Injuries suck. NFL officiating has some real shaky employees. Watching a game on Amazon Prime is annoying. Does that cover it for an intro? I think so. It was a Clint Eastwood game: good, bad and ugly. A little too much Eli Wallach.
The Bengals are headed for trouble with the NFL injury reporting police. Apparently (since there's some video evidence of Joe Burrow with a wrap on his wrist prior to the game) their quarterback entered the game with a wrist issue of some sort, not mentioned at all during the week on the injury report. Maybe he got hurt in the airport, I don't know. This injury/non-injury got aggravated or caused by a Jadeveon Clowney hit, and Burrow, who was off to a decent start throwing it and has been hot lately, was knocked from the game. That left us with Jake Browning, who illustrated why top quarterbacks get paid so much. It's a steep drop from most NFL starters to their backups. He was 8 of 14 for 68 yards in about 2.5 quarters. I'm not sure what to say about Browning beyond the fact that it's a major negative for everything connected to the Bengals offense. The game was over when Burrow left. So were several parlays I had involving Burrow and his various receivers.
Scary moment early on when Lamar Jackson was tackled awkwardly and got his ankle rolled up. Quite similar to a play a few minutes earlier when his franchise tight end got rolled up on a tackle by the same defender and is now reportedly going to be out for the year. Sorry, buried the lead, but if you're reading this you probably heard about other huge news from last night's game. Anyway, Lamar was fine, or at least fine enough that he continued to run for decent yardage, throw multiple touchdowns, and even have another one taken away by a phantom penalty.
But Jackson had another drive right before the half -- the one that put the game out of reach -- end with a touchdown pass, and that was extended by an even more phantom penalty (as in the defender didn't even come into contact with the receiver) that drew a flag to help convert a first and 20. If it's not the worst pass interference penalty called in the history of the NFL, it's at least in the top 1.5. Referee was right there on the spot throwing a flag for no earthly reason except 1) trying to make up for the bad call against the Ravens earlier, or 2) had money on the game. I don't think this is the first Thursday game this year that I've seen a brutal, game-changing call made, game-changing in the sense that a contest that was going to enter the half with a 14-10 score became 21-10 a few plays later. With Burrow on ice, that's all she wrote.
Moving this one up the pecking order for obvious reasons. Mark Andrews got his ankle twisted on one of those tackles that didn't look much different from a lot of tackles we see in every NFL game. But the tackler landed on it, his other leg twisted over it, and Andrews was on the ground writhing in pain and calling for doctors. Lamar Jackson slammed his helmet to the turf in disgust (this officiating crew was bad enough that I wondered if they'd penalize him), making it clear that it was significant right from the get-go. John Harbaugh said in his press conference it's expected to be season-ending, so presumably something more than your run-of-the-mill high-ankle sprain. Hope you saved your waiver budget for Isaiah Likely, who will be hot pickup next week. Likely didn't catch either pass thrown his way after that and isn't Andrews, but let's see him with a week to work as the starter in practice and so forth.
I picked up Tanner Hudson in a couple of TE-premium leagues I'm in this week. I was the only one interested in adding him on waivers in both leagues. Weird to me. The guy got 10 passes the last two weeks. He's a journeyman who we first noticed a few preseasons ago, in Tampa Bay I believe, but for whatever reason has never made a regular-season impact; established guys ahead of him, maybe he's not much of a blocker, chews his food with his mouth open. But the Bengals have worked him into the offense and he's making way more of a receiving impact than Irv Smith has his entire career. He caught all 4 passes thrown his way for 49 yards last night; that's a 10.9-point game in TE-premium (1.5 per reception) leagues. Only played a third of the time, same as Smith and blocker Drew Sample, but he looks like one guy who might still be viable with Browning in the lineup.
Remember back in the offseason when everyone was wondering if Joe Mixon would still be on the team? He's about the best thing the offense has going these days. He's scored four weeks in a row and is averaging 80 total yards on the season. He also looks really good, with one memorable play last night where he somehow caught a little dumpoff behind the line and gained 9 yards while looking like he'd lose 5. The team might be running more with Browning in the lineup, although Mixon will no doubt see a lot more stacked defenses focused on taking him away. But he should catch a few dumpoff passes, perhaps more than usual.
Gus Edwards scored twice, he's been doing a lot of that lately. The Ravens are a good, deep team and enjoying lots of positive game scripts and goal-line sequences, and Edwards is the one cashing them all in these days. Keaton Mitchell is a nice change of pace and looks quick and explosive. But the team isn't actually throwing to its running backs very much, and Mitchell is going to need to get in the end zone from longer range. Touchdowns are the only way he'll pay off in a lineup. Justice Hill played only slightly fewer snaps but was out-touched 9-2; it's over.
Painful night for those who started Zay Flowers. Just 3 for 43, but robbed of a 68-yard touchdown on a ridiculous offensive holding penalty on Odell Beckham. Beckham was in fact spun around by the defender on that play; I'm not sure he's committed a holding penalty in his life. Stupid call, I'm personally happy about it because I was facing Jackson and Flowers in a big-money league, but just one of the two worst calls made last night, I've already discussed the other one. Beckham went over 100 yards and could have had an even bigger game, with Jackson missing him on a potential touchdown. He left late with a shoulder injury with John Harbaugh downplayed after, but because it's Beckham it could be something that bothers him for the rest of his career.
Nelson Agholor and Rashod Bateman caught touchdowns last night. With Andrews out for the year, those guys will potentially take on larger roles in the passing game. But I'm not buying. Those were their only catches, and Agholor's was a tipped ball that wasn't even intended for him. Bateman, hey, fool me 100 times, shame on me. He's had ample opportunities and has 2 catches per game this season, and is probably a game away from his next injury.
JaMarr Chase caught a late touchdown, saving his night for those who started him. But big numbers with Browning, assuming Burrow misses more time, aren't happening. Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins when he comes back, Trent Irwin until he does...I'll try to give the backup some benefit of the doubt, but realistically if I don't have better options than these guys my team isn't going anywhere. Boyd also dropped a couple of balls last night, while Irwin lost a catch on a tough review, but the big issue with both these guys was Browning throwing for as many yards as Flowers lost on a single play in nearly three quarters of action.
The Ravens are 8-3, and they legit should have won all three games they lost -- overtime to the Colts, a crazy one to the Steelers where Lamar threw a bad end-zone pick, and last week's similarly crazy one to the Browns in Deshaun Watson's last game of the year. Now they need to try to get by without their franchise tight end, but this team is not only going to win the AFC North, they might wind up with the top seed in the conference. They're good.
The Bengals are 5-5, and if Burrow is sidelined for any length of time, they're not going to the playoffs in a crowded AFC. Glancing at their schedule (which includes Pittsburgh twice, at Kansas City, Jacksonville) they might not win enough to get in the playoffs even with Burrow.
There will be conflicting opinions on Isaiah Likely. Mine is that even if you don't start him right away, you try to get him so at least he won't be secured by some other team who can use him against you, if he starts catching 5-6 passes with a touchdown every other week.
What we can all agree on, I think, is that NFL officiating has some major problems. It's not "scripted." It's not that they're trying to help one side of a bet for DraftKings or whatnot. It's that some of these guys aren't as quick moving or seeing as the game action. These games aren't rigged. They're just close, competitive games between supreme athletes and some of the middle-aged refs trying to keep up are overmatched. Frustrating to watch.
Speaking of Amazon Prime. When I watch a game, I sometimes like to rewind and watch a play again. Helps with the analysis and such. Amazon Prime is difficult to rewind; I find myself either not going back at all, or suddenly watching the pregame drivel that occurred an hour earlier. Perhaps some of the problem is that I'm old and not technologically savvy. I'll grant that. But some is that watching these games on a streaming service best used for movies and series rather than live sporting events can be irritating.
And that seems like a good place to wrap it up.