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Around the NFL: Burrow Battles Titans, Baker Duels Carr

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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

Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

Handed their first loss of the season by the Steelers last week, the Titans will look to get back on track against the futile but dangerous Bengals in Cincinnati early Sunday.

Even though he was limited by the Pittsburgh defense a week ago, the Tennessee offense still hinders on running back Derrick Henry, who leads the league in rushing attempts (143) and yards (663). He is tied for second in the NFL with seven rushing scores this season. Expect him to feast again this weekend, facing a Bengals run defense that has surrendered the sixth-most yards in the league.

After Joe Burrow tore up the SEC last season, there was optimism that he could quickly adjust to NFL defenses at a faster rate than usual. The No. 1 pick has exceeded expectations through his first seven games, and seems to be setting new records by the week. Burrow entered Week Eight leading the league with 197 completions and fourth in passing yards with 2023. His five games with over 300 yards passing are tied for the second-most by a rookie in NFL history, and he is coming off the first 400-yard passing performance by a Bengal rookie ever.

Burrow gets a favorable draw facing a fragile Titans pass defense that has surrendered 15 passing touchdowns this season, but he will be without running back Joe Mixon, who is out with a foot injury. The rookie will likely have to carry his club again Sunday, as the Bengals continue to fight for their second win of the season.

Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV

Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield will look to continue his hot run of form when they host the Raiders on Sunday. Mayfield overcame a rough start against the Bengals last week, but led the Browns to a shootout victory behind his record-sitting finish. The former No. 1 pick completed 22 of his final 23 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns to secure the win, and did it all without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Even down his top pass catcher and star running back Nick Chubb, Mayfield can still rely on one of the league’s top rushing attacks for support. The Browns are second in the league in rushing and led by the dynamic Kareem Hunt, who became the fifth running back in NFL history with over 20 rushing touchdowns and more than 15 receiving scores in his first four seasons. He will have a favorable matchup Sunday in a Raiders run defense that has allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the league with 12.

On the other side, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has quietly had a strong season in his third year under Jon Gruden. Carr is second in the league with a 72% completion percentage and third with a 112.8 pass rating. He has thrown for 13 touchdowns and tossed just two picks all year. Carr is also averaging 287.7 yards per game, the highest of his career.

Carr will oppose a favorable matchup of his own, facing Cleveland’s 30th-ranked pass defense. He will just have to evade Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who paces the league with nine sacks and four forced fumbles.

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears, 4:25 p.m., WPGH-TV

One of the most perplexing 5-2 teams in recent memory, the Bears amazingly own one of the NFL’s best records while simultaneously being lackluster offensively and boasting a negative point differential. Quarterback Nick Foles has been up-and-down since taking over as the starter four games ago. He has tossed six touchdowns and six interceptions. Chicago’s league-worst run game has been no help either, amassing just 84.1 yards per game and two touchdowns.

In comparison, the Saints will again be without star wide receiver Michael Thomas, who continues to battle an ankle injury that has sidelined him for the last five games, but quarterback Drew Brees has found a way to cope without his go-to target.

Brees has made it work with his hodgepodge group of weapons. throwing for 11 touchdowns and 269.7 yards per game, while completing a league-leading 72.6% of his passes. He has also had recent success against Chicago, winning four-straight against the Bears, tossing eight scores and no interceptions for over 300 yards a game.

While the Bears defense will do their best to slow down the potent Saints, the onus will be on Foles and the Chicago offense to keep pace on the scoreboard.

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV

Pittsburgh native and Pine-Richland product Ben DiNucci is expected to make his first-career start when the Cowboys visit the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, marking the first time a James Madison University quarterback will start a game in NFL history. He completed 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards last week.

For Dallas to survive with DiNucci and remain in the NFC East hunt, they will have to return to their roots and rely on running back Ezekiel Elliott and the ground game. He has been unusually quiet to start the 2020 campaign and the Cowboys would be wise to get him going. Elliot is averaging career lows across the board in yards per attempt (4.1), yards per game (65.4) and attempts per game (16.1). He has no 100-yard performances, and has as many fumbles as he has rushing touchdowns with five.

Elliot could finally get going Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field facing an Eagles run defense that has allowed the second-most rushing scores in the league at 11. Since 2016, he leads the NFL with 7,692 scrimmage yards & ranks second with 54 scrimmage touchdowns.

Leading the horrendous NFC East at 2-4-1, the Eagles could widen their lead with a win over the Cowboys in primetime. Ravaged by injuries across the board, Philadelphia has relied on quarterback Carson Wentz, who has picked up his play as of late following a rough start to the season. He has eight total touchdowns over the last three games, and just three interceptions.

Adding to his turnaround, Wentz has had to operate without top offensive weapons, including running back Miles Sanders and wideouts Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey. Unheralded receiver Travis Fulgham has stepped up in their absence, catching 23 passes for 357 yards and three touchdowns.

With a pair of vulnerable defenses, each offense will have their opportunities to capitalize. The team that takes advantage of the other’s weakness will take hold of the driver’s seat in the division.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

  • Atlanta Falcons 25 Carolina Panthers 17
  • New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
  • New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
  • Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m., CBS Regional
  • San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., FOX Regional
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

NFL

NFL Announces Stiffened Mask Mandate for Sidelines

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As COVID-19 cases surge across the country and rise around the league, the NFL announced stricter sideline mask mandates in a memo to clubs Monday.

Beginning with Thursday’s slate of games, all player not entering the game or wearing a helmet will be required to wear a mask or gaiter on the sideline.

Similar to how multiple head coaches were punished at the start of the season for violating the mask protocol, players will also now be punished for failing to comply.

“Players who fail to wear masks on the sidelines will be subject to discipline,” the league said in Monday’s memo. “Clubs are required to enforce these rules. Violations by players and/or staff will result in accountability measures being imposed upon the Club.”

In additions, coaches will no longer be allowed to wear a face shield in lieu, as they will also be required to have a mask or gaiter on underneath it.

Lastly, the league will further limit postgame interactions between players, which was already a point of emphasis within the protocols when the season started. Players will be allowed to “briefly” engage with opponents following the completion of games, but will be required to wear face covering while they do so.

The league also encouraged clubs to designate members of each organization as enforcers of the updates policies.

The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving night, who shut down their practice facility Monday following multiple cases within the organization, including running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins.

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Around the NFL: Ravens Fall to Third Place with Overtime Loss

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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

Tennessee Titans 30 Baltimore Ravens 24 (OT)

The Ravens have now lost three games on four weeks for the first time since 2018, thanks in large part to a walk-off touchdown by running back Derrick Henry in their overtime loss at home to the Titans on Sunday.

Henry is no stranger to walk-off, game-winning scores. He also recorded a five-yard touchdown in overtime of Week 6, and has become the first player with multiple overtime rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. Henry rushed for 133 yards and the scores, and now owns six 100-yard performances on the season.

Not to be out done, Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown caught four passes for 62 yards and score, on which he would not be denied as his team crawled back from an eleven-point deficit in the second half. Fellow wideout Corey Davis led the way with five receptions for 113.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was average by his standards, passing for 186 yards with a touchdown and pick, while rushing for just 51 yards on the ground. Even though he failed to win the game for his club in overtime, it was the defense that did Baltimore in, as they were simply unable to stop Tennessee’s explosive offense from amassing 423 yards of total offense, their second-highest total allowed this season. Rookie running back J.K. Dobbins was a bright spot for the Ravens with 70 rushing yards and a score.

Currently outside the playoff picture if the season were to end today, Baltimore will attempt to improve their fortunes when the visit the undefeated Steelers on Thanksgiving night. Tennessee looks ahead to a massive AFC South clash with Indianapolis next Sunday.

Washington 20 Cincinnati Bengals 9

The Bengals lost more than just the football games Sunday, as they will now be without their superstar rookie Joe Burrow for the foreseeable future.

Already off to a tremendous start to his NFL career, Burrow was performing well against the league’s top pass defense when he suffered a gruesome left knee injury in the third quarter. Targeting wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a crucial third down,  Burrow went down immediately after releasing the pass when Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen was blocked into his knee. The No. 1 overall pick was carted off the field, and diagnosed with a torn ACL hours later.

Burrow had passed for 203 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game. He entered the weekend having thrown for 2,485 yards, 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He was third in the league with 242 completions, connecting on 65.4% of his passes.

As for Washington, it was once again their young, offensive stars leading them to victory. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown, while second-year wideout Terry McLaurin caught five balls for 84 yards on the afternoon. It was McLaurin’s eight game this season with at least five receptions and over 60 yards. Gibson now has eight rushing scores on the season and five over the last four games.

Cincinnati will now turn to 2019 fourth round selection Ryan Finley when they host the Giants next Sunday. Washington treks to Dallas for a Thanksgiving showdown.

Cleveland Browns 22 Philadelphia Eagles 17

After missing four games with a knee injury, Browns running back Nick Chubb has rushed for over 100 yards in consecutive weeks and led his team to another victory. Chubb racked up 114 yards on the ground, including a 54-yarder. He now has four games eclipsing the century mark this season. The one-time Pro Bowler added this vicious stiff arm for good measure.

Chubb’s return was perfect timing for the Cleveland offense, as their passing game has disappeared over the last four games. Since tossing for a career-high five touchdown passes against Cincinnati in Week 7, quarterback Baker Mayfield has now gone three games without a touchdown pass. Mayfield’s downturn lines up seamlessly with the absence of star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a torn ACL in the win over the Bengals. The Browns will need to find a way to replace Beckham’s production and find consistency through the air soon, as they find themselves second in the AFC North standings.

Losing back-to-back games for the third separate time this season, Philadelphia’s issues were all to familiar Sunday, starting and ending with the inconsistent play of quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed a pair of interceptions that proved costly for his Eagles. He now has 18 turnovers on the season. Wentz was also sacked five times Sunday (thrice by defensive end Olivier Vernon), and remains the most sacked quarterback in football at 40.

Cleveland earns a reprieve in another weak opponent next Sunday when they travel to Jacksonville. Philadelphia faces another tough test, as the host Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Indianapolis Colts 34 Green Bay Packers 31 (OT)

In a dual of prolific passers that took overtime to decide, it was quarterback Philip Rivers and the Colts that overcame a 14-point deficit to win their fourth in five games.

Rivers turned back the clock Sunday, completing 24 of 36 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. It was his third game this season with three touchdown passes after having just two all of last year in Los Angeles. Rivers left the game temporarily with a leg injury, but heroically returned to lead the Colts on their game-winning field goal drive,

The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was pretty strong in his own right Sunday, recording his 70th career regular season game with at least three passing touchdowns. Facing a Colts defense that entered Sunday leading the league in total defense and having allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes, Rodgers threw for 311 yards and three scores. He was picked off once by Indianapolis cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.

Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams continued his run of dominance as well in the losing effort, catching seven passes for 106 yards and a scores. Adams is the fourth player in NFL history with at least seven receptions and a touchdown catch in five consecutive games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter (1999), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2007) and Adam Thielen (2018).

Although the Packers won the overtime coin toss and looked poised to win the game, it was a massive play by safety Julian Blackmon that turned the tide for the Colts. With Green Bay driving, the rookie out of Utah forced a key fumble on wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling to set the table for Rivers. Already having a great season replacing the injured Malik Hooker, Blackmon’s big play has solidified his candidacy for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The Colts will begin a stretch of three divisional games in four weeks when they host the Titans next weekend. The Packers will look to bounce back versus the Bears on Sunday Night Football.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

  • Seattle Seahawks 28 Arizona Cardinals 21
  • New Orleans Saints 24 Atlanta Falcons 9
  • Carolina Panthers 20 Detroit Lions 0
  • Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 3
  • Houston Texans 27 New England Patriots 20
  • Denver Broncos 20 Miami Dolphins 13
  • Los Angeles Chargers 34 New York Jets 28
  • Dallas Cowboys 31 Minnesota Vikings 28
  • Kansas City Chiefs 35 Las Vegas Raiders 31
  • Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
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Around the NFL: Bengals’ Joe Burrow Carted Off After Scary Knee Injury

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One of the NFL’s brightest young stars could be missing extended time following a horrific injury Sunday.

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow was carted off the field in the third quarter of the Bengals’ game at Washington on Sunday after taking a brutal hit to his left knee.

Looking for wide receiver Tyler Boyd on a critical third down pass, went down immediately after releasing the pass when Washington defensive tackle Jonathan Allen fell into his knee.

While the severity of Burrow’s injury was not immediately known, Cincinnati quickly ruled him out for the remainder of today’s game as expected.

Burrow had thrown for 203 yards and a touchdown on the day before exiting the game.

Selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of LSU, Burrow entered Sunday having thrown for 2,485 yards, 12 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He was third in the league with 242 completions, connecting on 65.4% of his passes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will visit the Bengals on Monday Night Football on Dec. 21.

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