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Around the NFL: Divisional Rivals Heat Up, Quarterbacks Under Pressure

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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

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV

With the Steelers currently holding the lead in the division, Sunday’s matchup will be crucial for the Ravens, as they try to keep pace in the AFC North against the rival Bengals.

Baltimore had lofty expectations entering the year, but still seem like a mystery through four games. They are 3-1, but two of their wins are against bottom-feeders in the Texans and Washington, while their lone loss was a thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs on Sept. 28.

Still, the Ravens’ dominant rushing attack has carried over from a year ago. They own the third-best rushing offense in the league, and have continued to set up quarterback Lamar Jackson in the passing game, who has thrown three touchdowns on play-action passes already this season.

Though their record may not show it, the Bengals and rookie quarterback Joe Burrow have been looked impressive at times. The No. 1 pick is second in the league with 116 completions, and he is the first rookie in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards and three-straight games.

The Ravens will have to return to their roots to earn their second division win, flexing their muscles on the ground against the Bengals’ 27th-ranked rush defense and keeping the ball away from last year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

In their first game since the firing of head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien, the Texans will host the division rival Jaguars in search of their first win of the season.

Outgunned and outmanned, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has been under constant duress through the first four weeks of the season. The Texans have allowed 16 sacks this season, the most in the league. Watson has been pressured on 31% of his dropbacks. Still, he has tried too make the most of his situation so far, passing for six touchdowns and 273 yards per game.

Watson should get a break this week facing a non-existent Jacksonville pass rush that has record just four sacks, the fewest in the league. The Jaguars have also surrendered the highest completion percentage in the league at 77% and the fourth-highest quarterback rating at 112.6.

If Jacksonville is going to struggle pressuring Watson, they will have to generate takeaways. They have three interceptions on the season, while Watson has tossed three of his own and fumbled twice. Takeaways could be the key for the Jaguars to keep Houston and their young star winless.

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., WPGH-TV

Following Steelers-Eagles, Pittsburgh fans will be treated to an extra helping of NFC East action when the Cowboys host the Giants.

Winless on the season, the Giants and second-year quarterback Daniel Jones are in desperate need of a break offensively. They will get on in the form of a putrid Dallas defense.

While the anemic Giants offense is last in the league in yards (1,112), points (47) and touchdowns (3), the Cowboys defense has been equally as bad. Dallas has allowed the most points in the league at 36.5 per game, and the third-most yards at 1,722. They have only forced two turnovers, the fewest in the NFL.

The Giants defense will in turn have to slow down Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is putting up historic numbers through four games. Prescott has thrown for over 450 yards in three-straight games, the first to do so in NFL history. His 502 passing yards against the Browns last week set a new career-best. He has also tossed nine touchdown passes and is completing over 68% of his throws.

Unfortunately, Prescott’s dominance has not translated to wins, only magnifying the deficiencies of a struggling Dallas roster. Sunday’s divisional matchup against a struggling Giants team is the perfect opportunity for Prescott’s supporting cast to step up.

Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns, 4:25 p.m., FOX Regional

The Colts and Browns have been two of the biggest surprises through the first quarter of the 2020 season with both clubs sitting at 3-1.

Cleveland’s league-leading rushing attack has garnered the headlines, but it has been their quarterback’s protecting of the football that has led to their hot start. Baker Mayfield was a liability a year ago, throwing 21 interceptions and fumbling six times. He has just two picks and no fumbles so far in 2020.

The Browns’ defense has picked up the slack in the takeaway category, forcing ten already through four games, which leads the NFL. Six of those takeaways have been fumbles recoveries, and star defensive end Myles Garrett has forced three. The former top pick had forced just six career fumbles entering this season.

Quarterback Philip Rivers was the big addition for Indianapolis this offseason, but it has been the Colts’ defense that has made the biggest impact early. They have surrendered the fewest yards and first downs in the league, and own the league’s top pass defense. The Colts have also picked off a league-high seven passes and have allowed just a single rushing score.

With both clubs dominating the turnover battle through four weeks, a costly giveaway could be the deciding factor between these two unexpected contenders.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

Chicago Bears 20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional

Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV

Los Angeles Rams at Washington, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m., FOX Regional

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, Monday, 5:00 p.m., ESPN

Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans, Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., KDKA-TV

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Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. Suffers Torn ACL

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The Cleveland Browns may have improved to 5-2 with their comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, but they suffered a significant loss.

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will miss the remainder of the 2020 season with a torn ACL, the organization announced Monday morning.

Beckham suffered the injury in the first quarter of Cleveland’s win over Cincinnati on Sunday, attempting to make a tackle on an interception thrown by quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The star wideout was off to a strong star in his second season with the Browns, catching 23 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. He also had rushed for a score.

While the loss of Beckham is significant, the Browns appear to have enough offensive weapons to overcome the injury. Mayfield posted one of the best performances of his career on Sunday, completing 22 of 23 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns after Beckham left the game.

Financially, Cleveland is still likely on the hook for Beckham’s $12.971 injury guarantee, which will convert to a full guarantee if he is rostered on the third day of the next league year, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. This means that Beckham is uncuttable, and a trade is very unlikely considering the injury.

Selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, Beckham has caught 487 passes for 6,830 and 51 touchdowns over his career. He has been selected to three Pro Bowls, but not since 2016.

The Steelers and Browns do not face off again until Week 17 in Cleveland.

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Around the NFL: Mayfield Leads Browns to Late Win; DiNucci Fills In for Dallas

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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

Cleveland Browns 37 Cincinnati Bengals 34

Following their beatdown at the hands of the Steelers last week, the Browns got back on track Sunday with another shootout win over the in-state rival Bengals, sweeping the season series.

After rough 0-5 start that included an interception, Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield rebounded to produce the best game of his career, completing 22 of his final 23 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns. He set a franchise record in the process by completing 21-consecutive passes. Mayfield’s remarkable day was capped off with a game-winning touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones with eleven seconds remaining.

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett continued his streak of dominance Sunday, sacking Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow twice and forcing a fumble. Garrett entered Week Seven second in the league with seven sacks and three forced fumbles.

Burrow continues to show exactly why he is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1-overall pick, but his stellar play has repeatedly demonstrated just how far Cincinnati’s roster is from being competitive and the amount of help he needs. With 406 yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing score Sunday afternoon, Burrow is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game.

The Bengals will continue the hunt for their second win when they host the Titans, while the Browns will welcome the Raiders to town.

Washington 25 Dallas Cowboys 3

A former WPIAL standout threw his first NFL passes, but the 2020 season went from bad to worse for the Cowboys on Sunday as they were blown out by Washington, suffering their second-straight loss.

Already without star quarterback Dak Prescott of the remainder of the season, Dallas backup Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on an illegal hit by linebacker Jon Bostic, who was subsequently ejected. Dalton’s injury thrusted former Pine-Richland and Pitt quarterback Ben DiNucci into his first extended NFL action. DiNucci completed two of three passes for 39 yards, including this 32-yard dime to wide receiver Amari Cooper on his first career throw.

Meanwhile, Washington snapped a five-game losing streak yesterday behind a pair of impressive performances from their dynamic, young duo in running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Terr McLaurin. A rookie out of Memphis, Gibson rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown, while McLaurin, the second-year star out of Ohio State, caught seven passes for 90 yards and a score.

DiNucci is expected to make his first career start when Dallas travels to Philadelphia next week. Washington hits their bye week before hosting the Giants on Nov. 8.

San Francisco 49ers 33 New England Patriots 6

While Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo did not play as well as he probably would have liked in his return to Foxborough, San Francisco still thumped the Patriots behind a suffocating performance from their defense.

New England quarterback Cam Newton, who looks lost since returning from the Reserve/COVID-19 list a few weeks ago, was a disaster on Sunday, completing just nine of fifteen passes for 98 yards and three interceptions. Newton was a non-factor on the ground as well, carrying just five times for 19 yards. The 49ers defense recorded four interceptions total, also picking off Jarrett Stidham in relief. Cornerback Jamar Taylor had two of the four.

Garoppolo was better, but just slightly. He completed 80% of his passes for 277 yards, but tossed two interceptions of his own and no touchdowns. The ground game was what truly swung the game in San Francisco’s favor. The Niners rushed for 197 yards and four scores as a team, 112 and three of which came from running back Jeff Wilson Jr. Unfortunately, Wilson’s phenomenal day ended abruptly when he was carted off the field with a leg injury in the third quarter that appeared significant.

San Francisco will aim to win their third-straight when they visit Seattle next Sunday. New England goes back to the drawing board ahead of a key divisional matchup against the 5-2, AFC East-leading Bills.

Kansas City Chiefs 43 Denver Broncos 16

Even though the volcanic Chiefs offense was able to sustain its excellence through blizzard-like conditions Sunday, it was the Kansas City defense and special teams that dominated the Denver Broncos.

The Chiefs sacked quarterback Drew Lock three times and forced four Denver turnovers, including a 50-yard pick six by safety Daniel Sorensen. Safety Tyrann Mathieu picked Lock off a second time, and the Kansas City defense forced  running back Melvin Gordon to fumble twice. Not to be out done, Chiefs wideout Byron Pringle returned a kickoff 102 yards to the house at the end of the second quarter, an impressive play put over-the-top by the legendary Kevin Harlan.

Kansas City Patrick Mahomes was uncharacteristically quiet, throwing for 200 yards and connecting with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for a single touchdown. Hill is off to a tremendous start to the year, having now scored a touchdown in six of seven games this season Former Steelers and Jets running back Le’Veon Bell was used sparingly in his Chiefs debut, carrying the ball six times for 39 yards. His compatriot in the backfield Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed eight times for 46 yards and a score.

Kansas City will host the winless New York Jets at Arrowhead next week, and just as a friendly reminder, the largest margin of victory in history is Chicago 73-0 over Washington back in the 1940 NFL Championship Game. Denver welcomes the Chargers to Mile High.

REST OF THE SCHEDULE

Philadelphia Eagles 22 New York Giants 21

Detroit Lions 23 Atlanta Falcons 22

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Tennessee Titans 24

Carolina Panthers 27 New Orleans Saints 24

Buffalo Bills 18 New York Jets 10

Green Bay Packers 35 Houston Texans 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45 Las Vegas Raiders 20

Los Angeles Chargers 39 Jacksonville Jaguars 29

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV

Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

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Report: Antonio Brown and Buccaneers Agree to One-Year Deal

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Free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have agreed to a one-year deal, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown is set to arrive in Tampa on Friday night and visit with the team Saturday, immediately entering COVID-19 protocol.

Brown is currently serving an eight-game suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy, but he will be available to return to the field in Week 9 when the Bucs face the New Orleans Saints.

In addition, Rapoport and Schefter are both reporting that Brady has been a “driving force” behind the Bucs’ pursuit of Brown. The duo played a single game together in New England last season and found immediate success, connecting on four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins.

Tampa Bay adds Brown to an already star-studded receiving core that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. Evans is currently second in the league with six receiving touchdowns on the year.

Not only are the Buccaneers be bolstering themselves, but they are also stealing Brown’s services from the Seattle Seahawks, who were also reported to be interested in adding the four-time All-Pro this week.

Selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Brown spent the first nine years of his career in Pittsburgh. He is second in franchise history in receptions (837), yards (11,207) and receiving touchdowns (74), trailing only Steeler legend Hines Ward, although Brown played 87-fewer games.

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