Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Cleveland Browns 49 Dallas Cowboys 38
After bludgeoning the Cowboys defense for 49 points and 508 yards of offense, the Browns are 3-1 for the first time since 2001.
Dallas had no answers for Cleveland’s power run game Sunday, surrendering 307 yards and three scores on the ground. Even after starting running back Nick Chubb left the game in the first half with an injury, his backfield partner Kareem Hunt picked up the slack in a big way, rushing for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Relative unknown D’Ernest Johnson paced the club with 95 rushing yards in a breakout performance, while wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. joined in on the fun with a pair of carries for 73 yards, including an incredible 50-yard touchdown off a reverse.
Odell Beckham is putting it on the Cowboys today.
5 catches, 81 yards, 2 TD
2 carries, 73 yards, TD pic.twitter.com/c0OHDoo6FS
— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) October 4, 2020
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and Beckham Jr. also appear to be finally building a rapport, connecting for two touchdowns over the last three games. Beckham Jr. also caught a 37-yard touchdown from his college teammate and fellow wideout Jarvis Landry early in the first quarter. Mayfield has strung together consecutive games without a turnover for the first time since Week 9 last year.
While Dallas’ defense struggled, Cleveland’s was just barely better. They surrendered a career-high 502 passing yards and four touchdowns to quarterback Dak Prescott, but cornerback Denzel Ward did seal the game with an interception in the waning moments. Prescott is the first player in NFL history with at least 450 passing yards in three -straight games. Browns defensive end and Texas-native Myles Garrett was still dominant pressuring Prescott Sunday, posting two sacks and a tackle-for-loss.
The Browns will face the Colts next weekend, then visit Heinz Field to battle the Steelers and their top-ranked rush defense on Oct. 18.
Dallas should get some reprieve next Sunday when the host the winless Giants.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38 Los Angeles Chargers 31
Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady clearly still has it, as his 369 passing yards and five touchdowns helped lead the Buccaneers back from a 17-point deficit to improve to 3-1 on the year.
Brady has now overcome a deficit of ten or more points 34 times in his career, and tied former rival Peyton Manning for the second-most 300 yard passing games in league history at 93. He threw touchdowns to five different receivers Sunday, with wideout Mike Evans being the biggest beneficiary, catching seven passes for 122 yards and a score.
While the 43-year-old Brady was spectacular, 22-year-old Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was no slouch either with another impressive performance. Herbert completed 80% of his passes Sunday, tossing for 290 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception.
Herbert’s early play is encouraging and exciting, but his job just got significantly more difficult, as Los Angeles lost dynamic running back Austin Ekeler to a hamstring injury.
Tampa Bay will visit the 3-1 Chicago Bears next week, and the Chargers will travel to face the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
Buffalo Bills 30 Las Vegas Raiders 23
Quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills look more and more like legitimate contenders in the AFC with each passing week, improving to 4-0 for the first time since 2008 with their win over the Raiders.
Allen is off to the best start of his career and overcame a bum shoulder to continue his stellar play on Sunday, passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a score, making him the second-fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 20 career rushing touchdowns. Only the Patriots’ Cam Newton did it faster.
The former Wyoming star now has 15 total touchdowns (12 pass, three run) on the season with just one interception.
The Bills’ defense made life difficult for the Raiders all afternoon, forcing two fumbles and holding star running back Josh Jacobs to just 48 yards on 15 carries.
Still, quarterback Derek Carr played well, dicing up the Bills for 311 yards and two scores.
Buffalo’s Week 5 matchup with the Tennessee Titans is still in question considering the on-going virus outbreak in Nashville. They will face their toughest test yet when they host the Kansas City Chiefs four day later on Thursday Night Football.
Things are not getting any easier for Las Vegas either, who will take a crack at Kansas City first next week.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, 7:05 p.m., KDKA-TV
The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs won’t play on Sunday after Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Newton did not get the news until Saturday morning, which threw a wrench into the Patriots plan heading into the game in Kansas City.
Newton has the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history with 62, and the Patriots coaching staff is clearly aware. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has done an excellent job maximizing the former Panther’s unique skillset, as he is tied for the league lead with four rushing scores. Newton has also put questions regarding his shoulder health to bed early on, consistently pushing the ball downfield and completing 68% of his passes.
Chiefs starter Patrick Mahomes is coming off a dominant performance against the Ravens that saw him throw for 385 yards and four scores. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has been near perfect to start the year, tossing for nine touchdowns and 898 yards with no interceptions.
Mahomes is also one of the few players Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has yet to figure out. In three career games against New England, Mahomes has thrown for eight touchdowns and an average of 310 yards per game.
Owning the league’s best rushing offense, the Patriots must control the ball and keep it away from Mahomes and a Chiefs offense that has scored points on an astonishing 55.2% of their offensive drives this season.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Denver Broncos 37 New York Jets 28
Indianapolis Colts 19 Chicago Bears 11
Cincinnati Bengals 33 Jacksonville Jaguars 25
New Orleans Saints 35 Detroit Lions 29
Seattle Seahawks 31 Miami Dolphins 23
Baltimore Ravens 31 Washington 17
Carolina Panthers 31 Arizona Cardinals 21
Minnesota Vikings 31 Houston Texans 23
Los Angeles Rams 17 New York Giants 9
Philadelphia Eagles 25 San Francisco 49ers 20
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
NFL Considering Making Roughing the Passer Reviewable
The NFL is considering making roughing the passer calls subject to replay review, according to NFL.com’s Judy Battista.
Battista reports that owners are expected to vote on the potential rule change at the annual league meetings later this month.
There is no denying that roughing the passer calls have become increasingly questionable over recent years, as the league continues to emphasize the protection of its most valuable assets – the quarterbacks.
Still, the concept does conjure painful memories of 2019, when the league tried reviewing pass interference calls. The experiment proved to be an unmitigated disaster, and was scrapped after a single season.
While the new role could remedy some of the infuriating calls the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been levied with in recent year, the chance could also open up an unintended can of worms.
Reviewing roughing the passer calls is not the only potential rule change the owner will reportedly consider.
According to Battista, owners will also discuss switching overtime back to sudden death, creating an alternative to the onside kick and voting on a rule reportedly proposed by the Buffalo Bills to delay coaching and general manager interviews until the conference championship round.
NFL Insider John Clayton Predicts Steelers Could Cut Joe Haden, Vince Williams
John Clayton, one of the longest tenured NFL Insiders, offered a prediction on how the Steelers will handle their roster in the coming weeks during his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
When referring to player cuts around the NFL, Clayton said he expects many notable players to be released by their current teams. Clayton proclaimed “it will be a bloodbath around the league” and that could include a couple key veterans being handed their walking papers by the Steelers.
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) March 3, 2021
Joe Haden and Vince Williams could both be forced to find new teams as soon as next week, according to Clayton. Haden has spent the past 4 seasons in Pittsburgh after spending his first 7 years with the Browns. Williams has played his entire 8-year NFL career with the Steelers after being drafted in the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
J.J. Watt Explains Cardinals Signing on Adam Schefter’s Podcast
Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt joined The Adam Schefter Podcast on to discuss his decision to sign with the NFC West’s Arizona Cardinals.
While he had numerous suitors across the league, Watt says he was drawn to Arizona by the promise of young quarterback Kyler Murray and his familiarity with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
“All the signs pointed there,” Watt said. “There’s a ton of exciting young talent here. In this league you need a quarterback to have a chance, and they’ve got a very talented young quarterback, who can continue to take the next step. Defense, I’m very familiar with Vance Joseph, who was with me down in Houston with Wade Philips early in my career.”
Watt believes the Cardinals are a team on the cusp of greatness, and that he is the piece to finally put them over the top.
“I think it’s just a team ready to grow and take that next step,” Watt added. “You look at the last three years, they’ve continued to increase win totals every year and are on that trajectory. And I’m looking to help fast track that trajectory.”
Schefter also asked Watt if it was ever realistic he would join his brothers T.J. and Derek with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The star defensive end demonstrated his elusiveness, avoiding addressing the idea head on.
“There was a lot of thought given to every single scenario,” he said. “So we could really sit down and look through all the options and speak with all the teams and gather all the information we possibly could. And there were definitely a lot of great options, there were a lot of opportunities to play. But at the end of the day, I’m very, very excited to be here in Arizona.”
The Cardinals now boast one of the league’s top pass-rushing tandems, pairing Watt alongside elite edge rusher Chandler Jones, who has 97 career sacks.
Arizona had the fourth-most sacks in football last season before Watt’s arrival with 48.
Watt exits Houston as one of the greatest players in franchise history. He was selected to five Pro Bowls, named First-Team All-Pro on five occasions and earned three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards.
A future Hall of Famer, Watt is the Texans’ all-time leader in sacks (101), tackles-for-loss (172) and forced fumbles (25).
Watt recorded 52 total tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, five sacks, two forced fumbles and returned an interception for a touchdown last season.