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

NFL Game Recap: Carolina Panthers (23) vs. Atlanta Falcons (16) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Carolina Panthers (23) vs. Atlanta Falcons (16) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020ATLANTA With Teddy Bridgewater showing promise as a long-term replacement for Cam Newton and Mike Davis flourishing as a short-term substitute for Christian McCaffrey, the Carolina Panthers are emerging as a surprise in the NFC South. It's just the sort of resiliency that has escaped the Atlanta Falcons, who have been unable to recover from a rash of injuries in their 0-4 start entering Sunday's NFC South rivalry game. Led by Bridgewater's accurate passing, the Panthers (2-2) have won two straight games. Bridgewater has completed 73% of his passes, third best in the NFL. He is disproving doubters who may have thought he would be outclassed in a division Falcons coach Dan Quinn labeled ''Quarterback South. '' Tampa Bay's signing of Tom Brady gave the NFC South three of the league's top 10 career pas sers. Drew Brees, Brady and Atlanta's Matt Ryan are on that list while Bridgewater, the former backup to Brees in New Orleans, was just trying to prove he could handle a starting role. Bridgewater's accuracy has the Panthers winning. The matchup with the struggling Falcons provides an opportunity to add to his modest total of only four TD passes. Atlanta has allowed 13 touchdown passes, the most in the NFL. A Falcons secondary already depleted by injuries must overcome the loss of safety Damontae Kazee, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris hopes to have defensive end Takk McKinley and possibly safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen back this week. ''We've got to do a better job of surviving and advancing and playing the right way,'' Morris said. Carolina's young defense, which starts three rookies, is on the upswing. After allowing 67 points and failing to get a sack in their first two games, the Panthers gave up 37 points in the past two games. The unit is beginning to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Brian Burns remains Carolina's top pass rusher, but rookie Yetur Gross-Matos had a big sack-fumble last week that led to a touchdown. ''I thought the defense has really bought into playing hard and playing fast,'' Carolina coach Matt Ruhle said. ''I'm beginning to hear that from people all across the league, like `hey, I watched your tape, you guys are flying around,' which is a credit to our players. '' QUINN HOPING FOR TURNAROUNDInjuries have played a major role in a regression for the Atlanta defense which showed improvement in the second half of the 2019 season. The Falcons won their last four games last season to save coach Dan Quinn's job. Quinn's job status again is the subject of weekly speculation. Quinn hopes a turnaround begins with Atlanta's first division game.  9;'Honestly it really comes down to us and all of the things that we need to do,'' Quinn said. ''We have to stop beating ourselves. '' FULL DOSE OF DAVISDavis should be busy with Reggie Bonnafon joining McCaffrey on injured reserve, each with a high ankle sprain. Davis has 202 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns since replacing McCaffrey. Davis has 21 catches on 23 targets for 146 yards receiving and a touchdown. Carolina's only other experienced running back is Trenton Cannon. LOOKING FOR HELPThe Falcons on Thursday signed safety J. J. Wilcox to the practice squad, adding depth. It is a return for Wilcox, who was signed by the Falcons last year before spending the season on injured reserve. The team released safety Jamal Carter from the practice squad on Wednesday. Safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) and rookie cornerback A. J. Terrell (COVID-19 reserve list) were held out in Monday night's 30-16 loss a t Green Bay. Terrell was activated to the active roster on Thursday, but his status for the game is uncertain. Cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) also is out while backup safety Jaylinn Hawkins is recovering from a concussion. ANDERSON'S IMPACTD. J. Moore was expected to be Carolina's No. 1 receiver coming into the season, but free agent pickup Robby Anderson has been more productive with two 100-yard games. Anderson added 99 more last week against the Cardinals. His 377 yards receiving are sixth most in the NFL. ''Robby is just one of those guys, he comes in, he doesn't say anything, he's all football,'' Bridgewater said. ''He understands that he's here for a reason and he's just been executing at a high level for us. '' JULIO HURTINGJulio Jones missed the second half against Green Bay after aggravating a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the previous week against Chicago. Jones has a history of fin ding a way to play games after missing practice time because of injuries, but he is finding it is difficult to play through this hamstring injury. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals (30) vs. New York Jets (10) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Arizona Cardinals (30) vs. New York Jets (10) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals want to feel the way they did a few weeks ago. Winning Sports Handicappers. That was back when they were about to open the season with two straight wins. Coming off consecutive losses, they knew they needed to change their approach this week when they returned to the practice field. ''I think there was a sense of urgency,'' Murray said. ''I haven't felt that urgency since before Week 1. Going into that game, you could tell it was a different vibe. . . . We've got to get back on the right track, and I think you could feel that today at practice. '' The Cardinals (2-2) are heading to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, looking to end a mini-slump. And they'll be facing the winle ss New York Jets (0-4), who are trying to avoid opening a season with five losses for the first time since 1996. Arizona won't be taking the Jets lightly, even though it looks to some like a major mismatch. Not after they were humbled in losses to Detroit and Carolina. ''Some of it has to do with focus throughout the week during practice,'' tight end Dan Arnold said. ''I think all of us know it, it's been addressed. I think if we have a little bit more focus during the week in practice, really dive into what we need to do to be successful on Sunday, I think it will come. ''It's bound to come. It has to. '' The struggling Jets know the feeling. Sports Illustrated Picks. They've opened consecutive seasons with 0-4 records under Adam Gase, a dubious first in franchise history. That has the coach on an even warmer hot seat, and fans frustrated. And, New York will have to go with backup quarterback Joe Flacco under center with Sam Darnold sidelined for at least this week with a sprained right shoulder. ''I've been with these guys a year,'' Gase said, ''and a lot of those guys that were on this roster last year that I watched fight through a pretty rough start and found ways to get better and found ways to win games, they know sometimes it just takes one game and things turn around. '' HEY, JOEThe 35-year-old Flacco will be making his first start since Week 8 of last season when he was with Denver. Flacco injured his neck in that game and missed the rest of the season. He was waived by Denver in March, signed a one-year deal with New York in May and spent training camp on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from offseason surgery on his herniated disk. It has been a tough road back, but Flacco believes he can still be a starter in the NFL - and he'll get at least one shot with the Jets to prove it. ''You don't want to overdo it in your head and give yourself situations where you're going to go out there and try to do more than you should do,'' Flacco said. ''I've got to go out there and just play within the offense and do the best I can for this team and the situation that we're in right now, and that's focusing on this week and seeing where it goes from there. '' GET VERTICALMurray completed 24 passes against the Panthers, but managed just 133 passing yards. The Cardinals like to use a quick-tempo offense that hits on some shorter passing plays, but coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged that the offense has to find a way to connect on some deeper passes. The Panthers did a good job of disrupting Arizona's short passes. ''We didn't have a good enough plan in place to make the plays down the field that we would have liked to, and that falls on me,'' Kingsbury said. & #39;'I've got to call better plays when they're taking certain things away. '' MENTAL MISTAKESThe Jets were charged with 11 penalties last week against Denver, including six personal fouls. Eight of the penalties, including all of the personals, were on the defense. That has been an area Gase has insisted will be cleaned up this week. ''I think the biggest thing is you double down on the awareness level, for sure, and getting the right guys in there,'' the coach said. ''If we can't do it the right way, then we need to get different guys in there. '' SAFETY DANCEThe Cardinals hope Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker will be back in the lineup against the Jets, one week after he missed the Panthers game following thumb surgery. Handicapper Return on Investment. That's good news for a secondary that had a rough afternoon in the loss to the Panthers. The Cardinals were missing their top three safeties: Baker, Jalen Thompson (ankle) and Chris Banjo (hamstring). Kingsbury said Thompson and Banjo could also return for Sunday's game. But it's Baker who is the unquestioned leader of the group. ''He's one of the best players in the league and brings a lot of things on and off the field to our locker room,'' Kingsbury said. HOME COOKINGThe Cardinals hope All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones can make some big plays in his return to his home state of New York. Jones - who played in college at Syracuse - had a career-high 19 sacks last season, but has just one through four games this season. The 30-year-old Jones has some good recent memories at MetLife Stadium. He had a career-best four sacks against the Giants in Week 7 of last season. In five career games at the venue, he has seven sacks, 10 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and five tackles for a loss. --- Sports Writer David Brandt in Glendale, Arizona, co ntributed. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Los Angeles Rams (30) vs. Washington Football Team (10) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Los Angeles Rams (30) vs. Washington Football Team (10) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020LANDOVER, Md. Sean McVay joked on a long-distance catchup with some familiar voices there were more Washington media members left than players or coaches from his time there. It's more reality than a joke. When McVay coaches the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in his first visit to FedEx Field since leaving and taking them to the Super Bowl, Washington will have just five players in uniform and one assistant coach on the opposite sideline remaining from his tenure. McVay spent seven seasons as a Washington assistant, including his role as offensive coordinator from 2014-16, but this isn't the kind of emotional return he might have expected. ''When I look at the roster and I look at the coaching staff, there's a very small number of people that I still recognize,'' McVay said. ''Especially witho ut the fans, it doesn't feel like much of a homecoming to me. '' Like San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, McVay is still a success story emerging from a dysfunctional organization and taking a new team to the Super Bowl. Also impressively, McVay's Rams have bounced back from missing the playoffs last year to open 3-1 in a tough NFC West. Another former Washington assistant deserves a slice of credit for that. Kevin O'Connell is in his first season as offensive coordinator after getting just one year in that role with Washington following two as quarterbacks coach, and has helped Jared Goff get off to a strong start. McVay said O'Connell is ''instrumental'' in what Goff has done so far: completed 88 of 122 passes for 1,063 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. ''He's definitely demanding of a lot, which I love, and keeps the high standard for me,'' said Goff, whose completion rate of 72. 1 percent ranks fourth in the NFL. ''At the same time, he's able to keep it light and we're able to joke around and have fun. '' The QB situation isn't so rosy for Washington (1-3). First-year coach Ron Rivera benched 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins this week in favor of Kyle Allen, who knows offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system better from his time in Carolina. ''We'll see what happens with Kyle,'' Rivera said. ''He's had some success, but it's been limited. He's won seven games for me in the past. But that's the past. We'll see what he does this week, and we'll go from there. '' Allen will be the eighth different Washington QB to start a game since McVay left, joining Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum and Haskins. MCVAY HOLDOVERSThose left from McVay's time in Washington? Just running backs coach Randy Jordan, right tackle Morgan M oses and injured right guard Brandon Scherff from the offense. Moses, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan and the three specialists - kicker Dustin Hopkins, punter Tress Way and long snapper Nick Sundberg - will be the only players on the field Sunday who have been around since at least 2016. Scherff remains out with a right knee injury, and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis is out for the season with a torn biceps tendon. SCORES OF SILENCEMcVay thinks the league's record scoring output of 51. 3 points a game through four weeks can be credited to a lack of crowd noise, allowing offenses to communicate when they might normally be limited to hand signals and silent snap counts. ''It's probably louder with the speakers at practice than it is in the actual games,'' offensive lineman David Edwards said. ''I really feel like our edge and our advantage on offense is our tempo and the way we challenge people with our cadence so being able to communicate with that, and not having fans is huge. '' The Rams have certainly taken advantage of those favorable conditions, scoring 69 points in their first two road games, and they'll get another quiet environment at Washington. Fans continue to be banned from FedEx Field because of state regulations. ALEX SMITH NEXT UPWith Allen taking over as Washington's starter and Haskins demoted to No. 3 on the depth chart, Alex Smith will dress in a game for the first time since breaking his right tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion on Nov. 18, 2018. Rivera is confident with the possibility of Smith playing because doctors cleared him and despite the fact the 36-year-old hasn't taken any contact in practice as preparation for a game. Free Pick. The Rams are prepared if they see Smith, even if they'll be admiring his comeback. ''To overcome some of the things that he's overcome to put himself in a p osition to just be able to have full utilization of that leg, let alone be playing NFL football, all I can really say is, `Wow,''' McVay said. ''The respect I have for this guy is through the roof. I don't know him personally, but everybody that I respect and that I really hold their opinion in high regard just loves this guy and can't say enough good things about him. '' SPOOKY SEASONAaron Donald will put a fright into opposing offenses any time of the year, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is especially good in October. He has 19 1/2 sacks, 34 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles in 24 career October games, and Donald will be looking to build on a superb start to the 2020 season. With 3 1/2 sacks through four games, Donald is tied with Kansas City's Chris Jones and Chicago's Akiem Hicks for the league lead among defensive tackles and tied for fourth overall. ''The thing about Aaron Donald is he's sp ecial, and you've got to be able to account for him,'' Rivera said. ''You have to account for wherever he is. '' --- Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Thousand Oaks, California, contributed. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

NFL Game Recap: Jacksonville Jaguars (14) vs. Houston Texans (30) - 10/11/2020

NFL Game Recap: Jacksonville Jaguars (14) vs. Houston Texans (30) - Date: 10/11/2020 Oct 08, 2020HOUSTON The Bill O'Brien era is over in Houston, and now it's up to Romeo Crennel to help the Texans try to turn around this dreadful season. O'Brien was fired as coach and general manager on Monday after the Texans dropped to 0-4 for the first time since 2008 with a loss to the Vikings last weekend. Team owner Cal McNair then made Crennel the team's interim coach for the rest of this season. Crennel has been an assistant for O'Brien since 2014 and has coached both the Browns and the Chiefs in an NFL and college career spanning 50 years. He isn't promising a miraculous change on Sunday when the Texans host the Jaguars (1-3), but he does have some expectations for his team. ''I hope our attitude and energy is different, and then I hope that our performance is different,'' he said. Along with i mproving their mindset, Crennel believes the biggest problem for the Texans this season has been inconsistency, something he's focused on improving this week. ''There are times that we do what we're supposed to do, and we look good,'' Crennel said. ''Then when we try to make a play, we get guys trying to do too much, then that opens up seams. Then we look bad. '' ''My goal is to try to get us to look good on a more consistent basis,'' he said. ''Then I think that will give us a chance to be in the game and have a chance to win. '' Star defensive end J. J. Watt wouldn't address reports that he got into a verbal altercation with O'Brien in practice two weeks ago. But he did say that he thought a team with Deshaun Watson at quarterback needed a change after the 0-4 start. ''I appreciate and respect what we had,'' Watt said. ''We won four division titles in six years wi th Bill . . . but obviously this year we're 0-4 and stuff wasn't working. When you have the talent that we have, specifically at the quarterback position in this league, you can't be 0-4. '' He then raved about the ''positive air'' Crennel brings to work every day. ''You can't really help but smile when you're having a conversation with RAC,'' Watt said. ''I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do and what he brings to our team. It should be fun. '' At 73, Crennel will be the oldest coach in NFL history when the Texans take the field on Sunday, passing Hall of Famer George Halas, who was 72 in his last game with Bears in 1967. Crennel chuckled when told of that fact, but said he really hasn't given his place in history much thought with everything else on his plate this week. ''I'm just a football coach and I enjoy coaching and that's why I'm still coaching,'&# 39; he said. ''So, I'm just going to try to make this team better and try to win a football game. '' Jaguars coach Doug Marrone doesn't expect any big changes to the Texans under Crennel with Houston offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver still in place. But he believes the winless Texans will have a chip on their shoulders in the wake of O'Brien's firing. ''People start looking and saying: `Hey, we have to step up our game,''' he said. ''So usually you get the best effort from a team. '' SECONDARY SHUFFLEThe Jaguars will be without nickel cornerback D. J. Hayden (hamstring), causing some shuffling in the defensive secondary and leaving the unit with even less experience. Hockey Predictions. Third-year pro Tre Herndon is expected to fill Hayden's role on passing downs, putting rookie Chris Claybr ooks or newcomer Sidney Jones on the field opposite rookie CJ Henderson. Jacksonville would be even younger in the secondary if second-year safety Andrew Wingard starts his fourth consecutive game. But Jarrod Wilson (hamstring) was activated from injured reserve and could return against the Texans. STOPPING THE RUNIf the Texans hope to get a win on Sunday, they'll have to find a way to stop the run. They enter the week with the NFL's worst run defense, allowing 181. 8 yards a game. Improving it has been a focus on Crennel's this week. ''I have to show them on the tape when they do it correctly, we get a stop or the guy gains 1 yard rather than 15,'' he said. ''I have evidence of that on tape that when things are done correctly, we can stop the run. '' But so far that hasn't happened, something that has irked Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Watt said Crennel's coaching style is to encourage the playe rs to focus on the little things and he hopes that doing that will help them finally stop the run on Sunday. ''It doesn't have to be elaborate and beautiful,'' he said. ''He just wants it to be done right. That's what we're doing. It's a bit of simplification. Just to do your job and do it right and do it well. '' SAD SACK JAGSMaybe Houston will help Jacksonville solve its pass rush woes. The Jaguars have four sacks in as many games, ranking 29th in the league in sacks per pass attempt, and really struggled to get to Cincinnati rookie Joe Burrow last week. Jacksonville has sacked Watson a combined 12 times in the past four games. --- Pro Football Writer Mark Long contributed to this report. ---More NFL: https://apnews. com/NFL and https://twitter. com/-NFL

Saturday, October 10, 2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Miami Florida (17) vs. Clemson (42) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Miami Florida (17) vs. Clemson (42) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 07, 2020With nine consecutive seasons with double-digit victories and five straight trips to the College Football Playoff, Clemson has been playing in big games for the better part of a decade. Now Miami wants to join in on the fun. Free Sports Picks. The Hurricanes will get that chance Saturday night when they tackle unbeaten and top-ranked Clemson in a primetime, nationally televised game at the Tigers' Memorial Stadium. "This is a great opportunity for us to test ourselves against a team that's very comfortable in these settings," Miami coach Manny Diaz said. "This is not a big game at Clemson; this is just what they do, you know what I mean? And we've got to get our program where it's the same way. " Both teams are unbeaten at 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, creating what amounts to the premier showdown in the ACC to date this season. Clemson is ranked No. 1 while Miami is No. 7, making this game the first battle between Top 10 teams at Memorial Stadium since 2016. Number #1 Sports Handicapping Service. The game is expected to feature plenty of offensive firepower. Both Clemson and Miami are averaging more than 42 points, and both feature Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback -- Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Miami's D'Eriq King. Lawrence has passed for 848 yards and seven touchdowns this season while also rushing for three scores. He's thrown 314 consecutive passes without an interception, which is a school record and the third-longest streak in ACC history. Lawrence hasn't been intercepted since the first quarter of the Tigers' win at Louisville on Oct. 19, 2019. King, a transfer from Houston, has thrown for 736 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 157 yards and another score. "He's a great quarterback -- he can do it all," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of King. "There's really nothing he can't do. He can make all the throws and when he runs it, he's a running back. He's got that mindset of a running back, too. You'd better have your big-boy pads on. He's averaging 5. 4 yards after contact, so this is a very physical player. " Throw in running backs Travis Etienne, Clemson's two-time ACC Player of the Year, and Miami's Cam'Ron Davis, and there's potential for explosive plays and plenty of points. Yet it may be the Hurricanes' defense that concerns Swinney the most. "They're not sit-and-read guys," Swinney said. "They're off-the-ball, in-your-grits-quick guys. They are not sitting around waiting on anything. They are trying to wreak havoc. They are fast and physical at the line of scrimmage. " Both teams have aggressive defensive units. Since 2017, Clemson and Miami have ranked in the top 18 each season in both sacks and tackles for loss. Diaz, who is in his second season at the Miami helm, was the team's defensive coordinator when they lost to Clemson 38-3 in the 2017 ACC Championship Game. "That situation ate us up a little bit," Diaz said. "It was a great learning experience. " Diaz hopes his program has learned enough to at least close the gap on Clemson's recent dominance. The Tigers have won the two most recent meetings between the teams by a combined 92-3. "What you see now (at Clemson) is a culture that's used to winning," Diaz said. "The leadership of the team has been able to pass it down through generations, and when freshmen come, it's 'Hey, this is the way we do things here. ' "--Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Alabama (63) vs. Mississippi (48) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Alabama (63) vs. Mississippi (48) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was Nick Saban's offensive coordinator for three seasons at Alabama. During that time (2014-16), the Crimson Tide won three SEC championships and one national championship. Handicappers Watchdog. The two will have a chance to get reacquainted when Saban's No. 2 Crimson Tide (2-0) visit Kiffin's Rebels (1-1) on Saturday. "I think that's a storyline," Kiffin said, "but I don't think it's really that big a deal. We worked together for three years, (I) learned a lot from him, had a great run, very productive teams with a lot of great players and a lot of great wins. "We have the No. 1 team in the country coming in. In my opinion, the premier program in the country. No offense to Clemson, you know, those are the two premier programs that are operating the highest level over the last, whatever, 10 years. And this one's doing it in the SEC, so it's a little bit harder. " Kiffin is in his first season at Ole Miss after three seasons as the head coach at Florida Atlantic. If the two coaches' familiarity with one another is a factor, it doesn't seem to favor Kiffin. Saban is 20-0 in games against head coaches who worked for him. Saban ran his record to 4-0 against former assistant Jimbo Fisher in a 52-24 victory against Texas A&M last Saturday. Kiffin, who also was a head coach at Southern California, was Tennessee's head coach in 2009 and lost to Saban's Tide 12-10. "Everybody says (the former assistants) know him," Kiffin said. "Well, he knows the assistants. I think it goes both ways. " Another storyline involves the quarterbacks -- the Tide's Mac Jones and the Rebels' Matt Corral. Jones leads the country in passing effici ency, and Corral is third. In a loss to Florida and a win against Kentucky, Corral has completed 76. 7 percent of his passes for 715 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. "(Corral) is a really, really good player," Saban said. "He's very athletic. He can make plays with his feet, present a lot of problems in terms of how they're playing on offense. " Jones completed 20 of 27 for 435 yards and four touchdowns and one interception against the Aggies. Kiffin was at Alabama when Saban was recruiting Jones, who chose to join a program that already had Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback. "I always thought the cool thing about Mac was, everybody said, 'Why would you go there with Tua? '" Kiffin said. "And he didn't care. He was very competitive and really confident in himself. " The Saturday game has the potential to turn into a shootout. It's not just because of the quarterbacks, but also because of the d efenses. Ole Miss allowed 51 points in the loss to Florida and 41 in the overtime win against Kentucky. Alabama's young pass defense did not play up to the Saban standard in the victory against the Aggies or in a 38-19 victory against Missouri a week earlier. "I think the mental errors led to several explosive plays where we didn't have somebody covered (against Texas A&M)," Saban said. "We need to get better. " Saban said he did think the pass defense was better against the Aggies than it was against the Tigers in the opener. --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Florida State (26) vs. Notre Dame (42) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Florida State (26) vs. Notre Dame (42) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 07, 2020No. 5 Notre Dame will look to stay unbeaten when it hosts Florida State on Saturday evening in South Bend, Ind. Point Shaving. The Fighting Irish (2-0) are coming off double-digit wins over Duke and South Florida to start the season. Notre Dame outscored its first two opponents 79-13. Perhaps that is why Notre Dame enters the weekend as a three-touchdown favorite against Florida State (1-2), which has endured a tumultuous start to the 2020 campaign. The Seminoles lost their first two games against Georgia Tech and Miami before bouncing back with a 41-24 win against Jacksonville State last week. Top Rated Sports Handicappers. This will be the first game in three weeks for Notre Dame, which postponed its Sept. 26 game agai nst Wake Forest because of a COVID-19 outbreak. The Fighting Irish had an open date scheduled for Oct. 3, allowing the program more time to monitor its roster, which included 39 players who were placed in isolation or quarantine late last month. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he would have his team prepared for this weekend. "In terms of identifying who is available, who's not available, it's an exercise that we're not going to get into other than (the fact) I can tell you this," Kelly said. "We have modified our schedule to make certain that we're taking care of our guys first in terms of their health, and then secondly, preparing in a manner that allows us to get our entire football team back intact. . . . "How we play against Florida State will be the narrative that everybody writes relative to this either being a positive to dealing with COVID and the realities of it, or it was a major setback. " The Fighting Irish offense is led by quarterback Ian Book, who has completed 62 percent of his passes for 407 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Top target Tommy Tremble has eight catches for 104 yards, and Kyren Williams leads the ground game with 29 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Florida State will make the trip north to Notre Dame Stadium with a new starting quarterback. Louisville transfer Jordan Travis was named the No. 1 quarterback this week after coming off the bench to help Florida State beat Jacksonville State. Travis completed 12 of 17 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown while also tallying 11 carries for 48 rushing yards and a score. NHL Handicappers. Travis will be the team's third starting quarterback this season, following in the footsteps of James Blackman and Tate Rodemaker. Seminoles coaches said it was possible that they could feature more than one signal-caller against the Fighting Iri sh but bristled at the notion that Travis was a one-dimensional, running quarterback. "The thought that he couldn't throw to begin with always was comical to me," offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. "He can throw the football. He can throw the ball really well. " Florida State leads the all-time series 6-3. This will be the first meeting between the programs since Nov. 10, 2018, when Notre Dame cruised to a 42-13 victory. The Fighting Irish have won 20 consecutive home games dating to Sept. 30, 2017. That marks the longest home winning streak for the program since it won 28 straight from 1942-50. --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: East Carolina (44) vs. South Florida (24) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: East Carolina (44) vs. South Florida (24) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 07, 2020When the East Carolina Pirates visit the South Florida Bulls on Saturday, both teams will be looking for their first American Athletic Conference victory of the season. Winning Sports Handicappers. The Pirates (0-2, 0-1 AAC), led by second-year coach Mike Houston, rank sixth among the nine AAC teams that have played a game this year in average points scored (28. 5). East Carolina's defense is last in the AAC in points (50. 0) and also yards allowed (558. 5). In addition, the Pirates have yet to sack the quarterback, and they are a league-worst minus-four on turnover differential. East Carolina's red-zone defense has been unable to come up with a turnover or a stop that keeps an opponent off the board. On 12 trips, Pirates opponents have 12 scores -- five passing touchdown s, four running TDs and three field goals. Among the Pirates' top performers on offense are quarterback Holton Ahlers and wide receivers Tyler Snead and Blake Proehl. Ahlers, a junior, is fourth in the league with 228. 5 passing yards per game. Last year, he ranked ninth in FBS in total yardage (3,746). Snead and Proehl are tied for fourth in the league with 6. 5 receptions per game. Professional Handicappers. The Pirates should be able to put up some offensive numbers on Saturday -- but only if they avoid the turnovers that have plagued them so far. In a season-opening 51-28 loss to Central Florida, East Carolina lost three straight fumbles and also had an interception. Then, in a 49-29 loss to Georgia State last week, Ahlers was intercepted three times. East Carolina is also averaging 101 yards in penalties in two games. "All those mistakes," Houston said, "you just can't keep making them. " Meanwhile, the Bulls (1-2, 0-1), coached by former Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, have faced a tough schedule. After a 27-6 season-opening win over The Citadel, the Bulls lost 52-0 to No. 5 Notre Dame and 28-7 to No. 11 Cincinnati. USF tied a school record last week by picking off five passes in the loss to Cincinnati. "Our defense kept us in the game," Scott said. "But we didn't play complementary football. Our offense wasn't very good. " Scott, however, did see a bright side. "We've played top-15 teams the past two weeks," he said, "and our guys are getting good experience. " The Bulls, who had a game against Florida Atlantic postponed due to unspecified COVID-19 issues, were without 12 players against Cincinnati, including eight on defense. Offensively, the Bulls have used four quarterbacks in three games: sophomore Jordan McCloud; North Carolina transfer Cade Fortin; Alcorn S tate transfer Noah Johnson and true freshman Katravis Marsh. With the QB position so unsettled, it has caused some issues on a Bulls offense that ranks last in the league, scoring just 11. 3 points per game. Sports Picks for Today. That sets up a matchup between an East Carolina defense that can stop no one so far, and a USF offense that stalls out regularly. It's an East Carolina pass rush that has sacked no one and a USF blocking wall that has allowed eight sacks, tied for worst in the league. On the other side of the ball, Glenn Spencer -- who is USF's new defensive coordinator -- is making progress. His Bulls secondary ranks first in the league with just 125 passing yards allowed per game. Junior linebacker Antonio Grier leads USF in sacks, ranking seventh in the league. And junior safety Nick Roberts is tied with Grier for the team lead in tackles. --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Temple (29) vs. Navy (31) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Temple (29) vs. Navy (31) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020Temple's long-delayed 2020 season opener arrives Saturday when the Owls visit Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and American Athletic Conference counterpart Navy. Saturday's contest in Annapolis, Md. , was originally scheduled for Sept. 26. The conference announced the move in early September, shortly after Temple coach Rod Carey said the Owls needed more preseason preparation time. Basketball Handicappers. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted both the practice schedule and game docket for Temple, as the Owls had the entirety of their nonconference slate scratched, as well. "It's time to play a game," Carey said on his Sept. 29 teleconference. "We're rounding into shape. We're hitting that point . . . in every preseason, even in normal years, where you're real ly done with your evaluation parts. You really can't evaluate the next part of your team until you play. " Although the Temple coaching staff has had an extended preseason evaluation period, Carey said Monday that the initial depth chart could still see some shake-ups. Navy (1-2, 1-0 AAC) has faced its own roster fluctuation through three games. Quarterback Dalen Morris, who led a comeback from down 24-0 to beat Tulane 27-24 on Sept. 19, missed the Midshipmen's 40-7 loss last week at nonconference rival Air Force with an undisclosed medical condition. Morris is slated to return to the lineup this week against Temple. "It'll be nice to have a guy who has two starts and not changing quarterbacks every week," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Monday. Best Free Sports Picks. Tyger Goslin started at Air Force and went 6-of-15 passing for 137 yards with a touchdown. It was the only score Navy mustered, as its usually prolific option rushing attack was limited to 90 yards. Top Rated Sports Handicappers. The lack of offense came to a head in the fourth quarter, when Air Force piled on 21 of its 40 points. After scoring just three points in their other nonconference game -- a 55-3 loss to BYU on Sept. 7 -- a Temple defensive line with standouts Ifeanyi Maijeh and Daniel Archibong is a major concern for the Midshipmen. "The big concern for us, we're not a very physical team right now," Niumatalolo said. "Temple's always a physical team. . . . This team, over the years, is probably the most physical team in our league. " Navy and Temple last played in 2018, a 24-17 Owls win. Temple gave up 270 yards and 5. 1 yards per carry, its second-highest yield that season, but limited scoring opportunities. In 2019, when the teams did not play, the Temple defense held opponents to 3. 8 yards per carry. Navy comes into Saturday's matchup averaging just 3. 2 yards per carry, a precipitous drop from the Mids' 6. 1 per-carry output last season behind 2,017-yard rusher and quarterback Malcolm Perry. Jump-starting its rushing attack begins for Navy with that line battle. Containing Maijeh is its one challenge, with the Temple tackle coming off a 2019 in which he tallied 6. 5 sacks. "It's been a big emphasis for us from the beginning (and) after the BYU game, the first half (against) Tulane, they won the line of scrimmage," Niumatalolo said. --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Pittsburgh (30) vs. Boston College (31) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Pittsburgh (30) vs. Boston College (31) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020With a favorable break or two, the Pittsburgh Panthers and Boston College Eagles could have been meeting this weekend as ranked teams. Instead both came up short in close home losses a week ago and are now looking for rebound wins. Sports Picks Today. The former Big East rivals will meet for the third time as Atlantic Coast Conference opponents Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Ranked No. 24 last week, the Panthers (3-1, 2-1) saw quarterback Kenny Pickett put on a career performance, but Pitt uncharacteristically caved on defense -- head coach Pat Narduzzi's forte -- as North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary drove the visitors 79 yards in eight plays and threw a touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in a shocking 30-29 Wolfpack win. Leary passed for 336 yards and f our touchdowns in his first start this season, and his late-game heroics prevented Pitt from starting 4-0 for the first time since 2000. Money Cappers. The Wolfpack generated 398 total yards against Narduzzi's squad, which entered the game with the nation's top defense, and were particularly good converting in high-leverage situations -- NC State was 7-for-16 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down. "I think Devin Leary, number one," Narduzzi said of Pitt's biggest problem. "The guy pulling the trigger obviously had a good game today, and he made the right decisions. He got the ball out pretty quick. We couldn't get as much pressure as we'd like. " Pickett posted his seventh career 300-yard passing game by going 22 of 39 for a career-best 411 yards and a touchdown (he also ran for two) as Pitt amassed 503 total yards. But the Wolfpack broke a seven-game losing streak aga inst ranked teams with the last-minute drive. Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec tossed a 6-yard TD pass to CJ Lewis with 45 seconds left to bring the Eagles (2-1, 1-1) to within 24-22 against 12th-ranked North Carolina, but his two-point pass attempt was intercepted and returned for two points by UNC's Trey Morrison. A Pittsburgh native and transfer from Notre Dame, the sophomore Jurkovec went 37-for-56 for 313 yards and two touchdowns, but the home side rushed for just 40 yards on 19 attempts. First-year head coach Jeff Hafley's squad wasted numerous opportunities. They didn't turn the ball over but did get called for 12 penalties spanning 110 yards and dropped multiple passes in the red zone. "(Our guys) expected to win it in the fourth quarter," Hafley said. "We missed some opportunities -- to go up, stop them on third down and in explosive plays. If we do our job at a higher level, we win that football game. " The Panthers hold a 17-14 edge in a series that dates back to 1959, but Boston College was able to break a four-game losing skid in the series last Thanksgiving weekend in the Steel City. In that game, the Eagles' ground game with running back AJ Dillon wore down Pittsburgh toward the end of the teams' first meeting in five years in a 26-19 victory that wasn't enough to guarantee an eighth season for former BC head coach Steve Addazio. Sports Handicapping Monitor. The Panthers won the only other ACC meeting between the teams in a 30-20 road victory over the Eagles in 2014. --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Arkansas (28) vs. Auburn (30) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Arkansas (28) vs. Auburn (30) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020Arkansas tasted victory in a Southeastern Conference game for the first time in nearly three years last weekend. Leading Handicappers. The Razorbacks (1-1, 1-1 SEC) will look to pull off another upset on Saturday when they travel to Alabama to face No. 13 Auburn (1-1, 1-1). NBA Handicappers. The Razorbacks' losing streak in conference games ended at 20 with a 21-14 victory over then-No. 16 Mississippi State. The Tigers are coming off a 27-6 loss to Georgia that dropped them six places in the Top 25. First-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman isn't concerned about his team getting refocused after ending their skid. "I don't think it's going to be a problem," he said Monday. "I'm going to show them this afternoon why we won. We always have a good, bad and ugly video. . . . We'll put (the previous) game to bed in the first half of our meetings and talk about Auburn and where we're going in the second (half). I don't think it will be one bit of a problem. I know our coaching staff has moved on and our players usually do what we do. " A strong defensive effort was primarily responsible for the victory. They held Mississippi State to 87 rushing yards and forced four turnovers. Quarterback Feleipe Franks was steady, if unspectacular. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception after getting picked off twice in the team's opener, a 37-10 loss to Georgia. Sports Picks Free. The Razorbacks lacked a ground game -- they gained just 1. 7 yards per carry and had 63 total rushing yards -- in part because top running back Rakeem Boyd departed early with an apparent ankle injury. Pittman indicated that Boyd should be ready to go against Auburn. The same can be said for linebacker Grant Morgan, who made 15 tackles on Saturday despite an elbow injury. "We may have to get the other elbow hurt," Pittman joked. "If he made 15 tackles, he may get to 20. . . . He loves to play and he toughed it out and got treatment, and he'll be fine. " Arkansas is looking to avenge a 51-10 blowout loss to the Tigers last October. Tigers coach Gus Malzahn expects a much tougher battle this time. "They had a big win, so they'll definitely be confident and give it their best," he said. "We will too, so should be a good one. " The Tigers were held to 216 total yards by Georgia, including 39 yards on the ground. Quarterback Bo Nix barely completed more than half of his passes after throwing three touchdown passes in the team's opener against Kentucky. "Bo created a lot of things, an d when things broke down he made some plays," Malzahn said. "We just have to do a better job of being balanced and running the football and throwing the football. They made us one dimensional, and that made it extremely tough. " A year ago, the Tigers bounced back from all three regular-season losses by winning their ensuing games. Malzahn believes his team will show the same grit on Saturday. "The championship-type teams respond. They improve," he said. "It's so hard to improve each week. You look at college football, every year, some teams are playing their best at the first and they fade off. But the teams that are there in it at the end are the ones that gradually get better. " --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Kansas State (21) vs. TCU (14) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Kansas State (21) vs. TCU (14) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020With a fresh new contract extension in hand, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman will take his Wildcats into a crucial Big 12 game against TCU at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday afternoon. Both teams have impressive road wins on their resumes in the early conference season. K-State (2-1, 2-0 Big 12) defeated then-No. 3 Oklahoma for the second straight season on Sept. 26, this time by virtue of a 24-0 run to end the game. The Sooners led 35-14 midway through the third quarter, but the Wildcats won 38-35. Free Pick. That performance, and a come-from-behind victory over Texas Tech last Saturday, led to an extension for Klieman through the 2026 season. Klieman, who led the Wildcats to eight wins and a bowl berth in his first season at K-State in 2019, has an 82-19 career m ark, counting a 69-6 mark in five seasons at FCS power North Dakota State. Winning Sports Handicappers. TCU (1-1, 1-1) also won a big road game in its last outing, defeating then-No. 9 Texas 33-31 in Austin. The Horned Frogs used a different formula than did the Wildcats, leading the Longhorns by six at halftime and by two at the end of the third quarter, before a late touchdown by quarterback Max Duggan and subsequent defensive stand sealed the win. TCU forced and recovered a fumble inside the 1-yard-line with less than three minutes remaining. With Oklahoma and Texas combining for a 1-3 conference record, TCU coach Gary Patterson says that shouldn't impact the perception of the quality of the Big 12. "It really bothers me that we base whether our league is good or bad or not on whether Oklahoma and Texas are good," Patterson said on the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday. "To be honest wi th you, we have a lot of good football teams and we always have had a lot of good football teams. Going forward, we just need to keep improving our league from top to bottom and keep doing the things that we need to do. " TCU is led by Duggan, a sophomore, who has thrown for 472 yards and three touchdowns. He also leads the team in rushing with 89 yards and two scores. K-State will lean on true freshman quarterback Will Howard, who threw for 173 yards against Texas Tech, including a 70-yard touchdown to fellow true freshman Deuce Vaughn, as he became the first Wildcat true freshman signal caller with a 100-yard passing game since Josh Freeman in 2006. Howard also had a 66-yard pass to tight end Briley Moore to set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. He was the first Wildcat to complete two passes of at least 65 yards in one game since Jesse Ertz against Central Arkansas in the 2017 season opener. Klieman said Tuesday that he is hopeful that injured quarterba ck Skylar Thompson (passing arm) would be able to take some reps in practice later that afternoon, leaving the possibility of him seeing action against TCU. If he can't Klieman is confident in Howard. "He was a winner for starters," Klieman said of the reason for recruiting Howard. "He was the right fit for what we're trying to do, from a personality standpoint and a skills standpoint. He did all the little things right to learn the offense and had a really good fall camp. " --Field Level Media

NCAAF Game Recap: Tennessee (21) vs. Georgia (44) - 10/10/2020

NCAAF Game Recap: Tennessee (21) vs. Georgia (44) - Date: 10/10/2020 Oct 06, 2020With eight consecutive wins going back to last year, No. 14 Tennessee is on the rise under third-year coach Jeremy Pruitt. How good the Volunteers really are, though, could be answered in 60 minutes of Southeastern Conference football Saturday at No. 3 Georgia. The Bulldogs (2-0) pounded then-No. 7 Auburn 27-6 last week in Athens, Ga. , establishing a 24-3 halftime lead and cruising through the game's remainder. Point Shaving. That was a more impressive victory than Tennessee's 35-12 decision over winless Missouri, particularly after Pruitt reviewed the video. "We ran one particular play 10 times in the game and only blocked it correctly four times," he said. "We've got to eliminate those mistakes to give ourselves a chance to have more success. We've got lots of things that we need to work on. " Depending on one's interpretation of the roster on hand, one of those things doesn't appear to be the offensive line, which got a further boost last week. Georgia transfer Cade Mays was ruled eligible by the SEC on Sept. 30 and made his debut against Missouri, starting at right tackle. Although Pruitt bemoaned missed assignments, the Vols still rushed for 232 yards on 51 attempts and controlled the ball for nearly 32 minutes. The addition of Mays, who started 18 games over the last two years with the Bulldogs, made a more experienced line better and deeper. "He went against most of these guys every single day," Pruitt said of Mays' time at Georgia. "They're used to going against Cade. Cade's used to going against them. So they're real familiar with each other. " Mays departed the Bulldogs a week after starting in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor. The Knoxville product benefited fr om an emergency vote that was convened by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Conference presidents later termed the decision a "blanket waiver," referring to the NCAA's wish that no athlete lose a season of eligibility in part due to COVID-19. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart seemed to vacillate Monday between understanding Mays' wishes and bitterness at Tennessee. "I know guys in the SEC will do anything to get guys eligible, and that's their decision," Smart said. Smart was much happier when asked about last week's domination of Auburn. Redshirt junior quarterback Stetson Bennett connected on 17 of 28 passes in his first college start, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. "I was really proud of Stetson and the way he handled things," Smart said. "Very composed. He probably had some balls he wishes he could have back, but he'll only get better from here and he gives us some continuity. " This will be the 50th meeting of the two programs. Georgia owns a 24-23-2 series lead after last year's 43-14 rout in Knoxville, its third consecutive win over the Vols. Tennessee's last victory in the series occurred in 2016, when Josh Dobbs hit Jauan Jennings with a Hail Mary on the final play to secure a 34-31 decision in Athens. --Field Level Media