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 10 Houston Texans 7
In a sloppy, low-scoring contest, the long-awaited return of running back Nick Chubb proved to be the elixir Cleveland’s offense needed in their win over Houston on Sunday.
After missing the previous four games with a knee injury, Chubb reemerged for the Browns, rushing for 126 yards and a score. Not to be out done, his backfield partner Kareem Hunt also eclipsed the century mark on the ground with 104 yards. Cleveland’s 231 yards rushing are their second-most this season, and their highest total since they ran for 307 on Dallas in Week 4.
Chubb could have scored a second touchdown on a 59-yard scamper, but puzzlingly stepped out of bounds at the one-yard line. Pour one out for whoever owns Chubb in your fantasy league.
Nick Chubb ripped off a 59-yard run and stopped at the 1-yard line 😲
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 15, 2020
As for Houston, quarterback Deshaun Watson tried and failed to once again will his hodge-podge supporting cast to victory, unable to produce one of his trademark Herculean performances. Watson went 20 of 30 for 163 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 36 yards.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was similarly lackluster Sunday, but he did enough to lead his team to victory. The former top pick went 12 of 20 for 132 yards, but more importantly committed no turnovers for the second-straight game, the second time he has done so this year.
Cleveland will complete their three-game home stand with Philadelphia on Nov. 22. Houston hosts New England.
Green Bay Packers 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
Jacksonville had no answers for the Green Bay passing attack, as the Jaguars lost their eighth-straight game.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surgical again Sunday, carving the Jaguars up for 325 yards and two touchdowns, including a 78-yard bomb to wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling. He did throw one interception, but also rushed for a score.
— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2020
Rodgers has eight games with at least two touchdown passes and a rating of 100-or-higher this season, marking the fourth time that a quarterback has done so in eight of his first nine games of a season in NFL history. He already accomplished the feat once in 2011.
Valdes-Scantling ended with four catches for a career-high 149 yards and the score, while fellow receiver Davante Adams continued his recent streak of tremendous play, catching eight passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. He now has 55 catches, 568 yards and eight scores over his last six games.
Still replacing the injured Gardnew Minshew, Jaguars rookie Jake Luton took a step back in his second-career start, passing for 169 yards and a touchdown with a pick. He got some help from a fellow rookie in running back James Robinson, who carried the rock 23 times for 109 yards. Jacksonville also got a 91-yard punt return touchdown from wide receiver Keelan Cole Sr.
It will not get any easier for the Jaguars next week, as they welcome the undefeated Steelers to TIAA Bank Field. The Packers will face the Colts and their stingy defense next Sunday.
Detroit Lions 30 Washington 27
Starting his first game in 728 days, Washington quarterback Alex Smith played well, but his performance all for naught after a costly roughing the passer call on rookie defensive end Chase Young in the waning moments gifted Detroit a game-winning field goal.
Smith completed 38 of 55 passes for a career-high 390 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Young phenom Terry McLaurin was the primary beneficiary Sunday, catching seven passes for 95 yards. It was his seventh game this season with at least seven catches and 70 yards. Washington did most of its damage on the ground with three rushing scores, two from rookie running back Antonio Gibson and one from J.D. McKissic.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was tremendous for Detroit, surgically working Washington’s top-ranked pass defense for 276 yards and three touchdowns. Running back D’Andre Swift also posted his finest performance as a pro, accounting for 149 total yards and a receiving touchdown.
Amazingly, Washington was able to secure the win by overcoming nine penalties, going four of ten on third down, being out gained by 92 yards and possessing the ball for more than ten-fewer minutes.
Detroit heads south to battle quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers next Sunday. Washington will look to snap their two-game losing skid against the reeling Bengals.
New England Patriots 23 Baltimore Ravens 17
With their backs against the wall and season on the brink, quarterback Cam Newton and the Patriots pulled off an upset over the Ravens amid a torrential downpour in Foxborough.
Newton was steady Sunday night, and looked totally comfortable for the first time since returning from his COVID-19 diagnosis. He completed 13 of 17 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the deluge, while also rushing for a score. Still, Newton’s protection of the football proved most crucial for New England, committing no turnovers for the first time since Week 1 against Miami.
Turning to their backfield in response to the elements, the Patriots running backs had quite the impact as well Sunday night. Damien Harris rushed for a career-high 121 yards, while Rex Burkhead accounted for 66 total yards and two touchdowns.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 16, 2020
Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson continues to have success against the Patriots, but simply did not make enough plays to overcome New England’s defense and the weather. Jackson threw for 249 yards with two scores and rushed for another 55 yards on the ground, but did toss an interception that proved costly. New England’s has now picked off a pass in a franchise record five-straight games.
The Ravens will host the Titans before a Thanksgiving night clash with the Steelers. The Patriots visit the Texans.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
- Indianapolis Colts 34 Tennessee Titans 17
- New York Giants 27 Philadelphia Eagles 17
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 46 Carolina Panthers 23
- Las Vegas Raiders 37 Denver Broncos 12
- Miami Dolphins 29 Los Angeles Chargers 21
- Arizona Cardinals 32 Buffalo Bills 30
- Los Angeles Rams 23 Seattle Seahawks 16
- New Orleans Saints 27 San Francisco 49ers 13
- Pittsburgh Steelers 36 Cincinnati Bengals 10
- Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
NFL Hosting Women’s Careers in Football Forum
The NFL is hosting its fifth annual Women’s Careers in Football Forum from Feb. 24-25, the league announced in a press release Tuesday.
The event will be held virtually and “connect 40 women, 75% of whom are women of color, with leaders in professional football to help those women network and build relationships in the areas of coaching, scouting and football operations.”
Those participating in the event will join panel discussions, breakout sessions and have networking opportunities with industry leaders, such as head coaches and team executives. All portions of the event are aimed at building connections that will result in hirings and subsequent representation.
Since its inception in 2017, the two-day event has assisted in developing “a more diverse talent pipeline by connecting high-potential women to career opportunities in football.” According to the league, 118 opportunities for women in football have been created as a result.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and wife Jane Skinner Goodell will speak, as well as NFL Chief Football Administrative Officer Dawn Aponte. In addition, three owners, seven head coaches and six general managers will also join the conversation.
Sarah Thomas made history earlier this month becoming the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. The champion Tamp Bay Buccaneers also had a record number of women on their coaching staff this past season.
Report: 2021 NFL Salary Cap Expected at $182-183 Million
The 2021 NFL salary cap is expected to be around $182 or $183 million, according to a report by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
That is just slightly above the bare-minimum figure of $180 million agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA last week, and aligns with Steelers Now sources that predict the cap will fall between $180 and $185 million.
The Steelers are one of several teams that will be significantly over the salary cap, regardless of what figure is.
According to Pro Football Talk, those teams have been lobbying to increase the 2021 salary cap at the expense of future years to minimize the impact the pandemic has had on NFL operations.
Doing so would essentially amount to an interest-free loan given by the owners to the players, something that some owners have balked at.
That final figure could still be impacted by the league signing new television contracts for the 2022 season before the salary cap is finalized, which is expected some time in March.
The new league year starts on March 17, which is the day that all teams must be under the new salary cap.
Will James Conner Ever Reach 1,000 Yards in a Season?
Some feel he doesn’t get the credit he deserves while others think James Conner is just simply not NFL featured back material.
Either way, it’s very possible Conner has played his final game as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He accumulated 721 yards on 169 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per carry and 6 touchdowns in 13 games during the 2020 season. Conner’s highest yardage total and best overall season came in 2018 when he compiled 973 yards off 215 carries, equaling 4.5 yards per. The Pitt product, who the Steelers kept in Pittsburgh by drafting in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was selected to his only Pro Bowl for his surprise success in 2018.
Since 2018, it’s been a roller coaster ride of injuries and inconsistency for Conner. The 2018 season remains the only year Conner even flirted with the 1,000 yard mark. With his professional future currently in doubt, the question now becomes – will Conner ever accomplish an 1,000 yard season in the NFL, either with the Steelers or wherever he ends up?