Report: Avonte Maddox, Darius Slay have a chance to play this week

Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles
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There is some positive injury news for the Eagles’ defensive backfield.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, cornerbacks Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay both have a chance to play in the Week Five matchup against the Cardinals.

Maddox did not play in Sunday’s victory over the Jaguars with an ankle injury. He was limited on Thursday and did not practice on Friday. But according to Rapoport, Maddox may miss another game, but it is not considered a long-term injury.

Slay went out early in Sunday’s contest against Jacksonville with a forearm injury, but it is not considered major. He also has a chance to play this week.

At 4-0, the Eagles are currently No. 3 in yards allowed and No. 9 in points allowed.

Broncos’ Javonte Williams out for season with torn ACL

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
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The Broncos feared yesterday that running back Javonte Williams had suffered a serious knee injury, and today those fears were realized.

Williams has suffered a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season, according to multiple reports.

Williams leads the Broncos with 47 carries for 204 yards this season and has been more effective than the running back he has shared carries with, Melvin Gordon. Given Gordon’s ongoing fumbling problems, the Broncos would prefer not to keep feeding him the ball, but without Williams they’ll have little choice. Mike Boone will also see more carries with Williams out.

The 22-year-old Williams was a second-round draft pick in the 2021 NFL draft and was one of the top rookie running backs in the NFL last year.

Lamar Jackson: If we had executed on third down, there wouldn’t have been a fourth-down question

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With Sunday’s game against the Bills tied at 20 midway through the fourth quarter, the Ravens elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line instead of kicking a field goal.

At the time of the snap, there was 4:15 left in the game. Quarterback Lamar Jackson’s interception in the end zone allowed the Bills to start from their own 20 instead of under the shadow of their goal post.

Head coach John Harbaugh said he made the call to go for it instead of kicking a field goal because he felt it gave Baltimore the best chance to win. Jackson said after the contest he was fine with his coach’s choice, too.

“If we had executed on third down, there wouldn’t have even been that question. Nobody would be disappointed,” Jackson said in his press conference. “Next time we’ll get it.”

After Jackson completed a pass to receiver Devin Duvernay on first down, the Ravens had second-and-goal at the 1. That’s when J.K. Dobbins was stopped for a 3-yard loss. And on third-and-goal, Jackson didn’t find a receiver and scrambled up the middle for a 2-yard gain.

So, the Ravens elected to go for it and once again Jackson couldn’t find anyone open and that led to the pick.

“Tall defensive lineman with his hands up,” Jackson said of his view on the fourth-down play. “I was trying to see around him to see where my guys were, but I saw Duvernay late. If I would have seen him right off the bat, that would have been a touchdown. The lineman had his hands up and was bull-rushing a little bit and got in my peripheral.

“So, I couldn’t really see what was going on and the play was breaking down. I tried to get back some more but it was too late.”

The Ravens are now 2-2 and have a significant divisional matchup against the Bengals in Week Five on Sunday Night Football.

Matt Rhule on job security: I’m not making this about me

Arizona Cardinals v Carolina Panthers
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The Panthers are 1-3 to start this season and 11-26 since Matt Rhule became their head coach in 2020, so it was inevitable that questions about his job security would start to be asked.

Monday’s press conference featured the start of them. Rhule responded to a query about his future with the organization by saying that he won’t be making himself the focus of any thoughts about the team.

“If I make this about me, I’m not being the type of coach I want to be,” Rhule said, via Darin Gantt of the team’s website.

Rhule also said that he has not discussed his future with Panthers owner David Tepper recently, but there probably isn’t much need for a heart-to-heart about where things stand. The Panthers aren’t winning and they don’t appear to be making any progress toward becoming a consistent winner, so there’s not much else of relevance on the table in Carolina.

Baker Mayfield’s self-bet is going bust, so far

NFL: OCT 02 Cardinals at Panthers
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Fans love it when a guy bets on himself, in large part because it’s not our money.

For Baker Mayfield, who reduced his 17-game guaranteed salary in Cleveland of $19.9 million to $15.358 million in order to facilitate a July trade to the Panthers, the best is going bust. Through four games, he has yet to perform in a way that will position him for a significant new contract in Carolina, or elsewhere.

He has a passer rating of 75.0, which needless to say is not good; the only two starters behind him are Mitch Trubisky (who may not be a starter any longer) and Justin Fields. Mayfield is completing 54.7 percent of his passes, with an average yards per attempt of 6.4 (26th in the league). He has four touchdown passes and three interceptions, and he ranks 27th among all quarterbacks in yardage, with 747.

It’s far from franchise-quarterback numbers. It’s bad enough to potentially get him benched, once Sam Darnold is ready to return from an ankle injury. It’s also bad enough to keep Mayfield from getting a free-agent contract to be a starter — unless a team signs him to be a placeholder until it drafts someone in round one.

The separate question is whether a team would even want Mayfield to be the veteran presence while a rookie gets up to speed. Would he embrace that role? Would he believe it’s beneath him?

Would he want so much on the open market that no one will even offer him a contract?

Mayfield entered the league in 2018 with extreme bravado and the ability to back it up. So far in Carolina, he’s not. And it’s not too early to wonder whether he’ll even be on a team next year at this time.

Yes, he’s good enough to have a roster spot. Between his financial expectations and his personality, however, it may be a Cam Newton-style situation where there’s simply no good fit for the first overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Shaquille Leonard ruled out for Thursday night

NFL: OCT 02 Titans at Colts
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Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard‘s 2022 debut turned out to be a brief appearance in Sunday’s loss to the Titans and it will be at least Week Six before he is back in the lineup.

Leonard suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the 24-17 loss and the team said on Monday that he will not play against the Broncos on Thursday night. He missed the first three games of the year while working his way back from June back surgery.

Defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis is also in the concussion protocol and will not play this week.

While they’ve ruled those two players out, the Colts will wait to make a call on running back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor injured his ankle on Sunday and his availability for Thursday is uncertain.

Bengals place Drew Sample on injured reserve

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys
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After Bengals tight end Drew Sample hurt his knee in the second game of the season, word was that he needs surgery and will be out for months as he recovers.

The Bengals kept Sample on the active roster for their last two games despite that prognosis, but they’ve now moved to open up the roster spot. Sample was placed on injured reserve on Monday morning.

Sample, who was a 2019 second-round pick, started the first two games of the season and lost two yards on a pair of receptions. He had 56 catches for 460 yards and a touchdown over his first three seasons with the team.

Hayden Hurst, Mitchell Wilcox, and Devin Asiasi are the remaining tight ends on the active roster in Cincinnati.

T.J. Hockenson: I was able to make plays when they were called

Seattle Seahawks vs Detroit Lions
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The Lions are scoring and allowing points at a historic rate, with the league’s top offense and worst defense through four games.

While tight end T.J. Hockenson hadn’t been involved much in the team’s first three contests, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and running back D'Andre Swift were both out for Week Four due to injury. So, Hockenson stepped up.

Hockenson caught eight passes for 179 yards with two touchdowns in Detroit’s wild 48-45 loss to Seattle. Hockenson broke a longstanding franchise record for receiving yards by a tight end in a single game, besting Jim Gibbons’ 161 yards set in 1964.

“Going into the week, I knew it was going to be a fun one,” Hockenson said postgame, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. “We knew somebody was going to have to put the team on [his shoulders] and make sure the ball was moving. So that was kind of my goal just coming into this game, keep the ball moving, make plays when they’re called. I was able to do that for sure.”

Hockenson had a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter to open Detroit’s scoring. He had an 81-yard reception, which saw him rumbling down the field. He caught a 4-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that put the Lions down by three points.

The tight end now leads Detroit with 261 yards and is tied for the team lead with three touchdowns in the young season.

“I think you could see him kind of catch a rhythm,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “He started breaking some tackles, started being extremely decisive on his routes, extremely separating well, and doing a lot of good things. And that’s just who he is. He’s a rhythm player, and getting him in that rhythm is important for us. We needed to do that, and you can see how dangerous he is catching a shallow and taking it 80 yards.

“But, yeah. He is a hell of a player, and we need to keep him involved.”

No matter who Goff is targeting through four weeks, it seems to be working. But Detroit’s defense has to do a better job of getting stops so the prolific offensive performances start turning into wins.

Tony Dungy decries “broken system” after Cameron Brate returns to play following apparent head injury

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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At a time of supposedly unprecedented sensitivity to ensuring that players who may have suffered head injuries are removed from play, common sense suggests that everyone connected to the process will be more careful than ever about flagging potentially concussed players and properly checking them out. Alas, common sense ain’t.

Late in the first half of last night’s game between the Chiefs and Buccaneers, Tampa Bay tight end Cameron Brate caught a pass and accidentally slammed his head into receiver Chris Godwin. As NBC’s Mike Tirico said during the broadcast, Brate was “shaken up and slow to get up.”

Brate ran off the field, failing to make it to the sideline before the next snap.

Presumably, Brate came to the sideline to be properly checked for a concussion. However, he did not enter the blue medical tent. A few plays later, Brate actually re-entered the game.

After halftime, Brate was placed in the concussion protocol and ruled out.

Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who was on the sideline last night for NBC’s Football Night in America, said that it was “obvious” to him that Brate had suffered a head injury. Dungy questioned the failure of the spotter to alert the referee and/or the sideline that Brate needed to be fully evaluated. Dungy dubbed it a “broken system.”

We’ve asked the Buccaneers whether Brate was checked for a head injury during the handful of plays he missed. The team’s P.R. staff is currently looking into the matter.

Although it’s encouraging that Brate was properly checked at halftime, it underscores the importance of having someone intervene to ensure he’s checked before he can get back into the game. If he had suffered a second head injury immediately after suffering the first head injury (he went tumbling to the ground in the end zone on a play that drew a pass interference penalty), that could have resulted in a very bad outcome.

Report: Sam Darnold not close to return from ankle injury

Buffalo Bills v Carolina Panthers
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Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that he never considered pulling quarterback Baker Mayfield during Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals and that he had not given any thought to the possibility of turning to Sam Darnold as the starter once Darnold is back from a high-ankle sprain.

It looks like Rhule will have some time to ponder any and all possibilities regarding Darnold. Darnold is eligible to come off injured reserve, but Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Darnold is not close to being ready and that it will still be a while before he’ll be an option in Carolina.

Darnold was injured in the team’s final preseason game on August 26.

Mayfield was 22-of-36 for 197 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in Sunday’s 26-16 loss. That represented his highest completion percentage of the year as he’d failed to reach 50 percent the previous two weeks and has gone 64-of-117 for 747 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions for the year.

Jamison Crowder broke his ankle Sunday

Buffalo Bills v Baltimore Ravens
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Bills wide receiver Jamison Crowder is looking at a lengthy stay on the injured reserve list.

Crowder was carted off the field with an air cast on his left leg during Sunday’s win over the Ravens. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Crowder broke his ankle and is having other tests to determine any other injuries he might have suffered.

Crowder signed with the Bills this year and caught six passes for 60 yards in the first four games.

The Bills also put Isaiah McKenzie in the concussion protocol after he was injured on Sunday and that left them with three available receivers. If Jake Kumerow is not going to be back from his ankle injury this week, they’ll likely need to add outside help before taking on the Steelers.

Giants-Packers game finally gives London a matchup of two teams with winning records

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints
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Sunday’s Giants-Packers game will be the NFL’s 32nd regular-season game in London. And the first to match up two teams with winning records.

With the Giants and Packers both at 3-1, the league has finally ended a long streak of sending mediocre or worse games to London, where the NFL is eager to build a large fan base.

Ten London games have matched up two teams with losing records, while the other 21 London games have had one team with a winning record or a .500 record, but not until Giants-Packers on Sunday have both teams had a winning record.

The NFL sometimes sends bad teams to London because those teams struggle to fill their home stadiums and don’t mind giving up a home game to play overseas: That’s why the Packers have never played in London before, as their fan base buys tickets both at Lambeau Field and on the road. But sometimes the London games are just the victims of bad luck, with the games looking good on paper when they’re scheduled, only to have the teams playing in London struggle early in the season.

Here are the 32 London games so far, with the teams’ records heading into the game:

2007: Giants (5-2) vs. Dolphins (0-7)
2008: Chargers (3-4) vs. Saints (3-4)
2009: Patriots (4-2) vs. Buccaneers (0-6)
2010: Broncos (2-5) vs. 49ers (1-6)
2011: Bears (3-3) vs. Buccaneers (4-2)
2012: Patriots (4-3) vs. Rams (3-4)
2013: Steelers (0-3) vs. Vikings (0-3)
2013: 49ers (5-2) vs. Jaguars (0-7)
2014: Dolphins (1-2) vs. Raiders (0-3)
2014: Lions (5-2) vs. Falcons (2-5)
2014: Cowboys (6-3) vs. Jaguars (1-8)
2015: Jets (2-1) vs. Dolphins (1-2)
2015: Bills (3-3) vs. Jaguars (1-5)
2015: Lions (1-6) vs. Chiefs (2-5)
2016: Colts (1-2) vs. Jaguars (0-3)
2016: Giants (3-3) vs. Rams (3-3)
2016: Washington (4-3) vs. Bengals (3-4)
2017: Jaguars (1-1) vs. Ravens (2-0)
2017: Saints (1-2) vs. Dolphins (1-1)
2017: Cardinals (3-3) vs. Rams (4-2)
2017: Vikings (5-2) vs. Browns (0-7)
2018: Seahawks (2-3) vs. Raiders (1-4)
2018: Titans (3-3) vs. Chargers (4-2)
2018: Jaguars (3-4) vs. Eagles (3-4)
2019: Raiders (2-2) vs. Bears (3-1)
2019: Buccaneers (2-3) vs. Panthers (3-2)
2019: Bengals (0-7) vs. Rams (4-3)
2019: Texans (5-3) vs. Jaguars (4-4)
2021: Jets (1-3) vs. Falcons (1-3)
2021: Dolphins (1-4) vs. Jaguars (0-5)
2022: Vikings (2-1) vs. Saints (1-2)
2022: Giants (3-1) vs. Packers (3-1)

Jamie Collins is expected to sign with Patriots

NFL: JAN 02 Jaguars at Patriots
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Jamie Collins and the Patriots just can’t seem to quit one another.

The linebacker is expected to sign with New England for a fourth stint with the club, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Reiss adds that it’s currently unclear whether Collins will sign to the 53-man roster or the practice squad. But Collins will join the team in some capacity.

Collins last played for New England in 2021, appearing in 10 games with two starts. He recorded a sack, an interception, three passes defensed, and three tackles for loss.

Collins entered the league with the Patriots as a second-round pick in 2013. He was traded to the Browns in 2016 but re-signed with New England in 2019 after Cleveland released him. The linebacker went to rejoin Matt Patricia in Detroit in 2020, but Patricia was fired during the season. The Lions released Collins in Sept. 2021 and he went back to New England in early October.

New England had a free agent visit with Collins last month.

In 122 games with 104 starts, collins has 12 interceptions, 199 forced fumbles, 26.5 sacks, and 64 tackles for loss.

Brett Favre hires former White House lawyer to handle welfare-fund fiasco

House January 6 Committee Holds Public Hearing
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Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre has yet to be accused of criminal misconduct in connection with the diversion of federal welfare funds for pet projects — and Favre’s own pocket. But he’s apparently concerned about the manner in which the dominoes are falling.

According to Mike Allen of Axios.com, Favre has hired attorney Eric Herschmann to serve as lead counsel for his defense team. A person whose videotaped testimony periodically has appeared during the hearings of the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, Herchmann formerly served as a White House lawyer for Donald Trump.

“I only agreed to represent Brett Favre after I did my independent due diligence and was convinced that he did nothing wrong,” Herschmann said, via Allen. “Brett enthusiastically tried to help his alma mater, a public university, that needed and wanted his help.”

C’mon, Eric. Defense lawyers routinely represent people who are or may be factually guilty, hopeful that they can help their clients avoid being found legally guilty. Also, defense lawyers work by the hour. It’s always better to work for someone with the money to pay the invoices, regardless of innocence or guilt.

“To be clear, Brett had no idea that welfare funds were being used or that others were involved in illegal conduct,” Herschmann said.

That declaration doesn’t mesh with text messages that create the impression Favre kept pushing for welfare funding even after being told by former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant that there were legality concerns regarding the money.

Nyheim Hines: Colts have a new quarterback every year, so we have growing pains

Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts
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Colts running back Nyheim Hines has been in Indianapolis since 2018, and he’s never had the same quarterback two years in a row: It was Andrew Luck his rookie season, followed by Jacoby Brissett in 2019, Philip Rivers in 2020, Carson Wentz in 2021 and Matt Ryan this year.

Hines said after Sunday’s loss to the Titans that a lack of continuity makes it tough for the Colts’ offense to get off to a strong start to the season.

“Not an excuse, but every year we have a new quarterback,” Hines said, via Zak Keefer of TheAthletic.com. “So each year we have growing pains while we sit here and watch Tennessee, which has had [Ryan] Tannehill, what, my whole career? And each year we’re restarting and we have to turn the page.”

Hines would love to see the Colts get one quarterback who establishes himself for years to come.

“So that sucks a little bit, too, that most teams we play have an established guy, but that doesn’t matter. We have figured it out and we will figure it out,” Hines said.

Unfortunately for the Colts, Ryan isn’t looking like a long-term answer either. The 37-year-old Ryan is tied for the league lead in interceptions and is playing some of the worst football of his career. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if the Colts have yet another new quarterback next year.