Monday, October 12, 2020

NFL Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers (27) vs. New Orleans Saints (30) - 10/12/2020

NFL Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers (27) vs. New Orleans Saints (30) - Date: 10/12/2020 Oct 09, 2020NEW ORLEANS - Justin Herbert was 6 years old when Drew Brees left his final game for the Chargers with a career-threatening shoulder injury. A decade-and-a-half later, they're set to be on opposite sidelines on Monday night, with Herbert the promising Chargers rookie QB and Brees a Saints icon -- not to mention the NFL's all-time leading passer. "I remember my first starts in this league and it's a bit of a whirlwind," recalled Brees, a 2001 second-round pick of the Chargers. "You feel like you're learning on the fly and you're trying to absorb all this information - the offense that you're running and the defenses that you're going up against each and every week and it's just all so new. " Not that the 41-year-old quarterback dismisses Herbert's potential to make good thing s happen for Los Angeles (1-3) in the Superdome. "He is definitely a very talented player," Brees continued. "Some of the throws I've seen him make over the last few weeks have been pretty impressive and obviously he's a big athlete who can do a lot of things both with his arm and with his legs -- and it seems like they're asking him to do a lot, which shows his versatility. " Although the Chargers have lost three straight, they've been competitive. Free Sports Betting Picks. They took defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City to overtime. Only a dropped lateral on the final play deprived them of a golden opportunity to pull out a Week 3 win over Carolina. Last week, they went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady's Buccaneers in a 38-31 loss. "It's been frustrating and it's been a gut check," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "But we know if we continue to gri nd and do what we're doing and stay connected, we know it's going to turn. We have a lot of good reasons to believe that; there's a lot of good on tape. " Likewise, the Saints (2-2) liked what they saw last week in Detroit, when they stormed back from an early 14-0 hole with five straight touchdown drives and snapped a two-game skid. Brees, who's broken about every passing record that matters since joining New Orleans in 2006, said the Saints' offense looked more like it should. "I don't think it was very good for the first three games," Brees said. "There's a lot going on with each and every play and with the way we substitute, who we're getting in the game and the tempo that we're try to operate at. Definitely something we've all had to work at and I definitely feel like last game was our best in regards to that. " Lynn said Brees "looks he found the fountain of youth," adding, "he looks pre tty damn good to me. " DEPLETED BACKFIELDAustin Ekeler's hamstring injury likely elevates Joshua Kelley to the lead running back spot. The rookie leads the team in carries (52) and is averaging 3. 3 yards per carry, but he has been plagued by fumbling issues the past two games. His turnover on a botched hand off late in the first half at Tampa Bay last week led to a Buccaneers touchdown to bring them within 24-14 at halftime. Sports Handicapper Leaderboard. The Chargers have been hoping Justin Jackson would have more of a role, but he was sidelined with a quad injury the first three weeks. He finally played last week but had only 13 yards on eight carries. After facing the league's top run defense last week, Los Angeles faces a Saints unit that is tied for sixth. Compounding the problems for the Chargers is that they may be without the right side of their offensive line again. Guard Trai Turner ha s missed three games with a groin injury and tackle Bryan Bulaga was out last week with back and knee problems. SLOW STARTSaints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who led New Orleans with 15� sacks last season, did not get his first this season until last Sunday. The current team leader in sacks, with three, is Trey Hendrickson, who has seen more playing time with Marcus Davenport missing the first four games. But Hendrickson indicated that it might not take long for Jordan to pass him. "Last year, on Thanksgiving, he had four" sacks in one game, Hendrickson said. "That guy knows how to bring it every day, every practice, and I wouldn't bet against him. " ANOTHER ROUGH DAY? Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa had a sack in the first three games but he and the rest Los Angeles' defense barely pressured Brady last week. They will face a similar quarterback in Brees, who has faced pressure 17. 2% of the time, tied for sixth-lowest in the league. Defens ive end Melvin Gordon will miss his third straight game with a knee injury. Los Angeles' secondary aims to bounce back after being shredded by Brady and Co. Best Sports Handicappers. TAG TEAMWhile Saints running back Alvin Kamara is off to a torrid start, there is more to New Orleans' backfield. Latavius Murray's bruising style complements Kamara's elusiveness. And while Kamara is much more of a factor in the receiving game than Murray, both catch the ball. Together, they've combined for 786 yards and nine TDs from scrimmage in four games. "We definitely feed off each other's energy," Murray said. "He's trying to make plays. I'm trying to make plays. I think that's what it's all about. " --- Sports Writer Joe Reedy in Los Angeles contributed to this report---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

Sunday, October 11, 2020

NFL Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings (26) vs. Seattle Seahawks (27) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings (26) vs. Seattle Seahawks (27) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020SEATTLE Throughout its franchise history, the Seattle Seahawks have never started a season 5-0. Not in the years Seattle was a contender in the old AFC West. Not after it moved to the NFC. Not even the year the Seahawks won their only Super Bowl. CBS Sports Picks. Then again, the Seahawks have never had a quarterback playing as well as Russell Wilson has in leading Seattle to a 4-0 record heading into Sunday night's matchup with Minnesota. ''I think we're playing at the highest level that we've ever played,'' Wilson said. While the Seahawks are looking for a bit of franchise history before their bye week, the Vikings (1-3) are seeking validation that they can still be contenders for a playoff berth after a disappointing start. The Vikings have given up more points and yards than has been the norm for a Mike Zimmer team, and struggled with turnovers for the first few weeks. But the Vikings did get their first win last week in a 31-23 victory at Houston. They do have the league's leading rusher in Dalvin Cook. They have familiarity playing in Seattle for the third straight year and facing the Seahawks for the fifth time since 2015. And they'll get a break as CenturyLink Field will be silent outside of what gets piped through the stadium speaker system. ''Before when we played there, that crowd noise was definitely an impact on what we had going on,'' Cook said. ''And today's society is different without fans, so we've got to get used to that, and I think it might help us at the end of the day going against that type of environment. '' RECORD STARTWilson's start to the season has placed him firmly in the MVP conversation at the quarter mark of the season. He ti ed Peyton Manning's record with 16 TD passes in the first four games. He's completing 75% of his passes, has just two interceptions and has topped 300 yards in three of the four games. Perhaps most impressive are the big shots Wilson has taken and completed. He already has 16 completions of more than 20 yards and is averaging 9. 4 yards per attempt. ''They've changed a little bit. They're obviously letting Russell Wilson be more explosive. I think they're No. 1 in the league in pass average. They've got terrific receivers, they're all fast,'' Zimmer said. COOK(ING) WITH FIREOne of the bright spots for Minnesota has been Cook's start to the season. He leads the league with 424 yards rushing and is averaging 5. 7 yards per carry. He'll be facing a Seattle defense that ranks third in the league in yards rushing allowed, but hasn't necessarily been tested. Todd Gurley in Week 1 and Ezekiel Elliott in Week 3 both ha d 14 carries against Seattle. That's the most by any running back against the Seahawks this season. If Minnesota can stay with the run game, it could be the first significant test if Seattle's run defense is very good. ''It's definitely fun to watch him run the ball,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''It's going to be fun to play against him and get into the backfield and really just tackle him. '' END ZONE EQUALS FRIEND ZONEThe Vikings have shown their share of vulnerabilities over the first quarter of the season, but they've been at their best near the end zone on both sides of the ball. The offense is tied for eighth in the NFL in goal-to-go touchdown rate (87. 5%) and fifth in inside-the-20 touchdown rate (76. 9%). The defense is seventh in goal-to-go touchdown rate (58. 3%) and second in inside-the-20 touchdown rate (41. 2%). Last week at Houston, the Vikings turned all four of their trips inside the 10-yar d line into touchdowns. Defensively, they limited the damage to a field goal after a first-and-goal situation from the 8 in the third quarter, and prevented the Texans from scoring late in the fourth quarter after they had second-and-goal from the 1. Leading Handicappers. They'll be challenged by Seattle's offense that until last week was perfect on the season, converting trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. Seattle has 13 TDs in 15 red zone trips. CARROLL'S VIKINGS CONNECTIONSeahawks coach Pete Carroll was Minnesota's defensive backs coach from 1985-89 and nearly became head coach of the Vikings in 1992, when they hired Dennis Green instead. But Carroll revealed this week a little-known anecdote about the 1987 strike season: He nearly put the pads on and played quarterback for the Vikings. Soccer Handicappers. The Vikings signed Tony Ada ms to be their replacement-team signal caller instead, after offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker told head coach Jerry Burns he couldn't bring himself to coach Carroll, who was supposed to be one of his peers on the staff. ''I was taking snaps out in the cul-de-sac until after midnight, trying to get ready to go,'' said Carroll, who was 36 at the time. ''The next day they were going to make the call on it, so it was real for a little bit. '' --- Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report. ---More NFL coverage: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: New York Giants (34) vs. Dallas Cowboys (37) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: New York Giants (34) vs. Dallas Cowboys (37) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 09, 2020ARLINGTON, Texas Dak Prescott will see his former coach on the other sideline for the first time when Jason Garrett and the New York Giants visit the Dallas Cowboys. Best Sports Picks Today. They'll both be a little preoccupied Sunday, Prescott trying to keep his video game numbers rolling while ending a two-game slide that has put coach Mike McCarthy's first season in peril. Garrett, the offensive coordinator in New York after nine-plus seasons in Dallas ended because he couldn't lead the Cowboys deep into the playoffs, just wants to get the winless Giants in the end zone, where they haven't been since Week 2. ''Many people around the league, you have history in another place,'' Garrett said. ''I obviously spent a lot of time in Dallas. Forever appreciative of that and forever grateful of that, but I'm excited about this opportunity and trying to help this team get better. '' Prescott is the first player in NFL history with at least 450 yards passing in three straight games, but mostly because the Cowboys (1-3) faced double-digit deficits in the second half all three times, losing the past two to Seattle (38-31) and Cleveland (49-38). Now the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year faces more questions on his offensive line, with Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith now out for the season with a neck injury that will require surgery. Both of Dallas' starting tackles, including La'el Collins on the right side, are out for the year. ''Nothing but respect for coach Garrett and it will be great to see him,'' Prescott said of the coach who drafted him four years ago and helped him develop as an instant star replacing the injured Tony Romo. ''But this is about getting a wi n. '' Dallas has never given up more points and yards through four games than the 37 points and 431 yards surrendered per game. But the NFL's third-worst defense is facing a Daniel Jones-led offense tied for second worst in the league. Baseball Handicappers. The Cowboys are far from out of the picture in the woeful NFC East, which Philadelphia leads entering the weekend at 1-2-1. Even the Giants aren't out of a muddled division picture. ''I would classify that mindset as false confidence,'' McCarthy said. ''We have to improve in a number of areas on the last time we have taken the field. I am not counting on them for anything. I'm just counting on them to be the opponent. '' FANS FOR A CHANGEA third home game with fans for the Cowboys will be the first time Giants have played in front of spectators. Fans weren't allowed in New Jersey for the first two home games, and there were no fans when New York went to Chicago and LA. ''To be honest with you, it's exciting,'' coach Joe Judge said. ''There's a different kind of energy home and away, but I think both energies really add to the atmosphere and add to the environment. '' Defensive back Logan Ryan grew up in New Jersey and he said rooting against the Cowboys was the norm. Dallas had about 21,000 fans for the opener, and edged up to about 25,000 in last week's loss to the Browns. AT&T Stadium has about 80,000 permanent seats. ''I love the energy the fans bring, the good and bad,'' he said. ''Nothing is (better) than quieting a road stadium. I think it will be fun. '' QUESTION OF EFFORTThe Cowboys were criticized outside the building for their effort on defense after allowing a franchise-record 307 yards rushing against the Browns, and safety Xavier Woods didn't help their cause while trying to answer a question honestly about it. Woods said he thought the effort was good, but then the fourth-year player elaborated. ''I mean on certain plays some guys, I mean me included, there may be a lack but overall the effort is there,'' Woods said. ''I mean you don't expect, we're in the NFL, you don't expect guys full speed for 70 plays. That's not possible. '' McCarthy, who earlier in the week said outsiders should be careful questioning the effort of pro athletes, didn't seem thrilled with Woods' answer. ''I think it was a situation of trying to answer questions after a poor performance is the way I would classify it,'' said McCarthy, who noted Thursday he hadn't yet talked to Woods about the comment but had been made aware of it. ''I don't think it's a statement that can be laid up against every possible situation in football, as far as hypotheticals and things like that. W e've addressed our performance Sunday. It was poor. '' TD DROUGHTThe Giants are last in the league with 47 points scored, their fewest through four games since 1996. They have not scored a touchdown since early in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears in Week 2. Graham Gano has provided their scoring the past two games with six field goals, including last week's 17-9 loss to the Rams. It marks the first time New York didn't score a touchdown in consecutive games since 1998. The Giants have gone 21 straight offensive possessions without a TD. SLIGHT EXAGGERATIONDallas is the only NFL team averaging at least 500 yards per game (510). It seems like so much more to Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. ''They score 10 billion points a game I think, or something like that,'' he said. ''And about 30 billion yards a game. '' ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Indianapolis Colts (23) vs. Cleveland Browns (32) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Indianapolis Colts (23) vs. Cleveland Browns (32) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020CLEVELAND Baker Mayfield knows all about the Browns' tortured history over the past two decades. It's been jammed down his throat. Almost from the moment he was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, Mayfield's been told about the expansion era horror stories of botched drafts, devastating injuries, coaching mistakes, paralyzing dysfunction and losing. So much losing. Mayfield can't deal with Cleveland's painful past. So why try? ''I was not here for all that,'' he said. ''I was here to change it, and that is what I am doing. '' It's true. The Browns (3-1), three years removed from an 0-16 season and owners of the NFL's current longest playoff drought, are off to their best start since 2001. Flaunting a well-balanced, high-scoring offense and a ball-hawking defe nse, Cleveland is one of the league's early surprises in 2020 - to everyone, that is, but the Browns. ''You look at the games that we won, and it was not like it was a fluke,'' said star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. , who had three touchdowns in last week's win at Dallas. Maybe not, OBJ. But the Browns' three wins after being blown out in their opener at Baltimore have come against teams with a combined 3-8-1 record, which makes Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts (3-1) a true test of Cleveland's legitimacy as a, dare we say it, playoff contender. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The same case could be made for the Colts, who shook off a Week 1 loss to Jacksonville and have won three straight. But Indy's schedule over the season's first quarter was equally soft, so Cleveland will be a good measuring stick - for now. S ports Predictions. The matchup will feature the NFL's top rushing team (Cleveland averages 204. 5 yards per game) against the league's best overall defense; the Colts lead in points allowed, yards and interceptions. ''We are playing as a unit. We are playing smart,'' said Indianapolis coach Frank Reich. ''We have been good against the run. It starts with stopping the run. That is why this week is going to be such a challenge, it will really put that to the test. '' It might have gotten a touch easier as the Browns will be without Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, who sprained his right knee in last week's win at Dallas and could be sidelined for a month or more. Kareem Hunt will likely get most of Chubb's carries as first-year Browns coach Kevin Stefanski isn't expected to stray from a formula that has been working. ''No one replaces Nick Chubb,'' said Browns guard Joel Bitonio. ''The g uy is a stud. That one hurts seeing him go down for a little bit, but it is the NFL and that kind of stuff happens, unfortunately. '' RUNNING MATESIf there was a silver lining in Chubb's injury, it's that the Browns played most of last week without him and thrived. Hunt rushed for 71 yards and two TDs, and D'Ernest Johnson, who came in with five career carries, added 95 on 13 attempts. It figures to be much tougher sledding against a Colts front anchored by tackle DeForest Buckner, proving to be worth every penny of his $21 million per year contract after coming over in a trade from San Francisco. ''Game wrecker,'' Reich said. ''He's like Myles Garrett, a force against the run and the pass. His impact is felt on every play. '' OLD MAN RIVERSColts quarterback Philip Rivers can add two more milestones to his resume this weekend. Sunday's start will be the 38-year-old's 229th in a row, tying him with Hall of Fam e offensive lineman Bruce Matthews for the fourth-longest streak in league history. And with four completions, Rivers will be the fifth NFL player with 5,000 in his career. Earlier this season, Rivers became the sixth with 60,000 yards and 400 touchdown passes. He only tracks one stat. ''You always want to keep improving and getting better and if you're winning along the way, that's a pretty good sign,'' Rivers said. ''Find a way to win, do the things necessary to win, those are all good traits of a team that's got a chance to improve and do something special. '' WE'LL TAKE THATCleveland's defense, led by a rejuvenated Garrett, has forced eight turnovers the past two weeks and leads the league with 11 takeaways. Garrett has a strip sack in three straight games, and coordinator Joe Woods said he's looking for every opportunity to find matchups for the speedy, strong end. ''I feel like if we can get him one on one, he has a chance to win every time,'' Woods said. LINEBACKER LIMBOThe Colts entered this season thinking linebacker was one of their deepest positions. After four games, it may be their thinnest. Backup Matthew Adams went on injured reserve after hurting his ankle in Week 3. Last week, three more linebackers were injured: Darius Leonard (groin), Bobby Okereke (thumb) and E. J. Speed (elbow). Reich hasn't ruled out anyone other than Adams, but it's certainly not ideal when facing the league's top-rated rushing offense. Leonard and Okereke missed practice time this week. Speed was limited. ''We just have to get to them, get to them fast. Don't let the running back start up,'' cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. ''Once they touch the ball, we have to get to them as fast as possible because they have some great runners, some hard runners. '' --- Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed to this report. ---More NFL cov erage: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Miami Dolphins (43) vs. San Francisco 49ers (17) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Miami Dolphins (43) vs. San Francisco 49ers (17) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020SANTA CLARA, Calif. Miami coach Brian Flores knew early on that Jimmy Garoppolo had what it took to be an NFL starting quarterback. As a defensive assistant in New England when Garoppolo was drafted in 2014, Flores got a first-hand look at what Garoppolo could do. ''He was very talented,'' Flores said. ''He would make throws and make you turn back and say, `Wow, that was a good one. ' I think he played early a little bit (in 2016). I remember us going out to Arizona and he played well in that game and he played well the next week. I think just watching the preseason games and practice, I think we all knew he was going to be a good player and it's definitely turned out that way. '' Flores will likely get to see that on Sunday when the Dolphins (1-3) visit Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers (2-2). Garoppolo is expected back this week after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. His return should provide a spark for a San Francisco team that struggled last week in a 25-20 home loss to Philadelphia thanks in large part to three costly turnovers by backup Nick Mullens. Since coach Kyle Shanahan took over in San Francisco, the Niners are 20-6 when Garoppolo starts, compared to a 5-21 mark with any other quarterback. Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards and 27 TD passes last season to lead the 49ers to 13 wins and was 33 for 49 for 390 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in six quarters this season. No matter who plays at quarterback the key for the 49ers will be getting the running game back in gear after it struggled a bit the past couple of weeks. ''I think that when we're playing at our best, we're the best run game team in football,'' tight end George Kittle said. ''We have not lived up to my standards or our team's standards. '' PERFECT RETURNThe Niners got a big boost last week on offense with the return of Kittle, who had missed the previous two games with a sprained knee. Kittle was targeted 15 times, catching all 15 for 183 yards and a touchdown. Kittle was the fourth wide receiver or tight end since 2009 to be targeted at least 12 times and catch every pass. ''I don't think you stop him. I think you just try to limit him,'' Flores said. ''I think you try to give him different looks -- play zone, play some man. I think when you've got a player like this, you've got to think about doubling a guy like this; but again, he's as physical as they get. '' NO SWITCH YETMiami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will again start despite a crescendo in the clamor for top draft pick Tua Tagovailoa to make his NFL debut. Flores said he's not going to be pressured by the media into switching to Tagovailoa. Fitzpatrick said he's not looking over his shoulder. ''I just go out and try to play the best that I can in each game, and that's where I put my focus,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''If you start thinking about that stuff and allowing that to affect the way you're playing - whether you want to be more risky or more careful -- that's just not really who I am. '' Fitzpatrick has thrown five interceptions, tied for third most in the NFL. His passer rating ranks 28th, and his career record as a starter is 56-86-1. Sports Handicapping Sites. TOE THE LINEThe Niners struggled on the offensive line last week, allowing 16 pressures, according to SportRadar. The usually reliable tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey had problems and the interior of the line was once again overmatched at times. ''I think just as a whole, we need to be crisper,'' coach Kyle Shanahan said. ''Need to be m ore on it. '' REBUILDINGDolphins coaches have come and gone since Don Shula retired, and Flores is off to the worst start of any of them since Cam Cameron in 2007. After 20 games, Flores is 6-14. His most immediate predecessor, Adam Gase, started 12-8 in Miami, while Joe Philbin started 10-10 and Tony Sparano was 12-8. Cameron went 1-15 and was fired after one season. Shula, by the way, started 14-5-1. YAC BROSThe Niners' passing game under Shanahan has been built on getting the ball to playmakers, who then are able to create big plays after the catch. Kittle has been one of the best in the game at it with the most yards after the catch among all tight ends and receivers since he entered the league in 2017. Deebo Samuel ranked second among all receivers last season in yards after catch per reception. Now rookie Brandon Aiyuk is showing off those same skills, scoring TDs on 38- and 31-yard runs the past two weeks. ''I think Brandon is doing a great job ,'' Samuel said. ''It's good to say that he's part of the YAC Bros now. . . . It's just great to have another guy out there who can break tackles and go score. '' --- Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed to this report---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Philadelphia Eagles (29) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (38) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Philadelphia Eagles (29) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (38) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020PITTSBURGH Ben Roethlisberger didn't spend his unexpected weekend off just hanging around. It's impossible when you're the father of three young children. So the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback headed outside to play catch with his son Benjamin after the NFL postponed last week's scheduled trip to Tennessee because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Titans. The 38-year-old Roethlisberger focused on keeping his surgically repaired right elbow loose and trying not to let the outside forces that have disrupted the familiar rhythms of the regular season get to him. ''It's tough, especially for someone like myself who was just starting to kind of get back in the flow of things,'' Roethlisberger said. ''It's not easy, but you have to adjust. You have to adapt and do the best you can. & #39;' For the unbeaten Steelers (3-0) that means trying to hit reset in time for Sunday's visit from cross-state rival Philadelphia (1-2-1). The erratic Eagles appear to be rounding into form following a sluggish start thanks in large part to a defense that's nearly Pittsburgh's equal when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Winning Sports Handicappers. The Steelers lead the NFL in sacks per game (5. 0). Philadelphia is second (4. 2). Whichever offensive line does a better job keeping Roethlisberger or Eagles counterpart Carson Wentz upright will likely have the upper hand. Wentz has taken to taking off behind a makeshift offensive line, adding an element Pittsburgh's front seven hasn't faced yet this season. Wentz has struggled in the pocket this season and has thrown a league-worst seven interceptions, matching his total from each of the past three years. But he's scramblin g more, gaining 102 yards on 16 carries in the past two games and has run for a touchdown in each of the past three weeks. ''I love being on the move and extending plays, making things happen,'' Wentz said. ''I think it puts a lot of stress on the defense. Obviously, I have to be smart and know when to take my chances and know when to throw the ball away. Especially with a team that plays a lot of zone coverage, when plays break down, they're out of position or guys are coming open down the field. When that happens there's a lot of big plays to be had when you do escape and move the pocket. '' If Wentz does it effectively, the Eagles could put their ugly start firmly in the rearview mirror. A victory for the Steelers would push them to 4-0 for the first time in 41 years. Considering the uncertain nature of trying to play a season in the middle of a pandemic, winning becomes an even more valuable commodity because - as Pittsburgh l earned last week - you never know what's around the corner. It could be another opponent. It could be a game of catch with your kid. WELCOME BACKThe Steelers will allow 5,550 fans into 68,400-seat Heinz Field for the first time this season after Pennsylvania officials eased the restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings. While that's less than 10% of capacity, it's also a marked departure from Pittsburgh's first two games played in front of a sea of empty yellow seats. ''To go into all this and say, `No fans, man that is so weird,' now saying 'There's going to be fans in the stands, man, that is so weird,''' Steelers tight end Vance McDonald said. ''It's probably not going to be that significant but at the same time, it's a little bit back to normal. '' DIFFERENT LOOKThe Eagles dominated the Steelers 34-3 in their previous meeting in 2016 to improve to 3-0 in their first season under Wentz and th en-first-year head coach Doug Pederson. Philadelphia sacked Roethlisberger four times and forced him to commit two turnovers. The faces of Pittsburgh's offense have largely changed over the past four years, though the Eagles remain wary of the wide variety of playmakers at Roethlisberger's disposal. Las Vegas Handicappers. Ten different Steelers have at least four touches through three games. Running back James Conner has topped 100 yards rushing in consecutive games for the first time since the first half of 2018 and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Shuster and Diontae Johnson are part of a young and diverse pass-catching group. ''There's a lot of things, but it's one of those teams that I think if you devote too many resources to take any one player or one aspect of their offense away, they certainly have the capability to make you pay in other ways,'' Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Sc hwartz said. ''So it's going to take a good, solid team outing to play well on Sunday. '' ON THE PROWLThe Steelers have recorded a sack in 60 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL and the fourth-longest all time. Outside linebackers T. J. Watt and Bud Dupree are hardly doing it alone. Eight different Steelers have at least half a sack. It's much the same for the Eagles, who have 17 sacks spread among 13 players, including defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who signed with Philadelphia in the offseason after spending his first four years in Pittsburgh. ''They're penetrators, they're disrupters,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the Eagles' front seven. ''They pick off pullers. They create unblocked linebackers at the point of attack. We have to do a good job of neutralizing that group, covering them up and working to minimize their impact on the game. '' --- Pro Football Writer Rob Ma addi in Philadelphia contributed to this report. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals (3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (27) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Cincinnati Bengals (3) vs. Baltimore Ravens (27) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020It's been one heck of a year for Joe Burrow and Patrick Queen, who won a national championship together at LSU before becoming first-round NFL draft picks and immediately shining as high-impact rookies. As they did last season in practice, Burrow and Queen will be peering at each other across the line of scrimmage when Cincinnati (1-2-1) faces Baltimore (3-1) on Sunday. Burrow - the top pick in the draft - will be looking for his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game, and Queen - selected 28th overall - will seek to add to his team-leading total of 33 tackles as the Ravens starting middle linebacker. Burrow and Queen possess an unyielding desire to excel, which made for what Queen described as a ''crazy relationship'' while they were together as LSU. Asked to elaborate, Queen said, ''It's just typical football stuff. It's one person gets heated, then stuff breaks out. And that's really all I really want to say about that. '' Queen was far more chatty when delivering his scouting report on Burrow, the first rookie in NFL history with three straight 300-yard games. ''Great quarterback. He's going to stay in the pocket and try to throw the ball,'' Queen said. ''I just look at it as, as many times as we can hit him, hit him. He's a great competitor, and we just have to get after him. '' Queen had 12 tackles last week against Washington, including a sensational one-handed throw-down on the goal line, a play Burrow no doubt saw on tape more than once. ''He's a great player,'' the quarterback said of Queen. ''I'm excited to play against him. '' Burrow has revived Cincinnati's offense by slinging the ball efficiently between effective runs by Joe Mixon. The Bengals have aver aged 28. 6 points over their past three games, with Burrow throwing for a cumulative 928 yards with six touchdown passes and just one interception. ''There are high expectations there, and he's fulfilling them,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. BRUISING BURROWBurrow has taken quite a few hard hits thus far, partially because of offensive line problems and to a degree because he's quick to flee the pocket in an effort to make something happen. After taking eight sacks and getting hit 10 more times two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Burrow was hit five times in a 33-25 win over Jacksonville on Sunday. But he was sacked only once, and that was in a situation where the Bengals had to run some time off the clock. Burrow has been hit 36 times in four games. At least a couple came a tick late and weren't flagged, including a shot from Jaguars linebacker Cassius Marsh. Asked if officials missed it or if it's something to expect - a rookie quarter back not getting a call - coach Zac Taylor demurred. ''It's a great question,'' he said. ''We're trying to see what we can do there. '' BYNES IS BACKLinebacker Josh Bynes has provided hard hits on the field and leadership in the huddle with the Bengals since leaving Baltimore to sign as a free agent during the offseason. Bynes says his time in Baltimore provided much-needed experience ''and knowing what it takes to win. Obviously, I won a Super Bowl there and was successful last year. '' As a former teammate of fleet-footed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, Bynes know the Bengals defense will be tested. ''He's dynamic in all forms of the game,'' Bynes said. ''He can throw, he can run, he can make you miss, he can do it all and that's what makes him a hard person to stop. Ultimately, he's a playmaker. '' TURNOVER FRENZYThe Ravens have forced a turnover in 17 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. ''It's always a point of emphasis. It's something that we talk about every day on defense,'' Harbaugh said. ''We have drills directed that way and we try to practice that way. We try to scheme that way, too. And then our players, we have players that do make those plays. '' Most notably, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who has accounted for 11 of Baltimore's 29 takeaways during that 17-game span. FINALLY IN SYNCCincinnati rolled up 505 yards, including 151 rushing by Mixon and 300 passing by Burrow. Right guard was a trouble spot in the first three games, but former practice squad player Alex Redmond started against the Jags and seemed to help shore things up. Left tackle Jonah Williams believes the 500-yard afternoon was the result of all the offensive elements clicking at the same time. ''I think that if you watch the offense as a whole, everything was in rhythm, 9;' he said. ''Us protecting was part of that, but additionally, the receivers being open. Joe's able to get the ball out a little bit faster and we had a lot of success running the ball. So that opened up our play-action game and took a little bit of pressure off everyone. '' --- Sports Writer Mitch Stacy contributed to this story. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Las Vegas Raiders (40) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (32) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Las Vegas Raiders (40) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (32) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020KANSAS CITY, Mo. After he was asked the standard questions about the brilliance of Patrick Mahomes and the scourge of COVID-19, Raiders coach Jon Gruden finally lit up when someone questioned him about the vast improvement of the Kansas City defense. ''I think that's the best question I've heard,'' Gruden said. He proceeded to list off all the pertinent stats: The Chiefs are second in scoring defense, fifth in total defense. ''They take the ball away. They blitz you. They come from everywhere,'' he said. ''They've been real stingy with everything I've seen. '' Here is the most important number, though: The Chiefs are 4-0 for the fourth consecutive year, and thanks largely to that suddenly dominant defense, they have a chance to take a stranglehold five games into t he season on the AFC West when they face Las Vegas on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium for the first of their two regular-season meetings. ''I give (Steve) Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator, a ton of credit. You have no idea what he's going to come up with next,'' Gruden said. ''It's a great scheme. It's very diverse. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the guys that really makes it go. '' The star safety has plenty of help. Defensive tackle Chris Jones was tied for the AFC lead in sacks before missing last week's game with a groin injury; he is expected back this weekend. Frank Clark is a proven pass rusher, Juan Thornhill has become a premier safety. And cornerback Bashaud Breeland will return from a four-game suspension Sunday. Put those pieces together and you have the only NFL defense that, despite so often being overlooked by Mahomes and their high-octane offense, has yet to allow more than 20 points in a game this season. ' ;'Competing against our offense all training camp, a lot of these guys have been getting work against the best offensive players in the league,'' Mathieu said. ''I just want those guys to stay motivated and continue to get better and stay hungry. '' If nothing else, Las Vegas (2-2) should provided a balanced test this week. Derek Carr directs the 13th-rated pass attack and running back Josh Jacobs leads a rush offense that is tied for 15th in the league. freepick. They scored 34 points in each of their first two games before dropping games against the Patriots and Bills. ''It's kind of fun, the competition part of it,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ''I think they're playing really good football right now and very strong. They're going to bring it for four quarters and that's how they roll. '' NEW NAME, SAME TEAMRaiders-Chiefs has long b een one of the NFL's bitter rivalries. The teams have met 122 times since their days together in the AFL, and the animosity has been there regardless whether the Raiders played in Oakland, Los Angeles or now Las Vegas. ''I think it's the Raiders against the Chiefs,'' Reid said, ''and it wouldn't matter where they were housed at. It would still be the Raiders and the Chiefs. That's how I look at it. '' COVID-19 QUESTIONSThe Chiefs had their game against the Patriots pushed to Monday when Cam Newton tested positive, and two more New England players have since been placed on the COVID-19 list. One of them is defensive back Stephon Gilmore, who had a face-to-face exchange with Mahomes after the game that has led to some concern in Kansas City. ''The NFL talked to our team. The are in constant communication,'' Mahomes said. ''(Chiefs trainer) Rick Burkholder reminded the guys after the game. I think as long as we listen to those protocols we can keep from having any outbreaks. '' The Raiders, meanwhile, put defensive tackle Maurice Hurst on the COVID-19 list earlier this week. BIG PLAY POTENCYOne thing missing from the Chiefs offense this season has been game-breaking plays, but it's not for lack of trying. Defenses are simply refusing to let Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Co. beat them deep downfield, forcing Mahomes to throw passes to underneath receivers and outlets rather than pushing the ball downfield. ''We're still fast, we can still catch, we still have all that,'' Hill said. ''Sometimes teams just play not to give up the deep shot. '' HOUSE OF HORRORSArrowhead Stadium hasn't been kind to Carr over the years. He has lost all six starts there in his career, becoming one of only eight QBs since the merger to lose that many road games in a single stadium without a win. ''It will never be easy,'' said Carr, who has nine turnovers in those games, leading to a miserable 63. 2 quarterback rating. ''We haven't won there in some time as an organization. We need to get a win there. '' POROUS DEFENSEThe Raiders have struggled to stop anyone this season, allowing three of four opponents to score at least 30 points. It's been a recurring problem since coordinator Paul Guenther arrived in 2018. The Raiders rank 31st in points allowed and yards-per-play and last in sacks and takeaways. The pass rush is tied for 29th in sacks (four) and pressures (26). ''It's never good enough,'' Gruden said. ''Your pass rush is never good enough. And right now, ours is not good enough. '' ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL