Vote of confidence: Politicians eye Saleh for Lions

Vote of confidence: Politicians eye Saleh for Lions

A group of Michigan state legislators have sent a letter to Detroit Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp urging her to hire San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as the team’s next head coach.

Saleh, who is a native of Dearborn, Michigan, grew up in the state, played college football in the state and his family has long football ties to Michigan State University and the state’s football history.

“We understand the difficulty of these upcoming decisions,” the letter reads. “As passionate and loyal Lions fans, we are asking you to hire Robert Saleh as the head coach of our team. He is the best candidate for the job and measures as such across every metric. A head coach like Robert can bring tremendous energy and heart to the franchise and would help us reach peaks that have seemed unobtainable for so long. We have an exceptional opportunity here and we trust you to make the best decision.

“To turn the corner and become a winning franchise, these next hiring decisions are critical. We hope that you will consider Robert Saleh as the head coach, not only for us, but for everyone across the loyal fanbase of our beloved Detroit Lions.”

The letter, authored by Rep. Abdullah Hammoud and his staff, also thanked Hamp for making the decision to fire general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia on Saturday after two-plus seasons — saying those were necessary to move forward.

Hamp said Saturday the team is going to cast a wide net in looking at potential candidates for the head coach and general manager positions, including possibilities at the college and professional levels, putting no barriers on her search.

“We’re going to be looking at everything,” Hamp said.

A message left for the Lions seeking comment was not immediately returned to ESPN.

The Lions have won one playoff game in the Super Bowl era — in the 1991 season — and haven’t won a division title since 1993. They are replacing Patricia, who went 13-29-1 in two-plus seasons leading the team.

Which is part of why Rep. Hammoud and his fellow legislators felt compelled to write to Hamp with their suggestion. Hammoud, who like Saleh is from Dearborn, said he knows Saleh’s family but has never met Saleh. Hammoud said he got support from both Democrat and Republican legislators and from all parts of the state from the Upper Peninsula to Detroit.

“A lot of us in the Legislature love the Lions and we decided why not throw out a helping hand,” Hammoud told ESPN. “And kind of guide them kind of toward the coach that we’d like to see come home, who is a Michigan man.”

Hammoud said more than 40 legislators were thinking about signing the letter. Hammoud said many of the legislators are Lions fans and watch the Lions consistently.

He said a few legislators didn’t want to sign the letter, even though they preferred Saleh, because they didn’t want to jinx him. Hammoud said in stressful times, it was fun to talk about the Lions for a few minutes garnering the signatures to put this together.

“In the time of COVID also, we all kind of lean on our sports teams,” Hammoud said. “We all kind of watch together, we watch, chat about it online, social media, whatever it might be, so we really want the Lions to succeed in some capacity.”

The 41-year-old Saleh went to Northern Michigan and coached at Michigan State, Central Michigan and Georgia on the college level. He’s been San Francisco’s defensive coordinator since 2017 and prior to that was a linebackers coach in Jacksonville and a defensive assistant in Houston and Seattle.

Published at Fri, 04 Dec 2020 16:03:52 +0000

Ravens-Steelers PPD to Wednesday at 3:40 p.m.

Ravens-Steelers PPD to Wednesday at 3:40 p.m.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The COVID-19 outbreak in Baltimore has led to the RavensSteelers game being postponed to Wednesday.

The game is scheduled to kick off at 3:40 p.m. ET. It becomes the first game of the NFL season to get postponed three times. The game is kicking off at 3:40 p.m. because NBC, which is broadcasting the game, wanted to honor its commitment to broadcast the 88th Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday night, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

With the latest postponement, the Steelers’ Week 13 game on Sunday against the Washington Football Team will now be played Monday at 5 p.m. ET, and the Ravens’ Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys, which had already been moved once to Dec. 7, will now be played Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 8:05 p.m. ET.

While the Steelers-Washington game was pushed to Monday, the Ravens’ game against the Cowboys was pushed to Tuesday because of scheduling, a league source told ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.

“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a statement.

The Steelers preferred to play the Ravens this week, rather than postponing to later in the season, like a Week 18 game, because of the “can of worms” that could open, sources told Pryor. The Steelers were also in favor of pushing the Sunday game against the Washington Football Team to Monday for an added day of rest, sources said.

The Week 12 game between the Ravens and Steelers that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night — and was moved to Sunday and then Tuesday night — was shifted for the third time. This will mark the NFL’s first game on Wednesday since the 2012 season opener between the Cowboys and New York Giants, which was scheduled for that day to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday.

The latest postponement came after the Ravens players said Monday in a teleconference meeting that they did not want to play Tuesday because of concerns over safety. Baltimore had another positive test on Monday, making it nine straight days with at least one player testing positive. The source added that one suggestion from the players was to move the game to Thursday, but the NFL compromised by shifting it to Wednesday.

The Ravens will hold a walkthrough Monday night and will hold another one before departing for Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Baltimore hasn’t had a full practice since Nov. 20, a span of 10 days.

“This evening, we hosted a safely distanced walk-through/conditioning session at the Under Armour Performance Center,” the Ravens said in a statement Monday. “Players arrived already prepared to work out on the field, and they did not enter the locker room or training room. “We intend to hold another walk-through session on Tuesday, in preparation for traveling to Pittsburgh Tuesday evening.”

For the Ravens, Monday was perhaps the strangest day in what has been one of the most challenging weeks in franchise history. Players had reported to the team facility about a half hour before the scheduled 9:30 a.m. practice when the NFL canceled it to wait for the latest test results, a source said. The Ravens waited most of the day not knowing whether they would practice again that afternoon and board a plane to play the NFL’s only undefeated team. The day ended with the game between AFC North rivals getting moved for the third time in six days.

Baltimore is in the midst of one of the largest outbreaks in professional sports. The Ravens have had 22 players test positive or get identified as a high-risk close contact over the past nine days.

At least a dozen Ravens players have tested positive, including reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, along with five Pro Bowl players: defensive end Calais Campbell, tight end Mark Andrews, outside linebacker Matthew Judon, running back Mark Ingram and fullback Patrick Ricard.

The Ravens still have 20 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Baltimore added four players (Andrews, Judon, wide receiver Willie Snead IV and cornerback Terrell Bonds) and removed four players (outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, cornerback Iman Marshall and defensive tackle Broderick Washington). Marshall will revert to injured reserve.

Running backs JK Dobbins and Ingram will be eligible to play Wednesday but 13 Ravens players, including Jackson, will remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list, a source told Schefter.

As of Monday evening, the Ravens have 38 players on their 53-man roster after guard Tyre Phillips (shoulder) was activated off injured reserve and cornerback Davontae Harris was officially signed.

Monday’s round of Ravens tests produced one new positive result, but it’s a player on injured reserve who hasn’t had close contact with anyone else, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

The only other game this season that had previously been postponed twice was a Week 5 game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Positive coronavirus tests in New England pushed that game from Oct. 11 to Oct. 12 before it was played on Oct. 18.

The Ravens-Steelers game becomes the second Wednesday game in the NFL since 1948. The last one before the 2012 season opener was Sept. 22, 1948, when the Los Angeles Rams played the Detroit Lions.

Published at Tue, 01 Dec 2020 02:47:56 +0000

NFL Week 12 guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every game

NFL Week 12 guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every game

The Week 12 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 12 slate, including a big matchup between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. (Games are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)

Jump to a matchup:

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
61.1 | Spread: ARI -2 (49.5)

What to watch for: The Cardinals lead the NFL in accepted penalties (79), while the Patriots have the fewest in the league (36). But the Patriots are coming off a rare seven-penalty game in a loss to Houston, which could be a sign that things are headed in the wrong direction for them. How much does the penalty discrepancy show up on Sunday? — Mike Reiss

Bold prediction: Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will make up for his injured right shoulder with his feet. He’ll run for 125 yards — a career high — as the defense-minded Bill Belichick will be forced to pull out all the stops while trying to slow the young phenom. — Josh Weinfuss

Stat to know: Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins leads the NFL with 912 receiving yards. He is seeking to become just the fifth Cardinals player in the Super Bowl era with at least 1,000 receiving yards through 11 team games and the first since Larry Fitzgerald did it in 2008.

Injuries: Cardinals | Patriots

What to know for fantasy: Feeling lucky? Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk has as many 20-point fantasy games this season as he does games with eight or fewer fantasy points (three). See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Arizona is 5-2 against the spread (ATS) in games starting at 1 p.m. ET in the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray era. Read more.

Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 34, Patriots 17
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 27, Cardinals 24
FPI prediction: ARI, 51.8% (by an average of 0.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Among Kingsbury’s New England lessons: He was not the next BradyAfter struggling vs. Watson, Pats’ defense gets Murray next

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
59.5 | Spread: IND -3 (51.5)

What to watch for: It will be all about the Colts’ defense vs. Titans running back Derrick Henry. Henry has individual bragging rights against the Colts’ stingy defense because he has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the past two meetings. That’s not easy to do. — Mike Wells

Bold prediction: Henry will rush for 125 yards against a Colts defense that is allowing only 89.2 yards on the ground per game (third in the NFL). Henry is the only back to gain 100 or more rushing yards against the Colts in the past two seasons, and he’ll get his third consecutive 100-yard day this week. — Turron Davenport

Stat to know: Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the Colts could become the first team to win three straight games against opponents with a .700 or better win percentage this late in the season (Week 10 or later) since the 1970 Lions. A win also would give them their best record through 11 games since starting 14-0 in 2009.

Injuries: Titans | Colts

What to know for fantasy: Tennessee wide receiver Corey Davis is coming off his third 100-yard performance of the season and has quietly scored at least 11.7 points in seven of eight games this season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: When quarterback Ryan Tannehill starts regular-season games for Tennessee, overs are 17-3, including 8-2 this season. Read more.

Davenport’s pick: Colts 27, Titans 24
Wells’ pick: Colts 31, Titans 27
FPI prediction: IND, 52.3% (by an average of 0.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Titans rediscover late-game magic in time for playoff pushRookies rising to head of the class for surging ColtsFantasy fallout: Will Colts keep riding Taylor, Pittman?



Field Yates says as Michael Pittman Jr. continues to trend up, you should add the Colts WR if he is a free agent in your fantasy league.

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
51.4 | Spread: LV -3 (54)

What to watch for: The Raiders proved once again that they can hang with the reigning Super Bowl champs in a thrilling 35-31 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night. But it was still a loss, and now Las Vegas can’t afford many more of them in a tight race for the AFC wild-card spots. The Raiders need to take advantage of a matchup against the Falcons, who have been much more competitive than their record suggests. — Mike Triplett

Bold prediction: The Raiders’ pass rush will get to Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan for at least three sacks. Las Vegas’ lack of a pass rush has been an issue (11 sacks rank 31st in the NFL), but Ryan took eight of them last week. Recent signees Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley — both former Falcons — will provide much-needed scouting reports on Atlanta. — Paul Gutierrez

Stat to know: Ryan’s 82 Total QBR since Week 6 is third best in the NFL over that span. He began the season with a 61 Total QBR over the first five weeks, which ranked 21st in the NFL.

Injuries: Raiders | Falcons

What to know for fantasy: Raiders tight end Darren Waller is adding upside to his stable fantasy base. Over the past two weeks, he is averaging 12.5 yards per catch, up from 7.9. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Las Vegas has covered six of its past seven road games (4-1 ATS this season). Read more.

Gutierrez’s pick: Raiders 31, Falcons 30
Triplett’s pick: Raiders 27, Falcons 23
FPI prediction: LV, 52.3% (by an average of 0.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Raiders guard Incognito out for the year after foot surgeryFalcons’ pass-protection woes reemerge on eight-sack day for Ryan

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
48.6 | Spread: BUF -5.5 (53)

What to watch for: The Chargers rank third in the NFL in total offense and will be the fifth team in the top five in that area to play the Bills this season. Buffalo has allowed, on average, 454 yards of offense and 31 points in its games against the other four teams, going 2-2. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Bold prediction: Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert will have another huge day, passing for more than 300 yards and establishing himself as the player to beat for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He already has five days of 300-plus yards passing this season, and the Bills are allowing a middle-of-the-pack 238.7 per game. — Shelley Smith

Stat to know: The Bills enter this game coming off a bye week. They have won five straight games following a bye, tied with Titans for the longest active streak in the NFL.

Injuries: Chargers | Bills

What to know for fantasy: Week 3 was the last time Herbert failed to finish a game as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. The potential of the rookie gets the attention, but for fantasy managers, his high floor is just as appealing. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: The over is 8-2 in Buffalo games this season, tied for the highest mark in the league. Read more.

Smith’s pick: Chargers 34, Bills 24
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 30, Chargers 24
FPI prediction: BUF, 73.4% (by an average of 8.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Herbert has career day as Chargers hold off Jets lateBills assistant Chad Hall brings energy, dancing, results to dynamic WR unit‘I could only go backwards’: Chargers’ Ekeler speaks about hamstring tear

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
44.4 | Spread: MIN -3.5 (51)

What to watch for: Will Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen suit up for Week 12? The Pro Bowler was moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, though it’s unclear whether he tested positive for the coronavirus or was deemed a close contact, the latter of which would increase the likelihood of him playing against Carolina. Thielen is coming off his best game of the season (8 catches, 123 yards, 2 TDs) and leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns. He would be sorely missed if he’s unavailable on Sunday. — Courtney Cronin

Bold prediction: Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will pass for 300 yards and two touchdowns in his return to Minnesota as a starter for the first time since he suffered a horrific left knee injury during the Vikings’ 2016 training camp. Minnesota ranks 26th in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 260.7 yards per game, but has allowed no quarterback to top 300 yards in the past four games and only three all season. — David Newton

Stat to know: Vikings running back Dalvin Cook‘s 13 rushing touchdowns this season are tied for the most in a team’s first 10 games in the past 10 seasons (Todd Gurley in 2018). The last player with 14-plus through 11 games was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 (21).

Injuries: Panthers | Vikings

What to know for fantasy: After going over 17.5 fantasy points in four of five games to open the season, Panthers receiver Robby Anderson has been held under 15.5 in every game since. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: All five Minnesota home games have gone over the total this season. Read more.

Newton’s pick: Vikings 27, Panthers 24
Cronin’s pick: Vikings 26, Panthers 24
FPI prediction: MIN, 68.9% (by an average of 6.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Big payday celebration might be coming for SamuelWhat does a path to the playoffs look like for the 4-6 Vikings?Walker good enough to beat LionsZimmer calls out issues with Vikings’ young defense

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
16.2 | Spread: MIA -7 (44)

What to watch for: The Jets will face a rookie quarterback for the second week in a row. It can’t go any worse than it did last week against the Chargers’ Justin Herbert, who passed for a season-high 366 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t have as many playmakers as Herbert has at his disposal. Then again, the Jets are so young and bereft of talent that it wouldn’t be a surprise if they struggle again. — Rich Cimini

Bold prediction: The Dolphins won’t allow the Jets to score a touchdown. The Jets are averaging an NFL-low 15 points per game but have scored at least three touchdowns in each of their past two games. The Dolphins showed their defensive prowess in their first meeting in Miami, getting a shutout, and they’ll duplicate it with another strong performance in a bounce-back game this Sunday. — Cameron Wolfe

Stat to know: Miami has forced a turnover in 16 straight games dating to last season, the longest active streak in the NFL. A 17th consecutive game would match the longest such streak by the Dolphins since 2000-01.

Injuries: Dolphins | Jets

What to know for fantasy: Jets receiver Breshad Perriman has turned 20 Joe Flacco targets into 50.7 fantasy points. In a small sample size, that rate (2.54) ranks in the same breath as DK Metcalf from Russell Wilson (2.41) and Davante Adams from Aaron Rodgers (2.34) this season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Miami is 16-6 ATS since its Week 5 bye last season, the best mark in the league. Read more.

Wolfe’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 9
Cimini’s pick: Dolphins 24, Jets 13
FPI prediction: MIA, 66.6% (by an average of 5.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Tagovailoa’s benching a lesson for young QB — and the DolphinsAs Jets flirt with 0-16, RB Gore says, ‘I can’t go out like that’

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
14.0 | Spread: NYG -6 (44)

What to watch for: Cincinnati is playing its first game of the season without rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, and the other options on the depth chart — Ryan Finley and Brandon Allen, who is getting the start — are not nearly as potent as the 2020 top overall draft pick. The Giants are looking to win their third straight game and stay in the mix to win a woeful NFC East. — Ben Baby

Bold prediction: The Giants will win despite two turnovers from quarterback Daniel Jones. It doesn’t matter that they are 0-5 this year when he commits two or more turnovers. This time the Giants are the better team. They will be able to overcome the miscues (coming off two clean games) for the first time this season. — Jordan Raanan

Stat to know: The Giants are seeking their first three-game winning streak since 2016. They are the only NFL team without a three-game winning streak in past four seasons.

Injuries: Giants | Bengals

What to know for fantasy: Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins led the team in targets from Finley last week after the Burrow injury, but it is Tyler Boyd who has more experience with the backup, as he saw 21 targets in three games with Finley last season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Giants have covered eight straight road games, including all five under coach Joe Judge this season. Read more.

Raanan’s pick: Giants 22, Bengals 13
Baby’s pick: Giants 24, Bengals 10
FPI prediction: NYG, 54.8% (by an average of 1.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Here’s how the Giants, feeling good at 3-7, can win the NFC EastWhat Burrow’s injury means for the Bengals’ rebuild



Field Yates says Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins will be boom or bust in fantasy as the Bengals’ offense finds its way without Joe Burrow at the helm.

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
13.0 | Spread: CLE -6 (49.5)

What to watch for: The Jaguars’ best chance for success is to get running back James Robinson going. He is on pace to break Dominic Rhodes’ record for most yards from scrimmage by an undrafted rookie and has been the Jaguars’ lone bright spot on offense. If the Browns, who rank eighth in run defense, can limit Robinson, they should be able to tee off on Mike Glennon — who gets the start at quarterback for Jacksonville this week — even though they won’t have edge rusher Myles Garrett. It could be another long day for the Jaguars’ QBs. — Mike DiRocco

Bold prediction: After failing to throw a TD pass over three games for the first time in his career, in large part due to inclement weather, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will bounce back with three touchdown throws in Jacksonville. — Jake Trotter

Stat to know: The Jaguars are the only team in danger of being eliminated from playoff contention in Week 12 (the Jets are already eliminated), which can happen with a loss. A 10th straight loss would mark the longest losing streak within a single season in franchise history. The Browns, meanwhile, are seeking to match their best 11-game start to a season in the past 30 seasons (8-3 in 1994).

Injuries: Browns | Jaguars

What to know for fantasy: Robinson leads the league in carry share this season and is coming off his first game with both a 15-plus-yard rush and a 15-plus-yard catch. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Mayfield is 1-5 ATS in his career as a road favorite (2-4 straight up). Read more.

Trotter’s pick: Browns 28, Jaguars 14
DiRocco’s pick: Browns 27, Jaguars 21
FPI prediction: CLE, 65.7% (by an average of 5.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: Winning ugly? Who cares? All that matters is Browns are winningWho is Jaguars’ starting QB?Minus Garrett, Browns’ defense delivers win over EaglesJaguars defensive coaches working remotely amid COVID-19 protocols

4:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
81.3 | Spread: LAR -6.5 (45)

What to watch for: The Rams have lost three straight to Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, who effectively shut down the Los Angeles offense in a 24-16 Week 6 win this season. The Rams’ defense has been stout, but their offense must find a way to execute against a short-handed 49ers defense that has not only kept the pressure on quarterback Jared Goff but has also slowed the Rams’ ability to run in their most recent three matchups. — Lindsey Thiry

Bold prediction: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will have at least two sacks. The Niners neutralized Donald in the first matchup with a strong outside running game and quick-hitting passing game, but the Rams will be better prepared for that approach this time, and the 49ers are still working with moving parts on the interior of the offensive line. Donald hasn’t had a sack in the past two games, but he’ll make up for it here. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: The Rams have allowed 4.74 yards per play when sending four or fewer pass-rushers, the third-lowest average in the past 15 seasons (2008 Steelers and 2019 Patriots). Opposing quarterbacks have a 34.6 QBR when the Rams send four or fewer, lowest in the NFL.

Injuries: 49ers | Rams

What to know for fantasy: In each of his past three games, 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk has produced as a top-20 fantasy receiver. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: San Francisco is coming off a bye, while Los Angeles is coming off a Monday night game. Since 2017, teams coming off a bye are 2-9 ATS against teams coming off a Monday game. Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: Rams 30, 49ers 24
Thiry’s pick: Rams 28, 49ers 17
FPI prediction: LAR, 53.9% (by an average of 1.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: 49ers’ Kinlaw remains a work in progress to replace BucknerEx-Bucs kicker Gay lifts Rams: ‘You can’t write it’49ers left tackle Williams tests positive for coronavirusHow ‘Dawgwork’ has taken Rams’ defensive line to new heights

4:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
57.2 | Spread: NO -7 (42.5)

What to watch for: With his injury-ravaged defense, how will Broncos coach Vic Fangio keep Saints quarterback Taysom Hill in the pocket and make him at least a little uncomfortable when he is going through his progressions? Fangio has made life somewhat difficult for young quarterbacks in the first time they face his defense, and while Hill is no rookie as a player, he still has just 41 career pass attempts, with 23 of those coming last week. — Jeff Legwold

Bold prediction: Hill and running back Alvin Kamara will each throw their first career TD passes. Why not? The Saints used Kamara in some Wildcat formations last week while getting creative during QB Drew Brees‘ absence, and he is 1-for-1 in his career throwing the ball. Hill, meanwhile, had two rushing touchdowns but no passing TDs in his first career start at quarterback last week. — Mike Triplett

Stat to know: The Saints are one of four teams with five or more games of 15-plus quarterback pressures (Buccaneers, Chiefs and Rams). They had 18 last week against the Falcons.

Injuries: Saints | Broncos

What to know for fantasy: Kamara has only one game this season with 15-plus carries, making the first zero-catch performance of his NFL career last week with Hill under center that much more concerning in terms of sustaining fantasy excellence. Kamara was a top-10 RB in each of his first nine games this season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Since the start of last season, New Orleans is 6-0 ATS and straight up without Brees — Teddy Bridgewater and Hill were the fill-ins — despite being an underdog in four of the six games. Read more.

Triplett’s pick: Saints 26, Broncos 20
Legwold’s pick: Saints 23, Broncos 21
FPI prediction: NO, 69% (by an average of 6.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Saints’ Payton adds to legacy by betting on HillWhere is Broncos quarterback Lock on the learning curve?

4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
98.1 | Spread: KC -3 (56)

What to watch for: The Chiefs’ pass defense may be looking suspect in recent weeks, but the Bucs’ defense just gave up a season-high 376 passing yards to the Rams, mainly due to missed tackles and coverage breakdowns. The Buccaneers are also allowing a 69.2% completion percentage against the blitz — fourth worst in the league — and getting picked apart in their zone coverages. It could be a long day against the defending Super Bowl champs, although Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady has shown that he can bounce back after tough losses. — Jenna Laine

Bold prediction: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will combine with Brady for at least six touchdown passes. The two — despite playing in some high-scoring head-to-head battles — have never combined for more than five in a game. But the Chiefs are playing poor pass defense of late; they allowed five touchdown throws in the past two games. Mahomes has 11 TD passes in the past three games. — Adam Teicher

Stat to know: Mahomes has a 98 QBR when blitzed, the highest of any quarterback in a season since QBR was first tracked in 2006, and has thrown 10 touchdowns to zero interceptions when facing the blitz. He has been blitzed at the second-lowest rate in the league (20%), but Tampa Bay sends extra pass-rushers at the second-highest rate (42%) and has forced the most interceptions (seven) with its blitz.

Injuries: Chiefs | Buccaneers

What to know for fantasy: Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill‘s best three performances this season have come in his past three games (85.9 fantasy points in those games). See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Brady is 10-1 ATS and 9-2 outright as a home underdog in his career. Read more.

Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 33, Buccaneers 26
Laine’s pick: Chiefs 31, Buccaneers 28
FPI prediction: KC, 56.4% (by an average of 2.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: Should Chiefs worry about sagging pass-rush production?Arians: Brady’s issue continuity, not confidence



Field Yates and Stephania Bell explain why they don’t believe Tom Brady will perform poorly in back-to-back weeks.

8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
57.7 | Spread: GB -7.5 (45)

What to watch for: It probably doesn’t matter who starts at quarterback for the Bears as long as Aaron Rodgers starts at QB for the Packers and finishes the game. Rodgers and Brett Favre have dominated the Bears. They have a combined 41-15 record against them as members of the Packers, and Rodgers comes in hot, having thrown 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his past five games. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: The Bears’ beleaguered offense will score three touchdowns against the Packers. Trust me, forecasting even a modicum of offensive success for the Bears is the definition of a bold prediction. The Bears’ offense — ranked at or near the bottom in virtually every statistical category — last scored three touchdowns in a game in Week 3. To say the Bears are due is an understatement. They had an extra week to prepare for the Packers, too. If the offense can’t get its act together for this one, it never will. — Jeff Dickerson

Stat to know: Chicago’s defense is limiting opponents to an NFL-leading third-down conversion rate of 33.3% this season, its lowest mark since 2007 (32.7%). The Packers’ offense, meanwhile, ranks fourth in third-down conversion rate at 47.9%, its best mark since 2011 (48.1%).

Injuries: Bears | Packers

What to know for fantasy: Rodgers rattled off his fifth straight game with more than 21 fantasy points in Week 11, but he has failed to reach even 14.5 fantasy points in each of his past three meetings with the Bears. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Green Bay is 5-0 ATS after a loss under coach Matt LaFleur. Read more.

Dickerson’s pick: Packers 30, Bears 21
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 27, Bears 15
FPI prediction: GB, 68.9% (by an average of 6.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: What will it take to keep Robinson in Chicago?If Packers want ‘complementary football,’ try more Jones, better run DNew playcaller, same results: Bears’ offense struggles as skid hits fourPackers’ Valdes-Scantling says he tweeted on threats to show players ‘human, too’

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN
Matchup rating:
62.8 | Spread: SEA -4.5 (50)

What to watch for: Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf erupted for seven catches, 160 yards and a touchdown in the wild-card playoff win over the Eagles in January. Philadelphia has since added cornerback Darius Slay, who will likely be assigned to Metcalf for much of Monday’s game. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz noted that Slay has had success in the past against bigger receivers but that handling Metcalf would be “a great challenge” for the defense. — Tim McManus

Bold prediction: The Seahawks will rush for 200 yards. They rediscovered their running game last week against Arizona, with Carlos Hyde returning from his three-game absence, and they expect to have starter Chris Carson back against Philadelphia after he missed four games. Coach Pete Carroll talked after their win over the Cardinals about how the Seahawks need to run the ball more than they did earlier in the season, when they were leaning on Russell Wilson and the passing game to carry their offense. Jumping out to an early lead will make that a viable game plan on Monday night. — Brady Henderson

Stat to know: Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz leads the league in both interceptions (14) and fumbles (10). Only five players have finished the season as league leader in both categories since the 1970 merger (Blake Bortles in 2015, Jon Kitna in 2007, Daunte Culpepper in 2002, Dave Krieg in 1995 and Joe Ferguson in 1977).

Injuries: Seahawks | Eagles

What to know for fantasy: The Seahawks are allowing 24.2% more WR fantasy points per game than any other defense this season and could prove to be an elixir for a receiver like Travis Fulgham, who has nearly as many targets over the past two weeks (12) as he does yards (16). See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Wentz is 3-7 ATS as a starter this season, tied with Deshaun Watson for the worst ATS record this season among quarterbacks with 10-plus starts. Read more.

Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 28, Eagles 20
McManus’ pick: Seahawks 30, Eagles 24
FPI prediction: SEA, 61.2% (by an average of 3.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Carroll believes embattled Seahawks’ defense has turned a corner Eagles could bench Wentz, but move to Hurts is trickyShow me the money: Hopkins, Wagner become their own agents Metcalf closing in fast on football gloryDunlap’s instant impact puts Clowney in Seahawks’ rearview mirror

Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
90.1 | Spread: PIT -4.5 (45)

What to watch for: The Ravens were able to run all over Pittsburgh earlier this month, but Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins are both going to miss the rematch, as they are both on the reserve/COVID-19 list. And the Steelers’ pressure and ability to make Robert Griffin — who will start in place of Lamar Jackson (also on the list) — uncomfortable are very effective. Look for them to dial it up. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will throw four touchdown passes. Since 2013, he is 4-1 against the Ravens at Heinz Field, throwing 13 touchdowns and three interceptions (104.0 passer rating). And in Baltimore’s four losses this season, the defense has given up 10 touchdown passes and recorded one interception. — Jamison Hensley

Stat to know: The Steelers are the 14th team since the 16-game schedule was introduced (1978) to start with a 10-0 record, and only one of those teams finished with fewer than 13 wins (the 2015 Patriots went 12-4). Pittsburgh can clinch a playoff spot in Week 12 with a victory and losses by the Raiders and Dolphins on Sunday. It would match the earliest clinching since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 (now 14 teams), but only one of the six teams that clinched a postseason spot in Week 12 has gone on to win the Super Bowl (Washington in 1991).

Injuries: Ravens | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: Baltimore wide receiver Marquise Brown has seen his fantasy point total decline in each of his past five games. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Pittsburgh is 8-2 ATS this season, the best mark in the NFL. Read more.

Hensley’s pick: Steelers 31, Ravens 23
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 34, Ravens 31
FPI prediction: PIT, 53.8% (by an average of 1.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Ravens reeling after another painful and embarrassing collapse to TitansComeback player of year? Steelers’ Roethlisberger also making push for first MVPFrom scary to simple: Jackson and the Ravens’ offense’s free fallHow good are the Steelers? Ranking Pittsburgh against other 10-0 teams

Published at Sat, 28 Nov 2020 03:59:17 +0000

Texans’ J.J. Watt plucks pass out of air for Turkey Day TD

Texans’ J.J. Watt plucks pass out of air for Turkey Day TD

A game after batting down a career-high four passes, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt intercepted a pass by Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and ran 19 yards for a touchdown.

It was his first touchdown since he scored on a 1-yard receiving touchdown from Ryan Fitzpatrick in October 2014.

It was his seventh career TD, including the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had five tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups in the other Thanksgiving game he has played in, in 2012 against the Lions.

Entering the game, the Texans did not have a takeaway in the first half this season.

Published at Thu, 26 Nov 2020 18:27:14 +0000

Thanksgiving NFL game guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every matchup

Thanksgiving NFL game guide: Picks, bold predictions and fantasy nuggets for every matchup

The Week 12 NFL schedule begins with some great Thanksgiving Day football. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded day of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Thanksgiving Day slate, who now includes just two games after the NFL moved Ravens-Steelers to Sunday.

Jump to a matchup:

12:30 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
24.2 | Spread: HOU -3 (51.5)

What to watch for: Is this Matt Patricia’s final stand as Detroit’s coach? After three double-digit losses in the Lions’ past four games (and losing a 21-point lead in the team’s one victory during that stretch), things are pretty dire for the third-year coach. How Detroit responds, knowing how hot its coach’s seat is — in its only nationally televised game of the season — is the biggest storyline for either team in an otherwise forgettable matchup. — Michael Rothstein

Bold prediction: Texans running back Duke Johnson will rush for a season-high 75 yards. The Texans’ running game has struggled all season, and in his two games starting for the injured David Johnson, Duke Johnson has combined for 69 yards on 24 carries. But this week, the Texans face the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL, with the Lions allowing an average of 139 rushing yards per game. — Sarah Barshop

Stat to know: Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson already has five games with at least 300 passing yards this season, tied for the most in a single season in his career (2018). Only Matt Schaub has had more such games in a single season in Texans history (nine in 2009 and seven in 2010).

Injuries: Texans | Lions

What to know for fantasy: Duke Johnson’s Week 11 production was underwhelming, but the fact that he got 76.9% of Houston’s running back carries holds weight as the Texans face the league’s worst defense against fantasy RBs this season. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Detroit is 6-2 against the spread (ATS) in its past eight Thanksgiving games (covered last season). Read more.

Barshop’s pick: Texans 24, Lions 17
Rothstein’s pick: Texans 31, Lions 17
FPI prediction: HOU, 56.1% (by an average of 2.1 points)

Thanksgiving Day throwback: The Texans and Lions met on Thanksgiving in 2012 in a game remembered for some controversy. Texans running back Justin Forsett scored an 81-yard rushing touchdown despite replays showing multiple Lions players tackling him and his knee and elbow both touching the ground near midfield. But a challenge flag from Detroit coach Jim Schwartz negated the automatic booth review of the scoring play, and the Texans went on to win 34-31 on an overtime field goal from Shayne Graham.

Matchup must-reads: Texans’ defense has “great all-around game” against PatriotsWhere are the Lions under Patricia? No improvement, no progress, no answers either“Bassfield Boys” have reunion in Detroit on ThanksgivingAnalyzing Detroit’s man defense vs. zone

4:30 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
12.9 | Spread: DAL -2.5 (46.5)

What to watch for: With first place in the NFC East on the line — at least until Sunday — which team will make fewer mistakes? The Cowboys have had at least one turnover in every game since the season opener and have 21 on the season, second most in the league. Washington has 17 giveaways, which is tied for fifth most. While the teams’ 3-7 records indicate how poorly the season has gone, there is still a chance to make the playoffs by winning the division. Taking care of the ball matters even more when the margin for error is so small. — Todd Archer

Bold prediction: In three home games against Washington, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has averaged 113.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns. So naturally, he will rush for 113 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. Washington’s run defense has been inconsistent at best, partly because some of its linemen continue to use two-gap techniques in a one-gap system and then the linebackers don’t attack often enough. Quarterback Alex Smith will keep Washington in this game, but when Elliott cracks 100 yards, Dallas is 23-4. — John Keim

Stat to know: Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin has 120 receptions in 24 career games. McLaurin needs 11 against Dallas to have the most through 25 games in Washington franchise history. The Ohio State product is currently third on the list behind Jordan Reed (130) and Gary Clark (122).

Injuries: Washington | Cowboys

What to know for fantasy: Over the past three weeks, Washington’s Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic are both top-10 running backs. See Week 12 rankings.

Betting nugget: Dallas is 1-8 ATS in its past nine Thanksgiving games. Read more.

Keim’s pick: Cowboys 27, Washington 24
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 27, Washington 17
FPI prediction: WSH, 54.8% (by an average of 1.7 points)

Thanksgiving Day throwback: In 1974, backup quarterback Clint Longley entered for an injured Roger Staubach with the Cowboys trailing Washington 16-3. Longley rallied Dallas to a victory, completing 11 passes for 203 yards. He capped off the comeback with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds left, and the extra point kick gave the Cowboys a 24-23 victory.

Matchup must-reads: Smith’s calming influence gives Washington hopeMcCarthy inspired Cowboys by smashing watermelons

Published at Thu, 26 Nov 2020 03:47:07 +0000

Week 12 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus what each team is thankful for

Week 12 NFL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, plus what each team is thankful for

The NFL Power Rankings are a big fan of the holidays (who doesn’t love Thanksgiving football?), so we’re using this space this week to identify what we’re thankful for across the league. Whether it’s feel-good stories (Washington), great success (Steelers) or being creative (Jets), our NFL Nation writers picked one aspect of the teams they cover to toast this week.

How we rank in our Power Rankings: Our power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — evaluates how teams stack up throughout the season.

Previous rankings: 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | Preseason

Jump to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

Week 11 ranking: 1

What they’re thankful for: QB Ben Roethlisberger

At 10-0, the Steelers’ cup really runneth over with gratitude. The Steelers should be thankful for an undefeated record, including wins in trap games and against previously undefeated opponents. And, of course, there’s the three-game lead over the rest of the division. But the thing — or rather, person — the Steelers should be most thankful for this season is easy: Roethlisberger. Without the quarterback, the Steelers wouldn’t be in this position. He’s a calming, veteran presence capable of taking over a game, which he has done a couple of times this season. And his health is the difference-maker for a team that was 8-8 last year without him. — Brooke Pryor



Ryan Clark demands Stephen A. Smith respect the Steelers’ 10-0 record after Stephen A. calls the team more overrated than underrated.

Week 11 ranking: 2

What they’re thankful for: Coach Andy Reid

Sure, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and several others would be appropriate here. But Reid is the one who turned the franchise around. The Chiefs have a winning streak of at least five games in each of Reid’s eight seasons. They won no more than four games in four of the six seasons before his arrival. And there’s also last season’s Super Bowl win to break a 50-year championship drought. — Adam Teicher

Week 11 ranking: 4

What they’re thankful for: A cornucopia of quarterbacks

In a league where so many teams are plagued by their inability to find a QB they can trust, the Saints have now won games with Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston behind center over the past two seasons. Of course it helps that they have Sean Payton calling the shots and a defense playing at an elite level. But there is a lot to be thankful when you’re 8-2. — Mike Triplett



Stephen A. Smith debates Dan Orlovsky and Max Kellerman about why he believes the Packers are the fourth best team in the NFC North.

Week 11 ranking: 3

What they’re thankful for: A salary-cap magician

The Packers are facing perhaps their most difficult offseason in terms of managing the salary cap and cash spending, but fortunately they have one of the most respected capologists in the NFL in director of football operations Russ Ball. He has almost always made it so the Packers never had to release a player simply for salary-cap purposes rather than performance. The lowered salary cap for 2021 — combined with the megadeals for Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari — ensures that Ball, along with GM Brian Gutekunst, are going to have to get creative again. — Rob Demovsky

Week 11 ranking: 7

What they’re thankful for: A franchise quarterback

Although he improved drastically in his second year, the jury was still out on Josh Allen being the Bills’ franchise quarterback. The thought was, by the middle of the 2020 season it would be clear whether he was worthy of the title. Ten games in, he has the Bills at 7-3, in position to win their first AFC East title since 1995, and ranks seventh in the NFL in passing yards. He is a legitimate MVP candidate at his best and a good starter at his worst. After nearly two decades of below-average play at the position, Buffalo fans can sit comfortably knowing Allen will captain this offense for years to come. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Week 11 ranking: 6

What they’re thankful for: QB Tom Brady

Who else? Did anyone think in a million years that Brady would choose a downtrodden franchise that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2002? In 2020, he has led the Bucs to a 7-4 start for the first time since 2010 and helped reinstall a winning culture. They’re far from a finished product, but few, if any, outwork Brady, whose impact can be seen everywhere — from execution in the red zone to Byron Leftwich’s playcalling and the performance of their young, but emerging, defense. — Jenna Laine

Week 11 ranking: 10

What they’re thankful for: The Carlos Dunlap trade

Dunlap leads Seahawks defensive linemen with 3.5 sacks despite playing only three games with his new team. That gives you an idea of how impactful he has been and how badly the Seahawks needed him. His second sack this past Thursday sealed their win over Arizona. He also has seven additional QB hits and five tackles for loss since coming over in a trade with Cincinnati last month. Before then, the Seahawks didn’t have nearly enough edge-rushing firepower with their best threat, Bruce Irvin, on injured reserve since September. — Brady Henderson



Tim Hasselbeck breaks down how the Colts’ defense helped them secure a win over the Packers.

Week 11 ranking: 11

What they’re thankful for: A legit defense

Top-ranked defense and Indianapolis are words that haven’t been in the same sentence too much over the years. But the Colts have a legitimate defense that has spent a significant portion of the season ranked No. 1 in the NFL. The unit, led by linebacker Darius Leonard and lineman DeForest Buckner, has forced 17 turnovers (12 interceptions, five fumble recoveries) this season, which is tied for the second most in the league. — Mike Wells

Week 11 ranking: 9

What they’re thankful for: Defense

Sean McVay built an offensive juggernaut in his first two seasons as coach, but now in his fourth season, the defense has taken over and ranks second in the NFL in efficiency and average points allowed per game (18.7). Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has set the tone with 32 pressures entering Monday night and nine sacks while Jalen Ramsey has not only been a lockdown cornerback, but has proved he can play various positions in the secondary. The Rams also have several lesser-known players who have stepped up, including cornerback Darious Williams, who leads the team with four interceptions. — Lindsey Thiry

Week 11 ranking: 12

What they’re thankful for: RB Derrick Henry

Henry is easily the player the Titans should be most thankful for. It’s always the team-first approach for Henry. He has become a leader and is quick to heap praise on teammates when asked about personal achievements. Henry is one of the Titans’ most consistent and explosive players. He takes a pounding week after week but still shows up in key moments. There’s no better example of his timely dominance than his 419 rushing yards in the fourth quarter/overtime this season. Henry’s two rushing touchdowns in overtime serve as proof that he is the finisher for the Titans — the gift that keeps on giving. — Turron Davenport

Week 11 ranking: 5

What they’re thankful for: Easy December schedule

After a Thanksgiving night game in Pittsburgh, the banged-up and reeling Ravens get a much-needed reprieve with the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Baltimore’s last five opponents have a combined 16-33-1 record (.333). The Ravens don’t look much like a playoff team right now after losing three of their past four games. But Baltimore should reach the postseason for a third straight season by taking care of the Cowboys (3-7), Jaguars (1-9), Giants (3-7) and Bengals (2-7-1). — Jamison Hensley



Dan Orlovsky says the Ravens don’t have an identity on offense and calls on Lamar Jackson to be the guy to elevate the team.

Week 11 ranking: 8

What they’re thankful for: QB Kyler Murray

Without Murray playing like he has, regardless of his ups and downs, the Cardinals wouldn’t be 6-4 and in the playoff picture. He has bailed out the Cardinals’ offense and coach Kliff Kingsbury on many occasions by using his legs to make plays, get first downs and score touchdowns when a play has broken down. He has been able to read the defense a specific way on an RPO or when Kingsbury has called a designed run. As Kingsbury said recently, Murray has covered for a lot mistakes and made them right. And, for that, Cardinals fans should be saying extra thanks this Thanksgiving. — Josh Weinfuss

Week 11 ranking: 14

What they’re thankful for: QB Derek Carr

Who else is old enough to remember when Carr was going to be replaced by $7.5 million backup quarterback Marcus Mariota by midseason? While Mariota has yet to be active for a game, Carr is thriving in this, his third season in coach Jon Gruden’s offense. Sure, many would like Carr to revert to his old gunslinger ways at times, but he has shown he can win by throwing deep, taking what defenses give him, or by commanding a punishing running game. — Paul Gutierrez

Week 11 ranking: 15

What they’re thankful for: The offensive line

In one year, the Browns have gone from having one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL to boasting one of its best. Cleveland, in fact, is top 10 in the league in both pass block and run block win rate. With the additions of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr. at tackle and the emergence of Wyatt Teller at guard, the Browns have no weaknesses up front. And the offensive line has been a driving force behind Cleveland’s turnaround. — Jake Trotter

Week 11 ranking: 13

What they’re thankful for: A healthy Xavien Howard

Howard has reestablished himself as the NFL’s best ball hawk and one of the best cornerbacks in the league. After missing 11 games with a knee injury in 2019, Howard is back and tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions. The Dolphins’ defense can be a lot more aggressive and productive with Howard patrolling the passing lanes, and his presence is definitely reason to be thankful. — Cameron Wolfe

Week 11 ranking: 16

What they’re thankful for: LB Roquan Smith

Smith is playing at an All-Pro level. The inside linebacker leads the NFL with 15 tackles for loss and ranks tied for third with 96 total tackles through Week 11. Smith, 23, arguably has been the best player on Chicago’s ferocious defense — a unit that also features former Pro Bowlers Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller. The eighth overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, Smith’s upside is enormous. The Bears might perpetually struggle on offense, but the defense should be in good hands with Smith for years to come. — Jeff Dickerson

Week 11 ranking: 17

What they’re thankful for: LB Fred Warner

Since good health certainly isn’t on the list of things the Niners can be thankful for this season, their appreciation for their middle linebacker’s continued ascent to stardom undoubtedly is. While much of their star power has been lost to injury, Warner has been the one constant in the middle of the defense, offering durability, productivity and leadership in large doses. Warner is finally getting the recognition he deserves as one of the league’s best linebackers and is in line for a massive contract extension, perhaps as soon as the coming offseason. — Nick Wagoner

Week 11 ranking: 18

What they’re thankful for: RB James White‘s presence

The outpouring of support for White on Sept. 20, when he was preparing to play a prime-time game against the Seahawks before learning that his father was killed in a car accident, speaks to how revered he is across the NFL. His presence and the class and leadership he exudes on a daily basis make the Patriots better on and off the field. — Mike Reiss

Week 11 ranking: 19

What they’re thankful for: LBs Eric Wilson and Eric Kendricks

These two are the glue that has held the Vikings’ defense together. Kendricks is having another All-Pro-type season while Wilson has emerged in the absence of Anthony Barr and leads all NFL linebackers with three interceptions. Minnesota’s defense has experienced constant ups and downs given injuries and the youth/inexperience on the defensive line and in the secondary. Kendricks and Wilson are critical factors in maintaining stability, and Wilson’s play on special teams (he blocked an extra point against Dallas) is worth noting, too. — Courtney Cronin

Week 11 ranking: 20

What they’re thankful for: QB Teddy Bridgewater

Moving on from franchise quarterback Cam Newton drew criticism and angst from many outside Bank of America Stadium, but Bridgewater has proved to be everything the coaching staff was looking for, and more. He has handled the transition with class and dignity and has shown that he is more than worthy of replacing the best quarterback — maybe best player — in franchise history. Bridgewater has shown you can perform at a high level and be humble and fun-loving without being the center of attention, as Newton often was because of his celebrity status. — David Newton

Week 11 ranking: 23

What they’re thankful for: Some backbone

Sure, their bad moments have been really bad. They have 13 players on injured reserve (a list that includes Von Miller, Courtland Sutton and Jurrell Casey), have dealt with several COVID-19 cases, had an unexpected bye when the Week 5 Patriots game was moved and have 12 players 23 years old or younger on the roster. Yet they’ve kept digging in and shown some toughness, highlighted by Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. That won’t get them a merit badge, but there have been more talented teams that didn’t work this hard to try and overcome as much as this team has. — Jeff Legwold



Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Dan Orlovsky get into a heated debate over whether it’s time for the Eagles to bench Carson Wentz.

Week 11 ranking: 21

What they’re thankful for: C Jason Kelce

Kelce will start his 100th consecutive game Monday, extending the longest active streak among centers. He will do so in pain, as he suffered an elbow injury against the Browns on Sunday that limited him to the point where his teammates had to buckle his chin strap for him. Yet he continued to play, as he has through so many injuries over his 10-year career. It’s part of the reason why he is one of the most revered Eagles of all time. — Tim McManus

Week 11 ranking: 25

What they’re thankful for: QB Justin Herbert

Herbert has taken the Chargers to a new level and is on pace to set several rookie quarterback records. He has kept fans invested and interested — even as they started 3-7 — and could ultimately be what draws fans in the Los Angeles market to the Chargers. His 2,699 passing yards have been 99 percent fun to watch. And his new haircut just tops it off. — Shelley Smith

Week 11 ranking: 22

What they’re thankful for: The offensive line

Detroit’s offensive line — particularly the left side — has been phenomenal (save for Sunday against Carolina). Left tackle Taylor Decker is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Center Frank Ragnow also is at a Pro Bowl level. Rookie left guard Jonah Jackson looks like a stable blocker for years to come and should end up on a bunch of all-rookie teams. While right guard has been an issue, Tyrell Crosby has stepped in at right tackle and played well. But in another down Lions season, the offensive line has sparked a run game and protected Matthew Stafford pretty well. — Michael Rothstein

Week 11 ranking: 24

What they’re thankful for: WR health (when they can get it)

Julio Jones was limited again by a hamstring injury throughout Sunday’s loss at New Orleans — yet another reminder of how valuable his health is to the Falcons’ fortunes (Jones has 20 catches for 328 yards and three TDs this season). When Jones and Calvin Ridley are healthy, Atlanta would put its WR duo against any in the league. — Mike Triplett



Dan Orlovsky is adamant Daniel Jones and the Giants are the best team in the NFC East.

Week 11 ranking: 26

What they’re thankful for: Coach Joe Judge

While the Giants haven’t won much this season, it appears they might have found their coach. Judge has put his program in motion and the early returns are positive. The Giants are playing hard for their new coach and appear to be paving the road for success in the future with Judge at the helm. Finally, something to be optimistic about. — Jordan Raanan

Week 11 ranking: 28

What they’re thankful for: QB Deshaun Watson

As the McNair family looks for the Texans’ next general manager and head coach, they should be thankful for the quarterback they can build around. Although the Texans are 3-7, that record is not indicative of how well Watson has played. And on Sunday against the Patriots, he showed just how much he has had to do to will the Texans to a win, accounting for 380 of Houston’s 399 net yards. He also scored all three of the Texans’ touchdowns. — Sarah Barshop

Week 11 ranking: 30

What they’re thankful for: The NFC East

How can it be anything other than the NFC East? If not for the division, the final six games would be about draft positioning. At 3-7, the Cowboys have as many wins as anybody in the division. They’re in it, whatever that actually means. But if you’re looking for something different, go with rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb. He holds the team’s rookie record for catches in a season and has shown he can be a cornerstone piece for the future. — Todd Archer

Week 11 ranking: 29

What they’re thankful for: QB Alex Smith

In a year that has been occasionally bad or dreadful for this franchise, Smith has served as a feel-good story. There are some talented young players in Washington, notably receiver Terry McLaurin and defensive end Chase Young, but Smith’s play — coupled with his two-year recovery from a horrific leg injury — serves as an inspiration. On the field, Smith gives Washington a shot to finish strong. His knowledge and comfort in the offense has been evident and his calmness rubs off on the others. Even if Washington doesn’t win a bad division, Smith has helped develop its young players with his experience and wisdom. — John Keim



Stephania Bell goes into detail about Joe Burrow’s injury and explains how so much damage was done.

Week 11 ranking: 27

What they’re thankful for: WR Tee Higgins

Finding anything to be thankful for is incredibly difficult after Joe Burrow suffered a season-ending knee injury. However, Higgins has been one of the bright spots in a season that is quickly headed south. The second-round pick gives the Bengals another important piece to build around heading into 2021 and beyond. Higgins is poised to step into the role vacated by A.J. Green, who slowly is becoming the Bengals’ WR3 as he transitions into the next stage of his career. — Ben Baby

Week 11 ranking: 31

What they’re thankful for: RB James Robinson

Robinson is one of the very few bright spots for the Jaguars. He has been their best offensive player, is third in the NFL in rushing behind Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook with 762 yards, and is the fifth undrafted rookie in NFL history to reach 1,000 scrimmage yards. If he stays healthy, he should break Dominic Rhodes’ NFL record for most yards from scrimmage by an undrafted rookie (1,328 in 2001) rather easily. — Mike DiRocco

Week 11 ranking: 32

What they’re thankful for: Bert Bell

Who? The late Eagles co-owner was the driving force behind the creation of the NFL draft in 1936 — and the draft is the only thing Jets fans can embrace as they endure the worst season in franchise history. The 2021 draft is particularly appealing because it might include a generational quarterback prospect, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. So as their 0-10 team careens toward the No. 1 overall pick, Jets fans can find solace in knowing there’s hope in the future. So, a Thanksgiving toast to Bert Bell, who beats Le’Veon when it comes to impactful Bells for the franchise. — Rich Cimini

Published at Wed, 25 Nov 2020 03:00:24 +0000