San Diego Chargers

NFL MVP tracker: Patriots’ Tom Brady closing gap on Chiefs’ Alex Smith

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    From Week 1 through Week 17, USA TODAY Sports’ NFL staff will be handicapping the race for league MVP. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one.

Our MVP tracker after Week 6’s games:

1. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (24 points): He’s been our collective choice all season, though his lead was diminished following the Chiefs’ first loss and Smith’s most pedestrian performance of the campaign. But Kansas City still owns the AFC’s best record at 5-1, and Smith continues to be among league leaders in most major passing categories while owning the best completion rate (72.9%), QB rating (119.2) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (12-0). If he can keep his career year on track, as Matt Ryan did in 2016, hard to believe Smith won’t bring home the hardware. Last week: 1

2. QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (11 points): He’s baaack in the conversation. Brady, a two-time league MVP, is having his case bolstered by New England’s middling run game and league-worst defense, which are forcing him to put the ball in the air frequently. He’s on track for a career-high 408 completions and currently paces the NFL with 1,959 passing yards. The newly crowned all-time winningest quarterback with 187 regular-season victories, Brady’s also lurking behind league leaders with 13 TD passes and a 106.9 passer rating. Last week: Unranked

3. RB Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (10 points): Kansas City’s rookie sensation is coming back to earth ever so slowly, rushing for a season-low 21 yards in Sunday’s loss (Hunt did add 89 yards on five receptions). He still leads the NFL with 630 yards on the ground and 885 from scrimmage, however he hasn’t found the end zone in the last three weeks. Last week: 3

4. QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (6 points): Can he join Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson as second-year starting quarterbacks who recently won the Super Bowl? Title-starved Eagles fans certainly hope so. Wentz has made admirable strides in Year 2, particularly with his play on third down, and has Philadelphia atop the NFC standings at 5-1. Wentz already has 13 TD passes and will match his rookie total if throws three more. Last week: Unranked

T5. WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (3 points): He tops the charts with 48 catches for 700 yards and, barring injury, will exceed 100 grabs and 1,200 yards for the fifth consecutive year. Last week: Unranked

T5. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (3 points): Before Week 6, he appeared to be nearing his 2015 MVP form with his throwing wing apparently healed. But Newton has been intercepted three times in two of his past four starts, a mini-trend that certainly hindered his momentum. Last week: 4

T5. QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (3 points): His broken collarbone will prevent him from winning a third MVP this season. But if it wasn’t already apparent, Rodgers’ absence Sunday underscores what he means to the Pack and league. Last week: 2

Also receiving votes: Todd Gurley (2 points), Leonard Fournette (1)

Week 5 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
Week 4 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
Week 3 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
Week 2 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)
Week 1 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

NFL Today, Week 5

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Sept. 9

Minnesota at Chicago, 8:30 p.m. EDT. Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall draft pick this year, is set to make his NFL regular-season debut when he replaces the benched Mike Glennon for the Bears (1-3). The Vikings (2-2) will be without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who was lost for the season last week when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last week’s 14-7 loss to Detroit. Meanwhile, quarterback Sam Bradford is nearing a return after missing three straight games with a sore knee.

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STARS

Passing

— Cam Newton, Panthers, went 26 of 33 for a season-high 335 yards and three touchdowns to lead Carolina to a 27-24 win at Detroit.

— Deshaun Watson, Texans, tossed five touchdown passes in a losing cause as Houston fell to Kansas City 42-34.

— Carson Wentz, Eagles, had a career-best four touchdown passes and finished 21 of 30 for 304 yards in Philadelphia’s 34-7 victory over Arizona.

— Alex Smith, Chiefs, threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns to help Kansas City remain undefeated with a 42-34 win over Houston.

— Aaron Rodgers, Packers, threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, finishing with three TD tosses while lifting Green Bay over Dallas 35-31.

— Philip Rivers, Chargers, had three touchdown throws in leading Los Angeles past the New York Giants 27-22.

— Brian Hoyer, 49ers, threw for 353 yards and two scores in a losing cause as San Francisco fell to Indianapolis 26-23 in overtime.

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Rushing

— Leonard Fournette, Jaguars, ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in Jacksonville’s 30-9 rout of Pittsburgh.

— Aaron Jones, Packers, had 19 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first start to help Green Bay top Dallas 35-31.

— Kareem Hunt, Chiefs, rushed for 107 yards on 29 carries and also caught two TD passes in Kansas City’s 42-34 win at Houston.

— Melvin Gordon, Chargers, ran for 105 yards on 20 attempts in Los Angeles’ 27-22 win over the New York Giants.

— Marlon Mack, Colts, had 91 yards and a TD on just nine carries in Indianapolis’ 26-23 overtime win over San Francisco.

— Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, rushed for 116 yards on 29 attempts in Dallas’ 35-31 loss to Green Bay.

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Receiving

— A.J. Green, Bengals, caught seven passes for 189 yards, the third-highest total of his career, including a 77-yard TD and bounced back from contributing to three turnovers to help set up the winning score as Cincinnati topped Buffalo 20-16.

— DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, had three touchdown catches in Houston’s 42-34 loss to Kansas City.

— T.Y. Hilton, Colts, had seven receptions for 177 yards in Indianapolis’ 26-23 overtime win over San Francisco.

— Antonio Brown, Steelers, caught 10 passes for 157 yards in Pittsburgh’s 30-9 loss to Jacksonville.

— Ed Dickson, Panthers, had five receptions for a career-high 175 yards — a total that surpassed his production from each of the previous three seasons with Carolina — in a 27-24 win at Detroit.

— Davante Adams, Packers, caught two touchdown passes in Green Bay’s 35-31 victory at Dallas, including the 12-yard winner with 11 seconds left.

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Special Teams

— Adam Vinatieri, Colts, booted four field goals — including a 51-yarder to win it in overtime — and made two extra points in Indianapolis’ 26-23 victory over San Francisco.

— Chandler Catanzaro, Jets, kicked a franchise-record 57-yard field goal to end the first half of New York’s 17-14 win at Cleveland.

— Patrick Robinson, Eagles, deflected Phil Dawson’s 51-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half of Philadelphia’s 34-7 win over Arizona.

— Harrison Butker, Chiefs, kicked five goals — 35, 42, 41, 35 and 49 yards — in Kansas City’s 42-34 win at Houston.

— Tyreek Hill, Chiefs, returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown to help Kansas City to a 42-34 win at Houston.

— Kenjon Barner, Eagles, had a 76-yard punt return to set up Philadelphia’s second TD in a 34-7 win over Arizona.

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Defense

— Myles Garrett, Browns, had two sacks in his NFL debut — including one on the first play of his career — in Cleveland’s 17-14 loss to the New York Jets.

— Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, Chargers, each had two sacks and both also forced a fumble in Los Angeles’ 27-22 win over the New York Giants.

— Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church and Telvin Smith, Jaguars. Gipson had two interceptions in Jacksonville’s 30-9 win at Pittsburgh, while Church and Smith returned picks for touchdowns.

— Jimmy Smith, Ravens, returned a fumble 47 yards for a TD in Baltimore’s 30-17 victory at Oakland.

— Reshad Jones, Dolphins, had six tackles, a half-sack and two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 38 yards for a score in Miami’s 16-10 win over Tennessee.

— Earl Thomas, Seahawks, forced two of the Rams’ five turnovers in Seattle’s 16-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

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STREAKS & STATS

Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass for the 200th consecutive game, third-longest streak in NFL history. … Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett had two sacks against the New York Jets, becoming the first player selected No. 1 overall to have multiple sacks in his NFL debut since it became an official statistic in 1982. … With its 26-23 overtime loss at Indianapolis, San Francisco became the first team since the 1994 Houston Oilers to lose four straight games by three or fewer points. … The Jets’ 17-14 victory at Cleveland marked the first time in his 15-year career that Josh McCown has won three straight starts. … Houston’s Deshaun Watson is the first rookie with four or more touchdown passes in back-to-back games since Washington’s Robert Griffin III in 2012.

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MILESTONES

At 22 years and 263 days old, Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette is the youngest player in NFL history with a touchdown run of at least 90 yards and is the fifth rookie to score at least one TD in each of his team’s first five games of a season. … Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning 51-yard field goal in overtime in the Colts’ 26-23 victory over San Francisco. He has 24 game-winning field goals in the regular season in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime and 10 game-winners in overtime — both the most in NFL history. Vinatieri became the third player to score 2,400 points and has 2,411, behind only Morten Andersen (2,544) and Gary Anderson (2,434). Vinatieri also has one more field goal made than Anderson (538) to move into second on the all-time list. … The Colts’ Frank Gore ran for 48 yards to surpass Eric Dickerson (13,259) and give him 13,304 for his career — seventh-most in NFL history.

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STILL SEARCHING

San Francisco, Cleveland and the New York Giants are the only winless teams remaining, with all three sitting at 0-5. The 49ers fell 26-23 to Indianapolis in overtime, the Browns were edged by the Jets 17-4 and the Giants lost 27-22 to the Los Angeles Chargers.

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CAM’S SHOUTOUT

Carolina’s Cam Newton came under fire for making sexist comments to a female reporter during the week. He apologized after losing an endorsement deal and getting criticized by the NFL. The 2015 NFL MVP said after a 27-24 win at Detroit that he put Rosie the Riveter, flexing her right arm, on his hat after doing homework to learn her iconic impact on World War II. “I just wanted to have a little notion, a shoutout, to all the strong women,” Newton said.

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PICKY PICKY

Jacksonville had five interceptions in its 30-9 victory at Pittsburgh, including returns for TDs by Telvin Smith (28 yards) and Barry Church (51). It marked the first time the Jaguars had two INTs returned for scores. Ben Roethlisberger’s career-high five interceptions were the most by a Steelers quarterback since Mark Malone threw five against Cleveland in 1987.

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BENCHED BROWN

After a shaky first half, rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer at halftime of Cleveland’s 17-14 loss to the New York Jets. Kizer, who threw a costly pick as Cleveland’s offense sputtered, was replaced by Kevin Hogan, who completed 16 of 19 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns.

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PEYTON’S PLACE

One day after Peyton Manning’s statue was unveiled outside Lucas Oil Stadium, the only five-time league MVP in league history finally got to thank Colts fans inside the stadium he helped build. And he did it by taking a snap from long-time center Jeff Saturday and throwing a pass that Reggie Wayne caught in the end zone. “I thank God every day that I’m an Indianapolis Colt,” Manning told the crowd at halftime of the Colts’ 26-20 overtime win over San Francisco.

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NO JOSHIN’

Josh McCown got some revenge on his former team by throwing two touchdown passes and leading the surprising New York Jets to a 17-14 win over the winless Cleveland Browns. McCown won only one game as a starter in two seasons with Cleveland, and that came in Baltimore. He went 0-7 at home for the Browns, who released him on Feb. 7 in a cost-cutting move.

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COMEBACK KID

Davante Adams had been in the concussion protocol but was active for Green Bay just 10 days after leaving the field on a stretcher on a helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a suspension for Chicago linebacker Danny Trevathan. He had seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns — including the winning 12-yard score with 11 seconds left in the Packers’ 35-31 victory at Dallas.

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BIZARRE TD

Miami’s Reshad Jones kept playing after everyone else stopped to give the Dolphins their first touchdown in a 16-10 win over Tennessee. Titans quarterback Matt Cassel fumbled with his arm cocked when hit by Kiko Alonso, and the ball squirted forward 14 yards. Jones scooped up the ball and ran uncontested to the end zone. Referee Bill Vinovich eventually announced that the loose ball was a fumble and Miami had scored. Following a replay review, the call was upheld, giving the Dolphins a 10-0 lead.

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SIDELINED

Houston star J.J. Watt broke his left leg Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs. The team announced that he sustained a tibial plateau fracture. The defensive end was injured while being blocked midway through the first quarter of the Texans’ 42-34 loss. … New York Giants wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall left on the same second-quarter series with sprained left ankles in a 27-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Dwayne Harris broke a foot on a kickoff return in the third quarter. Odell Beckham Jr. was the final one to go down, breaking his left ankle in the fourth quarter. … Oakland also lost four players to injuries, with Marquel Lee (ankle), fullback Jamize Olawale (concussion), linebacker Corey James (knee) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (knee) leaving their 30-17 defeat against Baltimore. … Ravens running back Terrance West departed on the opening drive with a left calf injury following a 13-yard run and did not return. … Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, who scored his sixth touchdown early in the fourth quarter, wasn’t on the field during the Packers’ final drive. Coach Mike McCarthy said he was being evaluated for an undisclosed injury.

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SPEAKING

“It was a (butt) whooping, plain and simple.” — Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant after Pittsburgh was routed at home by Jacksonville, 30-9 on Sunday.

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“I did a great job watching the Bruce Lee movies, and it kind of carried over to the football field.” — Seattle’s Earl Thomas on his martial arts-style chop to the arm of Rams running back Todd Gurley, knocking the ball out for a touchback in the Seahawks’ 16-10 win.

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“It took me three years and two teams, but dang gummit, I got me a win at FirstEnergy Stadium.” — Jets quarterback Josh McCown, who was released by the Browns in February after two seasons and led New York to a 17-14 win at Cleveland on Sunday.

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1. Welp. Might as well call it for the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers. All three fell to 0-5. No team in league history has ever started 0-5 and made the playoffs.

2. But for the optimists out there, there is a little hope. The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals started 1-6 but still reached postseason. More recently, so did the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs — after a 1-5 start.

3. Sunday was just brutal day for the Giants. Their top four receivers left the game with injuries. The sight of Odell Beckham Jr. being carted off in tears with a fractured left ankle, however, was most demoralizing. Before going down, Beckham kept New York in the game with a late 48-yard touchdown.

4. More bad news on the injury front: Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt suffered a tibial plateau fracture on Sunday night. The team hasn’t given a timeline for his recovery, but having the three-time defensive player of the year sidelined would be a devastating blow to the Texans as well as the league, which would sorely miss one of its most universally beloved figures.

5. Is there any way to contain the Kansas City Chiefs? On a night when Kareem Hunt was mostly contained (but still finished with 107 yards on 29 carries), the offense still put up 450 total yards in a 42-34 win over the Texans. Alex Smith turned in another MVP caliber performance (29-of-37 passing, 324 yards, three TDs), and Tyreek Hill returned a punt 82 yars for a score.

6. One sign that Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz is progressing and making efficient decisions: He now has five touchdown passes on third down this season, after he threw only three such scores in his rookie year.

7. Another Wentz stat that should have the Philly faithful excited? In first quarters last year, he threw six interceptions and just one touchdown. This year? No picks, five TDs.And one more. Wentz’s previous career high for TD throws in a game was two. He had three in the first quarter Sunday and finished with four.

8. We have no idea what the Pittsburgh Steelers were thinking. The Jacksonville Jaguars entered Sunday ranked dead last in rushing defense (165.5 yards allowed per game), and first in passing defense (147). So why on earth would Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley dial up just 15 carries for Le’Veon Bell?

9. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has played 210 career games. He had never finished one with zero touchdowns and four or more interceptions — before Sunday, when Big Ben threw five interceptions and did not toss a TD.

10. Maybe Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown, who racked up 157 receiving yards Sunday, should try calling Roethlisberger out on the radio this week.

11. However Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton, who grew up playing in the same Liberty City (Miami) youth league as Brown, had the better day with 177 yards and a victory.

12. Roethlisberger and the Giants’ Eli Manning, both first-round picks in 2004, have combined to win four Lombardi Trophies. But the other Round 1 QB from 2004, Philip Rivers, was the only one to notch a victory Sunday … and is now 3-0 vs. Manning, the man he was traded for on draft day.

13. The Jaguars have forced 14 turnovers this year after generating 13 all of last season.

14. Jacksonville, by the way, is sitting atop the AFC South at 3-2. This team may have turned the corner. That hamstring injury to Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota may open the door for the Jaguars and the Houston Texans in the division.

15. The Miami Dolphins defense has more touchdowns (1) than the offense (0) in first halves this season.

16. That tells us it may be time to scrap the Jay Cutler experiment. Right before halftime, he threw an interception and fans in South Florida booed. It got worse. Chants of “WE WANT MOORE” — as in backup QB Matt Moore — rained down from the stands in the Dolphins’ home opener. By halftime, Cutler had completed just five of 11 passes for 21 yards and the pick. Oh, and this was against a Titans D that allowed 283 yards and four touchdowns to rookie passer Deshaun Watson last week.

17. By the way, as Colin Kaepernick waits for the phone to ring? The two quarterbacks in that game — Cutler and Tennessee’s Matt Cassel, who was starting in place of Mariota — combined for 17 of 28 passing for 75 yards, no touchdowns and two turnovers in the first half.

18. Jags rookie RB Leonard Fournette became the fifth player since 1970 to start his career with a touchdown from scrimmage in at least five straight games. If you didn’t know already, Jacksonville’s offense runs through Fournette. Think about it this way: Two pick-sixes definitely helped, but the Jaguars beat Pittsburgh 30-9 despite Blake Bortles completing eight passes for 95 yards. (And we can’t blame Jacksonville. When you have a player who is so physical that he asks for hits, might as well give him the rock.)

19. A day of firsts for the McCaffreys. Carolina Panthers rookie RB Christian McCaffrey scored his first career touchdown — on a shovel pass from Cam Newton — almost at the same time that brother Max, a rookie receiver for the Jaguars, recorded his first career catch.

20. Last week, we suggested Newton’s surgically repaired right shoulder seemed fully recovered. If you didn’t believe us, maybe his domination of the Detroit Lions will convince you. Newton had 26 completions, seven incompletions, 355 yards, and three touchdowns. (And if that doesn’t do the trick, this perfectly-thrown, drop-in-the-bucket dime in stride to Kelvin Benjamin might.)

21. The Panthers led the Lions 27-10 after three quarters. Some deficits are too much even for Detroit QB Matthew Stafford.

22. Ugh, Browns. It took 19 quarters, but they finally took their first lead of the season Sunday. Still, though Cleveland moves the ball at times, it tends to self-destruct inside opponents’ 20-yard line. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer gave away the ball on a botched toss and an awfully thrown interception against the Jets. That marked Cleveland’s fifth red zone turnover this season, which leads the league.

23. Not incidentally, the Browns’ breakthrough touchdown came after coach Hue Jackson benched Kizer for Kevin Hogan at the start of the third quarter. Flashing big plays occasionally won’t be enough for Kizer, who has to show he can eliminate the back-breaking mistakes. Hogan played well enough (16-for-19, 194 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) to entertain the possibility of his being the starter for the foreseeable future.

24. Colts RB Frank Gore keeps moving up the NFL’s career rushing list. With his first carry Sunday, he passed Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson. Gore is now seventh on the all-time list with 13,304 after a 48-yard showing. As long as he stays healthy this year, he’s likely to finish the season in fifth place. Jerome Bettis (13,662) and LaDainian Tomlinson (13,684) are in the way … though so might be Colts rookie Marlon Mack, who rushed for 91 yards against the 49ers.

25. Still, Gore had a happier reunion with the 49ers than San Francisco WR Pierre Garcon did with the Colts.

26. The Buffalo Bills registered their first turnover since the first quarter of Week 1. It was only their second giveaway of the year, but it came at an awful time — a fourth-quarter INT from Tyrod Taylor that sunk his team in Cincinnati.

27. The Bills entered Sunday having sole possession of first place in the AFC East, which marked just the 11th week the team has been in that position since 2000. After their loss to the Bengals, it stays at 11.

28. The 2017 Jets, whom some picked to go 0-16, have a three-game winning streak and are in a three-way, first-place tie with the Bills and New England Patriots, all of them 3-2. Huge credit goes to coach Todd Bowles for getting a young and relatively unknown roster to play competitively. (And if you had Week 6’s showdown between the Jets and Patriots as a compelling matchup, we’d like to talk to you about buying our Powerball ticket.)

29. With the Dolphins at 2-2, just a half game separates the entire division. However even though the Pats had a sloppy victory Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it’s hard not to think they’ll eventually figure things out — especially after their defense showed signs of life against Jameis Winston and Co.

30. The Arizona Cardinals entered Week 5 averaging a league-worst 57 rushing yards per game. They managed just 31 at Philadelphia. Where have you gone, David Johnson?

31. The Oakland Raiders are in a precarious spot. They’ve lost three in a row, with the offense averaging just 12.3 points and 209 yards in that span. Derek Carr needs to come back — invigorated — soon.

32. Maybe Sunday’s victory will finally convince offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the Baltimore Ravens to stick to the rushing game. In its two losses this year, Baltimore averaged just 108 rushing yards. In its three victories? How about 145.3.

33. For the second week in a row, the NFL will serve up a prime matchup in the Thursday night prime-time slot: Philadelphia (4-1) at Carolina (4-1).

34. The game between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks was a good barometer of where L.A. ranks in the NFC West landscape. The Rams are a solid team that is unquestionably ascending, but they’re not quite on the level of a perennial power like Seattle, as Sunday’s 16-loss showed. That gap, though, appears to be closing.

35. It was impressive for the Rams to march out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. What wasn’t impressive? How they squandered the lead via self-inflicted errors. Los Angeles committed five turnovers in its first four games. On Sunday alone, the Seahawks doubled them up and forced them into five more.

36. With that said, should the Seahawks be worried that they won the turnover battle 5-2 but needed to fend off a late rally to win? Their offensive line woes won’t go away, and they still can’t find anyone to run the ball consistently.

37. Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s fourth interception of the season was returned for a TD by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Prescott, last season’s offensive rookie of the year, was picked off four times in the entire 2016 regular season.

38. Kudos to Prescott for bringing the Cowboys back and scoring what appeared to be the game-winning TD. But leaving Aaron Rodgers 73 seconds to win the game? We had a feeling that wouldn’t go well. With all due respect to Tom Brady, feels like there’s just no one better in the NFL right now at game-winning drives.

39.  Aside from Rodgers’ heroics, the coaching job Mike McCarthy has done in Green Bay this year is what has re-established the Packers as one of the NFC’s most dangerous teams. Perhaps no other team has overcome as many injuries and relied on so much capable depth.

40. Look no further than the emergence of running back Aaron Jones, who two weeks ago was third on the Pack depth chart. Injuries to Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams thrust Jones into the starter’s role. All the rookie did was respond with 19 carries for 125 yards and one touchdown vs. the Cowboys. It wouldn’t surprise us if Jones continues to have a prominent role, even when Montgomery returns from his broken ribs.

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Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes

NFL Roundup: Alex Smith guides undefeated Chiefs past Texans

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds remaining, lifting Green Bay over the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 on Sunday in another thriller nine months after the Packers’ divisional playoff victory on the same field.

Rodgers capped a 75-yard drive in just 1:02, going toward the same end zone as in the playoff game.

Adams, active 10 days after leaving the field on a stretcher on a helmet-to-helmet hit that resulted in a suspension for Chicago linebacker Danny Trevathan, had seven catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns.

Dak Prescott had given Cowboys the lead on an 11-yard touchdown run with 1:13 remaining to cap a 17-play drive that lasted almost nine minutes. Dallas (2-3) has already matched the number of losses from the magical rookie season for Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The Packers (4-1) had gone ahead earlier on Damarius Randall’s 21-yard interception return for a touchdown, the third of five lead changes in the fourth quarter. Green Bay rallied from 15 points down in the first half.

Aaron Jones had 19 carries for 125 yards and a TD, becoming the first Green Bay running back with 100 yards in his first start as a rookie since Samkon Gado in 2005.

Elliott finished with 116 yards on 29 carries. Prescott was 25 of 36 for 251 yards and three first-half touchdowns, two to Cole Beasley and one to Dez Bryant.

Rodgers was 19 of 29 for 221 yards and three touchdowns and set up the winning score with an 18-yard scramble.

COLTS 26, 49ERS 23, OT

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — After blowing a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes or regulation and surviving an interception in scoring position in overtime, Marlon Mack’s 35-yard run set up Adam Vinatieri for a 51-yard field goal as the Indianapolis Colts beat the San Francisco 49ers.

Vinatieri made four field goals to move into second on the NFL’s career list, one ahead of Gary Anderson (538). Mack and Jacoby Brissett each scored on TD runs for the Colts (2-3), who have won both games against winless teams.

San Francisco (0-5) is one of three teams that still has not won this season. The Browns and Giants are the others.

In many ways, the mistake-prone game became a sideshow for what happened around it.

While many showed up to thank Manning, who played his final home game in Indy on Jan. 8, 2011, most didn’t anticipate becoming part of another political statement.

Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, left shortly after about a dozen San Francisco players dropped to their knees for the national anthem. The Colts locked arms, but none took a knee.

Some reports indicated Pence’s walkout was planned.

President Donald Trump later tweeted: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.”

And Peyton Manning was inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor.

CHIEFS 42, TEXANS 34

HOUSTON (AP) — Alex Smith threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns to help Kansas City remain undefeated in a game where Houston star J.J. Watt broke his left leg.

Deshaun Watson’s 48-yard touchdown pass got the Texans within six early in the fourth quarter before Smith extended the lead for Kansas City (5-0) to 32-20 on a 10-yard pass to De’Anthony Thomas with about 9 minutes left. Tyreek Hill padded the lead when he returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.

Watson threw for 261 yards and five touchdowns, but the Texans (2-3) failed to recreate the magic they found last week when they scored a franchise-record 57 points in a victory over Tennessee.

Watt, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, was injured in the first quarter and the team announced that he sustained a tibial plateau fracture, but didn’t provide any details on how long he’ll be out. The defensive end returned this season after missing the last 13 games last year after his second back surgery.

CHARGERS 27, GIANTS 22

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Philip Rivers threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Melvin Gordon with 2:58 to play and the Chargers rallied to beat the Giants in a game worthy of two teams that started the season 0-4.

The touchdown pass was Rivers’ third of the game and came three plays after Kyle Emanuel had a sack, forced fumble and recovery against Eli Manning at the Giants 11-yard line. It also came four plays after Odell Beckham Jr. hurt an ankle and become the fourth Giants receiver knocked out of the game.

Rivers also hit Gordon on a 6-yard TD pass in the second quarter and had a 25-yarder to tight end Hunter Henry in the third as the Chargers ended a nine-game losing streak dating to late November.

Manning had given the Giants a 22-17 lead early in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard TD pass to a wide-open Beckham. New York missed the 2-point conversion attempt after being hit with a delay of game penalty.

Manning, who was sacked five times, also threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to backup Roger Lewis Jr. in the third quarter. Orleans Darkwa scored on a 23-yard run and the Giants got a safety in scoring their first first-quarter points this season.

JAGUARS 31, STEELERS 9

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Telvin Smith and Barry Church returned a pair of Ben Roethlisberger’s interceptions for touchdowns and Jacksonville stunned Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville (3-2) beat the Steelers for the first time in a decade by relying heavily on the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense. The Jaguars picked off Roethlisberger five times in all and sacked him twice. Rookie Leonard Fournette ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns for the Jaguars, who are over .500 after five games for the first time since 2010 and have already matched their victory total from 2016.

Roethlisberger completed 33 of 55 for 312 yards and his career-high five interceptions, the most by a Pittsburgh quarterback since Mark Malone threw five against Cleveland in 1987.

A week after a sideline outburst generated headlines and drew Roethlisberger’s ire, wide receiver Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 157 yards for Pittsburgh (3-2).

Brown was also the intended receiver on a pair of third-quarter passes the opportunistic Jaguars turned into points. The Steelers led 9-7 when Roethlisberger looked left for Brown. Jacksonville defensive lineman Abry Jones tipped it into the hands of Smith, who chugged 28 yards to put Jacksonville in front with 6:38 left in the period.

The Jaguars defense struck again on Pittsburgh’s next series. Roethlisberger tried to hit Brown down the sideline. Jalen Ramsey deflected it and Church came down with it. A 51-yard sprint later and Jacksonville had turned a two-point deficit into an 11-point lead without taking an offensive snap.

EAGLES 34, CARDINALS 7

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz threw a career-best four touchdown passes and the Eagles continued their impressive start.

Wentz tossed three scoring passes in the first quarter, including 59 yards to Torrey Smith, 11 yards to Zach Ertz and 15 yards to Trey Burton. He connected with Nelson Agholor for a 72-yard TD in the third quarter that left six-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson shouting on the sideline.

The Eagles (4-1) have won three straight games.

Carson Palmer and Arizona’s one-dimensional offense were held to 279 yards. The Cardinals (2-3) have alternated losses and wins since Week 1.

Wentz torched a secondary that features Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, finishing 21 of 30 for 304 yards. Peterson held Alshon Jeffery to three catches for 31 yards, but Wentz spread the ball around.

DOLPHINS 16, TITANS 10

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jay Cutler finally silenced the boobirds with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, and the Dolphins overcame another dismal offensive showing.

The jeers started in the first quarter of the Dolphins’ home debut, and soon the crowd was chanting for backup quarterback Matt Moore. But coach Adam Gase stuck with Cutler, who capped a 58-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry for the tiebreaking score.

The Titans (2-3) played without quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was inactive because of a left hamstring injury suffered a week ago. Replacement Matt Cassel went 21 for 32 for 141 yards and was sacked six times.

Miami (2-2) came in ranked last in the NFL in points and yards per game, and struggled against a Titans team that allowed 57 points against Houston a week ago.

PANTHERS 27, LIONS 24

DETROIT (AP) — Cam Newton showed he was very focused on football, throwing three touchdowns to help the Panthers build a lead big enough to hold off the Lions.

The Panthers (4-1) scored 24 straight points after trailing 10-3 early in the second quarter. Detroit rallied, but could not stop Newton on his last drive to get the ball back.

Newton came under fire for making sexist comments to a female reporter this week. He apologized after losing an endorsement deal and getting criticized by the NFL.

He was 26 of 33 for a season-high 335 yards. On perhaps the game’s key play, he converted a third-and-19 from the Carolina 24 with a sharp, 17-yard pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 2:00 left while clinging to a three-point lead against a team out of timeouts.

Newton threw a 6-yard TD pass to rookie Christian McCaffrey to pull the Panthers into a 10-10 tie early in the second quarter and a 10-yard pass to Devin Funchess for a tiebreaking score with 48 seconds left in the first half. With a perfectly lofted 31-yard pass to Benjamin, the 2015 NFL MVP put Carolina up 24-10 early in the third.

Detroit (3-2) struggled to move the ball in the air and on the ground until late in the game.

BENGALS 20, BILLS 16

CINCINNATI (AP) — A.J. Green had a hand in three turnovers that kept it close, but the receiver also pulled off a 77-yard touchdown and another long catch that set up a score.

After losing their first three games, the Bengals (2-3) have salvaged their season by getting the ball to their playmakers at decisive moments. Green’s 47-yard catch set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Joe Mixon that put Cincinnati ahead to stay in the fourth quarter.

The Bills (3-2) got off to an encouraging start by relying heavily on kicker Stephen Hauschka and a defense that led the league, allowing only 13.5 points per game in the first four. The combination wasn’t enough this time. Buffalo’s depleted offense couldn’t take advantage of Cincinnati’s three turnovers.

Tyrod Taylor’s off-target pass was picked off near midfield with 2:14 left, clinching it for Cincinnati. Taylor finished 20 of 37 for 166 yards and was sacked six times.

The Bengals changed offensive coordinators after failing to get a touchdown in their first two games. Green complained that they weren’t getting the ball to their difference makers. He made the difference Sunday, catching seven passes for 189 yards.

JETS 17, BROWNS 14

CLEVELAND (AP) — Josh McCown came back to Cleveland and beat the team that cut him, throwing two touchdown passes and leading the surprising Jets over the winless Browns, who benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer and fell to 1-20 under coach Hue Jackson.

McCown went 1-10 in two seasons as a starter for the Browns, who released him on Feb. 7 in a cost-cutting move. The 38-year-old wasn’t seeking revenge, but he got it with two second-half scoring tosses.

McCown threw a 2-yard TD pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the third quarter and a 24-yarder to Jermaine Kearse in the fourth to give the Jets (3-2) a 17-7 lead en route to their third straight victory.

Kearse’s TD capped a 97-yard drive after Jackson decided not to try a potential tying field goal — rookie kicker Zane Gonzalez missed two attempts in the first half — and went for it on fourth down. However, running back Isaiah Crowell was stopped short by New York’s defense.

Jackson also decided to replace Kizer in the second half for backup Kevin Hogan, perhaps a sign the coach is worried about losing his job. Hogan threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end David Njoku.

The Browns (0-5) dropped to 2-30 in their past 32 games, but they did finally get to see No. 1 overall draft pick Myles Garrett. Garrett, who missed Cleveland’s first four games with a high ankle sprain, got a sack on his first play and finished with two.

RAVENS 30, RAIDERS 17

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Joe Flacco hit Mike Wallace on two deep passes to spark Baltimore’s struggling offense, and the Ravens got a fumble return for a touchdown by Jimmy Smith to beat short-handed Oakland.

Flacco had struggled to get the ball downfield in losing the past two weeks. He changed that on the opening drive of the game for the Ravens (3-2) when he connected on a 52-yard pass to Wallace that set up an early touchdown and established the tone for the day.

The Raiders (2-3), playing without injured star quarterback Derek Carr and two key cornerbacks, played from behind all game as Smith returned Jared Cook’s fumble 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0 just 3:50 in.

Backup quarterback E.J. Manuel , making his fourth start in the past three seasons, threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and led another TD drive that ended in Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard run . He finished 13 for 26 for 159 yards.

But that wasn’t nearly enough for the Raiders, who have dropped three straight following a 2-0 start, putting a severe dent in their hopes to challenge in the AFC West.

SEAHAWKS 16, RAMS 10

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russell Wilson passed for 198 yards and a touchdown, and Earl Thomas forced two of the Rams’ five turnovers in Seattle’s win.

Jimmy Graham scored late in the first half in a defense-dominated win for the Seahawks (3-2), who shut out the NFL’s highest-scoring offense in the second half of their second straight win over their NFC West rivals.

Thomas made enormous defensive plays early and late for Seattle. The veteran safety stripped the ball from Todd Gurley at the goal line to kill the Rams’ opening drive, and he intercepted Jared Goff’s fluttering pass at midfield with 6:02 to play.

Sheldon Richardson also came through with two big plays, diving to intercept a deflected pass in the third quarter before scooping up Goff’s fumble near midfield with 2:45 left.

Goff moved the Rams 55 yards in the final 1:09, but Seattle’s defense made its final stop. Rams rookie Cooper Kupp barely missed a diving TD grab on third down, and Goff’s fourth-down pass to Kupp was too low.

Tavon Austin rushed for a 27-yard TD for Los Angeles (3-2), and Goff went 22 of 47 for 288 yards with three costly turnovers.

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Week 5: Can Rams RB Todd Gurley slice Seahawks?

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —-    Todd Gurley can finally share some of the spotlight with the rest of the Los Angeles Rams, and the running back is already reaping the rewards.

Once the focal point of every opposing defense, Gurley is enjoying a resurgence in his third year thanks in part to new coach Sean McVay’s varied attack. The offense ranks as the league’s highest-scoring at 35.5 points per game, and quarterback Jared Goff has received much of the praise for the turnaround given his 112.2 passer rating that now stands second best in the league.

But Gurley remains the centerpiece of the offense, perhaps more than ever. He has an NFL-high 106 touches, which represent 53.5% of the Rams’ plays (also a league best). His 596 total yards from scrimmage are topped only by Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt.

Facing a Seattle Seahawks defense that ranks just 27th against the rush, Gurley should again see a heavy workload and could be the determining factor in whether the Rams can prevail and prove themselves legitimate contenders in the NFC West.

The Seahawks have previously bottled up Gurley, limiting him to just 89 yards on 31 carries in two games last year. But this year’s defense hasn’t lived up to its past smothering standards, as it is allowing 134 yards per game on the ground. And though the group ranks fourth against the pass, it likely won’t be able to take Goff for granted as in past matchups by loading up the box.

Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright could prove to be the Seahawks’ best weapons for countering Gurley. The two will be called on to contain Gurley not only as a runner but also in the passing game, where he has 234 yards and three of his seven touchdowns.

Here are four other matchups that could define Week 5 in the NFL:

Green Bay Packers OTs David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga vs. Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Aaron Rodgers might be able to breathe easier on Sunday, as his starting offensive tackles could be playing together for the first time this season. Both Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bulaga (ankle) are listed as questionable after each played in just one game so far.

Their absence has taken a toll on Rodgers, who has already taken 15 sacks. His recourse to the pressure has been to revert to a quick-strike attack, as his 5.3 average completed air yards are the third-lowest of any starting quarterback, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Dallas, however, knows how lethal Rodgers can be when not contained in the pocket, as his late-game heroics in last season’s NFC divisional playoff game helped end the Cowboys’ run. Lawrence, who has emerged as the NFL’s sack leader with 7 1/2, will play a crucial role in corralling the quarterback and limiting the rest of the defense’s exposure to big plays. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could create problems for Green Bay by matching him up with Bulaga, who has said he likely won’t be 100% healthy even if he plays.

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Kansas City Chiefs CB Marcus Peters

Perhaps no one has gained more from Deshaun Watson settling in as the Texans’ starting quarterback than Hopkins. After he was targeted 16 times in the opener but had just seven catches, the Texans’ top receiver has established a connection with the rookie first-round pick. In last week’s 57-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans, Hopkins had a season-high 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Peters, meanwhile, described his most recent performance as “hella weak” after giving up two touchdowns in a 29-20 win over the Washington Redskins. The outing was uncharacteristic for the confident cornerback and sets up an intriguing matchup against an old foe.

Hopkins and Peters have each had their share of big plays in their early-career showdowns. In three games against one another, Hopkins has twice eclipsed the 100-yard mark while Peters has four total interceptions. The two might not be locked against one another for all of Sunday night’s tilt, but the matchup would be a revealing indication of Watson’s aggressiveness and risk tolerance.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell vs. Jacksonville Jaguars’ front seven

After three weeks of substandard production, the Steelers’ offense looked closer to its old form in a 26-9 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Pittsburgh established its pace by leaning on Bell, who had 39 total touches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

An even bigger breakout, however, could be waiting against the Jaguars’ defense. Jacksonville’s last-ranked rush defense is allowing as many yards per carry (5.7) as its stingy secondary is permitting for every pass attempt.

The Jaguars will need a disruptive effort from defensive tackle Calais Capbell and the rest of its front against a stellar Steelers offensive line. But coach Doug Marrone said the rest of the defense was also accountable for the woes against the run. Linebackers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith will be counted on to keep the patient Bell from breaking past the second level.

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton vs. Detroit Lions’ secondary

Newton will be under more intense scrutiny than usual after the fallout from his remark to a female reporter this week. In Detroit, he faces a defense holding its own despite several shortcomings.

Though Newton is completing a career-high 65.2% of his passes, he has thrown just five touchdowns against five interceptions with a quarterback rating (48.3) that nearly mirrors last year’s output. He will have to be judicious against a Lions defense that ranks second in the NFL with seven picks.

Detroit is in the middle of the pack for both total yards allowed (15th with 322.5 per game) and passing yards allowed (21st with 236.3), but its 17.5 points per game is tied for fourth-lowest in the league. Keeping Carolina from stringing together long drives could be a challenge, as the Panthers rank first in third-down conversion percentage at 51.9%.

Pressure’s on

Jay Cutler. It is hardly a huge surprise that Cutler – who retired, then unretired to sign out of the Fox broadcast booth during the preseason after Ryan Tannehill was lost for the season – has been an early flop for the Dolphins. Being a so-called “good fit” because he knew Adam Gase’s system has resulted in the NFL’s worst-ranked offense and a ho-hum 80.4 passer rating for Cutler. Unfortunately for Miami – shut out by a Saints defense considered among the worst in the league – Cutler has resembled the worst of himself. Maybe it gets better with more reps, timing and chemistry with his receivers. But heading into Sunday’s game against Tennessee, the optics look as horrendous as ever for Cutler, whose hands-frozen, “statue” pose while flanked wide on a Wildcat snap in London is one more example of why he’s got the worst body language in the league.

Who’s hot

Todd Gurley. Sean McVay’s touch as the new Rams coach has brought out the best in the dynamic running back, who ranks second in the NFL to Kansas City’s wondrous rookie, Kareem Hunt, in yards from scrimmage as a major test looms on Sunday when the Seahawks visit the Coliseum. Gurley, flowing downhill behind a rebuilt O-line, looks again like the rookie runner who burst on the scene two years ago, on pace for a 1,400-yard rushing campaign. What a turnaround after floundering last season in the NFL’s worst-ranked offense. Yet even more striking is the manner in which McVay and emerging quarterback Jared Goff are utilizing Gurley in the passing game. With 20 receptions, Gurley’s on pace for an 80-catch season and 2,200 yards from scrimmage. So while the Seahawks have the secondary that can surely clamp down on Goff’s downfield targets, Sunday’s NFC West showdown could hinge on whether the Seattle linebackers, including K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner, can contain Gurley in multiple ways – stuffing the run and perhaps more critically, coming out of the backfield.

Key matchup

Justin Houston vs. Deshaun Watson. Since Bill O’ Brien switched to his mobile, rookie quarterback, the Texans’ offensive line (still without left tackle Duane Brown) has been much less exposed. Watson not only reads defenses better than most rookies, he can bail out of trouble and buy time. Whether he can escape Houston, the Chiefs’ premier rusher, will be one of the key subplots on Sunday night for arguably the best matchup of the week. Kansas City has won two playoff games in Houston in recent years, but that was before Watson arrived. Nonetheless, it might feel like a playoff game as Kansas City (4-0) tries to remain the NFL’s only undefeated team.

Next man up

E.J. Manuel. With Derek Carr nursing an ailing back that has run the gamut of expectations for healing – once considered minimal, then a fracture was revealed and a 2-to-6 week rehab announced, then he showed up at practice this week and is officially listed as questionable – it’s most likely that Manuel will get at least one start for the Raiders, on Sunday against the Ravens. Boy, does Oakland, riding a two-game losing streak, need a game from Manuel (and Marshawn Lynch, too, for that matter) while trying to keep the team afloat with Carr out. The last time they faced such a predicament, in the playoffs in January after Carr broke his ankle, it was such a disaster with then-rookie Connor Cook falling flat on his face. At least Manuel, a former first-round pick who bombed in Buffalo, has some game experience. And he wasn’t half-bad in relief at Denver last weekend.

Rookie watch

Myles Garrett. After suffering a high ankle sprain just days before the season opener, the No. 1 pick in the draft will make long-awaited debut for the Browns on Sunday against the Jets. Browns coach Hue Jackson maintains that he will keep the defensive end on a “pitch count,” which has nothing to do with his throwing arm. It’s a matter of easing Garrett back into the rhythm. Naturally, the winless Browns need him in the worst way as the Browns D was stung for 31 points in each of the past two games. Garrett, a Texas A&M product invites so much anticipation, given his rare combination of speed and power, and the manner in which he unleashed dominance in the trenches after ramping up in training camp.

Stomach for an upset?

Arizona at Philadelphia. Bruce Arians, the one-time Temple coach, returns to the City of Brotherly Love desperate for a win against the Eagles (3-1), leading the NFC East. The swing factor could rest with protection for Carson Palmer, who has been sacked an NFL-high 17 times – including 12 in the past two weeks. With time, Palmer can go after an Eagles secondary that has been so shaky with its penchant for giving up big plays (7 passes of 35+ yards, 3 of at least 50). The Cards (2-2) surely have the receiving weapons, led by Larry Fitzgerald and Jaron Brown. If there’s time. The last time Arizona played at The Lync, in 2015, they won a blowout to improve to 13-1. But that’s a distant memory. Since then, they are 10-13-1, including the postseason, which is exactly why they are so desperate now.

If the playoffs were today…

Buffalo would have ended the NFL’s longest playoff drought. The Bills have gone 17 years since last qualifying for the playoffs, which makes their AFC East-leading 3-1 start even more compelling. New coach Sean McDermott, previously Carolina’s D-coordinator, has his new defense humming as the Bills have allowed an NFL-low 54 points. Of course, before it’s settled, the Patriots will have their say in it. New England (3-2) has won the past eight division titles, 13 of 14, and 14 AFC East crowns in the past 16 years. It could come down to December football. In a serious scheduling quirk, the Bills will play both of their games against New England and both of their games against Miami this season in December. But first things first: The Bills suddenly find themselves with a “trap” game on Sunday at Cincinnati.

Did you notice?

The Lions (3-1) are tied for the NFL lead with 11 takeaways – just three shy of their total for all of last year, when they forced the fourth-fewest turnovers in the league. All of the stripping and picking (7 INTs, 4 fumbles) has led to 47 points off takeaways, tied for the NFL lead, and when combined with ball security from Matt Stafford and Co., Detroit sits atop the turnover chart at +9. The numbers are on their side for Sunday’s game, as the Panthers rank next-to-last in the NFL with a -5 turnover margin.

Stat’s the fact

Frank Gore, who played the first 10 seasons of his 13-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers and that franchise’s all-time leading rusher, is poised to reach a milestone in facing his former team on Sunday in Indianapolis. Gore, who has rushed for 13,256 career yards, is four yards shy of passing Eric Dickerson for seventh place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

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Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

NFL Week 5 kickoff times, TV channel info, game breakdowns

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Jets (2-2) at Browns (0-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Sam Rosen, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: Most experts thought the Jets would struggle to win two games all season, but they’ve won two in a row because of their defense and efficient performances by veteran QB Josh McCown. The Browns, the NFL’s worst team last season, haven’t shown much real progress. They have yet to hold a lead, and their -44 point differential over the first four weeks is last in the NFL. The Browns are getting burned by the short and intermediate passing game, and that’s all McCown and the Jets can do. If the Jets can turn some short passes into big gains, they’ll win their third in a row. The Browns expect No. 1 overall pick, DE Myles Garrett, to make his debut after a high ankle sprain kept him out of the first four games. Garrett is explosive and talented enough to make an immediate impact.

Panthers (3-1) at Lions (3-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kenny Albert, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: Lions coordinator Teryl Austin’s defensive unit has 11 takeaways through four games — tied for the NFL lead and only three shy of its 2016 total. Detroit’s defense held Minnesota to 30% on third-down conversions but converted only 23% on offense. Carolina, like the Vikings, has a top-10 third-down unit and the ability to take away the Lions’ playmakers. For a club that repeatedly has leaned on QB Matthew Stafford, the defense and run game complementing him is a wonderful development for coach Jim Caldwell. It’s no coincidence that Panthers QB Cam Newton’s breakout as a passer in last week’s win vs. the Patriots coincided with his most efficient, active rushing day in more than a year (8 rushes, 44 yards and a TD). Finding the right balance of runs, “layups” and deep shots is what worked last week along with improved protection.

49ers (0-4) at Colts (1-3)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: The 49ers are still losing, but they’re close to being legitimate. Their last three losses have all come by three or fewer points. Their run defense has also shown some pretty good signs, led by a young defensive line made up of three first-round draft picks. There’s a lot to like about what new coach Kyle Shanahan has done, except the lack of a win. The Colts are 0-3 vs. NFC West teams this season in being outscored 108-40. But the 49ers have lost six in a row vs. AFC teams. The last time WR Pierre Garcon and Colts CB Vontae Davis squared off, Davis helped limit Garcon to three catches and nine yards in the Colts’ 2014 win vs. Washington. Garcon is now the 49ers’ go-to receiver, and they might test Davis and his hobbled groin in an effort to get the passing game going. In Andrew Luck’s absence, Colts QB Jacoby Brissett was starting to resemble a legitimate NFL starter, but the leg injury suffered late in the Seattle game could affect his performance. Luck is at least another week away.

Titans (2-2) at Dolphins (1-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton)

The matchup: Tennessee was routed 57-14 by Houston in one of the most lopsided losses in franchise history. Adding injury to insult, Titans QB Marcus Mariota left early with a hamstring injury, leaving his Week 5 status up in the air. Miami’s offense is struggling badly. After three games, the Dolphins have scored one TD and are 2-for-20 on third downs. Despite an ugly 20-0 loss to the Saints in London, coach Adam Gase is not panicking and insists Jay Cutler is still the starting QB. Miami RB Jay Ajayi and Tennessee RB DeMarco Murray are far too talented to be held to 12 and seven carries, respectively, as they were in Week 4. Both offenses need to utilize their playmakers when the pass offense is struggling. Both QBs have struggled with interceptions in recent weeks, so pressure is key.

Bills (3-1) at Bengals (1-3)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker)

The matchup: It hasn’t taken first-year Bills coach Sean McDermott long to repair a defense that sagged under his predecessor Rex Ryan. Buffalo’s defense made its biggest statement of the season with a 23-17 victory at previously unbeaten Atlanta. The Bills are allowing an NFL-best 13.5 points per game, yielding only four TDs, including one through the air. McDermott is the first Bills coach to win three of his first four games since Kay Stephenson in 1983. Bengals QB Andy Dalton has had a revival in new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s up-tempo offense, which emphasizes getting rid of the ball quickly. In the two games since Lazor replaced fired Ken Zampese, Dalton has completed 81% of his passes for six TDs and no interceptions. But he’ll face his sternest test in the Bills, who have a much better pass rush and cover men than Dalton faced the last two weeks vs. Cleveland and Green Bay.

Chargers (0-4) at Giants (0-4)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: Maybe the Chargers will have better success away from their small new home, where they have lost all three games. As a team, the Chargers have rushed for 270 yards and, as usual, rely on the pass – 156 pass plays vs. 75 running plays. The Giants’ last two losses, both on the road, ended on field goals as time expired, the first to the rival Eagles on a 61-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. The matchup of QBs is notable. The careers of Chargers QB Philip Rivers and Giants QB Eli Manning are forever intertwined. The Chargers had the first overall pick in the 2004 draft and the Giants fourth, but Manning let it be known he wouldn’t play for the Chargers. The Chargers picked him, then traded with the Giants, who drafted Rivers. Both are approaching 50,000 yards passing. Manning is at 49,327 with 326 TDs, while Rivers has passed for 46,940 yards and 320 TDs.

Jaguars (2-2) at Steelers (3-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: There’s clear improvement from past seasons in Jacksonville, most notably with the defense and with rookie RB Leonard Fournette. But the Jaguars are taking a steep step up in competition this week. DE Calais Campbell, LB Myles Jack and CB Jalen Ramsey lead a remade defense that’s been tough on opposing quarterbacks and scored a TD last week to spark a rally when the offense went stagnant. The Steelers’ running game finally got rolling last week in a big win at Baltimore. The passing game will be opened up if RB Le’Veon Bell can play the way he did last week. For the Jaguars to win they need to win the turnover battle, and they come in with a plus-6 turnover ratio. They need to slow Bell first, then hope their pass rush can force QB Ben Roethlisberger into mistakes.

Cardinals (2-2) at Eagles (3-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: Last week’s win against the winless 49ers kept Arizona only one game out of the NFC West lead, and left coach Bruce Arians gushing about his team’s guts and composure. But if the Cards want to make the playoffs, they need to start scoring more than 18.5 points a game. The Eagles are leading the NFC East and watching young QB Carson Wentz gain confidence with every snap while the defense obliterates its foes’ running game. There are flaws, notably in the secondary, but the Eagles seem to be on their way up. However they’ll again be without injured DT Fletcher Cox. This will be a QB battle of Carsons – Wentz vs. Palmer. Last week, Palmer, 37, was sacked six times and hit 16 more, raising his season totals to 17 sacks and 43 QB hits, by far the most in the league. Arizona desperately needs to plug the leaks in its O-line. Meanwhile, the Cards’ defense has allowed opponents to score TDs on 63.6% of their red-zone possessions. Eagles DT Fletcher Cox and CB Ronald Darby are injured, so backups have to step in and play solid.

Seahawks (2-2) at Rams (3-1)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta)

The matchup: Another slow start in Seattle is nothing new. Also not new is a road loss to the Rams in each of the last three seasons. This time the Seahawks face a Rams team that looks like a legitimate contender, and beating Seattle this week would pretty much cement that. The Seahawks’ defense has had some uncomfortable moments, but it still has plenty of playmakers. They have one of the NFL’s most talented defensive lines but their sack total has been down, and DE Cliff Avril is out with a neck injury. QB Russell Wilson and the offense have been finding a groove recently but losing rookie RB Chris Carson is a big blow. The suddenly potent Rams offense has been enough to overcome an underachieving defense. QB Jared Goff has gone from likely draft bust to emerging star, and RB Todd Gurley has started showing signs of life as well.

Ravens (2-2) at Raiders (2-2)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: After two season-opening wins, the Ravens were outscored by a combined 70-16 in losses to the Jaguars in London and the Steelers at home. QB Joe Flacco, who didn’t practice in training camp because of a back injury, has passer ratings of 12.0 and 64.6 in his last two games. Much of the offensive woes can be traced to a deteriorating line that lost Pro Bowl RG Marshal Yanda in Week 2. Flacco needs to play at a much higher level if the Ravens are to have better offensive production. The Raiders have lost their last two games and QB Derek Carr to a back injury for up to six weeks in their Week 4 loss to Denver. However he may try to suit up Sunday. EJ Manuel is the backup if Carr sits. Oakland’s ground game has disappeared. In the first two games, the Raiders rushed for 289 yards on 56 carries but in the last two that total fell to 56 yards on 28 carries. RB Marshawn Lynch has gone from 76 yards rushing to 45 to 18 to 12.

Packers (3-1) at Cowboys (2-2)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: After throwing four TD passes in last week’s rout of Chicago, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is tied for the NFL lead with 10 scoring passes. But he also has been sacked 15 times as injuries have decimated the offensive line. Green Bay also has cornerback issues. Rookie Kevin King has been a revelation, but an injury to starter Davon House and the benching of Damarious Randall pushed second-year CB Josh Hawkins into a key role over former starter Quinten Rollins. The Dallas defense opened the season with a strong performance against the New York Giants but has been collapsing since. Last week, the Cowboys allowed the Rams to score on nine of 11 possessions and the defense has allowed 31.3 points per game in the last three, 26th overall. The return of pass rusher David Irving from a four-game suspension for using PEDs could be a significant boost. Dallas QB Dak Prescott has been running for his life the last three weeks, not a good sign for the once-vaunted offensive line.

Chiefs (4-0) at Texans (2-2)

TV: Sunday, 8:30, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

The matchup: Kansas City’s 29-20 win over Washington Monday was an imperfect performance as the Chiefs gave up big chunks of yardage to Kirk Cousins & Co. The Chiefs were a dropped pass in the end zone by Josh Doctson away from possibly their first loss. They had to rely on untimely Redskins penalties that kept five Kansas City drives alive. Since switching quarterbacks from Tom Savage to Deshaun Watson in Week 1, Houston quickly has gotten better. In Week 4, the Texans steamrolled the Titans 57-14, the most points in franchise history thanks to a defense that forced five turnovers and Watson, who was 25-for-34 for 283 yards with four TDs and an interception, plus a rushing TD. He became the first rookie QB to throw for four TDs and run for one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961. In the Texans’ 19-12 win vs. the Chiefs last season, a first-quarter TD pass from Brock Osweiler to DeAndre Hopkins proved to be the difference.

Vikings (2-2) at Bears (1-3)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: Two, possibly three, big offensive changes highlight this matchup. Vikings star rookie RB Dalvin Cook tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last week, and RB Latavius Murray suddenly looms large if Minnesota’s newfound offensive balance is to be preserved. The Vikings also hope QB Sam Bradford (knee), sidelined since Week 2, returns to spark the offense. For the Bears, No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky will get his first NFL start at quarterback. The decision was sealed after QB Mike Glennon committed four giveaways, including fumbling his first snap, in a blowout loss to the Packers. Minnesota was destroyed by Bears RB Jordan Howard in two meetings last season, as the Pro Bowler tallied 288 rushing yards. Now it must prepare for rookie Tarik Cohen, too. The Vikings have the speed and strength up front to meet the challenge.

Bye: Broncos, Falcons, Redskins, Saints

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Compiled by Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer. All times ET, p.m.

NFL: Week 4 – Stats and News

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SCOREBOARD

Monday, Oct. 2

Washington at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. EDT. The Chiefs are 8-1 against Washington. The Redskins’ only win over the Chiefs was Sept. 18, 1983. The Redskins and Cardinals are the only two teams never to win at Arrowhead Stadium. Washington (2-1) has not started 3-1 or better since 2011. Kansas City (3-0) averages a league-leading 162 yards rushing, and its 397.3 yards total offense is third best in the league. Kareem Hunt leads the league with 401 yards rushing. Hunt has six TDs through his first three games, the most by a rookie since 1981. After Atlanta’s loss, the Chiefs are the last remaining unbeaten team in the NFL.

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STARS

Passing

— Cam Newton, Panthers, finished 22 for 29 for 316 yards and three touchdown passes and an interception, and added a rushing TD in Carolina’s 33-30 victory over New England. Newton is the only quarterback in NFL history with 50 rushing touchdowns.

— Deshaun Watson, Texans, was 25 for 34 for 283 yards with four touchdown passes and an interception in Houston’s 57-14 win over Tennessee.

— Andy Dalton, Bengals, finished 25 for 30 for 286 yards and four touchdown passes in Cincinnati’s 31-7 win over Cleveland.

— Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, was 22 for 38 for 332 yards and three touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s 25-23 win over the New York Giants.

— Philip Rivers, Chargers, was 22 for 38 for 347 yards and two touchdowns in LA’s 26-24 loss to Philadelphia.

— Dak Prescott, Cowboys, was 20 for 36 yards for 252 yards and three touchdowns and an interception in Dallas’ 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

— Tom Brady, Patriots, was 32 for 45 for 307 yards and two touchdowns in New England’s 33-30 loss to Carolina.

— Drew Brees, Saints, was 29 for 41 for 268 yards and two touchdowns in New Orleans’ 20-0 win over Miami at Wembley Stadium.

— Eli Manning, Giants, was 30 for 49 for 288 yards and two touchdowns in New York’s 25-23 loss to Tampa Bay.

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Rushing

— Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, had 35 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over Baltimore.

— Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, Jets. Powell had 21 carries for 168 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and McGuire had 10 carries for 93 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown, in New York’s 23-20 overtime victory over Jacksonville. It marked the first time in franchise history that the Jets had two touchdown runs of 60 or more yards in the same game.

— Todd Gurley, Rams, had 23 carries for 121 yards and added seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown in LA’s 35-30 win over Dallas.

— LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, had 16 carries for 136 yards in Philadelphia’s 26-24 win over the LA Chargers.

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Receiving

— Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams, Chargers. Allen had five catches for 138 yards and Williams added five receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown in LA’s 26-24 loss to Philadelphia.

— DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, had 10 receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown in Houston’s 57-14 win over Tennessee.

— Charles Clay, Bills, had five receptions for 112 yards in Buffalo’s 23-17 win over Atlanta.

— Jaron Brown, Cardinals, had eight catches for 105 yards in Arizona’s 18-15 overtime win over San Francisco.

— Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers, had four receptions for 104 yards in Carolina’s 33-30 win over New England.

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Special Teams

— Greg Zuerlein, Rams, set a career high with seven field goals and added two extra points in Los Angeles’ 35-30 win over Dallas

— Robbie Gould, 49ers, was 5 for 5 on field goals in San Francisco’s 18-15 loss to Arizona.

— Jake Elliott, Eagles, was 4 for 4 on field goals and added two extra points in Philadelphia’s 26-24 win over San Diego.

— Phil Dawson, Cardinals, was 4 for 4 on field goals in Arizona’s 18-15 overtime win over San Francisco.

— Ka’imi Fairbairn, Texans, was 3 for 3 on field goals and 6 of 7 on extra points in Houston’s 57-14 win over Tennessee.

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Defense

— Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars. Jack returned a fumble 81 yards for a touchdown and Ngakoue had two sacks and a forced fumble in Jacksonville’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets.

— Tre’Davious White, Bills, returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown in Buffalo’s 23-17 win over Atlanta.

— Dylan Cole, Texans, returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown in Houston’s 57-14 win over Tennessee.

— Anthony Zettel, Lions, had two sacks, four QB hits and a fumble recovery in Detroit’s 14-7 win over Minnesota.

— Cam Heyward, Steelers, had two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over Baltimore.

— Khalil Mack, Raiders, had two sacks in Oakland’s 16-10 loss to Denver.

— Elvis Dumervil, 49ers, had two sacks in San Francisco’s 18-15 loss to Arizona.

— Julius Peppers, Panthers, had two sacks in Carolina’s 33-30 win over New England.

— Danielle Hunter, Vikings, had two sacks in Minnesota’s 14-7 loss to Detroit.

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STREAKS & STATS

Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards and four touchdown passes. The performance continued a stunning turnaround for Dalton, who didn’t throw a TD pass and had four interceptions in his first two games. In the past two weeks, he has six TDs and no picks. … Cincinnati has won its past four games in Cleveland by a combined 121-20. Cleveland fell to 1-19 in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson. Since winning in Cincinnati on Nov. 6, 2014, to improve to 6-3, the Browns are 4-38. … Miami finished with 186 total yards — its fewest since its previous shutout, a 19-0 loss at Buffalo on Dec. 22, 2013. … The Lions beat the Vikings 14-7 and have won nine of the past 14 meetings with their NFC North rivals. … The Steelers dominated the Ravens 26-9 to earn their first win in Baltimore since 2012. The Steelers’ 26 points are the most they’ve scored in Baltimore with Ben Roethlisberger calling signals. With the win, Roethlisberger is 3-7 in Baltimore. … San Francisco’s skid against Arizona reached five with an 18-15 loss in overtime. … The Chargers, who are 0-4 after a 26-24 loss to Philadelphia, have lost nine consecutive games going back to last season in San Diego.

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MILESTONES

Houston’s Deshaun Watson became the first rookie to throw four touchdowns and run for another one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961 and tied an NFL record for most TDs by a rookie quarterback in Houston’s 57-14 victory. The 57 points were the most in franchise history. The Texans are the first NFL team to score 50 points since the Jaguars scored 51 in December 2015 and they scored the most points in the NFL since Seattle scored 58 on Dec. 9, 2012, against Arizona. … The Saints blanked the Dolphins 20-0 at London’s Wembley Stadium. It was the first time the Saints didn’t allow a point since Dec. 16, 2012, a 41-0 win against Tampa Bay. … The Bills (3-1) are in first place in the AFC East. This is the latest the Bills have been alone in first place in their division since Week 7 in 2008, when they were 5-1. The Bills set a team record for most consecutive quarters without a turnover (15). The previous team record was 12, set in 2015. … Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart rushed 14 times for 68 yards to pass DeAngelo Williams and become the franchise’s career leading rusher. … New Orleans, which has not turned the ball over this season, is only the third team in the modern era (since 1933) without a turnover in each of its first four games of a season (1995 St. Louis, 2013 Tennessee).

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SIDELINED

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was lost to what could be a torn knee ligament, which would end his rookie season. He had 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown before his knee buckled on a third-quarter run and he went down and fumbled. Cook was scheduled for an MRI to determine the extent of the damage, but he was on crutches afterward with a bulky brace on the knee. … Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota injured his hamstring and didn’t play after halftime of the Tennessee’s 57-14 loss in Houston. He will have an MRI on Monday. … The Raiders didn’t have Derek Carr to try to lead them back in Denver after he was shaken up on sack in the third quarter of their 16-10 loss. He was sacked by Shelby Harris and was hit by Adam Gotsis as he twisted awkwardly. Coach Jack Del Rio said Carr suffered from back spasms. … The Falcons lost Julio Jones in the second quarter with a hip flexor injury. Mohamed Sanu was then ruled out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter. … The Bills lost safety Colt Anderson to an arm injury in the first quarter, along with linebacker Ramon Humber (thumb), receiver Jordan Matthews (thumb), and cornerback E.J. Gaines (groin).

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SPEAKING

“I felt this was a breakthrough game for us, a statement game. We had some careless turnovers, including (my) interception. But for us to come into a hostile environment, to battle, face some adversity early on, and still hold on at the end — it was a great team win for us.” — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after his team’s 33-30 road win over New England.

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“I do not know if there is another team in the league that (practices) situational football as much as we do. It could be a situation from Mars, and chances are Coach McDermott and our team have drilled it. It was definitely just a time to just say, ‘Hey, guys, we’ve done this before. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve drilled this a hundred times in practice to see what formation they came out in.’ Then, we had to adjust from there.” — Bills defensive end Eddie Yarbrough on being prepared for a late fourth-and-1 in the final minute against Atlanta.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

NFL Roundup: Blown coverages, penalties plague Patriots secondary in loss

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Graham Gano hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired, and the Carolina Panthers stunned the New England Patriots 33-30 on Sunday.

The winner served as redemption for Gano, who missed an extra point in the third quarter.

It was the second home loss this season for the usually unbeatable Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The defeat marked just the second time since 2012 that Tom Brady has lost two home starts within a season.

Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another . Jonathan Stewart rushed 14 times for 68 yards to pass DeAngelo Williams and become the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

Newton finished 22 of 29 for 316 yards and an interception, picking apart a New England defense that was giving up an NFL-worst 461 yards and 31.7 points per game. The Patriots (2-2) forced a pair of turnovers, but had trouble containing Newton’s stable of targets.

Carolina (3-1) finished with 444 total yards, marking the fourth straight game the Patriots have given up at least 300 yards.

Brady finished 32 of 45 for 307 yards and two scores.

BRONCOS 16, RAIDERS 10

DENVER (AP) — The Broncos throttled running back Marshawn Lynch and sent quarterback Derek Carr to the sideline with a back injury, then sealed their win on safety Justin Simmons’ interception of EJ Manuel at the Denver 8 in the closing minutes.

Despite holding Lynch to 12 yards on nine carries, the Broncos found themselves in danger of frittering away an AFC West showdown they had dominated. Trailing by six, Manuel heaved a high toss to Amari Cooper just after the two-minute warning. Simmons, who won the job from three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward this summer, came down with the ball just shy of the goal line and took it out to 8. The Broncos ran out the clock to hit their bye week at 3-1.

Oakland (2-2) had cut its deficit to six on Giorgio Tavecchio’s 38-yard field goal with 5:23 remaining. That came after Brandon McManus hit the left upright from 29 yards out early in the fourth quarter after nailing kicks from 28, 36 and 46 yards.

SEAHAWKS 46, COLTS 18

SEATTLE (AP) — J.D. McKissic took the second carry of his career 30 yards for a touchdown and Bobby Wagner scooped up Marcus Smith’s forced fumble and rumbled 21 yards for a score in a 13-second span late in the third quarter, and Seattle beat Indianapolis.

Justin Coleman added a 28-yard interception return for a TD in the first half and Seattle overcame a sleepy first 30 minutes from its offense.

Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions, but his most important play was a 23-yard run in the third quarter to give Seattle an 18-15 lead. Adam Vinatieri pulled the Colts even at 18 as the Colts capitalized on Wilson’s second interception. Graham dropped a catchable pass and it was intercepted by Malik Hooker, his third straight game with an interception.

But Seattle answered with a 75-yard drive that was capped by McKissic’s touchdown sprint. Wilson added TD passes of 6 yards to Luke Willson and 27 yards to McKissic in the fourth quarter and the Seahawks outscored Indianapolis 36-3 in the second half.

Seattle’s win came with a big blow in the final minutes when starting running back Chris Carson sustained a left leg injury.

CARDINALS 18, 49ERS 12, OT

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Carson Palmer threw 19 yards to Larry Fitzgerald with 32 seconds left in overtime for the game’s only touchdown. The scoring had been limited to nine field goals on an ugly afternoon in the desert before Palmer directed a seven-play, 75-yard drive with 1:52 to play.

Fitzgerald, who had three catches for 13 yards before the winning grab, rose to catch the ball under tight coverage by Rashard Robinson.

Robbie Gould kicked his fifth field goal, a 23-yarder with 2:24 left in overtime to put the 49ers ahead 15-12.

Phil Dawson kicked four field goals for the Cardinals (2-2), whose two victories both have come in overtime.

The 49ers (0-4), losing to the Cardinals for the fifth time in a row, won the coin toss to start the overtime. They used up 7:36 of the extra session, which was shortened from 15 to 10 minutes this season.

EAGLES 26, CHARGERS 24

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Carson Wentz passed for 242 yards, LeGarrette Blount rushed for 136 and the Eagles extended their promising start to the season.

Rookie Jake Elliott kicked four field goals for the Eagles (3-1), who had thousands of roaring fans in the Chargers’ temporary stadium while they hung on to win on the road for the second time in 10 tries.

Playing without several injured defensive regulars, the Eagles matched last year’s 3-1 start even though they blew most of an early 13-point lead. Rookie Austin Ekeler rushed for a score and Hunter Henry made a one-handed TD catch during the Chargers’ fourth-quarter surge.

But Blount rushed for 88 yards in the fourth quarter alone, and Philadelphia ran out the clock after Henry’s TD catch with 6:44 to play.

Philip Rivers passed for 347 yards and two TDs for the Chargers, who have lost nine consecutive games dating to last season in San Diego.

Tyrell Williams caught a 75-yard touchdown pass , but the Bolts are off to their first 0-4 start since 2003 — three years before Rivers became their starting quarterback. New coach Anthony Lynn is still winless after Los Angeles’ new team wrapped up a three-game homestand.

BUCCANEERS 25, GIANTS 23

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston threw for 332 and three touchdowns without an interception, and Nick Folk kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Folk redeemed himself after missing two field goals and an extra point earlier in the day, booting the winner after Winston answered Eli Manning’s second TD pass of the day with an impressive drive that began at his 25.

The Giants (0-4) lost on a last-second field goal for the second straight week. They took a 23-22 lead on Rhett Ellison’s 2-yard TD reception with 3:16 remaining. Manning threw to Odell Beckham Jr., in the rear of the end zone for a 2-point conversion that was disallowed because the receiver had stepped out of bounds before making the catch.

Winston threw TDs passes of 6 yards to Mike Evans and 58 yards to O.J. Howard in building an early 13-0 lead. His 14-yard scoring pass to Cameron Brate put the Bucs up 22-17 midway through the fourth quarter, setting the stage for an exciting close.

RAMS 35, COWBOYS 30

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Todd Gurley scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 53-yard catch-and-run, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a career-high seven field goals.

Gurley finished with 215 total yards — 121 rushing and 94 receiving — as the Rams overcame two first-half touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott the day before a federal appeals court hearing related to the star Dallas running back’s blocked six-game suspension over a domestic incident in Ohio.

The Rams (3-1) rallied from 11 points down late in the first half and matched their start from a year ago, when they went 1-11 the rest of the way as No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was sitting and later lost the first seven starts of his career.

Goff showed more poise in first-year coach Sean McVay’s offense, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He has seven TD passes and one interception this season.

The Cowboys (2-2) are already a loss shy of their total from last season when Dak Prescott was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and Elliott led the league in rushing, also as a rookie.

BILLS 23, FALCONS 17

ATLANTA (AP) — Stephen Hauschka kicked a tiebreaking, 56-yard field goal with less than five minutes remaining and the Buffalo Bills made a last-minute defensive stand.

The Falcons lost star wide receiver Julio Jones to a hip injury and also saw fellow WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) leave the game.

Hauschka padded the lead with a 55-yarder with about three minutes remaining.

Buffalo’s defense stopped the Falcons at the Bills 10 with less than a minute remaining when Matt Ryan couldn’t complete a fourth-down pass to Taylor Gabriel, and Atlanta became the last NFC team to lose this season.

Tre’Davious White returned a fumble recovery 52 yards for a third-quarter touchdown as the tough Buffalo defense delivered again even when it yielded its first passing touchdown of the season. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes hit Ryan’s arm as Ryan was trying to pass, forcing the fumble.

It was one of three turnovers by Atlanta (3-1) on a day the Bills (3-1) set a team record for consecutive quarters without a turnover. Ryan threw two interceptions, giving him five in his last two games.

STEELERS 26, RAVENS 9

BALTIMORE (AP) — Le’Veon Bell rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns to seize first place in the AFC North.

Though held to a touchdown over the final 30 minutes, Pittsburgh (3-1) mounted enough of an attack before halftime to earn its first win in Baltimore since 2012. Ben Roethlisberger went 18 for 30 for 216 yards and a touchdown. Bell did more than his share, carrying the ball 35 times to help the Steelers amass 381 yards on offense.

The Ravens (2-2), meanwhile, looked every bit like the 32nd-ranked offense in the NFL. Baltimore trailed 19-0 at halftime, generated only 154 yards through three quarters and stumbled through a second straight game with only one touchdown.

Joe Flacco completed 31 of 49 passes for 235 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted twice.

TEXANS 57, TITANS 14

HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie Deshaun Watson threw for four touchdowns and ran for another as the Texans scored the most points in franchise history.

Watson, the 12th pick in this year’s draft, became the first rookie to throw four touchdowns and run for another one since Fran Tarkenton in 1961, and tied an NFL record for most TDs by a rookie quarterback.

The Texans (2-2) outdid their previous highest point total of 45 set in a victory over the Titans in 2014 and are the first NFL team to score 50 points since the Jaguars scored 51 in December 2015.

Houston’s defense got things going when Andre Hal intercepted Marcus Mariota on the game’s third play. It was the first of four interceptions for Houston’s defense. Mariota, who became the first Titans quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Steve McNair in 2003, injured his hamstring and didn’t play after halftime. Matt Cassel took over for the Titans (2-2) and threw for 21 yards with two interceptions.

Watson then led Houston’s offense to touchdowns on three straight possessions for a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. It was the first time since Oct. 19, 2008 that Houston scored a touchdown on each of its first three possessions.

LIONS 14, VIKINGS 7

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Zettel led a ferocious performance by Detroit’s defense with two sacks, four hurries and a fumble recovery, as the Lions forced three turnovers while holding Minnesota scoreless in the second half.

The Lions turned two fumbles lost by the Vikings in the third quarter into 11 points, taking the lead on Ameer Abdullah’s 1-yard touchdown run five plays after rookie Dalvin Cook fumbled at the Minnesota 29.

The Vikings (2-2) lost more than just possession when Cook limped off with an injury to his left knee and did not return.

Tahir Whitehead recovered that fumble for the Lions, plus one by Adam Thielen with 1:43 left at the Detroit 45 that ended the last-chance drive for the Vikings.

Detroit (3-1) leads the NFL in turnover margin at plus-9.

Abdullah came close to ending a four-year stretch by the Lions without a 100-yard rusher, finishing with 94 yards on 20 carries before leaving with an undisclosed injury.

Matthew Stafford was sacked six times for 55 yards, but he hung on to the ball each time and completed 19 of 31 passes for 209 yards, plus the key 2-point conversion to T.J. Jones to give the Lions a seven-point lead.

Case Keenum started in place of Sam Bradford at quarterback for the Vikings for the third straight game, going 16 for 30 for 219 yards. He was sacked by Zettel for an 11-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 3 right before the two-minute warning, and his fourth down heave into the end zone sailed over Thielen’s head.

SAINTS 20, DOLPHINS 0

LONDON (AP) — Drew Brees threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and the Saints scored all but three of their points in the second half.

Michael Thomas had a touchdown reception in the third quarter, Alvin Kamara added one in the fourth and Will Lutz made two of his three field-goal attempts for New Orleans (2-2), which arrived for the game on Monday and won the lowest-scoring game ever held in London.

It was expected to be a big homecoming for the Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi, who was born in the city, but the running back finished with 46 yards on 12 carries.

Lutz missed his first try, a 41-yarder, wide right on the second play of the second quarter, and the teams threatened to have the first scoreless opening half since Week 14 of the 2011 season until Lutz connected from 43 yards with no time remaining.

Brees found Thomas, who had eight catches for 89 yards, on a 4-yarder to push the score to 10-0 in the third quarter, and Kamara took a shovel pass from Brees 12 yards into the end zone with 3:57 remaining to wrap up the victory.

JETS 23, JAGUARS 20, OT

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 41-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Jets to a wacky win.

After Catanzaro split the uprights, he and his teammates celebrated wildly in the middle of the field — but then had to wait because there was a penalty flag on the field. The officials ruled there actually was no penalty on the play, giving the Jets the victory.

Bilal Powell rushed for a career-high 163 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown, and rookie Elijah McGuire had a 69-yard score and finished with 93 yards rushing as the Jets (2-2) ran all over the Jaguars (2-2).

But New York blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead because of some big mistakes, then had to hold on in the extra period.

After Jacksonville went three-and-out, on the punt Paul Posluszny was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting as the Jets’ Dylan Donahue went down on the Jaguars sideline with an elbow injury. It put the ball on the Jacksonville 25, and after two 1-yard runs, Josh McCown spiked the ball to set up Catanzaro’s field goal.

McCown finished 22 of 31 for 224 yards with an interception and the Jets outgained the Jaguars 471-311 in total yards, including 256-175 on the ground.

BENGALS 31, BROWNS 7

CLEVELAND (AP) — Andy Dalton threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half and Cincinnati’s offense found the perfect opponent to work out some early season struggles.

Dalton only missed on one of 18 throws in the first half as the Bengals (1-3) built a 21-0 lead.

He connected with A.J. Green, Tyler Croft and Giovani Bernard while dissecting the young Browns (0-4), who were again plagued by mistakes and were down three defensive starters.

Dalton, the NFL’s 30th-ranked QB, finished 25 of 30 for 286 yards. His second TD to Croft in the third quarter made it 31-0, and sent even some of the most die-hard Browns fans toward the FirstEnergy Stadium exits.

The Browns avoided a shutout with 1:54 left.

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Five player matchups to watch in NFL Week 4: Raiders get gut check vs. Broncos

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TodaySports)   —-    In one game, the Oakland Raiders saw how quickly everything can become unraveled.

Behind a floundering offensive line and one of the worst performances of Derek Carr’s career, the Raiders’ formerly fine-tuned offense went haywire last week in a 27-10 loss to the Washington Redskins. The numbers were alarming: 128 total yards, 0-11 on third down, and a 52.9 passer rating for Carr.

The harsh lessons served to the Silver and Black were all the more alarming given the need to address them before Sunday’s showdown with the Denver Broncos and one of the league’s most vaunted defenses.

Yet Oakland has proven before it has an answer for its AFC West rival, and a similar formula could get the offense back on course.

Lost in the dissection of the passing attack’s woeful outing was the Raiders’ run game, which gained just 32 yards on 13 carries. But in a season-shaping 30-20 win against Denver last season, the Raiders racked up 218 yards on 43 carries. Carr, meanwhile, took a backseat and had his second lowest passing total (184 yards) of the year.

Denver’s defense, however, has shored up its efforts against the run and is allowing a league-low 2.6 yards per carry. But the Raiders can’t afford to fall into the same trap as the one that ensnared the Dallas Cowboys, whose offense became one-dimensional and gained just 40 rushing yards in a lopsided Week 2 loss to the Broncos.

Carr, of course, will have to bounce back to keep Oakland afloat. But a steady dose of Marshawn Lynch and the run game could help keep the play-action threat alive while reining in a pass rush led by Von Miller. With Michael Crabtree listed as doubtful doubtful, wide receiver Amari Cooper also will be counted on to step up after recording only one catch last week. Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., however, could force Oakland into finding other offensive threats.

Here are four more matchups that could define Week 4 in the NFL:

Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line vs. Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald

After his holdout extended through the summer and into the regular season, Donald served notice of his return to form last Thursday with a game-clinching sack against the San Francisco 49ers. Now the disruptive defender could reveal the true state of the Cowboys’ thus far disappointing front.

By almost any measure, Dallas’ offense hasn’t met the standards of last year’s incredibly efficient group. The 22nd-ranked rushing attack in particular is lagging, as Ezekiel Elliott has averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Many of the offensive shortcomings can be traced back to the line, where left guard Chaz Green and right tackle La’El Collins have been disappointments as starters next to all-pros Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick.

Donald looms as an immense challenge for Dallas, especially if matched up against Green or Jonathan Cooper. But the rest of the Rams’ defense still has to rise to the occasion. The group has given up 139 yards rushing per game (29th in the NFL) and could be in trouble if it allows Elliott to set the tone for Dak Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys’ offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Baltimore Ravens’ secondary

Patience is at a premium in Pittsburgh, where grumbles about the offense grew louder after last week’s 23-17 loss to the Chicago Bears. Faltering in any form against their AFC North rivals could kick the Steelers’ concerns into overdrive.

Though running back Le’Veon Bell has lamented his lack of big plays so far this season, Roethlisberger has also accepted blame for the slow start. His 6.2 yards per attempt is a career low, and Pittsburgh is tied for 25th in third-down conversion percentage (32.4). Roethlisberger and the rest of the attack need to find some kind of spark beyond Antonio Brown, who leads the NFL with 354 receiving yards.

The Ravens enter their matchup at their own crisis point after a 44-7 dismantling by the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. Baltimore’s defense has kept opposing passers to a league-low quarterback rating of 58.5, but the unit has relied on its league-best eight turnovers to swing games. Turnovers could once again be key, but addressing the missed assignments that plagued the team last week will be essential. With their offense averaging a league-worst 263.7 yards per game, the Ravens can’t afford to get into a shootout.

Detroit Lions OT Greg Robinson vs. Minnesota Vikings DE Everson Griffen

Griffen drew attention to this showdown on Wednesday when he said Robinson is “pretty lazy” and can beaten on the inside. Detroit’s blindside protector opted not to respond, but he’ll have to provide some kind of answer with his play.

Ranked the second-worst offensive tackle through Week 3 by Pro Football Focus, Robinson has been the weak link on an otherwise respectable line. With center Travis Swanson and guard T.J. Lang both hobbled, the group could be under fire. Matthew Stafford has been adept at evading the rush at times, but he has taken 11 hits in the last two games.

Minnesota will surely be looking to exploit Robinson’s matchup with Griffen, who has four of the team’s five sacks this season. Yet the Vikings have given up an uncharacteristic 278 passing yards per game (27th in in the NFL), and Stafford could find opportunities against a secondary susceptible to lapses.

Kansas Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Washington Redskins’ secondary

A transformation has taken place in Kansas City, where a once-plodding offense now has scored a touchdown of 50 yards or more in the last nine regular-season games. While rookie Kareem Hunt has been one of the key catalysts for the change, Hill is responsible for six of those plays in that span.

With the Chiefs facing the Redskins’ No. 2 ranked rushing defense on Monday night, Hill could play a big role in determining whether the attack can maintain its pace. A deep threat that can stretch opposing defenses, he also has thrived on generating yards after catch on short throws thanks to Andy Reid’s creative play calling.

After boasting of his shutdown performance against the Raiders’ receivers last week, Josh Norman could find himself in the spotlight yet again with an AFC West foe. Norman likely will remain on the defensive left side of the field as he has done throughout the season so far, but he’ll have to be disciplined both in coverage and as a tackler when he does line up against Hill.

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Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

NFL Week 4 kickoff times, TV info, game breakdowns

Saints (1-2) vs. Dolphins (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 9:30 a.m., Wembley Stadium, London, England (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: New Orleans turned the tables on the previously unbeaten Carolina Panthers 34-13, then caught a team charter to play the Dolphins in England. The Saints much-maligned defense badly exposed Panthers QB Cam Newton (four sacks, three interceptions. … Miami is coming off an inexplicable wire-to-wire 20-6 loss at the New York Jets, who had yielded the most points (66) coming in. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler hopes to feast on a patchwork Saints secondary that overcame the loss of CBs rookie Marshon Lattimore (concussion) and Sterling Moore (chest).

Titans (2-1) at Texans (1-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS ( Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: One of the big battles in this one will be along the front lines. Last season Texans DE Jadaveon Clowney had a sack in Houston’s 27-20 win over Tennessee. But dominating LT Taylor Lewan and the Titans’ offensive line has allowed only two sacks through three games. … Houston was 23 seconds away from pulling off an upset at New England, but Tom Brady’s five TD passes handed the Texans a 36-33 loss. The Patriots loss won’t sting as much if the Texans can win an AFC South battle this week. They are 8-2 against the Titans in their last 10 meetings.

Jaguars (2-1) at Jets (1-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton)

The matchup: The Jaguars won in London for the third year in a row, torching the Ravens 44-7 as QB Blake Bortles played one of the best games of his career, throwing four TDs and no interceptions. The last time the Jaguars were 2-1 was in 2007, their last trip to the playoffs. … If the Jets’ secondary doesn’t keep an extra eye on Jaguars’ 6-6 TE Marcedes Lewis (3 TD catches last week), expect Bortles to continue to exploit Lewis’ mismatches in the red zone.

Panthers (2-1) at Patriots (2-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: Newton continues to feel the rust from offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder. He has four picks and three fumbles and has been out of sync with his receivers. Through three games, the Panthers offense has three TDs and eight FGs. Newton might be without WR Kelvin Benjamin, who injured his knee last week and didn’t return. … For a record eighth time, Pats QB Tom Brady threw a game-winning TD pass in the final minute as New England avoided a 1-2 start. But the Pats’ patched-up defense yielded 426 yards to the Texans.

Lions (2-1) at Vikings (2-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: What appeared to be the 30th fourth-quarter/overtime comeback of QB Matthew Stafford’s career, a would-be TD pass to Golden Tate was overturned on replay, leaving the Lions and their fans in disbelief. The Lions have seven INTs so far, second in the NFL and three fewer than all last season. With Vikings lockdown CB Xavier Rhodes likely to stay with Tate outside, it could be a big week for WR Marvin Jones and TE Eric Ebron. … Vikings backup QB Case Keenum threw for 369 yards and three TDs in win vs. Tampa Bay and will start again with Sam Bradford (knee) out for another week. It’s been nearly a year since the Vikings have won consecutive games.

Bills (2-1) at Falcons (3-0)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: After a week of listening to critics clamor for him to be replaced by rookie QB Nathan Peterman, Tyrod Taylor completed a career-best 76.9% of his passes for two TDs in a 26-16 upset of the Denver Broncos. RB LeShon McCoy has averaged 1.15 yards per carry the last two games (30 yards on 26 carries). … The showdown in this one pits Falcons QB Matt Ryan vs. Bills DBs. Ryan’s’s nine-game streak without an INT ended with three picks by Lions. Bills CBs E.J. Gaines and Tre’Davious White and safeties Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde have not allowed a TD pass this season. Something has to give.

Steelers (2-1) at Ravens (2-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: After sitting out training camp because of a contract dispute, Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is running his way back into shape and the Steelers have been forcing him the ball. Two offensive linemen were injured during last week’s loss at Chicago, which complicated things for Bell and QB Ben Roethlisberger, but the offense needs to be better. … The Ravens went to London last week and were flattened by Jacksonville. QB Joe Flacco threw for a career-low 28 yards and had a passer rating of 12, also a career worst. Flacco needs some early completions and success down the field for the offense to get some confidence.

Bengals (0-3) at Browns (0-3)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta)

The matchup: The Bengals finally scored their first TDs of the season last week, but ran out of gas and lost at Green Bay in OT. WR A.J. Green had a big game and should see the opportunity to do it again vs. a shaky Browns secondary. The Bengals turned in their best pass-rushing game of the season against Aaron Rodgers. … After two solid defensive showings, the Browns gave up a bunch of big plays in a loss last week at Indianapolis. Rookie DeShone Kizer has been impressive enough to make the Browns think he eventually can be a franchise quarterback. The Browns expect No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett to make his NFL debut three weeks after a high ankle sprain. Garrett was disruptive in the preseason and can boost pass rush vs. Cincinnati’s struggling new tackles.

Rams (2-1) at Cowboys (2-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: Los Angeles has scored more than 40 points in two of its three games. For a team that ranked last in the NFL in scoring last season at 14 points a game, that’s enormous progress. QB Jared Goff’s maturation seems to be coming along nicely, and the Rams offense has been following his lead. … The Cowboys’ secondary has been thinned by injuries to CBs Nolan Carroll and Chidobe Awuzie, which is a matter of concern as they face speedy Rams WRs Sammy Watkins and WR Robert Woods.

Eagles (2-1) at Chargers (0-3)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Shannon Spake)

The matchup: The challenge facing Eagles coach Doug Pederson is bringing his team back down to earth after its improbable 27-24 win vs. the New York Giants, thanks to a club-record 61-yard field goal by rookie K Jake Elliott as time expired. … The Chargers find themselves 0-3 for the first time since 2003, and only three teams that started 0-3 have reached the postseason since the league went to 12 playoff teams in 1990, including the 1992 Chargers, who opened 0-4. … Look for the matchup between Eagles LT Jason Peters and Chargers DE Melvin Ingram. Peters is a top blind-side tackle, while Ingram leads the NFL with 51/2 sacks.

Giants (0-3) at Buccaneers (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Tiki Barber and Kristina Pink)

The matchup: It could be time for the Giants to panic after last week’s last-second loss at Philadelphia. The odds of a team making the playoffs after opening 0-3 are minuscule. The good news is the Giants offense finally showed its potential with a 24-point fourth quarter, triggered by WR Odell Beckham Jr. … The Bucs put little defensive pressure on Vikings backup QB Case Keenum and were torched repeatedly, while the list of injured defenders continues to grow. After their most recent loss, LB Lavonte David was on crutches, DT Gerald McCoy was in a walking boot and DEs Noah Spence and Robert Ayers, CBs Vernon Hargreaves, Ryan Smith and Brent Grimes, LB Kwon Alexander and DT Chris Baker all were affected.

49ers (0-3) at Cardinals (1-2)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Sam Rosen, David Diehl, Jennifer Hale)

The matchup: There are signs the Kyle Shanahan era in San Francisco is headed in a different direction than its predecessors. The 49ers followed a defensive battle in Seattle with an offensive outburst last week. One common thread was RB Carlos Hyde, who shredded the Seahawks’ run defense with two long bursts and scored two TDs vs. the Rams. But the 49ers have allowed 122 points (30.5 per game) while losing their last four meetings with Arizona. … Since RB David Johnson’s injury, the Cardinals have had myriad issues with an offense that used to be among the NFL’s best. RB Chris Johnson, 32, was re-signed to take over but was held to 17 yards on 12 carries by the Cowboys.

Raiders (2-1) at Broncos (2-1)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: This is a rebound game for both teams. On Monday, the Raiders were outclassed in a 27-10 loss at Washington. Their longest possession was 2:48, and they had five possessions of three plays and four of four plays. The Raiders had shown promise the first two weeks before the ground game was shut down by the Redskins. … The combined passer rating of Raiders QB Derek Carr and Broncos QB Trevor Siemian last week was 111.1. They combined to get sacked seven times and intercepted four times. Broncos CBs Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. routinely shut down receivers, and will try to stop Raiders WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

Colts (1-2) at Seahawks (1-2)

TV: Sunday, 8:30, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)

The matchup: Having held off Cleveland to prove that they’re not the NFL’s worst team, the Colts may be reminded this week that they’re far from the best. This could be the Colts’ final start before QB Andrew Luck’s return. CB Vontae Davis (groin), however, is expected back back after missing the first three games. He’ll try to slow WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s best offensive weapon. The Seahawks are prime-time warriors. They have beaten their last three prime-time foes by a combined score of 90-16.

Redskins (2-1) at Chiefs (3-0)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden)

The matchup: The big questions about the Redskins — QB Kirk Cousins playing his second season on a franchise tender, and the reformulated receiving corps — seem smaller after they dominated the Raiders Sunday night. The matchup to watch here is Redskins CB Josh Norman vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, who had five receptions for 77 yards and a 30-yard TD in Kansas City’s win vs. the Chargers.. The Chiefs have struggled offensively, but one bright spot is rookie RB Kareem Hunt, whose 538 yards is the second-highest total by a first-year player in league history through three games of an NFL career.

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Contributing: Brian Allee-Walsh, Zac Jackson, Jordan Godwin, Scott Pitoniak, Arthur Arkush, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Howard Balzer. Times p.m. Eastern except where noted.

NFL Week 4 picks against the spread: Will the Steelers bounce back on the road?

Week 3 is in the books, so For The Win’s Luke Kerr-Dineen, Steven Ruiz and Charles Curtis are back with another slate of NFL picks …

Recap

Luke: 5-10-0 (20-25-1 season)
Steven: 7-8-0 (23-22-1 season)
Charles: 5-10-0 (13-32-1 season)

Luke: 

Steven: Compared to these two fools guys, I had a pretty good week. Look, Week 3 was tough because so many underdogs won. But that’s kind of been the trend this season, so it might be time to adjust my strategy. Though, I have been going with dogs a lot this season.

Charles: Uh, at least I can say I wasn’t the only bad one last week?

Note: The line for the Vikings-Lions game hasn’t been set yet.

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (-7.5)

Luke: Wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers will put its rivals to shame on Thursday night, but 7.5 is a lot of points against an impressively scrappy Bears team.

Steven: The Packers’ injury report is looking awfully crowded this week and that’s a decent sized line. I’ve been doing good betting on the Bears this season, so I’ll keep riding that train.

Charles: The Bears are that team that just refuses to go away quietly. You’d think Mike Glennon and a lack of talent at wide receiver would cost them, but nope! They’ve covered twice already this season. We also know Thursdays, anything can happen, so I’ll take the points.

New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Dolphins (+3)

Luke: Still hard to gauge what Miami is about this year. Because the spread is so small, I’ll take the points.

Steven: Oof, this is a tough one. The Saints looked awfully good last week and the Dolphins did not. But the opposite was true in Week 2. I’m going to keep riding the underdog wave and go with the home dog in this one.

Charles: The Saints proved me wrong last week by putting up points on the road, so I’ll ride them in their trip over the pond in what should hopefully be a high-scoring affair.

Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons (-8)

Luke: It’s a dangerous game, swallowing eight point spreads. The Falcons are 3-0 but have shown a tendency to get sloppy late in games. I’m smelling a back door Bills cover.

Steven: The Falcons had no problem tearing up Sean McDermott’s defense when he was in Carolina last year. I don’t think they will here either. Give me the Falcons.

Charles: The Bills defense really is feisty, so I’m itching to take Buffalo here to cover … but Tyrod Taylor and Co. just won’t be able to keep up. Let’s go Dirty Birds.

Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots (-9)

Luke: Teams tend to raise their game against the Pats (see: Texans, Houston). I have no idea what’s going on with Cam at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him battle through it to keep this close.

Steven: The Panthers offense is broken and until they prove otherwise, I’m betting against them. It served me well last week, and this line isn’t all the big.

Charles: As Steven and I discussed on our recent bonus podcast, we’d rather take the Browns than bet on large Patriots spreads. But here’s where I zag after a zig: There is something wrong with Cam Newton and I fully expect the Pats to keep him from doing much of anything.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens (+3)

Luke: Steelers, all day. The Ravens will probably bounce back from last week’s debacle, but no amount of bounce-back can cover the fact that this just isn’t a very good football team.

Steven: These games are always close, but I think the Steelers bust out of their mini funk and put a hammering on the Ravens. I’m laying the points.

Charles: I said I was done betting on Big Ben on the road if he didn’t cover last week, so there’s that. I fully expect the Ravens D to clamp down and keep this one close.

Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys (-6)

Luke: The Rams’ biggest draw (its defense) threw everyone for a loop last week. The Cowboys are better on every phase; they should win this comfortably.

Steven: I lost a bit of faith in the Rams defense after it struggled to keep the 49ers out of the end zone last Thursday night. It won’t be able to slow down the Cowboys, who will run away with this one.

Charles: The Rams defense is good, but not good enough to contain the Cowboys’ offensive line. Dallas wins by 10.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns (+3.5)

Luke: The Browns are going to win at some point, and they’ll cover some beefy spreads before season’s end, but they’re not getting enough points here to make a pick on them worthwhile.

Steven: The Bengals looked a lot better after replacing their offensive coordinator. I think we see that trend continue against the Browns, who have struggled to get pressure on opposing passers.

Charles: Rational Charles (who’s been awful in our picks columns so far) leans to the Bengals after the offense got itself together last week. Irrational Charles (who might be making his debut next week if I stink again) thinks: Wait, the Browns have kept things close in two of their games! I’ll stay rational for one more week and take the Bengals with big days for Joe Mixon and A.J. Green.

Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans (+1.5)

Luke: Ah, yes, the ‘HI EVERYBODY LET’S OVERREACT TO THE PATS GAME’ line. Not taking the bait. Titans.

Steven: The Texans defense will slow down the Titans offense and DeShaun Watson will do enough to pull this one out at home.

Charles: I love what I saw out of the Texans last week and I think the defense keeps Marcus Mariota in check enough for a three-point win.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New York Jets (+3.5)

Luke: Three points just isn’t enough to make me pick the worst team in football, even at home.

Steven: Man, the Jets looked pretty good last week. Especially the defense. We may have been sleeping on Todd Bowles, who remains a fantastic defensive mind. I’m gonna go with the Jets for the first time this season.

Charles: That Jags defense is legit. I don’t see Blake Bortles repeating what he did in London, but he won’t have to. Jacksonville wins and covers.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Los Angeles Chargers (PICK)

Luke: The Chargers are masters of finding ways to lose games, but Steven’s right. They’re not going 0-4.

Steven: The Chargers are due for a win. They’re too good to fall to 0-4. I still don’t trust Carson Wentz.

Charles: I told fantasy owners to buy low on Philip Rivers and here’s why: He’ll bounce back from a rough game against the Chiefs to send the Eagles back to Philly with a loss.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals (-7)

Luke: I don’t know what happened with the 49ers offense last week, but I don’t Carson Palmer is on the decline and he’s taking this team with it. I’ll take the points and check out San Fran for another week.

Steven: The Cardinals offense is ready to break out. I think this is the week it happens, and Arizona will blow this one out early in the second half.

Charles: The Cards are a tough team to figure out, so I’m just going to throw in for the points.

New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)

Luke: Tough game to pick here. Giants needed a late surge to cover against a bad team last week, but Winston looked really shaky against another good defense in the Vikings. I’ll take the points, but I’m not feeling great about it.

Steven: Tampa Bay is the better team, and this isn’t a huge spread with the Bucs playing at home.

Charles: Hey, the Giants covered last week! Let’s make it two in a row and an actual win for the G-Men on the road.

Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (-2.5)

Luke: Broncos defense at home — say no more. Broncos.

Steven: I think you see the Raiders try to pound this one out on the ground, as they did last year against Denver. The Broncos will be ready for it. Take the home team.

Charles: This one is too easy: The Broncos defense won’t let Derek Carr and his talented wideouts to do anything. Thanks for a less-than-3 spread, Vegas.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks (-13)

Luke: This may be a trip, but if it is, I’ll allow myself to fall into it. The Seahawks put up 12 points against the 49ers; what has this offense show that it can cover a 13 point spread, against anyone?

Steven: The Seahawks offense broke out a little last week in Tennessee. They’ll carry over that momentum and the defense will dominate. Seahawks cover.

Charles: Yeah, sure, Jacoby Brissett did all that … against the Browns! The Seahawks won’t let that happen at home. I’ll stomach the huge spread here.

Washington Redskins vs. Kansas City Chiefs (-7)

Luke: I’m wary of bigger spreads, but I really like this Chiefs team, especially at home. They’ll cover this.

Steven: Not trusting Kirk Cousins on the road against a good defense. Chiefs will continue to look like one of the better teams in the league and cover this one.

Charles: The Chiefs are probably the best team in the NFL right now but the Skins will do just enough to cover, maybe in garbage time.

NFL hot seat rankings: Things only look worse for Marvin Lewis’ winless Cincinnati Bengals

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-    “You’re fired” has been linked with the NFL this week in a manner few could have ever imagined. But President Trump’s rhetoric aside, it is a harsh league reality that failing to produce in the win column will relegate coaches to the unemployment line in no time flat.

Here’s the latest installment of our weekly hot seat rankings:

1. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: NFL Media reported Sunday morning that owner Mike Brown had previously “informed the coaching staff that the talent is not the problem” with his winless team. Then, despite their best performance of the season at Green Bay, the Bengals subsequently fell to 0-3, virtually guaranteeing consecutive seasons outside of the playoffs for lame duck Lewis, who’s never won a postseason game in 14 years on the job. Last week: 1

2. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: His team hung on for its first victory Sunday, though it nearly coughed up a 21-point lead at home to the still-winless Browns. It seems like QB Andrew Luck is finally close to returning, surely the best chance Indianapolis has of legitimately competing and showing that Pagano has this group on the upswing after consecutive .500 seasons. Last week: 3

3. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants: Before a too little, too late 24-point outburst in the fourth quarter Sunday, McAdoo’s offense was averaging just a tick more than a point per period this season. No NFC team has had more trouble scoring (or put more pressure on its defense) than the winless Giants, who are now a huge long shot to return to the playoffs after already falling two games back of every other team in their division. Last week: 5

4. John Fox, Chicago Bears: His team’s young talent — RBs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, TE Adam Shaheen and in improving defense — was on full display in Sunday’s upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the second time this season the Bears have played well at Soldier Field. Yet also front and center were the ongoing ineffectiveness of QB Mike Glennon and a total lack of discipline from CB Marcus Cooper, whose showboating cost Chicago a touchdown on a blocked field goal and would have been viewed as the backbreaker had the Bears not escaped in overtime. Last week: 2

5. Todd Bowles, New York Jets: Few would have predicted Gang Green would have a better record than the cross-town Giants after three weeks. Still, Bowles has a lot of work ahead to convince his employers that Sunday’s thorough beatdown of the Miami Dolphins is the rule, while the previous two games — both near-unwatchable performances — were the aberration for a talent-bereft outfit. Last week: 4

6. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: His team will host Lewis’ Bengals on Sunday, ensuring one of these coaches will get off the schneid. Either way, given Cleveland’s youth, inexperience, measured expectations — and generally competitive nature thus far — Jackson’s margin of error should be significantly more forgiving. Last week: 6

Cooler seats (for now): Sean Payton

Week 2 rankings (Marvin Lewis)
Week 1 rankings (Chuck Pagano)

***

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

Overreaction: NFL players and owners are finally unified

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   NFL players and owners are finally unified.

President Donald Trump’s criticism of players who kneel during the national anthem did more to bring players and owners together than any marriage counselor could ever accomplish.

More than 200 players sat, knelt or raised their fists in defiance during Sunday’s games and many team owners joined them on the field in a show of unity after sports and politics were mixed together. They stood together, arms locked in many cases, and expressed support for players who protest social issues.

Just don’t mistake unity for harmony.

Once this issue stops trending, players and owners will be back at odds again. When the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021, things can get real ugly between players and owners.

Here are more overreactions following Week 3:

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OVERREACTION: The Jaguars are for real.

REALISTIC REACTION: Or the Ravens just aren’t that good.

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OVERREACTION: Jared Goff is proving he was the best quarterback in the 2016 draft.

REALISTIC REACTION: Can’t ignore 2016.

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OVERREACTION: Odell Beckham Jr. will have more celebration penalties than the Giants will have wins.

REALISTIC REACTION: This will be a close race.

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OVERREACTION: The Vikings have a quarterback controversy.

REALISTIC REACTION: Don’t get caught up in Case Keenum’s performance against Tampa Bay and forget what Sam Bradford did Week 1.

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OVERREACTION: Rookie Jake Elliott guaranteed himself a job the rest of the season with a 61-yard game-winning field goal.

REALISTIC REACTION: He’s not a lock to stay with the Eagles when Caleb Sturgis returns from injury.

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OVERREACTION: The Seahawks are in trouble.

REALISTIC REACTION: They can’t fall out of contention in the NFC West.

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OVERREACTION: The Jets are the best team in New York.

REALISTIC REACTION: Standings don’t always tell the truth. The Giants are still more talented.

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OVERREACTION: Jay Cutler should’ve stayed retired.

REALISTIC REACTION: The offensive line is so bad coach Adam Gase called it “garbage.”

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OVERREACTION: The Falcons are going back to the Super Bowl.

REALISTIC REACTION: They’re a couple plays away from 1-2 instead of 3-0.

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OVERREACTION: Tom Brady won’t let the Patriots lose another game.

REALISTIC REACTION: Even the G.O.A.T needs more help.

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OVERREACTION: Smash-mouth football is back thanks to the Titans.

REALISTIC REACTION: It’s a pass-first league.

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OVERREACTION: The Raiders were exposed on national television by the Redskins.

REALISTIC REACTION: Oakland deserves a mulligan for a nonconference loss on the East Coast.

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USA TODAY POWER RANKINGS (Published On: 2017-09-26)

RANK TEAM RECORD CHANGE HI/LOW NOTES
1 Kansas City
Chiefs
3-0 1 / 9 Probably time to put Kareem Hunt in the Hall of Fame. His 538 scrimmage yards through his first three career games is second-best start of all time.
2 Atlanta
Falcons
3-0 2 / 4 When you survive three INTs from your MVP quarterback to beat good foe on road, that’s mark of a good team. But Atlanta didn’t deserve this W.
3 New England
Patriots
2-1 3 1 / 7 Tom Brady was entrenched as the GOAT before Sunday’s heroics. But this defense is full of, ahem, goats after allowing most points, yards in NFL.
4 Detroit
Lions
2-1 6 4 / 23 No shame in barely falling short to NFC champs when you’re game planning for them on a short week of work. But Detroit didn’t deserve this L.
5 Green Bay
Packers
2-1 2 2 / 7 When draftniks claim arm strength isn’t that important for quarterbacks, watch Aaron Rodgers’ 3-yard bullet to Jordy Nelson that tied Sunday’s game.
6 Philadelphia
Eagles
2-1 10 6 / 24 Jake Elliott picked a fine time – at the final gun – to drill a game-winning 61-yard field goal, the longest ever converted by a rookie.
7 Washington
Redskins
2-1 11 7 / 25 Is there a better third-down back in the game right now than Chris Thompson, who racked up 150 receiving yards on six catches Sunday night?
8 Oakland
Raiders
2-1 5 3 / 8 No one considered the Washington defense a brick wall prior to Sunday night, but Oakland’s renowned offense managed all of 128 yards against it.
9 Tennessee
Titans
2-1 3 7 / 12 If rookie Adoree’ Jackson’s 80-yard punt return for a TD wasn’t wiped out by ticky-tack flag, surging Tennessee might’ve blown out the Seahawks.
10 Pittsburgh
Steelers
2-1 5 3 / 10 Not to make light of an unfortunate situation, but it’s worth wondering if they were more focused on their pre-game protest than the Bears.
11 Seattle
Seahawks
1-2 2 3 / 11 Thirty-three points and 195 rushing yards surrendered with a cheap shot by Richard Sherman to boot. All bad looks for the Seattle defense.
12 Los Angeles
Rams
2-1 7 12 / 28 After scintillating three-TD game Thursday night, we’d say Todd Gurley is all the way back. And it sure seems Jared Goff has definitively arrived.
13 Minnesota
Vikings
2-1 4 13 / 18 The old adage that ‘when you have three quarterbacks, you really have none’ doesn’t apply here … unless Teddy Bridgewater can’t return in 2017.
14 Buffalo
Bills
2-1 10 14 / 28 Admit it, you’re sleeping on Buffalo. (It might be the boring games they’ve been involved in.) But they’ve also ceded league-low 37 points.
15 Denver
Broncos
2-1 11 4 / 15 No, Von, you definitely didn’t lose Sunday’s game in Buffalo. You got jobbed by the ref while your teammates were busy underperforming.
16 Dallas
Cowboys
2-1 1 5 / 16 After one of the worst games of his young career, Dak Prescott reminded us how steady he is by coming back with a three-TD showing Monday night.
17 Tampa Bay
Buccaneers
1-1 9 8 / 17 The biggest football knock on Jameis Winston continues to be his propensity to force bad throws. Knock, knock, knock after Sunday’s loss.
18 Jacksonville
Jaguars
2-1 3 18 / 26 So who’s the real ‘Mr. London’? Allen Hurns, who has TD in each of his last three U.K. games, or Marcedes Lewis, who had three TD grabs Sunday?
19 New Orleans
Saints
1-2 7 19 / 26 Prior to shackling Carolina on Sunday, the last time New Orleans had forced three turnovers and allowed fewer than 300 yards was 2014.
20 Carolina
Panthers
2-1 7 13 / 20 Cam Newton and that surgically repaired wing don’t look right yet, and absence of TE Greg Olsen promises to continue delaying the recovery.
21 Houston
Texans
1-2 1 14 / 26 Has Jadeveon Clowney overtaken J.J. Watt as their top defender? Clowney had two sacks Sunday and has 71 yards on three fumble recoveries this year.
22 Baltimore
Ravens
2-1 11 11 / 22 Joe Flacco passed for 48 yards in Sunday’s loss – 28 on eight completions to his teammates, and 20 more on two completions to Jacksonville.
23 Chicago
Bears
1-2 7 23 / 30 Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are quickly making a loud argument that they could be the preeminent running back tandem in the league.
24 Arizona
Cardinals
1-2 1 11 / 25 Even with passing game and defense rounding into shape, the absence of RB David Johnson continues to haunt this sinking squad.
25 New York
Jets
1-2 7 25 / 32 No one predicted they’d be New York’s premier team after three weeks, or that they’d be one game back in race to secure top pick of 2018 draft so early.
26 Miami
Dolphins
1-1 12 11 / 26 Chicago fans were snickering after the kind of Jay Cutler performance that maddened citizens of The Windy City for the past eight years.
27 Los Angeles
Chargers
0-3 7 13 / 27 After being pilfered three times by Kansas City on Sunday, Philip Rivers has thrown multiple INTS in six of his past 12 starts. Favre-esque.
28 San Francisco
49ers
0-3 1 28 / 31 Glass half-full – they scored five TDs in Week 3 after posting zero in first two games. Glass half-empty – defense spotted Rams five TDs, too.
29 New York
Giants
0-3 6 10 / 29 After scoring 13 points in season’s first 11 quarters, they exploded for 24 during final period at Philly. Wasn’t enough. They’re already done.
30 Indianapolis
Colts
1-2 2 23 / 30 This will be the game that Indianapolis fans point to when the ‘Should the Colts trade Andrew Luck?’ debates really start to heat up.
31 Cincinnati
Bengals
0-3 25 / 31 New OC Bill Lazor essentially doubled touches for WR A.J. Green and RB Joe Mixon, and Cincy offense reached end zone for first two times of 2017.
32 Cleveland
Browns
0-3 5 27 / 32 They’re giving up a lot of points largely because they’re giving up the ball (nine turnovers) far too often. Next up, Bengals and Jets at home.

MNF: Cowboys kneel, then pull past Arizona 28-17 behind Prescott

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dak Prescott kneeled with his teammates and team owner before the game, flipped head over heels for a touchdown in the first half and capped his night with a 37-yard TD pass that proved to be the winner.

The Dallas Cowboys erased last week’s ugly memory on Monday night, with their young quarterback leading the way in a 28-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

“He just kept battling,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

“He kept making good decisions. Obviously he made some good plays, big-time throws, but as much as anything else he’s got an amazing spirit and our players follow him.”

The Cowboys (2-1), bouncing back from a 42-17 pummeling in Denver, began the game kneeling at midfield with owner Jerry Jones in a show of unity that followed widespread protests across the NFL of critical comments by President Donald Trump over the weekend.

After they kneeled, they stood and walked to the sideline and stood for the anthem.

“We planned and it was executed that we would go out and kneel,” Jones said, “and basically make the statement regarding the need for unity and the need for equality.”

Prescott, 13 of 18 for 183 yards, broke a 14-14 tie with a 37-yard scoring pass to Brice Butler with 11:52 to play.

“I immediately scrambled and when I scrambled Brice took the right angle and the right initiative going to the back of the end zone,” Prescott said.

Arizona, with a spectacular catch by Larry Fitzgerald for 24 yards on a third-and-18 play, moved downfield but the drive stalled. Phil Dawson’s 37-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-17 with 6:35 left.

Ezekiel Elliott, who gained 8 yards on nine carries against Denver and drew criticism for not hustling after a couple of late interceptions, was bottled up much of the game, but still gained 80 yards on 22 attempts, 30 on one play. He ran 8 yards for the final Cowboys touchdown.

The Cardinals (1-2), in their home opener, got a big game from Fitzgerald, who caught 13 passes for 149 yards, in the process moving ahead of Marvin Harrison into eighth in career receiving yards. The 13 receptions tied a career high.

“That’s Fitz. It’s Monday night,” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a money player. It was a great performance by him. It’s a shame we couldn’t play better around him.”

Carson Palmer had a big first half, completed 15 of 18 for 145 yards and finished 29 of 48 for 325 yards and two scores. He was sacked six times, a career-high three by DeMarcus Lawrence.

The Cardinals dominated the first half statistically, but were deadlocked with the Cowboys at 7-7. Arizona had a 152-57 advantage in yards and dominated time of possession 19:34 to 9:41.

Arizona took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards in eight plays. Palmer was 5-for-5 on the drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

Before Dallas even had a first down, Arizona mounted a nearly nine-minute drive but a touchdown pass to Brown was negated by a holding penalty and Phil Dawson’s 36-yard field goal try was wide right. It was the third mid-range miss for the 41-year-old kicker this season.

And the miss left the door open for the Cowboys to get back in it.

Prescott scored on a 10-yard run, flipping head-first over the goal line to tie it at 7-7 with 3:33 left in the half.

TAKING A KNEE: Jones has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, so the speculation was that he would not allow his players to kneel during the national anthem.

Following a weekend of kneeling and protesting across the NFL, the Cowboys and their owner displayed their own version of unity Monday night, kneeling on the field before rising as a group and going to the sideline for the anthem.

Numerous boos rang out across University of Phoenix Stadium as the Cowboys kneeled and continued as the players rose, still arm-in-arm, and stepped back to the sideline as the flag was unfurled across the field. They remained connected as Jordin Sparks sang the anthem.

The Cardinals had their own symbol of unity after a weekend of protests in the NFL, gathering along the goal line arm-in-arm during the national anthem. They were joined by team president Michael Bidwell, his family and general manager Steve Keim.

“It’s just to show unity,” Cardinals team captain Frostee Rucker said. “There’s so much negativity going on. People are trying to pull us apart. We always want to stay together.”

More than 200 NFL players kneeled, sat or prayed during the anthem Sunday after President Trump said any player who does not stand for the anthem should be fired.

Trump weighed in again Tuesday morning with a tweet, saying “ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected.”

He also added booing before the game when the Dallas team dropped to its knees was the “loudest I have ever heard.”

Sparks, whose father, Phillippi, played in the NFL, had “PROV 31:8-9” written on her hand while she sang the anthem. The bible verse says: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Five NFL Week 3 player matchups to watch: Can Redskins fix passing game vs. Raiders?

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    The Washington Redskins can’t afford to wait much longer for their reworked passing attack to click.

Guided to record-breaking heights by Kirk Cousins last season, the Redskins’ offense finds itself lacking a rhythm through its first two games of 2017. Another off-kilter outing on Sunday night could spell trouble against the Oakland Raiders and portend larger issues for the rest of the year.

Losing offensive coordinator Sean McVay and two 1,000-yard receivers has taken a toll on Cousins, who has 419 passing yards and two touchdowns so far this season. The offense has weathered slow starts from the quarterback before, but uncertainty at almost every other level leaves Washington more dependent on Cousins than ever.

The Raiders’ defense, meanwhile, is no longer a surefire confidence builder for opposing passers. No longer a solo show by reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack, Oakland is getting a consistent push up front and showing early signs of progress after being gashed in the preseason. Though the unit is still dependent on several unproven players, both defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. and safety Karl Joseph have taken significant steps forward to legitimize the group.

Perhaps the most important player for either side will be Jordan Reed, who leads Washington with 11 catches but is listed as questionable with rib/shoulder injuries. Oakland has struggled to defend tight ends, as evidenced by Delanie Walker’s 76-yard outing in Week 1, and has no natural answer for Cousins’ favorite target. Jamison Crowder could also be a key target as a shifty counter to the Raiders’ oversized secondary.

Here are four other matchups that could define Week 3:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson vs. Minnesota Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes

One week after facing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown, Rhodes gets no respite in a showdown against one of the league’s top receiver tandems.

Evans remains the primary threat for Tampa Bay, but he’s no longer going it alone after leading the NFL with 175 targets last season. Though putting Rhodes on the big-bodied receiver might seem like a natural answer, Minnesota also needs to account for Jackson and his big-play ability.

Jameis Winston might look to whichever receiver doesn’t draw Rhodes, as Trae Waynes’ struggles have continued at the other starting cornerback spot. With Case Keenum filling in for Sam Bradford again, the Vikings can’t afford to get into a shootout.

More: USA TODAY Sports’ Week 3 NFL picks

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry vs. Seattle Seahawks’ front seven

DeMarco Murray is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, but Tennessee’s rushing attack is still on track with Henry at the helm. The 6-3, 247-pound second-year pro ran for a career-high 92 yards on 14 carries last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he could set the tone for the Titans’ ground-heavy attack once again.

But open lanes could be tough to come by against a Seattle defense that allowed the fewest yards per carry last season. Though a 61-yard scamper by San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde last week stood out as a rare lapse, the Seahawks boast a deep and talented front seven led by Bobby Wagner, the defensive signal-caller who is perhaps the NFL’s best run-stopping linebacker.

How Henry and Tennessee’s touted offensive line fare up front should set the tone for the day. The Seahawks’ own attack is averaging the fourth-fewest yards per play (4.2) of any team, and it could struggle to string together long drives if Marcus Mariota continues his turnover-averse tendencies.

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay

The only meeting between 2-0 teams this week pits one of the league’s marquee receivers against a formidable cornerback yet to receive top billing. Slay hasn’t been named to a Pro Bowl and lacks the widespread recognition that Jones has received, but his steady ascension has had a ripple effect on Detroit’s defense.

The Falcons have once again demonstrated that they’re content to look to options beyond Jones, including wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper. But a predilection for big plays (19.3 yards per catch this season) make Jones stand out as a back-breaker for any defense, and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian expressed a desire this week to keep him involved throughout the game.

Slay might not travel with Jones on every play, just as he didn’t last week against New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. And while a solid outing from the secondary could be critical for Detroit, the defensive line will be counted on to pressure Matt Ryan. Defensive end Anthony Zettel has been an early season surprise and could play a prominent role as Ezekiel Ansah deals with a knee injury.

More: Detroit Lions’ Darius Slay ready for Julio Jones, talks NFL’s best WRs

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson

While an elite cornerback meeting a top wide receiver will always draw hype, the actual matchup is often watered down by a lack of head-to-head reps. But with Peterson a certainty to continue shadowing opposing his opponent’s top threat, Monday night’s matchup against Bryant should be the latest in a memorable run of showdowns for the six-time Pro Bowl selection.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians boasted that Peterson “erased” Bryant in their last meeting in 2014, but Brandon Weeden was filling in for an injured Tony Romo. Peterson might once again hold the advantage, as Dak Prescott has connected with Bryant on just nine of 25 targets so far this season. This could prove to be the ultimate test of trust, as Peterson can negate Bryant’s normal jump-ball advantage and make a play on nearly throw in his direction.

Establishing the running game will likely be Dallas’ foremost priority, however, a week after Ezekiel Elliott was held to a career-low 8 yards in a rout by the Denver Broncos. Though their defensive line is still feeling the effects of Calais Campbell’s departure and is up against a Cowboys front with three all-pro linemen, the Cardinals are allowing just 2.8 yards per carry.

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Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

NFL Week 3 kickoff times, TV info, game breakdowns

Ravens (2-0) vs. Jaguars (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 9:30 a.m., at Wembley Stadium in London, Phatzradio (Andrew Catalon, James Lofton; shown on CBS affiliates in Baltimore and Jacksonville)

The matchup: Baltimore is playing old school, mid-2000s Ravens football again, and it’s working beautifully. For the second consecutive game, the Ravens had four interceptions and recovered a fumble. They have forced 10 turnovers in their first two games. If they pressure the Jaguars enough, the turnovers will come. … One week removed from a major upset on the road, the Jaguars were pummeled 37-16 by the Tennessee Titans in their home opener.

Browns (0-2) at Colts (0-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Beth Mowins, Jay Feely)

The matchup: The Browns were overwhelmed in Baltimore in a tough day for promising rookie QB DeShone Kizer, who threw three interceptions and lost a fumble after being sacked. The Browns’ top wide receiver, Corey Coleman, broke his right hand. The Browns should be able to establish a power run game vs. the Colts. … Though he’s on the active roster, Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is out. They turned last weekend to QB Jacoby Brissett, who can run, too. The Colts will be prepared with multiple blitzes and varying looks against the Browns.

Giants (0-2) at Eagles (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews)

The matchup: The Giants believed they had the pieces in place for a Super Bowl run, but a 0-2 start has exposed a lot of holes, especially on offense. The line has struggled to protect QB Eli Manning, who’s been sacked eight times in two games. With WR Odell Beckham Jr. coming off an ankle injury, free agent WR Brandon Marshall must deliver. He’s struggled mightily so far. … Philadelphia is coming off a loss, but QB Carson Wentz has been solid; WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith have impressed, and the defensive front seven has been dominant at times. But the running game has been ineffective, and the porous O-line has Wentz running for cover. Expect to see the ball in the air about 75% of the time.

Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (0-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Tom McCarthy, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein)

The matchup: After being displaced by Hurricane Irma and spending nine days on the West Coast, the Dolphins showed their resiliency in a 19-17 victory against the Chargers. QB Jay Cutler, in his first game with Miami since taking over for injured Ryan Tannehill, threw for 230 yards and a score and didn’t turn the ball over. … Most expected the Jets to be bad, but they were expected to be better defensively. The Oakland Raiders had their way with them in a 45-20 rout Sunday. QB Josh McCown was sacked four times but threw for two scores with a 113.1 passer rating. To secure a second consecutive playoff berth, the Dolphins will need to sweep the Jets again.

Broncos (2-0) at Bills (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta)

The matchup: Broncos QB Trevor Siemian continues to win over the skeptics, tossing four TD passes in a 42-17 thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys. Siemian was bolstered by a strong ground game (178 yards rushing) and a swarming defense as the Broncos opened 2-0 for the fifth consecutive season. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott was limited to 8 yards on nine carries. … Bills rookie head coach Sean McDermott, trying to become the first coach in franchise history to win his first two games, fell 9-3 to the Carolina Panthers. Buffalo’s defense sacked QB Cam Newton six times. … Broncos rookie LT Garett Bolles left with an apparent broken ankle and G Ron Leary was injured. That could be an issue vs. Buffalo’s aggressive front seven.

Saints (0-2) at Panthers (2-0)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink)

The matchup: New Orleans is 0-2 for the fourth year in a row under coach Sean Payton after being routed at home by the Patriots. The Saints defense is yielding points (65) and yards (1,025) at an alarming rate. But Payton’s usually prolific offense has struggled mightily under QB Drew Brees. … Carolina is unbeaten even if QB Cam Newton has been relatively ineffective while working back from his surgically repaired right shoulder, but Pro Bowl TE Greg Olsen will be out for a while (broken foot). The Panthers might rediscover their offense vs. the Saints, but the Panthers defense has been dominant under first-year coordinator Steve Wilks, yielding only two field goals.

Steelers (2-0)at Bears (0-2)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl)

The matchup: The defense starred again in Pittsburgh’s home opener, a 26-9 blowout of the Minnesota Vikings, and QB Ben Roethlisberger tossed two TDs for the second consecutive week. … Glennon’s return to Tampa couldn’t have gone worse. The Bears were non-competitive in a 29-7 thrashing, in which Glennon committed four turnovers before halftime. Chicago lost Pro Bowl RG Josh Sitton (ribs) and ILB Nick Kwiatkoski (ribs).

Falcons (2-0) at Lions (2-0)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin)

The matchup: The Falcons looked more like the 2016 version of themselves in the unveiling of their domed Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There was offensive symmetry in the 34-23 win against the Green Bay Packers. The run defense tightened (3.9 yards per carry), and CB Desmond Trufant energized the unit with an interception leading to a touchdown before intermission and a fumble return for a TD to open the second half. … The Lions never trailed in their 24-10 victory against the New York Giants. Detroit has 59 points over the first two games, an encouraging sign, but can it sustain that kind of Falcons-esque offensive production? If so, RB Ameer Abdullah and TE Eric Ebron will need to get more involved.

Buccaneers (1-0) at Vikings (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, Fox (Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman, Peter Schrager)

The matchup: Routing the visiting Chicago Bears 29-7 must have seemed like a breeze for Tampa Bay after an unscheduled season-opening bye caused by Hurricane Irma. A gritty Bucs defense greeted former Bucs QB Mike Glennon rudely in his return to Tampa, scoring once off a 47-yard interception return by CB Robert McClain. QB Jameis Winston played error-free, completing 18 of 30 passes for 204 yards and one TD for a 91.5 passer rating. … With starting QB Sam Bradford inactive and nursing an injured left knee, Minnesota was no match on the road against the Steelers with backup QB Case Keenum. Bradford doesn’t have any structural damage, but his return date is unknown.

Texans (1-1) at Patriots (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 1, CBS (Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn)

The matchup: The Texans edged the Bengals 13-9 in a defensive dogfight in Cincinnati. It was never pretty on offense, but rookie QB Deshaun Watson stole the show on his 22nd birthday with a 49-yard weaving TD run that proved to be the difference in his first NFL start. Now coach Bill O’Brien will face his former employer at Gillette Stadium, where his Texans lost 27-0 in Week 3 last season and 34-16 in the divisional playoff round … After being blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, New England overwhelmed the Saints in a 36-20 shootout in Week 2. The Pats host a vulnerable Texans defense beset by injuries and a vulnerable offense led by a rookie quarterback.

Seahawks (1-1) at Titans (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 4:05, Fox (Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis, Pam Oliver)

The matchup: There weren’t a lot of positives to take out of Seattle’s Week 2 win against the 49ers. But even though QB Russell Wilson struggled, the only long-term concerns are an offensive line that can’t get out of its own way and the inability of TE Jimmy Graham to fit into the offense. … Tennessee’s 37-16 win against the Jaguars gave a glimpse of what this team could be. But Seattle is a big step up in competition. QB Marcus Mariota would get a huge boost if RBs Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray can generate a ground game. The Titans defense will also have to take it to another level.

Bengals (0-2) at Packers (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson)

The matchup: The Bengals are the first team since 1939 to open the season with two home games and no touchdowns. Their ineptitude in last week’s loss to the Texans cost offensive coordinator Ken Zampese his job, and he has been replaced by Bill Lazor. QB Andy Dalton has to play better and can’t rely on trying to force the ball to star WR A.J. Green. A turnover ratio of -5 through two games is one of the Bengals’ many issues. If they want to pull the upset, they can’t hand Packers QB Aaron Rodgers extra chances. … Rodgers is surrounded by a deep and experienced group of playmakers, though WR Jordy Nelson (thigh muscle) had to leave last weekend’s game. The Packers got run out of Atlanta in part because they didn’t have OTs David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga.

Chiefs (2-0) at Chargers (0-2)

TV: Sunday, 4:25, CBS (Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon)

The matchup: Playing without SS Eric Berry, who tore his Achilles tendon in the season opener, the Chiefs limited the Eagles to 52 yards rushing in last weekend’s 27-20 victory. As usual, the Chiefs won the turnover battle, forcing two and having none. QB Alex Smith (113.8 pass rating) is 22-1 with the Chiefs when he has a rating of 100 or better. … In their 5-11 season last year, the Chargers lost five games by four points or fewer. Rookie K Younghoe Koo has missed last-second field goals that would’ve tied Denver and defeated Miami this season. The Chiefs run defense hopes to shut down Gordon.

Raiders (2-0) at Redskins (1-1)

TV: Sunday, 8:25, NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya)

The matchup: Oakland RB Jalen Richard said after the Raiders’ 45-20 win against the Jets: “We just have a lot of weapons. Any day we can explode.” Leading the Jets 21-13 in the third quarter, the Raiders scored three touchdowns in 6:04. … Washington rebounded from a loss to Philadelphia at home with a 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Rams. The winning TD came with 1:49 remaining after QB Kirk Cousins led the Redskins on a 10-play, 80-yard drive. LB Mason Foster sealed the game with an interception. With Raiders CB Sean Smith out, TJ Carrie has been starting for the Raiders, and rookie CB Gareon Conley played his first game in Week 2. Oakland might be vulnerable against Cousins and Co.

Cowboys (1-1) at Cardinals (1-1)

TV: Monday, 8:30, ESPN (Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters)

The matchup: Dallas was obliterated by the Broncos on both sides of the ball. An offensive line touted as the best in football created no running lanes and couldn’t keep the rush away from QB Dak Prescott. And after a strong season opener, the defensive line was exposed as weak at times, making Denver QB Trevor Siemian look like Peyton Manning. The Cowboys secondary, already playing without top CB Orlando Scandrick (broken hand), might be down two more cornerbacks after Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) left against Denver. … The Cards pulled out a tight victory against Indianapolis in Week 2, but not all is well in Arizona. The offense scored 16 points against the lowly Colts — and coach Bruce Arians blamed QB Carson Palmer, though the O-line is probably a bigger culprit.

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Contributing: Brian Allee-Walsh, Arthur Arkush, Howard Balzer, Andy Friedlander, Scott Johnson, Jordan Godwin, Zac Jackson, Scott Pitoniak; times p.m. Eastern except where noted.

NFL MVP tracker: Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith remains in lead

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —-    From Week 1 through Week 17, USA TODAY Sports’ NFL staff will be handicapping the race for league MVP. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one.

Our MVP tracker after Week 2’s games:

1. QB Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (18 points): Reports are already circulating that he’ll be on the trade block after the season, and Smith himself has admitted he probably won’t be in Kansas City in 2018 with first-round pick Patrick Mahomes positioned to succeed him. But if Smith maintains his current pace, the Chiefs are going to have to think long and hard about letting him go even though his skyrocketing price tag will likely make the decision a foregone conclusion. Smith’s 77.8% completion rate, 134.1 passer rating and five TD passes all rank him among league leaders. More important, the undefeated Chiefs are part of a three-way tie atop the AFC West, and the offense has never been more explosive during the Andy Reid era. Last week: 1

2. QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (11 points): He was an MVP front runner last year before a broken ankle prematurely ended his candidacy in December. But Carr’s picked up right where he left off, guiding the Raiders to a 2-0 start that’s allowed them to keep pace in the AFC West. Carr’s numbers (75.0% completion rate, 126.5 QB rating, 5 TD passes) are just a tick off Smith’s pace — though, in Carr’s case, it helped to fatten up on the woeful New York Jets defense. Last week: Unranked

3. RB Kareem Hunt, Chiefs (9 points): He’s leading the league in rushing with 229 yards, including a whopping 7.6 yards per carry. Hunt’s 355 yards from scrimmage are 111 more than Antonio Brown, who’s second in that category. And he’s already scored five touchdowns while becoming the first rookie in more than 60 years to hit pay dirt from beyond 50 yards in his first two games. Not bad for a third rounder out of Toledo. Last week: 2

4. QB Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos (8 points): The guy who replaced Peyton Manning is suddenly starting to perform like him. Siemian’s six TD passes are tied for the league lead after he burned the Dallas Cowboys four times in Sunday’s surprising rout. Denver probably only needed the third-year passer to be steady in order to get them back to the playoffs. But if Siemian keeps this up, the Broncos will once again be a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Last week: Unranked

5. QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (5 points): The $135 million man has his team in first place courtesy of a signature fourth-quarter comeback in Week 1 and a steady performance in Week 2. Stafford’s six TD passes match Siemian for the league lead, and he’s also been accurate (71.0% completion percentage) and efficient (114.6 passer rating). Last week: 4

Also receiving votes: Antonio Brown (3 points)

Week 1 MVP rankings (Alex Smith)

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

Fantasy Football: NFL Week 3 Must Bet Games

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —    There’s little reason to panic if you couldn’t get the player you wanted when waivers ran last week. The fantasy waiver wire is a lot like washing dirty dishes. When the sink is full, some dishes look better than others but certainly none look pristine. Even after the dishwasher runs and the plates get filed away, the sink quickly fills up again and the cycle repeats.

Each Monday, there are players who are available in at least half of leagues who deserve your consideration. How you approach them depends on your league — you need to know how aggressive the other owners are, what other players are available and how much of your free agent acquisition budget you have left.

Most importantly, look at each player’s outlook for the rest of the season. One week wonder? Or likely to put up solid numbers week in and week out?

Here are the top players who may be available in your league this week. The numbers next to their name are the ownership percentages in leagues run by CBS Sports.

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CHRIS THOMPSON, RB, Washington Redskins (44 percent): The Redskins pulled out a victory Sunday but the offense still isn’t clicking on all cylinders. This was to be expected when their top two receivers from last season (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson) left via free agency. Quarterback Kirk Cousins still hasn’t developed a strong bond with Terrelle Pryor, leading to quite a few underneath passes for Thompson. You wouldn’t want to start Thompson under standard scoring, but he’s appealing in point-per-reception leagues.

SAMAJE PERINE, RB, Washington Redskins (49 percent): Rob Kelley has a rib injury that could make him miss time. Perine will likely be the starting running back during that span. Every starting RB has value and Perine won’t be any different. Some experts believed that it was just a matter of time until Perine took over the starting job from Kelley anyway. This injury to Kelley may have just accelerated that timetable because if Perine performs well in the starting job, it’s hard to see Kelley replacing him upon his return.

CHRIS JOHNSON, RB, Arizona Cardinals (20 percent): Remember last week when everyone spent all that FAAB money on Kerwynn Williams? Well that may not have been money well spent. Johnson was re-signed by Arizona during the week and he out touched Williams 11-9 and out rushed him 44-22. Granted, we’re not talking about a career day here but there is a chance that coach Bruce Arians will go with Johnson as the starter over Williams. Andre Ellington (37 percent) may see enough touches to just muddy the waters but he only has value in 16-plus team leagues.

JERMAINE KEARSE, WR, New York Jets (8 percent): Yes, the Jets are likely only playing for a top draft pick next April but they will be trailing in most if not all games and they will have to put the ball in the air early and often. Kearse may be the main beneficiary of those passes as he already has recorded 11 receptions for 123 yards and two scores in the early part of this season. Josh McCown and Kearse seem to have solid chemistry despite Kearse only being acquired by the Jets late in the preseason.

RASHARD HIGGINS, WR, Cleveland Browns (0 percent): Yes, that’s not a typo. Coming into Week 2, Higgins was owned in less than 1 percent of leagues. The fifth-round draft pick from 2016 was promoted from the practice squad last week and promptly led the Browns with seven receptions, 95 yards and 11 targets. Like the Jets, Cleveland will be trailing in most games and forced to put the ball in the air more than they may like. Throw in the fact that Corey Coleman may have suffered another broken hand and Higgins could now be the Browns de facto number one wide receiver.

J.J. NELSON, WR, Arizona Cardinals (47 percent): Arizona is a mess now that David Johnson has been placed on injured reserve with a dislocated wrist. They will have to look for big plays in the passing game in order to compete and with John Brown missing the game Sunday due to a quad injury, Nelson stepped up to the tune of five receptions for 120 yards and a score. Even if Brown returns next week, there is no guarantee that he automatically gets the starting job back as he has been a disappointment more often than not. The Cardinals can’t be choosy right now in terms of how they score their points.

NFL Sunday’s Best: Week 2

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NEW YORK (AP) — Whether you had already anointed or condemned, Week 2 of the NFL season should have put the brakes on such actions.

Exhibit No. 1: New England.

Exhibit No. 2: Dallas.

Exhibit No. 3: Jacksonville .

Exhibit No. 4: Tennessee.

And don’t forget the Redskins and Rams. Or the Bills and Vikings.

OK, we’ll give Minnesota a break because starting quarterback Sam Bradford’s knee was too sore for him to suit up at Pittsburgh. A better judgment of the Vikes can be made when Bradford is behind center rather than Case Keenum.

The NFL schedule might be short compared to other pro sports, placing an extra emphasis on each result. But to push the panic button or start planning playoff trips after opening week is foolhardy.

This weekend displayed that for many teams.

Let’s begin with the Patriots and Cowboys, who headed in opposite directions Sunday.

All that gloom and doom in New England now will fade before the leaves begin to do the same following a 36-20 romp at New Orleans that was over after one quarter. That’s how long it took Tom Brady to show that 40 ain’t old in pro football — at least not for him — with three TD passes, a first for him in an opening period. Kansas City’s defense troubled Brady in the opener, and the Patriots’ D was shoddy.

Then came Sunday’s immediate turnaround: a Big Easy in the Big Easy.

“Being 0-1 with a 10-day break felt like a year,” Brady said. “All the veterans had a chance to say the things they wanted to say to their different (position) groups. … I’m glad we executed. There were a lot of tight plays and we made them.”

Dallas didn’t. Seven days after manhandling the Giants with a bullying defense and an imposing-its-will offense, the Cowboys pretty much were manhandled themselves in Denver. Granted, the Mile High city is a difficult place to play, but the dropoff in physicality for Dallas was stark.

“We started slow and they had the momentum at their home,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott explained. “It’s a great environment and they thrived off of that. We never got ourselves going. We never gathered that momentum as much as we should.”

Nor did the Jaguars in a 37-16 loss to the Titans.

Now, nobody is comparing the Jags to the Cowboys. But in Week 1, they were as overpowering as America’s Team. This week, much like Dallas, they disappeared.

Jacksonville went from 10 sacks at Houston to one at home against Tennessee. The Jags went from rushing for 155 yards to gaining 99. And they went from a plus-4 in turnover margin to having three giveaways.

“We had a lot of mistakes,” wide receiver Marqise Lee said. “Even when we found ways to move the ball forward, we still found ways to bring ourselves back. You can’t win the game doing things like that.”

You can win it when you are on the other end, which the Titans were in north Florida. A week after they were dominated at home by Oakland, a budding AFC power, Tennessee stuck with it after a slow start, then spurted away. They won’t be singing those sad country tunes on Broadway in Music City this week.

The blues being sung in Washington will be silenced for a while after the Redskins survived in Los Angeles. It never was pretty, and few Redskins games will be this season. It was, though, a shift in direction, something quite natural in the NFL in the opening weeks.

And just as the Rams were being celebrated for their annihilation of Indianapolis a week ago, there now will be plenty of “when do the Dodgers play next” comments in Southern California.

Don’t laugh. The wild swings in support and derisiveness are common among NFL fans and observers. And it’s simply the nature of the sport that drawing conclusions after one win or loss is a wasteful exercise.

SCOREBOARD

Monday, Sept. 18

Detroit at New York Giants, 8:30 p.m. EDT. Eli Manning and the Giants (0-1) will have to wait until pregame warmups to see if wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s sprained left ankle will keep him out for a second straight game. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the league’s highest-paid player, was in midseason form in Detroit’s 35-23 season-opening win over Arizona with 292 yards passing and four touchdowns while engineering his 27th fourth-quarter or overtime comeback since 2011.

___

STARS

Passing

— Tom Brady, Patriots, threw three touchdown passes in the first quarter for the first time in his career, eclipsed 300 yards passing in the first half for only the second time, and New England scored 30 first-half points en route to a 36-20 victory over the winless Saints. He finished 30 of 39 for 447 yards.

— Trevor Siemian, Broncos, tied a career high with four touchdown passes in Denver’s 42-17 blowout of the Dallas Cowboys.

— Joe Flacco, Ravens, went 25 for 34 for 217 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and Baltimore breezed past Cleveland 24-10.

— Drew Brees, Saints, passed for 356 yards and two TDs in New Orleans’ 36-20 loss to New England.

— Carson Wentz, Eagles, threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns, but his Hail Mary pass bounced off the hands of a couple defenders and fell incomplete as time expired in Philadelphia’s 27-20 loss at Kansas City.

— Derek Carr, Raiders, had three touchdown passes to Michael Crabtree in Oakland’s 45-20 rout of the New York Jets.

— Aaron Rodgers, Packers, passed for 343 yards and two TDs — reaching 400 for his career — in Green Bay’s 34-23 loss at Atlanta.

___

Rushing

— Carlos Hyde, 49ers, ran for 124 yards on 15 carries in San Francisco’s 12-9 loss at Seattle.

— Jay Ajayi, Dolphins, had 122 yards rushing on 28 carries in Miami’s 19-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

— Derrick Henry, Titans, finished with a career-high 92 yards rushing, including 87 in the final two quarters of Tennessee’s 37-16 win at Jacksonville.

— C.J. Anderson, Broncos, rushed for 118 yards and a score and also caught a TD pass in Denver’s 42-17 rout of Dallas.

— Devonta Freeman, Falcons, ran for two touchdowns and finished with 84 yards in Atlanta’s 34-23 win over Green Bay.

— Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, had 87 yards rushing on 27 carries in Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over Minnesota, his second game since ending a summer-long sabbatical due to a contract dispute.

— Kareem Hunt, Chiefs, ran for 81 yards and two scores in Kansas City’s 27-20 victory over Philadelphia.

— Chris Thompson, Redskins, had two touchdown runs and finished with 77 yards rushing on just three carries in Washington’s 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Rams.

___

Receiving

— Michael Crabtree, Raiders, caught three touchdown passes from Derek Carr to help lead Oakland to a 45-20 rout of the New York Jets.

— J.J. Nelson, Cardinals, had five receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown as Arizona edged Indianapolis 16-13.

— Travis Kelce, Chiefs, had eight catches for 103 yards and a somersaulting go-ahead touchdown grab with 6:25 left in the game to help lead Kansas City to a 27-20 win over Philadelphia.

— Rob Gronkowski, Patriots, had a 53-yard catch and run to highlight his six-catch, 116-yard performance in New England’s 36-20 win at New Orleans, but left the game in the second half with a groin injury.

— Jarvis Landry, Dolphins, caught 13 passes for 78 yards in Miami’s 19-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

— Jason Witten, Cowboys, had 10 catches for 97 yards and a TD in a losing cause as the Cowboys were routed by Denver 42-17.

— Keenan Allen, Chargers, caught nine passes for 100 yards in the Chargers’ 19-17 loss to Miami.

___

Special Teams

— Chris Boswell, Steelers, kicked four field goals and made both of his extra-point tries in Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over Minnesota.

— Ryan Succop, Titans, made three field goals and four extra points to help Tennessee to a 37-16 victory at Jacksonville.

— Cody Parkey, Dolphins, hit his fourth field goal of the game from 54 yards with 1:05 to play to cap the Dolphins’ fourth-quarter rally that spoiled the Los Angeles Chargers’ home opener with a 19-17 victory.

___

Defense

— Chris Jones, Chiefs, had three sacks and an interception in Kansas City’s 27-20 win over Philadelphia.

— Aqib Talib, Broncos, returned an interception 103 yards for a touchdown with 53 seconds left in Denver’s 42-17 rout of Dallas.

— Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals, intercepted Jacoby Brissett on the first play from scrimmage in the extra period, helping Arizona to a 16-13 overtime victory at Indianapolis.

— Robert McClain, Buccaneers, returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s 29-7 win over Chicago.

— Desmond Trufant, Falcons, recovered a fumble and returned it 15 yards for a score in Atlanta’s 34-23 victory over Green Bay.

— Julius Peppers, Panthers, had two of Carolina’s three sacks in a 9-3 win over Buffalo, his first home game since re-signing with the team that drafted him in 2002.

— Chandler Jones, Cardinals, had two sacks and forced a fumble in Arizona’s 16-13 overtime win at Indianapolis.

___

STREAKS & STATS

New Orleans’ 36-20 loss to New England on Sunday dropped the Saints to 1-11 in September since 2014, having begun 0-2 in four straight campaigns. The Saints have finished 7-9 the past three seasons. … Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt has five TDs in his first two career games and is the first in NFL history with at least three rushing TDs and two TD catches in a player’s first two games. … Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his last 45 home games, the NFL’s third-longest streak ever. Only Drew Brees (60 games) and Tom Brady (47) have longer streaks. … The Chargers’ 19-17 loss to Miami marked the 11th time they’ve dropped games by eight points or fewer since the start of last season, three more than any other NFL team. … For the first time in franchise history, San Francisco has gone the first two weeks of the season without scoring a touchdown. In the two games, the 49ers have had one offensive drive inside the opponents’ 10-yard line.

___

MILESTONES

Tom Brady has 52 career games with three or more touchdown passes and no interceptions, passing Peyton Manning (51) for the most in NFL history. Brady also joined Warren Moon as the only quarterbacks 40 or older in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards and three TDs in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He was 30 of 39 for 447 yards and three TDs in New England’s 36-20 win at New Orleans. … Adam Vinatieri’s 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter of Indianapolis’ 16-13 overtime loss to Arizona gave him 177 from 20 to 29 yards, one more than Morten Andersen. … Cardinals coach Bruce Arians tied the late Don Coryell for No. 2 on the franchise’s career wins list with 42. … Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas passed the 10,000-mark with his remarkable streak of consecutive snaps played. He hasn’t missed a snap since breaking into the league in 2007. He reached 10,000 in a row on the first play of Cleveland’s second series in a 24-10 loss at Baltimore. … Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a touchdown catch in a 19-17 loss to Miami, giving him 112 for his career — passing Tony Gonzalez (111) for the most by a tight end in NFL history. … Indianapolis’ Frank Gore had his 75th career touchdown run in the Colts’ 16-13 overtime loss to Arizona. Gore, who also has 16 career receiving touchdowns, is the sixth player in NFL history with at least 75 rushing TDs and 15 receiving scores, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Walter Payton and LaDainian Tomlinson.

___

SHUT DOWN

The Denver Broncos held Ezekiel Elliott to the worst game of his career — 8 yards on nine carries — in a 42-17 blowout of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in a game that included an hour-long lightning delay. Elliott, who’s playing while his appeal of a six-game suspension for domestic violence works its way through the courts, came into the game averaging 108 yards rushing per game and more than 5 yards a carry in his career, which is in its second season.

___

SECOND CHANCE

Phil Dawson made a 30-yard field goal in overtime to give Arizona a 16-13 victory over Indianapolis, a few minutes after pushing a 42-yard field goal wide right as time expired in regulation. “The defense saved me,” Dawson said. “Missed one with the game on the line and the game could have turned out another way.”

___

RUNNIN’ REDSKINS

Washington rushed 39 times for 229 yards in a 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Chris Thompson finished with 77 yards — including TD runs of 71 and 7 yards — on three carries. Rob Kelley, who suffered a thigh injury midway through the second quarter, had 78 yards on 12 carries. Samaje Perine finished with 67 yards on 21 carries.

___

I AM NOT SAM

Minnesota played without quarterback Sam Bradford, who sat out the Vikings’ 26-9 loss at Pittsburgh with an injured left knee. Case Keenum struggled to get anything going in Bradford’s absence, throwing for just 167 yards on 20 of 35 passing. Vikings rookie Dalvin Cook ran for 64 yards, but Minnesota failed to generate any sustained momentum.

___

TOUGH SEAHAWK

Seattle wide receiver Paul Richardson suffered a dislocated right ring finger in the first quarter that popped through the skin. The finger was put back in place and the skin stitched up so he could return and eventually made the winning catch — a 9-yard grab from Russell Wilson with 7:06 left that gave the Seahawks a 12-9 victory over San Francisco. “That was the goal once I got it sewed up, still go win,” Richardson said. “I wasn’t just trying to get out there, ‘Oh he’s tough, he’s finishing out the game.’ I wanted to go make a difference.”

___

HEAD BANGING

Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, who left with a migraine headache in the second quarter of Cleveland’s 24-10 loss at Baltimore after four ineffective series: a three-and-out, a lost fumble, an interception and a punt. The former Notre Dame starter was replaced by second-year pro Kevin Hogan, who would become the third quarterback in two games to be intercepted by the Baltimore defense. Kizer said the headaches are hereditary, and that he hasn’t had one crop up in a game since high school. He received medication, underwent concussion protocol, and finally received clearance to return in the third quarter with Baltimore up 21-10.

___

ONE FLORIDA

The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers began their games Sunday with tributes to those affected by Hurricane Irma. Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who grew up in St. Petersburg and played at the University of Florida, carried the state flag onto field. The Jaguars and first responders held a giant American flag during the national anthem. Both teams and the Miami Dolphins, who play at the Los Angeles Chargers, wore “ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets.

___

SIDELINED

Carolina tight end Greg Olsen broke his right foot in Carolina’s 9-3 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and is expected to miss significant playing time. Olsen has never missed a game because of injury during his previous 10 NFL seasons. … Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda is out for the season with a fracture in his ankle and rookie linebacker Bam Bradley tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams hurt his foot in the third quarter and did not return. … Cleveland wide receiver Corey Coleman hurt his hand on a fourth-quarter play. Linebacker Jamie Collins suffered a concussion. … Denver rookie left tackle Garett Bolles was carted off the field with a lower left leg injury in the third quarter against Dallas. The Cowboys lost two defensive backs in the first half: Chidobe Awuzie went out with a hamstring injury and Nolan Carroll was ruled out with a concussion. … Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had a groin injury in New England’s 36-20 win. Running back Rex Burkhead had a rib injury in the second half. … Washington starting running back Rob Kelley suffered a rib injury midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. Tight end Jordan Reed suffered a chest injury in the third quarter and safety Montae Nicholson hurt a shoulder in the fourth quarter.

___

SPEAKING

“Being 0-1 with a 10-day break felt like a year.” — New England’s Tom Brady, alluding to a Thursday night loss to Kansas City in Week 1. The Patriots bounced back Sunday with a 36-20 win at New Orleans.

___

“That’s Marshawn being Marshawn, playing for his hometown team. If you grow up as a kid and grow up rooting for a team and then you get to play for them, wouldn’t that be a dream? I’m just happy for him. He’s living a childhood dream.” — Oakland left tackle Donald Penn on teammate Marshawn Lynch, who celebrated his first home game for his hometown team by running for a touchdown and delighting the fans with a lengthy sideline dance in the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ 45-20 victory over the New York Jets.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Top NFL Week 2 matchups: Can Broncos LB Von Miller throw off Cowboys’ attack?

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —-    Von Miller has gone five consecutive games without a sack, but there’s little doubt about the threat the Denver Broncos’ star pass rusher still poses.

If anything, the drought might serve as a reminder of the lengths opposing teams will endure to prevent Miller from bending a game to his will.

The double teams, chips and other tactics that Miller is likely to face should come as no surprise Sunday. But his presence still has far-reaching effects for a Denver defense looking to reassert itself against Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys’ formidable attack.

“He’s one of those guys who is a real difference-maker,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said this week. “He’s one of those guys who has affected games probably since he was growing up here in South Dallas. He’s an incredible athlete. He has a great feel for rushing the passer. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s explosive.”

More: USA TODAY Sports’ Week 2 NFL picks

More: Cowboys-Broncos matchup has intriguing undercard

Right tackle La’el Collins will have the primary responsibility of fending off Miller. Collins handled New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul last week, but shutting down a player with 38½ sacks the past three seasons is an entirely different challenge.

Prescott might be forced to make quick decisions, especially with cornerback Aqib Talib set for a matchup with Dez Bryant and Chris Harris Jr. holding down the slot. But the second-year standout has been difficult to rattle, and he likely will become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw five or fewer interceptions in his first 500 pass attempts.

The true test for Miller and Denver’s defense, however, might be in how it handles Elliott. Operating behind a line that Broncos coach Vance Joseph called “the best in football,” the NFL’s leading rusher in 2016 could dictate the tone of the game against a defense that finished 28th against the run last season. Nose tackle Domata Peko and defensive end Adam Gotsis, filling in for Jared Crick after the veteran was placed on injured reserve, will have to provide a push.

Here are four other matchups that will define Week 2 in the NFL:

Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman vs. Green Bay Packers DT Mike Daniels

Matt Ryan and the passing attack did the heavy lifting for Atlanta in each of last season’s wins over Green Bay, but scheme adjustments should yield a greater emphasis on the ground game on Sunday night.

The Packers’ new go-to “nitro” package — a nickel variation that uses just two defensive linemen and rolls safety Morgan Burnett to inside linebacker — yielded impressive results last week in a 17-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Designed to put speedier players on the field and provide more flexibility in coverage, the defense was still formidable against the run. Outside of two Russell Wilson runs for 40 yards, the Seahawks gained just 50 yards on 16 carries.

Atlanta’s shift in Week 1 didn’t go as smoothly, as last year’s top-scoring offense never fully found its footing in coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s debut. Freeman and fellow running back Tevin Coleman combined for just 53 yards on 20 carries in a 23-17 win over the Chicago Bears. With the rest of the offense yet to click, expect Sarkisian to emphasize the ground game early to open up play-action opportunities.

Daniels is Green Bay’s key to running “nitro” without leaving the defense exposed up front given its 31st-place finish against the run last year. After racking up seven tackles, four quarterbacks hits and 1½ sacks against the Seahawks, he’ll be looking to generate similar disruption against Freeman and Ryan. The Falcons’ offensive line provides a more formidable challenge for the Packers, though new starting right guard Wes Schweitzer was graded third-worst at his position by Pro Football Focus in Week 1.

NFL MVP tracker:: A pair of Kansas City Chiefs open atop our weekly poll

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Minnesota Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes

Brown and Rhodes both attended the same high school in Miami, and the two still train with one another in the offseason. Now their matchup could be one of the early season highlights with a 2-0 start at stake.

In a 21-18 win against the Cleveland Browns last week, Brown hauled in 11 catches for 182 yards and provided the latest reminder of how confounding he is to cover. With Le’Veon Bell still looking to find his form after sitting out training camp and preseason, Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh likely will depend on Brown to set the tone for the offense again.

Rhodes put himself on the map last season by flustering Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. and earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Though Rhodes has handled top receivers before, Brown was held to less than 50 receiving yards just twice in 2016.

A hip injury left Rhodes limited in practice this week, and he is listed as questionable for Sunday. Rhodes should find himself shadowing Brown if fully healthy, but Tramaine Brock and Terence Newman could be forced into larger roles if Minnesota has to turn to Plan B.

More: Your complete fantasy football guide to Week 2

New England Patriots WR Brandin Cooks vs. New Orleans Saints’ secondary

In a weekend with several notable coaches and players facing their former teams, Cooks’ return to New Orleans stands out as the biggest story line. But there are more pressing issues for New England after a stinging 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener.

With Danny Amendola sidelined by a concussion, the Patriots have just three healthy receivers available in Cooks, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett. Though Rob Gronkowski and the running backs should figure prominently into the game plan, this is a chance for Tom Brady to attack on the outside after a 16-of-36 outing last week. Cooks hauled in a 54-yard reception in the opener, but he still has to establish himself as a reliable target.

New Orleans, meanwhile, saw its defense undone once again in Week 1 by an overwhelmed secondary. Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches as they easily outmaneuvered Saints cornerbacks in a 29-17 win.

Any team facing the Saints in New Orleans has to be ready for a shootout, and Drew Brees holds a 3-1 record and 123.3 passer rating against the Patriots in his career. With the defense still looking vulnerable, Cooks and New England might need to provide a lot of firepower to make this game comfortable.

Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt vs. Philadelphia Eagles’ front seven

The third-round rookie became the breakout star of Week 1 with a 246-yard debut against the Patriots. Keeping up such a pace is likely untenable, but Hunt remains a threat as the Chiefs’ featured back.

Known primarily as a between-the-tackles runner, Hunt surprised many with his 78-yard touchdown catch and 58-yard touchdown run in the opener. But after being recorded at a league-best top speed of 20.84 mph in Week 1, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he might give Kansas City the next gear it has desperately needed (beyond wide receiver Tyreek Hill).

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Hunt was one of the players the team was considering in the draft, though Philadelphia would end up with Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round. Now it’s up to Pederson and his defensive front to keep Hunt contained on Sunday.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Brandon Graham provide the Chiefs’ offensive line with plenty to handle. But Kansas City thrives on balance, and continued success from Hunt could keep Philadelphia from unleashing the full wrath of its pass rush against Alex Smith.

***

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

Fantasy Football: Predicting 5 game-changing fantasy football trends ahead of Week 2

(PhatzRadio Sports / FTW)    —    Week 2 is about to begin in the NFL, and although that means it’s still early in the season, you can win a bunch of games simply by spotting trends early.

Here are five things that I already think are trends after just one week in the 2017 season:

1. Stefon Diggs’ ascent to solid, consistent WR2 is real

The Vikings aren’t built for a deep passing game, but Diggs is perfect for a scheme like that. Even if he did all that damage — seven receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns — against the Saints, he’s Sam Bradford’s No. 1 wideout. Bradford also has a year under his belt with this offense and has a running game that appears legit with Dalvin Cook. That will only open things up more for the former fifth-round pick, especially in the red zone.

2. Patience is necessary with Kirk Cousins

That loss to the Eagles? We do not like that. You hope he bounces back this week, but he’s on the road against a tough Rams defense. Part of the problem is he lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency — maybe it’ll take longer to get in rhythm with Terrelle Pryor? Don’t hit the panic button yet even after what will probably be a rough game for Cousins.

3. Relax: A.J. Green will be just fine even if the Bengals aren’t good

The Bengals have an offensive line problem and maybe an Andy Dalton problem, too. But please don’t panic about Green. He’ll still be the focus of the offense no matter who’s tossing him the rock, and he’ll only benefit from a fantasy point of view if the Bengals trail a lot.

4. Welcome to a breakout Terrance West season

You have to love what you saw out of the vet in Week 1 with an 80-yard day. And the fact that Danny Woodhead is out and Javorius Allen is in doesn’t concern me that much. I’d rather own him than C.J. Anderson (a timeshare is coming in Denver), Lamar Miller, or Isaiah Crowell right now.

5. Charles Clay will finish 2017 as a top-10 tight end

Look, quarterbacks have to trust their receivers. They need to be on the same page and know when they’re going to zig when the QB wants them to zig, and zag when … okay, you get the idea. Look at the Bills’ receiving corps and you’ll see Jordan Matthews, whom Buffalo traded for in mid-August and rookie Zay Jones. And although the Bills’ offense is basically run first, run second and run third, someone has to catch passes. That someone is Clay, who caught 57 passes last year for 552 yards with Tyrod Taylor under center. I say the touchdowns — just four last year — go up, as do the receptions. In Week 1, Taylor looked his way nine times!

NFL hot seat rankings: Colts’ Chuck Pagano leads list of coaches who could be in trouble

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports / AP)    —    The NFL season is now a week old, but we all know it’s not unheard of for teams to make coaching changes as early as September. Will the axe fall somewhere this month? Probably not. But will the proverbial coaching hot seats warm up as the autumn temperatures cool? Inevitably.

Here’s this season’s initial installment of our weekly hot seat rankings:

1. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: His team didn’t look capable of beating the Los Angeles Rams even if Andrew Luck had been fully healthy and at the top of his game. Luck’s health is obviously a major key to Indy’s fortunes, but this club has been in steady decline since blowing the whistle on Deflategate, going 16-17 since the 2014 AFC Championship Game. That’s not entirely Pagano’s fault, but former GM Ryan Grigson has already been ousted. And showings like Sunday’s 46-9 stinker certainly won’t endear Pagano to first-year GM Chris Ballard, who may eventually decide he needs his own guy on the sideline.

2. John Fox, Chicago Bears: The rumor mill would have you believe that Fox and GM Ryan Pace do not see eye to eye, and it hit overdrive after Pace’s stunning move to acquire the No. 2 selection of this year’s draft to get QB Mitchell Trubisky. But there’s no sidestepping Fox’s 9-24 record in Chicago, either, even if the Bears gave the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons all they could handle Sunday. Unless the Bears turn the corner with veteran QB Mike Glennon, it’s hard to envision Trubisky being the guy who can salvage Fox’s tenure.

3. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: His deal expires after this season. He’s never won a playoff game in 14 seasons and didn’t even reach postseason last year. And, most concerning, his club laid a Week 1 goose egg for their lame duck coach. Not a good way to get another contract, even for a guy who’s enjoyed owner Mike Brown’s loyalty since 2003.

4. Todd Bowles, New York Jets: His roster doesn’t have 53 NFL-caliber talents on it, seemingly by design. The real questions seem to be 1) Will Bowles want to hang around after this slog of a season? and/or 2) Do the Jets see him at the helm as they embark on what appears to be a lengthy rebuild?

5. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns: His team gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a spirited battle Sunday, further evidence Jackson has the Browns finally pointed in the right direction. But it’s worth wondering if a franchise not known for patience will let him see his long-term vision through.

6. Ben McAdoo, New York Giants: He had a strong maiden voyage in 2016, leading New York back to the playoffs. But the weather can change quickly in New York, and McAdoo’s offense, which lacked injured WR Odell Beckham Jr. on Sunday night, was still shockingly inept against a middling Dallas Cowboys D. The Giants better improve quickly, or the tabloids will be calling for McAdoo’s newly coiffed head soon enough.

7. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans: He’s guided a flawed roster to three consecutive 9-7 finishes, the last two good enough for AFC South crowns. But this team’s obvious weakness is the quarterback position, and O’Brien hasn’t been able to fix it — which was apparent again Sunday. He’s earned time to develop rookie Deshaun Watson, who seems to be the best hope O’Brien’s had for a solution. But if the Texans crater, and Watson doesn’t make strides over the course of the season, O’Brien might find himself in jeopardy.

***

NEW YORK (AP) — After the opening week of the NFL season, it’s so easy to overreact, given such a small sample.

That’s not an issue for the Green Bay Packers. They started the season last week at No. 2 in the first AP Pro32 poll and opened with a 17-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

And after the defending champion New England Patriots were routed in their opener, the Packers took advantage.

Green Bay grabbed the top spot in the latest AP Pro32 poll , which was released on Tuesday, receiving seven of 12 first-place votes for 376 points in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.

“The Packers take the top spot because in Week 1, they looked like they finally have the championship-level defense to match their QB,” said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback. “A big test will be to see if they can keep it up this week against Atlanta.”

In all, six teams received a first-place vote.

The Kansas City Chiefs earned one of those first-place votes to reach 367 points, jumping five places to No. 2 in the poll after opening the season with a 42-27 win against the Patriots.

“That’s the best game of Alex Smith’s career, as the veteran quarterback shuts down any thoughts of anointing rookie Patrick Mahomes as the Chiefs’ starter,” Newsday’s Bob Glauber said. “Smith obliterated Bill Belichick’s defense and made it clear Kansas City will be a major player in the AFC.”

Coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs will host the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Reid coached the Eagles for 14 seasons and reached the playoffs nine times.

The Dallas Cowboys also earned a first-place vote and finished with 331 points, moving up five places to No. 3 after a 19-3 win over the rival New York Giants.

The Patriots fell from No. 1 to No. 4 and will look to rebound in New Orleans on Sunday against Drew Brees and the Saints.

“The soft Saints face a hard truth — they are catching an enraged Tom Brady on the rebound,” Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio said.

New England also received a first-place vote and trails Dallas by only two points.

The Atlanta Falcons stayed at No. 5 and will open their new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium when they host the Packers on Sunday night in a rematch of the NFC championship game.

The Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers were tied at No. 6. Both received a first-place vote and have 327 points, trailing Atlanta by one.

Seattle, which lost to the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, dropped five spots to No. 8.

The Minnesota Vikings moved up six spots to No. 9 after opening with a win against the Saints. Minnesota faces a test this week when it goes on the road to take on the Steelers.

The Carolina Panthers gained three spots to round out the top 10.

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(###) Number of first place votes
 
1
Record: 1-0
PV Rank

2

Points

376

2
Record: 1-0
7
367
3
Record: 1-0
8
331
4
Record: 0-1
1
329
5
Record: 1-0
5
328
6
Record: 1-0
4
327
6
Record: 1-0
6
327
8
Record: 0-1
3
297
9
Record: 1-0
15
282
10
Record: 1-0
13
267
11
Record: 1-0
17
261
12
Record: 1-0
22
248
13
Record: 1-0
19
244
14
Record: 1-0
18
243
15
Record: 0-0
12
210
16
Record: 0-1
10
187
17
Record: 0-1
9
184
18
Record: 0-0
16
180
19
Record: 1-0
27
177
20
Record: 1-0
30
153
21
Record: 0-1
24
134
22
Record: 0-1
14
131
23
Record: 0-1
21
125
24
Record: 0-1
11
121
25
Record: 1-0
28
111
26
Record: 0-1
23
89
27
Record: 0-1
20
82
28
Record: 0-1
29
80
29
Record: 0-1
31
59
30
Record: 0-1
26
37
31
Record: 0-1
25
28
32
Record: 0-1
32
21

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

Fantasy Football: Week One Adjustments for Fantasy Drafts

(PhatzRadio Sports)    —-    Week one of the NFL season offered all the drama and thrills we’ve come to expect from it, and you may now feel regretful at not having joined a fantasy football league. The good news is that it’s not too late! A number of sites like Playdraft allow you to sign up for a fantasy league even after the first week is in the books.

If you’re going to draft a team before week two, you’re going to need to update your player rankings based on what we’ve seen in week one. In the NFL, everything can change in an instant, and there are a number of players for whom circumstances have changed.

David Johnson – RB, Cardinals

Look no further than David Johnson, who was most likely the number one overall pick in most fantasy drafts before week one. The do-it-all running back suffered a wrist injury in week one, and will likely miss the next eight to twelve weeks.

Johnson’s value falls tremendously, though not entirely. A healthy David Johnson could be the key to winning playoff matches in your fantasy league. But you have to make the playoffs first, and all that missed time will be costly. Look to grab Johnson late if the opportunity presents itself, but he’s no longer and early round pick.

The Cardinals will turn to a committee of Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington in Johnson’s absence, and Williams is the guy expected to get the lion’s share of carries.

Jordan Howard – RB, Bears

Unlike David Johnson, Jordan Howard remains perfectly healthy, and put up a decent (if unspectacular) week one line of 52 yards rushing and a touchdown. What drops Howard’s stock is the emergence of rooking running back Tariq Cohen, who was one of the breakout stars in all of the NFL.

Cohen, a 5’6″ speedster nicknamed the Human Joystick, racked up more than 100 combined yards and a touchdown, and looks like the Bears’ most electric offensive weapon. A lot of Howard’s value lay in the belief that he was the uncontested number one focal point of the Bears’ offense. Take that away, and now his value declines a little bit.

Howard is still a top 20 option at the running back position, but he ought to be dropped at least a round in your draft. Meanwhile, Cohen is an intriguing option in the mid rounds.

Tom Brady – QB, Patriots

Heading into the 2017 season, Tom Brady was solidly in the top three fantasy quarterbacks with Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. While Brady is 40+ years old, the believe was that his strong play in 2016 and devotion to fitness meant that the New England signal caller could stave off an age related decline for at least another year, if not several.

Week one against the Chiefs, Brady looked disturbingly mediocre, completing fewer than 50% of his passes and at times looking out of sync with the New England offense in a way that we’re not used to seeing. It’s possible that week one is a blip on the radar, and that Brady will return to his usual form for the rest of the season. But that week one performance is enough to knock Brady out the to top quarterback tier, at the very least.

Instead of drafting Brady in the first or second round, target either Rodgers or Brees, or wait a round or two and snag Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota.

NFL Today, Week 1

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SCOREBOARD

Monday, Sept. 11

New Orleans at Minnesota, 7:10 p.m. EDT. The Saints’ Drew Brees had a NFL-leading 5,208 yards passing last season, a record seventh time he’s topped the league, and will play out the final year of his contract with New Orleans. Sam Bradford is coming off a career-best season for Minnesota, and also is playing 2017 on an expiring deal while the Vikings wait for 2014 first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater to recover from a severe knee injury last summer.

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Los Angeles Chargers at Denver, 10:20 p.m. EDT. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is 3-9 in his last 12 games against Von Miller and the Broncos, with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Rivers also has been sacked 37 times by Denver in that span, including 13 by Miller. Vance Joseph will be making his head coaching debut for the Broncos.

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STARS

Passing

— Matthew Stafford, Lions, tossed four touchdown passes and went 29 of 41 for 292 yards with an interception in his first game as the NFL’s highest-paid player, leading Detroit to a 35-23 victory over Arizona.

— Matt Ryan, Falcons, threw for 321 yards and a touchdown in Atlanta’s 23-17 win at Chicago.

— Carson Wentz, Eagles, passed for 307 yards and two scores to help Philadelphia top Washington 30-17.

— Jared Goff, Rams, went 21 of 29 for a career-high 306 yards and a TD in Los Angeles’ 46-9 rout of Indianapolis.

— Derek Carr, Raiders, had 262 yards passing and two touchdowns in Oakland’s 26-16 win at Tennessee — his first game since breaking his right leg late last season.

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Rushing

— LeSean McCoy, Bills, ran for 110 yards on 22 carries in Buffalo’s 21-12 win over the New York Jets.

— Leonard Fournette, Jaguars, had 100 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 attempts in his NFL debut, helping Jacksonville to a 29-7 win at Houston.

— Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, rushed for 104 yards on 26 carries and caught five passes for 36 yards in Dallas’ 19-3 win over the New York Giants.

— Terrance West, Ravens, ran for 80 yards and a TD on 19 carries in Baltimore’s 20-0 victory at Cincinnati.

— Marshawn Lynch, Raiders, had 76 yards rushing on 18 attempts in Oakland’s 26-16 win at Tennessee — his first regular-season game since coming out of retirement.

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Receiving

— Antonio Brown, Steelers, caught 11 passes for 182 yards in Pittsburgh’s 21-18 win at Cleveland.

— Golden Tate, Lions, had 10 receptions for 107 yards as Detroit topped Arizona 35-23.

— Kenny Golladay, Lions, caught two TD passes in his NFL debut to help Detroit defeat Arizona 35-23.

— Nelson Agholor, Eagles, had 86 yards receiving, including a 58-yard TD, in Philadelphia’s 30-17 victory at Washington.

— Austin Hooper, Falcons, had 128 yards receiving and a TD on two catches in Atlanta’s 23-17 win at Chicago.

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Special Teams

— Giorgio Tavecchio, Raiders, kicked field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards in his NFL debut, helping Oakland top Tennessee 26-16.

— Matt Prater, Lions, made a 58-yard field goal and averaged 34.8 yards on four punts — with a long of 47 — in relief of the injured Kasey Redfern in Detroit’s 35-23 victory over Arizona

— Greg Zuerlein, Rams, made all three of his field-goal attempts and five extra points to help kick Los Angeles past Indianapolis 46-9.

— Matt Bryant, Falcons, booted three field goals and two extra points in Atlanta’s 23-17 win at Chicago.

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Defense

— Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars. Campbell had four of Jacksonville’s franchise-record 10 sacks in a 29-7 win at Houston. Ngakoue had two sacks and forced two fumbles.

— Ryan Kerrigan, Redskins, returned an interception of Carson Wentz 24 yards for a touchdown in Washington’s 30-17 loss to Philadelphia. He has scored on all three of his career INTs.

— Brandon Graham, Eagles, had two sacks and forced a fumble in Philadelphia’s 30-17 victory at Washington.

— Terrell Suggs, Ravens, sacked Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton twice and forced a fumble in Baltimore’s 20-0 win.

— T.J. Watt, Steelers. The little brother of J.J. Watt had two sacks and an interception in his NFL debut, helping Pittsburgh to a 21-18 win at Cleveland.

— Justin Bethel, Cardinals, returned Matthew Stafford’s first pass 82 yards for a touchdown in Arizona’s 35-23 loss at Detroit.

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STREAKS & STATS

Philadelphia’s 30-17 win at Washington on Sunday snapped a five-game skid against the Redskins dating to Sept. 9, 2014. The Eagles won at FedEx Field for the first time since 2013. … Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger improved to 21-2 in his career against Cleveland with a 21-18 win. The Steelers also improved to 32-6 against the Browns since 1999. Meanwhile, the Browns have lost 13 straight openers. … Jacksonville had a franchise-record 10 sacks and forced four turnovers against Houston in a 29-7 victory, its first in a season-opener since 2011. … Jets quarterback Josh McCown went 26 of 39 for 187 yards in a 21-12 loss at Buffalo, opening his 15th NFL season by extending his personal losing streak to eight games. The skid dates to Oct. 11, 2015, when he led Cleveland to a 33-30 win over Baltimore. McCown is 1-17 in his last 18 starts. … Aaron Rodgers’ regular-season streak of passes without an interception ended at a career-high 251 when Nazair Jones intercepted him at 9:26 of the first quarter of Green Bay’s 17-9 win over Seattle. It was Rodgers’ first interception since Nov. 13, 2016, at Tennessee. … Atlanta’s Austin Hooper had an 88-yard touchdown reception in the Falcons’ 23-17 win at Chicago, the longest TD catch by a tight end in a season opener in NFL history.

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MILESTONE

Dallas tight end Jason Witten broke the franchise record for yards receiving in the Cowboys’ 19-3 season-opening victory over the Giants. Witten, who scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown on a 12-yard catch and finished with seven catches for 59, broke Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin’s club record of 11,904 yards. Witten, already the franchise leader in catches, now has 1,096 receptions for 11,947 yards. Witten is the only tight end other than Tony Gonzalez with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards.

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RAM TOUGH

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson and safety Lamarcus Joyner each returned interceptions for scores, and defensive end Morgan Fox had a safety in a 46-9 win over Indianapolis. The Rams became the first team in NFL history to return two INTs for TDs and a safety in a season opener.

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STINGY START

Baltimore’s 20-0 win at Cincinnati was the Ravens’ third season-opening shutout. They also blanked Pittsburgh in 2000 and Tampa Bay in 2006, both on the road. The Bengals hadn’t been blanked in their season opener since 1979, when they lost at Denver 10-0. They hadn’t been shut out at Paul Brown Stadium since 2001 by the Bears.

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DIAPER DANDY

The Los Angeles Rams routed the Indianapolis Colts 46-9 Sunday in 31-year-old Sean McVay’s impressive debut as the youngest head coach in modern league history. The Rams produced their highest-scoring performance since November 2014 in their first game since McVay took over a franchise that went 4-12 in its 13th straight non-winning season and 12th straight non-playoff season.

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DEBUTS

Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer ran for a 1-yard TD and threw a 3-yard scoring pass in an impressive debut, but came up just short in the Browns’ 21-18 loss to Pittsburgh. … Houston coach Bill O’Brien replaced Tom Savage with rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime of the Texans’ 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, leaving questions about who will start on Thursday night for a team long plagued with problems at the position. Watson was 12 of 23 for 102 yards and had two carries for 16 yards. Savage managed just 62 yards passing and lost two fumbles, including one which was returned for a touchdown. … Carolina first-round pick Christian McCaffrey had an up-and-down debut in a 23-3 win at San Francisco. The former Stanford star gained 45 yards on 13 carries and added five catches for 38 yards, but also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter.

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BEWARE THE RAVENS

Baltimore’s rebuilt defense picked off Andy Dalton four times and forced him to fumble in the Ravens’ 20-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton has nine three-interception games during his career, four of them against Baltimore. His only other four-interception game also was against the Ravens in the 2013.

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RAIDERS REPLACEMENT

Giorgio Tavecchio kicked field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards in his NFL debut, helping Oakland beat Tennessee 26-16. He was signed Friday to fill in for the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer and 18-year veteran Sebastian Janikowski, who’s on injured reserve with a bad back. Tavecchio became the first player in league history to make two field goals of at least 50 yards in his debut.

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BEAST MODE RETURNS

Marshawn Lynch took the first carry of the game for Oakland and rumbled right over Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey on the Raiders’ final scoring drive on one of his six rushes to set up the clinching field goal in a 26-16 win over Tennessee.

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OPENING ONSIDE

Tennessee became the first team since 2009 to open a season with an onside kick, pulling one off against Oakland in a 26-16 loss. The Minnesota Vikings were the previous, and they also didn’t recover the kick. Ryan Succop’s kick went to Shalom Luani. Derek Carr completed three passes, Marshawn Lynch rumbled 14 yards on his first carry, and Amari Cooper finished the drive with an 8-yard TD catch for a quick 7-0 lead for the Raiders.

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BACK IN BUSINESS

Both Oakland’s Derek Carr and Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota broke their right leg hours apart on Christmas Eve for season-ending injuries — and both were back on the field for the season opener — a 26-16 win by the Raiders. Carr finished his third season by tying Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas for third in voting for the AP MVP award after leading Oakland to a 12-4 season, while Mariota led the Titans to a 9-7 mark in just his second season. Carr threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, while Mariota looked healthy in running for a 10-yard TD and threw for 256 yards.

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SIDELINED

A person familiar with the situation said that Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the season opener. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the team had not released details of Robinson’s injury. Robinson landed awkwardly on his left knee while making a catch in the first quarter of Sunday’s 29-7 victory at Houston and did not return. Tests revealed a season-ending injury, the person said. … Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz and receiver Bruce Ellington all left with concussions. … Arizona running back David Johnson left the Cardinals’ 35-23 at Detroit loss with a wrist injury in the third quarter. Johnson, who led the league with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns last season, was limited to 23 yards rushing on 11 carries and had six receptions for 68 yards. … Baltimore running back Danny Woodhead injured his left hamstring on the opening series and didn’t return to the Ravens’ 20-0 win at Cincinnati. Linebacker Za’Darius Smith hurt his left knee in the second quarter and was helped off the field. … Philadelphia lost cornerback Ronald Darby to what looked like a serious right ankle injury early in the second quarter of the Eagles’ 30-17 win at Washington. Kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made three field goals, was injured late in the game.

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SPEAKING

“Last year was last year. … We just got in there and got back to work. We just got the win today. We just put our head down and continued to work.” — Atlanta’s Julio Jones on opening with a 23-17 win at Chicago while coming off a Super Bowl loss.

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“I could have avoided it if I wanted to, but I felt like I kind of had to take it a little bit.” — a grinning Rams coach Sean McVay after the 31-year-old coach — the youngest in modern NFL history — led Los Angeles to a 46-9 win over Indianapolis in his debut.

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Fantasy Football Drafting For Success – Key Drafting Tips for 2017

(PhatzRadio Sports / DRAFT)   —-    If winning a fantasy football championship is a marathon then winning your fantasy football draft is a carefully researched spring. Every great season of fantasy football starts with a rock solid gameplan that translates into a fantasy draft that sets you up for success. Winging it may have worked in high school, but it won’t have you winning your league’s pot of money or hoisting up the league trophy. Let’s break down the keys you’ll need in order to succeed in 2017’s fantasy football season.

The Role of Sleepers
We’re going to start by introducing you to the concept of sleepers. Sleepers are the underrated players that most casual fantasy football drafters won’t be paying attention to. Sleepers are one of our favorite parts of fantasy football because they allow you to get ahead of the competition and feel super superior when they go off for your team. Sleepers this year aren’t actually going to be rookies, as most rookies come into the draft over-hyped. Instead we’re looking at guys like CJ Anderson and Marshawn Lynch. Anderson gets the lions share of the Denver Broncos running attack and he’s completely healthy. Marshawn Lynch is two years removed from a 1st round draft status and he’s the central running back in Oakland’s high powered offense.

Positional Drafting vs. Needs
You never want to go into a fantasy football draft trying to fill out your roster. Instead you are going to be focusing on creating a roster with as much talent as you possibly can get. If you are in the third round and have two starting running backs, does this mean you pivot and grab a tight end like Travis Kelce when Lamar Miller is still sitting there available? We wouldn’t advise it. Hold off and get your tight end late, running backs and wide receivers are the hardest positions to keep stocked with elite talent.

Mock Drafting for Success
If you want to succeed during your fantasy football draft then you are going to have to spend some time getting into the trenches and practicing. Fantasy football drafts are notoriously fickle and they feel like they speed up once you get into them. That is why we suggest doing a few mock drafts in order to prepare yourself. Mock drafts are available on every major fantasy football platform. You can practice your different draft strategies, focus on your drafting from different positions, and see how your roster shakes out. You’ll find out real quick which ways work and which ways don’t quite cut it. A daily fantasy site named DRAFT is employing snake drafts this year for their DFS fantasy football. These mock drafts will also help you practice for the DFS world now, too.

Scoring Rules Matter
Obviously the goal of every fantasy football team is to rack up as many points as possible, right? While points count the same everywhere, they aren’t racked up in the same ways across different leagues. Check your league’s scoring rules to see if there is anything that makes your league different. Some common variations for fantasy football include PPR and kick return yardage as bonuses. In return yardage leagues a guy like Tyreek Hill or Tyler Lockett can suddenly work as an WR1 or WR2. In standard leagues Hill and Lockett are barely worth rostering.

NFL Preseason: Cut by Browns, Haden signs 3-year deal with Steelers

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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Joe Haden needed a job, a change of scenery and a chance at a Super Bowl.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were more than happy to give the longtime Cleveland Browns cornerback a shot at all three.

The Steelers signed Haden to a three-year contract on Wednesday night just hours after the Browns granted Haden his release.

Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler, gives the defending AFC North champions an upgrade in the secondary in their bid to chase down Super Bowl champion New England.

Haden’s deal has a total value of $27 million said a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because financial details were not released. Initial talks between Pittsburgh and Haden were first reported by ESPN.

The Browns cut Haden earlier Wednesday, breaking ties with one of the few fixtures for a franchise that has spent the entirety of Haden’s seven-year career rebuilding and then rebuilding some more.

They don’t do that in Pittsburgh. The Steelers reached the AFC title game in January only to get blown out by the Patriots, with Tom Brady throwing for 383 yards and three touchdowns.

Pittsburgh made taking a more aggressive approach a top priority and Haden is eager to prove he’s still an elite defender after two subpar seasons marred by injury.

The former first-round draft pick has 19 interceptions in seven seasons, but has been limited to just 18 games the past two years. Haden’s signing adds spice to the season opener between the Browns and Steelers on Sept. 10.

This is the second straight season the Steelers have taken on a former Browns defender late in training camp. Pittsburgh sent a sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft to Cleveland last August for former first-round pick Justin Gilbert. Gilbert never earned a starting spot, played in just 12 games and was released the day after the Super Bowl.

The expectations will be considerably higher for Haden, who will get a shot to line up opposite Artie Burns.

Ross Cockrell and Coty Sensabaugh have spent much of training camp vying for a starting spot, but both could take on lesser roles or perhaps even be out of a job entirely depending on what direction the Steelers want to go in when rosters are trimmed to 53 on Saturday.

The Steelers took cornerback Cam Sutton in the third round of the draft and also have veteran William Gay and Mike Hilton in the mix, among others.

Pittsburgh went 11-5 last season despite a middling performance against the pass. The Steelers finished 16th in yards passing allowed, 15th in interceptions and ninth in sacks, rankings they have said repeatedly during training camp need to improve if they want any chance at catching up with the Patriots.

If Haden can recapture some of the form he displayed in 2013 and 2014, the Steelers could inch closer to ending New England’s vice grip on AFC supremacy.

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OTHER NFL NEWS:

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A person familiar with the discussions says that the Green Bay Packers and free agent linebacker Ahmad Brooks have agreed to a one-year deal.

Brooks was in Green Bay on Tuesday to visit the Packers, who need to add depth at outside linebacker behind starters Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been announced.

NFL.com first reported the agreement.

The 33-year-old Brooks was released by the San Francisco 49ers last week. He is a two-time second-team All-Pro.

Matthews and Perry are nursing minor injuries, and coach Mike McCarthy has said he had no long-term concern about his starters.

But one backup, Kyler Fackrell, hasn’t been productive in three preseason games, and Jayrone Elliott suffered a minor back injury last week against Denver.

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders have signed wide receiver Seth Roberts to a two-year contract extension through 2019.

Roberts was eligible to become a restricted free agent next offseason but now will be under contract through 2019 after signing the deal Wednesday.

Roberts originally signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and spent his first year on the practice squad. He made the roster in 2015 and has played all 32 games since then. He has 70 career catches for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Roberts played hurt last season after having a double sports hernia in training camp. He never told the team about the injury and had surgery in January. He still had 39 catches for 397 yards and five TDs.

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Vontaze Burfict, Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals were vindicated.

Sort of.

James Thrash, the NFL and NFL Players Association’s appeals officer for on-field discipline, ruled to reduce Burfict’s five-game suspension to three games on Wednesday, the league announced.

In a release from the NFL, Thrash ruled the three games came down because of “repeated violations of player safety rules.”

In the letter notifying Burfict of his suspension, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote:

“This is not your first offense with respect to illegal hits to defenseless players; to the contrary, this incident is consistent with your pattern of egregious safety-related violations including your hit on a defenseless player during the 2015 Wild Card game and your hit against a Baltimore tight end away from the play on January 3, 2016…When players violate the rules intended to protect player safety on a repeated basis, and particularly when the violations carry with them a significant risk of injury to an opposing player…you must be held accountable for this continuing unacceptable conduct.”

The Bengals linebacker was initially disciplined for breaking two rules for a hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman on Aug. 19 – hitting a player in a defenseless posture and unnecessary roughness.

The defenseless posture rule specifically protects the head and neck area, and Burfict and the Bengals staunchly maintained that the linebacker hit Sherman in the chest – though Sherman’s head did snap back upon contact.

“I hit harder than most of the other linebackers,” Burfict said. “He kind of crunched up. I lowered my target, hit him straight in the chest. I talked to him the next series to see if he was alright and he said yeah, that’s a legal hit. You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel when you come across the middle and everybody knows that.”

After hearing Burfict’s appeal via conference call on Tuesday, Thrash ruled that the five-game penalty was too severe.

One of the reasons the NFL gave for suspending Burfict for the first three games to start the 2016 season was because “Burfict’s action placed his opponent at unnecessary risk of injury and should have been avoided,” referencing his hit to the helmet of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in an AFC wild-card game.

Before Thrash’s ruling came down, Burfict admitted his play is scrutinized at a different level than others at his position.

“It’s always like that. It’s always like that,” he said. “I see other linebackers do the same thing I do but obviously they don’t get called for it. It’s always like that. It’s been like that since I can remember.”

That said, when Burfict was asked flat-out if he was going to change the way he played, he didn’t blink.

“Nope.”

He won’t be able to play now until Oct. 1 – at the Cleveland Browns.

It is the third straight season in which the Bengals will be without the 2013 Pro Bowler to start the year. Burfict missed the first six games of the 2015 season due to his recovery from a knee injury, and he missed the first three games of last season due to a suspension.

“We understand where the NFL is going and how we’re trying to protect players,” said fellow linebacker Vinny Rey, who was surprised at the magnitude of the discipline and had expected it to be reduced.

“But I’ve been in this position before. We as a team have been in this position before. I’ll be out there. It may be done by committee off us as linebackers, but we’ll be out there and we know what to do. We’re going to line up against (Joe) Flacco (against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 10) or whoever is at quarterback and fly around and to them from scoring.”

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns made their final move with offensive lineman Cam Erving, another of the team’s first-round busts.

Erving, who was shifted from guard to center to tackle during two seasons with Cleveland, was traded Wednesday to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2018 fifth-round draft pick. It ends a disappointing stay in Cleveland for the No. 19 overall pick in 2015.

Erving’s versatility had attracted him to the Browns, who were convinced the former Florida State standout could be a building block in their turnaround.

However, Erving struggled wherever the Browns put him and the team decided to cut ties with their second first-round pick in hours.

Earlier, the team released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden, the No. 7 overall pick in 2010 whose injuries, age and high-priced contract didn’t mesh with the long-term plans of the team’s analytics-guided front office.

Since 2011, seven players drafted by the Browns in the first round are no longer with the team. Erving joins an inglorious list includes Johnny Manziel, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden and Barkevious Mingo.

The Browns used Erving as a guard during his rookie season, but he was overmatched. The team shifted him to center last season after Pro Bowler Alex Mack left as a free agent, but Erving wasn’t much better.

The 6-foot-5, 313-pounder Erving has been sidelined with a calf injury in recent weeks and limited in practice.

The Browns had been looking to deal him and were able to extract a higher pick than expected from the Chiefs, who were thought to be settled along the offensive line.

Former No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher and standout Mitchell Schwartz, who excelled for many years with the Browns, are the starting offensive tackles, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif got a big contract this offseason to man one guard spot and upstart Bryan Witzmann is at the other, while Mitch Morse has emerged as one of the league’s best centers.

But as a former offensive line coach, Kansas City coach Andy Reid understands that you can never have too many capable bodies.

So while it’s unclear exactly where Erving will fit into the mix, he is likely to serve as a backup at multiple spots, potentially handling the swing tackle job Jah Reid has had for a few years.

Regardless, it’s the second aggressive move made by new Chiefs general manager Brett Veach this week. He shipped a fourth-round pick in 2019 to Buffalo to acquire inside linebacker Reggie Ragland, who was the Bills’ second-round pick last year.

And for Cleveland, the deal adds to their bounty of picks in 2018. At this point, the Browns have 13 selections, including two in the first round and three in the second — ammunition to accelerate their rebuild.

Always accountable despite his struggles, Erving started 13 games last season, 12 at center and one at right tackle. In 2015, he played in all 16 games and made two starts at each guard position.

Cleveland’s offensive line was ravaged by injuries last year, but Erving helped the Browns finish second in the NFL by averaging 4.9 yards per attempt.

Erving made 42 consecutive starts in college, beginning his career with the Seminoles as a defensive lineman before moving to offensive tackle.

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.

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More AP NFL: http://pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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