New England Patriots: The team activated running back Rex Burkhead to the 53-man roster and released offensive lineman Matt Tobin. Burkhead went on injured reserve on Sept. 26 with a neck injury. He played in three games, starting two, and gained 86 yards on 24 rushing attempts, and he also caught three passes for 31 yards. The Patriots have been shorthanded at the position, with rookie Sony Michel and veteran James White handling the load, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson chipping in. Tobin, signed as a free agent on Nov. 7, was inactive for two games.
Rex Burkhead (34)
Buffalo Bills: Buffalo is known as a gritty, hard-working city, and Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that Buffalo has a quarterback built in its mold. “I love the fire. He personifies Buffalo, right?” McDermott said Monday, the day after Josh Allen returned from injury to lead the Bills to a 24-21 win over Jacksonville. “He’s a hard worker, blue-collar kid and loves to compete. He’s still young, so again, let’s manage expectations. It was a good start for him.” Allen was excited after the win: “I just wanted to go out there and complete the ball when it needed to be completed and make plays when plays needed to be made. I trust the guys around me, and that’s kind of what we did today.”
Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins led Indianapolis 24-14 with less than nine minutes left in the game on Sunday and let it slip away, losing 27-24 to the Colts in a game that left the Dolphins 5-6 and further out of the AFC wild-card picture. Running back Frank Gore was clearly upset on Monday. “I’m not a talkative guy, but I feel like if it’s the right time for something to be said, I’m going to say it,” he said. “The way we lost that game, and gave it away, I know we should’ve won that game. That’s why it was so hard for me.” This was the second time this season the Dolphins lost a game they led by at least 10 points, and head coach Adam Gase said he understands what those two losses mean in the playoff standings. “You’re disappointed because you’ve got two games where you’re sitting there going well, 5-6 or you’re 7-4,” Gase said.
New York Jets: Fill-in starting quarterback Josh McCown has a sore thumb after hurting his hand in the Jets’ 27-13 loss to the Patriots on Sunday. He played through the injury but head coach Todd Bowles told reporters that he wasn’t sure whether McCown could fully practice on Wednesday. Will the next man up be rookie starter Sam Darnold, who has missed the last two games with a sprained right foot? Bowles said he wasn’t sure whether Darnold would be able to practice on Wednesday, either. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Darnold likely would start Sunday at Tennessee.
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco visited a hip specialist on Monday, and the Ravens plan to follow medical advice in developing a plan for their longtime starter who hasn’t played since Nov. 4. Rookie understudy Lamar Jackson is 2-0 since Flacco went down, and brings undeniable electricity to the offense. “My understanding with that injury, the biggest criteria is the protection of the hip, the hip’s ability to protect itself,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s got to be strong and stable. There’s no big tear in there. But the hip’s got to be strong and not agitated for Joe to be able to protect himself. And that’s the concern, is Joe’s safety. That’s why it’s opinion, that’s why the doctor has to decide. It’s not like a hamstring or something — well it’s this degree healed or not. A dislocated hip? We don’t want that.”
Cincinnati Bengals: Jeff Driskel impressed his wide receivers Sunday in the first extended regular-season action of his NFL career, including his first TD pass in a regular-season game to Tyler Boyd. John Ross, who could remain in the starting lineup with A.J. Green (toe) likely questionable to return, said the Bengals found a spark with Driskel in the huddle after Andy Dalton was lost to a season-ending thumb injury. “Anytime Jeff comes in he does phenomenally well,” Ross said. “Jeff comes in and fills that void when he needs to and can do things with his arm and his legs. Jeff fits right in when he comes in.”
Cleveland Browns: Interim head coach Gregg Williams is sticking with his previous assessment of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, even after a convincing win at Cincinnati on Sunday. “I am going to stick with gradual. You guys are trying to get me to change the words,” Williams said Monday. “I like where he is going. I like the fact that every day he is looking to improve and get better. He was one of the first guys in the building today. He was also involved with his coaches on going through the victory Monday. He did not take the day off today. He was looking to get better and get on to the Texans as fast as he can.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: Running back James Conner has been stymied in recent weeks with 143 total rushing yards in the past three games, but the Steelers have limited his opportunities in the running game. After 19-plus carries in four straight games, Conner has 13, 9 and 13 rushing attempts (35) in the past three and a long gain of 15 yards. He had gains of 20-plus yards in six of the first eight games this season. The Steelers were effective through the air against the Broncos, with Ben Roethlisberger supporting the plan to throw 56 times (for 464 yards). “A lot of guys made plays for us,” Roethlisberger said. “Why get away from something you are successful in just to force something else?” Conner did lose a key fumble at the end of the third quarter, leading to Denver’s go-ahead touchdown.
Houston Texans: Played Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
Indianapolis Colts: The team has won five straight games for the first time since 2014 and quarterback Andrew Luck is thriving after missing all of last season due to shoulder surgery. Luck has thrown at least three touchdown passes in each of the past eight games and he guided the club back from a 10-point, fourth quarter deficit to post a 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. “You’ve got to learn how to find a way when it’s not easy and when it doesn’t seem to be your night,” Luck told reporters. “We certainly have things to clean up. I certainly have things to clean up. That won’t get lost in the fact that we won. We’re happy. We’re excited. We’ll never apologize for a win, but we’ve got to improve. That’s the beauty of this game.”
Jacksonville Jaguars: The losing streak reached seven on Sunday and changes occurred the next day as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was fired and starting quarterback Blake Bortles was demoted. Cody Kessler is the new starting signal caller while quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich will call the plays this Sunday against the Colts. “It’s not a knee-jerk reaction,” Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone told reporters. “I really feel like at the end of the day we’ve got to try to get better production out of our passing game or more consistent production in our passing game.” Sunday’s 24-21 loss to the Bills also represented a low point for another reason: Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey had termed Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen as “trash” prior to the season but the rookie got the last laugh by recording the victory.
Tennessee Titans: Visited the Houston Texans on Monday night.
Denver Broncos: Not invited to the combine and not drafted, rookie running back Phillip Lindsay continues to shine for the Broncos. He ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (780), tied for eighth in rushing touchdowns (six), and fourth in yards per carry (5.78) after posting 110 yards and a score on 14 carries Sunday. Head coach Vance Joseph credits Lindsay’s success to uncommon fearlessness for a 5-foot-8, 190-pounder. “He has the courage and the speed to run through darkness and to run through the smoke, so to speak,” Joseph said Monday. “He’s so fast through the hole that by the time the linebackers see him, he’s so close to them it’s hard for those guys to tackle him. He gets into the secondary really fast. I think it’s a combination of speed and courage.”
Kansas City Chiefs: Good friends dating back to their days on the Green Bay Packers’ staff in the early 1990s, Andy Reid and Jon Gruden face off as coaches this week for the first time since October of 2006. In his old role as a Monday Night Football color commentator, Gruden had the opportunity to get a close look at the Chiefs, most recently before last season’s wild-card playoff game, after reports had already surfaced that Gruden was returning to coach the Raiders. But Reid was never worried about Gruden sleuthing for inside information. “I trust him,” Reid said Monday. “He wasn’t going to do anything that I worried about. He wasn’t going to sneak around or anything. That’s not how he rolls.”
Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon (MCL sprain) appears likely to miss a week or two, but his diagnosis is ultimately a positive for head coach Anthony Lynn. “It’ll be a good break for Mel if he doesn’t play and we’ll have full confidence in those younger guys,” Lynn said, referring to Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome. “… Austin was already plugged in at what we are doing right now, inside, outside, special plays. It won’t change at all. Justin Jackson came in and I thought he ran well yesterday.” Lynn called the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Ekeler — who is second in the NFL with 5.84 yards per carry — “our pound-for-pound strongest young man on the team,” adding he has “no problem bouncing him in between the tackles.”
Oakland Raiders: Starting two rookie offensive tackles and having given up 16 sacks in their previous three games, the Raiders kept Derek Carr mostly clean on Sunday until the floodgates opened in the final seven minutes against the Ravens. Matthew Judon beat right tackle Brandon Parker for sacks on three consecutive plays, the first of which was a strip-sack returned for a touchdown by Terrell Suggs. Head coach Jon Gruden stuck up for Parker, a third-round pick, on Monday. “I don’t want to lose sight of all the very good things this young man has done,” Gruden said. “Some of the difficult situations that we put him in early in his career. You just have to be mentally tough.” Gruden also noted that veteran Donald Penn, who started four games before hitting injured reserve, could return before the end of the season.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys find themselves sitting atop the NFC East (via a tiebreaker) after defeating Washington on Thanksgiving. Keeping hold of the top spot starts Thursday at home against the 10-1 New Orleans Saints. The Saints have scored an NFL-leading 409 points on the year — the Cowboys have put up 234 — but quarterback Dak Prescott said the Cowboys are up to the challenge. “We’ve just got to go score. We’ve got to do what we do on offense,” Prescott said Monday. “Obviously we have a lot of trust and faith in our defense, so it’s not, ‘Oh, we’ve got to go in there and do this to stop their offense.’ We’ve just got to simply play our game. We trust in our defense, our scheme and everything that we have. If we go in there and handle our business, we feel good about it.”
New York Giants: Coach Pat Shurmur put the rumors to rest Monday that the team would move on from quarterback Eli Manning now that the Giants are 3-8. Shurmur said he’s not looking to next year and has named Manning his starter for the Sunday game against Chicago. “You go every week with giving your team the best opportunity to win the football game,” Shurmur said. “That’s how you do this thing. This isn’t player tryout. This is do everything in your power to win the next game.” And Manning isn’t about to relinquish the spot to veteran Alex Tanney or rookie Kyle Lauletta after a devastating 25-22 loss to Eagles. “I expect to start until I’m told not to,” Manning told reporters. “I expect to start this week. I expect to play. I’m looking forward to playing. And we’ll go from there.”
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have seen running backs fall to injury, one after another, this season. That’s given Josh Adams his chance, and he’s capitalized on it. “Josh has now kind of taken that lead and will continue to grow,” coach Doug Pederson said Monday on 94WIP, “and we will try to increase his touches each week.” Pederson acknowledged Monday that the Eagles should have taken advantage of his abilities earlier. “We had (Darren) Sproles, we had Jay (Ajayi), we had Corey (Clement), we had Wendell (Smallwood),” Pederson said. “We kind of knew what we had coming out of training camp, but you still don’t know until players play. To his credit, to be taking advantage of some of the injuries, he has slowly, slowly worked himself into this position.” Adams has carried the ball 56 times for 291 yards (5.2 yards per carry average) with two touchdowns this season.
Washington Redskins: Coach Jay Gruden said one of the goals of practice this week is to work on protecting quarterback Colt McCoy, who took over as the Redskins’ starter when Alex Smith went down with a season-ending leg injury on Nov. 18. Against Dallas on Thanksgiving, McCoy threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns to go with three interceptions. “I think when you have a whole week to really study your opponent and study the game plan of why we are putting plays in, I think he’ll be a little more comfortable,” Gruden told reporters. “But, the big thing is to make sure that he is more comfortable in the pocket, and that starts with protection. We’ve got to do a better job protecting and giving him plays that he knows and can execute fairly easy. We have a lot of them, he’s executed a lot of them throughout the four years that he’s been here, or however long he’s been here, and I think we can do that, but now we just have to play well around him, we have to play better around him — everybody, offensive line, tight ends, receivers, everybody.”
Chicago Bears: Honesty is the buzzword at Halas Hall this week as the Bears prepare for the New York Giants not knowing whether starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is healthy enough to return from a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Head coach Matt Nagy is comfortable with backup Chase Daniel, who guided Chicago to a win on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit, but the decision on the Bears’ starter this week remains up in the air. “We’ll continue to take it day by day with him,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s got to continue to just keep rehabbing it and being honest with the trainers and the trainers being honest with the coaches as to where he’s at.”
Detroit Lions: Marvin Jones hitting injured reserve on Monday brings attention to the recent performance of wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who is being targeted on 30 percent of the routes he has run in the past two games, according to NFL Next Gen statistics. He caught five passes for 90 yards against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day and narrowly missed a touchdown reception for a sixth grab. ”He comes to work, he runs his tail off, and he tries to make plays as much as he possibly can,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. ”He doesn’t say much, and those guys with that quiet confidence, I feel good about.”
Green Bay Packers: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Packers are counting on help to get into the playoffs. “We need to win these five,” Rodgers said. “And we need some help.” Rodgers could not identify any singular issue that left Green Bay short on Sunday night against the Vikings after losing in a tight game the previous week at Seattle. “It’s just execution,” he said. “Guys in the right spot. Me making the right throw. We just weren’t on the same page on a few of those.”
Minnesota Vikings: Head coach Mike Zimmer made waves Sunday night when he told NBC TV at halftime he planned to go for it rather than leave the game in kicker Dan Bailey’s hands against Green Bay. Bailey missed from 48 and 56 yards in the first half against the Packers and made his only try, from 37 yards, in the second half. Bailey has the job now because the Vikings failed to convert three field goals — all by since-released Daniel Carlson — against the Packers in Week 2. “Everyone was frustrated because he missed two kicks. Quite honestly, I have a lot of confidence in this kid,” Zimmer said of Bailey. “I have a lot of confidence in this kid. Every day in practice he hits them and he has a good demeanor about him.”
Atlanta Falcons: The team’s run game is missing in action after having just 26 yards — 16 by quarterback Matt Ryan — in the 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night. Then throw in the six sacks, and you have an offensive line is under fire. “Obviously when you have a run-game performance like we did, there’s a lot to look at and a lot that needs our attention and our work, because that was considerably below the line,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters. “That was also the same thing in pass protection. To have six sacks in the game and have the run game that we did, that’s not going to get the job done.” The line has struggled since losing starting guards Andy Levitre (triceps) and Brandon Fusco (ankle) with season-ending injuries.
Carolina Panthers: A three-game losing streak could prompt coach Ron Rivera to feel some heat down the stretch of the season. The two-time NFL Coach of the Year is working for a new owner in David Tepper, who may not have the same type of patience former owner Jerry Richardson did. Rivera feels the urgency — not over job security but with turning around the fortunes of the team. “It’s difficult. This is a result of losing,” Rivera told reporters one day after a 30-27 loss to the Seattle Seahawks “If you win, it’s a whole different conversation that I’m having right now. But that’s just the way it is, and this is the conversation because we did have those critical mistakes at the wrong time.”
New Orleans Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees is enjoying an epic season at age 39 in which he has completed 76.4 percent of his passes for 3,135 yards with 29 touchdown passes against two interceptions. So naturally, he had fun with the situation upon hearing that coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys — New Orleans’ opponent on Thursday — said Brees plays like he is 23. “I feel 25. I don’t feel 23,” Brees said on a conference call. “I mean mind over matter. You cannot stop the aging process, but I think you can delay it a little. I am having fun playing the game and I have a definite routine. It takes a lot of time. Not just the time to prepare for the opponent — talking film work and studying the plan, practice time and all that — but the time it takes to recover and take care of your body and the maintenance and the weight room and all those things.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Receiver DeSean Jackson is scheduled to get a second opinion of a left thumb injury that is hindering him. Jackson visited with a local hand specialist on Monday and will fly to New York on Tuesday for another exam, according to coach Dirk Koetter. Jackson had just three catches for 19 yards in Sunday’s 27-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers and could be jeopardy of missing the upcoming game against the Carolina Panthers. On another note, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s sack against the 49ers pushed his season count to 10.5, making him the first Tampa Bay player since Simeon Rice (14 in 2005) to reach double digits.
Arizona Cardinals: One bright spot for the Cardinals during the last two weeks has been rookie seventh-round offensive tackle Korey Cunningham, who hasn’t allowed a sack or taken a penalty in two starts in place of D.J. Humphries at left tackle, Cunningham’s first two NFL games. That included a strong performance Sunday against Pro Bowl rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. “I knew coming in I’d have my hands full, but you’ve just got to trust your coaching and trust your technique,” Cunningham said. With the release of veteran right tackle Andre Smith on Monday, head coach Steve Wilks announced Cunningham will start on the right side moving forward, with Humphries nearing a return. “He’s getting this opportunity because he deserves it,” Wilks said. “He’s proven himself.”
Los Angeles Rams: The Rams’ defense is a step closer to getting back a key piece, as cornerback Aqib Talib was designated to return from injured reserve on Monday. Talib is now able to practice and eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster before Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. “The first step is done,” Talib said Monday. “Now I’ve just got to practice. Hopefully I look good enough so that the coaches can say I can play on Sunday.” Head coach Sean McVay said the team “could” activate Talib before facing the Lions, but that will depend on how the cornerback’s ankle responds to practice. Since Talib last played in Week 3, the Rams have allowed 30.8 points per game, after allowing 36 total through three weeks.
San Francisco 49ers: Head coach Kyle Shanahan said after Sunday’s loss to the Bucs that he would re-evaluate the quarterback position after poor play from Nick Mullens, but there won’t be a change this week. “I know that I said (after the game) Nick didn’t play very well,” Shanahan told reporters Monday, “but no one played well, and I didn’t coach well. So it was all of us, and Nick did a good job in his first two games. It was not the reason (for the loss) yesterday, so that’s not fair to do that to him.” Mullens went 18-for-32 passing for 221 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against one of the NFL’s worst defenses. He is 61 of 93 for 733 yards, five scores and four picks through three career starts.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks escaped with a win on Sunday despite allowing 220 rushing yards to the Panthers, 54 more than in any other game this season. Head coach Pete Carroll attributed the issues to the absence of linebacker K.J. Wright (knee) against an intricately schemed running game. “K.J.’s played these guys a lot,” Carroll said. “He and Bobby [Wagner] have, and they have real intricate roles and it showed up that there were some errors and some misreads and stuff like that, that hasn’t happened in years past.” Carroll does not know when Wright — who missed the first six games of the season after a knee scope — will be able to return.
–Field Level Media