Recent AP Articles

Vikings have familiar playbook, backfield role for Akers; still committed to Mattison

12.0h ago 9/22/2023 7:23 PM ET By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer MINNEAPOLIS

Teams: LAR MIN

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Much of the typical team-switching stress for an NFL player will be irrelevant this week for Cam Akers.

The fourth-year running back's arrival with the Minnesota Vikings after being traded by the Los Angeles Rams was about as seamless of a schematic transition as he could find. Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell was his offensive coordinator during his first two seasons with the Rams.

“A lot of the stuff carried over coming from L.A. I know 90% of the playbook coming in. Just getting to know the team, the coaches, the people — that’s probably the main learning curve for me right now," Akers said after practice on Friday. “The pieces here, they've got the coaches, they've got the people. So hopefully I can step right in and contribute and do my part. The situation was pretty much perfect.”

Getting a fresh start in a contract year once the season has already begun is an unusual scenario, but conflict between Akers and the Rams' coaching staff over the last two years precipitated the deal with Kyren Williams passing him on the depth chart during training camp.

“I think he fits right in with our team, our culture and hopefully we can build towards having him have an impact on our offense,” O’Connell said. “We want him to get acclimated in our version of our offense. There’s some things he’s getting up to speed on, but there is quite a bit of carryover for him as well.”

O'Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, who was the tight ends coach with the Rams, both had good reviews of their experience with Akers.

“I think they’ll tell you the same thing. Back from my rookie year, I had a great relationship with Wes and with K.O. Knowing those guys for so long at this point, I kind of know what they expect. And they know me,” Akers said. “That makes it a little easier when you’ve got a relationship.”

When the Vikings (0-2) host the other team from Los Angeles, the Chargers (0-2), Akers will be on the inactive list. With the Vikings last in the league in rushing with 69 net yards through two games, there will likely soon to be an opportunity for him.

But the trade, O'Connell said, was in no way an indictment on current starter Alexander Mattison, who took over the featured spot for the departed Dalvin Cook this year.

“I told Alex nothing changes for him. The feelings I’ve had about Alex and his role for us still all feel the same,” O'Connell said. “There’s 1,000 things we can all do better to improve our run game, but as far as Alex Mattison goes, he’s our lead back. We continue to want to try to build things around him.”

Akers could serve as a change-of-pace option with a higher ceiling for long gains. Mattison is powerful with a deft forward lean for extra yards but not viewed as much of an explosive threat.

“I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy for the opportunity," Akers said. "I’m happy to come in and contribute in whatever way I can for this team.”



Denver Broncos rule out safety Justin Simmons against the Miami Dolphins because of a hip injury

12.2h ago 9/22/2023 7:13 PM ET By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer ENGLEWOOD, Colo.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos will have to face Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins' high-powered passing attack Sunday without star safety Justin Simmons, who was ruled out Friday with a hip injury that sidelined him all week.

The Broncos will also be without oft-sidelined outside linebacker Randy Gregory for the second straight game. He suffered a hip injury last week. Defensive tackle Mike Purcell (ankle) returned to practice Friday and is listed as questionable.

Simmons missed practice all week but did work on the side fields. He missed four games last year with a thigh injury but still tied for the league lead with six interceptions.

His latest injury leaves the Broncos (0-2) without both starting safeties with whom they broke camp just as they face their stiffest test yet. Caden Sterns suffered a season-ending injury in their opener against the Raiders.

Simmons' status makes it all the more fortunate for Denver that 14th-year safety Kareem Jackson avoided a suspension from the NFL this week after he sent an opponent to the sideline with a vicious high hit for the second straight week.

Jackson's hit on wide receiver Jakobi Meyers in the Broncos' 17-16 loss to Las Vegas in Week 1 sidelined the wide receiver for the Raiders' game last week at Buffalo.

Jackson was ejected in the second quarter against Washington last week after launching himself at Logan Thomas on the tight end's touchdown catch, leaving Thomas concussed and igniting the Commanders' 35-33 comeback from an early 21-3 deficit.

With Simmons sidelined, second-year safety Delarrin Turner-Yell is preparing to make his first NFL start opposite Jackson, who was beaten out by Sterns this summer.

Three of Broncos coach Sean Payton's teams in New Orleans, where he coached from 2007-21 — except for his Bountygate suspension in 2012 — were winless after three games, including his 2007 team that started 0-4.

Denver QB Russell Wilson has never started a season with more than two losses. His Seattle Seahawks teams in 2015 and 2018 both started out 0-2 before rebounding to finish 10-6 and qualify for the playoffs.



Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was back to practice ahead of Monday's showdown with the Rams

13.7h ago 9/22/2023 5:43 PM ET By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer CINCINNATI


CINCINNATI (AP) — Quarterback Joe Burrow participated in practice on Friday, a good sign for the Cincinnati Bengals that a lingering calf injury may not keep him out of the Monday night game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Burrow walked to the practice field in full pads and afterward the team listed him as having “limited participation" in the session.

Burrow aggravated the right calf strain he suffered early in training camp in last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Talking to reporters on Thursday, Burrow said he was day to day and didn't know at that point if he'd be able to play on Monday in Cincinnati.

Burrow strained the muscle on the second day of on-field workouts in training camp on July 27. That sidelined him for more than a month, depriving him of valuable preseason reps with the offense. The Bengals lost their first two games for the second consecutive season.

Receiver Tyler Boyd said Burrow's teammates know the quarterback will do whatever it takes to play Monday.

“It makes you want to go beyond, and even further knowing that you got a guy like him who's been through so much adversity,” Boyd said. “(He's) been hurt, been going through this and that and still willing to give what he can to help us win. With that being said, I'll go out there and lay my life out there for him.”

If Burrow can’t go, the Bengals would start backup Jake Browning, who was on the practice squad last season and threw his first and only NFL regular-season pass in the opening week loss to the Browns.

The Bengals play the Rams in the first regular-season meeting of the teams since Los Angeles beat Cincinnati 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI after the 2021 season.

For the Bengals on Friday, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (knee) and TE Irv Smith Jr. (hamstring) also were listed as having limited participation in practice. S Nick Scott, who had been in concussion protocol, was a full participant.


AP NFL coverage:

49ers are focused on fixing flaws after rolling to their third straight win to open the season

13.9h ago 9/22/2023 5:33 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Three straight wins with 30 points scored in each game is just the kind of start the San Francisco 49ers wanted to get off to this year after being forced to climb out of early holes the past two years.

Despite the relatively easy wins and gaudy numbers, the 49ers are lamenting the missed chances and little mistakes that they were able to overcome in the 30-12 victory Thursday night against the New York Giants.

Quarterback Brock Purdy threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns. But he also had two near interceptions on the opening drive that his receivers needed to break up, a few stalls in the red zone and a botched snap that nearly became a costly turnover.

“There were some looks that were there that I was off and inaccurate or some things just didn’t happen right within our scheme,” Purdy said. I felt like it was a little choppy at first. ... We had a good feel for it, a couple drives into the game once we got rolling, we were putting some drives together, we got in the red zone and we just have to score. Obviously the field goals and putting up points are great, but our standard, we want to be able to score touchdowns when we get in the red zone.”

Purdy's two best throws came when he beat the blitz for two touchdowns — connecting with Ronnie Bell in the first half and Deebo Samuel in the second half.

But San Francisco also had three red zone drives end in field goals as they struggled at times against all the pressure the Giants brought.

Coach Kyle Shanahan had a more positive view of Purdy's performance after he watched the film.

“I was even more impressed than I felt last night after the game,” Shanahan said Friday. “We missed a number of blitz pickups where we had free hitters in space. That always make it harder with accuracy and stuff because you can get balls tipped. You have to avoid those things. I thought he hung in there, made a few mistakes and played a hell of a game.”


Pass rush. The Niners took advantage of a banged-up Giants offensive line and generated 23 pressures on 34 drop backs, according to PFF. Nick Bosa led the way with six pressures and his first sack of the season when he was left unblocked on one play. Javon Hargrave had five pressures, Javon Kinlaw had four and Arik Armstead three as the interior of the line dominated New York.

“I think tonight, all around as a unit, was one of the best performances," Bosa said after the game.


Special teams penalties. There wasn't much that went wrong for the Niners outside of two special teams penalties early in the third quarter that led to New York's only touchdown. Tre Swilling was called for a hold on a punt return, forcing San Francisco to start a drive at its own 4. After a three-and-out, Shemar Jean-Charles was called for fair catch interference on a punt, setting the Giants up at the 49ers 37 for their only touchdown.


Bell. The seventh-round rookie was forced into a bigger role with Brandon Aiyuk out with a shoulder injury. He delivered with a touchdown on his first career catch and added another on a deflected pass. He also had a key tackle on punt coverage.


LT Trent Williams. The All-Pro had his usual dominant game in the trenches but his temper almost proved costly for San Francisco. Williams punched New York’s A’Shawn Robinson during a scuffle at the end of the first half. The two were called for offsetting personal fouls but Williams was fortunate to avoid a more serious punishment of an ejection.


Samuel hurt his ribs in the game but didn't suffer a break. Shanahan said he is sore Friday and is day to day. ... LBs Dre Greenlaw and Demetrius Flannigan Fowles are both day to day with low ankle sprains.


197. Nearly two-thirds of the Niners yards passing came with runs after the catch as the receivers combined for 197 yards after catching the ball, according to Sportradar. San Francisco got 57 of those yards on screen passes to Samuel and Christian McCaffrey on one TD drive that led to conversions on third and 15 and third and 13.


Host the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 1.



Jets' Rodgers is focused on getting healthy and playing again but won't put a timeline on his return

14.4h ago 9/22/2023 5:03 PM ET By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

Teams: NYJ

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers misses being around his New York Jets teammates and feels a bit isolated at times as he recovers from surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon.

“It’s like the reverse darkness retreat," the star quarterback said with a laugh during an appearance Friday on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “Nothing around except for light all the time.”

Rodgers was injured on his fourth snap in his debut with the Jets on Sept. 11 against the Buffalo Bills. He had surgery two days later and has been going through the rehabilitation process since.

During his appearance on the show last week, the 39-year-old Rodgers spoke of using the doubters and people’s theoretical timelines to recover as motivation. While there had been some talk as to whether Rodgers might even consider retiring, the four-time NFL MVP indicated last week he wanted to continue his playing career — perhaps maybe even as soon as later this season.

He reiterated his desire to play again with some more clarity Friday.

“I don’t want to get caught in the timeline,” Rodgers said. “I just want to get healthy, honestly, mentally and physically, honestly. But I’m going to do everything I can rehab-wise, to put myself in a position to be ready to play football again at some point. That’s the goal. I mean, obviously when this happened, there’s a lot of thoughts about, like, is that it? Cash it in, you’re done?

“I just don’t feel like I am. So I’m going to put myself in a position to be able to play again and then see when that is.”

Rodgers said he has visualized being able to someday run out of the tunnel at the stadium and back onto the football field “to do exactly what I love.”

Rodgers spent the last two weekends watching NFL games, including Green Bay — his team for 18 years — beating the Bears 38-20 in Chicago in Week 1 -- the day before he was injured.

Rodgers, who has called Soldier Field his “second home” and told Bears fans he still “owns” them, sent Packers quarterback Jordan Love a text after that game.

“Congrats for keeping the ownership in place,” Rodgers said he told Love.

Rodgers also watched New York's 30-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday.

“It's been tough,” Rodgers said during the video call in the middle of a rehab session. “Every single day, it's tough not to be with the guys, even when they check in or I hear from coaches or whatever. It's great, but it's also disappointing not to be out there. I’ve been grinding on the rehab and just looking forward to getting back out to Jersey at some point.”

Earlier Friday, Jets coach Robert Saleh said the team was hoping Rodgers might be able to be back at the facility sometime next week if he's able to do so.

“Yeah, I'd like to be able to walk,” Rodgers said. “So whenever I can walk, I'll probably be back in Jersey. I miss the guys.”

Rodgers said he has watched “Kobe Bryant’s Muse,” the 2015 documentary about the late Basketball Hall of Famer’s career — including his return from his own torn Achilles tendon. Rodgers used the same doctor who performed the surgery on Bryant, Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

There have also been reports Rodgers had a “speed bridge” procedure, which is designed to accelerate the normal rehabilitation process. The quarterback wouldn’t go into specifics on the procedure or his rehab, saying only: “Some of the things that were reported about the type of surgery I got was factual. Some of the stuff was not entirely factual.”

Rodgers, who's recovering at his home in Malibu, California, said he has his personal chef cooking healthy meals for him and has friends helping him around the house.

“I'm well taken care of,” Rodgers said. "I usually like to be the one kind of taking care of people. This is the time for me to kind of sit and receive and try to find some joy in the process. It's tough, though. It's not easy.

"There’s been some progressions with the rehab the last couple days that kind of gets the hope meter trending upward a little bit, the joy meter trending up a little bit.”

NOTES: S Tony Adams (hamstring) and G Wes Schweitzer (concussion) were ruled out for the game against New England. LT Duane Brown (hip/shoulder), DL John Franklin-Myers (hip) and K Greg Zuerlein (groin) were listed as questionable. Brown didn't practice, while both Franklin-Myers and Zuerlein were full participants.


Green Bay's rookies answer the call and help Packers cope with early-season injuries to veterans

14.9h ago 9/22/2023 4:34 PM ET By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer GREEN BAY, Wis.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers’ “TikTok babies” are showing that their time has arrived.

With the NFL’s youngest roster in the first year of their post-Aaron Rodgers era, the Packers (1-1) are leaning heavily on their 13-man draft class as they prepare for their home opener Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (2-0). Rookies accounted for all the Packers’ points in their 25-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

“I remember coming into rookie minicamp, all of us just coming in like lost flies,” said wide receiver Jayden Reed, a second-round pick from Michigan State. “We didn’t know what to do. And then as time went on, we communicated better as a group. That helped us learn the playbook better and just become better rookies.”

They sure don’t look lost anymore.

Reed reached the end zone twice against the Falcons. Dontayvion Wicks, a fifth-round selection from Virginia, scored Green Bay’s other touchdown. Anders Carlson, a sixth-round pick from Auburn, kicked a 33-yard field goal and was 3 of 3 on extra-point attempts.

First-round pick Lukas Van Ness of Iowa and sixth-round selection Karl Brooks from Bowling Green each recorded a sack and Carlson kicked a 52-yard field goal in a season-opening 38-20 victory at Chicago. Tight end Luke Musgrave, a second-round pick from Oregon State, has five catches for 75 yards this season.

“I think that the initial exposure to them, you could tell it was a talented bunch,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “And then as you get to learn them and you get to see how much they care about football and the work that they put in, you know it’s got a chance to be a really special group.”

That reflects the changing face of the Packers as they adapt to life without Rodgers, the four-time MVP quarterback now with the New York Jets.

The average age of the players on the Packers’ season-opening roster was 25.13, making them the league’s youngest team. Veteran outside linebacker Preston Smith, one of only three Packers in their 30s, discussed before the season how different this team looked with so many younger players.

“These kids are TikTok babies,” Smith said at the time. “They’re technology kids. I was an outside kid growing up. It’s just different, man. It’s probably like when I was young (and teammates said), ‘Oh man, I don’t ever see myself playing with a kid born in the ‘90s.’ Now, I’m playing with a bunch of 2000 babies. These kids don’t even know about some of the cartoons I saw growing up. They’re from this new age — anime and stuff like that.”

They’ve found a way to thrive together.

Van Ness, the 13th overall pick in this year's draft, credits Smith for setting an example.

“He’s just a great guy to listen to, sit back and see how he processes the game,” Van Ness said. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Green Bay’s receivers don’t have the luxury of working alongside older veterans.

When Wicks talks about the “older guys” in the receiving room who have helped the rookies out, he’s referring to second-year pros Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure and Bo Melton. That shows just how little experience the Packers have at that position.

Reed took a flip pass from Jordan Love in the backfield and turned it into a 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Falcons game. Wicks had a 32-yard touchdown catch and Reed scored on a 10-yard reception in the third quarter.

Wicks missed part of the preseason with a hamstring issue, but he’s returned and helped the Packers withstand hamstring injuries to Watson and veteran running back Aaron Jones.

“I was down a lot in camp, and I know injuries happen,” Wicks said. “So (it was a matter of) just waiting on that moment, and when it did come, stepping up and being able to be trusted out there.”

Musgrave says he and the rookie wideouts have benefited from Love’s leadership. Even though Love has made just three career starts, his status as a fourth-year pro makes him one of the more experienced guys in this offense.

“He’s a great commander out there,” Musgrave said. “He’s able to command the offense well and is kind of a comforting sense in the huddle. I’d attribute a lot of it to him and the coaching we get.”

Their immediate success has the rookie pass catchers wondering how good this offense can be when their veterans are healthy enough to join them.

“Man, I just think it will get scary once all the pieces get put together,” Reed said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

NOTES: Jones, Watson, Van Ness (elbow), OT David Bakhtiari (knee) and CB Jaire Alexander (back) are all questionable for Sunday’s game. OG Elgton Jenkins (knee) and S Zayne Anderson (hamstring) have been ruled out.



49ers give contract extensions to coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch

14.9h ago 9/22/2023 4:33 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

Teams: NYG SF

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers gave coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch multi-year contract extensions on Friday.

The duo joined the 49ers together in 2017 and by their third season built up a team that had won just two games the year before they arrived into a consistent contender.

The Niners made it to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season before losing to Kansas City and the NFC title game in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. San Francisco is off to a 3-0 start this season after beating the New York Giants 30-12 on Thursday night for their second 3-0 start in the past 25 seasons.

San Francisco is 55-46 in six-plus seasons under Shanahan and Lynch with six playoff wins. The Niners are 45-25 since the start of the 2019 season and rank fifth in scoring (26.4 ppg) and second in yards per play (5.94). Shanahan's innovative offensive schemes have helped overcome the lack of a top quarterback on the roster.

The 49ers have done a good job amassing talent under this regime, drafting George Kittle, Fred Warner, Nick Bosa, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk who have developed into some of the top players at their positions.

San Francisco has also pulled off big trades, acquiring All Pro left tackle Trent Williams from Washington in 2020 and star running back Christian McCaffrey from Carolina in the middle of last season.

There have been some glaring misses as well. San Francisco passed up an opportunity to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and then traded three first-round picks to draft quarterback Trey Lance third overall in 2021. Lance started just four games in his first two seasons and was sent to Dallas for a fourth-round pick last month.

That move didn't prove to be a major setback because San Francisco found starting quarterback Brock Purdy with the final pick of the 2022 draft. Purdy has significantly outplayed his draft position and has been an ideal quarterback for Shanahan's system since taking over as starter last December.

Purdy has won all eight of his regular season starts and two more in the playoffs, with his only loss as a starter coming in the NFC title game at Philadelphia last season when he injured his elbow on the opening drive.

Purdy is back healthy this season playing at a highly efficient level as San Francisco has scored 30 points in each game.

Now all that's left for Shanahan and Lynch to do is get over the hump in the postseason and win the franchise's sixth Super Bowl and first since the 1994 season.



Cowboys carry on after star cornerback Trevon Diggs' season-ending knee injury

15.2h ago 9/22/2023 4:13 PM ET By SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Pro Football Writer FRISCO, Texas

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys carried Super Bowl expectations into the season and a had a defense playing on that lofty level when star cornerback Trevon Diggs tore the ACL in his left knee in practice this week.

Those expectation haven't changed. The Cowboys believe they have the depth to overcome the loss of the 2021 All-Pro who is tied for the NFL lead with 18 interceptions since entering the league three years ago.

Dallas (2-0) visits Arizona (0-2) on Sunday, and the FanDuel SportsBook betting line of Cowboys by 12 1/2 hasn't changed much, if at all.

“Obviously you feel sick about him, and it's definitely a punch in the gut for our football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said Friday, the day after the injury. “But this is an opportunity for our defensive depth to stand up and continue to move forward.”

The day after his 25th birthday, Diggs sustained the season-ending injury in a one-on-one drill in red-zone work. McCarthy said Diggs came down on a receiver's foot when both players were going for the ball.

“It's something that could happen anywhere,” McCarthy said. “This was not a drill issue at all, by no means.”

Dallas was just the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 70 points and allow 10 or fewer in the first two games, after beating both New York teams by a combined score of 70-10.

The Cowboys shut out the Giants 40-0 in the opener, and with another shutout would set the NFL record for fewest points allowed through three games. Green Bay allowed 13 in 2001.

They'll have to do it without a two-time Pro Bowler who tied the franchise record with 11 interceptions in 2021. He had his first of this season against the Jets last week. His jarring blindside hit in the opener on Giants running back Saquon Barkley led to an interception return for a touchdown by DaRon Bland.

Bland's name comes up quickly on the conversation of replacing Diggs. The second-year man is likely to start opposite offseason free agent pickup Stephon Gilmore. Bland played in the slot while Diggs and Gilmore handled the outside the first two weeks.

“It's still a game I've always been playing,” said Bland, who led the Cowboys with five interceptions as a rookie. “I've been playing on his side mostly for this past year. So moving back to the outside would be good. I've just to got keep my head straight.”

Jourdan Lewis, who made his season debut with 10 snaps last week after missing most of 2022 with a broken foot, could be the first option in the slot.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones, appearing on his radio show Friday, didn't seem too keen on the idea of help from outside the organization, at least not right now.

While the sample size was small, Diggs had an infinitesimal 1.0 passer rating against, best in the NFL, through two weeks.

“You can’t do that,” Jones said. “That’s just not real. That’s like saying, ‘I want to be Tom Cruise.’ You don’t replace these irreplaceable players.”

Still, Jones is confident the Cowboys can offset the loss of Diggs. Jones suggested Dallas would be at less risk of giving up big plays since Diggs has a gambling style that helps create turnovers.

“That’s what makes him such a great player,” Jones said. “But Bland and people we have come in here may not have as much of a concern about the bad play. So we could have a plus here. Not a real plus, but we could mitigate how bad this loss is.”

It's the third time in four seasons the Cowboys have lost a cornerstone player to a long-term injury early. Quarterback Dak Prescott broke his ankle in Week 5 in 2020, when Dallas missed the playoffs.

Last season, left tackle Tyron Smith tore a hamstring during training camp and didn't play until December. The Cowboys made the playoffs with a second consecutive 12-win season, losing in the divisional round to San Francisco after a wild-card loss to the 49ers a year earlier.

“It's part of the adversity to win a championship,” McCarthy said. “The focal point for us is really on Trevon, the person, because he needs our love and support. This is part of the NFL. It's just unfortunate.”

It's the third notable injury in practice for Dallas. Left guard Tyler Smith missed the first two games after straining a hamstring before the opener. He is expected to make his season debut against the Cardinals.

Center Tyler Biadasz injured a hamstring in the same practice in which Diggs went down. Biadasz didn't practice Friday and is listed as questionable.



Rams ready to rely on Kyren Williams as their lead running back

15.5h ago 9/22/2023 3:53 PM ET By DAN GREENSPAN, Associated Press THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.

Teams: LAR MIN

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams are putting the ball in Kyren Williams’ hands, literally and figuratively.

Williams, the second-year running back from Notre Dame, will be the focus of the Rams’ rush offense moving forward following the decision to move on from Cam Akers, which culminated in a trade to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.

“I feel blessed,” Williams said. “I feel as if I did put in the work to get to where I’m as now in this position of being starting running back for the Los Angeles Rams, so I feel like I did what I had to do to earn the trust of this organization.”

Williams has run for 104 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries through two games for the Rams (1-1). He also has six receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown headed into a game at the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) on Monday.

Rams coach Sean McVay said the all-around nature of Williams’ skill set is what earned the 23-year-old a larger role.

“I think he’s got the ability to play on all downs,” McVay said. “It was really about you just continue to evaluate every single day and you couldn’t deny some of the improvements in the things that he was doing that were in alignment with saying, ‘We got to figure out ways to be able to get him involved.’”

Williams was on track to play as a rookie in passing situations before breaking his foot and undergoing surgery in the summer.

While he couldn’t be an active participant in his first training camp, Williams found other ways to stay involved.

“I remember being in Irvine during camp I had the walkie-talkie and the microphone, listening to all the play calls while I was doing my rehab over on the side of the field,” Williams said.

McVay said it was that kind of dedication that set the stage for Williams’ strong start to this season.

“He’s passionate about the game and you look at a guy that had a couple different setbacks as a rookie, didn’t let it phase him and just controlled the things that he could control,” McVay said.

However, McVay recognizes there are going to be growing pains for Williams.

One of those moments came in the 30-23 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday when Williams couldn’t catch a pass that hit him in the hands and it was intercepted. Los Angeles had been in position to at least kick a field goal and take the lead in the third quarter, and the turnover allowed San Francisco to go ahead on the ensuing drive.

Williams said it was difficult but he found a way to shake off that mistake, demonstrating some of the growth mindset McVay appreciates about him.

“He’s just continuing to love the opportunity to go compete and to continue to take steps in the right direction,” McVay said. “I know he’s a guy that is going to never be satisfied and that’s a great thing.”

The elevation of Williams also marked the end of Akers’ up-and-down four seasons in Los Angeles. A second-round pick in 2020, Akers flashed significant potential as a rookie before recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in time to be part of the postseason run that ended with the Super Bowl win over the Bengals.

However, the injury and quick return seemed to sap Akers of some of his athleticism. He also clashed with coaches last season, resulting in time away from the team before closing out 2022 with three straight 100-yard games.

McVay said trading Akers was in the best interest of the Rams.

“Sometimes you have to be able to make tough decisions and I’m very grateful for the things that Cam did over the course of his career,” McVay said. “He’s a very good player, did a lot of really good things.”



New York Giants are 1-2 after another lop-sided loss, facing a long season with early injuries

16.9h ago 9/22/2023 2:33 PM ET By TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Three games into the season and less than a year after making the playoffs for the first time since 2016, it's time for the New York Giants to hit the panic button.

Coach Brian Daboll's team is playing poorly.

New York is now 1-2 after being outclassed 30-12 by the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday night in Santa Clara, California. It was the second time that's happened this season after Dallas embarrassed the Giants 40-0 in the season opener.

To get their only victory, the Giants had to match their greatest comeback in their 99-year history in rallying from a 21-point deficit to beat the winless Arizona Cardinals 31-28.

Now they have 1 1/2 week to straighten things out before facing the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 2 in a Monday night game.

Things could get a lot worse, too. After the Seahawks, New York has road games against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. A 1-5 start is a distinct possibility.

“I’d say we have a lot of improvement to do and that’s what we’re going to do. Try to improve,” Daboll said Friday after the team took a red-eye back to New Jersey, getting to the team office around 8:30 a.m.

There is much to fix on the field and in the training room.

New York is banged up. Star running back Saquon Barkley has a high sprain of his right ankle that forced him to sit out Thursday. The left side of the offensive line is hurting. Star tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) has missed two games and left guard Ben Bredeson sustained a concussion Sunday and sat Thursday. Defensively, edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (hamsting) has missed the last two games.

The glaring problem is on the field. The offense has played one good half. Same with the defense. Luckily both came in the final 30 against the Cardinals. The Giants are not executing the basics: blocking, tackling, catching. In each of the first three games, there has been at least one play where New York had 10 players on the field.

That's not winning football.


Not a lot working on either side of the ball. But special teams can take kudos. Punter Jamie Gillan averaged 52.7 yards gross and 49.0 net on six punts. Placekicker Graham Gano converted from 44 and 57 yards on his two field goal attempts and all four of his kickoffs were touchbacks. The 57-yarder matched his own team record


Third-down play can improve on both sides of the ball. The Niners dominated the down and had the ball for 39:10. New York was 3 of 12 while held to 150 yards, their lowest total since 2013. San Francisco converted 9 of 16 third-down chances, including 7 of 10 in the first half in taking a 17-6 lead. On their two second-quarter TD drives, it converted three third-down chances of 12 yards or more. They finished with 441 yards.


Inside linebacker Micah McFadden. The second-year pro from Indiana was all over the field. He had a team-high 10 tackles, including four for losses. He would have had a pass defensed near the goal line against Chistian McCaffrey in the fourth quarter but it was nullified by a defensive holding penalty.


Cornerback Tre Hawkins: He was the one guilty of the hold on the McFadden play. Opposing teams are going to attack rookie cornerbacks and the Cowboys, Cardinals and 49ers have taken their spots at the sixth-round draft pick. What is concerning is his missed tackles. He had a couple of whiffs.


First-round draft pick and cornerback Deonte Banks missed the second half with an arm injury. He missed the second half against Dallas with cramps. Backup defensive lineman D.J. Davidson hurt his elbow. Add Barkley, Thomas and Ojulari and it's a lot.


0, 6, 63: The number of touchdowns and points the Giants have scored in the first half this season. The total number of points the opposition has scored — Dallas (26), Arizona (20), San Francisco (17).


With 11 days between games, the Giants will get a few extra days to get healthy and straighten out what's going wrong.



Patriots place Marcus Jones on IR, sign Will Grier for use as emergency 3rd QB against Jets

19.0h ago 9/22/2023 12:23 PM ET By KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

Players: Will Grier

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Patriots have placed All-Pro punt returner Marcus Jones on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and signed Will Grier to their 53-man roster for use as their third emergency quarterback against the New York Jets, coach Bill Belichick said Friday.

Grier was signed off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. Belichick didn't say whether it would be a short-term or season-ending stay on IR for Jones.

“It's unfortunate. Obviously had a really good rookie year. Explosive player," Belichick said. “He's on IR for right now, so he'll be out for a while.”

Jones was injured in the Patriots' loss to Miami last week. In addition to playing cornerback, he also served as New England's punt and kick returner on special teams and appeared in some limited offensive sets.

He was named a first-team AP All-Pro punt returner as a rookie in 2022, finishing second in the NFL with a 12.5 yards per return average. It included a game-winning 84-yard punt return in New England's second meeting against the Jets last season. Jones also had an interception return for a score against Cincinnati and a 48-yard touchdown reception against Buffalo.

The Patriots signed and then released quarterback Ian Book earlier in the week and also also cut ties with Matt Corral after he was briefly placed on the exempt list. Belichick said those decisions provided a need for support behind starting quarterback Mac Jones and backup Bailey Zappe.

“Felt like we need depth at that position,” Belichick said. “Two quarterbacks. Long year.”

Grier is someone the Patriots have tracked since he was taken as a third-round pick out of West Virginia by the Carolina Panthers in the 2019 draft. He was with the Panthers for two seasons and started the final two games of the 2019 season completing 28 of 52 passes for 228 yards.

He was waived and signed first by Dallas, then cut again and signed to the Bengals' practice squad in August.



The Giants can't overcome injuries to Barkley and Thomas in a 30-12 loss to the 49ers

1.3d ago 9/22/2023 1:13 AM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Dealing with a team as talented as the San Francisco 49ers is difficult enough in the best of circumstances.

For the New York Giants, doing it without their best offensive playmaker and best offensive lineman proved to be too much to overcome.

New York's offense never managed to get going without Saquon Barkley and Andrew Thomas against San Francisco's tenacious defense, with Daniel Jones spending much of the day on the run during a 30-12 loss to the 49ers on Thursday night.

“We didn’t create a rhythm, we didn’t execute, we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” Jones said. “Certainly it is a good defense, a good team, and so when you’re playing good teams, you can’t afford to do that. We didn’t play well enough. It was frustrating at times, but I felt like we were in the game really until the end and had chances to make plays really to the end.”

Barkley is the focal point of New York's offense and with him on the sideline with a sprained ankle, the running game was grounded and that limited when the Giants (1-2) could do with their play-action passes.

“No excuses,” coach Brian Daboll said. “With anybody who missed the game, or who played, we have to go out there and compete and win football games.”

Jones was under heavy pressure all night from Nick Bosa and Co. and only managed to avoid being sacked more than twice by getting rid of the ball quickly and not challenging the 49ers down the field. He finished 22 for 32 for 137 yards and one interception, while managing 5 yards rushing.

The Giants had five three-and-outs and one turnover on 10 possessions, with their only touchdown coming on a drive that started at the San Francisco 37 and included a 22-yard penalty.

New York finished with 150 yards of offense, converting just 3 of 12 third-down tries. The Giants had a few opportunities to sustain drives but Jones was inaccurate on third-down passes or his receivers dropped the ball.

“We’ve got to convert a couple of those opportunities when you play a good team like that,” Jones said. “Got to be crisp and got to be clean and we didn’t do that.”

Three games into the season, the Giants have played one good half of football. They fell behind 26-0 at halftime of the opener against Dallas before losing 40-0. They trailed Arizona 20-0 at the break last week before rallying for a 31-28 win.

They found themselves in a 17-6 hole this week and never were able to climb out of it. New York's minus-57 point differential in the first half is the worst through three games since at least 1991.

“It’s not what we’re trying to do,” Jones said. “So we’ve got to find a way to figure that out, execute better early in the game, finish in the end zone, take advantage of our opportunities. But it comes down to making plays and executing better in those situations.”

The defense wasn't much better against San Francisco.

The 49ers posted 441 yards of offense, taking advantage of New York's heavy blitzing to turn short passes into big gains. San Francisco was especially sharp on third down, converting 9 of 16 opportunities and getting two others on penalties.

Two of the most costly conversions came on one drive in the first half when Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey turned quick passes into first downs on 3rd and 15 and 3rd and 13, respectively.

“They just outplayed us on third down," defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence said. "We have to do better with those screens, running to the ball and getting people down.”



Christian McCaffrey and the 49ers win 13th straight in the regular season, beat the Giants 30-12

1.3d ago 9/21/2023 11:43 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The New York Giants kept dialing up blitzes and the San Francisco 49ers just got the ball into their playmakers' hands.

Christian McCaffrey scored a touchdown in his 12th straight game, Deebo Samuel caught one of Brock Purdy's two TD passes and the San Francisco 49ers won their 13th straight regular season game, 30-12 over the New York Giants on Thursday night.

“They got a good bit of pressure on Brock and caused a couple of three-and-outs but it’s about how long you can sustain doing that,” Samuel said. “So in the second half we came out executing."

The Niners weren't particularly sharp on offense early in their home opener but got enough from McCaffrey and on big runs after the catch by Samuel and George Kittle to earn their second 3-0 start in 25 seasons.

The Giants blitzed Purdy on 33 of his 39 dropbacks, according to NFL NextGen stats, and he capitalized with 247 of his 310 yards passing on those plays, including the touchdowns to rookie Ronnie Bell and Samuel.

“I thought it was just a huge challenge, one of the bigger ones Brock has been in with a short week to prepare for a scheme like that,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. "There's not a comfortable play throughout the game. ... I thought he settled down as the game went on."

McCaffrey ran for 85 yards, added 34 more receiving and scored on a 4-yard run that made it 17-3 late in the second quarter. That matched Jerry Rice’s franchise record with 12 straight games in the regular season or playoffs with a TD and is three shy of the NFL mark.

The defense did the rest against the short-handed Giants (1-2), who fell behind by double digits at the half for the third time in three games this season.

With the running game hampered by the absence of injured star Saquon Barkley and the offensive line overmatched without left tackle Andrew Thomas and left guard Ben Bredeson, the Giants struggled to move the ball and finished with 150 yards of offense.

“No excuses with anybody who missed the game or who played,” coach Brian Daboll said.

They managed two field goals in the first half and scored on Matt Breida's 8-yard run on a third-quarter drive that needed just 15 yards thanks to two penalties on the Niners.

Daniel Jones was often on the run and couldn't get anything going downfield. He went 22 for 32 for 137 yards and an interception.

“We didn’t create a rhythm,” Jones said. "We didn’t execute, didn’t take advantage of our opportunities, That’s a good defense, a good team and when you are playing good teams you can’t afford to do that. We didn’t play well enough.”


Purdy was off target in the first half but his numbers were pretty good thanks to some fortunate bounces and help from his teammates. Kittle broke up a potential interception on the opening drive and Purdy had another pass to Samuel that got deflected and bounced high in the air before Bell caught it for a 15-yard gain.

Purdy also converted a third-and-15 and third-and-13 on the same drive by throwing quick passes behind the line of scrimmage that Samuel and McCaffrey turned into first downs.


The Giants once again found themselves in a big hole at halftime, trailing 17-6. It was an improvement from the first two weeks when they trailed Dallas 26-0 in the opener and Arizona 20-0 in Week 2. They rallied to beat the Cardinals with a strong second half.

New York also got down 28-0 in a playoff loss last season to the Eagles, marking the first time since 2003-04 that they trailed by double digits at the half in four straight games.


There was a small scuffle late in the first half when the Niners were trying to take a knee to run out the clock. San Francisco left tackle Trent Williams took offense when New York's A'Shawn Robinson shoved Aaron Banks and Williams shoved him with two hands. Robinson appeared to throw a jab toward Williams, who then responded with a punch to the facemask.

Offsetting penalties were called but Williams was not ejected.

"We ended up looking at the video we had available to us, and we just didn’t see anything that rose to the level of flagrant, which is the standard that we have to apply to disqualify the player,” NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson told a pool reporter.


Giants: Rookie CB Deonte Banks (arm) and DL D.J. Davidson (elbow) left in the second half.

49ers: WR Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) missed his first game since his rookie season. ... CB Ambry Thomas (knee) also was inactive.


Giants: Host Seattle on Monday, Oct. 2.

49ers: Host Arizona on Oct. 1.



Lions host Falcons in matchup of teams with long NFL postseason droughts

1.4d ago 9/21/2023 9:03 PM ET By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (2-0) at DETROIT (1-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Lions by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Atlanta 1-1; Detroit 1-1.

SERIES RECORD: Lions lead 25-14.

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Lions 20-16 on Dec. 26, 2021, in Atlanta.

LAST WEEK: Falcons beat Packers 25-24; Lions lost to Seahawks 37-31 OT.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Falcons plus-2; Lions minus-3

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie RB Bijan Robinson. The No. 8 overall pick has started his NFL career with a pair of dynamic performances. The former Texas star is coming off a 124-yard rushing effort against the Packers, which included a key fourth-down run that set up the winning field goal in a 25-24 victory.

LIONS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs. Detroit had a chance to draft Robinson with the No. 6 overall pick, but traded down to acquire the 12th pick and selected Gibbs. The former Alabama star will have plenty of chances to show what he can do because RB David Montgomery has a thigh bruise. Gibbs has 14 carries for 59 yards and nine catches for 57 yards.

KEY MATCHUP: Falcons QB Desmond Ridder vs. Detroit secondary. The Lions have been vulnerable to the passing game through the first two weeks and their secondary is banged up, potentially giving Atlanta an opportunity to open up its offense. Ridder had his first career interception against the Packers, but he also threw for a career-high 237 yards and led a fourth-quarter comeback. WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts have combined for just 10 catches and 114 yards receiving.

KEY INJURIES: Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) and former Lions CB Jeff Okudah (foot) both missed the first two games. Patterson was expected to return against the Packers after fully participating in practice during the week, but the Falcons decided to sit him out. ... LB Troy Anderson (concussion protocol) also missed the Packers game. ... Lions DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson (torn pectoral muscle) and DE James Houston (broken ankle) went on IR after being hurt last week. ... Montgomery (thigh bruise), WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (toe) and RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) were hurt against Seattle and were held out of practice Wednesday. ... OT Taylor Decker (ankle) didn't play last week and missed practice Wednesday.

SERIES NOTES: The teams have split their past four meetings, which have been decided by a total of 10 points, and are playing in Detroit for the first time since 2017.

STATS AND STUFF: Atlanta has started 2-0 for just the 11th time in the franchise’s 58-season history. ... Each of the six NFL teams to start 2-0 last season made the playoffs and 64% have since 1990. ... The Falcons have won their first three games just six times, most recently in 2017. ... LT Jake Matthews has made 146 consecutive starts, leaving him just eight shy of Matt Ryan’s team record. ... K Younghoe Koo has made six game-winning FGs. ... Eight of the 14 teams to make the NFL playoffs last season lost at least one of their first two games and 42% of 1-1 teams since 1990 have earned a spot in the postseason. ... Josh Reynolds has become the team's No. 2 WR, making nine catches for 146 yards and two TDs. ... Rookie Sam LaPorta has 10 receptions, including six for first downs, and 102 yards receiving to rank among NFL tight end leaders. DE Aidan Hutchinson, who had 9 1/2 sacks last season as a rookie, does not have a sack through two games and the team has only one sack. ... QB Jared Goff threw a pick-6 last week, his first interception in 383 passes to end the third-longest streak in NFL history.

FANTASY TIP: Pitts may have a favorable matchup to have a breakout game. Detroit's linebackers are struggling in pass coverage and the secondary is banged up, giving the No. 4 overall pick from the 2021 draft a chance to make some big plays. Pitts, who has just four catches for 59 yards this season, had 68 receptions for 1,026 yards in his first NFL season.



Dolphins seeking second straight 3-0 start when they host the winless Broncos

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 8:33 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS

OPENING LINE: Dolphins by 6 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Broncos 0-2, Dolphins 2-0.

SERIES RECORD: Dolphins lead 12-6-1.

LAST MEETING: Broncos defeated Dolphins 20-13 on Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver.

LAST WEEK: Broncos lost 35-33 to Commanders; Dolphins beat Patriots 24-17.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Broncos minus-1; Dolphins minus-1.

BRONCOS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie WR Marvin Mims Jr. had 168 all-purpose yards on just five touches against the Commanders, but coach Sean Payton inexplicably didn’t have him targeted after his 45-yard punt return in the second quarter. He had two catches for 113 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown on a play in which he was supposed to be a blocker but broke free over the middle when Wilson audibled to a pass with both cornerbacks showing blitz. He also carried twice for 10 yards.

DOLPHINS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Tua Tagovailoa has shown through two weeks that the leap he took in 2022 was not a fluke. He has a league-best 715 yards passing with a 102.9 rating entering Miami's home opener. Tagovailoa was especially good at home last year, with eight TDs, three interceptions and a 103.4 passer rating in six home starts.

KEY MATCHUP: WR Tyreek Hill vs CB Patrick Surtain II. Surtain has only allowed four receptions this season. Against one of the league's best receivers in Las Vegas' Davante Adams, Surtain recorded three pass breakups and limited Adams to 1 yard while he was in coverage in Week 1. Surtain will have a big test against Miami's speedy receivers, particularly Tyreek Hill, who Surtain credited with having both downfield speed and short-area quickness.

KEY INJURIES: Star safety Justin Simmons missed Wednesday’s practice with an injured hip. He missed most of training camp with a groin injury. Simmons appeared to be walking around without any discomfort in the locker room. Simmons’ six interceptions tied for the league lead last year despite missing a month with a thigh injury he suffered in the 2022 opener. ... OLB Frank Clark (hip) will miss this game and more after getting hurt last weekend. ... Two players are nursing ankle injuries: LT Garett Bolles, who was limited in practice, and DT Mike Purcell, who sat out Wednesday. ... Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle is progressing through the concussion protocol after a helmet-to-helmet hit last week. ... LT Terron Armstead (back, ankle, knee) missed his second straight game last week and is still day to day. ... LB Jaelan Phillips missed last week's game after hurting his back in practice. Coach Mike McDaniel said Phillips is progressing.

SERIES NOTES: The Dolphins are 8-1 at home against the Broncos. ... Denver routed Miami 38-3 in their only postseason meeting on Jan. 9, 1999, in the AFC divisional round. ... The Broncos have won three of the past four meetings. ... This will be the first meeting as head coaches between McDaniel and Payton.

STATS AND STUFF: Only one coach in Broncos history started out worse than Payton has at 0-2, and that’s Miami’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who lost his first four games as Denver’s head coach in 2019. … QB Russell Wilson has led Denver on five first-half touchdown drives while completing 23 of 27 passes but just one second-half TD in nine possessions after halftime, and that came on a 50-yard Hail Mary with no time remaining last weekend. … With catches of 53 and 60 yards last week, Mims became the first Broncos player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to post two receptions of 50-plus yards in a game. ... The Broncos lead the league with 19 accepted penalties, including a dozen on defense, seven of which have come in third or fourth down. ... WR Brandon Johnson’s first TD catch last year as a rookie was the 300th TD throw of Wilson’s career, but Wilson gave the ball to Johnson. His second and third TD receptions came last week, and he threw the ball from his 16-yard TD to his father, former MLB catcher Charles Johnson, in the stands. He threw the ball from his third TD, a 50-yard Hail Mary as time expired, into the stands, as well. … RB Jaleel McLauglin scored his first career touchdown last week on his only carry, from 5 yards out. McLaughlin led the NFL this preseason with four touchdowns. ... The Dolphins last started consecutive seasons 3-0 in 1994-96. ... Miami has won 12 of its previous 15 home games. ... Tagovailoa is 10-1 in career starts against Super Bowl-winning head coaches. He has won his past 10, with five coming against Bill Belichick. ... The Dolphins lead the league with 7.3 yards per play, a full yard better than any other team in the NFL. ... Tagovailoa's 9.5 yards per play leads the NFL. ... The Dolphins are one of six NFL teams that have allowed one sack or fewer. Miami has allowed one sack and two QB hurries this season. ... RB Raheem Mostert rushed for 121 yards on 18 carries against New England. His career rushing average of 5.39 yards per carry is third-best in the Super Bowl era among running backs with at least 250 attempts. ... S Jevon Holland led the team with 11 tackles last week and is one of two DBs (Camryn Bynum) with 10-plus tackles in each of the first two weeks. He's had at least five tackles in each of his past five games.

FANTASY TIP: Hill has 16 receptions for 255 yards receiving with a league-best three TDs for Miami. He has been targeted 24 times, which is third most in the league. Hill has 492 yards and five TDs in 11 career games against Denver.


More AP NFL coverage:

A weak spot last year, the Seahawks' run defense is much improved through 2 games

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 8:33 PM ET By SHANE LANTZ, Associated Press RENTON, Wash.

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — A year ago, the Seattle Seahawks' run defense was a bit of a problem. OK, a big problem.

Through two games this season, it's one of Seattle's biggest bright spots, thanks to some specific changes and focus entering the year.

“Everything that we’re doing right now is a big improvement,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “The containment and the perimeter play has really cleaned up, minimizing the breakout plays is one. ... The toughness of the guys up front. It’s fitting together, and we’ve been very aggressive with how we’ve been playing it. Hopefully we can keep rolling.”

Opponents ran all over the Seahawks last season. Seattle allowed 4.9 yards per carry and 152 yards rushing per game, both of which were 30th in the league.

But after revamping the defense in the offseason by bringing back a pair of former standouts in linebacker Bobby Wagner and nose tackle Jarran Reed, and signing defensive ends Dre’Mont Jones and Mario Edwards Jr., the changes are already paying off.

The Seahawks have limited opponents to 2.9 yards per carry so far, third-best behind only Indianapolis and Tennessee.

After the way opposing rushers bullied the Seahawks last year, defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt made it clear coming into training camp that things were going to be different this season.

“If you want to be a great defense, first and foremost you don’t let teams run the football on you,” Hurtt said. “That’s number one. Are you going to make them one-dimensional? So showing that we’ve done this before, understanding this is our language, this is how we teach it, this is how it goes together, this is what it looks like — this is what we’ve got to get back to.”

The run defense was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise awful opener against the Los Angels Rams as Kyren Williams and Cam Akers were held to a combined 81 yards on 37 carries.

Last week in Seattle's overtime win over Detroit, the Lions ran for 102 yards on 27 carries.

“Guys are just more tuned in, I guess. More locked in,” edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu said. “It’s always been a point of emphasis. Coach Hurtt talked about that going into the season, going into training camp from OTA’s, we’ve got to stop the run, stop the run. Nobody is going to run the ball on us. He kept preaching it and guys finally bought in earlier than it took last year.”

A big part of the early success stopping the run is the increased understanding of how to leverage runners and attack the line of scrimmage, Hurtt said.

“Obviously the big guys up front winning at the line of scrimmage has been a big improvement in that area,” Hurtt said. “Just two games, so we’ve got to keep going in that particular area.”

This week will be another test. Carolina is averaging 5 yards per carry and may lean on its run game more with starting quarterback Bryce Young not likely to play.

“I feel like we’re doing good,” Wagner said. “We’ve been challenged the first two weeks, two really good run teams, but I feel like every week we’re getting better which is what you want.”



Joe Burrow's status in doubt as the winless Bengals try to get back on track against the Rams

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 8:33 PM ET By The Associated Press

Games: LAR@CIN from 9/25/2023


Monday, 8:15 p.m. EDT, ESPN


SERIES RECORD: Bengals lead 8-7.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Baltimore 2-0; Cincinnati 0-2.

LAST MEETING: The Rams beat the Bengals 23-20 in the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, 2022.

LAST WEEK: Rams lost to 49ers 30-23; Bengals lost to Ravens 27-24.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Rams minus-2; Bengals plus-1.

RAMS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Puka Nacua has started his NFL career in historic fashion as his 25 receptions through two games are the most by a rookie. Nacua, who is second in the league with 266 yards receiving, has shown a knack for finding holes in defensive coverages. However, the fifth-round draft pick from BYU has yet to face extensive jamming and physicality off the line of scrimmage, something the Bengals do effectively.

BENGALS PLAYER TO WATCH: Joe Burrow practiced Friday, a positive sign for the Bengals that a lingering calf injury may not keep him out of Monday's game. He was better in Week 2 than Week 1, but not good enough to keep the Bengals from an 0-2 hole. The Cincinnati team rises and falls with the star quarterback whose recent contract extension made him the highest-paid player in the league.

KEY MATCHUP: Bengals receivers against Rams pass defense. After going without a catch in Week 1, Tee Higgins led the Bengals with eight catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Ja'Marr Chase has been held to a total of 70 receiving yards in the first two games. Cincinnati is 30th out of 32 teams in passing.

KEY INJURIES: Rams OL Joe Noteboom is expected to be available after sustaining a shoulder injury against the 49ers. … Burrow is day to day. ... Bengals S Nick Scott is out of concussion protocol. ... Bengals LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (knee) and TE Irv Smith Jr. (hamstring) were listed as limited participants in Friday's practice.

SERIES NOTES: The Monday night game will be a rematch of Super Bowl 56 after the 2021 season, a 23-20 win by the Rams. ... The Rams have won two in a row over the Bengals, including a 24-10 result at L.A. in 2019. ... Previous to that, Cincinnati had won three in a row — in 2007, ‘11 and ’15 — when the Rams franchise was located in St. Louis. ... The Rams haven't won in Cincinnati since Oct. 3, 1999. That was a 38-10 rout by the visitors.

STATS AND STUFF: In addition to ranking first in the league in receptions, Nacua leads the NFL in yards after the catch (111). … After their offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, the Rams have fared much better up front through two games, allowing just one sack. They allowed multiple sacks 13 times in 2022. … QB Matthew Stafford threw two interceptions in the loss to San Francisco. He has thrown multiple picks in eight of his 28 games with Los Angeles. … Rookie OLB Byron Young leads the Rams with 1 1/2 sacks. The third-round draft pick from Tennessee got his first solo sack when he brought down Brock Purdy in the second quarter. … Los Angeles has converted 58.1% on third down (18 of 31), one of three teams to move the chains at 50% or better along with Baltimore (58.6%) and Dallas (50%). … The Rams had one pass play of 20 yards or more against the 49ers after hitting six in the season opener at the Seahawks. They do not have a run play of 20-plus yards through two games. ... Cincinnati's previous appearance on “Monday Night Football” ended when Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field at Paycor Stadium on Jan. 2. ... Burrow's interception in front of the Ravens' goal line in the third quarter of last week's loss led to a 14-point swing. ... Burrow finally found a rhythm in the second half of the game and finished 27 for 41 for 222 yards and two touchdowns. ... Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon has been carrying the load on the ground, compiling 115 yards in two games and averaging 4.4 yards per carry. ... The Bengals had just seven possessions last week, punting on three of them and turning the ball over on Burrow's interception on another. That came after they punted 10 times in the Week 1 loss to the Browns.

FANTASY TIP: With Burrow's status in question, Mixon could be called on to carry more of the load. The Rams rank 24th in rush defense.


AP NFL coverage:

Cards have enjoyed recent success against the Cowboys. Vegas doesn't believe that trend will hold

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 8:13 PM ET By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer GLENDALE, Ariz.

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have enjoyed some recent success against the Dallas Cowboys, winning six of the past seven meetings.

It's safe to say Vegas doesn't believe that trend will hold on Sunday.

The Cowboys (2-0) are 12 1/2-point favorites when they travel to face the Cardinals (0-2) on Sunday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The point spread is an indication of how good Dallas has looked in the first two weeks. It's also an indication that wins might be hard to come by for the Cardinals.

Dallas has won its first two games by a combined scored of 70-10, drubbing the Giants 40-0 in Week 1 and handling the Jets 30-10 in Week 2.

The hardest challenge for the Cowboys at this point might be staying humble, though players and coaches say that won't be a problem.

“We’re 2-0 because of execution and how we prepared,” linebacker Micah Parsons said. “That’s why we’re 2-0. We’re not 2-0 because of anything else. It’s just remember what’s our process, where are we at in our process.”

Even though the Cardinals are winless, it's been a somewhat encouraging two weeks for a franchise that's rebuilding under first-year coach Jonathan Gannon. Arizona has lost two tight games. The Cardinals built a 28-7 lead against the Giants last week before a second-half collapse and a 31-28 loss.

Gannon and the Cardinals hope it was just a speed bump in a gradual climb. The Cardinals are in a difficult part of their schedule, with games upcoming against the 49ers, Bengals, Rams, Seahawks and Ravens.

“The momentum here and there — I don’t really buy into all that,” Gannon said. "I buy into execution, coaching and playing well. That’s what we’ve got to do better at for four quarters because we’ve shown that we can do it for a period of time.

"We’ve just got to make sure we do it for 60 minutes.”


Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs tore the ACL in his left knee in practice Thursday. It’s quite a blow for a defense off to a great start with 10 sacks and seven takeaways without a turnover by the Dallas offense. The plus-seven turnover margin led the NFL through two games.

The 2021 All-Pro, who signed a $97 million, five-year contract extension at the start of training camp, had his first interception of the season in last week’s win over the Jets. Diggs is tied for the NFL lead with 18 interceptions since entering the league in 2020.


The Cardinals put safety Budda Baker on injured reserve earlier this week, meaning they will be without their defensive leader for at least the next four games. Arizona’s defense played OK without Baker in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, but certainly could have used him as it coughed up a 21-point lead.

“We’ll get on the practice field this week and we’ve got some guys that we feel comfortable with in that spot,” Gannon said. “We’ve all got to kind of pick up our game because no doubt we’ll miss him a little bit.”


In his second game in the lead role after the offseason release of two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott in a cost-cutting move, Dallas running back Tony Pollard had career highs in rushes (25) and catches (seven).

The load was heavy enough that coach Mike McCarthy said Pollard's reps in practice would be somewhat limited. And Pollard said he was “a little banged up just from the hits but other than that I was good.”

The fifth-year back also thought he proved a point.

“I mean, I’ve been saying this for a long time now,” Pollard said. “Whatever they give me, whatever they call, I got it. So I feel like that was a great example of it.”

The efficiency needs to be better. Pollard averaged just 3.4 yards on the 32 touches. His per-carry average was 2.9 yards, and the Cowboys had to settle for field goals on four trips inside the 20-yard line.


Cardinals running back James Conner had a solid game against the Giants, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career and — with franchise quarterback Kyler Murray still on the sidelines — the focal point of Arizona’s offense.

“He’s the workhorse,” Gannon said. “The run game’s going to go through him.”

Even without Murray, the Cardinals have received pretty good quarterback play from Joshua Dobbs, who was acquired in a trade with the Browns just two weeks before the season. Dobbs completed 21 of 31 passes against the Giants for 228 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 23-yard touchdown.


The Parsons-led Dallas defense is in position to allow the fewest points through three games in franchise history. If the Cardinals don’t score at least 17 points, the Cowboys will top their “Doomsday” defense of 1974, which allowed 27 points through three games.

The 60-point margin thus far is the second-highest in Dallas history behind the 68-point differential from the first two games of 1968.

This from a defense that is the first since the early 1970s to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive years, along with being among the league leaders in sacks last season.

“Just understand all your hard work that you’ve put in over the years isn’t going in vain,” defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “Just feel like we continue to gradually grow and feel like we’re in the right space that we can actually do something special.”


AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.



Joe Burrow isn't sure if he'll play as Bengals host Rams Monday night, hoping to avoid 0-3 hole

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:53 PM ET By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer CINCINNATI

Games: LAR@CIN from 9/25/2023

CINCINNATI (AP) — As Joe Burrow goes, so go the Bengals. And neither is in a good place right now.

The Pro Bowl quarterback is day to day with the lingering effects of a right calf strain suffered early in training camp. He didn't practice Thursday and doesn't know if he'll be able to go when the Bengals host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night.

If he can't, backup Jake Browning — a former practice squad QB who had his first and only NFL pass attempt in Week 1 — will get the nod. He won the job in training camp.

“You have to be ready, and Browning is an excellent capable backup, as well,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. "But I think you’d have to be silly not to prepare for one of the best. We’ll find out probably later on in the week — or maybe 90 minutes before kickoff — whether he’s going or not.”

Whether it was Burrow's injury or his lack of practice time, or a little of both, the Cincinnati offense has been slow to rev up and the defending AFC North champion lost its first two games for the second consecutive season.

Late in last Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Ravens, Burrow aggravated the calf injury and limped off the field.

It's no time to panic, Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said.

“I would argue that this isn’t adversity. That comes (with losses) later in the year, typically,” Taylor said. "We know that this season’s a marathon. We stumbled out the box, but again, we’ll pick up the pace, and (I) feel like we’ll be in good shape as the season goes.”

The Rams (1-1) won at Seattle in Week 1, then came away with plenty of positives in a 30-23 loss to powerhouse San Francisco last week.

Rookie receiver Puka Nacua, second-year running back Kyren Williams and third-year wideout Tutu Atwell led the way in a 386-yard effort by the Matthew Stafford-led offense.

Stafford threw for 307 yards and topped Peyton Manning’s NFL record for the most yards passing by a quarterback in his first 200 games.


With Cooper Kupp sidelined with a hamstring injury, Nacua set a single-game rookie record with 15 catches for 147 yards last week, giving him an NFL-leading 25 receptions already this season.

But that workload has come at a cost to the fifth-round draft pick from BYU, who sustained an oblique injury in his debut at Seattle. McVay said he has been careful with Nacua in practice and is looking for ways to minimize the wear and tear.


His numbers haven't been gaudy, but Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been a steady presence for an inconsistent offense. The seventh-year pro carried 13 times for 56 yards in Week 1, and 13 times for 59 yards last week.


Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase was vocal after last week's game about not getting enough deep balls thrown his way. The 2021 Offensive Rookie of the Year had five catches for just 31 yards against the Ravens. The longest was 13 yards. In Week 1 he had five receptions for 39 yards, with a long of 12.

Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said opponents' defensive schemes, not to mention the lousy weather in Week 1, have kept the Bengals from throwing deep more often.

“I think sometimes Ja'Marr talks, and it just comes out his mouth,” Callahan joked. “He's frustrated because his production isn’t what he’s accustomed to, and that's OK. I don’t have a problem with that. We’ll still keep trying to find ways to get him the ball, as many ways as we can.”


While the current Rams are largely unrecognizable from the team that defeated the Bengals in the Super Bowl after the 2021 season, their defense still has two key pieces that tormented Burrow. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald had two sacks and two tackles for loss in that game, and middle linebacker Ernest Jones had a sack and two tackles for loss.



Saints look to remain unbeaten as they visit Lambeau Field in Packers' home opener

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:43 PM ET By The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (2-0) at GREEN BAY (1-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, FOX

OPENING LINE: Packers by 2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Saints 2-0, Packers 1-1

SERIES RECORD: Packers lead 17-10

LAST MEETING: Saints won 38-3 on Sept. 12, 2021, at Jacksonville, Florida.

LAST WEEK: Saints won 20-17 at Carolina on Monday; Packers lost 25-24 at Atlanta on Sunday.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Saints plus-1, Packers plus-3

SAINTS PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Olave, a 2022 first-round draft choice out of Ohio State, has emerged as New Orleans’ top receiver and has been its best overall offensive playmaker during star running back Alvin Kamara’s three-game suspension. He has 14 catches for 198 yards through two games, with a 40-plus-yard reception in each game.

PACKERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Jordan Love leads the NFL in passer rating early in his first full season as a starter, but he’s only completing 55.8% of his passes. His inexperience showed in Green Bay’s previous game, as he went 0 for 6 in the fourth quarter as the Packers failed to get a first down and squandered a 24-12 lead. Now he gets ready for his first regular-season home start.

KEY MATCHUP: Packers offensive line vs. Saints defensive line: An injury to left guard Elgton Jenkins and the uncertainty of left tackle David Bakhtiari’s health status create plenty of questions for the Packers as they face off with a potent Saints front. New Orleans’ Carl Granderson has 2½ sacks through the first two games of the season, and Cameron Jordan is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.

KEY INJURIES: Saints RB Jamaal Williams (hamstring) has been ruled out for Sunday's game. … Saints TE Foster Moreau (ankle) is doubtful. Saints CB Paulson Adebo (hamstring) and S Ugo Amadi (knee) are questionable. … Saints rookie RB Kendre Miller is expected to make his debut Sunday after missing two games with a hamstring injury. … Jenkins is out for the Packers with a sprained medial collateral ligament. … Packers WR Christian Watson (hamstring) has missed Green Bay’s first two games. … Packers RB Aaron Jones (hamstring) and OT David Bakhtiari (knee) missed the Falcons game. ... Watson, Jones, Bakhtiari, CB Jaire Alexander (back) and OLB Lukas Van Ness (OLB) are questionable for Sunday's game.

SERIES NOTES: Although the Packers lead the series 17-10, the Saints have won three of the past four meetings. Their most recent matchup — a Saints 38-3 victory in the opening week of the 2021 season — was moved from New Orleans to Jacksonville because of the impact of Hurricane Ida. Love made his NFL debut that day, as he came in for Aaron Rodgers after the Saints had put the game out of reach. The Packers’ previous win over the Saints was a 37-30 victory at New Orleans on Sept. 27, 2020. The previous time the Saints played at Lambeau Field, they won 26-17 on Oct. 22, 2017. The Saints and Packers held joint practices in Green Bay last year. This marks the fourth time the Packers have opened their home schedule against the Saints. They won their three previous home openers in this series.

STATS AND STUFF: The Saints have allowed 20 points or fewer in each of their past 10 games, the longest active streak of any NFL team. … The Saints are trying to start 3-0 for the first time since 2013, when they began 5-0. … The Saints’ 30-12 road record since 2018 leads the NFC and ranks behind only the Kansas City Chiefs’ 32-9 road mark among NFL teams. … The Saints haven’t scored a first-half TD this season and have just three total TDs in two games. … Saints S Marcus Maye will be serving the first of a three-game suspension in Week 3. … Saints RB Alvin Kamara will be serving the last of a three-game suspension. … Olave is one of three NFL players (along with Justin Jefferson and Puka Nacua) with at least 85 yards receiving in each of the first two weeks. … Saints CB Paulson Adebo had his first-career fumble recovery in Week 2. … Both teams have rookie kickers. New Orleans’ Blake Grupe has made all of his first five field-goal attempts and all three of his extra points. Green Bay’s Anders Carlson is 2 of 2 on field-goal attempts — including a 52-yarder — and 8 of 8 on extra points. … The Packers’ 27-6 regular-season home record since 2018 leads all NFL teams. … The Packers have won their past 10 home openers, the NFL’s longest active streak. … The Packers haven’t committed a turnover through their first two games. … WR Jayden Reed is the second Packer since the AFL-NFL merger to have multiple touchdown catches in one of his first two games as a pro. The other was James Lofton in 1978. … Packers LB Quay Walker scored on a 37-yard interception return in Green Bay’s season-opening victory at Chicago and followed that up by making a career-high 17 tackles in the loss to the Falcons.

FANTASY TIP: The flurry of running back injuries across the league could make it worth picking up Saints RB Tony Jones Jr. at least as a one-week stopgap. Jones had two touchdown runs after Williams got hurt in the Panthers game. He could have a big game against Green Bay’s vulnerable run defense, which allowed 211 yards rushing against the Falcons. One note of caution is that Miller’s return from a hamstring injury could enable the rookie to cut into Jones’ potential workload.



Browns hope to keep moving without Nick Chubb as they start anew against Derrick Henry, Titans

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:23 PM ET By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer CLEVELAND

CLEVELAND (AP) — As the brutal reality of losing star running back Nick Chubb for the rest of this season sunk in, the Cleveland Browns only needed to trace the recent history of their opponent Sunday to know that everything could turn out OK.

Tennessee has been there, done that.

Two years ago, the Titans lost All-Pro Derrick Henry halfway through the season with a broken foot. Not only did Tennessee survive the rest of the way without its rampaging running back, the Titans somehow flourished, finishing 12-5 and as the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

The Titans (1-1) didn't panic after losing Henry, who was on his way to another rushing title.

The Browns (1-1) can only hope to be as stoic without Chubb, the four-time Pro Bowler who suffered a season-ending and career-threatening left knee injury Monday night in Pittsburgh. The sight of seeing Chubb in tears while being carted off shook many of his teammates.

It was the kind of moment that can define a season.

“You can’t replace 24,” Browns All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio said, referring to Chubb's number. "But I think we have pieces that we can try and put together, a puzzle that can look similar to what we did with Nick.”

The Titans were in a similar scramble mode in 2021 after Henry went down. But Tennessee stuck with its run-first, run-often offensive approach, and with Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman filling in, the Titans finished fifth in the league, averaging 141.5 yards rushing per game.

Cleveland defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz watched it. He was a senior advisor in Tennessee that season, and was impressed with how Titans coach Mike Vrabel failed to let Henry's loss overwhelm his team.

“He stays the course,” Schwartz said of Vrabel. “He’s very resilient that way, and it flowed over to the team. Part of that job of the head coach is to make sure everybody knows, ‘Hey, it’s going to be OK, we have a plan, we have good players behind.’”

The Browns didn't have much time to process losing Chubb, who was injured in the second quarter of a 26-22 loss to the Steelers. Second-year back Jerome Ford came in and caught a 3-yard TD pass one play after Chubb's horrific injury.

A fifth-round pick from Cincinnati who began his college career at Alabama, Ford later ripped off a 69-yard run and finished with 106 yards on 16 carries.

Coach Kevin Stefanski plans to use Ford as his feature back, and the Browns brought in some insurance this week by re-signing Kareem Hunt, who spent four seasons in a tandem with Chubb before Cleveland elected not to retain him.

While the personnel might be different, the Titans don't expect the Browns to stray from their ground game.

“It don’t really matter who’s back there," said two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. “You know they trust their offensive linemen. At the end of the day, it’s about how are we going to be able to hold up against their offensive line against the run game."


The Browns are still waiting for Deshaun Watson to play like an elite, $230 million quarterback.

To this point, he has been an average player with an above average contract.

In eight starts over two seasons, Watson is 4-4 with nine touchdowns, seven interceptions and not nearly as many dazzling, highlight-reel type plays as expected. He's coming off a rough performance at Pittsburgh that did nothing to quiet his critics, and after two games he's 31st in completion percentage (55.1) and 30th in rating (69.1).

Still, Vrabel, who spent a season with Watson in Houston, knows how dangerous he can be from any spot on the field.

“He extends plays,” he said. “He’s got great play strength in the pocket to wait out receivers, to get him through to the second window, extends plays. Got length, stiff arm and will scramble and can run to get what he needs to get to, can throw the ball to all parts of the field.”


Henry has only rushed for 140 yards through two games, but it's only a matter of time before he gets rolling.

Once he does, look out. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, there's few more intimidating sights than Henry at full speed.

“He’s a guy that you can stop nine times in a row and in the 10th time he can go 90 yards for a touchdown,” Schwartz said. "We’re going to tackle well, we’re going to have to be physical and we’re going to have to get hats to the ball. Tackling Derrick Henry isn’t a 1-on-1 thing, it’s an 11-on-1 thing and we have to have that mentality going in.”


Along with Vrabel, most of the Titans know Watson well after facing him twice a year as AFC South rivals.

Two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard knows better than to underestimate him.

“He’s playing a different style of offense,” Byard said. “They’re going to run the ball more, but he likes taking shots down the field. So I think first and foremost for our defense, we’ve got to stop the run and on the second half just really just making sure that we’re defending those deep shots.”


The Titans aren't doing enough to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright.

Only six teams have allowed more sacks than the Titans with Tannehill being taken down eight times, including five last week by the Los Angeles Chargers. One of those was the fastest sack by a defender this season as Kenneth Murray needed only 2.31 seconds to get the Titans quarterback.

Tennessee’s offensive line already had four new starters before rookie left guard Peter Skoronski had an appendectomy Sept. 16.

Vrabel knows the Titans' front five have their hands full this week against a rebuilt Cleveland defensive line led by All-Pro end Myles Garrett.

“I don’t think there’s too many guys walking the earth like Myles Garrett,” Vrabel said. “So we’ll be in for a huge challenge.”


AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed.



Chargers-Vikings game puts Staley-O'Connell friendship on hold with both teams at 0-2

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:23 PM ET By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer MINNEAPOLIS

Games: LAC@MIN from 9/24/2023

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin O'Connell and Brandon Staley were close enough in 2020 as assistants with the Los Angeles Rams that their kids were homeschooled together during the pandemic.

There's been no space or time for sharing this week. The two friends, now head coaches, are facing each other with both of their teams having stumbled to an 0-2 start.

“I do know how ultimately competitive he is, and he knows the same thing about me,” said O'Connell, who's in his second season with the Minnesota Vikings after two years as offensive coordinator of the Rams. “I care about him tremendously. I think he’s a great football coach and is somebody who I respect as much as anybody in this league.”

Staley only spent one season as the Rams' defensive coordinator before his big break with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2021. After guiding them to 10 wins in his second year, they blew a 27-point lead in a loss to Jacksonville in the wild-card round to put his job status in question. The Chargers opened by losing to Miami and Tennessee by a combined five points, making Staley the betting favorite to be the first head coach fired this season.

Only four teams since the NFL expanded the field in 1990 have started 0-3 and still made the playoffs. O'Connell and Staley can thus be forgiven for tabling the pleasantries this week.

“He’s like a brother to me, but we’re going head-to-head on Sunday, so our friendship is going to be a distant second to us winning and losing," Staley said. “I just have the utmost respect for him as a leader, as a coach. He’s one of the top coaches that I’ve ever worked with. He’s one of the top play-callers that I’m going to have to go against.”

The staff under Sean McVay with the Rams, who won the Super Bowl after the 2021 season, was full of head coach potential with O'Connell and Staley as the top lieutenants.

“They're both geniuses in their own right,” said Chargers defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who played for the Rams in 2020 when both O'Connell and Staley were there.

Staley reflected this week on how scheming against O'Connell in practice that year sharpened his skill.

“That was one of the things that was, for us, such a special part of that experience,” Staley said. "We had some of the top players in the league to coach, and there was just that special environment. Each day, you had to be on it. You had to perform.”


The Vikings lost to Tampa Bay and Philadelphia by a combined nine points, thanks largely to a league-leading seven turnovers that have overshadowed the continued brilliance of Justin Jefferson.

He can become the first receiver in NFL history with three straight 150-yard games to start a season. That would give him 11 such games for his career, the most through a player's first four years in the league. Jefferson would also with 150 yards break Wes Welker’s 2011 record with the most receiving yards in history at the three-game mark.

Perhaps the most impressive feat for Jefferson so far is that he's played on 121 of 122 snaps.

“I just don't want to miss out on any opportunities. The majority of times when I do come out, we pass the ball,” Jefferson said, smiling. “I want to put full force on my matchups. I want to stay in the game just like they stay in the game.”


The Chargers have had plenty of coverage trouble through games. Michael Davis has yielded a league-high three touchdowns. Asante Samuel has allowed receptions all six times he has been targeted.

Jefferson also leads the NFL in receptions (31) and yards (681) on passes with a 50% or lower completion probability since the start of last season. In 2021 against the Chargers, he had two catches for 54 yards with a 50% or lower completion probability.

“He may make a play or two, but you’ve got to get back in the huddle and keep playing against guys like that,” safety Derwin James said.


After had one of Minnesota's four lost fumbles against the Eagles and netted only 28 yards on eight carries, Alexander Mattison was sickened by the social media backlash he encountered after the game. More than 60 messages directed toward him on Instagram contained enough hateful, racist and violent words for him to speak out against such harassment.

“There’s a lot of fantasy football people out there, and they think that it’s all fun and games,” Mattison said. "We have families. We have people that love us. We have people that we’re doing this for. It’s not fantasy. This is real life.”


The Vikings have struggled to get their ground game going, prompting the acquisition of running back Cam Akers from the Rams.

Running plays have been a problem for the Vikings on the other side of the ball, too. They gave up 259 rushing yards to the Eagles, getting trampled by D'Andre Swift down the stretch when a stop or two could've translated into a comeback victory.

The Chargers rushed for 234 yards in their opening loss to the Dolphins, when Austin Ekeler suffered an ankle sprain that kept him out against the Titans. Joshua Kelley would start if Ekeler is sidelined again.


AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy in Costa Mesa, California, contributed to this report.



Surprising Buccaneers face defending NFC champion Eagles in prime-time matchup of unbeaten teams

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:13 PM ET By The Associated Press


Monday, 7:15 p.m. EDT, ABC


AGAINST THE SPREAD: Philadelphia 2-0; Tampa Bay 2-0.

SERIES RECORD: Buccaneers lead 11-10, including postseason.

LAST MEETING: Buccaneers beat Eagles 31-15 on Jan. 16, 2022, in NFC wild-card game in Tampa, Fla.

LAST WEEK: Eagles beat Vikings 34-28 in Philadelphia; Buccaneers defeated Bears 27-17 at home.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Eagles plus 4; Buccaneers plus-5.

EAGLES PLAYER TO WATCH: RB D’Andre Swift ran a for career-best 175 yards on 28 carries in last week’s win over the Vikings. The Bucs defense has limited opponents to 52 yards per game rushing. Only the Eagles (51) have been better stopping the run.

BUCCANEERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Baker Mayfield has played turnover-free ball through two games, helping the Bucs to a surprising 2-0 start. His 104.4 passer rating is the highest of his career at this point in a season. He’s been especially good on third down, completing 20 of 23 passes (87 percent) for 201 yards and two touchdowns.

KEY MATCHUP: Eagles QB Jalen Hurts against a rejuvenated Tampa Bay defense coming off limiting the Bears to 236 yards. With eight sacks and five takeaways through two games, the unit led by Shaquil Barrett, Devon White and Lavonte David appears to be back on track after being inconsistent last season. Hurts has won 19 of his past 20 regular season starts. Only five other quarterbacks —Tom Brady (twice), Patrick Mahomes, Jim McMahon, Peyton Manning and Joe Montana — have accomplished that during the Super Bowl era.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles WR Quez Watkins (hamstring) was limited during last week’s win over Minnesota. His status for Monday night is uncertain. The Bucs placed backup RB Chase Edmonds (knee) on injured reserve early in the week. CB Carlton Davis (toe) and DL Calijah Kancey (calf) did not play against the Bears. A decision on their availability may not be made until the weekend.

SERIES NOTES: The Buccaneers have won four straight in the series, including an NFC wild-card playoff victory two seasons ago. They are 2-0 against Hurts, who also lost a regular-season game to Tampa Bay in 2021.

STATS AND STUFF: This is the only Week 3 matchup featuring unbeaten teams. ... The Eagles, who won their first eight games a year ago, are looking to start 3-0 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93. Tampa Bay last started 3-0 in 2005. ... The Bucs (plus-5) and Eagles (plus 4) rank second and third in the league in turnover ratio behind Dallas (plus 7). ... Eagles QB Jalen Hurt has been sacked seven times in two games. He ran for two touchdowns last week against the Vikings. His next game with multiple TDs rushing will be the 10th of his career, tying Cam Newton’s NFL record for a quarterback. ... Bucs WR Mike Evans had six receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. He’s the only player in the league who had six-plus catches and a TD in Weeks 1 and 2. ... Bucs WR Chris Godwin has six or more catches in a franchise-best 16 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

FANTASY TIP: Evans had nine receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown the previous time the Bucs faced the Eagles (Tampa Bay’s 31-15 NFC wild-card playoff win in January 2022). He also has a knack for shining in prime time, with at least five catches and a TD in six of seven Monday night games.


AP NFL coverage:

49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk will miss game against Giants with shoulder injury

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:03 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk will miss Thursday night's game against the New York Giants with an injured shoulder.

Aiyuk played through the injury last week after getting hurt on his first catch of the game but was designated as inactive following the short turnaround. He had been listed as questionable.

Aiyuk has 11 catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns in two games for San Francisco. He led the team in catches and yards receiving last season and hadn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2020.

Aiyuk's absence gives an opportunity to Jauan Jennings and rookie Ronnie Bell to play a bigger role. San Francisco also could rely more heavily on receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and running back Christian McCaffrey in the passing game.

The Giants were already missing two key players, having ruled out star running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) earlier in the week. Guard Ben Bredeson (concussion) and defensive end Azeez Ojulari (hamstring) also were sidelined.

San Francisco also ruled out cornerback Ambry Thomas, who was listed as questionable with a knee injury. The other inactive players for the 49ers are offensive lineman Nick Zakelj, defensive lineman Kalia Davis, linebacker Jalen Graham and running back Tyrion Davis-Price. Brandon Allen is the emergency third quarterback.

The Niners made several roster moves before the game, promoting cornerback Tre Swilling from the practice squad to the active roster and releasing cornerback Anthony Brown, who signed earlier this week. San Francisco also promoted receiver Chris Conley and cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles from the practice squad for the game.

New York promoted offensive lineman Jaylon Thomas and linebacker Oshane Ximines from the practice squad for the game.



Seahawks set to host Panthers and honor the past while focused on the present

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 7:03 PM ET By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer SEATTLE

Games: CAR@SEA from 9/24/2023

SEATTLE (AP) — This weekend, the Seahawks will celebrate their history by honoring the team that brought Seattle its only Super Bowl championship 10 years ago.

But not everyone can fully participate in the celebratory part of the weekend.

Pete Carroll is still coaching. Bobby Wagner is still playing linebacker. And while they expect to appreciate this weekend's events, they still have to focus on Sunday's task of facing the Carolina Panthers.

“I think there’s a balance. As I get older, you have to enjoy some of the things,” Wagner said. “Obviously, I’m going to be locked in, I’m going to be focused, so I won’t do everything. I definitely want to be around those guys, but a lot of those guys live in Seattle. I see them pretty often. It’s not going to be any different. It’s just I have a jersey on, and they don’t.”

It was Wagner’s passionate speech last week that helped Seattle (1-1) refocus after its opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks ultimately pulled out a 37-31 overtime win at Detroit last Sunday.

It’s the same kind of leadership Wagner showed a decade ago when he was in his second year and an anchor to that Super Bowl-winning defense.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal when you have your 10-year anniversary of something like this. He’s those guys, they’re the same,” Carroll said.

The Panthers (0-2), meanwhile, are focused on their future.

It’s been a rocky start for Carolina in its first season under Frank Reich as the only team in the NFC South without a win. Much of it has to do with injuries. No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young is unlikely to play on Sunday due to an ankle injury. Young played the entire game in Carolina’s 20-17 loss to New Orleans last Monday, but came out of the game with the ankle issue.

If he doesn't play, 13-year veteran Andy Dalton would make his fifth career start against the Seahawks. Dalton is 3-1 in those previous starts, including last season when he led New Orleans to a 39-32 win.

“I’m just going to operate like I know that I can. I think for me it starts with being myself pushing guys, pushing the tempo, doing everything that we need to do to give ourselves a chance,” Dalton said.


After a shaky performance in the opener, Geno Smith was terrific in Week 2, throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Smith was able to open up an intermediate passing game that was absent against the Rams and allowed the Seahawks to push the ball downfield a little more.

“We played one bad half of offensive football, and just for us to answer and just come out and put up the amount of points that we did, for Geno (Smith) to have the type of day that he did, then the O-line to play the way that they did just really speaks volumes of the type of offense that we can have,” receiver DK Metcalf said.


Shaq Thompson has been a mainstay for the Panthers at linebacker for the last nine seasons. But Carolina will be without its emotional leader on defense for the remainder of the season after he broke his leg in Monday night’s loss to the Saints. Kamu Grugier-Hill, who has been in the league since 2016 and has spent time with five other teams, will take Thompson’s spot.

Linebacker Frankie Luvu said losing Thompson, who played collegiately at Washington, was an emotional blow for the Panthers because his impact goes beyond his production on the field.

“He kind of does everything for us,” Luvu said. “He’s kind of like that glue for the team. Losing a leader like that just hurts.”


The Seahawks are fortunate to have depth at cornerback, especially with standout Riq Woolen unlikely to play after suffering a chest injury last week against the Lions. Rookie first-round pick Devon Witherspoon stepped in at Woolen’s spot and Tre Brown — finally healthy after injuries derailed his first two seasons — had a sack and an interception return for a touchdown.

It’s likely Witherspoon and Brown will start against the Panthers.


The Panthers would like to recommit to running the ball in the loud environment at Seattle, which likely means a healthy dose of Miles Sanders. The free-agent pickup from the Philadelphia Eagles has just 115 yards rushing in two games despite coach Frank Reich saying he expected Sanders to be the team’s three-down back.

Chuba Hubbard will also see action.

One of the problems for the Panthers on offense has been “getting behind the sticks,” Reich said. With two inexperienced guards in rookie Chandler Zavala and Cade Mays, Carolina hasn’t been able to establish the run and put itself in second- and third-and-short situations.


AP Sports Writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.



AFC South rivals Texans and Jaguars looking for better offense after ugly performances

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 6:53 PM ET By MARK LONG, AP Pro Football Writer JACKSONVILLE, Fla.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Houston and Jacksonville have this much in common through two weeks: neither is thrilled with its offense.

The Texans (0-2) have scored 29 points, which ranks 29th in the league and is slightly better than tied-for-last Carolina, Cincinnati and Las Vegas. The Jaguars (1-1) are coming off a nine-point showing in their home opener against Kansas City and are last in the league in third-down conversions (25%).

Both teams will be looking for better results when they meet Sunday in Jacksonville.

“It’s just remembering who we are,” Jaguars receiver Christian Kirk said. “One bad game doesn’t define us. Obviously it’s frustrating. ... It just goes back to us kind of being a little out of character and just pressing and trying to make plays that weren’t there.”

Jacksonville, the defending AFC South champion, entered the season optimistic it would average 30 points a game after returning nine offensive starters, adding standout receiver Calvin Ridley and being in the second year of coach Doug Pederson’s offense.

But the Jaguars scored 17 in the opener at Indianapolis before rallying with two touchdowns in the final six minutes, the second one coming after a turnover. And they were completely out of sorts against the Chiefs, struggling to run the ball and unable to protect quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

“Just make the plays, make the blocks, make the catches,” Ridley said. “Just do what we do, honestly. We got what we need. We just need to execute better.”

Houston could say the same.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick, threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts last Sunday. But Stroud was sacked six times, injured his throwing shoulder and lost one of his two fumbles. Adding to the team’s offensive woes, the ground game was stagnant as Dameon Pierce managed 31 yards on 15 carries.

Stroud has been sacked an NFL-high 11 times already while playing behind a line decimated by injuries. Houston lost four starting offensive linemen to injuries in camp and played without three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) last week.

“It’s all about the protection,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We’ve had good protection at times, and it’s not only our offensive line. It’s the backs. It’s the tight ends. It’s the quarterback. It’s the receivers. Protection involves all 11.

“We don’t want to see our quarterback get hit, but we can make smart decisions all across the board with all 11 guys.”

Tunsil returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday and might be able to go Sunday. Stroud, meanwhile, had “no issues” with his shoulder in practice.

“I feel blessed. I feel good,” Stroud said. “Football is a physical sport and that’s what I signed up for, but my body is fine. I’ll be all right. After Week 1, you kind of just get used to getting hit and the rehab that goes into that Monday, Tuesday, getting your body back for Wednesday and so forth so you can practice well."


Jacksonville’s defense would probably be the talk of the town had the Jaguars beaten Kansas City. The unit held Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce in check most of the game and surrendered 17 points to the defending Super Bowl champion. The defense was equally impressive in Week 1, giving up 14 points to the Colts.

“We’re doing what we need to do to win every game,” linebacker Josh Allen said. “We know what we can do, but we want to put it on a divisional opponent.”


Jacksonville ended a nine-game losing streak to Houston in January. Nonetheless, the Texans have won 15 of the past 18 meetings and 20 of the past 25, a staggering stretch of lopsidedness considering the NFL’s penchant for parity.


Houston WR John Metchie III made his NFL debut last week after missing his entire rookie season while undergoing treatment for leukemia and sitting out of the opener with a hamstring injury.

He was in on about 15% of the offensive snaps against the Colts and caught one pass for 17 yards. The Texans will look to get him more involved as the season progresses, but Ryans said it will be a process.

“It was a great feeling to finally be back on the field playing the game I love,” Metchie said. “But I just feel like I’m a winner so at the end of the day I’m all about wins and losses and I’d rather be winning.”



Jets' Zach Wilson looking to leave his struggles against the Patriots in the past

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 6:53 PM ET By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

Teams: NE NYJ

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson certainly is not alone in having a tough time finding success against the New England Patriots' defense.

But the New York Jets quarterback has had some of his worst moments while facing Bill Belichick's bunch. And that's something he hopes to change Sunday when the teams square off at MetLife Stadium.

“I just need to be smart with the ball,” Wilson said Thursday. “Especially last time we played them at home, a lot of them were just dumb plays by me. I need to play one play at a time, be efficient with the football, trust what I'm seeing and play ball.”

Much easier said than done, though.

Wilson is 0-4 against the Patriots — the last four losses of the Jets' 14-game skid against their AFC East rivals. In those four starts, the third-year quarterback has thrown two touchdown passes with seven INTs — all coming in the Jets' two home games — and a passer rating of 50.6 while completing just 50.9% of his passes.

“They do a lot of different things,” Wilson said of the Patriots. “They try to make it confusing for you, so I think it's just having those keys, being able to do it quick, play fast and be decisive.”

Again, sounds simple.

“This whole game is about fundamentals,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “And as long as he can continually work on his footwork, his eyes, his progressions, his understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and the intention of the play, I think he’ll be just fine.”

In his first game against the Patriots last season at home, Wilson was 20 of 41 for a career-high 355 yards with two TDs and three interceptions in a 22-17 loss. Last November at New England, Wilson went 9 of 22 for just 77 yards. He had no interceptions or touchdowns in the Jets' 10-3 loss that ended on Marcus Jones' 84-yard punt return for a score.

Wilson was benched for three games after that performance — the first of two times he was sent to the sideline to reset himself mentally and physically.

“It was just not a clean game, overall,” Wilson recalled. “For me, it's just learning from those mistakes."

It wasn't supposed to be this way right now, of course. The plan was for Wilson to be the backup to Aaron Rodgers and learn from the four-time NFL MVP while trying to further develop.

Instead, Wilson is back running the offense with Rodgers healing at home in California after tearing his left Achilles tendon on his fourth snap with the Jets.

“We didn’t ever go into a situation where Zach was saying, ‘OK, I’m going to rest back here and just kind of watch,'” passing game coordinator Todd Downing said. “It was more like, ‘I’m going to prepare as though I’m starting and learn as much as I can through osmosis when I’m not playing.’ And, unfortunately, that moment came a little bit quicker than some anticipated, but I’m excited to watch him step up to the challenge.”

Downing, who's in his first season with the Jets after being the Titans' offensive coordinator the past two years, has seen noticeable improvement in Wilson's footwork since they first started working together. He also thinks the way the summer played out helped Wilson prepare for this situation.

“I think in the preseason it gave us the ability to say, OK, Aaron’s still taking a lot of the starter reps in practice, but Zach was starting all the preseason games,” Downing said. “So him taking that approach in August, I think benefited now.”

Wilson insists he has put his previous struggles against New England — and throughout last season — behind him. And he's moving forward with a refreshed approach and renewed confidence on the field.

“I'm excited for where I am at right now,” Wilson said. “I feel like I'm in a good spot and this team is in a really good spot. We have a lot of belief in each other. We're going to keep building on that and I'm excited about where we are.”

NOTES: K Greg Zuerlein was limited at practice with an injured right groin, an improvement after he sat out Wednesday. If he can't play, Austin Seibert will replace him as he did last Sunday at Dallas. ... Also limited were DL John Franklin-Myers (hip), RT Mekhi Becton (knee), CB Michael Carter II (elbow), RB Breece Hall (knee) and LB Quincy Williams (knee). ... S Tony Adams (hamstring) and LT Duane Brown (shoulder/hip) sat out for the second straight day. ... The Jets signed OT Cedric Ogbuehi to the practice squad and released OL Ryan Swoboda.


AP NFL coverage:

Undefeated Dallas Cowboys try to keep rolling against winless Arizona Cardinals

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 6:33 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, Fox

BETTING LINE: Cowboys by 12 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Dallas 2-0; Arizona 2-0.

SERIES RECORD: Dallas leads 56-34-1.

LAST MEETING: Cardinals beat Cowboys 25-22 on Jan. 2, 2022, in Arlington, Texas.

LAST WEEK: Cowboys beat Jets 30-10; Cardinals lost to Giants 31-28.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Cowboys plus-7; Cardinals plus-2.

COWBOYS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR CeeDee Lamb tied a career high with 11 catches and had 143 yards receiving against the Jets. The fourth-year man didn’t score but set up two touchdowns and became the first Dallas receiver with four games of at least 10 catches in his first four seasons. The Cowboys found ways to get him open despite the absence of Brandin Cooks, the new sidekick who was out with a knee injury a week after his Dallas debut. Cooks might return, which could loosen things up more for Lamb. Cooks would get more looks as well, though.

CARDINALS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Dennis Gardeck has been a force through two games with eight tackles, three sacks, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Gardeck has slowly become a vital piece for the Cardinals over the past six years.

KEY MATCHUP: The Cowboys defense gets a juicy matchup against Cardinals QB Joshua Dobbs, who lost two fumbles in Week 1 but played better against the Giants last week. Dallas has forced seven turnovers through two weeks, making life miserable for Giants QB Daniel Jones and Jets QB Zach Wilson.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs torn the ACL in his left knee in practice Thursday. Diggs, who led the NFL with 11 interceptions in 2021, had one of three for Dallas against the Jets. His 18 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2020 are tied for the league lead. ... LG Tyler Smith could make his season debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury sustained in practice the week before the opener. If so, Dallas will have intact for the first time the offensive line it expected to open with last season. Those five didn’t play together at all in 2022 because of injuries. Six-time All-Pro RG Zack Martin, who is expected to play despite injuring an ankle against the Jets, is the anchor along with LT Tyron Smith. C Tyler Biadasz and RT Terence Steele are the other starters. … S Donovan Wilson also is awaiting his season debut after straining a calf early in training camp. ... The Cardinals will be playing their third game of the season without franchise QB Kyler Murray, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered last season. He has to miss at least one more game after Sunday to be eligible to come off the PUP list. ... DL Carlos Watkins (biceps) and LB Josh Woods (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday. ... Two-time All-Pro S Budda Baker (hamstring) was put on injured reserve earlier this week.

SERIES NOTES: While the Cowboys lead the overall series comfortably, Arizona has a 7-4 edge since the former NFC East rivals went to separate divisions. The Cardinals have won six of the past seven meetings, including two in overtime.

STATS AND STUFF: The Cowboys were turnover-free in their first two games for the first time in the 63-year history of the franchise. Their plus-7 turnover margin leads the NFL. … Dallas swept the New York teams by a combined score of 70-10 in the first two games. The 60-point margin is the second biggest in team history for the first two games, behind a 67-point differential in 1968. … If Dallas allows 16 or fewer points, it will beat the 1974 “Doomsday” defense for the fewest points allowed through three games. The 1974 unit allowed 27. … QB Dak Prescott will start his 100th regular-season game. He’s the only NFL quarterback with at least 150 touchdown passes and 25 rushing TDs in his first 100 games. … In his second game as the lead back with the offseason departure of two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott in a cost-cutting move, RB Tony Pollard had career highs in rushes (25) and catches (seven). His 48 touches are the most through two games since Elliott had 53 in 2020. The Cowboys will hope for better efficiency going forward, though. Pollard averaged 3.4 yards per touch (32 touches, 109 scrimmage yards) against the Jets. … DT Osa Odighizuwa has three sacks, already just one shy of his career high. … K Brandon Aubrey, a 28-year-old rookie and former Major League Soccer player, needs three field goals to become the fifth in NFL history with at least 10 in his first three games. Aubrey had five FGs against the Jets, including a 55-yarder. ... Cardinals TE Zach Ertz has 77 catches for 735 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games against the Cowboys. ... Arizona's defense has nine sacks through two games. ... The Cardinals offense line allowed no sacks last week. ... Dobbs had a 99.9 passer rating last week vs. the Giants, which was his highest in four career starts. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 228 yards and a TD while running for 41 yards and a TD. ... S Jalen Thompson has five interceptions over his past 27 games.

FANTASY TIP: Cardinals RB James Conner had a big game against the Giants, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown. That's probably not an aberration. As long as Dobbs is the QB, the Cardinals will likely be a team that likes to keep it on the ground and Conner is — by far — the team's No. 1 option.



Broncos' Wilson, heading into matchup with unbeaten Dolphins, has dug out of 0-2 holes before

1.5d ago 9/21/2023 6:33 PM ET By ALANIS THAMES, AP Sports Writer MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.

Games: DEN@MIA from 9/24/2023

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The unbeaten Dolphins will bring one of the NFL's most explosive offenses and an improving defense into their matchup with the winless Broncos. But Miami defensive tackle Christian Wilkins knows better than to underestimate Denver and Russell Wilson.

The veteran quarterback has overcome each of his two previous 0-2 starts — both with Seattle — to make the playoffs.

“His resume speaks for itself and the things he’s been able to do in this league," Wilkins said. “He presents a lot of challenges, just being able to obviously be great in the pocket, run when he needs to — a great leader.”

Wilson's early numbers show improvement from a year ago, when he had the lowest completion percentage (60.5), touchdown total (16) and passer rating (84.4) of his career.

He has five TD passes and 485 yards in two games. The Broncos just haven't been able to finish games, but Wilson said he's drawing on past experience to help turn the team around.

“Definitely been to the playoffs before after being down 0-2,” he said. “The good thing is you’ve got more pitches coming, more games to play. You don’t blink.”

That starts Sunday in the sweltering heat of South Florida against a Dolphins team that is ranked No. 1 in passing offense and tied for third in scoring.

Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is getting the ball out quickly. He's only been hit four times this season and leads the league with 715 yards passing.

“I think that should tell you all you should know with the guys we have up front," Tagovailoa said. “And guys are buying into new techniques, new fundamentals with how they’re getting off the ball, so having Tyreek (Hill), having (Jaylen) Waddle, having fast guys also helps me get the ball out quicker to be able to distribute that and throw off timing for the rushers as well.”


Second-year Broncos receiver Brandon Johnson is looking forward to playing in the same stadium where his father, former major league catcher Charles Johnson, won Game 7 of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins.

“It’s definitely surreal, man,” Johnson said. “I remember going as a kid and watching my dad play. The stadium is different now but this is definitely exciting to play in that same stadium.”

Another father-son duo looking forward to the Broncos’ trip is Patrick Surtain — who played for Miami and Kansas City during his 11-year NFL career and is currently an assistant at Florida State — and Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II.

“Playing in the stadium my dad played in, it’s going to be a surreal moment,” Surtain said. “I just remember watching games there at Dolphin Stadium and just playing on the field, growing up in the locker room, you know, just being around professional athletes."


The Broncos have looked unbeatable in the first half so far, scoring touchdowns on five of their eight drives, and unrecognizable after halftime, scoring just one TD in eight series. The one score came on Wilson’s 50-yard Hail Mary that Johnson snared with no time left in last Sunday's loss to Washington.

“I think we just have to play cleaner in the third quarter,” said Wilson, whose team leads the league in accepted penalties with 19.


By totaling 56 yards on six runs last week, Wilson became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 40,000 yards and run for 5,000.

“It’s definitely a cool thing,” Wilson said. “Growing up, I watched guys like Steve Young and Joe Montana and Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham and the Donovan McNabbs of the world, and so to be in that category and to do something like that is a blessing.”

Wilson also threw for 308 yards last week, the fifth time in his career he’s topped 300 yards passing and 50 yards rushing in a game, behind only Young (eight times) and Josh Allen (six).


Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel began his coaching career as an intern with the Denver Broncos in 2005 and refers to Mike Shanahan — Denver's coach from 1995-2008 — as one of his biggest influences. McDaniel's first NFL game was a matchup between the Broncos and Dolphins. Sunday will be his first time facing Denver as a head coach.

“It was the team that I found my love for football with ... a tremendous organization and I wouldn’t be here without it," McDaniel said.


AP Sports Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.



Titans running back Derrick Henry calls Nick Chubb's knee injury unfortunate

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 6:13 PM ET By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer NASHVILLE, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry watched as Nick Chubb's season, and possibly his NFL career, ended with a hit bending Chubb's left knee the wrong direction.

Yes, the three-time Pro Bowl running back had the same reaction as everyone else watching the grisly injury in real time.

“It was tough to see and especially the type of player he is,” Henry said Thursday after only posting a string of broken-hearted and sad emojis on social media in response Monday night. “Don't want things to happen, but I mean that comes with the game.”

The injury comes with the Titans (1-1) visiting Chubb's Cleveland Browns (1-1) on Sunday. It also offers a stark reminder of why Henry got some of the NFL's top running backs texting and talking this offseason about how to improve their market value.

The NFL filed a grievance Sept. 11 against the NFL Players Association, alleging that union leaders, including President JC Tretter, have advised running backs to “consider feigning or exaggerating injuries” to help increase their leverage in contract negotiations.

Yet, the names of running backs sidelined by serious injuries is lengthy just two weeks into the season:

— Baltimore's J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles tendon in the season opener, coincidentally the last year of his rookie contract.

— 2021 NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor is on the physically unable to perform list in Indianapolis after offseason ankle surgery. He's in the final year of his rookie contract.

— Austin Ekeler missed the Chargers' overtime loss to Tennessee last week with a sprained ankle.

— Giants running back Saquon Barkley was ruled out of Thursday night's game at San Francisco with a sprained right ankle. Barkley is playing under the franchise tag New York used paying him $10.1 million, the lowest for any position other than punters and kickers.

On Thursday, Henry said injuries happen in the NFL and Chubb, whom he called one of the best backs in the league, was simply trying to finish a physical run.

“You never want to see that happen,” Henry said.

"All the backs just trying to get out there and showcase our talents and do whatever we can to help our teams win and just do whatever we can to show our value to each team. And I know those guys are working hard to do that every day. But this unfortunate situation.”

Chubb and Barkley are two of the NFL's top four running backs by salary cap hit and base salary this season. Cleveland can get out of Chubb's deal in 2024 depending on the severity of his left knee injury, and Barkley will be a free agent if the Giants don't use the franchise tag on him again.

Henry became the eighth man in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season in 2020. He was on his way to leading the league in rushing for a third straight season when he broke his right foot in 2021. He leads all running backs with a salary cap hit of $16.3 million for this season.

He rested Thursday. The running back who turns 30 in January and is in the final year of his contract is on the Titans' injury report with a toe issue that limited him in practice Wednesday.

Henry also is sharing some of the workload with rookie Tyjae Spears. Henry still commands the attention of opposing defenses, facing a stacked box on nearly half his carries, most of any NFL running back in Week 2. He still finished with 80 yards on 25 rushes and scored a touchdown.

For now, Henry is 97 yards from passing his “running back superhero” in Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell for second in yards rushing in this franchise's history.

“For me to be mentioned with his name is like a dream come true," Henry said.

NOTES: Teair Tart (knee) was limited Thursday after not practicing Wednesday. S Amani Hooker (concussion protocol) and CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring) practiced fully for a second straight day. The Titans added three-time All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) to the injury report as limited after he practiced fully Wednesday. Rookie WR/KR Kearis Jackson hurt an ankle Thursday during the open portion of practice and was limited.



Ravens have a chance to improve to 3-0 when they host Indianapolis; Richardson ruled out for Colts

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 6:03 PM ET By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer BALTIMORE

BALTIMORE (AP) — The last time the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts met, it was a prime-time showcase for Lamar Jackson and Jonathan Taylor.

Only one of those two stars is available this week when the teams face each other again.

For a while, Jackson's contract dispute with the Ravens was one of the NFL's biggest offseason stories, but once Baltimore and its quarterback resolved that with a new five-year deal, the Colts and Taylor took center stage. Indianapolis didn't agree on a contract with its standout running back, and Taylor — who had offseason ankle surgery — began the season on the physically unable to perform list.

The Colts (1-1) also enter Sunday's matchup at Baltimore (2-0) with an injury at quarterback after rookie Anthony Richardson was ruled out Friday because of a concussion. Gardner Minshew replaced him in a win over Houston last week.

“That’s what you sign up for, you know?" Minshew said earlier in the week. "Happy to get out there and be able to help the team any chance you can and we’ll see how this week goes.”

Indianapolis will also be without center Ryan Kelly (concussion), while Baltimore has ruled out receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), running back Justice Hill (foot), cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot), center Tyler Linderbaum (ankle), linebacker Odafe Oweh (ankle), tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and safety Marcus Williams (pectoral).

In their most recent meeting in 2021, the Ravens rallied from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Colts 31-25 in overtime. Taylor scored on a 76-yard reception and a 4-yard run, but Indianapolis ultimately lost thanks to one of the greatest performances of Jackson's career. The Baltimore quarterback threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns.

“Whatever happened that night is with that night,” Jackson said. “I’m focused on what’s going to happen Sunday.”


Minshew is now in line to make his 25th career start — extending his streak to starting at least one game in all five of his seasons.

Richardson left last week’s game after taking a hit on a touchdown run and then banging his head on the turf in Houston. Minshew finished the game, going 19 of 23 for 171 yards with one touchdown, no interceptions and no sacks. But because Richardson and Minshew are so different stylistically, it forced the Colts to work overtime on a game plan.

“You’ve got to balance it,” Steichen said. “You’ve got to go through the plan, get them both ready to play and then you go from there. There’s a lot of communication, a lot of conversations with the staff and myself on how to go about it.”


Baltimore's offensive line struggled in a season-opening win over Houston and was without Linderbaum and Stanley in Week 2. But the protection actually looked pretty good in a win over Cincinnati last weekend.

Now the Ravens are up against an Indianapolis team that had an NFL-high 17 tackles for loss in its first two games.

“That’s the No. 1 issue for sure. That front is outstanding," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “The two tackles are two of the best in the league. (DeForest) Buckner — obviously (a) pedigree guy, slippery guy, long, plays hard and all that kind of stuff and then (Grover) Stewart.”


A year ago, the Colts finished last in the NFL in turnover margin at minus-13.

So far this year, even with a rookie quarterback, the numbers look dramatically better. Indy sits near the middle of the league with a net-zero margin — three takeaways, three giveaways — and has surrendered just four sacks with two coming on consecutive plays against Jacksonville.

Sunday’s game, though, presents a different challenge — especially for an offense that could be playing with two young starters, center Wesley French and right guard Will Fries.

“Baltimore has always been a challenge on defense, that is absolutely still true,” Colts offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “Those guys are playing really good football, obviously winning football this year so far. We’ve got our work cut out for us but that’s what they pay us for.”


The Ravens lost running back J.K. Dobbins for the season when he went down with a torn Achilles tendon in the opener. Now Hill is dealing with foot problems and will not play this weekend.

Gus Edwards did run for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.


The Ravens have allowed only 23 yards and no first downs in the first quarter this season. Part of that is because their offense has moved the ball well and controlled it for 21:10 in those opening periods.

“We’re just starting fast, communicating and playing fast, trusting each other and just playing football," linebacker Patrick Queen said. “That’s what we come out here and do every day at practice.”



Bears general manager Ryan Poles believes the team can work its way out of its current troubles

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 5:53 PM ET By GENE CHAMBERLAIN, Associated Press LAKE FOREST, Ill.

Teams: CHI

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — After 12 straight losses, the Chicago Bears are firmly entrenched in crisis mode.

From general manager Ryan Poles to coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, Sunday's game at Super Bowl champion Kansas City has to seem like a respite from the team's problems.

“First and foremost, to hit it straight on, we have adversity right now,” Poles said Thursday. “Slow start, 0-2, not where you want to be.

“We’ve dealt with life issues. We’ve dealt with injuries and that’s all real and that’s part of what we do and what we’ve got to deal with.”

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned Wednesday after an unexplained week away from the team and quarterback Justin Fields suggested he is being overcoached into being robotic, before later softening his comments.

All the while, the Bears haven’t won since last Oct. 24.

It’s safe to say more was expected from Poles and Eberflus in their second seasons after they had the most cash of any team to spend in free agency and owned the first pick in the draft.

“Everyone is focusing on solving the issues that we have so that we can be a better football team,” Poles said. “And Flus and I were talking about it last night. We’ve both been through slow starts, rough starts and got things back on track in our background — him in Indy, I think it was 2018, myself in Kansas City in 2015.

“So, sometimes you have these and you gotta fight through it and figure out how you can be a better football team. Got a ton of faith in Flus as a leader. He’s done a great job. And then as a defensive play-caller as well, got a ton of faith there.”

An 0-2 start is one thing. The Bears' circumstances are altogether different.

Eberflus is the defensive play-caller because of Williams’ resignation, which he said was for family and health reasons. The team isn't explaining the situation other than to say rumors that police raided Halas Hall or were called there in regards to Williams were false.

“Don’t even know where that came from,” Poles said. “Worked with (team president) Kevin (Warren) and (owner) George (McCaskey), all of our leadership, to make sure we were handling it the right way, communicating properly, and obviously everything concluded yesterday.”

The issue of Fields’ sharp comments about being overcoached bothered Poles and Getsy no more than they had Eberflus.

“I can’t be more clear than this: No one in our entire building, none of our coaches see Justin as a finger-pointer at all,” Poles said. “That kid is always taking ownership of anything that has happened on the field. He takes it head on.”

The Bears' offensive coordinator said he had spoken with his QB about issues on the field prior to his comments to the media.

“We always reflect on what we talk about together, always,” Getsy said. “That will never change. It always has been and always will be.”

Getsy said Fields was caught “off guard” by how his initial comments on Wednesday were interpreted.

“I think you saw his passion and reaction when we got back in from the practice field, and how he felt,” Getsy said. “He’s such a guy of high character. He’s so passionate. He wants to win as much as anybody in the building.

“But it’s more important for him to be a man of character, and I think that part of it, the fact he felt it got challenged, bothered him more than anything else."

Poles sees Fields' slow start as an adjustment period.

“You have a guy who hasn’t had the cleanest start to his career, who last year, you know, with the roster, had to put the team on his back, do some unbelievable things athletically,” Poles said. “Now, he gets talent around him and has to figure out and balance when to do those cool things athletically, when to lean on others and that is sometimes a gray place to live in.

“That takes time. That takes time on task for him to take that next step and everyone is on board helping him get into that place for him to be successful.”

The way out of the tailspin, to Poles, is not complex.

“It’s not panicking,” Poles said. “It’s taking everything one day at a time. It’s communicating with your leadership group to make sure that you’re making good decisions for the organization.”



Browns QB Deshaun Watson unfazed by his slow start, confident he and offense will get clicking

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 5:13 PM ET By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer BEREA, Ohio

Teams: CLE TEN

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Watson has a history of starting slow, just never as a franchise quarterback expected to lift a team, franchise and city to new heights.

In Houston, it was tolerated.

In Cleveland, it's troubling.

But while some may be panicking over his body of work — now an eight-game sampling — since being acquired by the Browns i n a trade last year, Watson isn't worried. He's certain he'll find his groove eventually.

His statistics are shaky. He's sturdy.

“I’m always going to have confidence,” he said Wednesday as the Browns prepared to host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. “That's just the person I am.”

Maybe so. However, he hasn't been the Pro Bowl-caliber QB he was with the Texans and certainly hasn't played up to expectations after the Browns handed him a fully guaranteed $230 million contract before last season despite a legal quagmire after he was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women.

Watson faulted rust from a long layoff for his issues in six starts last year after returning from an 11-game NFL suspension. He's not necessarily making any excuses for two subpar performances to start 2003, but admitted he's not clicking with his teammates or coaches so far.

“It’s being on the same page with everybody else,” he said when asked for the reason behind his slow start.

Through two games, Watson has completed just 55.1% of his passes, an alarming number when you consider he connected on 70.2% of his 544 attempts in 2020 when he led the league with 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

Watson noted that he started poorly from 2018-20 with Houston, and the numbers do support his claim. However, its been more than his inaccuracy in two games as Cleveland's offense hasn't shown any of the “fireworks” he forecast during training camp.

The Browns have dealt with some injuries, and suffered a colossal one Monday night in Pittsburgh with star running back Nick Chubb suffering a season-ending injury.

Chubb's injury will put added pressure on Watson, who said a lack of live game reps along with a change at right tackle and some new players might explain him not being in sync with his line, receivers and coaches.

“You can’t sit here and say practice is going to be exactly like the games,” he said. "It’s two different speeds and two different things. Practice is usually this is what we’re working on, this is what we’re trying to get better.

"But in the game you got to be able to adjust on the fly. So all those things match up together. We’re coming along and sooner or later it’s going to click.”

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt isn't panicking. He's been impressed by Watson's grasp of the offense and marveled at his playmaking ability in the loss to the Steelers, who picked off a deflected pass on the QB's first throw and returned it for a touchdown.

“He made plays in that game alone just to get the escape pressure and escape some of the stuff that nobody else is going to make,” Van Pelt said. “Everybody’s like, ‘the sky’s falling.’ I don’t see it that way at all. I don’t think he’ll ever lose his confidence. He’s a tremendous player. We have all the confidence in the world of him.”

Watson recently began working with a team visualization specialist, who has helped him with his focus — on and off the field.

“We’ve been working and trying different things to make sure that I’m staying locked in,” Watson said. “Blocking out the good, the bad, just staying focused on my tasks and my job. And it’s been helping.”

There is plenty of external noise about Watson, mostly negative.

He's a polarizing player, and his slow start has only empowered his critics, especially the ones on social media.

“I see it. I hear it,” he said. "It’s impossible not to see it unless I just turn off my phone completely or turn off the TV completely. But it comes with the territory. It comes with the status and the standard that people hold me to.

“I don’t look at it as anything bad. I don’t look at it as anything personal. It’s part of the game. I look at it as, hey, people hold me to the standard. So I have to make sure I play to that standard. And if I’m not, then I have to continue to find ways to get better.”

NOTES: Starting CB Greg Newsome (elbow) and TE David Njoku (rest) were the most notable players not to practice. ... WR Amari Cooper (shoulder/groin) and DE Za’Darius Smith (ankle/thigh) were both back after being out Wednesday.



Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada is getting booed. Time to silence fans may be running out

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 4:53 PM ET By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer PITTSBURGH

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Matt Canada has been here before.

Many times.

At LSU. At Maryland. At Wisconsin and nearly every other stop during the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator's nomadic coaching career.

Pressure comes with the gig when you make a living sitting in “the chair” as Canada calls his seat in the coach's box.

Still, what happened in the fourth quarter of Monday night's game against Cleveland was new, even for someone as well-traveled as Canada.

When Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett was overrun for a 3-yard loss with just over three minutes to play, forcing a punt that gave the Browns one last possession, chants of “Fire Canada” bounced from one side of Acrisure Stadium to the other.

The outburst was brief. It was also unmistakable. And, to hear Canada tell it, understandable.

“They want us to play better,” Canada said. “There’s nothing wrong with their passion and those things ... We’re not running away from it. We expect to be better. We’re going to be better. I firmly believe that.”

Time may be running out to prove it.

Two years ago, he was a first-year NFL coordinator who had to walk the fine line between implementing his system without alienating Ben Roethlisberger. The results were mixed.

Last fall he oversaw the transition from Mitch Trubisky to the then-rookie Pickett, trying to make sure he didn't give the young franchise quarterback more than he could handle. The results were mixed.

They were not mixed during the preseason. Pickett led the first-team offense to touchdowns for all five drives he was on the field. Optimism abounded.

It took all of eight quarters of games that actually counted for the good vibes, or “mojo” as coach Mike Tomlin put it, to vanish, replaced by frustration internally and palpable anger externally. The group that looked ready to take a massive step forward in August now looks much as it has each of the past two Septembers: inconsistent and ineffective at best, overmatched at worst.

The Steelers (1-1) head to Las Vegas (1-1) on Sunday having scored exactly two offensive touchdowns through two games. And while San Francisco may have the best defense in the NFL and the Browns not too far behind, it's the way Pittsburgh's offense is playing that's troubling.

Pickett is occasionally forcing throws and missing open receivers. The offensive line has been unable to open holes for running backs Najee Harris or Jaylen Warren.

Asked this week if the offense has any identity, Pickett shrugged.

“Clearly, we don’t have one,” he said.

Maybe because it's hard to develop one when you can't stay on the field. The Steelers have all of 24 first downs through two weeks. No team has fewer.

In the center of it all is Canada, the straw-hat wearing, sunglass-rocking, beach-house-owning self-described football junkie who is struggling to find the success he enjoyed during previous career stops, most notably at the University of Pittsburgh in 2016 when the Panthers averaged more than 40 points a game and upset both Penn State and eventual national champion Clemson.

He is well-versed in how things work. He knows the quarterbacks get all of the credit when things go well and all of the blame when they don't, even though neither is actually true. It's even worse for offensive coordinators, who get none of the credit and all of the blame.

Still, he insists “it's an awesome job.”

For how much longer is uncertain. Canada has never stayed in one place more than four years. He's currently in his fourth season with the Steelers, spending 2020 as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2021 when Randy Fichtner was not retained.

His weekly debriefings with reporters are littered with the same phrases over and over again. He makes it a point to never criticize a player publicly or get too detailed in what mistakes were made. He is trying to remain upbeat, repeatedly praising his players' attitudes and energy.

“We’ve got to find (a rhythm) and we will find it,” Canada said. “I just know it’s going to happen. Just based on our players. Players get all the credit. We’re going to start playing the right way and get ourselves going and making those plays and it’s all going to take off from there.”

The earlier in games the better. The Steelers didn't get a first down until the final two minutes of the first half in the opener. It came a little earlier against the Browns but not by much. The game script isn't exactly going to plan. Not by a long shot. And Canada's boss has taken notice.

“We have to anticipate schematics of those that we play against a little bit better,” Tomlin said.

The translation is simple. Adjustments need to be made sooner, not when the halftime act is warming up.

Pittsburgh has one of the youngest offenses in the league. Pickett is in his second year. So is wide receiver George Pickens. Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth are in their third. All came from successful college programs. All won at a high level. They haven't won at a high level yet in the NFL, and if the Steelers' sluggish start lingers, Tomlin knows there's a chance their confidence could get rattled.

“It can’t paralyze you," Tomlin said. "And it certainly can’t paralyze us in terms of training them and demanding that they continue to work and position themselves to be what they’re capable of being and what we need them to be.”

What Canada needs is a step forward against the Raiders. Then another one next week against Houston. Until that happens, the questions about what is going wrong will keep coming, and so will the boos.

And a coach who has hopped from job to job, sometimes by choice, sometimes not, knows it.

“We’ve got to do everything better,” Canada said. “And until we do it, there’s nothing else to say.”


AP NFL coverage:

Packers' Love faces big challenge from a stingy Saints defense in his 1st regular-season home start

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 4:43 PM ET By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer GREEN BAY, Wis.

Games: NO@GB from 9/24/2023

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love’s first regular-season home start has him attempting something nobody has accomplished over the last 10½ months.

The New Orleans Saints (2-0) come to Lambeau Field on Sunday having held each of their last 10 opponents to 20 points or less. The last time the Saints allowed more than 20 points was in a 27-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 7, 2022.

That offers quite the challenge for Love, who leads the NFL in passer rating two weeks into his first season as a starter.

“They do what they do and they stick to it,” Love said. “They don’t do a whole lot of crazy stuff. They have some really good pressure packages on third down, but I think they’ve got a good front that gets a lot of pressure home just with four, and then they play some good coverages, some sticky coverages in the back end and really challenge receivers and do a good job pressing and getting hands on and just throwing off timing.”

Love and the Packers (1-1) are attempting to bounce back from a 25-24 loss at Atlanta in which they squandered a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead.

Aside from that late collapse, Love has played well in his first year taking over for four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers, who was traded to the New York Jets in April. Love has thrown three touchdown passes without an interception in each of Green Bay’s first two games while leading a young Packers offense that’s dealing with multiple injuries.

“He’s really athletic and so he’s able to buy some time in the pocket, get out of the pocket, does a good job of scrambling,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s a bigger-body player, so he’s hard to get down, hard to get on the ground. I think he’s got a really strong arm, can throw the ball from a lot of different arm angles and change the launch point.”

The Saints have their own strong-armed quarterback in Derek Carr, who arrived from Las Vegas in the offseason after spending nine seasons with the Raiders. But the strength of the Saints is a defense that has allowed only one touchdown.

“They’ve got a ton of players on that defense and they challenge you,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I told our guys on the perimeter, they’re going to grab and hold and that’s what they do. But they play aggressive and you’ve got to be very fundamentally sound. Up front, you’ve got to do a great job of coming off the ball and playing with great pad level because they are a physical bunch and they play with extreme effort.

“And when you get effort plus scheme plus talent, you have one of the best defenses in the National Football League.”


The Saints won’t have safety Marcus Maye, who received a three-game suspension Wednesday for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Saints running back Alvin Kamara will be finishing his three-game suspension to start the season. Kamara’s suspension is connected to his role in a February 2022 altercation in a Las Vegas hotel during Pro Bowl weekend.


Green Bay has been dealing with injuries to its offense through the early part of this season. Wide receiver Christian Watson missed Green Bay’s first two games with a hamstring injury. Running back Aaron Jones sat out the Falcons game with a hamstring issue.

Packers left guard Elgton Jenkins is out with a sprained medial collateral ligament and left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the Falcons game with a lingering knee problem.

Saints running back Jamaal Williams isn’t expected to play due to a hamstring pull. The Saints expect rookie running back Kendre Miller, a third-round draft choice out of TCU, to return from a hamstring injury and make his regular-season debut Sunday.


The Packers opened the season with the NFL’s youngest roster, and their inexperience is most evident at receiver. Yet those young wideouts have thrived so far.

Rookie second-round pick Jayden Reed had two touchdowns and fifth-round selection Dontayvion Wicks also scored in the Falcons game. Romeo Doubs, a 2022 fourth-round pick, had two touchdowns in a season-opening 38-20 victory at Chicago.


In both of their games, the Saints haven’t reached the end zone before three minutes remained the third quarter. The Saints have yet to score more than 20 points in a game. Their margins of victory have been just one and three points.

The Packers’ issue is finishing. They lost to the Falcons by getting outscored 13-0 and outgained 166-11 in the fourth quarter.


Although the Saints are unbeaten, they may need to keep winning to keep pace in the NFC South, which is shaping up as the NFL’s most improved division.

The Saints, Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers all are 2-0. The Bucs won the division last year despite going just 8-9.


AP Sports Writer Brett Martel contributed to this report.



Steelers and Raiders are in similar positions entering Sunday night matchup

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 4:33 PM ET By MARK ANDERSON, AP Sports Writer LAS VEGAS

Games: PIT@LV from 9/24/2023

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The similarities between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders are numerous.

Both teams are 1-1, but could just as easily be 0-2 given their subpar performances. Neither side has been able to run the ball, the quarterback play has been erratic, the offensive lines have been suspect and each defense has at times been pushed around.

Yet, barring a tie, one team will emerge from Sunday night's game 2-1 and with some genuine hope of establishing early playoff positioning. The team that is 1-2 will face even more questions about its immediate future.

In Pittsburgh, most of the heat has been on offensive coordinator Matt Canada, with fans chanting in Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns that he should be fired.

“We've got to find (our identity),” Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett said. “Clearly, we don’t have one.”

The concern is more widespread in Las Vegas, with equal blame directed at the offense and defense.

Both teams' offenses rank near the bottom — Las Vegas at No. 30 (averaging 250 yards) and Pittsburgh at No. 31 (247). Same with both rushing offenses, even with reigning yardage champion Josh Jacobs with the Raiders and two-time 1,000-yard back Najee Harris with the Steelers.

Even the Steelers' star-laden defense has its problems, ranking 30th in giving up nearly 400 yards per game. But Pittsburgh has been opportunistic, scoring two defensive touchdowns to beat the Browns 26-22.

The Raiders' 355-yard defensive average is deceiving because the Denver Broncos had only six possessions in the season opener. Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills had their way in a 38-10 victory.

“We’re going to find out if we’ve learned from some of those mistakes that we saw and tried to correct,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “I think the attitude has been phenomenal. The response has been great.”

Two similar teams. Two similar situations.

Only one likely will come out of this weekend feeling slightly better about itself.


Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams at first didn't want to talk about the hit he took at Buffalo from safety Taylor Rapp, but then couldn't help himself.

Adams wasn't pleased with the blow to his head that sent him into concussion protocol. He didn't return to the game, but Adams was cleared to face the Steelers.

Adams called the hit “unnecessary."

“Some people are out of control,” Adams said. "They fly around. They don't really have too much true purpose out there.

"That's the type of stuff that contributes to you not being on the field. That's why you're in when you're blowing us out by 25 at the end of the game. Maybe if that man learns to play the game the right way, he'll see the field. Until then, he'll go and have to live off of plays like that, I guess."


Pittsburgh's typically stout run defense has plenty to work on with veteran defensive tackle Cam Heyward out until at least midseason with a groin injury.

The Steelers have given up a league-worst 386 yards rushing through two games, with San Francisco and Cleveland able to run seemingly at will with Heyward's familiar No. 97 not out there to clog up the middle. Opponents are averaging a staggering 5.6 yards per carry.

“We need better results,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re giving up too many yards via the run.”

Las Vegas might be the cure for what is ailing Pittsburgh. The Steelers held Jacobs in check in a Christmas Eve victory last December and the Raiders come into the game averaging just 58 yards on the ground through two weeks this year.


The Raiders not only play their home opener, but this is the first game at Allegiant Stadium since facing the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason game Aug. 13. Las Vegas then went on the road for two more exhibition games before beginning the season in Denver and Buffalo.

“I know the Raider fans are going to be out in full effect,” Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “We can't wait to play in front of our crowd.”


While the Steelers have dominated at home on Monday nights — they extended their home winning streak on Mondays to 21 straight with the win over the Browns — things don't go quite so well when they head west.

Pittsburgh is just 20-37 in the Pacific time zone, which includes a 4-8 mark against the Raiders. The Steelers haven't beaten the Las Vegas franchise on the road since 1995, three years before Pickett was born. Tomlin indicated the team is switching up its travel itinerary to ensure “optimum play” while dealing with the time difference, but declined to get into specifics.


AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed.



Cowboys star CB Trevon Diggs tears ACL in practice

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 4:33 PM ET By SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Pro Football Writer FRISCO, Texas

Teams: DAL

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs tore the ACL in his left knee in practice Thursday, a major setback for a defense off to a great start in 2023.

The team said an MRI confirmed the ACL tear and that while there was no timetable for a return, the 2021 All-Pro was expected to miss the rest of the season.

Diggs was seen leaving the team's headquarters on crutches. He had his first interception of the season in last week's 30-10 victory over the New York Jets.

Diggs is tied for the NFL lead with 18 interceptions since entering the league in 2020.

It's quite a blow for a defense that has had 10 sacks and seven takeaways without a turnover by the Dallas offense. The plus-seven turnover margin led the NFL through two games.

Dallas (2-0), which visits Arizona (0-2) on Sunday, is just the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 70 points and allow 10 or fewer in the first two games. The Cowboys beat both New York teams by a combined 70-10.

“Saw that I guess a couple of you saw out there on the field,” quarterback Dak Prescott said after practice, not wanting to speculate on the severity of the injury. “Prayers, hoping for the best, simple as that.”

Diggs signed a $97 million, five-year contract extension at the start of training camp. The Cowboys drafted the former Alabama player in the second round in 2020.

Diggs, who tied a franchise record with 11 interceptions in 2021, was off to a strong start in his first season with 2019 AP Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore starting on the opposite side.

Through two games, Diggs had an NFL-best 1.0 passer rating against when targeted.

Diggs is the second starter to get injured in practice since the regular season started. Left guard Tyler Smith injured a hamstring before the opener and is expected to make his season debut Sunday at Arizona.

Without Diggs, second-year player DaRon Bland is the likely starter opposite Gilmore with Jourdan Lewis playing in the slot. Lewis made his 2023 debut last week after missing most of last season with a broken foot.

Noah Igbinoghene, a 2020 first-round pick by Miami, is another option after joining the Cowboys in a preseason trade.



Chargers, Vikings meet in precarious place after pair of close losses to start their seasons

1.6d ago 9/21/2023 3:53 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Vikings by 1½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Chargers 0-2; Vikings 0-2.

SERIES RECORD: Vikings lead 8-6.

LAST MEETING: Vikings beat Chargers 27-20 on Nov. 14, 2021, in Inglewood, California.

LAST WEEK: Chargers lost to Titans 27-24 in OT; Vikings lost to Eagles 34-28.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Chargers plus-2; Vikings minus-6.

CHARGERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Justin Herbert can become the second-fastest passer in NFL history to reach 15,000 yards with 377 yards against the Vikings in what will be his 52nd regular-season game. Patrick Mahomes hit that milestone in 49 games. Matthew Stafford got there in 53. Herbert also needs three more TD passes to hit the 100 mark. If he gets there against the Vikings, he’d be the fourth-fastest player behind Mahomes (40 games), Dan Marino (44) and Kurt Warner (50).

VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Justin Jefferson can become the first receiver in NFL history with three straight 150-yard games to start a season. He leads the league with 309 yards. He also has 10 career 150-yard games, matching Lance Alworth for the most in a player’s first four years. With 150 yards, Jefferson would break Wes Welker’s 2011 record with the most receiving yards in history at the three-game mark.

KEY MATCHUP: Vikings offensive line vs. Chargers defensive line and linebackers. The Vikings have a league-low 69 rushing yards and a league-high six fumbles lost, including two strip-sacks on QB Kirk Cousins. Chargers DE Joey Bosa had two sacks against the Titans, his 11th career multi-sack game. Bosa has nine career strip-sacks, and no player since he entered the league in 2016 has more.

KEY INJURIES: RB Austin Ekeler (ankle) and LB Eric Kendricks (hamstring) were sidelined for the Chargers' previous game. Neither player practiced on Wednesday. ... Vikings C Garrett Bradbury (back) missed the most recent game. LT Christian Darrisaw (ankle) was also held out, and OLB Marcus Davenport (ankle) was limited to four snaps. Neither Bradbury nor Davenport practiced on Wednesday. Darrisaw was limited.

SERIES NOTES: The Vikings have won three straight games, last losing to the Chargers in the 2011 season opener when they played in San Diego. ... This will be the first regular-season visit by the Chargers to U.S. Bank Stadium. They were the first preseason opponent for the Vikings at the venue that opened in 2016. ... Chargers WR Keenan Allen has 29 catches for 330 yards in three games against the Vikings. ... Vikings DL coach Chris Rumph's son, Chris Rumph II, is a backup DE for the Chargers.

STATS AND STUFF: Chargers coach Brandon Staley and Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell worked together with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020, when Staley was defensive coordinator and O'Connell was offensive coordinator. ... The Chargers are 0-2 for the first time since 2017, when they started 0-4. ... Allen has caught a pass in 60 straight games, the eighth-longest streak in club history. Antonio Gates (80) has the record. ... Since entering the NFL in 2017, Chargers WR Mike Williams has seven TDs that gave his team the lead in either the fourth quarter or overtime to match the league lead with Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs. ... Chargers DE Khalil Mack has 19 strip-sacks since he entered the NFL in 2014, the second-most behind Chandler Jones (26) in that span. ... Cousins can become the fifth player in history with at least 325 passing yards and two TD passes in three straight games to start a season, joining Tom Brady (2011), Ryan Fitzpatrick (2018), Patrick Mahomes (2019), Derek Carr (2021). ... Vikings WR Jordan Addison can become the fifth player in history with at least 50 receiving yards and a TD in each of his first three games, joining Ja’Marr Chase (2021), Terry McLaurin (2019), Louis Lipps (1984) and Billy Howton (1952). ... Vikings OLB Danielle Hunter is tied for the league lead with four sacks. ... After setting an NFL record by going 11-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer in 2022, the Vikings have dropped three straight such contests, including their playoff loss last season.

FANTASY TIP: The Vikings gave up 259 rushing yards to the Eagles. If Ekeler is sidelined again, backup RB Joshua Kelley ought to be a good bet to start against a vulnerable defense. Kelley had 16 carries for 91 yards and a TD in the opener after Ekeler was hurt. He was limited to 39 yards on 13 rushes last week.



Line of scrimmage could be crucial when the unbeaten Baltimore Ravens host the Indianapolis Colts

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 3:13 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS


SERIES RECORD: Colts lead 10-7.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Indianapolis 1-1; Baltimore 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Ravens beat Colts 31-25 in OT on Oct. 11, 2021, at Baltimore.

LAST WEEK: Colts beat Texans 31-20; Ravens beat Bengals 27-24.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Colts even; Ravens even.

COLTS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Zack Moss. Indy’s RBs had 16 carries for 25 yards in Week 1 so when Moss returned from a broken right forearm in Week 2, the Colts put him on the field — for nearly every offensive play. He added balance to the offense, carrying 18 times for 88 yards and one TD. Indy is eager to see an encore performance from Moss — regardless of who starts at quarterback.

RAVENS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Jadeveon Clowney. The 2014 No. 1 overall draft pick signed with Baltimore last month and already has a sack and three quarterback hits through two games. He had two sacks and four QB hits all of last season with Cleveland.

KEY MATCHUP: Baltimore's banged-up offensive line against the Indianapolis pass rush. The Ravens had a hard time protecting Lamar Jackson as he struggled in Week 1, but after losing T Ronnie Stanley and C Tyler Linderbaum for last weekend's game, protection was surprisingly fine and the star QB excelled. It's hard to tell what to expect this week against an Indianapolis team that already has eight sacks.

KEY INJURIES: Indy is without three key offensive players. Disgruntled RB Jonathan Taylor will miss at least two more games on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery. Rookie QB Anthony Richardson and Pro Bowl C Ryan Kelly both entered the concussion protocol in Week 2 and have been ruled out this weekend. ... Baltimore has ruled out Stanley (knee) and Linderbaum (ankle), along with WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), RB Justice Hill (foot), CB Marlon Humphrey (foot), LB Odafe Oweh (ankle) and S Marcus Williams (pectoral).

SERIES NOTES: The Colts called Baltimore home from the franchise’s founding in 1953 until moving to Indianapolis in 1984. This season marks the Colts’ 40th in Indy. ... In the series, the Ravens have won four straight home games, three straight overall. and five of the past six. ... The Colts have won two of the three playoff matchups including a 15-6 victory in January 2007 that featured all field goals en route to Indy’s Super Bowl title. ... Baltimore rallied from a 19-point deficit to beat the Colts in OT in the teams' most recent meeting. Jackson threw for 442 yards and four TDs in that game. ... The late Ted Marchibroda had strong ties to both cities. He coached the Baltimore Colts from 1975-79, the Indianapolis Colts from 1992-95 and the Ravens from 1996-98. From 2000-06, he served as a radio analyst for Colts games.

STATS AND STUFF: Richardson and first-time head coach Shane Steichen both got their first career wins last week for the Colts. ... Backup QB Gardner Minshew is now in line for the starting nod. He was 19 of 23 with 171 yards and one TD and no interceptions in relief of Richardson last week. ... WR Michael Pittman Jr. has eight receptions in each of Indy’s first two games. ... After getting 18 and 12 tackles the first two weeks, LB Zaire Franklin leads the NFL ... Indy has 75 interceptions since 2018, the league’s sixth-highest total. ... The Colts have a league-high 17 tackles for loss and are tied for fifth in sacks. ... Indy allowed no sacks in Week 2. ... This will be Baltimore's last home game for a while. After hosting the Colts, the Ravens play two road games followed by a trip to London. ... Baltimore has six sacks by six different players. ... The Ravens are 20-5 at home in September under coach John Harbaugh. Only Green Bay (21-4-1) is better in that span. ... Baltimore's defense has allowed 23 total yards and no first downs in the first quarter so far. ... The Ravens have rushed for at least 100 yards in 18 consecutive games.

FANTASY TIP: Baltimore's backfield has been hit hard by injuries to J.K. Dobbins (torn Achilles tendon) and now Hill, but RB Gus Edwards showed last week he can still be effective in short-yardage situations.


AP NFL coverage:

Joe Burrow says it's too early to tell if a calf injury will keep him out of Monday night's game

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 3:03 PM ET By MITCH STACY, AP Sports Writer CINCINNATI

CINCINNATI (AP) — Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said he's day to day and doesn't know yet if a lingering calf injury will keep him out of Monday's night's game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Burrow said he “tweaked” the calf injury late in Sunday's loss to the Ravens. He wore a compression sleeve on his entire right leg Thursday but said the calf “is not as sore.” He did not participate in practice.

“I’m preparing like I’m going to go out and play a Monday night football game,” he said. “Whether that happens, I don’t know.

“Time heals,” he said, “so we'll see.”

Burrow strained his right calf muscle on the second day of on-field workouts in training camp on July 27. That sidelined him for more than a month, depriving him of valuable preseason reps with his offense.

Burrow said he aggravated the injury on the Bengals’ final drive of Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Ravens. He found Tee Higgins in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown, then limped to the sideline favoring his right leg.

Asked if the Bengals' 0-2 start creates more urgency for him to get back on the field, he said: “It's in my head, for sure. I'm thinking about it.”

But he said he's not panicking and nobody else is, either.

"That’s the ups and downs of the year,” Burrow said. “The teams that come out on top at the end of it are going to be the teams that handle that adversity the best. You can’t let it snowball on you. That’s what we’ve done in the past. And if you go back and look year to year, the teams that are still in at the end, everybody has adversity at some point in the year.”

If Burrow can’t go Monday, backup Jake Browning, who was on the practice squad last season, would get the nod.

“When you don’t have your starting quarterback, that’s a challenge," coach Zac Taylor said. "But again, you’ve invested time and effort into Jake, and Jake’s matched that. The guys on our 53-man roster are here for a reason. We believe in them. We know we’re going to call upon everybody at some point, and the quarterback position is no different.”

Browning is not used to the media attention he received in the locker room Thursday.

“It’s my job to be prepared if Joe goes down, and so really for me, the week is no different,” he said. “Even when I was on the (practice) squad, I knew there was zero chance of me playing, but I was fully prepared and I would go through the whole game plan like I was going to be the backup, like I had a chance of playing. It’s my job to be ready if Joe goes down, and I’m in my third week of doing that.”

If Burrow's teammates are worried, they're not showing it.

“Coach is going to put us in the best position to win, and it’s our job to go out and execute,” Higgins said. “If Joe doesn’t play, at the end of the day, we still have to go do what we do.”

Thanks in large part to rain in Cleveland during the opener, Burrow never could find a rhythm and passed for just 82 yards, the lowest total in his pro career. The Browns thumped the Bengals 24-3.

He came out flat again last Sunday against the Ravens, passing for 35 yards in the first half. He began to look like his old self in the second half, moving the ball and throwing a pair of short touchdown passes to Higgins — but also throwing an interception in the red zone when a score would have given the Bengals the lead.

The highest-paid player in the NFL has some experience with health issues. During the 2021 season, he was still rehabbing from major knee surgery late in the previous season but ended up leading Cincinnati to the Super Bowl and was honored as the AP Comeback Player of the Year.

Just before the start of training camp in 2022, Burrow had an emergency appendectomy. He has acknowledged he wasn't back to full strength for the first part of the season.

The Bengals started 0-2 in 2022, and a loss in Cleveland on Halloween evened their record at 4-4. They won the next eight games to finish the regular season and capture the AFC North title for the second straight season. They beat Baltimore and Buffalo in the playoffs before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.


AP NFL coverage:

Jets look to end a 14-game skid vs. the winless Patriots and move to 2-0 in the AFC East

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:53 PM ET By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Robert Saleh was an assistant in Jacksonville the previous time the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots. Zach Wilson was a sophomore in high school.

None of the other players on the Jets' current roster were there to witness that rare victory, either.

It came on Dec. 27, 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker to win it 26-20 in overtime for then-coach Todd Bowles' squad.

Yep, it certainly has been a while.

Bill Belichick's bunch has rattled off 14 consecutive victories over the AFC East-rival Jets, a streak the Patriots (0-2) bring to MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

“It’s time that things change around here,” second-year wide receiver Garrett Wilson said on ESPN New York’s “Bart & Hahn” show this week. “I don’t like talking about it too much, but this is one of the first steps. Fourteen straight is unacceptable. That’s unacceptable. I’m 0-2 against them.

"That’s unacceptable.”

It's also a slump the Jets (1-1) are aiming to stop, and not so much just because it's the Patriots. But because it would put them back on the winning track after an ugly loss in Dallas — and make them 2-0 in the division after an opening-week win over Buffalo.

“We've got to focus on the moment,” said Saleh, who's 0-4 against the Patriots as coach of the Jets. “I get what happened in the past, but looking at the past and dwelling on the past and what could have been is just taking away from what we can do now.”

Zach Wilson will make his second start in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, who had surgery last week to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. The Patriots have been particularly rough on Wilson, who has two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 50.6 while completing just 50.9% of his passes in four games against them.

“I get it, we acknowledge it,” Saleh said, “but at the same time, it doesn’t define this group today, with the group that we have, the 2023 Jets.”

Meanwhile, the Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001 — Belichick’s second year with the franchise. That team, with the emergence of Tom Brady, went on to win the Super Bowl.

New England is looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since Belichick’s first season, when the Patriots opened 0-4 and finished 5-11.

“We’ve got 15 more games to play," tight end Hunter Henry said. "We’ve got a game this weekend. It’s another opportunity. It’s a divisional opponent. It’s a good opponent. On the road. It’ll be us kind of against everybody going in there. So, I think it’ll be a good challenge.”


Despite the deflating loss of Rodgers in the opener and a rough defeat in Dallas last week, the Jets have a chance to feel pretty good about things if they can beat the Patriots.

Not only would it snap that ugly skid, New York would improve to 2-0 in the AFC East for the first time since 2012.

“It's huge,” defensive lineman Solomon Thomas said. “Starting the year off 2-0 in the division and starting the year off 2-1 (overall), that's a big momentum shift. And that's a big, big, big building block for us.”


Over eight seasons, Patriots center and captain David Andrews has played in enough games against the Jets in his career — he’s 15-1 in those matchups — to know there isn’t a lot of love between the two division rivals.

“I’ve never really gone out there and competed with a guy for 60 minutes and been like, ‘Wow, he really likes me,’” Andrews said. “Especially up front. You’re trying to stop them from getting to the quarterback and they’re trying to get to your quarterback. … It’s a physical game. A tough game. I’ve never really came away and hoped somebody liked me at the end of the day.”


The Patriots have been mostly one-dimensional on offense in their first two games.

They're averaging just 82 yards per game on the ground — ranking 27th in the NFL — as compared to 335 yards through the air.

While having to play from behind has certainly been a factor, the disparity in play selection is stark. Of 143 total offensive plays, New England’s pass to run distribution is 67% (66 attempts) to 33% (47 attempts).

It’s a discrepancy running back Rhamondre Stevenson acknowledged, but said there’s more they can do with the carries they have been getting so far.

“It’s early in the season and we’ve got to get some things ironed out,” said Stevenson, who leads the team with 27 carries for just 75 yards and a TD. “Not frustrating, but just puts something on your mind the day after the game or something like that of what we need to do to get it back going.”


The Jets enter the game ranked 29th in overall offense and one of the biggest culprits has been their struggles on third down.

New York went 1 for 10 against Dallas in those situations, leading to a massive disparity in time of possession: 42:15 for the Cowboys compared to the Jets’ 17:45.

For the season, the Jets are 6 for 23 on third down, a 26.1% conversion rate that ranks them 31st in the NFL, ahead of only Jacksonville (25%).


AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Massachusetts, contributed.



Struggling Bears head to Arrowhead Stadium to face the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:43 PM ET By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer KANSAS CITY, Mo.

Games: CHI@KC from 9/24/2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs appeared to fix many of their Week 1 problems last week in Jacksonville, when All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones returned from his holdout, star tight end Travis Kelce was back on the field following a knee injury, and an offense that struggled against Detroit looked just a little bit better against the Jaguars.

Sure, they still had a bunch of penalties. Turnovers remained a problem. The offense was still trying to hit its stride.

Yet those issues seem like mere nuisances compared to what's going on in Chicago these days.

As the Bears prepare to visit the Chiefs on Sunday, they are without a defensive coordinator following Alan Williams' surprising and abrupt resignation and their offense is embroiled in controversy after quarterback Josh Fields blamed coaching for “robotic” play and then tried rather unsuccessfully to walk back his comments.

So how does Bears coach Matt Eberflus steer a rudderless team going forward?

“You focus on here and now,” he said. “What could we do right now during this time, with the meetings we had this morning, with the improvements we're going to make? That's all you can do. Be where your feet are, focusing on right now.”

Problem is their feet will be in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, facing the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bears (0-2) are nearly two-TD underdogs, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, as they try to snap a 12-game losing streak dating to last season.

“We're going through a storm right now,” Field said after last week's loss to Tampa Bay. “It's frustrating not winning. But I think at the same time, like I said, just take it day by day and not really worry about the past. The past is the past.”

It's not as if the Chiefs (1-1) are humming along perfectly, especially on offense. They turned the ball over three times, committed 12 turnovers for 94 yards and a group of wide receivers that had eight drops in their opener against Detroit continued to put the ball on the ground during their 17-9 victory over the Jaguars last week.

“The frustration is probably more of me and about myself and how the offense has been doing,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “Everybody has been having that mentality that we just have to keep working and getting better. The defense has been playing so well. We want to take the pressure off them.”


William said Wednesday he was resigning to take care of his health and his family. Eberflus plans to call defensive plays for the Bears for the second week in a row, but that could take some of his time away from helping their struggling offense.

“I spend time with the offense on the game plan days,” said Eberflus, who was previously the Colts’ defensive coordinator. “I spend breakfast club with the quarterbacks. I meet with the coaches in the evening on the offensive side. And then I’m in the interim game plan also on Monday. ... Like I said, it’s 50-50. You’re splitting it 50-50 there, that’s what you do.”


Fields, whose 70.7 passer rating is worst in the NFL, turned heads this week when he indicated coaches are feeding him too much information. Fields later said his statement was taken out of context and that he only points a finger at himself.

“I think there’s been times where I just try to be a perfectionist and nothing in this world is perfect,” said Fields, who was sacked six times last week and 10 times through two games. “So like I said, stop thinking more and just go out there and play.”


The Chiefs gave Jawaan Taylor a four-year, $80 million contract in the offseason to play right tackle, so it was jarring to see him benched briefly against Jacksonville. Taylor was penalized five times — two false starts, two holds and an illegal formation — one week after his questionable alignment and quick get-off against Detroit were called into question.

“Been working on it this week to clean it up. Needs to be fixed,” said Taylor, whose pass-block rates nevertheless graded out among the best in the league last week. “End of the day, I'm not here to hurt my team. I have to be better.”


The Bears put left tackle Braxton Jones on injured reserve with a neck injury, while safety Eddie Jackson has been dealing with a foot injury, wide receiver Darnell Mooney with a knee problem and defensive back Josh Blackwell with a sore hamstring.

The Chiefs are just as banged up: Nick Bolton has an ankle injury and fellow linebacker Willie Gay Jr. a sore quad, running back Isiah Pacheco is dealing with a sore hamstring, and wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Richie James missed time this week with a sore toe and balky knee. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said James' knee issue could keep him out a while.


The Chiefs offense is accustomed to bailing out their middle-of-the-road defense, but their roles have been reversed through the first two weeks of the season. Kansas City is 13th in total defense, despite playing two potent offenses in the Lions and Jaguars, and tied for third in the league in scoring defense.

“We're hungry,” Chiefs cornerback Trent McDuffie said, “and I know off of last year, and just off stats and everything that went on — yeah, we won the Super Bowl, but I know the defense felt like we could have done more.”



Browns QB Deshaun Watson looking to make up for sluggish start at home against Titans

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:43 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS


SERIES RECORD: Browns lead 36-32.

LAST MEETING: Browns beat Titans 41-35 on Dec. 6, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee.

LAST WEEK: Titans beat Chargers 27-24 in OT; Browns lost 26-22 to Pittsburgh.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Titans 2-0; Browns 1-1.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Titans minus-1; Browns minus-4.

TITANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Ryan Tannehill. The veteran bounced back from the worst passer rating of his career in an opening loss in New Orleans by completing a career-best 83.3% of his passes. He rallied Tennessee from an 11-point deficit to earn the 27th game-winning drive of his career. He had a TD and scoring pass in the comeback.

BROWNS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Deshaun Watson. Two poor performances have raised concerns about whether he's still rusty from his long layoff or if his off-field issues have shaken his confidence. Watson looks nothing like the 2020 league passing leader, and it's imperative he starts playing better or the Browns could again be headed for some major changes.

KEY MATCHUP: Browns DC Jim Schwartz vs. Tennessee's offense. Schwartz has revived Cleveland's defense, and he's very familiar with Titans three-time Pro Bowl RB Derrick Henry after being a senior defensive assistant in Tennessee the past two seasons. But Henry now has help in rookie Tyjae Spears for an offense that has averaged 125.5 yards rushiing per game.

KEY INJURIES: Titans LG Peter Skoronski is out a second straight game after an appendectomy on Sept. 16. Starting S Amani Hooker will play after clearing the concussion protocol, and CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring) also will return after missing last week. ... Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) and DL Denico Autry both are questionable. Autry already was on the injury report with a foot issue but was limited Friday after a groin injury. ... Henry was on the injury report this week with a toe issue. The Titans placed rookie WR/KR Kearis Jackson on injured reserve with an injured ankle ... Browns star RB Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending left knee injury in Monday's loss to the Steelers. Chubb's loss is a devastating blow to a team that leans heavily on the four-time Pro Bowler. ... Browns starting CB Greg Newsome II (elbow) is out after getting hurt against the Steelers. ... Browns WR Amari Cooper (shoulder, groin) and DE Za'Darius Smith (ankle, thigh) missed time this week but are expected to play.

SERIES NOTES: The Titans are 18-16 on the road against the Browns. Tennessee routed Cleveland 43-13 in the 2019 opener. ... Titans coach Mike Vrabel is 1-1 against Cleveland. ... Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is 6-0 against the AFC South. ... The Browns have posted winning streaks of nine and six games in the series. But the Titans have won five of the past eight, including their past two visits to Cleveland.

STATS AND STUFF: The Titans have an NFL-best streak of eight straight games of not allowing an opponent to reach 100 yards rushing. They also have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 18 consecutive games. ... The Titans held the Chargers to 2 of 14 on third downs (14.3%). ... Tennessee has seven sacks. ... The Titans have allowed eight sacks, including five in last week's win. ... DL Denico Autry has a team-high 19 1/2 sacks since joining Tennessee in 2021. ... Titans P Ryan Stonehouse set a franchise record in averaging 61.2 yards gross yards last week with a minimum of four punts. It was the NFL's second-best mark since the start of the 1960 season. ... Titans WR Treylon Burks' 70-yard catch last week was the team's longest completion since Dec. 20, 2020. ... Turnovers doomed the Browns against Pittsburgh. Watson's first pass was picked and returned for a TD 9 seconds into the game. Later, he lost the ball on a fumble for a scoop and score by Pittsburgh. ... Through two games, Watson has completed just 55.1% of his passes, a steep drop from his career-best (70.2) in 2020 when he led the league in passing with Houston. ... With Chubb out, second-year RB Jerome Ford moves into the starter's role. Ford rushed for 106 yards on 16 carries against the Steelers and caught a TD pass on the first play after Chubb was carted off. ... The Browns re-signed RB Kareem Hunt this week to back up Ford. Hunt spent four seasons with Cleveland, but was not retained as a free agent before coming back in an emergency. ... Cleveland's 404 yards rushing lead the league and are the most by a Browns team through two games since 1974. ... Schwartz has quickly fixed Cleveland's defense. The Browns have held teams to 6 of 29 (21%) on third downs, a league low. Also the Browns have allowed just 15 first downs, 11 fewer than the next-closest team. ... Cleveland's defense has not had to contest one play in the red zone. ... DE Myles Garrett has just one sack, but has been his usual disruptive self. He's the only player with at least 10 sacks in each of the past five seasons.

FANTASY TIP: Henry has led the Titans in yards from scrimmage in each of the first two games. He also scored Tennessee's first TD of 2023 last week. He's struggled against Cleveland, averaging just 41 yards in four games. ... His next rushing TD will make him the seventh NFL player in the Super Bowl era to reach 8,000 yards rushing and 80 rushing TDs within his first eight seasons.



Allen and the Bills are back on track and want to keep rolling at the 2-0 Commanders

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:33 PM ET By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Sports Writer

Games: BUF@WAS from 9/24/2023

Josh Allen thinks some open, honest communication helped the Buffalo Bills get their act together after a rough start to the season. The veteran quarterback wants to keep the same approach.

Jonathan Allen thinks coming back from a deficit to win each of their first two games will help the Washington Commanders moving forward. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle knows rallying from behind every week isn't sustainable.

Back on track following a thrashing of the Las Vegas Raiders, Buffalo charges into a Week 3 matchup Sunday at Washington, which is 2-0 for the first time in more than a decade. The game is a measuring stick for the Commanders and another chance for the Bills to show they're on the way to becoming a Super Bowl contender.

“Pretty big,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. "This is one of the elite teams coming in and we’ve got to gear up, we’ve got to practice, prepare, get ourselves ready to go and give us a great opportunity to see where we stand.”

The Bills stand at 1-1, trying to put their turnover-heavy season-opening defeat at the New York Jets far in the rearview mirror. After throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in that game, Allen was 31 of 37 for 274 yards passing and three touchdowns against Las Vegas.

Allen called it smart football.

“Staying within the system, not trying to do anything too crazy,” said Allen, who's set to play his first game at FedEx Field. “Just making sure we’re being smart and methodical with what we’re doing ... and win football games.”

The Commanders have won each of their first two games, beating Arizona after falling behind 13-7 and then coming back from a 21-3 deficit to upset Denver on the road. Jonathan Allen, part of a dominant defensive line that has nine of Washington's 10 sacks thus far, said after each game it wasn't one fans would have expected the team to win in the past.

Maybe the competition hasn't been fierce, but the vibes are far more positive this year.

“It definitely feels really good in here to be 2-0,” top receiver Terry McLaurin said. “You still don’t want to look too far ahead. We’ve got a really good Bills team coming in, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”

McLaurin acknowledged “ a lot of room to improve," and Bills coach Sean McDermott feels the same way about his team. Going into his 100th NFL game — and facing Rivera, for whom he served as defensive coordinator for six years with Carolina — he sees the win against the Raiders as “a step in the right direction" in building a strong identity.

“Physical at the line of scrimmage, complementing both run and the pass game, taking the ball away on defense,” McDermott said. “It’s some of what we want to become. We’re not there yet.”


McDermott credited the media for providing his defensive front incentive to get off to a strong start. Buffalo has allowed 529 yards, fifth-best in the league, and 26 first downs, which is the second-fewest total.

That’s an improvement after the unit was criticized for sagging after edge rusher Von Miller was sidelined by a season-ending right leg injury in November.

“I think they heard a lot about how they didn’t do X, Y and Z from you guys at the end of last season, so you can keep talking,” McDermott said. “You guys keep talking about that, and maybe that’ll motivate them even more. We’ll see.”

Miller is on the physically unable to perform list, which requires him to miss at least the first four games of this season.


Second-year Commanders QB Sam Howell is set to make his fourth pro start. His third went better than his second.

Much like Allen, Howell bounced back from turnovers in the opener to play a clean Week 2. He had two touchdown passes against the Broncos, and the praise he's now earning from the Bills sounds a lot like what teammates have been espousing for months.

“He seems like he’s playing pretty confident,” Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer said. “He’s got really good arm strength, he can move around in the pocket, he can make plays with his legs sometimes. He’s going to throw the football, and he trusts his playmakers to go up and make plays.”

Howell did that with McLaurin last week, connecting on a 30-yard TD pass by throwing the ball through a tight window with defenders all around. McLaurin said that builds trust and could lead to offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy dialing up similar plays in the future as Howell gains experience.

"He’s not afraid to fit it in some tight space," McLaurin said. “He’s seeing things quicker. He’s getting the ball out of his hands. I know he’s still going to continue to improve on that, but when we get certain looks he knows exactly where he’s going with the ball."


Allen downplayed winning his 11th AFC offensive player of the week award as something that typically goes to a player on a team that won. His completion percentage of 83.78 against the Raiders was the second best of his six year career.

It made no difference to him that his 11 weekly honors are one more than Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

“It doesn’t mean all that much,” Allen said. “They don’t give those awards to guys who are losing football games.”

Allen then joked in wondering where his checks are from winning the award — even though there are no cash bonuses coming from the NFL — by saying: “I don’t know if they got my address wrong or what.”


AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, New York, contributed.



Patriots look to get their first win and face a Jets team trying to rebound from an ugly loss

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:33 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS

OPENING LINE: Patriots by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Patriots 0-2; Jets 1-1.

SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 73-54-1.

LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Jets 10-3 on Nov. 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

LAST WEEK: Patriots lost to Dolphins 24-17; Jets lost to Cowboys 30-10.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Patriots minus-2; Jets minus-1.

PATRIOTS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB Matt Judon. He had a sack in last week’s loss to Miami, his second of the season, and faces a shaky Jets offensive line Sunday. Last season, Judon became the first Patriots player to have at least one sack in each of the first five games of a season. He currently leads the team with two sacks and four quarterback hits.

JETS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Zach Wilson. The Jets insisted the lopsided loss last week wasn't solely on the quarterback, who had three interceptions in his first start since replacing the injured Aaron Rodgers. Wilson is being counted on to take the next step in his development despite the original plan calling for him to sit and watch Rodgers from the sideline this season and next. Wilson has been particularly bad against New England, with two TDs, seven INTs and a passer rating of 50.6 while completing just 50.9% of his passes in four games.

KEY MATCHUP: Jets' running game vs. Patriots' defensive front. New York got away from the run against Dallas early as the Jets fell behind and the offense couldn't consistently get anything going. With Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook and Michael Carter in the backfield, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is going to need to use all three to try to take some heat off Zach Wilson who'll be facing yet another stout D-line. If New England can successfully shut down New York's running game, it could be another long game for Wilson and the Jets' offense.

KEY INJURIES: CB Marcus Jones, who injured a shoulder against Miami, was placed on injured reserve. ... DL Christian Barmore was limited early in the week by a knee injury. ... OT Trent Brown was limited after missing last week with a concussion. ... RG Sidy Sow sat out Thursday with a concussion. ... Jets K Greg Zuerlein is questionable with a groin injury that sidelined him last Sunday, but he practiced fully Friday. Austin Seibert would replace him again if Zuerlein can't go. ... LT Duane Brown didn't practice all week with hip and shoulder ailments, but coach Robert Saleh didn't rule him out. ... S Tony Adams is out with a hamstring injury.

SERIES NOTES: The Patriots have won 14 straight meetings, with the Jets' most recent win coming Dec. 27, 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with Eric Decker for a 6-yard TD in overtime that won it 26-20 in Week 16. ... New York has not defeated New England in regulation since the 2010 AFC divisional playoff round. ... A win this week against the Jets would match the Patriots’ mark for the most consecutive wins over an opponent. New England beat Buffalo 15 straight times from 2003 to 2010. ... The Patriots’ seven straight season sweeps over the Jets ranks third all time, behind only the 49ers’ eight straight over the Rams (1990-98) and Dolphins’ 10 straight vs. the Bills (1970-79). ... Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 37-11 against the Jets with New England.

STATS AND STUFF: The Patriots are 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 2001 in Belichick's second year with the franchise. New England is looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since Belichick’s first season, when the Patriots started 0-4. ... QB Mac Jones has started four times against the Jets and is 93 of 128 (72.7%) for 933 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, but has been sacked 16 times. ... Jones has completed more than 30 passes in each of the first two games, with a career-high 35 completions in the season opener against Philadelphia and 31 last week against Miami. This week, he can become the second New England player to have three straight games with at least 30 completions. The first time a Patriots player completed at least 30 passes in three straight games was Tom Brady in 2011. ... TE Hunter Henry matched his 2022 touchdown total with a TD reception in each of the first two games. The previous Patriots player with at least one touchdown catch in each of the first three games of the season was Rob Gronkowski in 2011. ... New England signed Will Grier to their 53-man roster for use as their third emergency quarterback. ... CB Christian Gonzalez got his first NFL interception in the fourth quarter against Miami. If he has a pick this week, it will mark the second straight season a Patriots rookie defensive back has an INT in back-to-back games. Jack Jones had a pick at Green Bay on Oct. 2, 2022, and then vs. Detroit on Oct. 9, 2022. ... DB Brenden Schooler blocked a 49-yard field-goal attempt in the third quarter against Miami, his first career block. If the Patriots block a kick this week against the Jets, it will be the first time they have blocked a kick in back-to-back games since 2017. ... After beating Buffalo in Week 1, the Jets are trying to start 2-0 against AFC East teams for the first time since 2012. ... Zach Wilson connected with WR Garrett Wilson on a 68-yard touchdown reception against Dallas, the longest touchdown catch in the NFL this season. The score marked the longest of Garrett Wilson’s career and second-longest TD pass of Zach Wilson’s career. ... Hall had just 9 yards on four carries and Cook only 7 yards on four attempts in Dallas. ... The Jets struggled on third down against Dallas, going just 1 of 10 in in those situations. ... New York was dominated in time of possession at Dallas, which held the ball for 42:15 compared to the Jets' 17:45. The Cowboys also converted 9 of 18 third downs. ... The Jets held the Cowboys to 3.0 yards per carry on 44 attempts. They have not allowed a TD run this season. Inside 10-yard line, New York has allowed 6 yards on nine carries, including three tackles for loss. ... Seibert made his only field-goal try from 34 yards and an extra point in place of Zuerlein.

FANTASY TIP: Henry has become the go-to target for Jones in the red zone and there's no reason to think that will change, even against the Jets' stout defense.



Bills are visiting Washington for the first time since 2015. The Commanders are 2-0

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:23 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, CBS

BETTING LINE: Bills by 6 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Buffalo 1-1; Washington 1-1

SERIES RECORD: Bills lead series 10-6.

LAST MEETING: Bills beat Washington 43-21 on Sept. 26, 2021, at Buffalo.

LAST WEEK: Bills beat Raiders 38-10; Commanders beat Broncos 35-33.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Bills even; Commanders plus-1

BILLS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB James Cook. The second-year player had a career-best 123 yards rushing on 17 carries against Las Vegas. His output was the most by a Bills running back since LeSean McCoy had 156 in 2017. Cook’s outing provided the offense a much-needed semblance of balance, a recipe that could be replicated at Washington.

COMMANDERS PLAYER TO WATCH: DT Daron Payne. While only two NFL players have more sacks than Washington's Montez Sweat, the pressure on the defensive line starts inside with Payne and Jonathan Allen. Payne in particular has been a play disrupter so far this season. Buffalo QB Josh Allen is a big target to bring down, but if anyone can get to him and do it, it's Payne.

KEY MATCHUP: QB Sam Howell vs. Buffalo's defense. Howell, who's set to make his fourth NFL start, bounced back from two turnovers in the season opener to throw for a couple of touchdown passes at Denver without an interception or a fumble. The Bills pass rush could spell trouble for the Commanders remade offensive line. Since 2019, the Bills are 18-2 when facing a QB with 16 or fewer career starts.

KEY INJURIES: Bills S Micah Hyde did not practice Wednesday after aggravating a hamstring injury on Sunday. His status bears watching because if Hyde is unable to play it opens the door for backup Damar Hamlin to make his season debut. Hamlin has been a healthy inactive for Buffalo’s first two games and seeking to return to the field for the first time since having a near-death experience during a game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2. ... DE Leonard Floyd (ankle), TE Dawson Knox (back) and DT Jordan Phillips (illness) also did not practice Wednesday. ... Commanders TE Logan Thomas remains in concussion protocol after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Broncos S Kareem Jackson on his TD catch. ... Payne brushed off concern about the ankle injury that caused him to miss practice Wednesday, saying he's good to go.

SERIES NOTES: The Bills have won seven of the past eight meetings between the teams. ... This is the Bills' first visit to FedEx Field since 2015. ... Sean McDermott spent six years as Ron Rivera's defensive coordinator in Carolina from 2011-16 before getting the job with Buffalo. ... Washington is 2-0 for the first time since 2011. The team hasn't started 3-0 since 2005, during Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs' second coaching stint.

STATS AND STUFF: McDermott will be coaching his 100th game since being hired in 2017. With a 63-36 record, McDermott leads franchise coaches with a .636 winning percentage and ranks third on the team with wins. ... The Bills scored five TDs on seven trips inside the Raiders 20 last week, their best output since scoring six red zone touchdowns in a 45-17 win at the Jets on Nov. 14, 2021. ... QB Josh Allen improved to 20-1 in games in which he has three TD passes or more and 23-4 in games he doesn’t commit a turnover. ... Allen’s 83.78 percent completion rate against Las Vegas was the second best of his career. ... LB Matt Milano has an interception in each of his past three regular-season games going back to last season. ... Buffalo held the Raiders RB Josh Jacobs to minus-2 yards on nine carries. ... Howell set career highs with 27 completions and 299 passing yards against the Broncos. .... Commanders RB Brian Robinson Jr. had a career-best 129 scrimmage yards and two rushing TDs last week. ... Young had 1 1/2 sacks in his season debut last week, matching his total from nine games in 2021. ... LB Cody Barton recovered a fumble at Denver and led Washington with 10 tackles. ... Rookie CB Emmanuel Forbes picked off Russell Wilson for his first career interception.

FANTASY TIP: Because the Commanders have de-emphasized the linebacker position, despite Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio playing the position back in the day, they're vulnerable to big, pass-catching tight ends. Knox and rookie Dalton Kincaid that bill. Kincaid could get his first professional touchdown this weekend after nine catches for 69 yards through two games.



Nick Chubb's injury underscores running backs' pleas for bigger contracts and teams' fears

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:23 PM ET By ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer

Nick Chubb’s injury underscores why running backs want better contracts and why NFL teams are reluctant to pay them.

Chubb’s season ended abruptly when he suffered the devastating knee injury that was too gruesome for replay in Cleveland’s loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. The four-time Pro Bowl pick faces a long, arduous road to recovery with no guaranteed money coming his way beyond the $10.85 million he’s making this season.

Chubb will be attempting his second comeback from a significant injury to the same knee at age 28 with a non-guaranteed salary of $12.2 million due in 2024. The Browns would assume a $4 million dead cap hit if they release him next year, according to

Running backs have been arguing for bigger contracts and more guaranteed money in recent years because they’re underpaid in comparison to their peers. Only kickers and punters had a lower franchise tag than running backs ($10.1 million) in 2023. The franchise tag represents the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position for the current year. It was $32.4 million for quarterbacks, $19.7 million for wide receivers and $18.2 million for offensive linemen.

Five years ago, the franchise tag for running backs was significantly higher at $14.5 million. The devaluing of the position became a contentious issue for top running backs over the past offseason. Giants star Saquon Barkley and Raiders All-Pro Josh Jacobs refused to sign their franchise tags and were unhappy about not getting long-term contracts. Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard signed his franchise tag with Dallas.

“Every player wants to have that longevity, that contract to ensure you’re safe longevity-wise,” Pollard said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “But, it is what it is. We couldn’t get a deal done within the deadline. So at this point, I’m just playing ball, going out there trying to win games.”

Jonathan Taylor, a 2021 All-Pro, has been locked in a contract dispute with the Colts and was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start the season because he’s recovering from offseason ankle surgery.

Many backs, including, Chubb voiced their concerns about the disparity in pay throughout the summer. The NFL Players Association agreed to the franchise tags in the collective bargaining agreement.

“Right now, there’s really nothing we can do,” Chubb said in July. “We’re kind of handcuffed with the situation. We’re the only position that our production hurts us the most. If we go out there and run 2,000 yards with so many carries, the next year they’re going to say, you’re probably worn down. It’s tough.”

Last Monday, the NFL filed a grievance against the NFLPA, alleging that union leaders, including President JC Tretter, have advised running backs to “consider feigning or exaggerating injuries” to help increase their leverage in contract negotiations.

The grievance will be reviewed by an arbitrator.

Meanwhile, legitimate injuries are piling up for running backs.

JK Dobbins suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in Week 1. Barkley was ruled out for New York’s game against San Francisco on Thursday because of an ankle injury. Austin Ekeler and Aaron Jones missed games last week. David Montgomery and Jamaal Williams left their last game with injuries.

Injuries are part of the sport. They’re common regardless of position. But running backs absorb more hits than anyone else on the field. They’re tackled when they carry the ball or when they catch it. They have to block when they don’t get the ball. The average career length for an NFL player is 3.3 years, per Statista. It’s 2.7 years for running backs.

Teams view running backs as interchangeable. Many clubs aren’t willing to invest big money on running backs because late-round picks and undrafted free agents have had plenty of success. Only three Super Bowl champions in the past 15 years had a 1,000-yard rusher in the regular season compared with 11 in the 15 seasons before that.

When Chubb went down, Jerome Ford stepped in and ran for 106 yards on 16 carries. Ford, a fifth-round pick in 2022, got 69 of those yards on one run. The Browns also brought back Kareem Hunt to take Chubb’s roster spot.

Filling Chubb’s shoes won’t be easy, however. Chubb, a second-team All-Pro last season, has averaged 5.3 yards per carry over his six-year career. That’s the second-highest in NFL history among running backs with at least 1,000 carries.

“You don’t replace Nick Chubb. You just don’t do that,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Great players in the league, you look around, they go out. It’s always not one person that replaces a player of his caliber. So everybody’s got to do a little bit more, a little bit more everywhere.”

Do more for less. That’s been life for running backs in the NFL.



Lions play Falcons at home in a matchup of teams with long NFL playoff droughts

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 2:23 PM ET By LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer DETROIT

Games: ATL@DET from 9/24/2023

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons are desperately hoping to have enough success this season to end long playoff droughts.

Detroit hasn't played beyond the regular season since 2016 and Atlanta's last postseason appearance was in 2017, ranking among the longest streaks behind the New York Jets' 12-year run of futility.

The Lions (1-1) and Falcons (2-0) will meet Sunday at Ford Field in a potentially pivotal game.

While it may seem way too early to peek ahead at the playoffs two games into a 17-game season, history suggests how teams fare early can indicate their chances of making it to the NFL's tournament.

Each of the six teams that started 2-0 last season made the playoffs and 64% have since 1990. Eight of the 14 teams in the 2022 NFL playoffs lost at least one of their first two games and 42% of 1-1 teams over the last 23 years have earned a spot in the postseason.

Three-fourths of the teams that start 3-0 have advanced to the playoffs since they were expanded to 12 teams in 1990, while just 25% of teams that were 1-2 rallied for a spot in the postseason.

“Our team's mindset is that every game is a must-win game, especially after last year when we started so slow,” Lions center Frank Ragnow said.


The Falcons caught some grief for selecting a running back with the No. 8 choice in the NFL draft, but those critics have been quieted by Bijan Robinson’s start.

The former Texas star has become only the second rookie in franchise history, joining William Andrews in 1979, to reach 200 yards from scrimmage in his first two games.

Lining up all over the field, Robinson has averaged 6.2 yards per carry and has 10 receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.

“They've done a great job, using him with his skill set,” Detroit running back Jahmyr Gibbs said. “He can do pretty much everything. With his size being 220 (pounds), and to move like that is special.”

The Lions could have drafted Robinson with their No. 6 pick overall, but traded down six slots and selected Gibbs out of Alabama.

Detroit has eased Gibbs into his first two games, giving him 14 carries for 59 yards and nine receptions for 57 yards. Starting running back David Montgomery has a thigh bruise, giving Gibbs a chance to show what he can do.

“You're always going to be excited when you get to play some more and touch the ball more,” Gibbs said. “I'll be pretty amped up.”


The Falcons outscored Carolina and Green Bay 27-0 in the fourth quarter, holding those opponents to a combined 55 yards while they completed just 5 of 20 passes.

“It just speaks to the conditioning and the way our guys want to operate, and the way we want to finish games,” Atlanta coach Arthur Smith said.


The Lions ratcheted up unusually high expectations with a season-opening win at Kansas City and with Ford Field as loud as it has ever been for a game, they lost to Seattle in overtime.

“It definitely humbles you,” offensive tackle Penei Sewell said. “I hope the guys come in with the same mindset of what we were a year ago. It’s different now. There’s too many people riding the wave. There was too many people talking.”


Jeff Okudah may be making his Falcons debut against the team that drafted and traded him. Okudah didn't play in Atlanta's first two games due to a foot injury, but was a full participant in practice Wednesday.

Detroit drafted the former Ohio State star No. 3 overall in 2020 and he didn't pan out. Injuries limited him to a total of 10 games over his first two seasons and he had one interception in 15 starts last season, leading to the Lions dealing him for a fifth-round pick.

“Jeff's in a good spot,” Smith said.


AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed.



Carolina still seeking first win, heads to Seattle to face 1-1 Seahawks

1.7d ago 9/21/2023 1:43 PM ET By The Associated Press

CAROLINA (0-2) at SEATTLE (1-1)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT, CBS

BETTING LINE: Seahawks by 6, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Carolina 0-1-1; Seattle 1-1

SERIES RECORD: Seahawks lead 10-5

LAST MEETING: Panthers beat Seahawks 30-24 on Dec. 11, 2022, in Seattle.

LAST WEEK: Panthers lost to Saints 20-17 on Monday night, Seahawks beat the Lions 37-31 on Sunday.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Panthers minus-3; Seahawks plus-3

PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: DE Brian Burns. Although he only has two sacks, Burns has been a force so far this season. Carolina has eight sacks through two games and many of those are because Burns' pressure has forced the opposing quarterback to step up in the pocket or change direction resulting in one of his teammates corralling him for a sack.

SEAHAWKS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Kenneth Walker III. Walker was injured and did not play last season when the Panthers beat the Seahawks. That day, Seattle managed just 46 yards rushing against Carolina's defense. Walker's first two weeks of this season have been rather quiet, although he had two rushing touchdowns against Detroit. Seattle would like to get more from its run game and that starts with giving Walker a heavier load which could come this week.

KEY MATCHUP: Burns and the rest of Carolina's pass rush will be facing backup tackles Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe for Seattle. The duo stepped in last week against Detroit and performed better than most expected. Thanks to some creative designs in the pass game, Geno Smith wasn't impacted much by Detroit's pass rush. If Curhan and Forsythe can play that well this week, Smith could have another solid day against Carolina's depleted defense.

KEY INJURIES: The Panthers have been hit hard by injuries, with four starters on injured reserve and QB Bryce Young (ankle) is unlikely to play, according to the team. Andy Dalton is expected to start in his place. Also, inside linebacker Shaq Thompson broke his leg when two players landed on him awkwardly Monday night against the Saints and is expected to miss the entire season. In Week 1, the Panthers lost cornerback Jaycee Horn (hamstring) and guard Brady Christensen (torn biceps) to IR. Horn will be out at least six weeks and Christensen is done for the season. Guard Austin Corbett started the season on IR as he looks to rebound from a torn ACL in Week 18 of last season. .. Seattle is likely to be without starting CB Riq Woolen (chest) after he was hurt in the first half last week against Detroit. DK Metcalf will play with sore ribs, but LT Charles Cross seems still a week away because of a sprained toe. It may also still be another week before S Jamal Adams makes his season debut after getting hurt in the 2022 season opener.

SERIES NOTES: The Seahawks have dominated the series, winning eight of the past 11 matchups, including two of three in the postseason.

STATS AND STUFF: The winless Panthers haven't had a winning season since 2017 and are already two games behind Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay in the NFC South. Both of Carolina's losses have come within the division. ... Carolina has only scored two TDs this season, both coming on Young TD passes. ... QB Andy Dalton is 3-1 in four starts vs. Seahawks. ... RB Miles Sanders has been limited to 115 yards through two games and is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. ... WR DJ Chark (hamstring) is expected to see more extensive action against Seattle after being on a pitch count last week. ... LB Frankie Luvu leads the Panthers with 2 1/2 sacks. ... K Eddy Pineiro has made 23 consecutive field goals, the second-longest streak in team history behind only Graham Gano (28). Pineiro's field goal rate is 90.5%. The highest field-goal rate in NFL history among players with at least 100 attempts is Baltimore's Justin Tucker at 90.3%. Pineiro has 75 attempts. ... The Panthers are 25th offensively in third down efficiency. However, they have a chance to get right against a Seattle defense that is the worst in the league on third downs, allowing opponents to convert 60.7% of opportunities into first downs. ... Seattle coach Pete Carroll can tie Mike Holmgren for 15th on the NFL's career wins list with one more victory. Holmgren had 174 victories between regular season and playoffs. ... QB Geno Smith had his eighth career 300-yard passing game last week. Five of the eight have come in the past two seasons. ... WR Tyler Lockett had his 10th career game with two TD catches last week, sixth most among active players. ... TEs Noah Fant, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson combined for nine catches for 132 yards vs. Detroit. ... The Seahawks are third in the league in allowing only 2.9 yards per rush through two games. Seattle had the 30th ranked run defense last season. ... LBs Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks each have had double-digit tackles in the first two weeks. ... K Jason Myers has missed three of his past four attempts. He missed three kicks all of last season.

FANTASY TIP: It's not a big sample size but Seattle's DK Metcalf has a TD catch in each of his previous two meetings against the Panthers. With injuries in the Carolina secondary it seems a good bet that Metcalf could find the end zone again.


AP NFL coverage:

Texans and Jaguars searching for higher-scoring offenses in first meeting of the season

1.8d ago 9/21/2023 1:23 PM ET By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Jaguars by 8 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Houston 0-2; Jacksonville 1-1.

SERIES RECORD: Texans lead 28-14.

LAST MEETING: Jaguars beat Texans 31-3 on Jan. 1, 2023, in Houston.

LAST WEEK: Texans lost to the Colts 31-20; Jaguars lost to the Chiefs 17-9.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Texans even; Jaguars plus-3.

TEXANS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB C.J. Stroud had 384 yards passing with his first two TD passes last Sunday despite being sacked six times. It was the second-most passing yards by a rookie in franchise history. His 58 completions in his first two games rank second in NFL history, trailing Joe Burrow (60 in 2020).

JAGUARS PLAYER TO WATCH: Calvin Ridley leads the team with 133 yards receiving on 10 catches, including chunk plays of 24, 26 and 29 yards. He’s still looking for a breakout game — and a more explosive play — with his new team.

KEY MATCHUP: Texans WR Nico Collins versus Jaguars CB Tyson Campbell. Collins had a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown last week against the Colts. It was the first 100-yard game of his three-year career and the most yards receiving by a Texans player since DeAndre Hopkins had 147 on Dec. 30, 2018. Campbell is quickly becoming a lock-down defender. He has an interception and a forced fumble in two games.

KEY INJURIES: The Texans could get LT Laremy Tunsil (knee) and S Jimmie Ward (hip) back against Jacksonville. Both returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday. Tunsil was inactive last week, and Ward missed the first two games. Ward’s return would be a big boost for a secondary expected to be without S Jalen Pitre (bruised lung) again. Jaguars WR Zay Jones (knee) and DT Foley Fatukasi (shoulder) missed practice Wednesday while LB Josh Allen (shoulder) was limited.

SERIES NOTES: Jacksonville ended a nine-game losing streak to Houston in January. The Texans have won 15 of the past 18 meetings and 20 of the past 25, a staggering stretch of lopsidedness considering the NFL’s penchant for parity.

STATS AND STUFF: Houston’s Dameon Pierce had 99 yards rushing and a touchdown in his previous trip to Jacksonville. … RB Devin Singletary had seven catches for 43 yards in his only career game against the Jaguars. … WR Robert Woods has had at least 50 yards receiving in both games this season. … Rookie WR Tank Dell had seven catches for 72 yards and his first career TD last week. … DE Jerry Hughes had a sack in his previous game against the Jaguars. … LB Denzel Perryman has had a tackle for a loss in three of his past four games and had 10 tackles in two of his past three games against Jacksonville. … S M.J. Stewart had 10 tackles and forced a fumble against the Colts. … Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence has 10 TDs — seven passing and three rushing — and two INTs in his past five AFC South starts. … RB Travis Etienne had more than 100 yards from scrimmage in both games against Houston last season. … Evan Engram is one of two AFC TEs with five or more catches in each of the first two weeks of the season. … OLB Josh Allen has six sacks in his past four games against the division, including at least one in each game.

FANTASY TIP: Coming off a lackluster performance against Kansas City at home, the Jaguars could be poised for an offensive breakout against the Texans. Lawrence, Ridley, Etienne, Engram and WR Christian Kirk seem like solid options.



Chiefs return home to face reeling Bears, losers of their past 12 regular-season games

1.8d ago 9/21/2023 12:53 PM ET By The Associated Press

Games: CHI@KC from 9/24/2023

CHICAGO (0-2) at KANSAS CITY (1-1)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT, FOX

BETTING LINE: Chiefs by 12 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Chicago 0-2; Kansas City 1-1

SERIES RECORD: Bears lead series 7-6.

LAST MEETING: Chiefs beat Bears 26-3 on Dec. 22, 2019, in Chicago.

LAST WEEK: Bears lost to Buccaneers 27-17; Chiefs beat Jaguars 17-9.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Bears minus-4; Chiefs minus-2

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Justin Fields is off to a dismal start to the season. He was 16 of 29 for 211 yards with one touchdown pass, two interceptions and a miserable quarterback rating in last week's 27-17 loss to Tampa Bay. He was sacked six times in the game, and he's been sacked 101 times since entering the league in 2021. The Bears are currently last in the NFL in sack percentage.

CHIEFS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Travis Kelce had a rollercoaster return from a hyperextended knee that kept him out of Week 1 last week in Jacksonville. He had four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown, but he also missed a couple of balls he normally catches and was frustrated throughout the game by the Jaguars, who kept taking shots at him whenever they had an opportunity. With the heat index near triple digits, it was hardly surprising that Kelce's temper was often on the brink of boiling over.

KEY MATCHUP: Chiefs DT Chris Jones against the Bears offensive line, which hasn't protected Fields at all this season. Jones missed Week 1 while holding out but returned last week against Jacksonville. And despite having no offseason or training camp, practicing a few times and only playing a fraction of his normal snaps, Jones still finished with 1 1/2 sacks while putting pressure on Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence all game.

KEY INJURIES: The Bears placed LT Braxton Jones (neck) on injured reserve this week, and coach Matt Eberflus would not say if he is finished for the season. S Eddie Jackson (foot), WR Darnell Mooney (knee) and DB Josh Blackwell (hamstring) were banged up. ... Chiefs LBs Nick Bolton (ankle) and Willie Gay Jr. (quad), RB Isiah Pacheco (hamstring) and WRs Kadarius Toney (toe) and Richie James (knee) missed time in practice this week. James could be out for a while but the others could play Sunday.

SERIES NOTES: The teams have only played 13 times since their first game in November 1973, and the closeness of the series has been reflected in the way they have alternated wins and losses over the past nine games. That odd stretch began with Kansas City’s win on Dec. 29, 1990, and the most recent game ended with the Chiefs rolling to a 26-3 win four years ago at Soldier Field.

STATS AND STUFF: Chicago has lost 12 consecutive regular-season games. ... The Bears have not won in Kansas City since Week 5 of the 2015 season, when they scored two fourth-quarter TDs for an 18-17 victory. ... QBs are 20 of 23 for 282 yards and three TDs against the Bears on third and fourth down through the first two weeks. ... Bears WR DJ Moore has been a bright spot, catching six passes for 107 yards against Tampa Bay last week. ... Bears LT Braxton Jones has been penalized six times in two games. ... Bears GM Ryan Poles began his career in Kansas City as a player personnel assistant in 2019. He worked his way up to executive director of player personnel before leaving for Chicago. ... Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was head coach of the Bears from 2018-21. ... Chiefs coach Andy Reid can break a tie with Tom Landry for fourth on the career wins list with his 271st. ... Patrick Mahomes needs 51 yards rushing to pass Alex Smith (1,672) for most among Chiefs quarterbacks. ... Mahomes needs 228 yards passing to eclipse 25,000. He would do it in 83 games Sunday, faster than any player in NFL history. ... Kelce has the second-longest active streak with a reception at 144 games. The Titans' DeAndre Hopkins is at 147. ... Kelce needs four TD catches to pass Tony Gonzalez (76) for second in franchise history. ... Chiefs K Harrison Butker has 23 field goals of at least 50 yards since 2017. He needs one more to break into the top five among NFL kickers in the category.

FANTASY TIP: The Bears have the league's 27th-ranked pass defense and are second to last in scoring defense, so it could be a good week for Kansas City's high-powered offense to finally hit its stride. Mahomes and Kelce are always must-start options, but Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore are all worth taking a flier on as a flex option or third wide receiver. The trick is to guess which one gets the most work given Mahomes' propensity for spreading the ball around.



Bills sign linebacker Klein to practice squad after Kirksey informs team he plans to retire

1.8d ago 9/21/2023 12:33 PM ET By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Linebacker A.J. Klein is back in Buffalo after being signed to the Bills practice squad on Thursday to replace Christian Kirksey, who informed the team he intends to retire.

Klein rejoins the Bills after being cut by the team last month. He has 10 seasons of NFL experience and is familiar with the Bills defense after playing for the team in 2020 and ’21 and part of last season.

Klein was a candidate to be signed to the practice squad to start the season before the Bills elected to sign Kirksey, who became available after being cut by Houston last month.

Klein provides the Bills veteran depth at the position behind second-year player Terrel Bernard, who took over the starting job at middle linebacker after Buffalo lost Tremaine Edmunds to free agency.

The 31-year-old Kirksey was selected in the third round of the 2014 draft by Cleveland, and spent his first six seasons playing for the Browns. He played for Green Bay in 2020, and spent the previous two seasons with Houston, where he started 29 games.

Overall, Kirksey had 16 1/2 sacks, seven interceptions and forced four fumbles in 114 games, including 94 starts.



Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick says the hit that injured Browns RB Nick Chubb wasn't dirty

1.8d ago 9/21/2023 12:13 PM ET By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer PITTSBURGH

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick believes the hit that ended B rowns running back Nick Chubb's season on Monday night was unfortunate but not dirty.

Fitzpatrick dove at Chubb's legs in an effort to stop the Cleveland star near the Pittsburgh goal line early in the second quarter of what eventually became a 26-22 Steelers victory.

Chubb had Steelers linebacker Cole Holcomb on his back when Fitzpatrick struck Chubb's left leg. The leg stayed planted on the Acrisure Stadium turf while his body bent over the top of Pittsburgh's All-Pro safety.

Chubb will undergo surgery to repair the injury and faces a lengthy rehab. Fitzpatrick called the injury “unfortunate” but defended himself against critics who believe the hit was illegal.

“I’m a guy that is a competitor, that is going to go out there and play the game,” Fitzpatrick said Thursday. “I’m chippy. I’m edgy of course but I’m not a dirty player. I’m not going to sit here and defend my character. I know the type of player I am. Chubb knows the type of player I am.”

Fitzpatrick, who bruised his chest on the play, said he told Chubb on the field before the running back was taken away in a cart that the hit was not intentional.

“No chance that I would ever try to purposely injure somebody,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was an unfortunate hit. We play a physical game and people get hurt and you know, people sit behind a screen and tell me how I should have done it and what they would done, they’ve never played the game.”

Fitzpatrick, who is 20 pounds lighter than Chubb, said he didn't see Holcomb on Chubb's back when Chubb charged through the hole. He made a decision to go low because he believed if he didn't, he was “going to get run over and I’m going to get concussed."

While Fitzpatrick understands rules are designed to protect offensive players, he added his job is to try and stop them without putting himself at risk too.

“I know it’s an offensive game and people want to see points and whatnot but defensive players are people too and you’ve got to protect themselves,” he said. "When you’re tackling big guys, it’s easier and you take less of a brunt (collision) on your body and your head when you go low.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin defended Fitzpatrick, a three-time All-Pro who has been fined just once during his time in Pittsburgh for an illegal hit, a horse collar tackle against Denver in 2020.

“He’s a stand-up player," Austin said. “So I have no problem with the way everything shook out. You don’t want it to happen.”

The Browns have spent the past few days grappling with Chubb’s loss. It hasn’t been easy, even with Chubb in the team building on Thursday, where he visited with some of his teammates.

“Every human being, football or not, goes through a grieving process,” said All-Pro left guard Joel Bitonio. “Seeing a guy like Nick go down like that, it was a brutal injury. You realize we have a job to do now and he’d want us to do our job.

“Obviously we’re doing this stuff for Nick. We know he’d want us to go out there and work and practice and do all those things, so it’s really easy to turn that page in that sense. But he’s always in the back of your mind because the type of person he is.”

Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson was hesitant to comment on whether Fitzpatrick’s hit was dirty. He hasn’t seen a replay of Chubb’s gruesome injury and doesn’t plan to see it.

“I didn’t want to watch it,” he said. “Even when we watched the tape, we didn’t even watch the play, so I can’t speak on what happened, exactly. I was on the opposite side and I didn’t even know Nick was hurt until I drew back over and I saw him on the ground."

The Browns brought back Kareem Hunt to help fill the void left by Chubb's absence. Cleveland (1-1) hosts Tennessee (1-1) on Sunday.

Fitzpatrick, who went to the hospital as a precaution after aggravating the injury while trying to chase down Browns running back Jerome Ford later in the game, expects to be available when the Steelers (1-1) travel to Las Vegas (1-1) on Sunday night.


AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed.



QB Andy Dalton ready for start vs Seattle after Panthers say Bryce Young 'isn't expected to play'

1.8d ago 9/21/2023 12:13 PM ET By STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer CHARLOTTE, N.C.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers veteran quarterback Andy Dalton admits he’s having a little more fun this week knowing he's likely to start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Panthers said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that rookie QB Bryce Young “isn't expected to play ” after missing his second straight day of practice Thursday.

Team spokesperson Bruce Speight confirmed to The Associated Press that Young is not expected to play.

That means Jake Luton is expected to be promoted from the practice squad and be Carolina's No. 2 QB this week.

“For me, obviously — absolutely,” Dalton said with a smile. “It’s always nice because I have had a certain way of operating in my career, and when you go from starting to being the backup that is one of the things that you miss. ... When you get a chance to take ownership of what you’re doing, and to know how you want it to look and how you want it to feel and see it executed, that is what makes football fun.”

Dalton made it clear his goal is not to steal Young's starting job, but instead to help the Panthers win.

Young, the No. 1 pick in the draft, injured his ankle at some point during Carolina’s 20-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.

Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said the rookie got hurt sometime in the first half, but didn't tell anyone until after the game. Young finished the game, throwing a touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion to Adam Thielen on his final drive.

Thursday's practice was the most important of the week for the Panthers (0-2) given they're working on a short week and it was the primary day for game plan installation.

While it is trending toward Dalton starting, Brown wouldn't declare him the starter.

When asked if he would feel comfortable starting a rookie such as Young if he sat out practice all week, Brown replied “I would, no question — that rookie. I wouldn’t make a general statement when it comes to all rookies, but that rookie I would.”

Young was seen walking out to practice without a boot on his ankle, but he did not have his practice gear.

He was not available during the team's open locker room session.

Carolina's offense has struggled in the first two weeks with the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.

Young ranks 31st in the NFL in passer rating, having completed 59.2% of his passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his first two games. He's also fumbled once.

The Panthers rank last in the league in passing and tied for 30th in points scored.

“I don’t feel like it has been one thing that has caused it,” Dalton said of the team's lack of production. “I feel like it has been different things every single time. Different guys taking turns on missed assignments or the execution just hasn’t been there. That is the thing with offensive football, everybody has to be on the same page for it to work.”

This might be the week for the Panthers to get rolling on offense.

Seattle’s defense has been anything but dominant the first two games and ranks 31st in the league in yards allowed and 29th in points allowed. They are last in the NFL in third down defense.

Dalton’s veteran presence on Sunday might play to Carolina’s advantage, particularly given he’s played in loud stadiums before.

Dalton is 83-77-2 as a starter during his previous 12 NFL seasons, while throwing for 244 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. He spent nine seasons in Cincinnati before one-year stops in Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans.

“When you talk about the environments and crowd noise, (Seattle) is one of those places that first hits your brain,” Dalton said. “It can become a factor in the game if you let it. But that is where you have to make sure you are communicating well.”

Center Bradley Bozeman said the Panthers will be in good shape if Dalton starts.

“When I was in Baltimore, he lit us up a couple of times for sure,” Bozeman said. “He’s still got it. He has been rocking and rolling the whole time he's been here and that is why he is here. He’s a great leader."



Justin Herbert expects Chargers' late-game execution to improve after 0-2 start

2.4d ago 9/20/2023 9:23 PM ET By DAN GREENSPAN, Associated Press COSTA MESA, Calif.


COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Justin Herbert had the ball in his hands with a chance to lead the Los Angeles Chargers on a game-winning drive against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

Much as he had the previous week against the Miami Dolphins, Herbert failed to pick up a first down, let alone the points needed to stave off another loss.

Herbert insisted Wednesday that he, the offense and the Chargers can overcome their latest instances of poor starts and ineffective finishes.

“Things haven’t gone our way the past couple games, but panicking is never going to fix anything so it’s up to us to be able to fix that as an offense, score more points,” Herbert said.

Going into a showdown of 0-2 teams at Minnesota on Sunday, Herbert has been at his most productive statistically in the fourth quarter. He is 16 of 23 passing for 162 yards in the final 15 minutes this season, overseeing seven drives that have have produced two touchdowns and two field goals.

However, when the final impression is a turnover on downs with an intentional grounding penalty and taking two sacks in the 36-34 loss to Miami or a quick three-and-out with three straight incompletions in the 27-24 overtime defeat at Tennessee, Herbert understands he is in line for criticism.

“You got to be better on those three plays, so got to try and complete the ball and that’s on me as as a quarterback to be able to get completions,” he said.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley doesn’t believe the losses can be attributed solely to late-game execution.

“There’s not just one ingredient, but I think the key thing is being able to capitalize on our opportunities,” Staley said. “And I think people are looking at the ends of the game, just like I think we’ve had opportunities at the beginning and middle part of the game to separate and I don’t think we’ve been able to do that.”

Staley could point to the end of the first half and start of the second half in both games. The Dolphins outscored the Chargers 10-3 in the final two minutes of the first half in the season opener, and the Titans also picked up a field goal at the end of the second quarter before taking their first lead on a 75-yard touchdown drive to start the third quarter.

That possession was extended by two different penalties on third down, with safety Derwin James Jr. called for unnecessary roughness and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day flagged for roughing the passer.

“There’s those critical big-picture components in a game, and that’s certainly one of them that we’ve emphasized since I’ve been here,” Staley said. “But last week, the end of the half and the beginning of the half, we didn’t have our best stuff. The beginning of the half with the two penalties, the two third-down penalties, that was a big factor in the game.”

And with a track record of failing to deliver in those moments, both historically for the organization and specifically in the Staley-Herbert era, the Chargers aren’t going to shed the label of underachievers until their performance in the critical moments improves.

“Just got to execute at higher level to get that accomplished,” Staley said. “And that at the end of the game, we got to be at our best.”

NOTES: RB Austin Ekeler (ankle) and LB Eric Kendricks (hamstring) missed Wednesday's practice. Staley did not update the timeline for either player. ... OLB Joey Bosa, who played on a limited snap count against Tennessee because of a hamstring injury, was limited. ... OLB Khalil Mack got the day off for rest.



Vikings get RB Cam Akers in trade with Rams, after run-deficient start

2.4d ago 9/20/2023 8:43 PM ET By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer EAGAN, Minn.

Teams: LAR MIN

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The run-deficient Minnesota Vikings acquired running back Cam Akers in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday after the fourth-year player fell out of favor with the coaching staff and behind Kyren Williams on the depth chart.

The Vikings sent a 2026 conditional sixth-round draft pick to the Rams for Akers and a 2026 conditional seventh-round pick in the deal, which was pending Akers passing a physical.

Akers, who was the 52nd overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Florida State, tore his Achilles tendon during the 2021 preseason but recovered quickly enough to contribute in the playoffs during the Rams' run to a Super Bowl title. Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, offensive coordinator Wes Phillips and quarterbacks coach Chris O'Hara were Rams assistants during Akers' first two years there.

Last season, Akers started slowly and clashed with the coaches. He was sent away from the team at midseason while the Rams tried to trade him. He returned after the deadline passed without a deal and ramped up his production, recording three straight 100-yard games to close out a dismal season for the then-reigning champions.

After the surprise retirement of Sony Michel, Akers was the clear frontrunner to be the featured ball carrier for coach Sean McVay's pass-centric offense.

“I know I deserve to be a starter in this league, so this is the year. Keep my head down, go to work, prove myself,” Akers said after reporting to training camp.

But after the Rams put the second-year player Williams ahead of him in the pecking order, they renewed their attempt to trade Akers. The Vikings were a natural fit given their coaches' familiarity with him and their league-low 69 rushing yards and league-high six lost fumbles through two games.

“I think he did a lot of really good things, and I think Cam is a quality player. I think sometimes it boils down to, ‘All right, is it a fit?’” McVay said on Monday after confirming the Rams were again trying to deal Akers. “This isn’t an indictment on any individual. I really care a lot about Cam, and I’m appreciative of some of the challenging things that we’ve gone through and where we ended up getting to in terms of our relationship and our ability to communicate clearly.”

The market value of running backs has never been lower in the NFL, as evidenced by the pennies-on-the-dollar trade compensation going to the Rams. By finding a trade partner, they at least saved some salary ($1.29 million) off their cap.

The Vikings released four-time Pro Bowl pick Dalvin Cook during the summer and turned their backfield over to Alexander Mattison, with second-year player Ty Chandler and recent pickup Myles Gaskin backing him up. Akers will have an opportunity to factor into that mix.

O'Connell has stressed the need to have a more efficient rushing attack, even if the Vikings are built around Kirk Cousins passing to Justin Jefferson and company. The coaches spent the extra time after the loss last Thursday at Philadelphia revisiting their strategy around the running game.

“So much of it just comes back to simple elements of technique, fundamentals, understanding of what we’re trying to get done," O'Connell said Wednesday before the trade was made.



Poor second halves after fast starts have doomed Broncos' offense during 0-2 start

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 8:13 PM ET By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer ENGLEWOOD, Colo.

Teams: DEN

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Russell Wilson figures there's a simple solution to the Denver Broncos' Jekyll & Hyde offense that has contributed to an 0-2 start under new coach Sean Payton.

“I think we just have to play cleaner in the third quarter,” Wilson said Wednesday.

The Broncos' first- and second-half splits through two weeks are both perplexing and perilous for a team trying to snap a seven-year playoff drought.

In home losses to the Raiders and Commanders, the Broncos have scored a whopping 4.38 points per possession before halftime but just 1.67 points per drive afterward.

Even more night and day are Wilson's numbers: In the first half, he's completed 23 of 27 passes (85%) for 177 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks. In the second half, he has completed 18 of 32 passes (56%) for 308 yards with one touchdown ( a 50-yard Hail Mary on Sunday ), one interception and seven sacks.

His QB rating has plummeted from a league-high 97.0 before halftime to just 17.0 in the second half, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

Although the Broncos have blown early leads and had to go to the air in both games, the disparity in run/pass calls is noteworthy. Wilson has thrown 66 passes and handed it off just 38 times, an uncharacteristic imbalance in a Payton-designed offense.

That's a passing clip of 63% from a team that sports two 230-plus-pound running backs in Samaje Perine and Javonte Williams and a speedster in undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin, who led the league with four preseason touchdowns and scored untouched from 5 yards out on his only carry Sunday.

Payton, who voiced frustration with Wilson on Sunday after the Broncos had to burn all of their timeouts by the 6:46 mark of the second quarter, said he and his staff spent Tuesday night coming up with code words to put more plays on the quarterback's wristband for their game Sunday at Miami (2-0). That way, Payton can call out a number and Wilson will relay the full play call in the huddle.

Payton said he realized he had to cut down on the verbiage so that Wilson could communicate with his teammates more efficiently: “I’m sure we were a little bit heavy relative to the length to some of the plays.”

Denver's defense shares the blame for its slow start. The Broncos lead the league with 19 accepted penalties against them, and a dozen of those are defensive, including seven on third or fourth down.

The Broncos only had six drives against Las Vegas in Week 1 because their defense couldn't get off the field, and the Broncos built a 21-3 lead Sunday only to watch Washington go on a 32-3 run.

Neither Payton nor Wilson had ever blown an 18-point lead in their NFL careers.

The sputtering starts to the second half are the primary culprit.

In the opener, the Broncos led 13-10 at halftime but Wil Lutz missed a 55-yard field goal on the opening drive after halftime. He also missed his first extra-point attempt in his Denver debut.

Last week, the Broncos took a 21-14 lead into the break and began the second half with a three-and-out.

Despite the sputtering second halves, Wilson appears to be much more comfortable running Payton's high-tempo offense than he was a year ago when the Broncos also had hiccups in getting plays in quickly under Nathaniel Hackett.

“I definitely feel really clear on what we're trying to do. Coach Payton has done a great job of communicating what we're trying to do on offense,” Wilson said. "I definitely feel confident and zoned in and ready to rock.”

As for ironing out the kinks in communication, “we've just got to be a little quicker, that's it," Wilson added. “The faster we can go, the better.”



Raiders' Crosby is facing even more attention from opposing offenses with Chandler Jones out

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 8:13 PM ET By MARK ANDERSON, AP Sports Writer HENDERSON, Nev.

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Almost lost in the Chandler Jones situation is the effect his absence has had on the Raiders defensive line.

In trying to make up the difference at one of the defensive end positions, Las Vegas has used a tackle in Jerry Tillery, an undersized Malcolm Koonce and not-yet-ready rookie Tyree Wilson.

Opponents have been able to pay even more attention than usual to Maxx Crosby on the other end, mostly neutralizing one of the NFL's top pass rushers.

“It gives other people opportunities because if he’s got two on him, they usually have one on somebody else,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “So there are opportunities that are there that will present themselves. We just need to be able to try to take advantage of it.”

Crosby facing double teams isn't new. He often did so last season even with Jones in the lineup, but still found a way to account for nearly half of Las Vegas' 27 sacks.

He has one sack through two games this season, getting to Denver's Russell Wilson in the season opener. The Buffalo Bills devoted even more energy to defending Crosby, and though he had seven tackles, none occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

“It's been a challenge for the last couple of years,” Crosby said. “It's the ultimate respect getting chipped, getting slides (blocking), things like that. You can get frustrated by it, you can get irritated or you can find a way. For me, that's what it all comes down to. I'll find ways to affect the game no matter what. Facing two or three (blockers), it doesn't matter. I've got to find a way to be at my best, and that's what I'm seeking every single day.”

Jones' long-term future in Las Vegas is murky. The club placed Jones, who had criticized Raiders management on social media, on the reserve/non-football illness list on Wednesday, meaning he will miss at least the next four games.

Regardless, not having Jones has created a big problem for the Raiders regarding how they can make up for his absence even if he didn't make the kind of impact envisioned when signing last season.

Jones had 10 1/2 sacks in his final season with the Arizona Cardinals, but had just 4 1/2 in 2022 for the Raiders.

Las Vegas, which hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, started Tillery at Denver to give the Raiders three tackles in the game at once. Tillery did get a sack, but Koonce started on the edge at Buffalo and has one tackle this season.

Wilson was drafted seventh overall this year to be the answer for the future, not necessarily now. He was hampered by a foot injury sustained last season at Texas Tech, delaying his development, so there is little surprise he's off to a slow start with three tackles.

“I always break it down into quarters in terms of the first quarter of the season is trying to get acclimated to playing football again,” Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said.

"Getting your hands right, making sure that your eyes are in the right place, getting situated like that. Tyree, along with all the other guys on the defense, they’re just getting situated and getting acclimated to playing real football again, and we’ll see how it goes this week.”

In the meantime, Crosby will keep trying to fight through whatever blocking schemes opponents throw at him while hoping for some help on the other side. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made it clear that Crosby will be a focal point of how his team attacks the Raiders.

Tomlin called Crosby one of those "guys that can change the climate in an instant.”

“We’ve faced some of these challenging guys over the course of the first two weeks and we’ve done a largely solid job of minimizing those whether it’s (Nick) Bosa or Myles (Garrett)," Tomlin said. "Maxx is just as challenging. We’ve been in the stadium with him before. I think he had four hits on the quarterback a year ago. We just can’t allow that to happen.”


Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who has been in the concussion protocol since the opener at Denver, returned to practice on Wednesday.

He's "moving through protocol the right way,” McDaniels said.

Meyers was the Raiders' leading receiver against the Broncos. He caught nine passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns in the 17-16 victory.



Fantasy plays: Players to start and sit for NFL Week 3

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 7:43 PM ET By AIDAN COTTER, FanDuel Research

The NFL dialed up the scoring in Week 2 after a lackluster opening week.

Teams averaged 22.7 points per game in Week 2 — a noticeable improvement on Week 1.

That helped us in fantasy as things began to even out and look a little more like we expected them to look prior to the season.

Still, there were plenty of surprises, and while we don’t want to completely ignore our preseason projections, we have to react to what’s happening on the field. There are only 17 games in the NFL season, so we shouldn’t be afraid to fade slow starters in favor of hot names.

That’s what we’re attempting to do here. Every week, I’ll be listing out every fantasy-relevant player, sorted by position and bucketed into tiers, with the higher-tiered players deemed more start-worthy. For specific start/sit advice between two players in the same tier, refer to numberFire ’s projection model.

These tiers are meant to reflect your typical 12-team, half-PPR scoring formats with only one starting quarterback — though, the general rankings can be loosely applied to most formats.

Any player not listed can be assumed sit-worthy in most leagues.

All betting references refer to the NFL odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Patrick Mahomes (KC)

— Jalen Hurts (PHI)

— Lamar Jackson (BAL)

— Josh Allen (BUF)

— Justin Herbert (LAC)

— Tua Tagovailoa (MIA)

— Anthony Richardson (IND) (questionable)

— Kirk Cousins (MIN)

— Dak Prescott (DAL)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Trevor Lawrence (JAX) struggled last week, completing 53.7% of his passes and garnering just 9.2 fantasy points. Better days are on the horizon for Lawrence, though that may not be this week. Lawrence scored just 17.5 points total in two games against Houston last season. but unless you doubled up on elite signal-callers, you’re probably still starting him.

— Jared Goff (DET) completed 80% of his passes in Week 2, compiling 323 yards, three touchdowns, and “only” 23.9 fantasy points. The lack of rushing limits his upside, but Goff is as reliable as they come and a borderline QB1 despite a fairly tough matchup with Atlanta — though, I’d be more pessimistic if Amon-Ra St. Brown sat.

— Geno Smith (SEA) got back on track last week after a rough Week 1. The matchup isn’t great this week as the Panthers have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per drop-back through two games. However, his playmakers are top notch and with Jaycee Horn out for Carolina, Geno is firmly on the QB1 radar.

Tier 3: On the fence

— Joe Burrow (CIN) has thrown for fewer yards than Zach Wilson through two weeks. I’m not worried about him for the rest of the season, but the Rams have allowed the third-fewest adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.26). You’ll be hard-pressed to sit him in a primetime game, but I wouldn’t be afraid to let him hang out on your bench in favor of any of the guys listed above him.

— Deshaun Watson (CLE) has been the single-most inefficient quarterback in the NFL, registering the fewest (-0.30) Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop-back through two starts. The Titans have been friendly to opposing signal-callers, and Watson’s rushing upside does put him into starting consideration — but it’s hard to feel great after the first two weeks.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Justin Fields (CHI) is difficult to start right now. Fields has struggled this season, slotting in as the QB24 through the first two weeks. Most concerning: Chicago has called just one designed run — not great for a player who scored 53% of his fantasy points on the ground last season. Kansas City’s defense has allowed the ninth-fewest adjusted fantasy points per drop-back (0.25) thus far, so you can do better in Week 3.

— Daniel Jones (NYG) dominated in the second half of the win over Arizona and finished as the QB1 (31.7 points) on the week. Still, it’s hard to ignore how bad he looked in the first half and in Week 1. I just can’t stomach starting him against the 49ers without Saquon Barkley.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Christian McCaffrey (SF)

— Bijan Robinson (ATL)

— Tony Pollard (DAL)

— Travis Etienne (JAX)

— Kenneth Walker III (SEA)

— Derrick Henry (TEN)

— Rhamondre Stevenson (NE)

— Joe Mixon (CIN)

— Raheem Mostert (MIA)

— Jahmyr Gibbs (DET)

— Josh Jacobs (LV)

— James Cook (BUF)

— Kyren Williams (LAR)

— Brian Robinson (WSH)

— Rachaad White (TB)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Joshua Kelley (LAC) didn’t take advantage of Austin Ekeler’s absence in Week 2, but we’ll cut him some slack considering how stout the Titans are against the run. He’s got a great chance to redeem himself this week against a Vikings defense that allowed 175 yards to D’Andre Swift. Kelly played 78.9% of snaps last week, so he’s got as good of a chance as anyone to reach the end zone with his game’s total set at 53.5.

— Miles Sanders (CAR) hasn’t really produced in fantasy, racking up 9.8 and 6.2 points in the first two weeks. Carolina’s offense looks anemic at the moment, but you won’t find many guys with as many guaranteed touches as Sanders. I’m concerned about the continued emergence of Chuba Hubbard, but with 32 carries (eighth in the NFL) through two weeks, Sanders is difficult to sit.

— D’Andre Swift (PHI) had 175 yards, 25.6 fantasy points and a 65.4% rush success rate in Week 2. Kenneth Gainwell could return after missing Week 2, but even if he does, I’m not sure how you sit Swift. Talent was never the question during Swift’s previous stint in Detroit, just opportunity. If he’s getting the bulk of the work in one of the best rush offenses in football, he has to be in your lineup.

— Alexander Mattison (MIN) has not been the breakout running back many hoped for during draft season. He’s sitting at RB35 after a 3.4-point game in Week 2 and has generated -0.44 EPA per carry. I’m not the biggest Mattison believer, but we have to acknowledge how tough his first two matchups have been. He still had 71.2% of snaps and is on the short list of backs likely to have double-digit touches every week. Except him to get back on track in a much friendlier matchup against the Chargers.

— Isiah Pacheco (KC) had an encouraging second week. Though he finished with just 7.5 fantasy points, he had his snap rate climb to 51.6% and enjoyed 12 of Kansas City’s 14 running back rush attempts. However, what I’m really intrigued by is his work in the passing game. Despite getting just two targets, Pacheco led the backfield with 18 routes. He gets the Bears this week — a run defense that’s been decent thus far but just allowed 103 total yards to Rachaad White. Consider Pachecho a low-end RB2 with real touchdown upside given KC’s slate-leading implied team total of 30.0.

— Javonte Williams (DEN) has had a slow start, but that’s to be expected after he recovered from his knee injury as quickly as he did. He’s still under a 50% snap share, so there’s some risk in playing him this week but he dominated the rushing share in Week 2, with 11 more carries than the next-closest Denver back. Miami has allowed by far the highest success rate (63.5%) and EPA per carry (0.13) to opposing rushers, putting Williams firmly on the RB2 radar.

— Zack Moss (IND) finished as the RB10 last week (18.7 points). He was the only Indianapolis running back to get a carry and played 98.2% of snaps. That usage puts him in the RB2 conversation even in a tough matchup with Baltimore. I need to see it against someone besides the Texans before I completely trust him, but Moss is in the starting conversation. Keep an eye on Anthony Richardson’s status — if he's out, Moss could get a bump in value with more goal-line work and a bigger role in the passing game.

Tier 3: On the fence

— Breece Hall (NYJ) finished with 0.9 fantasy points against Dallas. He gained just 9 yards on four carries and failed to catch either of his two targets. His snap share (33.3%) was nearly identical to what it was in Week 1, but Dallas’ defense held him in check. Until we see the Jets give Hall a bigger workload, it’s difficult to trust him — though Raheem Mostert thrived versus New England’s defense last week. He’s the ultimate low-floor, high-ceiling play.

— Gus Edwards (BAL) had the better fantasy day in Baltimore’s backfield, but Justice Hill got more usage. Edwards played 45.7% of snaps and had 10 carries but zero targets. Hill led the way with a 54.3% snap share and 11 carries in addition to three targets. Hill also had three red zone carries to Edwards’ one, but Edwards scored a TD and Hill failed to find the end zone. One of them will likely finish within the top 24 running backs, but that’ll likely again come down to whoever scores. I prefer Hill’s usage, but either makes for a decent play despite Indy’s solid run defense.

— A.J. Dillon (GB) didn’t do a lot with his starting opportunity last week and finished with 6.8 fantasy points. Despite getting 68.1% of snaps, he garnered just -0.12 EPA per carry and had only one target. He’s not in the starting conversation if Aaron Jones returns, but is worth FLEX consideration if Jones can’t suit up. However, temper expectations given his matchup with the Saints stout run defense.

— Najee Harris (PIT) enters Week 3 as the RB47 and with only two more rush attempts than Baker Mayfield. He played just 56.6% of snaps in Week 2 and had a 30.0% success rate on 10 rushes. The Raiders have allowed the second-highest rush success rate (52.9%) and EPA per carry (0.04), so the matchup is great but tread lightly. Jaylen Warren is coming.

— Jaylen Warren (PIT) is trending up. He finished with 10.6 fantasy points in Week 2, turning 10 combined rushes and catches into 86 yards while playing 43.4% of snaps. He’s Pittsburgh’s preferred back in the passing game and is in a nice spot to produce again against the Raiders defense. He’s a FLEX with RB2 upside — just don’t be surprised if Harris continues to handle the bulk of the rushing work.

— Dameon Pierce (HOU) had his snap rate clock in under 50% for the second consecutive week, and he delivered a 13.3% success rate on 15 carries in Week 2. He did catch two passes (on three targets), but as long as Houston is giving four running backs 20% of the carries, he’s not someone I’m excited about starting. I wouldn’t blame you for sitting him against a Jaguars defense holding opposing backs to the second-lowest rushing success rate (20.0%) in the league.

— Tyler Allgeier (ATL) didn’t score in Week 2 and therefore had a rough fantasy day (4.8 points). He had his snap share drop from 54.2% to 43.6% and had half the success rate (31.3%) of teammate Bijan Robinson. He has touchdown upside in Arthur Smith’s offense, but that’s about it. I’m not excited to start him against the Detroit run defense.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— James Conner (ARI) has been a workhorse this season. He enters Week 3 as the RB13 in fantasy and with the fourth-most rush attempts (37) in the league. He’ll be solid going forward, but I’m doing everything I can to sit him this week against a Dallas defense that holds opposing backs to the third-fewest EPA per rush (-0.42) and just completely handled Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook.

— Jerome Ford (CLE) filled in admirably for the injured Nick Chubb and finished as the RB6 with 22.6 fantasy points. He should be a quality RB2 the rest of the way, but I’m not starting him this week. One, the Browns just signed Kareem Hunt, who was ahead of Ford on the depth chart just last season. Two, the Browns take on the Titans, one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Unless you’re desperate, I’d hold Ford for a better matchup, with Week 3 giving us a chance to get a clearer picture of how the usage shakes out.

— Khalil Herbert (CHI) and Roschon Johnson have actually looked pretty good so far. They’re sitting at RB28 and RB23, respectively, but until the timeshare shakes out in favor of one or the other, it’s hard to trust either in your starting lineup. With the Chiefs defense looking strong and the Bears headed to Arrowhead as big underdogs, feel free to fade both of them in Week 3.

— Matt Breida (NYG) was a popular pickup in the wake of Saquon Barkley’s injury but don’t get cute. Bredia should get the majority of New York’s rushing work ... against a 49ers front allowing the second-fewest yards over expectation per rush (-1.10) in the NFL. The Giants are big underdogs on Thursday night, and with a negative game script, there just isn’t enough rushing volume to warrant starting him in such a tough matchup.

— Dalvin Cook (NYJ) is on the cusp of fantasy irrelevance. He faces the same issues Breece Hall does (a struggling quarterback and offensive line) but doesn’t have the same upside. After outputting -0.3 points last week, Cook is a sit even with New England’s rush defense looking suspect.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Justin Jefferson (MIN)

— Stefon Diggs (BUF)

— CeeDee Lamb (DAL)

— Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET)

— Tyreek Hill (MIA)

— Davante Adams (LV)

— Keenan Allen (LAC)

— Chris Olave (NO)

— DeVonta Smith (PHI)

— Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)

— A.J. Brown (PHI)

— Puka Nacua (LAR)

— Jaylen Waddle (MIA)

— D.K. Metcalf (SEA)

— Calvin Ridley (JAX)

— Amari Cooper (CLE)

— Deebo Samuel (SF)

— Mike Evans (TB)

— Tyler Lockett (SEA)

— Mike Williams (LAC)

— Tee Higgins (CIN)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) is a high-caliber NFL wide receiver and he’s quickly putting last season’s struggles out of fantasy managers’ minds. Pittman had his target share jump from 28.2% in Week 1 to 38.7% in Week 2 and he played 97% of the snaps for a second consecutive week. Baltimore’s secondary is solid, but it has allowed the 11th-highest catch rate over expectation (5.3%). Pittman is nearly a lineup lock.

— Nico Collins (HOU) was dominating in Week 2, finishing with 24.1 points and garnering a target share north of 20% for the second consecutive game. Jacksonville’s secondary has been decent, but with Houston playing at the fourth-highest pace in the league, there should be plenty of opportunities for Collins to produce yet again.

— Brandon Aiyuk (SF) got banged up in Week 2 and gave fantasy managers a quiet encore to his big Week 1. Still, if he plays he probably needs to be in lineups. Despite playing just 51.9% of snaps last week, he still commanded a 25.0% target share and the Giants secondary is far from stout.

— George Pickens (PIT) broke out in Week 2. Pickens’ line was great. He finished with 127 yards, a 34.5% target share, and a touchdown. However, 71 of those yards came on one play and he caught just four of his 10 targets. Kenny Pickett and the Steelers offense should find more success in Week 3 against a Raiders defense that has allowed the third-highest catch rate over expectation (13.0%) and if he’s going to continue to command such a large share of the game plan it’s hard not to recommend him.

— Zay Flowers (BAL) had his target share drop from 47.6% in Week 1 to 15.2% in Week 2. While that was to be expected with the return of Mark Andrews, fantasy managers won’t be pleased to hear he was out-targeted by Nelson Agholor. Don’t lose faith though. Flowers’ 77.1% snap share was far and away the highest among any Baltimore receiver and he ran seven more routes than the next-closest wideout. Look for his target share to settle somewhere in between his first two weeks’ numbers — something that should lead to fantasy success against the Colts secondary.

— Jordan Addison (MIN) won’t score a touchdown every week. Addison had a 62-yard score last week but finished with just three receptions and 72 yards. However, I’m encouraged that his snap share jumped from 55.6% to 67.3% and he again finished with the second-most air yards on the team. I’d be hard-pressed to fade him against one of the worst defenses considering the Vikings are passing at the second-highest rate over expectation (9.1%).

— Gabriel Davis (BUF) had a big week, finishing as the WR15 (18.2 points) while tying Stefon Diggs for the team lead in targets (seven). Davis has now played 75% of the snaps in two consecutive weeks and is easily running the second-most routes on the team. Washington has allowed the third-highest aDOT (13.3) — a good sign for Davis.

— Josh Reynolds (DET) had his snap share jump to 79.7% and actually ran the most routes on the team in Week 2. He’s entrenched as Detroit’s No. 2 receiver after earning the second-highest target share for the second week in a row. With Seattle allowing the second-most yards per route run (2.31) to opposing receivers, there is no reason to fade someone who’s consistently shown such a strong rapport with Jared Goff.

— Chris Godwin (TB) had a 25.0% target share in Week 2 and was on the field more than any other Tampa Bay receiver. I have concerns that Baker Mayfield could struggle against the Eagles, but their defense hasn’t looked nearly as menacing as last season. While Godwin hasn’t scored yet, he had both of Tampa’s red zone targets in Week 2 so don’t be shocked to see him score this week.

Tier 3: On the fence

— Garrett Wilson (NYJ). The talented receiver salvaged his fantasy day with a 68-yard touchdown, but caught just 2 of 8 targets against the Cowboys defense. Things don’t get any easier in Week 3 with the Jets hosting the Patriots, but his big play potential warrants starting consideration.

— Tutu Atwell (LAR) hasn’t gotten as much buzz as his teammate, Puka Nacua, but he’s been impressive as well. Atwell finished with double-digit fantasy points for the second consecutive week and actually got more snaps and ran more routes than Nacua. He’s hovering around a 20% target share on the season and his big-play potential puts him in FLEX consideration with how well Matt Stafford is playing right now.

— Michael Thomas (NO) may not be the No. 1 option in New Orleans, but he’s still getting plenty of work. Thomas had a 26.5% target share in Week 2 and led the team with seven receptions. He’d get bumped up a tier in full-PPR leagues but his volume warrants FLEX consideration regardless of your scoring format.

— Elijah Moore (CLE) is going to break out one of these games. Moore was held under eight fantasy points for the second consecutive week but his usage was, again, encouraging. Moore finished right behind teammate Amari Cooper with a 23.2% target share and a 25.6% air yard share. Elijah Moore has a ton of upside against Tennessee’s secondary.

— Terry McLaurin (WSH) finished with more fantasy points (13.9) than Jahan Dotson (3.7) in Week 2 but the usage stats favored Dotson. Dotson out-snapped McLaurin 55-48 and ran 39 routes to McLaurin’s 33. McLaurin did get six targets to Dotson’s five but that’s negligible. Buffalo’s defense is solid so I’m not thrilled about either of them — though, Dotson would be my preferred choice of the two.

— D.J. Moore (CHI) had a much better performance in Week 2, finishing with 13.4 fantasy points after his 3.5-point Week 1. His 25.0% target share was especially encouraging and he seems locked into a 90% snap share. That said, Justin Fields’ passing struggles cap his upside and a road matchup against the Chiefs has me pessimistic about his Week 3 chances.

— Christian Kirk (JAX) bounced back in Week 2 at the expense of Zay Jones. After Jones out-snapped Kirk 61-42 and was targeted four more times than him in Week 1, the script flipped against Kansas City. Kirk played the highest rate of snaps (81.3%) of any Jacksonville receiver and finished with a staggering 14 targets en route to a WR20 (16.5 points) finish. I have a feeling these two will continue to flip-flop between being fantasy-relevant throughout the season — though, both could feast against Houston's defense.

— Jayden Reed (GB) took command of the Green Bay receiving room last week. He easily led the team in target share (32.0%) and scored two touchdowns to propel him to a WR16 (17.7 points) finish. However, we may have to temper expectations in Week 3 with a stout Saints defense coming to town.

— Rashid Shaheed (NO) still hasn’t played more than 55% of snaps and won’t likely get a target share north of 20% but there is no doubting his playmaking abilities. Shaheed’s stellar aDOT (14.4) gives him a high ceiling — though, he could struggle against a stout Green Bay secondary.

— Tank Dell (HOU) had his snap share jump from 43.8% in Week 1 to 78.5% in Week 2 and made the most of it. Dell had a team-leading 23.5% target share while running the second-most routes on the team. I want to see it for more than one week before I trust him as a weekly starter but you could do a lot worse with your FLEX.

— Jakobi Meyers (LV) makes for a solid FLEX play if he’s cleared to play. He showed an instant rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 1 when he had a 38.5% target share and caught two touchdowns. Meyers needs to be in lineups if he’s healthy.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Drake London (ATL) finished with 15.7 fantasy points in Week 2 —15.7 points more than he scored in Week 1. Still, I’m not convinced. This Atlanta offense is going to be a headache for fantasy managers all season and I’d rather wait another week to see if London’s usage is legit before slotting him into my starting lineup.

— DeAndre Hopkins (TEN). Despite a plus matchup in Week 2, Hopkins only had five targets and was limited to a 58.7% snap share. Cleveland’s defense has looked elite thus far, allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to receivers. Fade Hopkins and wait to play him in a better matchup.

— Jerry Jeudy (DEN) and Courtland Sutton may be the least fun fantasy receiving duo in the league — though, that’s not their fault. Russell Wilson’s box score numbers aside, it’s really hard to trust either of these two. Sutton notably had a 26.9% target share in Week 2, but he turned that into just 66 yards. Miami’s secondary has given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to receivers thus far so even in a negative game script it’s really hard to trust either Denver wideout.

— Marquise Brown (ARI) had a really encouraging Week 2. He commanded a 34.5% target share and was on the field for 93.3% of snaps while leading the team with 93.5% route participation. I’m pretty high on him rest of season but with the Cowboys in town, I want nothing to do with Arizona’s offense in Week 3.

— Skyy Moore (KC) bounced back in Week 2, catching a touchdown and running the second-most routes on the team. Still, his 10.3% target share is hard to ignore, and that lack of volume makes him difficult to trust even in a plus matchup.


Tier 1: Lineup locks

— Travis Kelce (KC)

— T.J. Hockenson (MIN)

— Mark Andrews (BAL)

— Darren Waller (NYG)

— Evan Engram (JAX)

— Dallas Goedert (PHI)

Tier 2: Probable starters

— Sam LaPorta (DET) is a borderline must start just two games into his NFL career. LaPorta has now played at least 80% of snaps in each of his first two games and tied for the second-most targets (six) on Detroit in Week 2. The rookie should only get better as the season goes on and his volume makes him a strong play against the Atlanta defense.

— George Kittle (SF) has been disappointing fantasy-wise thus far, but I’m optimistic about his chances in Week 3. Kittle’s fantasy struggles never have anything to do with his talent, just his opportunity. Despite playing 96.3% of snaps in Week 2, he received just a 12.5% target share. However, with Brandon Aiyuk banged up, Kittle could shine in a plus matchup as San Francisco’s No. 2 option.

— Hunter Henry (NE) looks like the 2021 version of himself. You know, the Hunter Henry that finished as the TE9 overall? He’s quickly become New England’s go-to option in the red zone and he’s now drawn at least six targets in back-to-back games. Tight end is pretty touchdown-or-bust outside of the top-six options and Henry gives you as good of a chance to score as anyone.

— Pat Freiermuth (PIT) has been one of the biggest disappointments at the position through two weeks, and that’s saying something. Despite playing 75.5% of snaps in Week 2, Freiermuth had just a single target with the Pittsburgh offenses struggling to get anything going against the Browns defense. That said, I’m not willing to ignore how consistent he was last season just because of two tough matchups. With the Raiders defense on deck in Week 3, I’m still starting him.

— Taysom Hill (NO). With Alvin Kamara still suspended and Jamaal Williams dealing with an injury, Hill is more than a capable fantasy option in Week 3. Hill turned nine rushing attempts in 75 yards last week and he’ll likely get another big workload with how thin New Orleans is at running back. He’s a capable starting option if you’re thin at tight end.

Tier 3: On the fence

— David Njoku (CLE) hasn’t popped yet and he only had a 10.0% target share in Week 2 despite being on the field for 84.0% of snaps. Still, the more you’re on the field, the better chance you have to score and Njokua could benefit from a Tennessee defense that struggles against the pass. He’s got upside but a low floor.

— Dalton Kincaid (BUF) is on the rise stock-wise. Kincaid had his snap share drop to 62.2% in a blowout Week 2 win but his target share crept up to 16.7% — third on the team. Betting on first-round pass catchers to improve as the season goes on is a safe proposition and he should have a good chance to score given Buffalo’s 25.5-point implied team total.

Tier 4: Sit if possible

— Kyle Pitts (ATL) cannot be started until further notice. He’s only played 66.7% of snaps through two weeks and his 17.4% target share doesn’t mean much for a team throwing at the lowest rate over expectation (-14.2%) in the NFL. Love the talent, hate the system. He’s an easy sit.

— Zach Ertz (ARI) is getting some major usage through two weeks. He leads all tight ends with a 30.5% target share and is running a route on a stellar 85.9% of plays. I love Ertz going forward but the Cardinals are facing the Cowboys this week so I’d rather avoid Arizona altogether.

— Tyler Higbee (LAR) is a distant third option in LA. While he actually has the highest snap rate (92.3%) among Rams pass catchers, he’s commanding a 11.2% target share. Higbee could score a touchdown, but you won’t get anything from him in turns of receptions or yards.

— Cole Kmet (CHI) has been fine thus far, slotting in as the TE11. That’s not a very high bar, however, considering he’s only scored 12.7 points total. Even with his 21.4% target share last week, I’m inclined to fade Chicago’s passing attack against a stout Kansas City defense.


For more fantasy or sports betting news, go to FanDuel Research

Fast starts have been key for the Ravens' defense, which is playing well despite injuries

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 6:53 PM ET By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer OWINGS MILLS, Md.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Geno Stone intercepted a pass around the goal line and returned it 36 yards before veering out of bounds — and it looked like he might've scored if he'd cut back to his right.

“Gave him a little grief, but at the end of the day he forced a turnover,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “It's hard to argue with ball production.”

Going out of bounds was perhaps Stone's only misstep of the day, and the Baltimore defense has picked up where it left off a season ago. Led by a pair of excellent inside linebackers, a better-than-expected secondary and a pass rush that's put to rest some preseason concerns, the Ravens shut down Houston and kept Cincinnati's dangerous passing game under control.

Through two games, Baltimore hasn't allowed a first down in the first quarter.

“Very encouraged by the fast starts. That’s something that we work on every day,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I feel like the guys are just locked in. Every game’s different. Sometimes you start, sometimes you finish.”

A season ago, the Baltimore defense was a handful after the Ravens acquired Smith in a midseason trade. Even after Lamar Jackson went down with a knee injury, Baltimore went into Cincinnati for a playoff game and nearly beat the Bengals.

In fact, the head-to-head matchups with Cincinnati were a big indication of the team's progress on that side of the ball. After allowing 41 points in each of their two matchups with the Bengals in 2021, the Ravens yielded 17, 27 and 24 last season — and that last figure was inflated by a fumble return for a touchdown that wasn't the Baltimore defense's fault.

Last week, the Ravens held Cincinnati to 282 yards of offense.

With Smith and Patrick Queen manning the inside linebacker spots, the Ravens have allowed just 138 yards rushing through two games this season. Those two also have a sack each. In fact, Baltimore has six sacks so far — by six different players. That's been a positive sign for a team that moved on from pass-rushing standouts Calais Campbell and Justin Houston in the offseason.

The defensive backfield has dealt with constant injury concerns lately. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (foot) hasn't played yet, and safety Marcus Williams (pectoral) was hurt in Week 1. Still, Baltimore held Joe Burrow to 222 yards passing last weekend, and Stone's interception was a huge play.

Even if he didn't score.

“Geno is a baller. Geno has always been like that since the day he came in,” Queen said. “It’s good seeing him get his opportunity and taking full advantage of making plays. It’s heartwarming. Geno just works so hard, and he wants to be so great.”

Sunday was Stone's ninth start in four NFL seasons.

“I just feel like everyone here is capable of playing, no matter if you’re on the practice squad or whatever it is,” Stone said. “You’re brought in this organization for a reason, and I think that’s a testament to the scouts and who they bring into this place, and everyone’s trusted as a starter.”

NOTES: The Ravens have a new injury concern with RB Justice Hill (foot) missing practice Wednesday. Hill is Baltimore's leader in carries thanks in part to J.K. Dobbins' season-ending Achilles tendon injury. Now the Ravens have added RB Kenyan Drake to the practice squad. ... Also missing practice were Humphrey, Williams, WR Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle), LB Jadeveon Clowney (illness), C Tyler Linderbaum (ankle), LB Odafe Oweh (ankle) and T Ronnie Stanley (knee).



Packers' David Bakhtiari feeling frustrated that his knee issues have cropped up again

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 6:43 PM ET By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer GREEN BAY, Wis.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari was hoping he had gotten past the knee issues that resulted in three separate surgeries and impacted his past two seasons.

Now the oldest player on the NFL’s youngest team realizes that’s not the case.

Bakhtiari missed Green Bay’s 25-24 loss at Atlanta and isn’t sure yet when he will return, though the Packers’ busy upcoming schedule doesn't help matters. The Packers have their home opener Sunday against New Orleans and return to Lambeau Field four nights later to host the Detroit Lions.

“Doing better, but we’re just going to take it one day at a time,” the veteran left tackle said. “I hate to say it, but day to day. You guys hate hearing it.”

The left side of Green Bay’s offensive line figured to be one of the Packers’ biggest strengths this season, but the Packers now don’t know when they might have Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins playing together again.

Jenkins sprained his medial collateral ligament in the Falcons game, with Royce Newman taking over for him after the injury. Rasheed Walker, a 2022 seventh-round draft pick, made his first career start in place of Bakhtiari at left tackle.

“This could be the only game I miss,” Bakhtiari said. “I don’t know. I’m just making sure I check my boxes and I’m able and ready and then when it is, great, go out and play.”

Bakhtiari, 31, has been dealing with health uncertainty ever since tearing his left ACL while in the midst of an All-Pro season on Dec. 31, 2020.

The knee injury caused Bakhtiari to play in just one game during the 2021 season. He played 11 games last season, sitting out three because of his knee and three others because of an appendectomy.

Bakhtiari talked this offseason about how grateful he felt that he finally wasn’t recovering from another surgical procedure. He played well in a season-opening 38-20 victory at Chicago, though he didn’t practice in the week leading up to that game as the Packers monitored his workload.

But at some point, the knee started acting up again. Bakhtiari and the Packers aren’t specifying exactly what happened.

“There’s only so much I want to unveil to people because I do think there’s a competitive advantage,” Bakhtiari said. “I’ve said that in the past like with health and history, but clearly there was something that started going on that we were monitoring and we were going to give up until the game time to see if it was feasible. That’s about as much as I want to say.”

Bakhtiari did want to make one thing clear, though. He is hurt. He wasn’t sitting out the Falcons game merely to avoid playing on turf.

After his good friend and former teammate Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon during the New York Jets’ season opener last week, Bakhtiari went on social media to call for all NFL stadiums to have grass surfaces.

When Bakhtiari sat out a game on Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s artificial surface less than a week after Rodgers’ injury, a segment of the Packers’ fan base wondered if he was refusing to play on turf. A social media post from Bakhtiari’s brother only added to the confusion.

Bakhtiari wants to put that idea to rest.

“I signed up to play,” Bakhtiari said. “I plan on playing. And when I can play, I’m going to play. Clearly if I’m not playing, there’s something going on. It’s not like it’s been a secret. It’s something I’ve been battling with and it’s been (difficult). It’s been weighing on me a lot. You think I don’t want to play?”

How soon — and how often — he will get to play again remains up in the air. That’s frustrating for a player who has been through this situation for nearly three years now.

There’s one difference this time around, though. After becoming a father last year, Bakhtiari now gets to come home and take his mind off his troublesome knee.

“The most refreshing thing is seeing my daughter’s face and like the no-judgment happiness, just saliva everywhere on her mouth, just drooling. I’m like, ‘She just loves (me?) Doesn’t matter what I did today. Didn’t matter how (bad) I feel.’ And that like, has been, it’s been pretty good.”

NOTES: WR Christian Watson, who missed the Packers’ first two games with a hamstring injury, was a limited practice participant Wednesday. RB Aaron Jones, who didn’t play at Atlanta because of a hamstring problem, didn’t practice.



Vikings newcomer Risner regrets taking so long to sign. They could use a quick study

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 6:43 PM ET By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Pro Football Writer EAGAN, Minn.

Teams: MIN

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Dalton Risner spent six months as a free agent, until he finally signed this week with Minnesota.

The former Denver guard, as he happily began the integration process with the Vikings on Wednesday, acknowledged some regret he let the process play out that long.

“I think that I was holding my worth earlier in the process, and maybe I should’ve called teams earlier and said, ‘Hey, I’ll take less than what you guys actually think,’” Risner said, rattling off a list of potential contributing factors including his asking price, his performance last season, the market for his position and his well-publicized shove of a teammate during an argument on a dysfunctional Broncos sideline.

Risner, who signed a one-year contract worth up to $4 million with $2.25 million guaranteed, visited the Vikings during training camp. What if he'd taken their offer then?

“I could be in the playbook right now and know my teammates and stuff like that,” Risner said. "I think some things in life you don’t have the answer to, so I’ve just got to put my head down and go to work and hopefully change that for next season.”

Now the 2019 second-round draft pick has found himself in catch-up mode, trying to navigate the team's sparkling and sprawling headquarters and learn the terminology in coach Kevin O'Connell's complex offense. Vikings offensive line coach Chris Kuper was the assistant offensive line coach with the Broncos for Risner's first three years there, an aspect of familiarity that influenced his decision.

“We will obviously have to make decisions to get the best five guys on the field, and what that looks like I can’t tell you right now or timelines for that,” O'Connell said. “I do know Dalton is very intelligent. I do know he’s chomping at the bit to get going.”

Risner said he had interest from 16 clubs, exactly half of the league, including a scheduled visit Tuesday to a team he declined to identify. That was canceled when the picked he Vikings.

“I just wanted to play football, but I wasn’t willing to do it for what some of these teams did,” Risner said.

Now he can put the contract matters in the past and focus on helping an offensive line that's in a bit of a scramble itself.

Center Garrett Bradbury missed the last game because of a back injury and did not practice Wednesday. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw didn't play in the loss to Philadelphia, either, because of an ankle injury. Second-year right guard Ed Ingram and backup center Austin Schlottman have had some obvious struggles for the Vikings (0-2), who lead the NFL in turnovers and are last in the league in rushing yards. Backup tackle Oli Udoh is out for the season with a torn quadriceps tendon.

“I don’t want to be the guy who comes in here and expects anything. No one’s entitled to anything in this world, and I learned that this last free agency period,” said Risner, who was working out in his cleats in a neighborhood park when his agent called to tell him about the pending deal with the Vikings.

Risner had only one holding penalty, three false starts and four missed games over his four seasons with the Broncos.

“You're going to have to severely tear or break something on my body to keep me off the field,” he said. “I did a lot of things in Denver I’m really proud of.”



Bills linebacker Matt Milano keeps quiet while marching to his own 'boom, boom' beat

2.5d ago 9/20/2023 6:33 PM ET By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano is a player of numerous accolades and very few words, even when it comes to the topic of his musical tastes.

Milano’s eyes lit up Wednesday when informed some of his teammates revealed he was a fan of house music.

“I don’t know nothing about that,” the seventh-year player said, laughing. “They’re just making up (stuff).”

As for what Milano might be into, the 2022 All-Pro player provided a blunt response.

“I’m into football,” he said.

It’s a perfect answer from a player who is as intensely focused on keeping his life private, as Milano is running down an opponent.

Whether true or not, the house music connection is not lost on many of Milano’s teammates because the “boom, boom, boom” beat of the sound reflects the familiar constant thud of tackles he makes during games.

“It’s usually just him laying the wood, you know, boom, boom, left and right,” said running back Damien Harris, who faced Milano twice a year during his first four seasons with the division-rival Patriots before signing with Buffalo this offseason. “You always know where 58 is on the field.”

Milano has not lost a step two games into his seventh season, with Buffalo (1-1) preparing play at Washington (2-0) on Sunday.

And Milano is doing so while adapting to a new defensive system to accommodate Buffalo losing starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in free agency. Undersized second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard has taken over Edmunds’ spot, and the Bills have incorporated Taylor Rapp to play a safety/linebacker role during passing situations.

Known for his ability to penetrate the backfield, drop back in coverage and his sideline-to-sideline range, Milano is second on the team in having had a hand in 12 tackles, and leads Buffalo with two interceptions.

The first came when he dropped back into coverage and easily picked off Zach Wilson in a season-opening 22-16 overtime loss at the Jets. His next one came Sunday, when Milano jumped over the back of Raiders running back Josh Jacobs to cleanly catch Jimmy Garoppolo’s attempt in a 38-10 win.

“I actually had a pretty good vantage point to see it unfold, and just amazing,” coach Sean McDermott said. “It’s weird, though, because I almost expected Matt to do that when I saw the position he was in.”

His dual abilities against the run and pass are the result of Milano’s experience playing safety at Boston College. The question mark for Milano entering the 2017 draft was how his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame would translate to the NFL because he was regarded as being too slow to play safety and too small to play linebacker.

Selected in the fifth-round by Buffalo, Milano quickly found a fit in the Bills' defense and has been a starter since late in his rookie season.

“That boy can do it all, man,” safety Micah Hyde said. “He’s no longer our secret on defense, because the word’s definitely getting out. He’s making too many plays.”

The spotlight is something that makes Milano uncomfortable. Though polite with reporters, he eschews lengthy interviews because the few times he’s done them immediately led to him getting hurt the following weekend.

His man-of-few-words approach has led to teammates poking fun at Milano in a sign of playful respect and bid to get a rise out of the linebacker.

It began during training camp, when Harris first raised the notion of Milano’s music tastes after saying the linebacker shared his playlist during a massage session.

“Clearly, not too many people know he likes house music, so I definitely outed him on that, and I do not care at all,” Harris said, laughing.

Tackle Dion Dawkins chimed in a few minutes later.

“Typical of Matt Milano, right?” Dawkins said. “Italian guru. All-Pro-Lano. Looks like a mannequin and bumps his chest to house music, Doot, doot, doot, doot.”

On Wednesday, quarterback Josh Allen got into it.

“Matt has like a French mafia house vibe. I can see that,” Allen said with a wink. “But it’s a very select type of music. Or he just listens to TV static. I don’t know. It’s one or the other. You never know with him.”

Make no mistake, however, Allen only had praise for Milano as a player.

“I don’t know what allows him to do it, but it was the least surprising Matt Milano play ever,” Allen said of the linebacker’s most recent interception. “If it was anybody else, it’s like, ‘Holy cow, what a play.’ And then you see it’s Milano and it’s, ‘Of course Milano does it.’ He’s just got this like silent assassin mentality, and it’s fun to watch.”

Milano, as he typically does, deflected credit for his interception Sunday.

“I was just doing my job. Bobby’s got us keyed in on our keys, and I was just right place, right time,” Milano said, referring to his position coach. “Bobby Babich. Best coach in the NFL.”



Jets' defense preparing to bounce back against Patriots' 'simple' but effective offense

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 6:03 PM ET By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Pro Football Writer FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sauce Gardner has watched video of the New England Patriots' offense and it seems easy to understand.

Stopping it, however, is a different story. And that's the upcoming task for a New York Jets defense looking to bounce back after a rough outing at Dallas last Sunday.

“They don’t really have a complex offense,” Gardner said of the Patriots. “You know, it’s pretty simple for the quarterback to get, the gap scheme, everything is really like simple. But it’s like they excel at it, you know what I mean? What they try to do is get other people to mess up and make mistakes.

"They just do everything right.”

The Jets cornerback was complimenting the way Bill O'Brien's offense executes the game plan, although using the word “simple” could rankle some around the Patriots' facility. New England is 0-2, but has come down to the wire in season-opening losses to Philadelphia (25-20) and Miami (24-17).

Mac Jones has thrown four touchdown passes with two interceptions and has a quarterback rating of 88.3 through the first two games. The Patriots are ranked in the middle of the pack — 14th overall — in offense and missed several opportunities last Sunday to beat the Dolphins. But the Jets are talking them up ahead of their AFC East showdown at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

“They're dominant, man,” defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said. "They've got a great quarterback in Mac Jones who can throw the ball anywhere he wants to throw it. He can run also, a little bit. They've got a great offensive front, a great, powerful running back (Rhamondre Stevenson) who runs the ball tough, runs the ball hard.

“I think they move efficiently just every single play.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh echoed those sentiments, pointing out the Patriots have played well against two strong defenses.

“They’re doing a really nice job of methodically moving the ball and playing good, sound, ahead of the chains football, if you will,” Saleh said. “Getting the ball in and out of the quarterback's hands very quickly. They’re effective in the run game, so they’re doing a really nice job.”

Jones has started four times against the Jets — the last four victories in New England's active 14-game winning streak against New York. He's 93 of 128 (72.7%) for 933 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, but has been sacked 16 times.

“I’ve had a chance to play against this defense a lot, but they’ve done a great job,” Jones said. “They affect the quarterback. They push the pocket. They’re relentless. They run to the ball. They do everything right. So, it’s a big challenge.”

Heading into the season opener against Buffalo, cornerback D.J. Reed said the Jets' defense could rank among the greatest units in league history if it plays to its potential. Well, New York might have been a bit humbled after its performance against the Cowboys, when it couldn't get Dak Prescott and the offense off the field.

Dallas dominated time of possession — 42:15 compared to the Jets’ 17:45 — and converted nine of 18 third downs in the Cowboys' 30-10 rout.

“For me, it’s just our situational football with regards to third down,” Saleh said. “There’s just a lot of third-down opportunities that we felt like we could have been better at, both as coaches and as players. Like I said, we just didn’t get it done.”

The Patriots are 14th in the NFL on third-down opportunities through two games, converting 12 of 30 chances. The Jets know that area will be a key again this week to get off the field consistently and give their own offense more time on the field.

“I would say we've just got the mentality like we've got to shake back,” Gardner said. “We didn't perform like we really wanted to. We can't dwell on the past. All we can do is look forward to this week and bounce back.”

NOTES: S Tony Adams (hamstring), LT Duane Brown (shoulder/hip), DL John Franklin-Myers (hip) and K Greg Zuerlein (groin) didn't practice. RT Mekhi Becton (knee), CB Michael Carter II (elbow), RB Breece Hall (knee) and LB Quincy Williams (knee) were limited. ... Saleh said the Jets weren't considering any changes to the offensive line, despite its struggles the first two games. “The same group ran for 180 yards against Buffalo, so what happened on Sunday and, it is what it is, it just wasn’t our best day coaching, playing, executing, all of it,” Saleh said. “And it’s just turning the page over and just trying to figure out how we can get back on track.”



Patriots veterans have rallied around rookie receiver Demario Douglas after his fumble vs. Miami

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 6:03 PM ET By KYLE HIGHTOWER, AP Sports Writer FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Self-inflicted mistakes have been a recurring theme during the Patriots’ 0-2 start to the season.

As they prepare to hit the road for the first time on Sunday against the Jets, they are focusing on things big and small.

That includes taking time to remind one of their most productive rookies on offense that there are still plenty of games left to play.

Sixth-round pick Demario “Pop” Douglas was among New England’s biggest standouts during training camp, routinely hauling in sure-handed receptions despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

It made his first-quarter fumble, which led to the Dolphins’ first touchdown during New England’s 24-17 loss to Miami last week, that much more surprising.

It’s also why team veterans, including tight end Hunter Henry, made seeking out Douglas a priority when the team reconvened at the practice facility for the first time this week.

Henry’s message?

“I told him a similar story to me,” he said.

It was 2016 and the third game of Henry’s rookie season with the then-San Diego Chargers. Normally the backup to Antonio Gates, Henry was inserted into the starting lineup against the Indianapolis Colts with Gates sidelined because of a hamstring injury.

The Chargers trailed 26-22 with just over a minute left in the game.

“I catch the ball and I kind of get in the open field,” Henry recalled. “I make the first guy miss, but I’m looking at the next guy and not thinking about what’s going on and the ball gets poked out from behind. I lost the game for our team in a two-minute drive situation. … It really woke me up kind of to this level. It humbled me a lot and I learned a lot. I realized I needed to hold on to the ball a little bit tighter. I kind of conveyed that to him.”

He also was sure to let Douglas know that other opportunities would come his way.

“Pop’s a great player and we need him. He’s going to learn from this. He’s going to learn a lot from it,” Henry said.

Henry would know. His only other fumble in 91 games didn’t come until three years later in 2019.

“And that fumble might be a little questionable. We can go back on the tape and look at that one,” he joked.

Running back Rhamondre Stevenson can also empathize with the position Douglas is in. Stevenson was a rookie in 2021 when he had a fumble in New England's season opener that season. He didn't play the next three games. He also made it a point to bend Douglas' ear.

“I said, ‘The same thing happened to me and I missed a lot of games off of it. Hopefully you don’t miss as many as me off of it,'” Stevenson said, smiling. “So hopefully he gets back on the field soon. I think a young guy, the first couple of games you're just trying to get in the swing of things just like I was. Just like every rookie is in the league."

While Douglas didn’t play another offensive snap following his fumble Sunday, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien insisted this week that it was a function of second-half play-calling and not a lack of confidence in him.

The numbers support him returning to action quickly.

Douglas has already been targeted nine times over the first two games, pulling in six catches for 59 yards. His 9.8 yards per catch average is tied with Henry for the best on the team. His speed also draws attention which opens up the field for his teammates.

It's why quarterback Mac Jones said he wouldn't hesitate to put the ball in Douglas’ hands going forward.

“He’s a great player, and one play, one week doesn’t define anybody,” Jones said. “So, he’s going to come out and keep swinging. He has a lot of speed, smart kid, tough, dependable, all the stuff. So, he’s going to bounce back and so are we.”



Titans veteran Ryan Tannehill knows how to ride NFL wave through bad and good

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 6:03 PM ET By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer NASHVILLE, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ryan Tannehill has been around the NFL long enough to know not to listen to critics wanting him either benched or traded after Tennessee's opener.

Tannehill not only bounced back by leading the Titans to their first win, he turned in one of the best games of his career. He was literally perfect when it mattered the most, helping pull out a 27-24 overtime win last week over the Chargers.

“Yeah, I don’t ride that wave," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I know a lot of people, especially outside the buildings, ride those waves, but personally I take it one week at a time, improve on the things that you want to each and every week and go out and play football and not let one week roll into the next.”

Tannehill started his 12th NFL season with his worst passer rating at 28.8. He also had three interceptions and no touchdown passes for only the third time in his career and first since his rookie season in Miami in 2012 after playing one series in the preseason.

In the Titans' home opener, they rallied from an 11-point deficit with Tannehill completing 83.3% of his passes. That marked his best completion percentage in a single game of his career as he was 20 of 24 for 246 yards and a 123.3 passer rating.

In the fourth quarter and overtime, Tannehill completed all seven passes for 94 yards and a TD with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said obviously nobody expected Tannehill to play the way he did opening week. But he didn't see Tannehill change anything in how he led the team, which showed last weekend.

Sometimes bad games just happen.

“Obviously, you don’t want it to happen and you don’t want it to happen Week 1, stuff like that, because you've got to deal with all the chatter and stuff like that,” Byard said. “But I think he did a really good job of bouncing back.”

It doesn't help that the Titans also have drafted not one, but two quarterbacks over the past two years waiting behind Tannehill. Malik Willis was the 86th overall pick in 2022, and Will Levis the 33rd selection in April with some fans eager to see either of the young quarterbacks in the Titans' new offense.

But Tannehill ran for a touchdown on a triple-option look, showing off the former track star's mobility limited much of last season by a sprained ankle. He had a 70-yard completion to Treylon Burks with much of that in the air, and yes the 35-year-old quarterback put “some muscle” on the throw.

He threaded a TD pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a lead in the fourth quarter, then found three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 14-yard catch helping set up the winning kick capping the 27th winning drive of his career in either the fourth quarter or overtime overall.

Since 2019 when he took over as the Titans' starter in mid-October 2019, that was his 14th such comeback. That tied Tom Brady, who retired after last season, and trails only Derek Carr (17) and Kirk Cousins (16).

Byard said fans love to see quarterbacks make big splash plays, but consistency matters most. Tannehill often gets overlooked because he shares a backfield with three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry.

“He’s been a really good quarterback for us,” Byard said of the quarterback nicknamed ”Tannewheels."

NOTES: Hopkins (ankle) practiced fully Wednesday. So did S Amani Hooker (concussion protocol) and CB Kristian Fulton (hamstring), who missed last week's game. Skoronski isn't expected back this week and joined DL Teair Tart (knee) among four not practicing. OLBs Denico Autry (foot) and Harold Landry III (hamstring) were limited.



Colts QB Gardner Minshew prepares for possible start against Ravens

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 5:43 PM ET By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer INDIANAPOLIS

Teams: IND

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Quarterback Gardner Minshew joined the Indianapolis Colts knowing the odds.

Yes, he wanted a chance to compete for the starting job. He also recognized Indy would likely use the fourth overall draft pick on its quarterback of the future — and perhaps its present day starter.

Knowing the reality didn't make it any easier for Minshew to accept that after one preseason game, his former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia and current head coach Shane Steichen declared 21-year-old rookie Anthony Richardson the starter.

Now, Minshew could get his long-awaited opportunity — making career start No. 25 Sunday at Baltimore in place of the injured Richardson.

“You just show up every day and do what they tell you to do,” Minshew said before Wednesday's workout. "Just get ready with whatever reps you got. I’m here today, they said I’m going so I’m fired up about it and about to do my best.”

The five-year veteran understands this isn't 2019 when he became a leaguewide sensation as much for his quirky personality and trademark moustache as he was for leading Jacksonville to a 6-6 mark during his starting tenure.

When Richardson clears the concussion protocol, he'll start.

But nobody can say precisely when to expect Richardson back because concussion-like symptoms can linger and recovery times vary. He did not practice Wednesday and could sit out Thursday, too.

So, for now, Minshew is taking first-team snaps again as he did throughout the offseason and at the start of training camp.

The Colts (1-1) have no doubt, he'll be ready — if needed.

This is the third straight season Minshew has worked with Steichen, who applauded the way the former Washington State star led Indy during the final three quarters last weekend in Houston. Minshew finished 19 of 23 with 171 yards and one TD in relief of Richardson, leading the Colts to three scores in a 31-20 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

Steichen wasn't surprised.

“Credit to him, what he does week in and week out to get prepared for games and to do what he did in that game, to come off the bench and have the success he had, it shows how prepared he is,” Steichen said. " Just the way he operated, it was very impressive. "

Minshew has provided the kind of solid, steady presence Steichen envisioned when the Colts signed the free agent to a one-year, $3.5 million deal in March. Minshew's experience in Philadelphia helped him teach his new teammates the offense while developing strong locker room bonds.

Minshew's work ethic hasn't changed.

“They have to know you’re ready, that you’re dialed in, that you haven’t been just sitting over there messing around on scout team, that you know the plan,” Minshew said. "I think if you do that, you show you’re prepared and ready, the guys will follow.”

Minshew got that the old fashioned way — he earned it.

Strangely, though, Minshew may not be the only new guy in the center-quarterback exchange this weekend. Three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly also left the Houston game with a concussion and, like Richardson, remains in the protocol.

If Kelly isn't cleared before Sunday, Wesley French will likely be lining up between All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson and right guard Will Fries and in front of Minshew, with whom he's been working with extensively since Minshew was designated as the backup. There were no hiccups between the two in Houston and French expects more of the same if they're starting in Baltimore.

“The more work you do with the guy, obviously, the better connection you have,” French said. “So timing-wise, rhythm-wise, you're on the same page. The longer you're with somebody, the better it becomes like every single rep.”

Much has changed for Minshew since that breakout rookie season. He's grown his hair out and added a beard and has won only two of his 12 starts.

But the Colts believe Minshew can win any game, even if that means beating the unbeaten Ravens (2-0) on their turf this weekend.

“He’s just a genuine guy, a leader, and he just loves ball,” receiver Michael Pittman Jr. said. "He just loves it. Every single time he’s in there, he’s juiced up and he’s ready to play.”



Giants are seeking a more complete performance against the 49ers even without Saquon Barkley

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 5:33 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

Games: NYG@SF from 9/21/2023

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Matching the biggest comeback win in franchise history was cause for celebration for the New York Giants.

But they know it won't be nearly as easy climbing out of a big hole this week when they take on the powerhouse San Francisco 49ers (2-0) on Thursday night as it was against the bottom-dwelling Arizona Cardinals.

“We can’t afford to do that against any team,” safety Xavier McKinney said about falling into a deep hole. “We can’t keep having slow starts. We’ve just got to correct it. It’s only so much talking that we can do about it, we’ve just got to go out there and execute the things that we’re practicing and the stuff that we go over in these meetings. That’s what we’re going to be looking to do. But we definitely cannot keep doing that.”

Accomplishing that for the Giants (1-1) will be a lot harder without star running back Saquon Barkley, who will miss at least this week's game after spraining his ankle late in the win against Arizona.

That puts even more pressure on quarterback Daniel Jones to play the way he did in the second half against Arizona and not like the first six quarters of the season.

“Daniel has got his job to do, just like the running backs have their job, the receivers, the offensive line,” coach Brian Daboll said. “It’s individually taking care of your responsibility, whatever that may be and doing your job at a high level.”

The Giants didn't do that to start the season. They got off to one of the worst starts in recent history in the NFL, losing the opener 40-0 to Dallas and then falling behind 20-0 at the half to the Cardinals and 28-7 in the third quarter.

New York was the first team in 45 years to allow at least 60 points before scoring for the first time in a season. The Giants then scored 31 points in the second half behind 317 yards of offense and three TDs from Jones.

The 49ers have struggled at times in recent seasons slowing down mobile quarterbacks and view the matchup with Jones as a big challenge.

“It starts with his legs,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “He’s willing to run. He’s physical when he runs. He’s got the skillset to run away from people. So anytime you have a quarterback like that, the challenge that does just schematically, unlocking your defense and making you have to play a certain way is always a pain. Then he’s got the ability to play in the pocket and beat you that way too. So he’s getting better each year.”


The Giants will use three backs to try to replace Barkley. Veteran Matt Breida should get the majority of carries. Second-year running back Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray will pick up the slack.

Breida has started only two games since leaving San Francisco following the 2019 season. But he topped 100 yards rushing five times in 18 starts in 2018-19 for the 49ers.

“We are comfortable with all those guys. Whether that’s run or pass,” Daboll said. “Certainly things that we could all improve on, but they are all here for a reason.”


The 49ers vaunted defensive line got a bit frustrated last week with how quickly Matthew Stafford got rid of the ball, limiting San Francisco to just one sack on a blitz by linebacker Fred Warner. Nick Bosa and crew see some opportunities this week against Jones, who holds onto the ball longer and has taken 10 sacks this season.

“It’s going to be pretty much opposite of what we just did with Stafford," Bosa said. "Definitely can hold it a little bit and we just have to keep him in the pocket. He’s going to try and get out any chance he gets. Just trying to close it in on him, be good in our rush lanes and we could have a good day.”

Complicating matters for the Giants are injuries on the offensive line with left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and LG Ben Bredeson (concussion) out this week.


Niners receiver Deebo Samuel had harsh criticism of his performance last season when he admitted coming into camp out of shape and never finding his stride. He vowed to change that this year and is off to a good start after posting his first 100-yard game from scrimmage in the regular season since Week 4 last season. Samuel had 68 yards receiving, 38 yards rushing and a TD.

“He’s in the best shape,” Shanahan said. "He doesn’t have to come out as much, doesn’t have to take as many plays off and is playing as good as I’ve seen him play.”


With only three days between games, the Giants stayed in Arizona after last week's game to prepare for the Niners. Both teams essentially held only walkthroughs this week with the focus on installing the game plan and recovering physically.

“You’ve got to prepare hard in the meetings, and you got to treat those lighter practices with great detail and attention to the specifics of what we need to get accomplished,” Daboll said. "It’s a quick turnaround, but everybody has to play them, so that’s what we will do


AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report



Saints safety Marcus Maye suspended 3 games in connection with 2021 DUI case

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 5:23 PM ET By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer METAIRIE, La.

Teams: NO NYJ

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Maye has been suspended without pay for three games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the league said Wednesday.

The suspension starts with Sunday's game at Green Bay and ends following New Orleans' Week 5 game at New England on Oct. 8.

Maye's punishment stems from his 2021 arrest in Florida on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol after his involvement in a car crash in Fort Lauderdale. He was a member of the New York Jets at the time and signed with the Saints as a free agent during the 2022 offseason.

Maye last month agreed to a no-contest plea and six months' probation.

Through two games, Maye is third among Saints defensive players in tackles with 13. He intercepted Ryan Tannehill during New Orleans' season-opening 16-15 victory over the Titans and sacked the Panthers' Bryce Young during Monday night's 20-17 victory at Carolina.

“He’s been playing outstanding,” fellow starting safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “He provides us with a different attitude. He’s a hell of a tackler. There’s a lot of different things we do with him within the scheme that we’re probably going to miss.”

Because Maye's case was more than two years old, the Saints had prepared for the possibility of a suspension, coach Dennis Allen said.

“Obviously missing a player of Marcus Maye’s stature is a blow to us but yet we feel good about the guys we have backing him up,” Allen said. “We knew that this was certainly a possibility as we got into the season.”

Allen said candidates to fill in for Maye would include rookie Jordan Howden, special teams stalwart J.T. Gray, Ugo Amadi and Lonnie Johnson.

“We'll have a plan in place for making sure we're good in that spot,” Allen said. “All throughout training camp, we felt like the secondary was a position of strength.”

Howden, a fifth-round draft choice out of Minnesota, has rotated in for snaps at safety more than other reserves.

“He's a good young player,” Allen said. “He's smart. He's in the right spots, made some plays on the ball in training camp and we feel good about that player.”

The first game of Maye's suspension will overlap with the final game of star running back Alvin Kamara's three-game suspension in connection with a February 2022 melee in a Las Vegas hotel during Pro Bowl weekend.

NOTES: In addition to injured running back Jamaal Williams, who is expected to miss at least one game because of his hamstring pull, tight end Foster Moreau also did not practice on Wednesday because of an ankle injury. ... Rookie running back Kendre Miller, a third-round draft choice out of TCU, could make his debut in Green Bay after practicing fully on Wednesday. He had missed the first two games with a hamstring injury.



Raiders place defensive end Chandler Jones on reserve/non-football illness list

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 5:23 PM ET By MARK ANDERSON, AP Sports Writer HENDERSON, Nev.

Teams: LV

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The Las Vegas Raiders placed defensive end Chandler Jones on the reserve/non-football illness list on Wednesday, meaning he will miss at least the next four games.

Jones criticized owner Mark Davis, coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler in a series of social media posts, which he has since taken down. Jones also posted that the Raiders sent a mental health representative to his home.

McDaniels offered little comment when asked Wednesday before news of the designation.

"We’re just respecting that process and understand the situation, and that’s really all I can say about it,” McDaniels said.

Jones, who is in his second year with the Raiders, has not played this season. Las Vegas signed him last year to help improve the team's pass rush, but Jones finished with 4 1/2 sacks. He had 10 1/2 sacks the year before with the Arizona Cardinals.

Jones continues to be active on social media, but his recent posts have not been critical of the club.



Pro Picks: Big week ahead for 49ers, other favorites

2.6d ago 9/20/2023 4:43 PM ET By ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer

Fourteen NFL teams are 1-1 and Pro Picks also has an even record through two weeks.

It takes a couple of games for most teams to find their way and to figure it out.

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t need much time picking up where they left off. The Niners (2-0) opened with a pair of road wins and now have won 12 straight regular-season games. Their only loss in the past 15 games was in the NFC championship when they lost both quarterbacks to injury.

Brock Purdy has looked sharp in his return from elbow surgery, Christian McCaffrey has been dynamic and San Francisco is clicking heading into Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Giants (1-1).

After being outscored 60-0 in the first 90 minutes of the season, the Giants rallied from a 21-point deficit to beat Arizona last week.

Daniel Jones delivered in the clutch and Saquon Barkley had a pair of scores before injuring his ankle.

New York has no chance without Barkley, who will miss the game. The 49ers are 10 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Pro Picks doesn’t expect a Giants team that has been outclassed in six of eight quarters to keep it close. Looking at the 49ers to kick off a big week for favorites around the league.

49ERS, 30-16


Line: Bills minus 6 1/2

Josh Allen successfully played hero ball after an awful opener for the Bills (1-1). Sam Howell was impressive in leading the Commanders (2-0) to a comeback win. Buffalo is 18-2 when facing opposing quarterbacks with 16 or fewer career starts since 2019.



Line: Raiders minus 2 1/2

The Steelers (1-1) have as many defensive TDs (two) as offensive and can’t stop the run. The Raiders (1-1) are also having problems on offense.



Line: Vikings minus 1 1/2

A pair of 2022 playoff teams looking to avoid an 0-3 start. The Chargers are moving the ball on offense but Brandon Staley’s defense still stinks. The Vikings are beating themselves with turnovers. Cousins is 6-12-1 in September with Minnesota.

VIKINGS, 27-24


Line: Patriots minus 2 1/2

Bill Belichick and the Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001. New England has to avoid turnovers to win its 15th straight vs. the Jets. New York’s defense failed to step up in the first full game without Aaron Rodgers. Zach Wilson looked like the guy the Jets desperately wanted to replace.



Line: Jaguars minus 8 1/2

Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville’s offense are out of sync but the Jaguars (1-1) are playing better on defense. Rookie QB C.J. Stroud is exciting to watch but Texans (0-2) are overmatched.

JAGUARS, 27-18


Line: Ravens minus 7 1/2

The Ravens (2-0) are coming off an impressive win in Cincinnati and Lamar Jackson is picking up a new offensive system nicely. QB Anthony Richardson and Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly are in concussion protocol for the Colts (1-1).

RAVENS, 27-13


Line: Lions minus 3 1/2

The Falcons (2-0) are off to a surprising start and rookie RB Bijan Robinson looks like the real deal. Now they face a team with playoff aspirations coming off a disappointing loss. The Lions haven’t solved their defensive issues yet.

LIONS, 29-20


Line: Cowboys minus 12 1/2

The Cowboys (2-0) dominated both New York teams, outscoring them 70-10. Still, Dak Prescott and the offense haven’t fully clicked. The woeful Cardinals (0-2) blew a 21-point lead in the second half against the Giants in what might have been their best chance to get a win anytime soon.

COWBOYS, 31-12


Line: Dolphins minus 6 1/2

Even Sean Payton can’t get the Broncos (0-2) on the winning track, though Russell Wilson at least looks better than last season. Tua Tagovailoa has led a balanced offense for the Dolphins (2-0).



Line: Chiefs minus 13 1/2

Travis Kelce and Chris Jones returned and so did the winning ways for the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs (1-1). The Bears (0-2) are headed for their 13th straight loss.

Only question is how many points it’ll take.

CHIEFS, 31-13


Line: Seahawks minus 5 1/2

Bryce Young and the Panthers (0-2) are predictably struggling in the passing game. Geno Smith got the Seahawks (1-1) going in an impressive comeback win at Detroit.



Line: Browns minus 3 1/2

Deshaun Watson hardly looks like a guy worth the $230 million the Browns (1-1) gave him and now he can’t give the ball to Nick Chubb. Cleveland’s defense under Jim Schwartz has impressed. Ryan Tannehill rebounded from an awful game to lead the Titans (1-1) to a comeback win that snapped an eight-game losing streak.

BROWNS, 20-17


Line: Packers minus 2

The Saints are 2-0 for the first time since 2013 thanks mainly to a stingy defense. They need Derek Carr and the offense to find a rhythm. Injuries have already hit the Packers (1-1) hard. Jordan Love is the NFL’s highest-rated passer.

PACKERS, 22-17


Line: Eagles minus 4 1/2

Jalen Hurts and the Eagles (2-0) haven’t looked sharp yet they’re undefeated. The Buccaneers (2-0) are better than expected. Baker Mayfield is playing efficient and the team has playmakers on both sides. Eagles look to avenge a playoff loss to Tom Brady and the Bucs in January 2022.

EAGLES, 27-20


Line: Bengals minus 2 1/2

Hard to believe these two teams met in the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. The rebuilding Rams (1-1) hardly resemble the squad that walked away with the Lombardi Trophy. The Bengals are 0-2 for the second straight year but uncertainty surrounding Joe Burrow’s calf makes it difficult to imagine they’ll rebound the same way and end up back in the AFC title game.

BENGALS, 23-20

Last week: Straight up: 8-8. Against spread: 6-8-2

Overall: Straight up: 16-16. Against spread: 15-15-2.

Best Bet: Straight up: 2-0. Against spread: 1-0-1.

Upset Special: Straight up: 0-2. Against spread: 0-2.

Thursday: Straight up: 1-1. Against spread: 2-0.

Monday: Straight up: 2-1. Against spread: 2-0-1.



Fields says he's being given too much info by Bears coaches, needs to trust instincts

2.7d ago 9/20/2023 3:33 PM ET By ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Writer LAKE FOREST, Ill.

Teams: CHI

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields indicated he is being given too much information by the coaching staff and thinking too much as a result rather than trusting his instincts.

Fields said he played “kind of robotic” in last week's loss at Tampa Bay.

“Could be coaching, I think,” he said Wednesday. "They are doing their job when they are giving me what to look at, but at the end of the day, I can’t be thinking about that when the game comes. I prepare myself throughout the week, and then when the game comes, it’s time to play free at that point. Thinking less and playing more.”

Fields' comments at the podium come after two discouraging losses to start a season in which the Bears hope to show signs of improvement. He said later in the locker room that his quotes were taken out of context and that he is not blaming the coaches.

He struggled against Green Bay at Soldier Field and didn't fare any better against the Buccaneers.

Fields was sacked six times and threw two late interceptions, helping Tampa Bay beat Chicago 27-17. The Bears have called few designed runs for him after he nearly set the NFL's single-season rushing record for a quarterback last season. He remains uncomfortable in the pocket and, by his own admission, isn't playing with the freedom he needs.

“I don’t think it’s too many coaching voices, but I just think when you’re fed a lot of information at a point in time and you’re trying to think about that info when you’re playing, it doesn’t let you play like yourself,” he said.

"You’re trying to process so much information to where it’s like, if I just simplify it in my mind I would have done this. I saw a few plays on Sunday, if I was playing like my old self, we would have had a positive play. There would have been more third-down conversions. I think that’s just the biggest thing for me is playing the game how I know how to play and how I’ve been playing my whole life. That’s what I got to get back to doing.”

Fields’ 70.7 passer rating ranks among the worst in the NFL. He has been sacked 10 times — one shy of the league lead — with six of them coming against Tampa Bay. Though some were because of poor protection, Fields also held onto the ball too long at times. He cited a sack where he fumbled in the second quarter last week, saying he should have trusted his internal clock and taken off, instead.

“In the big scheme of things, I have to continue to be me and play the game how I play it,” he said. “I think when sometimes I’m coached, I think that I’ve had times where I’m like ‘OK, they want me to do it like this’ so I have to kind of change it. It’s probably more of a me thing than a coach thing.”

The Bears have also called few designed runs and haven't moved the pocket the way they did last season, when he established himself as one of the NFL's most exciting players. Some of that has to do with the defenses opposing teams are playing.

“A lot of times he wants to be perfect,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “He wants to do it the right way. And there’s a balance there, though, right. There’s a balance between, ’Hey, going through my progressions, but also having the ability to say, ‘Hey, I feel these things happening. Now I’m going to play instinctual.’ And that could be just sliding up in the pocket in the ‘B’ gap and delivering the ball, or taking off and running. I think that’s where that is.”

The question is whether the Bears are putting him in position to succeed. Fields said conversations with the coaches are productive and they're receptive to his ideas.

“Everybody in here knows that I need to play better, including myself,” he said. “They’re not going to take it personal if us as players go to them and say, ‘I didn’t like this call’. They need to be better. We’re all grown men in the building and we all can take it.”

NOTES: The Bears placed left tackle Braxton Jones (neck) on injured reserve. He will miss at least four games, and Eberflus would not say if he is done for the season. “We don’t have timetables on it right now,” he said. ... Right guard Nate Davis rejoined the team after missing a game for personal reasons. ... The Bears terminated quarterback Nathan Peterman's contract.



Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes happy for reworked deal, chance to keep winning Super Bowls in KC

2.7d ago 9/20/2023 3:13 PM ET By DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer KANSAS CITY, Mo.

Teams: KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes was trying to walk a tightrope taking him three different directions while negotiating his revised contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, which effectively makes him the league's highest-paid player over the next four years.

Mahomes wanted to maximize his income. He wanted to leave salary cap space so the Chiefs could continue to surround him with championship talent. And he wanted to keep pushing the bar higher for other players seeking contracts around the league.

“You have to watch and see what's going on around the league and find that right spot,” Mahomes said Wednesday in his first comments since reworking his deal. “I think we found a good one in this negotiation we did to keep cap space to get other guys signed, but obviously I've got more money up front and we'll renegotiate when we get to the right time.”

Mahomes still has nine years left on his 10-year, $450 million contract, which set the standard for overall value when it was signed in 2020.

The revision essentially pushes some of the money from the last five seasons to the first four, giving him $210.6 million over that span — the most over any four seasons in NFL history.

Mahomes is due to make $56.85 million this season, $44.5 million next season, $50 million in 2025 and $56.76 million for the 2026 season, at which point the Chiefs and his representatives have agreed to meet again and discuss the future.

“You have a lot of great players that I want to be here so we can win a lot of Super Bowls,” Mahomes said. “I want to make a lot of money but I also want to win. You look back at players, and you look back at how they won and the perception of how they did things, and that's what I want to try to manage.”

The Chiefs are approaching an important point in the future of their burgeoning dynasty.

All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones is not under contract after this season, agreeing only to a reworked one-year deal to end his holdout last week. Left tackle Donovan Smith, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and cornerback L'Jarius Sneed are also staring ahead at the possibility of free agency, which means the Chiefs could have plenty of holes to fill before next season.

Then there are Pro Bowl center Creed Humphrey, right guard Trey Smith and standout linebacker Nick Bolton, all of whom are eligible for contract extensions after the season — and all of whom will command a hefty price.

That is why the two-time league MVP placed so much importance on finding the right contract, not necessarily the richest one.

“I've always kind of liked it,” Mahomes said of the negotiating process. “If I didn't become an NFL player, I wanted to be a sports agent or work in sports marketing. I've always wanted to help players. I know I'm doing it a different way than some people, but I feel like it's the right way for me. ... Hopefully I'm giving us a chance to go out there and win football games as well.”

Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who dealt with personnel decisions in Philadelphia but relinquished control of them in Kansas City, has marveled at the way Mahomes has kept an even keel even as the value of his contract has soared.

“He's not big on all of that. He just kind of moves through it like most things and wants to keep getting better,” Reid said, “and that is what he's doing. That's what makes him unique. You don't sit there and say, ‘Oh, he’s going to have a letdown.' You just say, ‘Hey, congrats,’ and keep moving. That's how he rolls. But I'm happy for him.”

In other news Wednesday, the Chiefs were missing several key players to injuries as they began practicing for Sunday's game against the Bears. Bolton is dealing with an ankle sprain and Gay has a bruised quadriceps, and while both of them went through an early walkthrough, neither of them were planning to practice.

Running back Isiah Pacheco is dealing with a bruised hamstring, Kadarius Toney with a sprained toe and fellow wide receiver and return specialist Richie James has an injured knee ligament that Reid acknowledged could keep him out for a while.

“Most of them are just day to day,” Reid said, “Richie might be a little bit longer.”



The 49ers seek their second 3-0 start in 25 seasons when they host the Giants

2.7d ago 9/20/2023 2:13 PM ET By The Associated Press


Thursday, 8:15 p.m. EDT, Prime Video

OPENING LINE: 49ers by 10, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Giants 0-2; 49ers 1-0-1.

SERIES RECORD: Tied 21-21.

LAST MEETING: 49ers beat Giants 36-9 on Sept. 27, 2020, in New York.

LAST WEEK: Giants beat Cardinals 31-28; 49ers beat Rams 27-20.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Giants minus-4; 49ers plus-3.

GIANTS PLAYER TO WATCH: Edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 draft has been an enigma in the first two games. He looked very good in training camp and has been missing in action since the season started. He’s had four tackles, including one solo. Coach Brian Daboll was asked what is wrong with him on Monday and said he has the right mindset and is working to improve.

49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Deebo Samuel. Samuel had six catches for 63 yards and five carries for 38 yards and a TD last week. It was his first regular-season game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage since Week 4 against the Rams last season. He did it eight times in 2021.

KEY MATCHUP: Giants offensive line vs. 49ers defensive line. San Francisco generated only one sack last week — on a blitz by linebacker Fred Warner — as Rams QB Matthew Stafford did a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly. New York's Daniel Jones typically holds onto the ball longer and has been sacked 10 times this season.

KEY INJURIES: Giants RB Saquon Barkley sprained his ankle on Sunday and will miss the game. ... New York G Ben Bredeson (concussion) and LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring) also will be out. ... San Francisco WR Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) and CB Ambry Thomas (knee) will be game-time decisions.

SERIES NOTES: The Niners are 2-1 against the Giants under coach Kyle Shanahan, including his first win as a head coach after nine straight losses in 2017. ... The teams met in the playoffs eight times between the 1981 and 2011 seasons, with each winning four.

STATS AND STUFF: The Giants rallied from 21 points down to beat Arizona last week, matching the biggest comeback in their 99-year history. ... The Giants are the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to have no sacks and no takeaways in the first two games of the season. ... New York QB Daniel Jones threw for 321 yards and two TDs and ran for 59 yards and another TD in the win last week. He is aiming for his third straight road start with 300 yards passing. ... TE Darren Waller had six catches for 76 yards last week for New York. He caught a TD against the Niners last season with Las Vegas. … Rookie WR Jalin Hyatt made his first two career receptions for 89 yards against the Cardinals. … New York WR Isaiah Hodgins caught a TD against Arizona and has TDs in three of his past four games. … New York DT Dexter Lawrence had a tackle for a loss in Arizona, and three in his past four games. … Safety Jason Pinnock had a career-high 13 tackles last week for the Giants. … New York CB Adoree Jackson has had a pass defense in three straight games. … Graham Gano’s 34-yard FG with 19 seconds remaining last week for the Giants was his ninth career game-winner in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. ... San Francisco is seeking to start 3-0 for the second time in 25 seasons, having also done it in 2019. ... The Niners have won 12 straight regular-season games — three shy of the franchise record. ... The 49ers have scored at least 30 points on offense in each of the first two games of the season for the fourth time ever and first since 1998. ... San Francisco RB Christian McCaffrey has scored a TD in 11 straight games, including the playoffs — one shy of Jerry Rice's franchise record. The NFL record is 15 straight games held by John Riggins and O.J. Simpson. ... McCaffrey's 268 yards rushing are the most through two games since DeMarco Murray had 285 for Dallas in 2014. ... Niners rookie Jake Moody is the first kicker to make at least six FGs and six PATs without a miss in his first two games since Justin Tucker in 2012. ... Moody's 57-yard FG last week was the second longest in franchise history.

FANTASY TIP: With Barkley out, former 49ers RB Matt Breida could get a bigger load for the Giants. Breida has started only two games since leaving San Francisco following the 2019 season. But he topped 100 yards rushing five times in 18 starts in 2018-19 for the 49ers.



QB Bryce Young's status for Sunday uncertain because of ankle injury; Andy Dalton may get start

2.7d ago 9/20/2023 1:53 PM ET By STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer CHARLOTTE, N.C.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young did not participate in Wednesday’s walkthrough practice because of an ankle injury, opening the door for the possibility of veteran Andy Dalton starting on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Panthers coach Frank Reich said at this point it’s too early to know if the No. 1 overall pick will be able to play.

Carolina is 0-2 as Young and the Panthers offense have struggled to find their groove.

Dalton took first-team reps as Young looked on, per Reich. Young was injured at some point in Carolina’s 20-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, although he did complete the game and threw a touchdown and 2-point conversion pass on his final drive.

The Panthers have signed Jake Luton to the practice squad, and he could be promoted as the team’s backup quarterback if Young can’t play. He spent time in training camp with Carolina.

“If Andy is the starter, we have a lot of confidence.” Reich said. “This is why you bring someone like Andy in. Our goal is to put our team in position to win championships and despite a tough start that is our vision, that is our goal and what we're working toward. My experience personally as a player and as a coach is that you're going to need somebody for one game or two or three somewhere along the line. If Andy plays we believes he gives us a very good chance to win.”

Reich said the game plan would not change much if Dalton starts.

Young and Dalton were not made available during the team's open locker room session on Wednesday.

Dalton is 83-77-2 as a starter during his previous 12 NFL seasons, while throwing for 244 touchdowns and 144 interceptions. He spent nine seasons in Cincinnati before one-year stops in Dallas, Chicago and New Orleans.

Dalton started 14 games last season for the Saints, going 6-8 with 18 TD passes and nine interceptions.

Running back Miles Sanders said he's not worried if Dalton is pressed into starting, saying the veteran is well prepared.

“It would actually be kind of a dream come true to play with Andy,” Sanders said. “Me being from Pittsburgh and being a Steelers fan I know what Andy can do (having played with the Bengals). So yeah, it would be an honor playing with him.”

Young has struggled in his first two career starts, although the team's offensive line hasn't given him much time to throw. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama has completed 59.2% of his passes for 299 yards with two TDs and two picks.

The Panthers also listed four players as limited on Wednesday, including outside linebackers Brian Burns (ankle) and Justin Houston (calf), running back Miles Sanders (pectoral), and linebacker Chandler Wooten (knee).

The team has added veteran linebacker Deion Jones to the roster after Shaq Thompson was placed on injured reserve with a broken leg. Kamu Grugier-Hill is expected to start in Thompson's spot on Sunday.



Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigns, says he has to take care of his health and family

2.7d ago 9/20/2023 1:33 PM ET By ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Writer LAKE FOREST, Ill.

Teams: CHI KC

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears' season took an unexpected turn Wednesday when defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned for what he said were personal reasons.

“I am taking a step back to take care of my health and my family,” he said in a statement. “I appreciate the opportunity to work with the Chicago Bears, a storied NFL franchise with a rich history.”

Williams' resignation was part of a wild day at Halas Hall, with quarterback Justin Fields indicating he is being given too much information by the coaching staff and thinking too much as a result rather than trusting his instincts. Fields said later in the locker room that his quotes were taken out of context and that he is not blaming the coaches.

Williams' departure comes just two games into his second season with the Bears. He missed last week's loss at Tampa Bay after working the opener against Green Bay.

Chicago-based attorney Andrew M. Stroth insisted Williams resigned for health and family reasons. He told The Associated Press neither Williams nor his family are facing any legal issues.

“They're not facing them at the moment, and they're not gonna be facing them,” Stroth said.

Stroth has worked with sports figures and personalities for 25 years, negotiating business partnerships for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb. The list includes Cubs great Ernie Banks and several Bears, such as former coach Lovie Smith. Stroth is also a civil rights attorney.

He would not say how long he has worked with Williams.

“Coach Williams has tremendous respect for the NFL shield,” Stroth said. “He's got tremendous respect and relationships throughout the Bears organization and the McCaskey family. Coach Williams decided he needed to take a step back because of the personal health and family matter.”

Coach Matt Eberflus called the defensive plays in Williams' absence and figures to do so again when the Bears (0-2) visit Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) on Sunday.

In his statement, Williams thanked the McCaskey family, which owns the team, as well as Eberflus, general manager Ryan Poles and President Kevin Warren.

“After taking some time to address my health, I plan to come back and coach again,” he said.

The Bears issued a one-sentence statement saying, “Alan Williams submitted his resignation as the team’s defensive coordinator this afternoon.” Media relations staff handed reporters Williams' letter, which was on a plain white sheet of paper that did not have the team's letterhead.

“The Bears have been very supportive of coach Williams,” Stroth said. “Even though the statement was short, I think that was based on the respect that the Bears' organization has for coach Williams. And because it's personal and health and family related, I think they wanted coach to kind of speak for himself versus the Bears really saying too much.”

Earlier in the day, Eberflus shed little light on the situation, saying he didn't have “any update right now” when asked if Williams still had a job. He gave similar answers when asked if he anticipates Williams returning this season and if the two have spoken.

Williams' departure leaves an obvious hole in the coaching staff.

It raises questions about whether Eberflus can spend enough time tending to a struggling offense while leading the defense. Eberflus said the Bears can get by without a defensive coordinator and doesn’t see it becoming problematic because of the experience of his staff.

“I think with the experience that we have on defense, I don’t think that’s an issue,” he said.

Chicago hired Williams in February 2022, shortly after Eberflus got the Bears' head coaching job. Williams spent four seasons as Indianapolis' safeties coach while Eberflus was the Colts' defensive coordinator. It was his second stint with Indianapolis after coaching defensive backs for 10 seasons from 2002 to 2011.

Williams was Minnesota’s defensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013. He has more than three decades of coaching experience.

“I hope he’s OK, I hope everything’s all good but when you get to the building it’s just focus on the job first,” defensive tackle Andrew Billings said. “When you come here, everything else out of the building leaves and you focus on what’s important and that’s the next game.”



Retrial date set for man who claims self-defense in shooting death of former NFL star Will Smith

2.8d ago 9/20/2023 11:33 AM ET By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press NEW ORLEANS

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Feb. 5 retrial date was set Wednesday for the man whose 2016 manslaughter conviction in the shooting death of former NFL star Will Smith was overturned because the jury's verdict was not unanimous.

Cardell Hayes, 36, has long insisted he shot Smith in self-defense during an April 2016 confrontation after a car crash. Smith died and his wife Racquel Smith was wounded by gunfire.

District Attorney Jason Williams said a new trial date was necessary after Hayes reversed a decision to plead guilty.

“It's deeply frustrating that we had a date blocked in and they said that they wanted to plead guilty as charged — no reduction from the charge — accept responsibility for shooting Racquel and for shooting Will,” Williams told reporters outside the courthouse.

Asked via email about whether Hayes had planned to plead guilty, defense attorney John Fuller said: “The DA was clearly basing his statement on the unreliable sources that led to this unnecessary maelstrom of mendacity.”

At his December 2016 trial, Hayes said he fired at Smith, hitting him once in the side and seven times in the back, only because he believed a drunken and belligerent Smith had retrieved a gun from his SUV. He insisted on the stand that he heard a “pop” before he started shooting and that he did not shoot at Smith’s wife, who was hit in the legs.

Evidence showed Smith was intoxicated at the time of the confrontation. But there was no witness and no forensic evidence to back up Hayes’ claim that Smith had wielded or fired a weapon.

Hayes was convicted of manslaughter for Smith's death and attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Smith's wife, Racquel. He had served about four years of a 25-year sentence when his conviction was overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed nonunanimous verdicts. He has been out on bond since early 2021. His retrial has been delayed multiple times for a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, was a defensive leader on the Saints team that lifted spirits in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. He helped carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Hayes, who owned a tow-truck business, once played semi-pro football and is the father of a young son.


An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling of Racquel Smith's first name.

Kareem Hunt thrilled to re-sign with 'hometown' Browns after Nick Chubb's season-ending injury

2.8d ago 9/20/2023 11:13 AM ET By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer BEREA, Ohio

Teams: CLE

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Something stopped Kareem Hunt from signing elsewhere in free agency.

There were other choices for him as a free agent, quality teams in good cities. But the running back felt there was just one place for him.

Home. Cleveland.

On Wednesday, Hunt's patience paid off.

“It worked out, obviously,” he said on a Zoom call with reporters. “I’m right up the street from my house. I guess it worked out in ways that I can’t even explain.”

In a strange twist, Hunt returned to his hometown Browns, who didn't re-sign him in the offseason but were desperate to add a quality running back after star Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury Monday night at Pittsburgh.

Hunt spent the past four years playing alongside and behind Chubb, giving Cleveland one of the NFL's top backfield tandems. And while he's thrilled, Hunt wishes his latest homecoming was under different circumstances.

“That one hurt," said Hunt, who couldn't bear the sight of Chubb being helped up and carted off. “I hate seeing that happen to one of my brothers, and the guy that I care so much about and would go to war for any time of the day.”

The Browns signed Hunt to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. Hunt’s deal includes numerous incentives, said the person who spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the team is not making details of the contract public.

After a turbulent 2022 season, Hunt's time in Cleveland came to an apparent end when the team elected not to retain the 28-year-old. He made free agency visits to a few other teams while holding out hope the Browns would call.

Because he already knows the offense so well, Hunt can step right in and will likely play Sunday when the Browns (1-1) host the Tennessee Titans (1-1).

“It’s a big deal,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of Hunt's familiarity. “When you add players that are free agents, often times you have to ramp them up and get them ready to play. And we have done that. You can do that in this case. There’s obviously some newness that Kareem is learning but he can pick up things very quickly.”

Hunt's return is also providing something of a morale lift for the Browns, just days after Chubb's devastating injury.

“A Brown through and through,” linebacker and captain Anthony Walker Jr. said. "He understands what we need. He’s a boost of energy. As soon as he walked through the door, a lot of guys got excited when they seen him.

“A great teammate, obviously a great runner, a great catcher out the backfield, he’s definitely going to help us in a huge way this year.”

Hunt will back up Jerome Ford, who came off the bench and ran for 106 yards on Monday after Chubb got hurt. Stefanski reiterated that Ford, a second-year back from Cincinnati, will be Cleveland's starter and feature back, and that's fine by Hunt.

“I’m willing to come in and do whatever it takes just to help win,” he said. “My biggest thing is help win the Super Bowl.”

Chubb's surgery has not yet been scheduled to repair torn ligaments from a low hit delivered by Pittsburgh safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. It's the same knee the four-time Pro Bowler had reconstructed in 2015 when he was hurt at Georgia.

The team placed Chubb on season-ending injured reserve.

In his first four seasons with Cleveland, Hunt rushed for 1,874 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was equally effective as a pass catcher, totaling 211 receptions for 1,806 yards.

Hunt led the league in rushing as a rookie in 2017 for Kansas City. The Chiefs cut him after a video surfaced of him pushing a woman in the hallway of a hotel in downtown Cleveland.

The Browns scooped up Hunt, drawing criticism for the signing.

He was suspended by the NFL for the first eight games in 2019.

Last season, Hunt and the Browns were at odds over a contract extension, and he drew the ire of Cleveland coaches by sitting out drills in training camp. Hunt wound up playing all 17 games, but wasn't as productive.

Now that he's back, Hunt said there was no need to mend fences.

“We get along,” he said. “I have mad respect for everybody in this building and it was never to that point. So it was good to see everybody, talk over expectations and things that I can help and just help this team win.”

NOTES: WR Amari Cooper (groin, shoulder), DE Za'Darius Smith (ankle, thigh) and CB Greg Newsome II (elbow) were kept out of practice.



The NFC is off to a record-setting start to the NFL season with seven teams at 2-0

3.1d ago 9/20/2023 6:03 AM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer


The AFC came into the season with the lion's share of the top quarterbacks and Super Bowl contenders, led by passers such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.

Two weeks into the 2023 NFL season, it's the NFC that's off to a record-setting start to the season.

Led by three undefeated teams in both the NFC East and NFC South, the NFC has seven teams off to a 2-0 start, the first time that has ever happened in a single conference.

With the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers fresh off two convincing wins, along with last season's Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia, the NFC currently has three of the four biggest favorites to win this season's Super Bowl.

The other undefeated teams in the NFC are Washington in the East and New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the South, which was slated to be perhaps the worst division in the league.

The AFC has only two undefeated teams — Miami and Baltimore — tied for the fewest of any conference after two weeks since the start of the eight-division era in 2002.

The Cowboys are the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score at least 70 points and allow 10 or fewer in the first two games of the season, joining the 2019 Patriots, 1970 Lions, 1967 Raiders and 1966 Oilers.

Dallas' plus-60 point differential is 30 points better than the second-place 49ers — the biggest gap between the No. 1 and 2 teams after two weeks since 1989, when the Browns were plus-65 and the Bears plus-34.


Sunday was a day for historic comebacks in the NFL.

The New York Giants came back from 21 points down to beat Arizona 31-28 for their biggest comeback win since 1949, while Washington overcame an 18-point deficit to win 35-33 at Denver.

This was the 12th time that two teams overcame deficits that big to win in the same week. It last happened in Week 2 last season.

The turnaround for the Giants was truly impressive. New York lost the opener 40-0 to Dallas and trailed 20-0 at the half in Arizona. It was the first time since 1934 that New York failed to score in the first six quarters. The Giants recovered that season to win the NFL title.

The 60 points allowed by the Giants before their first score were the second most since 1950, according to Sportradar, trailing only the 86 for the 1978 Colts and 99 for the 1961 Raiders.

Two other teams came back from at least 11 points down, with Atlanta rallying past Green Bay and Tennessee doing the same against the Chargers. That's one shy of the record for one week.

The Chargers and Broncos were both on the wrong side of the comebacks and have started 0-2 despite leading both games in the fourth quarter. They are the first teams to do that since 2015, when Seattle and the Giants did it.

One team that was predictably unable to mount a comeback was Carolina. The Panthers lost 20-17 to New Orleans on Monday night for their 52nd straight loss in a game they trailed in the fourth quarter. Their last fourth-quarter comeback came Oct. 21, 2018, against Philadelphia.


A couple of rookie playmakers are shouldering an unusually large load for their offenses.

No. 8 pick Bijan Robinson is living up to high expectations early in his career following his 124-yard rushing performance in Sunday's win over Green Bay.

Robinson is tied for fourth in the NFL with 255 yards from scrimmage through two games. He has gained 36.8% of Atlanta's yards from scrimmage — the second-highest mark for a rookie through two games in the last 14 seasons, behind only Kareem Hunt's 38.8% in 2017.

Rams receiver Puka Nacua has been more of a surprise, going from fifth-round pick to a record-setting start to his career. Nakua's 25 catches are the most for a player in his first two NFL games, shattering the mark of 19 Earl Cooper set in 1980.

Nakua has gained 270 yards — nearly one-third of the Rams' total. He has 43.1% of the Rams' catches so far this season, the highest for any player through two games since Vincent Jackson had 50% of Tampa Bay's catches in the first two games of the 2013 season.


Christian McCaffrey is truly the iron man of running backs.

McCaffrey played every offensive snap for the San Francisco 49ers last week — the 15th time he has done that in his career. In an era when teams rotate backs, McCaffrey is an exception.

Sportradar has snap data back to 2006 and the running back with the second-most games playing every snap is Matt Forte with eight. Only four other backs have done it even three times: Le'Veon Bell (6), Frank Gore (4), Steven Jackson (3) and Ronnie Brown (3).

Since McCaffrey entered the league in 2017, all other running backs have played every snap only 10 times.

It's not as if the heavy workload limits McCaffrey's production. He had a 51-yard run Sunday and finished with 116 yards rushing. His 268 yards rushing are the most through two games of a season since DeMarco Murray had 285 for Dallas in 2014.


Justin Jefferson is off to a record-setting pace to his career with the Minnesota Vikings.

Jefferson had 153 yards receiving last week to give him 5,134 in 52 career games — tying Hall of Famer Lance Alworth as the quickest player to eclipse 5,000 yards. Jefferson also joined former Vikings star Randy Moss as the only players to do it before turning 25.

Jefferson is the ninth Vikings player to reach that mark. The only franchises with more are Green Bay (13), Denver (10), Arizona (10) and Kansas City (10). Minnesota’s NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears, have only one player with 5,000 yards receiving (Johnny Morris) despite having nearly a four-decade head start on Minnesota.

Jefferson has 20 catches for 309 yards in two games — joining Jimmy Smith (2000), Isaac Bruce (1998) and Andre Rison (1994) as the only players to average at least 10 catches and 150 yards through two games.



Brock Purdy heads into 2nd Thursday night game for 49ers in better health

3.4d ago 9/19/2023 9:12 PM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer SANTA CLARA, Calif.

Players: Brock Purdy
Teams: NYG SF

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Brock Purdy learned about the difficulties of playing on a short turnaround for a Thursday night game in just his second career start last season.

The typical two days of installation of the game-plan are packed into one, practices are replaced by walkthroughs and there is little time for rest.

“The preparation is just, it’s more intense for both teams,” Purdy said Tuesday. "You don’t get four or five days of preparation to lengthen everything out. You have two days to put it all together and roll.”

The process for Purdy headed into Thursday night's home opener against the New York Giants is a bit easier than what he went through last season at Seattle when he didn't know if he'd even be able to play because of a broken rib until just before the game started.

“Last year the main focus was ‘Will I be able to throw come Thursday?' Obviously, I didn’t throw a ball for three days,” he said. "So now it’s like, all right, now I can hone into the plays, the details of the operations of the offense, all that stuff. Not worrying about the broken rib.”

That performance through an injury when Purdy went 17 for 25 for 217 yards and two TDs in a key division win helped establish Purdy as the Niners No. 1 quarterback.

He has only built from there and comes into this week's game having won all 10 games he has played when he has thrown at least 10 passes. His only loss as a starter in the NFL came in the NFC title game when he injured his elbow on the first drive and couldn't throw the ball past the line of scrimmage after returning in the second half.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he didn't need to see Purdy play through the injury in Seattle to have confidence in him, saying the way Purdy handled himself that entire week just reinforced what he knew.

“That’s what was cool talking to him that whole week because he is not a guy who just tells you what you want to hear, like, ‘Yes coach, I’ll be ready. I’m fine.’ And then they get to the game and they’re not ready,” Shanahan said. "Brock was honest with us all week and I knew there was times he didn’t think he’d be able to and he was going to be honest with us. But when it got close to kick off, he was like, ‘Hey, I think I could do this. Let me try.’ Then he tried. As the first quarter went, he gained confidence and so did we as it went.”

The Niners' confidence in Purdy has only grown since that night in Seattle as he continues to produce at an extremely efficient rate — even after returning from offseason elbow surgery.

Purdy has completed 66.7% of his passes so far this season, with two TDs, no turnovers and an average of 7.9 yards per attempt.

An offense that was performing well last season under Jimmy Garoppolo has been even better under Purdy, scoring at least 30 points in eight of the 10 games when he has been healthy.

Shanahan didn't hold back on what he asked Purdy to do as a rookie last year and nothing major has changed early this season.

“He knows that I can handle what he’s had with Jimmy the last couple years and what we did last year,” Purdy said. "Nothing really changed. And so that’s really how it’s been this year. There hasn’t been a drastic change of, ‘All right, we’re going to add more to his plate since he’s playing more or anything like that.’ It’s been about the same. That’s how this offense has rolled and that’s how we’ve done it.”

NOTES: The Niners signed CB Anthony Brown to a one-year deal after placing Samuel Womack on IR last week. Brown played seven seasons with the Cowboys before going down with an injured Achilles tendon last season. ... WR Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder) and CB Ambry Thomas (knee) were both listed as limited for practice Tuesday.