Baker Mayfield and Philip Rivers take control: Week 12 in the NFL


The sentiment really started circulating through the Browns' offensive meeting rooms and locker room on Thursday, and it built on Friday, during the short Saturday flight downstate to Cincinnati and into game day. But it's one thing to guys quietly talk about their grudges amongst themselves. It's another to go public with them.

Leave that to Baker Mayfield.

After tearing through the Bengals for 258 yards and four touchdowns on 19 of 26 passing en route to a 35-20 win, the No. 1 overall pick was visibly cold toward former Browns coach Hue Jackson, who joined the Cincinnati staff less than two weeks after being ousted in Cleveland. And when I was asked about the post-game exchange afterwards, I made clear that was no mistake: "I did not feel like talking."

"I do not know. Left Cleveland, goes down to Cincinnati, I do not know, "Mayfield explained at his press conference. "It's just somebody that was in our locker room, asking for us to play for him and then goes to a different team we play twice a year. Everyone can have their spin on it, but that's how I feel. "

Frank Victores / AP / REX / Shutterstock

Maybe this does not register quite like Mayfield's flag-planting did two Septembers ago just down the road in Columbus, after his Oklahoma team upended Ohio State at the Horseshoe. But the idea was not far off.

In each case, Mayfield felt disrespected, carried an edge shared by his teammates, exacted his revenge and then made the opponent eat it.

Those in the Browns' facility over the last few days could see it coming, too. Once that seed was planted-Hue asked us to play for him, then went to a rival division without hesitation, and that's BS-The quarterback had a little extra for this one, and that quickly became contagious.

"We were not losing that game," said Browns staffer Sunday night. "No way in hell were we losing that game."

Mayfield would not let them. It's a new day in Cleveland.

Week 12 gave us a mediocre slate, but a host of juicy storylines that you'll get to sink your teeth into here. Including:

• How Philip Rivers achieved near perfection the Chargers bounced back by blowing the Cardinals out of their Los Angeles bandbox.

• How the Broncos baited Ben Roethlisberger into a backbreaking mistake at the wire, and improbably lifted themselves back into the playoff chase.

• The way the Vikings used a halftime adjustment to shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

• Why Sean McDermott's Bills are going to pain in the rear end for teams to deal with in December.

• Why The Rams' 2017 draft class has become key to the renaissance team, and promises to help keep top-heavy salary structure sustainable.

But we're starting in Ohio, with a No. 1 overall pick who's turning every bit the culture changer that GM John Dorsey hoped he'd be on draft day.

So here's the thing about Mayfield's swagger-it's not empty. He's a football junkie, which is reflected in the time he spends on his game, and in a work ethic that naturally has become a big part of why players, young and old alike, follow him. That, and the fact that he can really play.

That work and ability show up in how Mayfield is improving on an almost daily basis. As much as anything, his first-half flourish in Cincinnati-he was 17 of 22 for 245 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns raced to a 28-0 lead-was a remarkable display of that improvement, with evidence surfacing in subtle but effective ways.

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• The Browns ran different personnel groupings on the field on just about every snap of their game-opening, 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, which gave Mayfield and the coaches a look at how the Bengals would react and adjust. What they found was that Cincinnati was sold out to stop Nick Chubb and the run game, which led to the aerial assault to come.

• On Cleveland's second possession, the coaches empowered Mayfield by going empty backfield straight through. Doing that puts the onus on the quarterback to get his protection calls right-since there's no last line of defense with a pass-blocking back and the staff trusted that Mayfield would accomplish that. The benefit is that, with the defense spread out, the quarterback has a clearer view of where rushers are coming from, which helped Mayfield pick the Bengals apart. And the amazing thing is that Mayfield had almost no experience in this area coming into the NFL.

• Offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and his staff worked to attach run-action to plays out of all those personnel groupings, which helped in making Mayfield comfortable and getting him playing fast-another sign that this is increasingly becoming the rookie's offense. It was effective Sunday, even though the game (2.4 yards per carry) really was not.

• Mayfield has also started to follow a directive to incorporate Chubb in the passing game. The second-round rookie was not considered much of a threat in that area coming out of school (he had nine catches in 28 games over his last two seasons in Georgia), but the coaches liked what they saw in practice from him and believed using it as a pass-catcher would help open the run game. Chubb finished Sunday with 44 yards on three receptions, including a spectacular 14-yard touchdown on which rookie reached around and pinned the ball to the back of Bengals safety Brandon Wilson.

Frank Victores / AP / REX / Shutterstock

In essence, the recent success is a combination of the staff finding concepts that Mayfield feels good running, and Mayfield improving at a breakneck pace. And in the end, the results looked like this …

Drive 1: 10 plays, 78 yards, touchdown

Drive 2: Four plays, 56 yards, touchdown

Drive 3: 12 plays, 96 yards, touchdown

Drive 4: 11 plays, 59 yards, touchdown

The score was 35-7 in the third quarter before the Browns would punt. And once that happened finally, Cleveland's offense that could probably have piled on the points and yards went into protection mode-Mayfield only threw three times the rest of the way, completing one of those passes, for seven yards.

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Here's one more nugget to take with you: I'm told that last week was not a great week of practice for the Browns offense. That, in the past, would have been the killer for a team that was searching for confidence and to find its way.

Thanks to Mayfield, it now looks like Cleveland is not that kind of team anymore, and the way they stuck it to an old coach of theirs on Sunday only serves as more proof.


How do you respond to your first loss in two months? Philip Rivers did his first 25 (!) Passes for 224 yards as the Chargers turned an early 10-0 deficit against Arizona into a rollicking 45-10 win. And as Rivers 'coach saw it, it was no accident that this came on the heels of a loss to the Broncos that was sparked by a costly interception (Von Miller was the perpetrator) that sat on Rivers' back for a week.

"His consistency was impressive," Anthony Lynn said from the victorious locker room. "That's something that you only get from preparation. And if you're around him every day and see how you prepare, it does not surprise you, that he goes out and has a day like this. He's a fierce competitor, and he could not wait to get back on the field after what happened last week.

"So I think you saw a combination of a guy playing extremely focused, playing at a high level because he could not wait to get back on the field, and I prepared extremely well."

The way the game played out showed the whole Chargers team's focus was, too.

A heavy favorite coming in, and coming off that Denver loss, the Chargers immediately yielded a nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive. A three-and-out to follow gave Arizona field position and helped set up the field goal that made it 10-0. Just a week out from having their six-game win streak snap, via a blown 12-point lead, the Chargers looked like they'd allowed Week 11 to bleed into Week 12.

Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images

But Lynn saw something else-little mistakes causing bigger problems. The Cardinals were hard-counting the Chargers' aggressive pass rush, which was an issue, and communication breakdowns led to poor run fits. Ideal? No. Correctable? Yes. And if the team was as resilient as Lynn has always thought, the fixes would come quick.

"We're going to play four quarters, and that really was the first 12 minutes of the game," Lynn said. "And the first 12 minutes did not go our way, for sure. But it did not surprise me that these guys kept fighting and kept competing, because they are very resilient. That's what they've always done. So I was fully expecting that. "

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The Chargers did not allow another point, and scored 45. And now they head to Pittsburgh for a huge AFC showdown at 8-3, just a game behind the Chiefs in the division and firmly in the running to capture one of the conference's two playoff byes.

A lot of us have had that Dec. 2 game circled for a while. Since it's here, the Chargers can finally circle it to.

"It's a great place for a football game," Lynn said. "It's gonna be fun. They flexed it, which is going to make it even rowdier, and we're looking forward to it. My focus was clearly on this game today, but how soon was the game over? Yes, I did think about Pittsburgh. And we'll get them the first thing in the morning, if not tonight. "


Down 24-17, the Steelers' high-octane offense had first-and-goal from the Denver 3-yard line coming out of the two-minute warning. Believe it or not, it really took just one defensive call from the Broncos to get the three stops they needed to send Ben Roethlisberger and company packing with their first loss since September.

The front Broncos rolled out there is a variation of Buddy Ryan's old Bear defense. We'll let Denver coach Vance Joseph take it from there.

"It's our inside-the-5 defense-we call it Free Cub," Joseph said over the phone after the win. "It's really a 46 defense with an extra defender in to fill. And it's designed to stop the game obviously, and then play leverage on the slot. Our D-linemen obviously play the run game first, and then they pop [into coverage] for the pass. So we knew the pass rush was not going to be our premium for that call, but if he threw it, it was gonna be short and across the middle.

Eric Lutzens / The Denver Post via Getty Images

"So we have a low-ball player, and we have a guy popping in the hole. It was a great call by [coordinator] Joe Woods, we practice all the time. On first down, it was the same defense, Chris Harris makes the play on the inverted fade. The second down, we stop the run. And the third down was Shelby's play. "

Shelby is Shelby Harris, who spent the first three years of his career on and off practice squads (and became a father for the first time three days ago), before finding home in Denver in 2017. On the play, he was working off Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, subtly falling into a spot where Roethlisberger might lose him.

And lose him, Roethlisberger did. Big Ben floated the ball just above Harris' head, and Harris extended up to snag it for an interception and put a 24-17 win to bed. The win pumped more life into this year's Broncos, who were left for dead by many (I'll include myself here) a few weeks ago.

It's the second straight week that a big defensive play (after Miller's pick against the Chargers) has pushed Denver through-last week sparking a comeback, this week blunting one-and Joseph does not see that as a mistake.

"Our team you have put a lot of work in and we played some good football the last two months, and we've got up short against some very good opponents, "Joseph said. "I told the guys, 'This is a reward for your work and your belief in what we're doing.' 'There was no way that we put on the good football and we played the last two months wasn' I'm going to be rewarded.

"Some of the calls and some of the balls were bouncing the wrong way against us, but now we're getting some of those calls, we're getting the ball bouncing our way."

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And it's setting up for an interesting December in Denver. The Broncos now sit one game out of the AFC wild card position, with the rest of the slate looking pretty manageable-at Cincinnati, at San Francisco, vs. Cleveland, at Oakland, Vs. Chargers.

It's also interesting that the Broncos are here now, given that so much of this season in Denver has been spent discussing the future of the franchise, with Joseph's place in doubt. He has heard that stuff too and seems aware that there is one way I can effectively take care of it.

"I'm fine. My focus is now on the Bengals, "the second-year coach said. "It's never about my job, it's about the players and the coaches. That's who I focus on. When you're putting on good work and you're playing good football, you will get rewarded. So I am not focused on anything but the Bengals and our football team and winning everyday and winning win every play. Whatever happens after the season happens.

"It's about the Broncos now."

And the Broncos are, once again, relevant in the AFC.

Episodes 1 through 5 available now: An exclusive True Crime podcast series from SI, re-examining the murder of Titans great Steve McNair. Subscribe on iTunes, or wherever you download your podcasts. And visit the podcast homepage for additional materials and updates.


So Buffalo is one team that is not going to the AFC playoffs. But any team that's playing them will tell you that Sean McDermott got that group fighting its ass off. And this week, they were given to cause: to defend their starting quarterback.

You'll see in the Tweet of the Week the specific shot that Jalen Ramsey took at the Buffalo rookie in April after he was drafted. Shaq Lawson, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare, and took their scuffle all the way up the tunnel.

Jeffrey T Barnes / AP / REX / Shutterstock

"I do not want, I do not think anyone wants, some of the extracurricular stuff we had, especially when it breaks out into a skirmish like it did," McDermott said over the phone Sunday. "But when you're trying to build a team, and some things are said about your young quarterback before the young man even steps on the field, it says something about this team, and the people, that's gonna get to him defense. "

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The good news is that Buffalo found a way to channel that energy correctly during the game, controlling the action most of the way, building a 14-0 lead, then getting out in front 24-14 in the second half before hanging on for the 24-21 win.

That puts Buffalo at 4-7, which is modest until you consider the circumstances of 2018. This, as we've detailed in this space before, is the year the Bills take the bullet for the mistakes of previous regimes. There are just five Buffalo draft picks still around that predate McDermott's arrival. The Bills are carrying more than $ 50 million in dead money, meaning nearly a third of the cap is taken up by guys not on the team.

They expected to struggle. But the effort has been consistent, in part because of the cultural foundation the Bills laid out last year in making the playoffs in McDermott's first season, and in part because of the types of guys they've focused on bringing in.

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"It's human capital-it's people," McDermott says. "People willing to work through these types of moments, that can build strength. You look back to my early days in Philly, early days in Carolina-we learned from the bumps we grew, and those things make you stronger in years to come. You will have those to fall back on in years to come. Some teams would go south, and that's what I'm most proud of now.

"This is a resilient group, and it's only going to get stronger. And the cool part is, these guys are the ones that are going to teach next year's crop."

Wins have not been easy to come by, of course. But consider that the Bills are getting through the hard part now, and just passed the Jaguars team that knocked them out of the playoffs last January in the standings. Those same Jaguars, by the way, were all in for 2018.

And as a result, it seems pretty clear who's in a healthier spot going forward.


How can the Rams afford all these guys?

It's a question you heard in the spring as the Rams signed or traded for a number of big-name, high-price veterans, and one that seemed relevant last Monday the LA came at the Chiefs in waves over the course of a 54- 51 thriller of a win. Because that game resonated so much, I figured a week later it was worth explaining how an NFL team can make such a top-heavy salary structure work.

The answer is pretty simple, too. You have to be efficient with the cap space you have left over, and the best (only?) Way of that is to draft well, which is where the story of Los Angeles' 2017 rookie class comes into play. The Rams were without a first-round pick (and Jared Goff in 2016), and coach Sean McVay and GM Les Snead were just getting to know each other.

The Rams' first pick was 44th overall. Their second pick was the 69th selection. And they knew how they could mitigate the disadvantage-with McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips being very specific with what they wanted in each position. That way, the Rams would not be looking in the same places as other teams, and might find players who were of greater value to them than others later on.

"Our job is to draft players who have the potential to fulfill a specific role," Snead explained, via text, on Sunday. "When our players get an opportunity to actually fulfill that role, it's up to them to apply what our coaches are teach, and that [equals] production. "

It has so far …

TE Gerald Everett, South Alabama (44th pick): The Rams liked his athleticism to generate mismatches, his ball skills and his run-after-the-catch ability, in seeing him as Jordan Reed-type in McVay's offense. He's only got 18 catches this year but scored the game-winning 40-yard touchdown against K.C. and is considered to have a very bright future.

WR Cooper Kupp (69th): The Rams saw Kupp as a legit slot with the flexibility to play outside, which is important given how much McVay moves his receivers around. Kupp has more than delivered-he had 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns through eight games this season before blowing out his ACL to couple weeks back.

S John Johnson (91st): Safety was not a pressing need, but Johnson's grade was excellent, and I projected right into the back end of Wade Philips defense. From the cultural standpoint, the Rams saw Johnson as a fit thanks to his tough, hard-nosed style of play. He has since started 22 games, including all 11 this year, and has three picks, 74 tackles and eight pass breaks.

WR Josh Reynolds (117th): Coming out of the second day of the 2017 draft, the Rams saw the receiver marked a starter-caliber sitting there, and their determination to fix the position pushed them to double up behind Kupp. Like Johnson, the grade was too good for the team to pass. Reynolds has 13 catches for 178 yards and three touchdowns this year, and is moving into a larger role with Kupp's injury.

OLB Samson Ebukam (125th): Was going to be the pick at 117 if Reynolds was not there, so L.A. traded up to get a guy they saw with potential to be an explosive, urgent edge rusher. He was not invited to the match, so the Rams brought him in for a top-30 visit. Ebukam has validated all the work the Rams did on him by becoming a starter and scoring twice on defense in the K.C. showdown

Alright, so that's five draft picks, all outside the top 40. Want to guess the price tag for those guys?

It's $ 4,482 million on the cap, 2.5 percent of the 2018 limit for teams. And if you can swing such a success-and it's not easy to hit that low-that's how you handle having 10 guys making more than $ 7 million on your cap, without the bottom of your roster being a problem.



There was no close second to Patriots receiver / running back Cordarrelle Patterson's explanation for grabbing the nether regions of Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson. We'll have more on this important story in a couple paragraphs.


I can appreciate the good grudge-and-it-turns-out, the Bills hold a good grudge, as their 22-year-old quarterback, Josh Allen, who mocked Jalen Ramsey's "flexing" celebration after he ran through Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack for the go-ahead touchdown in yesterday's win. Buffalo's official account was not through Ramsey either, after digging up that post-draft shot of his …


I usually go into the football weekend with the expectation that anything can happen. And that expectation was fulfilled on Sunday when I wound up tweeting with the fiancée of a football player who had his, uh, manhood twisted on national television on Sunday. S / o to Sarin Rorie for making this whole thing even more … nuts … than it already was.


Not a great afternoon at the office for Hue. A better one, though, for the Seahawks, who punctuated a gigantic win in Charlotte with the NFL's best touchdown celebration through the season's first three months …

S / O to …

Bryson Thompson, the courageous seven-year-old Saints fan who helped found Helmets4Helmets with his brother Brock. Bryson's story-very well told on Thanksgiving morning by my buddy Jane Slater of NFL Network- is pretty incredible. Bryson suffers up to 100 epileptic seizures a day due to his condition, and has to wear a helmet as a result of that. When he was diagnosed, his grandfather, former Saints tackle Stan Brock, called the team to tell them about the situation, and they responded by making a custom helmet for the boy to wear. Since then he and his brother came up with the idea to collect sports memorabilia, including a lot of signed football helmets, to auction off the other kids with the same condition might have helmets like his to wear. It's a pretty remarkable story of a pretty remarkable kid, one that's worth the seven minutes of your time to go and watch.


NFL takeaways from the college football weekend.

1. I'm not gonna gloat, I'm not gonna gloat, I'm not gonna gloat …

2. One big takeaway from Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan showdown was how Buckeyes QB Dwayne Haskins-Given protection-was in complete command. While questions are out about his mobility and pocket movement, his arm talent alone has put him in the discussion to be the first quarterback to go in April, should he declare. And he has help. One veteran evaluator hit me up Sunday to say this: "Ohio State's trio of senior receivers-(Parris) Campbell, (Terry) McLaurin and (Johnnie) Dixon-All have NFL talent. It is hard for scouts to properly evaluate a school's receiver group in the fall if they have more than two, so all three of those guys could rise during the pre-draft process when [scouts] have more time to go through 'all targets' cutups. "

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3. And while we're there, it's worth mentioning that Buckeyes OC Ryan Day was the man Mike Vrabel wanted to run his Titans offense. Day, who was in his fourth job in four years, stayed in Columbus, in part for family reasons. But he's got NFL experience, having coached in Philly and San Francisco under Chip Kelly, and I'd expect him to draw NFL interest in January.

4. A couple other names that NFL guys have been high on, that could potentially modernize someone's offense: Fired Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury and West Virginia offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. Both have deep Air Raid roots, and both have a ton of experience as play-callers.

5. Alabama held Auburn's vaunted run game to 130 yards on 43 carries, and recorded three sacks and five hurries on Jarrett Stidham, further cementing the rep of the interior duo of Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis. One exec was quick to point out those two when asked what stuck out over the entirety of the college football weekend.

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6. Along the lines of that question, from one AFC college scouting director:[Oklahoma WR] Marquise Brown "I asked if the 5'10", 168-pound burner compares to DeSean Jackson (just the name that popped in my head). "To some, I would," said this evaluator. "DeSean had the return factor, DeSean was a little scarier with the ball in his hands. But Brown has better hands and is a little better than a runner at the same point. "Translation: Brown, who went for 243 yards and two scores on 11 catches, can play.


1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was just 9 of 15 for 104 yards in the second half on Sunday, and Green Bay did not get in the final zone over those final 30 minutes. Part of that was thanks to a small emphasis on the Vikings coaches at the break. The visitors and their QB were trying to get the Minnesota defense with motions, misdirection and play-action, and so eye discipline became a focus-because the Packers had gotten the Vikings a little on "flash" plays in the first half. "They were messing with our eyes," Danielle Hunter Vikings told me post-game. "If they do not have that, then we're pretty fundamentally sound to the other things and prevent them from going down the field." The rest, really, was academic for Minnesota. Throughout, the Vikings followed Mike Zimmer's plan to use his ends to pin Rodgers in the pocket, and his tackles to create pressure. That third piece, to eliminate the flash plays, forced Rodgers to make lower-percentage throws from tight quarters, which is not a great way for any quarterback to win. "You affect the quarterback," said Hunter, "you've got a chance." And now the Vikings, at 6-4-1 with a trip to Foxboro on heck, have one too.

2. Hard to say the same for the reeling Packers who have now lost six games in four straight seasons and are at serious risk of missing the postseason for the second straight year, after eight consecutive appearances (2009-16). There is certainly a train of thought out there that Mike McCarthy and organization could benefit from a change. Remember, this is where Andy Reid was in Years 13 and 14 in Philly, and McCarthy's now in Year 13 in Green Bay. Maybe some new scenery would be good for McCarthy, like it was for Reid.

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3. Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett and his teammates noticed something on tape this week that they felt would be fairly simple to exploit-the Panthers, in effect, switch on a pick play like you would in basketball. That led to a little improv on Sunday that wound up winning Seattle the game. Facing third-and-5 in the last two minutes, with the game tied at 27, Lockett lined up outside on Carolina CB Corn Elder. At the snap, he ran a hitch, and Doug Baldwin, inside of him, ran a seam. Lockett saw the switch coming-Elder went deep with Baldwin, and Captain Munnerlyn raced from the slot to get him. "That's something we talked about, and I remembered it on the fly, just when I ran my route, I saw the nickel guy buzzing out on me, and the corner left me and went to Doug," Lockett. "When I saw it was time to scramble, I did not see anybody deep and I took the shot, went deep, and Russell [Wilson] was able to find me and we connected. "Lockett explains it, there was no guarantee Wilson would look his way. But with the right protection, and without another great option, the QB figured out where Lockett was. Forty-three yards later, Seattle was lining up the game-winning field goal.

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4. Speaking of Carolina, it's starting to feel like the Panthers are at risk of losing a great Cam Newton season because of that spotty defense. Newton was excellent against Sunday (25 of 30, 256 yards, two TDs, one INT), the Panthers rushed for 256 yards on just 25 carries, and Christian McCaffrey had his most productive day as a pro (17 carries, 125 yards and a TD, 11 catches, 112 yards and another TD). And somehow it was not enough.

5. Since it seems like we saw the value of paying a backup quarterback in how the bears' Chase Daniel played on Thanksgiving for an injured Mitchell Trubisky (Daniel is making just over $ 4 million this year), I figured I'd ask his coach, Matt Nagy, what jumped out at him about Daniel's performance. "Biggest impression is just his complete command in our meetings, in the huddle at practice, and with us coaches reviewing the game plan each day," Nagy texted Sunday. "We knew he'd play well and just be himself. He stayed composed all game long and made some great decisions and throws throughout that game. He's a natural born leader and we're very lucky to have him. "I asked Nagy if I had anything to accommodate Daniel, and I responded," Not one thing. "

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6. The Rueben Foster case is another example of how talent affords football players second and third and fourth and however many chances. In April 2017, the 49ers moved swiftly to cut corner Tramaine Brock after he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Those same Niners have been much more judicious with Foster, the first-round pick, because of his prodigious talent. And in being judicious with him, I can see where they got close to him, before finally cutting the cord after his arrest at the team hotel in Tampa on suspicion of domestic violence over the weekend. "I can tell you it's extremely disappointing for me, for Kyle [Shanahan], for ownership, for everybody in here, because we care about Reuben, "Lynch told reporters. “I can tell you it’s a situation where we laid out some very specific ground rules for Reuben, as we do all our players. We have a set of standards in place that the players were involved with developing. In this case, it was communicated and made exceptionally clear, to the point, what we expected out of him. And unfortunately what transpired yesterday, this isn’t a comment on that, because that would be mere speculation on our part. It’s more a comment on him not living up to what we had communicated, and to the energy and the time we’ve invested in him. That doesn’t mean that we don’t love him, we all do. But we feel like it’s in the best interest of our organization to move on at this point.”

7. The Bucs being unafraid of Jameis Winston getting hurt tells me the door is still ajar for him to be in Tampa in 2019. He threw the ball 38 times on Sunday against the Niners, and ran it another seven times, all of which put him in a harm’s way at a time when even a moderate injury could trigger his $20.9 million option for 2019 vesting, which would make it fully guaranteed.

8. John Harbaugh’s call on Lamar Jackson is going to be complicated—the rookie completed 14 of 25 throws on Sunday for 178 yards, a score and two picks, and he ran for 71 yards on 11 carries in a 34-17 win over a bad Oakland team. Organizationally, it probably behooves the Ravens to get Jackson playing time, but Harbaugh might not be around for the fruits of that experience, making this situation a tad more complex.

9. Credit to the Eagles for showing some fight. Their injury issues in the secondary are bad, and offensive line could use some improved health too. But to be able to come back from a 19-3 deficit against the Giants with their season more or less on the line isn’t nothing. The problem is, the road gets much tougher for Philly from here—Redskins twice, Cowboys, Rams, Texans.

10. I wrote on Friday night on Bob McNair, and you can check it out here. He leaves behind a legacy that was complicated significantly over the last year, for obvious reasons.


What’s fascinating about tonight’s Texans-Titans matchup on ESPN? I’m more than a little interested to see Mike Vrabel, the defensive coach who faced Deshaun Watson every day in practice during Watson’s rookie year (when Vrabel was Houston’s DC) reach into his bag of tricks to try to slow the super soph and his red hot Texans.

I do like the Texans at home, in a close, low-scoring one—let’s say 23-20.

And as a PSA, Thursday Night Football isn’t half bad this week, with the Cowboys hosting the Saints. Just so you don’t inadvertently skip it.

See you guys in a few hours for the Monday Afternoon QB!

Question or comment? Email us at [email protected]


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