Today is Sunday, September 25, 2016.
|Sunday, September 25, 2016|
|National Football League|
|Bears||vs.||Cowboys||8:30 (EDT) Preview|
Prescott leads Cowboys vs. hurting Bears
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:06 PM (EDT)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott celebrated his first career victory last Sunday with his teammates.
By the time the 23-year-old woke up the next morning, he was hungry for seconds.
"You've got to bounce back and got to prepare quick for the next team," Prescott told reporters at the Cowboys' practice facility. "It's been all Chicago this week."
That could be bad news for the Chicago Bears (0-2) as they prepare for a challenging road game on short rest. They will head south to face the Cowboys (1-1) in a prime-time matchup Sunday night.
Already, Prescott is making history as a replacement for injured starter Tony Romo. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound signal-caller from Mississippi State has thrown 75 passes without an interception in his first two NFL games. He broke the record held by Warren Moon, who started his career with 72 passes without an interception.
Not bad for a player whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of this year's draft at No. 135 overall. The Bears bypassed Prescott three times in the fourth round -- selecting linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, safety Deon Bush and cornerback Deiondre' Hall -- before the Cowboys finally called his name.
Chicago general manager Ryan Pace might want a do-over heading into Week 3.
The Bears are riddled with injuries on both sides of the field, but no position hurts worse than quarterback. Eight-year veteran Brian Hoyer is expected to start against the Cowboys in place of Jay Cutler, who sprained his right thumb Monday and was forced to leave the game early because he could not grip the football.
Hoyer, 30, does not deliver nearly the same excitement level as Prescott provides in backing up Romo. However, the journeyman showed his competency Monday as he completed nine of 12 passes for 78 yards after replacing Cutler. He has thrown for 38 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his career, which also has included stops in New England, Arizona, Cleveland and Houston.
"Whether you're the starter or the backup or the third guy, you prepare every week like you're the starter," said Hoyer, who is 15-11 in 26 career starts. "You may get a few more reps here and there, but that's the fact of being able to play at any time. Just prepare like you're going to play and take it one day at a time and come Sunday, we'll see what happens."
Cutler has plenty of company on the Bears' injury report. The defense will play its first game without linebacker Lamarr Houston, who tore his ACL last week and is out for the season. Other key players who could miss the game include nose tackle Eddie Goldman (ankle), linebacker Danny Trevathan (thumb) and running back Ka'Deem Carey (hamstring).
Bears coach John Fox said his team could not afford to dwell on the injuries. The Bears are 2-0 at the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium since the facility opened in 2009. Their most recent victory came in 2012.
"Any time you have front-line players, obviously it's an issue," Fox said. "They are front-line players for a reason. But if you look around the league, even going into Week 3, there are plenty of significant injuries to some star-caliber type players.
"It's the next man up. You don't have any choice. Nobody comes and rescues you. They're not going to cancel the game. So I don't get much into it."
Comparatively speaking, the Cowboys are in better shape. The team is hoping for more from cornerback Orlando Scandrick, who has been plagued by hamstring injuries early in the season. Dallas' pass defense overall has struggled as the secondary has given up an average of 276.5 passing yards in its first two games.
However, a stellar offensive line has helped the Cowboys control time of possession and let the defense rest. Dallas is first in the NFL with eight drives that have chewed up five minutes or more.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley and tight end Jason Witten have combined for 25 catches, which is second-best in the league. The only tandem to make a bigger impact so far this season is New Orleans Saints wide receivers Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks, who have combined for 27 receptions.
Behind the offensive line, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has had an up-and-down start to the season. He has scored a rushing touchdown in each of his first two games. However, he was benched last week after fumbling twice against the Washington Redskins.
"I've never been benched before," Elliott told the Dallas Morning News. "That's new to me. Just got to respond by going to work. That's all you can do."
Siemian, Broncos face stern road test vs. Bengals
Wednesday, September 21 at 7:53 PM (EDT)
The Denver Broncos are the defending Super Bowl champions and have started the 2016 NFL season with a 2-0 mark.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who were a media darling this offseason to finally break through their playoff slump and compete for a Super Bowl, are 1-1. These two AFC titans face off at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday (1 p.m. ET) with early-season playoff implications already in play.
The big headline for this game will be how Broncos' first-year quarterback Trevor Siemian handles his initial start on the road.
With wins at home against the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, a real challenge lies ahead in Ohio for the young quarterback. How Siemian and a shuffled offensive line handle the crowd noise and defense of Cincinnati will be interesting to watch.
While the second-year quarterback hasn't put up impressive statistics, he also hasn't been the worst quarterback to start for a Super Bowl champion either. That could send the team in a different direction if he struggles on the road in this contest.
The Bengals finally get a home game after losing a hard-fought battle in Pittsburgh, 24-16, this past Sunday. They squeaked out a major AFC win in Week 1, on the road with a 23-22 victory over the New York Jets.
Even with a split record, Cincinnati is looking up at the Steelers (2-0) and the Baltimore Ravens (2-0) in the AFC North. Some home cooking and friendly confines could be just the remedy the Bengals need to get back on that winning track.
"We knew that the beginning of the schedule was going to be a big challenge. We came into this game (Pittsburgh) with an opportunity to steal one on the road. We slugged it out the whole game. We'll continue to grow each week," left tackle Andrew Whitworth said about the tough schedule the Bengals face in the first three weeks.
This contest pits one of the best defenses in the NFL against one of the top offenses.
Denver is allowing its opponents an average of 293 yards per game. The Broncos tied for the NFL lead with Seattle for the fewest yards per play at 4.4. Denver boasts outside linebacker and Week 2 AFC Defensive Player of the Week Von Miller, who leads the NFL in sacks with four.
"That's Von Miller, the most unblockable dude in the game. 99 on Madden, 99 swim move, 99 spin move, 99 across the board for that kid," running back C.J. Anderson said of his defensive teammate.
Miller's strip-sack of quarterback Andrew Luck of the Colts sealed the game for the Broncos.
When Cincinnati has the football, there are two key matchups for which to watch. First, Miller against offensive tackles Whitworth and Cedric Ogbuehi. The Bengals' offensive line has given up eight sacks this season, which is the most in the league.
Ogbuehi is in his first season as a starter and while he has size and foot quickness, he struggled in both the pass and run blocking phases versus the Jets and Steelers.
If the Bengals need to use a tight end or running back to help block Miller in the passing game, this should free up a linebacker or another defensive lineman to rush quarterback Andy Dalton. However, the loss of outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware with a broken arm favors Cincinnati's offensive line.
The Bengals' offense, especially the passing attack, is hitting on all cylinders early in the 2016 campaign. Cincinnati is averaging 396.5 yards a game with an average play of 6.1 yards.
Dalton leads the league with 732 passing yards. The Bengals' offense has relied on the deep ball in leading the NFL with 13 passes of 20-plus yards.
The other matchup to watch is Broncos cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris against wide receiver A.J. Green. Green tore up the Jets' secondary for 180 yards but was held in check by an average secondary in Pittsburgh.
Denver's back half is as good as there is in the NFL. Both Talib and Harris have an interception on the season and the former returned his grab for a pick-six. Green has the size advantage over Harris, so look for Green to line up over the smaller player as much as possible in the game. The Broncos did give up a touchdown to Green in their game last season, but held the five-time Pro Bowler to 58 receiving yards.
On the flip side, the Broncos rushing attack is one of the best in the NFL and Anderson ranks sixth in the NFL with 83 yards rushing a game. The Bengals' run defense is statistically the worst in the NFL as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's unit has allowed 138 yards rushing per game at 4.2 yards an attempt.
But give this defense some credit: It has not allowed a rushing touchdown in 2016.
The Broncos' offensive line will be without starting right tackle Donald Stephenson due to a calf injury. His departure from the lineup means either Ty Sambrailo or Michael Schofield will man the right tackle position.
The Bengals' defensive line, especially left defensive end Carlos Dunlap, needs to apply pressure from the edge on the young signal-caller for the Broncos.
Browns QB carousel stops on Kessler vs. Dolphins
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:11 PM (EDT)
For the fifth consecutive regular-season game, the Cleveland Browns turn to a new starting quarterback on Sunday (1 p.m. ET) when they visit the Miami Dolphins in a Week 3 matchup of 0-2 teams.
Rookie third-round pick Cody Kessler climbed the depth chart from third string to No. 1 in the span of two games. Robert Griffin III opened the season as the starter, and was replaced Week 2 by Josh McCown due to injury. Both are dealing with shoulder injuries.
Uncertainty pervades each locker room considering the Dolphins have very little gauge of Kessler's NFL readiness.
"I think the hardest thing for our guys is going to be just kind of the unknown," Miami head coach Adam Gase said. "You can always try to do as much research as you possibly can as far as what looks like could be his strengths and weaknesses in the NFL from the limited exposure you have on him.
"You try to lean on possibly some of the scouting evaluation that went on coming out (of college), as much as you can; but obviously it's such a different game at this level."
The Browns started Johnny Manziel, who is out of football, and Austin Davis in the final two regular-season games of 2015.
Kessler was drafted ahead of Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, a fourth-rounder who is 1-1 and has not thrown an interception in 75 attempts.
With a less-heralded collection of skill-position talent and a remade offensive line, Kessler still has the full confidence of Browns head coach Hue Jackson. When Jackson drafted Kessler earlier than pundits rated the USC quarterback, the coach said "trust me on this one."
He stands by the declaration even headed to South Beach to face defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end Mario Williams and pass rusher Cameron Wake.
"You're going to trust me this weekend," Jackson said. "Here we go. Here we go. Trust me. Here we come. Here we go. We'll see what that statement was all about."
Cleveland has lost 10 of its last 11 road games.
Kessler is disappointed for McCown, who is unsure when he'll play again, but the 23-year-old is eager to validate Jackson's faith in him. He said he doesn't have to change his routine because he has been preparing to start since rookie minicamp in May.
"I think it's been awesome, because Hue's trusted me through this whole process," Kessler said. "He knows since I got here from Day One, that I really am excited. When you get a coach like that, that really loves the game and also really loves his players and really wants you to succeed, it makes you want to play better."
The Dolphins have a pair of tight losses to perennial contenders - 12-10 at Seattle and 31-24 at New England. Gase, a first-year head coach who turned down the opportunity to interview in Cleveland as offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2013, gets his home debut in the Dolphins' first game at renovated Hard Rock Stadium. The home digs of the Dolphins underwent a $500 million renovation in the offseason in hopes of being considered as a Super Bowl venue.
Whether the Dolphins can build a team capable of playing in that game is not clear after two weeks.
The Dolphins are operating without center Mike Pouncey (hip) and have 36 rushing attempts this season. Miami has only six first-half points, which has dictated a lean toward throwing the ball. Gase sees promising signs despite the NFL's 27th-ranked running game, which will likely be without running back Arian Foster (groin).
"We know what we're doing as far as what we need to emphasize," Gase said. "It's like I told our media here, if I feel like there are problems with the run game, I won't be afraid to say it."
The Dolphins are also 27th in the NFL in points scored. Gase expects things to change quickly.
He credited quarterback Ryan Tannehill with consistent play and called on the supporting cast, including running backs Jay Ayaji and rookie Kenyan Drake, to step up in support.
"I don't know how much more he can really step up considering that he's doing everything right now that we need him to do," Gase said of Tannehill. "It's just that we need every guy to pull their weight."
Cleveland can test the Dolphins on the ground to help Kessler settle in, especially considering Miami allowed 136.5 rushing yards per game over the first two weeks of the season. Fellow rookie Corey Coleman had two touchdowns last week and was developing into a featured component of the Cleveland offense prior to breaking his hand in practice Wednesday.
Kessler worked overtime to get ready for the Dolphins. He was at the team facility for 18 hours on Monday and reported early Tuesday, typically a rest and treatment day. He said he watched the first two games of the season six or seven times apiece.
"I want to give myself the best chance to take advantage of this opportunity this weekend," Kessler said. "It is definitely a long process, definitely a long week, but for me, I'm just staying focused on what I can control. That is how I prepare and how I perform."
Cardinals expect different look from Bills' D
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:50 PM (EDT)
They may be 0-2 and might have changed offensive coordinators, but when it comes to playing against a Rex Ryan-coached defense as the Arizona Cardinals will this Sunday when they meet the Buffalo Bills, Carson Palmer knows the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.
"Very well-coached defenses," the Cardinals quarterback said. "A lot of different looks, a lot of different coverages. But you've got to be ready for Cover Zero all over the field. On first down, second down, backed up, red zone, midfield, fringe, all that."
What's more concerning to the 1-1 Cardinals, Palmer said, is that the Bills are a desperate team.
"Their backs are against the wall and we are prepared and we've got to be prepared for as much as possible," he said. "You can't ever be prepared for everything, especially with Coach Ryan, but you've got to go into these games expecting anything. When a team is in the situation they're in, where they're trying to get their first win and they've got a little turmoil going on with coaches and stuff like that, their back are against the wall and we've got to be prepared for that."
The Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman after their loss last week to the Jets and promoted Anthony Lynn to take his spot. The game plan figures to be simplified a tad this week, but quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Buffalo will pick up the tempo when they have the ball.
"That's definitely something we've been putting a focus on throughout the week, just trying to get in and out and put pressure on the defense," Taylor said. "We've got a lot of talented guys on the offense and we want to get them the ball, but I think the main thing is the tempo."
Taylor said he's curious to see what kind of looks the Cardinals' defense will give them, adding that whatever looks they see, it isn't going to be easy.
"They've got playmakers across the board," he said. "Up front, their secondary, at linebacker. It's a very fast defense and they play sound football. We'll definitely have to bring our A-game to make plays against those guys."
Buffalo's running game, which ranked first in the league a year ago, has struggled to gain yards. It ranks 24th overall after two games. The offense ranks 31st in percentage of three-and-out series and is 29th in third-down conversion rate.
"Obviously, we are extremely disappointed where we're at, 0-2," Ryan said. "We didn't expect to be in this situation right now. ... It's not like we're hanging our heads. We just know we have to get better and we have to get better in a hurry.
"It's two games. We've been beat by six points in both games. I get it. It's not where you want it to be, but there's a lot of football left to be played, win, lose or draw."
Despite blowing out the Buccaneers 40-7 last week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wasn't very happy with his team. He publicly criticized several of his players and said, among other things, "we can be a (heck) of a lot better."
One thing Arians demands perfection out of is his offense when it goes into its no-huddle packages, which the Cardinals are expected to use a lot early and often at New Era Field. It hasn't been good the first two weeks against the Patriots or the Buccaneers, but especially last week against Tampa.
"Fewer lack of communications," Arians said. "We had, in the first five plays, three guys that didn't handle it very well. Whereas when we were on the road in Houston (during the preseason), we handed it beautifully. Again, we've got some young guys that get way too hyped up for games. They have to settle down and start the games better and we have to communicate better."
As for the Bills, Ryan insists it's far too early to panic. He said he isn't concerned about his job security and added the decision to let go of Roman was made with the best of intentions and that the Bills will be better for it moving forward.
"And that's not a slight on Greg Roman," Ryan said. "Greg Roman's a tremendous coach. But for us at this time, that was what we felt would help our football team."
What also will help, Ryan said, is hoping Palmer has an "off day."
"We're hoping for an off day. That's pretty much it," Ryan said. "It's not a very comforting thought going into a game thinking that, 'Hey, this kid, we need him to have an off day, but that's kind of where he is. He's such a talent, always been a talent, and especially with his core of receivers and things and this offensive line. This is a heck of a task in front of us."
Struggling Rodgers looks to improve vs. Lions
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:31 PM (EDT)
For years, there were two major story lines every time the Detroit Lions visited the Green Bay Packers. One, could the Lions control Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers? And, two, would the Lions ever win a game at Lambeau Field?
Both of those questions are off the board as these NFC North rivals get ready for their Week 3 matchup. Rodgers' struggles from last season have continued into this season. One of his poor performances from last year came when Detroit snapped its 24-game losing streak in games played in Wisconsin by beating the Packers 18-16 in Week 10.
Based on this year's performances, the quarterbacking edge belongs to Detroit with Matthew Stafford. Through two weeks, Stafford has thrown for 600 yards, completed 67.1 percent of his passes and ranks ninth with a passer rating of 101.3. Compare that to Rodgers, who has thrown for 412 yards, completed 57.1 percent of his passes and ranks 22nd with a passer rating of 82.5.
Rodgers knows he must play better as the Packers begin a rare four-game home stand.
"As a leader, you have to take the blame when it's necessary and even sometimes when it's not your fault," Rodgers said. "I think it's important to let those guys know that you're going to stick your body on the line but also you're going to stand up for them when you need to in the locker room, the meeting room and the media and take your responsibility for the way you played.
"I didn't play as well as I wanted to last week and I turned the ball over twice, and I can't do that if we're going to win the game. So I've got to play better and I've got to play more efficiently on offense."
Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn't buying the talk that Rodgers' play has slipped.
"Greatness," Caldwell says, is what he sees when he watches the tape.
Rodgers, however, hasn't been great. The NFL's career leader in passer rating hasn't even reached 100 in 14 consecutive games. With the game on the line at Minnesota last week, Rodgers fumbled with the Packers in field-goal range on their next-to-last possession and was intercepted on their final chance.
Green Bay will attack a Detroit defense that has allowed 5.1 yards per carry and an opponent passer rating of 112.7. The linebacker corps has been gutted, with injuries to DeAndre Levy (quad) and Kyle Van Noy (calf) leaving only Tahir Whitehead among the starting trio from last week vs. Tennessee. The Lions have a star cornerback in Darius Slay, who Rodgers avoided in last year's game in Green Bay, and an excellent safety in Glover Quin.
Change has been the constant for Detroit's offense. Calvin Johnson, still one of the premier receivers in the NFL, retired in the offseason and the Lions filled the void by signing Marvin Jones and veteran Anquan Boldin. Combined with Golden Tate, who has back-to-back seasons of 90-plus catches, the Lions have a talented three-receiver package.
Jones has 12 catches and ranks seventh in the NFL with 203 yards, Tate has nine catches for 54 yards and Boldin has seven catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. They represent three of the Lions' five players with at least seven receptions.
"I think anytime you lose a talent like (Johnson), it's tough," Stafford said. "But our guys have done a really nice job and the ball is being spread around. We've got a lot of guys with a bunch of catches already this year. Hopefully, we'll continue to do that and spread the ball around and make it tough on defenses."
The changes go beyond the passing game. Detroit placed leading rusher Ameer Abdullah (foot) on injured reserve on Wednesday. Theo Riddick, who led all NFL running backs with 80 receptions last season while carrying only 43 times, and rookie Dwayne Washington will take over the ball-carrying chores. They'll be running into the teeth of a Green Bay defense that ranks No. 1 in the NFL by a considerable margin in rushing yards allowed per game (39) and per carry (1.6).
That unit, however, suffered a blow at Minnesota when defensive tackle Letroy Guion exited with a sprained MCL. The Packers already were short on veteran talent on their defensive line. They'll head into Sunday with standout veteran Mike Daniels, first-round pick Kenny Clark, hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end Datone Jones, fourth-round pick Dean Lowry and first-year player Christian Ringo.
"It's always a big loss to lose one of your starters, especially somebody who's as effective as Letroy," Daniels said after the Packers held Minnesota to just 30 yards on 22 carries. "But the young guys, they're pulling their weight and they're doing a heck of a job. We just have to continue to push them to get better."
Titans host Raiders with rare back-to-back wins in sight
Wednesday, September 21 at 9:06 PM (EDT)
To the Tennessee Titans, it mattered little that they spent the first three quarters of last week's game in Detroit flailing and failing like the team that's gone 5-27 the previous two years.
What mattered most at the end of a decidedly inelegant game was this: In the fourth quarter, Tennessee put together two touchdown drives, came up with the big stop in the last minute and left Ford Field with a 16-15 win.
"Being around here, we haven't won many games like that," cornerback Jason McCourty said. "Hopefully, that will turn stuff around. I think the one thing this year is that we honestly believed and we thought throughout that whole game that we'd be able to pull it out. Then to do it, now we know we can."
Tennessee (1-1) will try for its first back-to-back wins since 2013 Sunday when it hosts the Oakland Raiders at Nissan Stadium. Coincidentally, that was also the last year the Titans sniffed any kind of playoff contention, although they turned a 3-1 start into a 7-9 finish that resulted in the firing of coach Mike Munchak.
Oakland (1-1) followed up a dramatic 35-34 win in Week 1 at New Orleans with a come-from-ahead 35-28 loss last week to Atlanta. The Raiders' defense has allowed more than 1,000 yards in the two games, leading to some serious questions.
In fact, coach Jack Del Rio took over the defense in the fourth quarter from coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., then said Monday that changes were coming. But Del Rio said he isn't planning to run the defense this week.
"I think for us, it's about us," he said. "It's a collective effort. We all share in it so I'm not going to throw any one person under the bus. It's not any one person that's at fault here. Collectively, as a group, we have to pick it up."
Tennessee would seem to be an ideal foe to pick it up against. While the Titans have shown flashes of being the team coach Mike Mularkey envisioned in preseason, they've only managed 16 points in each of their first two games.
In quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back DeMarco Murray, tight end Delanie Walker and rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee has more pieces offensively than it's had in a few years. But critical mistakes had tripped it up until the fourth quarter in Detroit.
There, Mariota threw two touchdown passes and completed all nine of his attempts for 74 yards on the game-winning drive, giving the Titans only their sixth win since the 2014 season's beginning.
"We have to build off this win and show up at our home game," Walker said. "We have to protect our house."
That's been much easier said than done for Tennessee, which is 2-15 in its last 17 games at home, dating back to the 2014 home opener. Its two wins in that span have been one-possession verdicts against equally bad Jacksonville.
Oakland is one of many teams to leave Nashville with a win in the last two-plus years, rallying late to take a 24-21 decision on Nov. 30, 2015, as Derek Carr found Seth Roberts for a late touchdown pass.
Carr already boasts 618 yards and four touchdown passes in two games, while wide receiver Amari Cooper has 208 yards. The presence of Michael Crabtree and Roberts keeps teams from constantly doubling Cooper, and Latavius Murray offers a ground threat that prevents opponents from concentrating solely on the passing game.
"We know the challenge they pose and how good they are offensively," McCourty said. "They are going to come in here hungry after they lost a tough one to Atlanta. So it's going to be a tough challenge for us."
The challenge will be equally difficult for the Raiders if they don't start generating some 3-and-outs, as well as big plays, on defense. The Titans are certain to emphasize Walker in the game plan after Falcon tight ends combined for 180 yards on 10 receptions last week.
Del Rio might insert rookies Karl Joseph and Cory James at safety and inside linebacker, respectively, and could also bench cornerback Sean Smith. Even linebacker Khalil Mack, the leader of the defense, has been neutralized with only two pressures and no sacks the first two weeks.
Like his teammates, Mack is chagrined at the defense's play.
"A thousand yards," he said. "Being the leader of this defense, that hurts."
Jacksonville not overacting as it prepares for Ravens
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:17 PM (EDT)
Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley remains adamant that there is no need to overreact to a Week 2 loss to San Diego.
No matter how ugly it was.
Now the Baltimore Ravens are headed to Jacksonville with a chance to continue their best start to a season in seven years while dealing Bradley's enduring confidence another blow following one of the most disheartening defeats of his tenure.
"It's one game. One game that we did not play well," Bradley said. "You take a look back and you sit back and you re-evaluate things. I think we observed what happened and we interpreted what happened. Now we have to apply it. That's where we're at now."
The Jaguars have been unable to turn evaluations into wins under Bradley, who is now 12-38 in his three-plus seasons coaching the team. Last week's 38-14 throttling by the San Diego Chargers was among the team's most brutal performances.
Through three quarters, quarterback Blake Bortles had no touchdowns and three turnovers while he struggled to get his top play-makers involved. Meanwhile, the defense was getting gashed for five touchdowns as the Chargers led 35-0.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers again picked apart the Jaguars, finishing the game 17 of 24 for 220 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
"He's elite. We all know that," Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz said. "He went out there and played a great game. Hats off to him."
While the Jaguars keep finding ways to lose, the Ravens have proved they know how to win.
Baltimore came out on top of a defensive struggle against Buffalo in Week 1 and overcame a 20-0 first-quarter deficit to beat Cleveland 25-20 on Sunday.
The victory gave the Ravens their first 2-0 start since the 2009 season.
"The guys just kept fighting and clawed their way back in, slowly but surely," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They never gave up on one another, and (resilience) is probably what you attribute that to."
A rejuvenated Mike Wallace has played an important role in infusing energy into the team's receiving group. Playing in his first season with the Ravens, Wallace already has three touchdowns as part of his seven catches for 132 yards.
Tight end Dennis Pitta has also been effective with a team-leading 12 catches for 141 yards.
Baltimore's offense could be primed for a big week against Jacksonville, which has allowed 32.5 points per game (tied for 28th in the league), but veteran receiver Steve Smith said he doesn't pay much attention to what an opponent did the previous week.
No matter how bad it was.
"Sometimes numbers can lie," Smith said. "Unless you watch the game and understand how and why, then you can look at a box score and say, 'Oh, that team is not very good.' You just can't do that."
Smith contributed eight catches for 83 yards after returning from an Achilles tendon injury that he said "pretty much sucked" to recover from.
"It was horrible," he said.
That's also an accurate description for how the Jaguars played against San Diego's receiving threat.
Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin burned Jacksonville for 115 yards and two touchdowns last week while receiver Tyrell Williams and tight end Antonio Gates both added scores of their own.
Coverage could be an issue again for the Jaguars as cornerback Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and strong safety Johnathan Cyprien (knee/triceps) missed practice Wednesday.
The Jaguars were also with left tackle Kelvin Beachum (concussion), defensive end Jared Odrick (triceps) and receiver Allen Robinson (illness). Running back Chris Ivory (medical issue) returned to practice for the first time since Sept. 9.
The Ravens were without left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) for practice Wednesday while linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot) was limited.
These teams met last November in Baltimore and played one of the wildest games of the season.
The Ravens appeared to win at the end of regulation, but Dumervil was flagged for pulling on the facemask of Bortles to give the Jaguars one untimed down.
Gifted with another chance, kicker Jason Myers connected on a 53-yard field goal to give Jacksonville a 22-20 victory. Both teams finished the season 5-11.
"That's definitely one of the craziest finishes to a game that I've ever been a part of," Myers said. "Thankfully, it worked out in our favor."
The NFL later announced Baltimore should have won, saying a false start penalty on the Jaguars was missed on the play that ended with Dumervil's penalty. A 10-second run-off would have been issued to end the game.
That didn't make the result any easier to swallow for the Ravens.
"I don't really ever forget that game," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't have to be spurred. That's always been kind of on my mind. It was a great football game, a tough loss for us. They deserve credit. They found a way to win. That was a real tough loss for us."
OBJ, Norman face off again as 'Skins battle Giants
Wednesday, September 21 at 11:01 PM (EDT)
The feud between New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman threatens to overwhelm what is a critical early-season game in the NFC East.
A division that the Redskins won with just a 9-7 record last season appears there for the taking for the Giants. New York is off to a 2-0 start and already owns a win over the Cowboys in Dallas. A Giants victory over Washington on Sunday (1 p.m. EDT) at MetLife Stadium would add a second division win and put the Redskins (0-2) in an awful position three weeks into the season.
"We look at it, 'Hey, it's the next game,'" Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "We're worried about our season and what we've got to do, and it's a chance for us to go 3-0, and that's all we are concerned with."
Neither team wants to let Beckham-Norman drama overshadow the contest, though it figures to occur anyway.
By the end of the Dec. 20, 2015, game in New York against the Carolina Panthers, Norman's former team, Beckham had been whistled for three personal-foul penalties, including one after he got a 10-yard running start and smashed into Norman's helmet.
For his part, Norman was fined more than $26,000 and was called for two personal fouls. The Giants also maintained that Carolina players waved a bat at them before the game and hurled homosexual slurs at Beckham. Norman later denied that happened, but there was enough ugliness that day to go around.
"I am looking forward to playing the New York Giants, man," Norman said. "A lot has been said from this week all the way up since last time we played each other, so I'm sure they're going to be ready just as much as we are. Shoot, seems Sunday can't get here fast enough."
The Redskins are bordering on desperate. They were blown out by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the opener at home and were left seething after a close loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. Washington's schedule only gets tougher in November and December, so the Redskins can't afford a slow start. Winning in New York is never an easy task, though. The Redskins have lost four in a row and seven of eight on the road against the Giants.
The injury list is growing quickly for Washington, too. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (knee/ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday. Left tackle Trent Williams (right knee), defensive end Chris Baker (rib/elbow/knee/toe) and rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson (left Achilles tendon) were all limited.
New York is worried about starting right guard Marshall Newhouse (calf) -- who plays a position at which the team possesses limited depth -- and running back Rashad Jennings (thumb). The running game was ineffective in the Giants' ugly 16-13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Giants did not score an offensive touchdown.
Another concern for New York? Three lost fumbles. The Giants can't afford to give Washington's offense that many chances.
"Putting the ball on the ground three times is not something we want make a trend or something that we want to continue doing," Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said. "So we want to make sure that we pay attention to detail, pay attention to the little things. Ball security is definitely one of those little things that we need to clean up a little bit."
The Giants' defense has been solid against the run this season, but it is unclear how much Washington will employ running back Matt Jones and company this weekend.
The Redskins profess to want to find a balance between the running and passing game, but they have thrown the ball 89 times and run it just 29 through two games. Some of that is because Washington fell behind early in the second half to the Steelers, but some of it is just not being able to move the ball on the ground and having so many weapons at wide receiver and tight end.
"We're not happy with the run-pass balance," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "Based on the numbers, we're obviously not a run-first team. I'd be standing up here looking like a fool if I said we're a 'pound the rock' type team right now. First two games, the proof is in the pudding, the numbers."
Vikings, Panthers face off with new starting running backs
Wednesday, September 21 at 10:31 PM (EDT)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Minnesota Vikings are in another adjustment mode without their star running back heading into the third game of the season.
At least they're undefeated as they venture on the road Sunday afternoon to take on the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers (1-1) also are turning to a new starting running back, so the teams are even that regard.
With Adrian Peterson requiring surgery for a torn meniscus suffered Sunday night, the Vikings will be without the leading rusher in franchise history.
"Obviously, it's hard to replace a player like Adrian," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "It's just kind of next man up. I haven't been here long, but I think we have great running backs and the guys behind him are eager for the opportunity."
Third-year running back Jerick McKinnon will have the next chance to make an impact at running back for the Vikings.
The Panthers will have their own committee in the backfield, with coach Ron Rivera indicating Cameron Artis-Payne will be active as the "lead" back and Fozzy Whittaker also in the mix along with short-yardage back Mike Tolbert with Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) likely out a few weeks. Whittaker responded when Stewart was injured against the San Francisco 49ers by gaining a career-best 100 yards on the ground.
"He's a stout inside runner," Rivera said of Artis-Payne, who was inactive against San Francisco. "He's more 'plant that leg and drive straight ahead,' where Fozzy is a little bit more niftier, a little bit better lateral movement."
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw for four touchdowns in the latest game, another example of the flexibility the Panthers have on offense.
Seven teammates caught passes from Newton when a 46-27 win over the 49ers marked the most points ever in a Carolina home opener.
"Everybody is on board," Newton said. "We're firing from all cylinders and it's fun to be a part of and I know it's fun to watch."
Minnesota had been going through change since quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was injured during the preseason. Bradford, who was traded to the Vikings from the Philadelphia Eagles before the opener, continues to settle in.
Minnesota's 2-0 start has made the transition easier to digest, at least for now.
"Just being here for two weeks, I'm more comfortable here," Bradford said. "Just having the time with those practices the last couple of weeks, I'm just more comfortable."
Bradford said he anticipates that Carolina's defense could have a different plan without having to deal with Peterson.
"We can't like that affect us," Bradford said. "If you spend too much time dwelling on that, it's going to affect your play. ... We'll have to see how defenses play us from here on out. I can imagine we'll see some different looks now than when we had him in the game."
The Vikings put offensive tackle Matt Kalil on injured reserve this week as well, so coupled with Peterson's injury that was a double-whammy for the team.
"I feel like we have to come back to work and go play Carolina," Zimmer said, summing up his thoughts on the topic. " ... At this point and time, I think it's tough to find left tackles."
Minnesota's injury report means Carolina center Matt Kalil won't be in the same game as his younger brother.
Zimmer said he's turning his attention to the Panthers, whose offense can create trouble in various ways in part because of Newton's mobility.
"It makes it difficult," Zimmer said. "You have to be very disciplined in what you're doing. ... They scored 46 last week, so they can do a lot of things."
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said the team is capable of moving on after injuries or mistakes.
"We don't really worry about a lot of that, we just keep playing," he said.
In a 2014 victory over Carolina, the Vikings kept Newton under control. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 194 yards, holding a 65.7 quarterback rating. Bridgewater checked in that day at 120.7.
The Panthers have won 14 consecutive home games at Bank of America Stadium, but their uneven performance -- in part because of four turnovers -- against San Francisco left questions for the reigning NFC champions.
"Too many things out there have to get straightened out and get taken care of," Rivera said.
Zimmer said this is a chance for his team to again show it can adjust.
"Everyone is concerned about that we don't have this, we don't have that," Zimmer said. "It's a team game. That's why we have 53 guys here, so we're trying to win as a team."
|49ers||vs.||Seahawks||4:05 (EDT) Preview|
Seahawks seek solutions on offense against 49ers
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:14 PM (EDT)
SEATTLE -- When the 2016 NFL schedule was announced, a Week 3 visit from their downtrodden division rivals appeared to be the least of the Seahawks' concerns in the opening month of the season.
But after scoring a total of 15 points through a 1-1 start, Seattle (1-1) is admittedly searching for answers as to how to fix its suddenly inept offense ahead of Sunday's 4:05 p.m. ET game against the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at CenturyLink Field.
At the heart of the problem is an offensive line that has only one starter returning at the same spot from the group that helped the Seahawks average 28 points in the final eight games of last season. The overhauled offensive line contributed to quarterback Russell Wilson suffering an ankle injury against Miami in the season opener, and last week the playbook was of the rollouts and zone-reads that have made him so dangerous through his first three NFL seasons.
The Seahawks' lone touchdown came on a late fourth-quarter drive to avoid a massive home upset against the Dolphins, and coach Pete Carroll admitted he is concerned about everything from the line to the imbalance between the running and passing games to the inability to convert on third down (31 percent).
"I never could have thought that we would go the first couple weeks and not score but one touchdown," Carroll said. "I'm just surprised at that. We're better than that."
Wilson insists the offense is "not far off at all," and part of the tonic could be the San Francisco defense, which surrendered 46 points at Carolina last week after pitching a shutout at home against St. Louis in the season opener.
What Seattle still appears to have is a suffocating defense that ranks first in points allowed (9.5 per game) and total yards allowed (248.5) while ranking third (64.0 against the rush) and fourth (184.5) against the pass. Seattle dominated the series last season, winning the two matchups by a combined score of 49-16. And while 49ers coach Chip Kelly's scheme is new to San Francisco, the Seahawks showed they can handle the up-tempo style in a 24-14 victory at Philadelphia in 2014.
"Yeah, we have looked at it, but I don't know how relevant it is," Kelly said. "It's obviously different personnel here, different scheme here in terms of who we are. There's a lot of the same faces there which is one of the reasons they're such a good defense. But we look at everything. So we've probably got 10 or 15 games that we looked at in terms of preparing for Seattle. But I don't know how relevant that matchup was in terms of what we're going to do on Sunday."
The 49ers have averaged 27.5 points through two games, but the passing game ranks just 28th and Kelly has acknowledged that quarterback Blaine Gabbert has left some big plays on the table. At the same time, the team's offensive personnel is still adjusting to the scheme change and Kelly said part of the struggles are also due to poorly-run routes and some protection issues.
"Sometimes it's not the quarterback's fault. It's a combination of everything," Kelly said. "There's a lot that's involved in all of that and I think being good in the passing game on the offensive side of the ball takes all 11 guys."
Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said the 49ers have to "get back to basics," and Kelly debunked the notion that the 49ers are always going to run an up-tempo attack.
"That's a misconception we talk about all the time," Kelly said. "We don't try to operate at a very quick pace, and don't try to run more plays than other people run. Just trying to take advantage of what the defense is."
The Seahawks limited running back Carlos Hyde to 40 yards on 11 carries in the first meeting, and a Hyde-less 49ers offense to 61 yards on 15 carries in the rematch. Getting the running game untracked early and keeping Gabbert out of dangerous down-and-distance situations in a tough road environment is critical.
"The Seahawks' secondary is probably the best in the league," Kelly said. "They've got three perennial Pro Bowl players (cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas). They've got a scheme that those guys have been in for a long time.
"You've got (defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril) in that group in the front. You've got two of the best inside linebackers (K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner). ... So they've got playmakers at every level. There's not a lot of inexperience when you're going against this group."
The 49ers' defense doesn't boast nearly the same crop of household names, and San Francisco struggled to stop the run or the pass in Carolina after its Week 1 stomping of the Rams. Seattle desperately wants to get its ground game going to ease the burden on Wilson and the pass blocking, but the availability of Thomas Rawls (leg contusion) might not be known until game day, which could leave the brunt of the work again to Christine Michael, who is averaging 5.0 yards per carry but also had a game-ending fumble against the Rams.
Wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are also recovering from knee injuries in the physical clash against the Rams, and rookie running back C.J. Prosise is also trying to return from a broken bone in a wrist that sidelined him last week.
On the positive front, tight end Jimmy Graham had three receptions last week as he continues to work closer to full strength after knee surgery. His presence could help thwart the pass rush and help Seattle improve on numbers like converting on just 4 of 13 third-down opportunities last week, including only one of greater than six yards.
"That's still the key, and converting and creating a new set of downs and all that is crucial," Carroll said.
|Rams||vs.||Buccaneers||4:05 (EDT) Preview|
Offense should thrive in Rams-Bucs clash
Wednesday, September 21 at 7:50 PM (EDT)
If you are a fan of high-flying prolific offenses that light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree, you might not want to tune into the Los Angeles Rams visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Points will be at a premium when these two NFC opponents face off in the Florida heat. The Rams haven't scored a touchdown all season and have a total of nine points in two games.
At least the Buccaneers started the year off right as they looked like a Jon Gruden-coached club in Week 1, putting up 31 points in a major NFC South win over the Atlanta Falcons. Then quarterback Jameis Winston and his squad faced the buzz-saw that is the Arizona Cardinals and got trounced 40-7. Winston threw four interceptions.
"It's a humbling league. We got beat up all over the field. Hats off to the Cardinals for a job well done. I didn't a good enough job getting these guys ready to go. We turned it over way, way too many times," said Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter.
Tampa Bay's head coach acknowledged the offense has not been clicking, especially Winston and wide receiver Vincent Jackson. In the first two weeks, Jackson has just six catches for 62 yards despite being targeted 17 times. And now starting running back Doug Martin could be out for an extended period of time with a hamstring injury. Martin's loss puts even more emphasis on the passing attack of the Buccaneers finding the right chemistry.
Both teams are 1-1 yet neither organization has figured out their identity heading into Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season. The Rams have major questions at the quarterback position even if head coach Jeff Fisher will not admit them.
"Well he (Rams starting quarterback Case Keenum) bounced back. He had a good week, came back and made plays. That's a tough defense to attack and throw against. You know, we had some drops nonetheless, but he put the ball where it needed to be put. The last play to (wide receiver) Kenny (Britt) was a great throw -- great anticipation, great throw," said Fisher of his embattled starter. The media and fans have been adamant about the Rams starting 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff since Los Angeles has not scored a touchdown this season.
"Anybody that knows this game would be concerned about not scoring touchdowns, now come on. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but we need to score some touchdowns. But I'll take this win, winning and then some. So if we take anything away from this week, that's what we got to do. We got to keep working on it someway somehow, whether it's special teams or defense, but I'll take a touchdown next week. That would be cool," Fisher said as the team faces the Buccaneers in Week 3.
Fisher may get his wish. The Buccaneers defense, which was not very good under fired head coach Lovie Smith, has struggled in 2016 as well. Only the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars have given up as many points (64).
Both teams could be a remedy for the others' ills. The lack of offense by the Rams could help the Buccaneers defense or vice versa. A lackluster Los Angeles offensive unit could find solace in attacking a below-average Tampa Bay defensive group.
This then leaves the game primarily in the hands of which Buccaneers offense against which Rams defense shows up. Los Angeles, led by middle linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive end Robert Quinn, held the Seattle Seahawks to a field goal in their Week 2 win at home. This was after giving up 28 points to the San Francisco 49ers in a Week 1 loss.
The Buccaneers offense installed by head coach Dirk Koetter was flying high in Week 1 in which the offense accounted 371 net yards. Quarterback Jameis Winston threw for four touchdowns. The offensive line gave up zero sacks vs. the Falcons. On the road in Arizona for Week 2, Tampa Bay was shut out in the first half, Winston threw four interceptions and the offensive line gave up three sacks.
Said Koetter, "I expect and want to see fantastic resiliency. If you just look around the league, that's how the NFL is. The Cardinals had a disappointing loss, and they came back and got after us pretty good yesterday.
"Look at the Rams, who we play this week. The Rams lost 28-0 in their opener to the 49ers, come back with a huge win against Seattle. The Falcons, who we beat last week, go on the road to the Raiders who were a hot team and play well enough to get a big win on the road."
As both head coaches have preached this week, depending on which Buccaneers or Rams team shows up will determine the outcome of this NFC showdown.
|Chargers||vs.||Colts||4:25 (EDT) Preview|
Winless Colts aim to rebound vs. Chargers
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:28 PM (EDT)
Quarterback Andrew Luck is sore and beat up and the Indianapolis Colts are winless.
There won't be any sympathy forthcoming from the San Diego Chargers.
Luck and the Colts attempt to begin digging themselves out of a 0-2 hole when they host the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
Indianapolis is winless after two games for the third straight season. The Colts recovered to reach the AFC Championship Game two seasons ago but ended up 8-8 last year.
"You can control what you can control," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "If a couple plays go a little bit different in each of those games, you are sitting at 2-0. But that is not the case. That has never been the case. It is what it is."
Last season's struggles were partially due to Luck missing nine games with various injuries. The 27-year-old is aching again and missed Wednesday's practice with soreness in his passing shoulder stemming from being sacked five times in last Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Luck, who has thrown five touchdown passes this season, insisted he'll be on the field when the Colts face the Chargers and said there is no cause for alarm.
"I don't think so, but I don't raise the alarms," Luck said. "That's you guys. I would not be concerned."
Meanwhile, quarterback Philip Rivers of the Chargers (1-1) keeps losing key weapons from an offense averaging 32.5 points, second best in the NFL. Star receiver Keenan Allen was lost to a torn ACL in Week 1 and running back Danny Woodhead went down with the same type of season-ending knee injury last Sunday.
Despite the attrition, Rivers has thrown five touchdown passes without an interception and has a stellar 120.3 quarterback rating. Rivers had four passing scores in last Sunday's 38-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rivers has a 5-1 career record against the Colts, who have allowed a league-worst 73 points through the first two weeks.
"We have had some memorable, fun games against Indy," Rivers said. "But I don't think any of those factor in this week.
"We know that we are going to face a team that has a lot of passion and pride and that's going to fight like crazy to get its first win."
San Diego may choose to rely more on second-year running back Melvin Gordon against a Colts' defense ranked 29th against the run (125.0 yards per game). Gordon rushed for 102 yards vs. the Jaguars for the first 100-yard game of his NFL career.
"He's running with authority," Pagano said. "He's big, powerful and he looks like he's a one-cut guy who can make people miss. He gets in the secondary and he has the speed to go the distance."
San Diego's defense is about to receive a boost due to the likely availability of first-round draft pick Joey Bosa. The No. 3 overall pick was a holdout until late August and then injured a hamstring and could make his NFL debut against the Colts.
"I'll let you guys know when we have an update on whether he's going to cut it loose or not," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "But I'll keep saying he's day-to-day until we know he can truly go full-go."
Adding Bosa's pass-rushing abilities to team with linebacker Melvin Ingram (two sacks last week) should aid a defense ranking 23rd in total defense (400.5) and 29th in defending the pass (324.0). Cornerback Casey Hayward had two interceptions last week but the secondary has been a weak link.
Indianapolis' beleaguered defense hopes to have Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle) on the field for the first time this season.
The Colts have been decimated with injuries in the secondary and the list of ailing players include cornerbacks Darius Butler (hamstring), Antonio Cromartie (ribs) and Patrick Robinson (concussion) plus safeties Clayton Geathers (foot) and T.J. Green (knee).
Indianapolis also suffered a key offensive loss on Wednesday when it was announced receiver Donte Moncrief will miss four-to-six weeks with a fractured left shoulder blade.
The Chargers have won four of the past five meetings, including a 19-9 victory in 2013 when they controlled the ball for 38:31 and held Luck and the Colts out of the end zone.
San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano is the younger brother of the Colts' head coach.
|Jets||vs.||Chiefs||4:25 (EDT) Preview|
Inconsistent Smith, Chiefs look to rebound vs. Jets
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:27 PM (EDT)
The third week of any season is not the point where teams, the media or fans can make many definitive statements about a specific club.
In another month, fortunes will rise and fall within the divisions. It's why every game is important in the season's final reckoning and the race for the playoffs.
That makes Sunday's meeting at Arrowhead Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET) a very important game for the New York Jets (1-1) and Kansas City Chiefs (1-1).
Both teams have seen very good play from parts of their roster, while at times also trying to solve problems with underachievement. The watch word around these teams would be Inconsistent.
However, both clubs should be in the mix in December when the league's contenders are fighting for spots in the playoffs. A 10-game winning streak at the end of the 2015 season punched Kansas City's ticket to the playoffs, while the Jets' chance evaporated in a loss to Buffalo in the last game of the regular season.
This is one of those games that looks good in the AFC standings and head-to-head tie-breakers.
"You love challenges in this business, from a coaching standpoint and player standpoint," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. "You work so hard to play against good caliber players. That's what this group is, so that'll be something to watch."
Jets head coach Todd Bowles knows what to expect from Kansas City. He was part of Reid's coaching staff in Philadelphia during the 2012 season.
"They're hard-nosed, tough and physical on both sides of the ball," Bowles said. "They've got playmakers on the outside, ball hawks at the corners, a tough safety, strong fast linebackers. They have a slew of running backs, a great tight end, a great receiver, and a quarterback who's very good."
That quarterback is Alex Smith and he's been the picture of inconsistency over the first two games.
In the opener against San Diego, Smith had one of the best passing days of his career in leading the Chiefs back from a 21-point deficit to beat the Chargers in overtime. Last Sunday, he was erratic and turned the ball over twice in the loss at Houston. The Chiefs did not score a touchdown against the Texans.
"Ultimately it comes down to a lack of execution," Smith said. "This last week certainly, every drive we had - whether it be a penalty, a turnover, a sack, or a negative play - it stalls the drive and it's hard to overcome versus a talented defense."
The start of the season has brought about questions concerning Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Long considered one of the league's top cover corners, the 31-year old Revis has struggled as Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green burned him and Buffalo's Marquise Goodwin caught an 84-yard touchdown pass.
Reid, however, said he didn't see anything on the game tapes to show a crack in Revis' skill level.
"He's getting older, but he's wiser," Reid said. "I've got a ton of respect for the guy. He transitions so easy with his hips and his ability to look back and run fast are unbelievable.
"Listen, I know they're saying he got beat. Maybe he gets beat one time. But the ones that people are saying, he didn't have help on; there weren't people in the middle of the field. So that's not his responsibility. He looks pretty good me. He looks pretty stinking good."
While the Jets have the veteran presence of Revis in their secondary, the Chiefs are like a football daycare center for cornerbacks. They play three in coordinator Bob Sutton's scheme: Phillip Gaines (25), Steven Nelson (22) and Marcus Peters (23). That group has struggled in two games, giving up 100-yard receiving performances last Sunday to Houston's DeAndre Hopkins and rookie Will Fuller.
The Jets' offense enters the game with a great deal of confidence after their victory last week over Buffalo. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance, completing 24 of 34 passes for 374 yards and a touchdown toss. New York ran up 493 yards against the Bills.
"It's fun with everybody involved and everybody making plays," Fitzpatrick said. "The confidence in the huddle and the way the guys felt, we knew we were going to get in the end zone."
Fitzpatrick also understands that this Sunday dawns a new NFL day.
"The NFL is crazy in that we're only as good as what we do this week," he said. "We're not going to sit and celebrate last week because we have to move on. We have a team that last year won 11 straight and were a playoff team and have played very well already this year. And, it's a very tough place to play."
|Steelers||vs.||Eagles||4:25 (EDT) Preview|
Steelers, Eagles vie for Keystone State supremacy
Wednesday, September 21 at 8:41 PM (EDT)
The Battle of Pennsylvania takes on a different feel this season as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles own 2-0 marks and are riding high in the saddle behind rough and ready quarterback play.
The Keystone State rivals will settle their difference at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Sunday (4:25 p.m.).
The old general, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, continues to be the steady hand that has led Pittsburgh to two Super Bowl wins in his time at the helm.
The young lieutenant, Philadelphia's Carson Wentz, has declared his independence as the leader of the upstart Eagles.
The Steelers have two impressive wins over the Washington Redskins in Week 1 and the AFC North rival-Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. But those wins were somewhat expected due to the veterans returning to the team and the stability of the roster.
The two Eagles wins, granted against lesser opponents, may be more impressive. Wentz wasn't named the starter until a week before the opening game, thanks to the trade of quarterback Sam Bradford. The turnover on the roster, a new head coach in Doug Pederson and a front-office shakeup in the offseason led to many pundits and fans alike to view this as a major rebuilding year in Philadelphia.
Wentz wants none of that. The signal-caller from North Dakota State became the first rookie to win his first two season-opening starts and not throw an interception. Wentz hasn't thrown a pick in 71 attempts.
"(Ball security) is something I pride myself on and it's something this offense prides itself on," Wentz said after a mistake-free game versus Chicago on Monday. "Just controlling the ball. Protecting the football. Making smart decisions. Being aggressive, but also being calculated. Knowing when to take chances.
"He can see the entire field that way," Pederson, a former NFL quarterback, said of Wentz. "When people are falling around his feet and the pocket is collapsing, he's always looking to make a play down the field. Even on some scrambles Monday night, he took some shots down the field. We didn't capitalize on them, but it's great to see he can see that part of the field.
"He's commanding the huddle, and the dialogue on the sideline with players and coaches and him is something that a nine- and 10-year vet would do. It just shows his maturity and the ability that he has to play quarterback."
Those are positive signs and fit the narrative of Wentz's comparison to a player like Roethlisberger.
Wentz faces his first true test this week against a Steelers' defense that has only allowed only two touchdowns. Both of those scores have come in the fourth quarter when the games were well in hand.
The secondary has given up 695 passing yards in two games but that statistic is deceiving. Each play they have defended has only been for a 7.2-yard average. Starting cornerback Ross Cockrell has been a major spark for a back half of a defense that has struggled in years past.
"He's growing in all areas," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's got the things that excite you: he's tough, he's smart and he's got a good above-the-neck game, he's a worker. All of those things kind of make it a very natural thing, this progression he's going through, this improvement. I don't think any of us are surprised by it. I think we all expect it to continue.
Cockrell has no issue following the opponent's best wide receiver all over the field. The problem for the Eagles is that they do not have a true No. 1 wideout. Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor have been solid NFL players but have had their share of drops and lapses in concentration.
That has not been the issue for the Steelers' young wide receivers like Sammie Coates.
Veteran Antonio Brown was not happy after the Bengals' win because he only had four catches for 39 yards.
Brown, Coates and the entire passing attack could see that frustration come to a head against a feisty Eagles' defense. The Jim Schwartz-led unit is fifth in the NFL in pass defense allowing only 194 yards a game. They have only given up an average of 12 points a game as well.
Look out for Brown or Coates on deep routes. The Eagles' secondary has given up three passes of 40-plus yards already this year.