 20 at Tennessee Titans 23
Bryan Knowles: Exotic Smashmouth Alert: Adoree' Jackson, who has had his fair share of rookie struggles at cornerback this season but has flashed explosiveness as a kick returner, was put in on offense. A 20-yard run straight up the middle later, the Titans are in business. Jackson received more than his fair share of offensive touches at USC, so perhaps it's a bit of a surprise that it took this long for Mike Mularkey to utilize him. The drive sputtered and ended up with a field goal, but I appreciate the offensive creativity.
Not to be outdone, John Harbaugh counters on his first drive with a fake punt, Sam Koch throwing to Chris Moore. That drive also sputters into a field goal, but I am all in for wild play calling in this one.
Vince Verhei: More creativity from Baltimore: on fourth-and-2, they line up in the I formation with Buck Allen at fullback and Alex Collins at tailback. Joe Flacco gives it to Allen on a sweep, but Collins is also trailing Allen to take an option pitch. Allen keeps it instead and gets the conversion. (He was originally ruled down short of the line, but on replay it was clear he was on top of a defender, not down until he had picked up a first down.) Of course, they're the Ravens, so the conversion leads only to a Breshad Perriman dropped pass and a field goal. Titans lead 10-6.
By the way, the Titans are pairing their dark blue jerseys with the powder blue plants. I am not a fan.
Flacco has not had a great game so far, though his interception is a bit misleading. Yes, he threw it into triple coverage -- always worth a few demerits -- but he actually did get the ball to his receiver. It was slightly underthrown, so Breshad Perriman had to adjust, but it's a catch Perriman had to make. It bounced off his hands, and right to Kevin Byard. So, to sum up -- bad decision; decent, but not great, throw; terrible luck. Flacco is not at a point in his career where he can really overcome bad luck.
Scott Kacsmar: Baltimore's second longest completion in this half was 16 yards on a fake punt. It's kind of amazing how Joe Flacco has gone from a reputation for being a mad bomber (stats weren't in total agreement) to such a scaredy-cat passer. He's 10-of-16 today, but for 79 yards and hung up a deep one for a pick. But there was a play earlier in the game that really summarized what we're seeing so often now with this passing game. It was third-and-10 in the red zone and Flacco immediately went for the checkdown to Ben Watson on a pass that may have crossed the line of scrimmage by an inch. That's basically guaranteeing a Justin Tucker field goal, and it's not like pressure was an issue on the play. I just don't know how you can expect to win with this strategy if your defense isn't completely dominating. So far today, it's not dominating, though I would point out that none of Tennessee's three scoring drives have traveled more than 46 yards.
Dave Bernreuther: Bryan already pointed out the lack of fault in that pick; I enjoy picking on Flacco as much as anyone but I didn't hate that.
The creativity Bryan mentioned, plus even some of the simpler plays, illustrates the total lack of faith they have in him at this point. This game plan reeks of "hide the quarterback." Maybe not quite to the level in Chicago or Jacksonville (earlier this year at least), but it's getting there.
Meanwhile, speaking of limiting your quarterback, the coach on the other side is Mike Mularkey, which makes me sad. I really would love to be watching Marcus Mariota with a coach that tried to use him properly.
Vince Verhei: No, no, no, no, no. Let's not let Flacco off the hook for that pick. His throw led Perriman into the middle of the field, towards two of the three Titans defenders. One of those defenders (Logan Ryan, I think) got his hands on the ball to tip it up, where Byard grabbed it. You want to say Perriman should have fought harder for the ball, OK, but the interception is on Flacco more than it's on Perriman.
Here is the Flacco pick. You may draw your own conclusions.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 5, 2017
Dave Bernreuther: I was trying to be nice, I guess. With what I normally say about him it felt I'd just be piling on.
The fact that he threw that on first down makes it a lot worse too.
Bryan Knowles: While the throw on the Flacco interception wasn't terrible, it was into triple coverage. A perfect throw beats the coverage; Flacco did not throw a perfect ball. I do think Perriman had to catch it -- I didn't catch the tip live, so there might be an angle I didn't see there -- but Flacco increased the degree of difficulty tremendously.
KochWatch 2017 continues. Sam Koch now has a 16-yard pass … and a 17-yard punt; shanking one off his foot and setting up a Tennessee touchdown. Baltimore is 2-for-7 on third downs, but 2-for-2 on fourth downs. Clearly, they should stick Koch in at quarterback and see what happens -- he has completed every single pass attempt he's ever attempted in the NFL! The Ravens trail 16-6 at halftime, so they've gotta try something.
Tom Gower: Titans up 16-6 at the half.
On the Flacco pick, the weird thing to me is the route concept/design. The Titans appeared to be in Cover-3, and you end up with two receivers in the middle of the field. The deflection by Logan Ryan is what made the play. Maybe the spacing was off for some reason. Maybe they're just bad at designing plays. As they have been for the virtual entirety of the Flacco era save the Kubiak season, Baltimore when not extremely successful is the ugliest non-terrible offense in the league. They're often somewhat underrated for that reason, but it doesn't make me like watching them any more.
Tennessee clearly used the bye week to do some things, coming out with some formations they didn't do much of and things like that Adoree Jackson play that's already been noted. The return of Corey Davis is also a part of that. He had only had a handful of snaps in base personnel in the first seven games, but was targeted five times in the first half. Not all successful, but a nice back shoulder helped set up one of the two Tennessee touchdowns.
One of those scores came after a small but hugely important penalty. Sam Koch boomed a 56-yard punt that got no return. But Baltimore was flagged for illegal formation, and Koch shanked the second punt. The Titans started at the plus-26 instead of their own 31, and scored their second touchdown on their second trip into the red zone (the field goal drive got to the 20, not officially part of the red zone, at its furthest point).
Dave Bernreuther: And as we discuss Flacco's first pick, he throws another one.
And man did his mechanics on that one look goofy. It looked like he was stepping forward with his right foot the way a lefty might, but while slingshotting the ball out in the other direction.
Like before, maybe a better throw throws him open, but it was short, and a good play by the defensive back flips the field.
If I was a coach, I'd bench Flacco, as much for his body language since that grounding call as for his actual play.
Bryan Knowles: And while we're on Flacco Interception Watch, Flacco has now thrown seven interceptions on deep balls (more than 15 yards downfield). That's the most in the league, passing Trevor Siemian and Ben Roethlisberger who were tied with six a piece. Flacco had seven all of last season, so things have gotten rapidly worse for him this year. He has underthrown quite a few passes today; is his arm just shot? Only Siemian and DeShone Kizer had a worse quarterback rating on deep balls than Flacco coming into today (minimum 30 attempts), and that's only going to get worse.
Of course, the league leader in quarterback rating on deep balls is Alex Smith. 2017 is weird.
It's not all negative for Baltimore, of course! The Titans only have 160 yards of offense, and have converted a grand total of one third down. Both their touchdown drives were under 50 yards, sparked by an interception and a shanked punt. They're trying out there, but the offense is giving them no support.
Aaron Schatz: Just flipped to this one. My theory was that Jimmy Smith was going to make it tough for Corey Davis to have a big first game back. Is that accurate so far?
Bryan Knowles: Jimmy Smith has been in and out a little bit with his sore Achilles. He has looked alright when he's been playing. The Titans have not been shy about targeting Davis, but he only has two catches to show for it. I believe both receptions came against Marlon Humphrey, but I'd have to go back and double-check that.
Vince Verhei: We're two and a half hours into the 1 p.m. Eastern games and there's nothing any closer than this Baltimore-Tennessee game, where the Titans lead 16-6. What a crummy Sunday this has been so far. At least the Ravens just got an interception to stay in the game and stop Tennessee from finishing them off, at least for now.
Dave Bernreuther: Vince, I can understand why you'd forget that the Colts game is also a ten-point margin. In fact I'm a bit jealous that you're not being subjected to it.
For the same reasons -- just hoping a game is close -- I found myself rooting for that Buck Allen touchdown in Tennessee despite it running counter to my financial interests. 16-13 now with lots of time left.
Aaron Schatz: The Ravens were 32nd in DVOA against tight ends going into this week. Delanie Walker now 5-of-5 for 71 yards even though he was questionable with an ankle injury. C.J. Mosley just could not keep up with Walker going up the seam on the Cover-2.
Vince Verhei: The Ravens converted that interception into a touchdown on a 3-yard scoring pass from Flacco to Allen and the game was briefly competitive. Titans responded, though with a nine-play 75-yard touchdown march that took nearly five minutes off the board. The biggest plays were Marcus Mariota finding Delanie Walker behind the linebacker and between the safeties in a Cover-2 look for a gain of 25 (great throw, just over the linebacker); a 17-yard dumpoff to DeMarco Murray where the Ravens just left him alone as he leaked out of the backfield to the left; and the touchdown, where Mariota rolled out to his right, then cut back to the left and found Eric Decker also moving right-to-left in the end zone for an 11-yard score. That puts Tennessee up 23-13 with about four minutes left and just about closes the door on this one.
Tom Gower: Titans offense, after being moribund most of the half, woke up just enough to get the crucial touchdown drive to make it 23-13. Aaron noted the seam throw to Delanie Walker, but that was just one of a series of plays that drive where they attacked C.J. Mosley in coverage. The first was Mariota's first third-down conversion of the game. They motioned the receiver to the weak side and ran Derrick Henry out on a little flare route, and Mosley couldn't get there in time to make the play. Next play, the seam route. Later in the drive, Murray in the backfield, they ran a swing to multiple-receiver side and relied on DeMarco to beat him to the sideline. That was three of four plays, with Mariota completing all three attempts for 48 yards, on what proved to be a crucial touchdown drive after the Ravens scored a touchdown on their next possession.
I'm sure, given the three-point deficit, that John Harbaugh will earn plenty of ire for what he did at the start of the fourth quarter, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Titans 17 while trailing 16-6.
Los Angeles Rams 51 at New York Giants 17
Bryan Knowles: I'll take "Things I Would Have Not Predicted" for $500, Alex. This offense put up a 14-play, 67-yard drive against the vaunted Los Angeles Rams defense, converting four third downs on their way to a game-tying touchdown. Who are the New York Giants?
Scott Kacsmar: Well, we have an ALEX failure of epic proportions, but this is on New York's defense. How do you give up a 52-yard touchdown on third-and-33 to Robert Woods on a screen pass? That's sure to give Jared Goff the biggest difference between DVOA and ALEX this season. That never should have been possible to convert that easily.
Vince Verhei: Rams have a third-and-33 and run a give-up wide receiver screen to Robert Woods. The Giants, however, take a collective nap, and Woods gets a couple of blocks and cuts across the field and next thing you know he's in the end zone with a 52-yard touchdown. Giants never laid a finger on him.
Bryan Knowles: I mean, third-and-33? You can't give up third-and-33. According to PFR, there's never been a third-and-33-plus conversion since 1994, which is as far back as their play database goes (excluding penalties). In fact, I found only six conversions on any play 33 yards from a first down, the most notable being Peerless Price catching a 40-yard touchdown from Rob Johnson on fourth-and-34 back in 2001. That was at the very end of the game with the Colts nursing a 22-point lead with less than two minutes to go, so it's safe to say they weren't playing the tightest defense in the world.
Aaron Schatz: It turns out the PFR database is wrong -- there was a third-and-37 conversion on a run by Leroy Hoard of the Vikings against the Broncos in Week 8 1999. Before that, the last third-and-30-plus conversion was the Giants themselves, Week 14, 1989, on a 57-yard touchdown screen pass from Phil Simms to Dave Meggett. That was also against the Broncos. So, this happens roughly once per decade. Good job, Giants. In all seriousness, good job by Woods to wind his way through the defense, and also strong blocks from the Rams offensive line especially Rodger Saffold.
Tom Gower: Just for the record, the Bengals converted third-and-34 against the Packers in 2009 ... by fumbling short of the sticks and recovering the loose ball past it.
Aaron Schatz: In case you were wondering how the Giants managed that long drive against the Rams at the start of the game, the Rams' cornerbacks just couldn't cover on third down. They kept being in man coverage on third-and-long and would allow completions. The rest of the game it hasn't really mattered what the Rams defensive backs are doing on third downs because the Giants have turned the ball over three times. Almost four times, when Aaron Donald just strip-sacked Eli Manning with 13 seconds left -- his second strip-sack of the game -- but Manning recovers it. Looks like we'll go to halftime at 27-10.
Aaron Schatz: Oh, wait, the Giants are going to get a field goal attempt. Nope, Aldrick Rosas missed it. Still 27-10 at halftime. Eli Manning air-mailed the two deep passes he tried before that. He has been overthrowing guys all day. Like old school Eli Manning, back when Bill Barnwell wrote that Manning threw every pass as if there was an invisible box above Plaxico Burress' head and Eli thought if he hit it, he would shoot fireballs.
Dave Bernreuther: People used to argue with me when I pointed out Eli's tendency to sail throws. I can't believe I never saw that Barnwell quote. Not only would it have helped my cause, but it's hilarious.
Atlanta Falcons 17 at Carolina Panthers 20
Charles McDonald: Steve Sarkisian is having his best day as a playcaller so far. Fed Julio Jones on the first drive, mixed in a few runs, had a nice screen to Austin Hooper, then called an out route for Mohamed Sanu versus man coverage for a touchdown. Great start for Atlanta.
Bryan Knowles: It looked like Atlanta was on their way to righting their rocky season with an early 10-0 lead in this one, but since then, it has all gone wrong. A big Matt Ryan interception in the two-minute drill, six penalties, struggles in short yardage situations and so on and so on and so on. Carolina's now up 14-0 at the half, and it feels like things are beginning to slip away for the defending NFC champs.
Zach Binney: And this game might not look nearly as close if it weren't for two lost fumbles from Jonathan Stewart on consecutive Panthers drives in the first half. This game could easily be 24-3 or something like that early in the third rather than the one-score game it is now (17-10).
On a day with a double-ejection MMA-style fight, this game may have just delivered us the most unusual play of the week. 8:15 left in the fourth, fourth down, Matt Ryan has Julio Jones so wide open in the end zone we need another word for wide. He drops a 40-yard bomb right into Julio's hands, and Julio juggles and drops it. Nobody was within 15 yards of him. I think the Panthers defender went over there to legitimately give him a hug and tell him he'll get it next time. Oh my goodness.
Vince Verhei: Hey! We've got a game today where one team has the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie or take the lead! Cool!
Bryan Knowles: You mean Houston-Indianapolis, yes?
Vince Verhei: Yes, but Atlanta-Carolina is an NFL game.
And Atlanta's last chance to get three points and maybe save their season results in a four-and-out on a Devonta Freeman catch that loses 3 yards, followed by three straight incompletions.
Panthers take over in the red zone and end up with a fourth-and-7 with seven seconds to go. Rather than kick a field goal or go for it and risk giving the Falcons one more snap, Newton kills a few seconds and throws an incompletion, leaving zeros on the clock. Keen!
Indianapolis Colts 20 at Houston Texans 14
Dave Bernreuther: Through a quarter here, about the nicest thing I can say is that these two teams dress nicer than their division mates, wearing normal uniforms as opposed to the tri-color abomination the Titans are sporting today and the Jags just looking as ridiculous as usual. Otherwise, this one isn't pretty at all, as expected. T.Y. Hilton got so open he'd have been impossible to miss, giving the Colts a 7-0 lead, but otherwise neither offense has played well so far. Tom Savage hasn't done much to convince me he's an NFL quarterback, which again makes us all wonder just what in the hell Bill O'Brien was thinking all summer. Slow making reads, not a good feel for pressure, inaccurate, checking down when he shouldn't ... at one point he was 2-of-9. Against the Colts' pass defense.
The Moo Cows did help him out on one simple play to convert a third down, making his read easy on a pass to Lamar Miller. Colts linebacker Jeremiah George got stuck in traffic in man coverage, leaving Miller a big open space on a negative-ALEX throw on third-and-4, then made things worse with a horse collar. These teams aren't committing a penalty on every single play, but it kind of feels like they are. A Savage throw toward Will Fuller that looked pretty hopeless to me gets bailed out by a personal foul, putting the Texans in business in the red zone, which they promptly bungle with a false start before Savage throws an uncatchable ball out of the end zone and Ka'imi Fairbairn honked the kick.
Rivers, I am so, so, sorry. I know you were kind of used to this, but it must be extra painful to be given that glimmer of hope only to have it cruelly yanked away.
I was going to make a joke about CBS bringing their A team to this matchup, after their graphics showed an encroachment call against Shane Lechler and then followed that by saying the Bengals were down 10-1 ... but their montages are doing a better job of showing how bad Savage has been than any written words could. Nuk Hopkins is running around uncovered on almost every play. This is the Colts defense and their best cornerback is home. And they've been shut out.
Still, the fumble recovery for a touchdown, when the Colts were driving for end-of-half points, looms large. What could have been a two-score lead is a three-point game and we've all seen how well these Colts have played in the second half this season.
Shades of Marvin Harrison in 2004 as T.Y. Hilton vaults a defender, who whiffs with his fingertips, and Kareem Jackson wanders past and fails to touch him down. Hilton alertly stands back up after a pause and waltzes in for his second long score of the day. And with a ten-point lead over Savage, who was 8-of-25 at last check, it's possible that even the 2017 Colts won't blow this second-half lead.
Bryan Knowles: Man, I need Houston to come back here; I set my 538 predictions pre-Watson, and now I'm being Savagely beaten.
Aaron Schatz: With 42 seconds left, Houston has Tom Savage complete a pass to DeAndre Hopkins for 10 yards. The next play takes place at 18 seconds left. I have no idea how the Texans managed to waste that much time between Hopkins catching the pass and snapping the ball on the next play.
Tom Gower: The Texans took 24 seconds between plays, and they had a timeout! I don't get it.
Andrew Potter: I've watched this entire final drive for Houston since the game in New Orleans ended. I don't understand why any NFL team employs a quarterback who literally can't hit the playing field with the ball.
Bryan Knowles: Houston's last play is ... an awkward fumble backwards by Tom Savage. Pretty much the least Deshaun Watson-esque play physically imaginable.
Andrew Potter: Hitting the playing field with the ball because you're strip-sacked doesn't count.
Bryan Knowles: Sure, Andrew, move the goalposts on the poor guy, why don't you?
Vince Verhei: Picture Tom Savage with a fourth-and-goal needing a touchdown to win. Think of how bad it would go.
No, it was worse than that. Think harder.
No, it was worse. Think harder.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 5, 2017
Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what Savage could do on that last play. Jabaal Sheard just murderated Chris Clark.
Rivers McCown: I never really understood what it was like to receive this kind of pity until this season. As a lifelong Texans fan, I had never known what an actual franchise quarterback could do. I mean, I knew what it was like from watching other teams, but I never knew the feeling. And so this is the feeling: Watching Tom Savage play quarterback after five weeks of Deshaun Watson is like quitting heroin cold turkey. I'm not normally an optimist anyway, but I'm in a foul mood watching this team peckerslap the ball around on offense, and watching Jadeveon Clowney give up the edge easily, and watching Juli'en Davenport, the player put in the spotlight after the Duane Brown trade, get lit up so badly he was benched after just a half. I don't understand why the Texans spent 45 minutes pretending that slow-developing routes made sense with the slowest NFL quarterback and no offensive line. Houston's official Twitter feed is trying to celebrate the few minute things the Texans have done right like it matters and I feel like we're in a post-logic world where people just shout stupid things to see if anyone will believe them.
It's neat and all that they were able to manage a little bit of a comeback at home against the garbage-time sets of one of the worst teams in the NFL, mostly because of a defensive touchdown. I don't blame Savage, who is only a starter because of circumstance and is trying his best. It's not his fault that a bunch of doofuses in track suits decided that he was tall and had enough arm to play quarterback despite, y'know, not even being a good college quarterback. If this team doesn't sign Colin Kaepernick this will likely be the last time I watch a full game of theirs this season. I will go out of my way to find other games.
Local Indianapolis media spent all of last week trying to trade T.Y. Hilton. It turns out he's the only good player on the team. Go figure.
Denver Broncos 23 at Philadelphia Eagles 51
Dave Bernreuther: Carson Wentz looks very good so far, piling up points against a still-strong Denver defense. Meanwhile Goff has three touchdowns of his own in New York. Maybe those trades at the top of the draft last year weren't so bad after all. Amazing what good coaching and design can do for a young quarterback ... (sheds a tear for Mariota.)
Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler... well, not really an upgrade, and not the guy you trust to bring you back from a three-score hole.
Derrik Klassen: To nobody's surprise, Brock Osweiler is still not good. He has been every bit as reckless as Trevor Siemian, which is why Siemian was benched in the first place. Osweiler cannot generate many of the positive plays Siemian could, though, even if Siemian had very few of those himself. The offense is somehow worse now than it was a couple weeks ago.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, is continuing their offensive renaissance. Every call from Doug Pederson feels perfect; every audible and throw from Carson Wentz has been right on the money. Wentz has 177 yards and three touchdowns on 21 passing attempts. Out of the backfield, a fresh face in Jay Ajayi has 69 yards on five carries, buoyed by a 46-yard touchdown run. For the Eagles to have scored four touchdowns on this Broncos defense in a single half legitimizes their prowess. They may have faltered versus some strong defenses early on (K.C., most notably), but the Eagles have really found their groove.
The Eagles lead the Broncos 31-9 at the half. I know there are 30 minutes left to play, but this one feels decided.
Dave Bernreuther: Really enjoying watching this Eagles offense. And a tip of the cap to Pederson for going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 4, even at 31-9. They barely convert, due to a rare less-than-excellent throw from Wentz, but a generous spot leads to an easy pitch to Corey Clement for the score a play later.
Arizona Cardinals 20 at San Francisco 49ers 10
Bryan Knowles: A fun game here as the late games begin to kickoff. Can you think of another game where the matchup between backup quarterbacks would be much juicier than the starters? Today, we get Drew Stanton and C.J. Beathard squaring off in San Francisco. We could have Blaine Gabbert, in a revenge game against a team that let him go this offseason, against Jimmy Garoppolo, presumed 49er quarterback of the immediate future. Can anyone top that?
This game does already have one point up on it over the earlier matchup between these two teams: a touchdown. It took until the last seconds of overtime to get one a month ago, and the Cardinals got one after just about five minutes today, thanks to a Patrick Peterson fumble return. The 49ers, already heavily banged up, have lost two more tight ends today (George Kittle and Cole Hikutini), and may be forced to pull people out of the stands soon to field an entire team. Of course, there don't seem to be very many options to choose from in the stands. Good seats still available for this one.
Arizona's defense is teeing off. C.J. Beathard has no internal clock, and it's not helped by the fact that his offensive line is stapled together, with Trent Brown moving to left tackle and UDFA guard Erik Magnuson starting at right tackle. That's allowing Arizona, one of the more pass rush-happy teams in the NFL, to play about half the game in the backfield; that's a cure for what ails you. Now, this has left a couple deep shots open to Marquise Goodwin, and Beathard connected on one of those opportunities, leading to a San Francisco field goal. But without some semblance of protection up front, or the sense to throw the ball away or capitalize on the short windows given to him, Beathard might become one with the Levi's Stadium turf before this one is over.
More injuries for the 49ers, as Jaquiski Tartt is off with injury. For people who haven't been watching, who wonder what changed between the 49ers who were playing close game after close game and the 49ers which can't put anything together, it's the sheer number of the walking wounded at nearly every position on the roster. That turns an entertaining bad team into an awful bad team.
The recipe for Adrian Peterson, at this point in his career, is "feed him to a terrible run defense." He had 134 rushing yards against Tampa Bay back in Week 6, and he already has 79 yards today in the first half against the 49ers. That has taken a lot of the pressure off of Drew Stanton, who is taking advantage of it. This could have easily been a 21-3 game, but Stanton threw an interception in the end zone to go along with two touchdowns. The 49ers showed some brief signs of life off the interception, but that petered out. Cardinals 14-3 at the half.
Things getting feisty late. Down 10 points, the 49ers are driving, and C.J. Beathard slides. Antoine Bethea delivers a very late shot, and all hell breaks loose; our third major fight of the day. Ends with a trifecta of ejections: Carlos Hyde, Frostee Rucker, and Haason Reddick. It has been the chippiest week in the NFL I can remember.
Game is over. 49ers reach the red zone for only the second time all day, things are looking good -- and then Beathard bounces a ball off of Trent Brown's head, and it's intercepted.
That'll be 0-9. The 49ers have the Giants next week before the bye, and that might be their last legitimate shot to earn a win this season.
Washington Redskins 17 at Seattle Seahawks 14
Vince Verhei: A reminder that Duane Brown will not solve all of Seattle's offensive line problems: their first offensive play is a fumbled snap resulting in a loss of yardage, then Russell Wilson's scramble for a third-down conversion is negated by an Oday Aboushi holding penalty.
DeAngelo Hall, now 34 and active for the first time all year, is returning punts for Washington. That's surprising.
By the way, we should note that Rees Odhiambo isn't just benched for Duane Brown today, he's inactive. Seattle's ability to scout, acquire, and develop offensive linemen is just as terrible as Cleveland's ability to do the same with quarterbacks.
After a World Series where many of the games were decided by what looked like football scores, we've got a baseball score here, Seattle leading 2-0 at the end of the first quarter. Washington's mish-mash offensive line has struggled, as you'd imagine, giving up a couple of sacks, including a safety where nobody touched a blitzing Bobby Wagner. They also got called for too many men in the huddle, but then, Seattle did too, so the new faces in new places may have nothing to do with that. It's rainy and very cold in Seattle (actually snowing where I live), which may have led to fumbles by both teams and a number of dropped interceptions by the Seattle defense. Right at the end of the quarter Wilson was intercepted by Kendall Fuller on a play that looked exactly like the Malcolm Butler play in the Super Bowl, with Fuller cutting Doug Baldwin off on a slant route. Blair Walsh missed a field goal for Seattle too. Just a very sloppy quarter all in all.
Scott Kacsmar: November 4, 2001: Pittsburgh kicker Kris Brown missed four field goals at home in a 13-10 loss to the Ravens. He even missed a 35-yard game-tying field goal on the last drive.
Sixteen years and one day later, Blair Walsh has missed three sub-50-yard field goals in the first half for Seattle. I always thought it was shaky to add a kicker who may have had his psyche crushed with a miss against your team in the playoffs, but Walsh was doing fine this year until today. Just one of those awful days.
By the way, that Baltimore game was really the beginning of the end for Brown in Pittsburgh. The Steelers had to move on in 2002. It doesn't take much to tank a kicker.
Vince Verhei: Seahawks trail 7-2 at halftime as the mistakes continue, including a third Blair Walsh missed field goal, this one at the gun. You can imagine how that's going over. Bigger issue, though, is probably the nine penalties, most of them false starts and holds on the offense that have had them in long yardage all day. A big reason they're just 1-of-7 on third downs in the first half. Washington is also getting constant pressure on Wilson, who completed less than half his passes in the first half.
Defense has mostly been dominant, holding Washington to less than 3 yards per play, but old enemy Vernon Davis put together a few big catches to put Washington at the goal line, where Rob Kelley finished the drive to put Washington ahead.
I have been watching Kirk Cousins today and understanding why he and his contract have been so confounding for Washington. He got away with a dropped interception or two in the first half, but otherwise didn't do anything to hurt Washington, while making Seattle pay for the few mistakes they made. At the same time, he didn't do one thing in the first half that made me think "franchise quarterback." Then, on Washington's first drive of the second half, 300-pound Jarran Reed came right up the gut basically unblocked. I don't even know how Cousins could see around him to throw the pass, let alone deliver it accurately. But he delivered a dart to Ryan Grant, who beat Shaq Griffin for a 23-yard gain up the middle of the field. (Earl Thomas is out today -- I didn't see where Bradley McDougald was on the play). Reed hit Cousins in the head for a personal foul for good measure. Regardless, that was a star-caliber throw right there. It leads to a field goal and a 10-2 Washington lead.
It's still 10-2 at the end of the third as the sloppiness just continues. Wilson has only been sacked once, but he has been hit eight times and forced to scramble seven times, and all that harassment is messing with his head. He threw a brain-dead interception to Will Compton on one drive, and almost another on the next drive. Right at the end of the quarter, Washington's first play of the drive was a fumbled snap that went straight up in the air. Cousins caught it, and rather than get tackled by the entire Seattle defensive line, he gave the ball to Rob Kelley so HE could get tackled by the entire Seattle defensive line. It went down as a run for a loss of 9 for Kelley, and quickly led to a three-and-out to start the fourth.
And of course Seattle makes the ensuing touchdown look easy, with a six-play drive where every play gained at least 6 yards. Wilson found a wide-open Luke Willson on the left side for the score. But when they try the two-point conversion, it's something very similar to the Super Bowl play, and it's intercepted again. We now know Russell Wilson would be a great safety, because he showed great hustle and a correct angle to prevent a coast-to-coast pick-two. Washington still laterals a few times and gets about 30 yards away before being tackled. So Washington has the ball now up 10-8.
Seahawks appeared to have the lead on a strip-sack fumble, but on replay it was very clear that Cousins' elbow, knee, and ass were all down before the ball ever came out. Nothing much has happened since then. Washington just killed more than five minutes on a drive that gained only 30 yards. Drive was killed on the softest, most gentle block in the back foul you ever saw by Tyler Catalina, but it was a block, and it was in the back. Seahawks have the ball at the two-minute warning needing only a field goal to win, but their kicker is having a miserable day.
I don't know if he's playing this way because Washington has been ahead all day, but Cousins is really conservative under pressure. He won't even try a throwaway under pressure, he'll just go down and keep the ball. Six sacks today and Seattle's defense (and Washington's blocking) has a lot to do with that, but Cousins does too.
Washington blows coverage and Doug Baldwin is wide-open for a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown. Two-pointer no good when Jimmy Graham fails to catch too-high pass. Seattle up 14-10 in a very weird way. Washington has 1:34 and two timeouts to drive 70 yards for a touchdown.
Oh hey it's a Seattle game and so teams must trade the lead at the end. Cousins hits Brian Quick for 31 and Josh Doctson for 38 on back-to-back sideline routes, then Rob Kelley scores from 1 yard out on the next play. 59 seconds to go, Seattle has no timeouts, needs a field goal to tie. Sigh.
Rob Weintraub: No sweat, says Kirk Cousins. Two bombs, one nicely adjusted to by Brian Quick, the other a sensational diving grab by Josh Doctson, and the Skins are on the one. They run it in, and the two-point miss looms large.
Aaron Schatz: I don't understand Josh Doctson. If he is so absurdly talented, like most of draft Twitter seems to believe, why did he have only 17 targets in the first seven games? Even after today, he still has never had 60 receiving yards in a game. I feel like Doctson is a highlight film but all the other catches aren't just cut out of the film, they are cut out of the very fabric of reality.
Vince Verhei: Welp. Washington wins. They had few chances but made the most out of I think all of them. Seattle had way more chances but screwed most of them up. That's the long and short of it.
For those wondering why there was no ten-second runoff at the end of the Seahawks game: on the penultimate play, it looked like Wilson was able to get a pass off, but it was ruled a sack on the field. The clock was running when Seattle hustled to run a play, but the refs stopped it before the Seahawks could snap it. They reviewed the sack and said yup, it's a sack, and left the clock where it was. If anything, they would have reversed it to an incomplete pass and put MORE time on the clock.
I realize I've been contradicting myself re: Cousins and pressure today. When there was a defender barreling down on him, he was very good at hanging in there and making the pass knowing he would be drilled afterwards. This happened on the Reed play earlier, and also on the game-winning drive. When he folds is when there's not a receiver open and a defender has a hand on him. He does almost nothing to break the tackle or even throw the ball away. He just tucks it away and takes the sack. Does that make sense?
Kansas City Chiefs 17 at Dallas Cowboys 28
Bryan Knowles: It seems like a lot of Dallas' passing strategy is "look for who Kenneth Acker is covering, and then throw it in that direction." It's working.
I think most of us assumed that, when Ezekiel Elliot's on-again off-again on-again off-again Schrodinger's Suspension was postponed yet again, that the Cowboys' running game would be just fine against the Chiefs' frankly terrible rush defense. Instead, Elliott has only 39 yards on 11 carries and is being fairly bottled up. The Cowboys could really use him to be stronger in the second half.
Vince Verhei: Tyreek Hill's Hail Mary screen pass at the end of the first half against Dallas was the highlight of the week in the NFL so far.
— NFL (@NFL) November 5, 2017
Scott Kacsmar: Even though the Giants gave up a 52-yard screen pass touchdown on a third-and-33, that was worse defense by Dallas. I'm actually surprised we don't see teams try that more when the defense expects a Hail Mary. Just dump it short and let your best athlete follow his four receivers who can block for him. Watch a defender or two get silly like Dallas did and you might get a touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: To add insult to injury, the Cowboys have to kickoff from the 20 in the second half, because Byron Jones had an unsportsmanlike call on the Hunt touchdown. That could end being a huge play for a wide number of reasons, though expect to hear the word "momentum" if the Chiefs come back in this one.
Aaron Schatz: Both defenses have committed a lot of the scheme to stopping the run today.
Derrik Klassen: Today has been a fascinating day of offensive football, and this game highlights that. It is not exactly a shootout, but both teams are committing to unique and interesting offensive wrinkles. Triple option, speed option, read option, stick draw in the red zone, motioning wide receivers into the backfield, pistol formation -- both of these teams look like they stole their offense from Dabo Swinney and Chris Ault.
The Eagles' offense today was also a reminder that "college" concepts can work in the NFL. Same goes for the Jets on Thursday night and the Rams earlier today. Hopefully this week pushes along the idea that offense is simply offense, and there is no need for "college" plays to feel like voodoo.
Oakland Raiders 27 at Miami Dolphins 24
Aaron Schatz: Dolphins go up 6-3 on a Damien Williams touchdown catch (missed XP), then went for the surprise onside kick, and it was about as perfect as you can imagine. Cody Parkey had a perfect bounce and recovered the thing himself. The Raiders all turned to run back immediately when Parkey started in motion to kick, and by the time they realized it was a surprise onside kick, it was too late to turn around.
I'm not sure I buy what Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels are saying about the Dolphins offense working better without Jay Ajayi around. They pointed out that Jay Cutler is 16-of-17 "mostly on short stuff." Graphic then shows Cutler has attempted a grand total of one pass over 10 air yards. So yes, mostly. 13-9 Raiders at halftime after a 53-yard field goal by Tavecchio.
Zach Binney: The biggest surprise so far from my perspective in this game is Miami's offensive line. The Ravens certainly have a better defensive line than the Raiders, but last Thursday it seemed two or three guys were in the Miami backfield before the ball was even handed off on running plays. It's always hard to tell assignments, but whether guys were missing blocks or not Ravens linemen went regularly unblocked all night. Tonight, most Raiders linemen seem to be getting picked up. Throw in some short passes and Julius Thomas holding onto the ball, and you have a 16-of-17 first half from Cutler.
On the other side, the Raiders are getting one-on-one linebacker matchups and soft spots for Jared Cook. He has been tearing it up in the first half. We'll see if Miami can adjust.
Rivers McCown: I'm confounded as to how the Raiders are completely unable to run the ball. I'm not necessarily saying that because they can't get Marshawn Lynch going, because he may just be washed. But uh, this offensive line, some sorta promising backup backs, plenty of passing game … what is going on here?
Zach Binney: My MVP of the first half is Terry McAulay's mic. Six minutes or so left in the half, Raiders tight end Lee Smith pled his case after a personal foul with "I was just kiddin' around!", and the mic picked it up during the penalty announcement. On replay it looked like Smith might have had a point. Regardless, it was a fun look into the on-field action we don't normally get. And the look on McAulay's face when he realized it was priceless.
Aaron Schatz: I don't know what's worse about this game, the constant negative ALEX or the constant dropped passes by the Raiders receivers.