My day was spent at the Raiders-Broncos game. No sympathy required; it was pretty much the story of the Broncos' season. There's a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL, and Denver is on the wrong side of that line almost every week.
Everyone should go to a live NFL game every once in a while. It reminds you in a way that watching on TV doesn't that it's hard to hit on big plays, hard to cover elite players for an entire game, and easy to lose. We'll get to Denver in a minute; some quick thoughts on what I was able to see from the rest of the day.
Bears at Falcons: As expected this was higher-scoring, and Justin Fields put up more crazy numbers. David Montgomery was also a nice choice as a featured back. But Atlanta was a little better, with Marcus Mariota doing some good stuff with his legs and Cordarrelle Patterson scoring on a kick return. Kyle Pitts left due to injury.
Panthers at Ravens: Crazy lower scoring for most of the game, predictable with the Baker Mayfield led Panthers, not as much with Carolina. D'Onta Foreman didn't have a chance. Hopefully we'll get another look at Sam Darnold next week; why not. Demarcus Robinson had a huge game for Baltimore, something he'll do every once in a great while. Just hasn't been good at stringing multiple ones together, ever.
Browns vs. Bills: Browns were competitive early, but the Bills made it their mission to shut down Nick Chubb and were successful. So instead, Jacoby Brissett and Amari Cooper put up very good numbers. But the Bills were the better team, and they were able to run at will (both Singletary and James Cook, finally getting some play). Nice game for Dawson Knox, but mostly quiet for the passing game.
Commanders at Texans: A not totally surprising dud for Houston's offense, with Washington having a strong defensive front and some ability to shut down good running backs. Not that Washington had a lot of great offense either. But they didn't need much.
Eagles at Colts: Colts have played some of their best games against the league's better teams. Having Jonathan Taylor back also makes a big difference. Eagles won late, but the Colts exceeded expectations in defeat. Decent game for the main receivers for Indy, and for DeVonta Smith for Philly.
Jets at Patriots: This one was pretty ugly, I guess OK if you like watching good defense. There was a lot of it on both sides, ending with the lone touchdown coming on a long punt return score. Fitting. I'll be honest, I'm not sure either Mac Jones or Zach Wilson will still be starting a couple of years from now. Neither looks special, and maybe you don't have to be to be an NFL starter. But you do to keep your team from looking for a replacement. Nice game for Rhamondre for his passing downs work.
Rams at Saints: Matthew Stafford left with a concussion, and you wonder when or if we'll see him again this year. The season is over; there is no point. Allen Robinson had a decent game, and might be the only Ram to have any decent games the rest of the way. For New Orleans, another big game from Chris Olave. Decent from Taysom Hill, which I kind of figured would happen since he was dropped in a couple of my leagues after a couple of quiet weeks. Juwan Johnson also scored. Can the Saints make a run at the NFC South? Eh, stranger things have happened.
Lions at Giants: As with the Bills against Chubb, I guess if NFL teams put their mind to taking one thing away, they can do it. So Saquon Barkley did zip, no doubt I used him in Blackout. For the Lions, big game for Jamaal Williams, serviceable on limited snaps and touches for D'Andre Swift, but I don't feel that bad for not starting him. Both passing games had some success, too. Congrats to the Lions, on a mini-roll.
Cowboys at Vikings: Dallas defense showed up big for this one, as did Tony Pollard. Ezekiel Elliott had a good fantasy day, while still looking like he shouldn't be playing much. No other Cowboys did much, even in a 40-point game. Vikings turned in one of their two worst duds, the other being at Philadelphia.
Bengals at Steelers: Good game, with Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins playing pitch and catch for a lot of it, but the Steelers hanging around with a nice fantasy game for Najee Harris (Jaylen Warren got hurt) and also George Pickens. Joe Mixon also left due to a concussion, so make sure Samaje Perine is on a roster.
Raiders at Broncos: Like in a lot of games this year (Chargers, most notably) the Broncos started out well, moving the ball, taking a 10-0 lead, looking great on defense. But from that point on, their offense struggled in the red zone, Melvin Gordon fumbled at the goal line (maybe don't give him those chances anymore?), and the offense started settling for field goals. And the defense, despite getting lots of big stops, lost Davante Adams for a pair of big-play touchdowns, falling in overtime. A book could be written on the Broncos issues, from Russell Wilson not having the same mobility, from the team repeatedly misfiring in crucial situations, and from falling just one offensive play short, week after week. It's no one thing. It's just a lost season.
Live football is a blast, though. Even from the fifth deck, the seats are great, angled so you can see everything, albeit from afar, and with huge screens to see some things up close. You can see how difficult it is to stick with Davante Adams, to bottle up Josh Jacobs, to escape a good pass rush. You can tell how much faster good defensive linemen are than Russell Wilson right now, and how short on weapons he is (no offense to Kendall Hinton, who did have a couple of nice plays, including setting up the only Denver touchdown.
Apart from on the field stuff, it's nice to see some of the things teams do to entertain. The pregame featured paratroopers landing dramatically on the field, one by one. There were some nice Salute to Service moments, the mascot and cheerleaders firing up the crowd, some fun fan interactions. It's a fun day, even if it's ridiculously overpriced. You remember it a lot more than a Sunday afternoon on the couch.
Kansas City at Chargers: Great game to watch, a nice conclusion to the day. Iffy penalty at the end was critical, but that’s the NFL. Both quarterbacks and stars on both teams made plays, both defenses stepped up at times. Josh Palmer perhaps heard about the way I criticized him last week, so naturally he had a really good game (Mike Williams left early with an ankle injury, sigh).
Monday, Monday: Not sure if Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins are playing. I tend to think Hopkins will, but just a guess. Either way, the 49ers are the better team and they'll probably show it. San Francisco 27, Arizona 20.