There were some fantastic games yesterday. Clutch passes, clutch kicks, big runs, great performances. Bllls-Eagles was an instant classic; a true game of inches late and a fantastic quarterback battle. I was in a discussion Saturday night of whether college or pro football is better. Both certainly made strong cases this weekend.
Saints at Falcons: Big game for Bijan Robinson, and basically anyone who touched the ball as a runner for the Falcons. Saints couldn't stop the run all day, and Derek Carr threw for a lot of touchdown-less yards with a goal-line interception thrown in too. For the Falcons, Desmond Ridder made some big throws, offset by some turnovers, but I think the Falcons are right to stick with him; just more upside than Taylor Heinicke. Nice games for Drake London, Alvin Kamara, Chris Olave too. Rashid Shaheed, leaving early with a hamstring injury, the primary disappointment. Olave also left late with a concussion, so he’ll be iffy for next week.
Steelers at Bengals: Lower-scoring, as expected. Apparently the biggest change in the new Steeler offense was to feature Pat Freiermuth, who had a huge receiving game. Jaylen Warren lost a fumble early on, and whether that played into the rest of the game or not, Najee Harris had the much better game, including a really cool tackle-breaking 20-plus yard run early. I'm a longtime Harris apologist I suppose, but I think he gets more criticism than he should. JaMarr Chase (4 for 81) as good as could be expected. Biggest effect of Jake Browning being in the lineup, it seems, is that Joe Mixon had nowhere to run and a really quiet game. Steelers continue to be in the mix as one of the least impressive likely playoff teams.
Jaguars at Texans: Pretty great game, with the Jaguars moving the ball mostly at will and seeming to put the game away once or twice, but the Texans kept coming back, with C.J. Stroud making plays. Game ended with the Texans' Matt Ammendola, who's never made a 50-yard field goal, drilling a perfect kick from 58 to presumably tie it up, but it hit the crossbar. Big game for Tank Dell, good for Ridley, Kirk, Etienne, Singletary. Haven't seen a snap count yet but Dameon Pierce was not a factor and I'm not sure he played very much; saw Singletary get a couple of goal-line carries right before a Stroud bootleg.
Bucs at Colts: Both teams ran it well in this game. Jonathan Taylor was very good, Rachaad White surprisingly went for 100 yards, and both Michael Pittman and Mike Evans (2 TDs) had big games. I've generally been impressed by Baker Mayfield, who's been a lot better than anyone expected, but I also notice he's been on the wrong end of a lot of close games. Gardner Minshew a little better in this one. Another game involving mediocre teams who might actually be in the playoffs six weeks from now.
Pats at Giants: I'm not sure I've ever seen a less surprising missed 35-yard field goal to end a game than rookie Chad Ryland hooking one to spare us all going to overtime. Mac Jones struggled, threw an awful interception, and was benched. Bailey Zappe led a touchdown drive, and what should have been a tying field goal drive, but Ryland (who's generally struggled, it's weird when teams don't take the position seriously and it costs them) missed. Conspiracy theorists might say Belichick didn't actually want to win, playing for a higher draft pick, and I suppose they might be right. Good game for Rhamondre, he and Zeke both hit overs to win a parlay for me, thanks guys.
Panthers at Titans: Big game for Derrick Henry, who you definitely should have been starting. Big game also for Chuba Hubbard, who did in fact play in a committee with Miles Sanders, but was just much better, including getting the passing game chances and scoring. Perhaps that factored into Adam Thielen's worst game all year at a pretty bad time for a lot of us. I suppose being let down by Carolina's passing game isn't anything we should be surprised by. Those who gambled on the Titans in Survivor Pools are happy.
Rams at Cardinals: This game was all Rams, with monster rushing performances from both Kyren Williams and Royce Freeman, 4 TDs from Matthew Stafford -- and sadly, not quite enough from the receivers everyone started, Kupp and Nacua, with Tyler Higbee coming out of nowhere with 2 TDs. Decent numbers for Kyler, Hollywood, McBride, but not enough out of Arizona in general. Especially defensively.
Browns at Broncos: Broncos win again. You're not hearing much these days about how much the Jets love Nathaniel Hackett and how out of line Sean Payton was back in the preseason. (Note, Payton was out of line, I just happened to not disagree with him after watching the Broncos all last season.) Anyway, Broncos suddenly playing well on both sides of the ball, and of course Cleveland is starting a fifth-round rookie at quarterback which usually doesn't go well. He was also knocked out of the game (though it was basically over) on a big hit that drew a flag but didn't actually look that bad. Full-on committee backfield for Denver with Samaje Perine scoring, not ideal for fantasy purposes. David Njoku dropped a touchdown.
Kansas City at Raiders: If you started Index guys Isiah Pacheco and Josh Jacobs, this was a fun one. Jacobs had a good fantasy day on one play, a 63-yard touchdown run, and then some other stuff. Pacheco scored 2 TDs, each thrilling in their own way. The first was a 3rd and goal after Clyde Edwards-Helaire got stuffed just short on first and second down. Pacheco came in to make us all happy. Later, Pacheco was ruled short of the end zone on a catch and run where it looked like he got one of the day's many, many bad spots, and while I was still yelling at the screen for Kansas City to challenge it, he scored on the next play. Raiders led early, but Kansas City came roaring back. Big game for Rashee Rice, good for Kelce, decent for key Raiders. Nice to have some higher-scoring games this week, which brings us to...
Bills at Eagles: It was raining hard throughout this game, hurting passing games and factoring into some drops and turnovers. And yet both offenses put up huge numbers anyway, with quarterbacks marching their teams down the field again and again. Of course, the Eagles made one or two more clutch plays and pulled out the win in overtime, though they also got a couple of huge breaks (on a non-fumble by A.J. Brown in overtime, and an absurd instance of the refs swallowing their whistles after Josh Allen got rag-dolled to the turf). And 59-yard field goals in those conditions have a lot of luck involved, as well. They also got some help from Buffalo miscues, both on the sideline (burning a timeout that might have been useful in winning in regulation) and the field (Gabe Davis turning the wrong way on a potential winning touchdown). Lots of drama; worth watching the replay if you missed it. Two long weeks for Buffalo to think about it.
Ravens at Chargers: There are some similarities between the Chargers and Bills. Both teams with franchise quarterbacks. Both teams with a tendency to make mistakes in close games and maybe lacking right now on defense and some other key areas (including the sidelines). Maybe I have too much sympathy for these franchise quarterbacks trying to do it all on their own, I don't know. Rough game here for Austin Ekeler, and rough if you were counting on much from most Ravens, with their offense being in game-management mode a lot of the way, and going with an extra-crowded committee at running back for some reason. Ravens move on, Chargers slipping out of it.
Monday, Monday: Interesting game tonight, with a couple of running quarterbacks, productive tight ends, good division rivalry. I'm facing T.J. Hockenson and have a big lead, but are any leads big enough against Minnesota's top target? We'll see. The Joshua Dobbs story will doubtless be discussed relentlessly, as will Justin Fields' future. Should be a competitive game with more passing than running, although the QBs will certainly be scampering around. Vikings 24, Bears 21.