NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo BillsSep 16, 2018; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to throw a pass during the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills: NBC Sports' Peter King has been covering football a long time and has seen really bad player debuts and really good ones. He marked the first career start of Bills quarterback Josh Allen in the not-too-bad category. "Well, I thought it was better than I expected," King said. "He is obviously going to have difficultly with protection issues, the Bills are. And so you're probably not going to be able to use everything. You wonder how many seven-step drops he has, when he does take snaps from under center, when that happens, but overall you know, I'd give him a good mark."
Miami Dolphins: Will the real "FitzMagic" please stand up? That's a nickname that has been associated with Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the past, and with his hot start in 2018, it's gotten a lot of use. But one player is officially laying claim to it. Representatives of Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick last week filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on his behalf. Fitzpatrick -- Minkah, that is -- wants to sell merchandise and apparel using the moniker. His mother said the Alabama product, whom the Dolphins took 11th overall in April's draft, has used the nickname since high school.
New England Patriots: Down 14-0 to Jacksonville after the first quarter Sunday, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels huddled together the offense -- and yelled. He explained why on a conference call. "Our overall performance, I feel like that's what my job is and so I didn't do a good enough job obviously on Sunday," he said. "We didn't score enough points, didn't produce enough first downs, didn't control the game at all, and we weren't playing as well as any of us would like at that point in the day. I think part of coaching is understanding there's times where you do things quietly and pull somebody aside, and there's other times where you either just want to try to create a spark or what have you and just refocus on the things that are really important, and that's really all I was doing."
New York Jets: Football fans lauded the most recent season of HBO's "Hard Knocks," which featured the Cleveland Browns. The Jets meet the Browns on Thursday night, and coach Todd Bowles was asked this week if he learned anything about the opponent from the show. He said he hadn't watched it. "I watch 'Power' and 'Queen of the South' and that is about it," he said. "That's my leisure time." The 2010 Jets, coached by the animated Rex Ryan, were the subject of "Hard Knocks" that season. Would Bowles ever want his team on the show? "If I had to do it, we'd do it," he said. "But, I'd probably be the most boring person on the show. I don't think they want to come this way."
Baltimore Ravens: Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is expected to be a game-time decision Sunday when Von Miller and the Denver Broncos are in town. When Stanley was hurt last Thursday at Cincinnati, he was replaced by right tackle James Hurst, and Orlando Brown Jr. entered the game at right tackle. Neither matchup is ideal for the Ravens against Miller, who has 4.0 sacks in two games to lead the NFL. Stanley would not confirm reports that he injured his right arm, and said he wouldn't have final say in whether he plays this week. "It is coach Harbaugh's decision," Stanley said.
Cincinnati Bengals: With kicker issues aplenty around the league, the Bengals this week moved to lock up placekicker Randy Bullock with a two-year extension through the 2020 season. Bullock has made all 12 of his kicks this season (four field goals) and 27 of 30 field goals with the Bengals. Head coach Marvin Lewis said his confidence in Bullock was high, but it wasn't always that way. Bullock missed two extra points and a potential game-winning field goal last season. At that time, Lewis said the misses "affect our patience level."
Cleveland Browns: When you have one victory in a span of 37 games, progress is measured any way possible. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is expecting the Browns to realize a major breakthrough this season, and the fourth quarter of the last week's game at New Orleans is a big reason why. "For us to take the ball down and score in a critical moment and then to get the ball back down the field for a chance to tie the game was definitely some growth," said Taylor, who completed a pair of passes to set up the potential game-tying field goal in the final 21 seconds of the loss. "It is our job to keep getting better."
Pittsburgh Steelers: While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers voice optimism first-round pick Vita Vea could be in the lineup on "Monday Night Football," the Steelers are still gauging the availability of both of their offensive guards, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster. DeCastro didn't play Week 2 with a fractured hand, and Foster is "managing a knee injury," according to coach Mike Tomlin. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) is also on the injury report. DeCastro said he hopes his injury would be a one-game issue. Tomlin would only say DeCastro "has a chance" to go against the Buccaneers. Vea, a 347-pound nose tackle, has been mostly idle since being carted off the field with a calf injury on July 29. His return would give Tampa Bay a likely jolt alongside Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
Houston Texans: Quarterback Deshaun Watson said he's not worried about the Houston-area superintendent of schools making an inflammatory comment about the trustworthiness of black quarterbacks. Lynn Redden -- superintendent of the Onalaska Independent School District in the Piney Woods, about an hour north of Houston -- is reportedly under investigation for a comment made on Facebook about Watson holding onto the ball as time ran out in Week 2. Redden claimed he thought the comment was a direct message. "When you need precision decision making you can't count on a black quarterback," Redden wrote, later admitting to the message in a Houston Chronicle interview. Texans coach Bill O'Brien shared his pointed thoughts on the post Wednesday. "I really don't want to waste a lot of time responding to outdated, inaccurate, ignorant, idiotic statements. I'll just let Deshaun's proven success on the field (and) his character off the field speak for itself. He's one of the greatest guys I've ever coached. He represents everything that's right about football, about life. His teammates respect him, his coaching staff respects him. In this day and age, it's just amazing that BS exists, but it does."
Indianapolis Colts: Le'Raven Clark could remain in the lineup at left tackle Sunday, and the task is tall against the Philadelphia Eagles' deep defensive line rotation. Clark started at left tackle in Week 2 when Anthony Castonzo's chronic hamstring injury kept him on the sideline, after Joe Haeg filled in for Castonzo in Week 1. Castonzo will attempt to return and make his season debut against the Eagles, but head coach Frank Reich indicated the Colts are playing it safe with quarterback Andrew Luck's blind-side protector. "We think he's going to be back," Reich said, cautioning that both player and coach expected Castonzo to start at Washington.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette was back on the field for practice Wednesday, returning for the first time since he exited the Week 1 win over the New York Giants with a hamstring injury. Fournette, who said his hamstring popped, did not play last week in the Jaguars' win over the Patriots. But his understudy, T.J. Yeldon, missed practice Wednesday with an ankle injury. Quarterback Blake Bortles said Fournette looked good. "It looked like he was Leonard. He was flying around, making some good plays. He got some touches and looked good," Bortles said.
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota experienced tingling in two of his fingers, and the Titans are not sure when he will be ready to return from an elbow injury suffered Week 1. Mariota took the practice field Wednesday with the index and middle fingers cut out of a glove on his throwing hand. He said the issue is with the nerves in those fingers. "It's getting better, but it is frustrating. It is hard because it's one of those things where you can't really do a whole lot," Mariota said. Blaine Gabbert, who started Week 2 and guided Tennessee to a 20-17 win over Houston, will continue to take the first-team reps with the offense in preparation for Sunday's game with the Jaguars.
Denver Broncos: Quarterback Case Keenum isn't known for his legs, but he had three carries for 16 yards and a touchdown Sunday in a comeback win over the Oakland Raiders. However, he paid a bit of a price, missing Wednesday's practice with left knee soreness. "I guess I need to slide a few more times instead trying to go run and bounce around off of defenders," Keenum told reporters Wednesday, adding he wanted to practice but coaches held him out. "But I want to get a first down, I want to score. I'm competitive in that way." Coach Vance Joseph expects Keenum to return to practice Thursday and play on Sunday in Baltimore.
Kansas City Chiefs: As fantastic as Patrick Mahomes' season has started, coach Andy Reid knows that opposing teams will get a better read on the young QB as they get more film to study. "That's the challenge," Reid said Wednesday. "As they study him, you've got to be able to rise up and do that. Is there going to be a hiccup here or there? Yeah, there's going to be learning experiences going on here. And everything hasn't been roses to this point -- it looks like it, but that's not been the case." Reid added that Mahomes got great experience in training camp going against defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's complex designs, but he expects other challenges. "Everybody's got their flavor (on defense), and you've got to be able to answer it," Reid said. "If you don't answer it, then you've got problems."
Los Angeles Chargers: Most out-of-conference games inherently feature unfamiliarity between opponents, but Philip Rivers has a pretty good feel for the Los Angeles Rams' defense after playing for Wade Phillips from 2004 to 2006 and facing him twice a year when Phillips was with the Broncos in 2015 and 2016. "They don't try to trick you with their scheme," Rivers said Monday. "They just line up and say they're better than you, and shoot, that works for them a lot of the time. So it'll be a heck of a challenge." Rivers is also all-too-familiar with former Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and former Chiefs corner Marcus Peters, whose four picks of Rivers are his most against any single QB. "I'd put 'em up there with the top corners in the league, both those guys," Rivers said.
Oakland Raiders: Despite Derek Carr's 29-for-32 day against the Broncos on Sunday, wide receiver Jordy Nelson again wasn't heavily involved in the offense, finishing with two catches for 30 yards. The former Green Bay Packer now has five grabs for 53 yards through two games, but those numbers should increase, according to coach Jon Gruden. "We expect to see more and more from Jordy as the weeks unfold," Gruden said Wednesday. "(Amari) Cooper had a big week last week. (Jared) Cook had a big week in Week 1. Hopefully Jordy has one this week." Cooper broke out in Denver with 10 grabs for 116 yards, one game after having just one catch for 9 yards.
Dallas Cowboys: With the addition of Brice Butler, the Cowboys now have seven wide receivers. One of them, Cole Beasley, doesn't seem worried about how quarterback Dak Prescott will distribute the ball. "Like I've been saying, the strength is in the group," Beasley said, via The Dallas Morning News. "We don't need a No. 1, superstar-type guy. When you spread the ball around and each guy just makes their plays when their number is called upon, it's like the same thing. I think it just makes us that much harder to defend, not knowing where the ball is going to go."
New York Giants: Coach Pat Shurmur has named veteran John Greco as the starting center, replacing Jon Halapio. Halapio was lost for the season with a broken leg and broken ankle that he suffered during the 20-13 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night. "We'll start with John and then obviously get Spencer ready to go," Shurmur said during a conference call. "We have guys on the roster who have played center. John Greco went in there and played and then we brought in Spencer Pulley on the roster who played all last season at center [with the Chargers], so we've got guys that have done it and they'll just slide up and get ready to go."
Philadelphia Eagles: Quarterback Carson Wentz will reclaim his starting spot Sunday, more than nine months after suffering a serious knee injury. And one of the men charged with protecting him, right tackle Lane Johnson, doesn't want him to try to do too much. "All he has to do is just be Carson Wentz," Johnson said, via the team's website. "You don't have to be Superman. You don't have to go out of the way to make plays, just do what you do. Don't overcomplicate it. He just needs to be him. He's super-talented, super-humble, and works hard man, so he'll be fine."
Washington Redskins: Safety D.J. Swearinger said his team might have gotten too self-satisfied after a Week 1 win when it came time to the following game -- a 21-9 home loss to Indianapolis. "We can't relax," he told the Washington Post. "Last week ... for whatever reason, there was complacency in the building. But we haven't done anything, so we should never get complacent around here. I feel like we just gotta work as hard as we can this week to be focused on the little things and the little details, because they're going to be huge going against [Week 3 opponent] Green Bay."
Chicago Bears: Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky remains his own harshest critic, which is not a major shock to head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy said Wednesday he wants Trubisky not to dwell on individual plays that don't work, and to leave failed drives in the past to avoid carrying the weight into more important spots in the game. One area in which Trubisky is excelling is throwing on the move. Nagy said changing the launch point is elevating Trubisky's comfort level and confidence. "Mitch does a really good job," Nagy said. "He did it in college. He was really good outside the pocket. And so we need to be able to figure out ways to do that and where we feel it's advantageous for the offense and I know he's comfortable in that."
Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia's NFL voyage began with the New England Patriots as a quality control coach in 2004, when his best friend on the support staff of Bill Belichick was an offensive assistant. They'll convene again Sunday night at Ford Field when first-time head coach Patricia goes for his first win by trying to stop that assistant -- current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. "Josh and I are really close," Patricia said. "I think the two of us leaned on each other quite a bit, helped each other out a lot as young coaches and developing into wherever we are right now. ... Utmost respect for him." Even McDaniels expects a few surprises from Patricia. "He'll keep you off balance. There's definitely an element of spinning the wheel with Matt," McDaniels told Masslive.com.
Green Bay Packers: Cornerback Kevin King's groin injury kicked the door open for the Minnesota Vikings' fourth-quarter rally last week, and King is a longshot to return this week at Washington. King, 23, was a first-round pick in 2017 -- his season ended early due to a shoulder injury -- and helped frustrate Kirk Cousins through three quarters in Sunday's game. Without King, the Packers are going to need to be creative. "We probably didn't handle Kevin King's injury very well," McCarthy said. "We just weren't as detailed down the stretch. It was obviously an ability for them to extend drives, and they hit the big play there on the (75-yard Stefon Diggs) touchdown, too."
Minnesota Vikings: Settling the kicker position might finally be checked off of general manager Rick Spielman's to-do list. The Vikings parted with kicker Daniel Carlson in what head coach Mike Zimmer described as an easy decision after Carlson failed to deliver in overtime at Green Bay. His replacement happens to be the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey. Bailey was on the street only because the Dallas Cowboys opted not to pay his $4 million salary and released him Sept. 1. "I wanted to go somewhere that had an opportunity to win and be a part of an organization that's right there and right on the brink of having a lot of success," Bailey said Wednesday. "When this situation came up, it fit the bill perfectly. I can't complain about eight games out of the year inside (at U.S. Bank Stadium); that was a plus."
Atlanta Falcons: Injuries are denting the depth chart of the Falcons, and wide receiver Julio Jones was the latest casualty. Jones missed Wednesday's practice with a calf injury, but the injury is not considered serious. Head coach Dan Quinn called Jones day-to-day, and of more concern are the potential absences against the New Orleans Saints of running back Devonta Freeman (knee) and defensive ends Takk McKinley and Derrick Shelby (groin injuries). Already down multiple starters due to injury, the latest role player to be thrust into a starting role, guard Wes Schweitzer, is stepping in for Andy Levitre, who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a triceps injury.
Carolina Panthers: Linebacker Luke Keuchly grew up 25 miles from Cinergy Field -- formerly home of the Cincinnati Bengals -- and dreamed of wearing a tiger-striped helmet. In high school, he was a lacrosse rival of Bengals coach Marvin Lewis' son, Marcus. On Sunday, he'll play a professional game against the Bengals for the second time. The previous game was a 37-37 tie in Cincinnati in 2014, and Kuechly led all players with 13 tackles. "I was a Bengals fan," Kuechly said, recalling a game in which Corey Dillon rushed for nearly 200 yards against the Browns. Lewis said the Bengals are "still trying to clone guys like Luke Kuechly around here."
New Orleans Saints: Lamenting a stagnant running game and other issues with his typically potent offense was not a high priority for Sean Payton on Wednesday, but he has made a call for more playmaking from Saints tight ends. Veteran Benjamin Watson has been the primary tight end this season with Josh Hill playing about 20 percent of offensive snaps. Watson has seven catches in two games. "I can play better, definitely, make more plays, do more," Watson said. "That's the goal. The goal is always to get better, so I definitely feel like I can get better." Drew Brees uncharacteristically missed a wide open Watson in the end zone in the first quarter on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Fitzpatrick is guaranteed only one more start before Jameis Winston's suspension ends. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is not planning to commit to either one until he's required to do so; Winston can be activated Tuesday, one day after Tampa hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers on "Monday Night Football." Fitzpatrick has nine of the team's 10 touchdowns (one rushing) in two games and completed 78.7 percent of his passes entering Week 3, good for a passer rating of 151.5. A third stellar showing against a Steelers defense lit up for 42 points by second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs last week could shift the impending decision. "Right now we're going to start working on Pittsburgh, and that's all that matters right now," Koetter said. "Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that."
Arizona Cardinals: At 0-2 with the league's second-worst point differential (minus-52), the Cardinals don't have a lot to hang their hats on, but there could be reinforcements coming Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Tight end Jermaine Gresham and defensive end Markus Golden, who are each returning from serious injuries sustained in 2017, returned to a full practice Wednesday for the first time this season. "That is a major plus when you are talking about a team that is 0-2, that needs a spark, needs some energy," coach Steve Wilks said. "Those two guys definitely bring that, particularly Jermaine. Very vocal, high-strung guy. Loves to compete, is going to get his teammates going. And Markus is the same way. I can't wait to get those guys back out there, and hopefully it's this week."
Los Angeles Rams: After adding three players with a combined 12 Pro Bowl nods to their name (five each for Ndamukong Suh and Aqib Talib, two for Marcus Peters) this offseason, the Rams' defense is off to a scorching start. The unit has allowed the fewest points (13) and first downs (25) in the NFL while ranking third in yards per game, fourth in interception rate and fifth in yards per play. Talib and Peters have been particularly special, allowing just 37 yards combined through two weeks, per Pro Football Focus. This week, they face a familiar foe in Philip Rivers, whom Talib has intercepted once and Peters has intercepted four times, more than he's victimized any other QB. "I'd put 'em up there with the top corners in the league, both those guys," Rivers said Wednesday.
San Francisco 49ers: After serving a two-game suspension, middle linebacker Reuben Foster returns to the team this week, an addition that coach Kyle Shanahan expects to make a major difference. "Reuben's one of our best players," Shanahan said Wednesday. "Just having his presence out there, just from a leadership standpoint, guys gravitate to him. We really enjoy having him around." Shanahan added that Foster "seems great mentally" and should be in good shape after two weeks off. The team has not decided yet how to use Foster with fellow linebackers Malcolm Smith, who is returning from a hamstring injury, and rookie Fred Warner, who started in Foster's absence and is second in the NFL with 22 tackles.
Seattle Seahawks: After opening the season with two road losses, the Seahawks return to CenturyLink Field to host the Dallas Cowboys this week, and coach Pete Carroll can't wait to get back in front of the raucous home crowd. "It'll be tremendous to come home," he said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle. "I hope the 12s will be jacked and help us out and give us the kind of feeling so we can take advantage of the pass rush and those kinds of things." Carroll also hopes the team will be closer to full strength, with linebackers Bobby Wagner (groin) and K.J. Wright (knee) both having "a chance to play," and guard D.J. Fluker "pretty darn close" to a return.
--Field Level Media