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
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m., WPGH-TV
Once the dust settles on Steelers-Browns, Pittsburgh football fans can flip over to FOX and catch a duel between two of the best passers in NFL history when Aaron Rodgers and the Packers visit Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Brady has the second-most touchdown passes in league history at 553. Rodgers is seventh with 377 scores. Brady is also second in career passing yards, while Rodgers owns the highest passer rating ever.
Rodgers has been exceptional to start the season, and he appears to be clicking with head coach Matt LaFleur in their second year together. After tossing 26 touchdowns all of 2019, Rodgers has already thrown 13 through just four games. The Packers averaged 23.5 points per game last season, but they are averaging an astonishing 38 points per game in 2020. Green Bay is also averaging 1.4 more yards per play, and they are the only team in the league without a turnover.
After a slow start to his Buccaneers, Brady has begun to hit his stride over the last three games, passing for eight touchdowns and just one interception. The six-time Super Bowl champ has had success in five career games against Green Bay, throwing for ten scores and just three picks. Brady has also build a rapport with wideout Mike Evans, who has found the endzone in every game this season.
Packers-Buccaneers is shaping up to be a shootout for the ages, in what could be our last chance to see Brady and Rodgers faceoff before they both inevitably end up in Canton.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
After a disastrous showing against the Ravens last week, it will not get any easier for Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow as he faces a stingy Colts defense as Lucas Oil Stadium.
Burrow had a rough day at the office last week in Baltimore, completing 19 of 30 passes for 183 yards and an interception. He was also sacked seven times and lost a fumble. Burrow’s performance snapped a streak of three-straight 300 yards games, which was an NFL record for a rookie.
The Indianapolis defense has been stellar to start the year. The Colts are the best pass defense in the league, and have picked off a league-high nine passes. Their are no slouches against the run either, ranked fourth in yards allowed and giving just a single score on the ground, tied with New England for the best in the league. They are also allowing just 4.7 yards per play, which is also the best in the NFL.
Sunday’s matchup is the second game of a five-week gauntlet for Cincinnati that ends on Nov. 15 at Pittsburgh. If Burrow and the Bengals want to prevent their season from spiraling further down the drain, their rookie quarterback will have to carry them to an upset victory over one of the AFC’s juggernauts.
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
In a season of uncertainty, two of the biggest surprises through five weeks have been the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. The Bears are off to their first 4-1 start since 2010, while the Panthers are riding a three-game win streak.
After a career renaissance in relief with the Saints last season, Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has picked right where he left off, passing for six touchdowns and 1,460 yards, the sixth-most in the league through five weeks. Bridgewater has a 4-1 record against the Bears over his career, his most against any team. He has tossed nine touchdowns and just three interceptions over those five career games.
Across the line, the Bears’ defense is one of the NFL’s stingiest, allowing just four touchdown passes, the fewest in the league. They are led by star defensive end Khalil Mack, who’s 14 games with 2+ sacks are the fourth-most in the league since 2014. In his only career game against Carolina back in 2016, Mack recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pick-six.
Not only is the Panthers offense sixth in the league in yardage, but they are also one of the league’s best teams at limiting turnovers with just five on the year. To extend their winning streak, Carolina will have to continue protecting the football and find a way to smother Mack’s game-breaking ability.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills, Monday, 5:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
Before it became the first half of a tantalizing Monday night double header, Week Six’s monster matchup between the Chiefs and Bills was supposed to be played on Thursday night. The game had to be moved to Monday after last week’s Buffalo-Tennessee was played as one of the few Tuesday games in NFL history.
Monday’s early evening face off will pit two of the NFL brightest, young star quarterbacks against each other in the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Bills’ Josh Allen. Both signal callers are off to tremendous starts this season with remarkably similar stats. Allen is second in the league with 14 touchdown passes, while Mahomes is third with 13. Allen is also second in the league in passing yards, Mahomes is fourth. Mahomes has thrown only a single interception. Allen has tossed only three.
With both quarterbacks performing at such high levels, Monday’s matchup could be decided by the defenses, and Kansas City has the edge against the pass. The Chiefs have allowed just seven passing scores this year, and intercepted six passes, which is tied for the third-most in the league.
Buffalo’s best option could be to turn to the run game with Allen and running back Devin Singletary. Allen has 20 rushing touchdowns over the last three season, while Singletary is averaging 109.2 scrimmage yards over his last five home games. The Chiefs are 30th in the NFL in rush defense and have allowed five yards-per-carry.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Washington at New York Giants, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV
Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, 4:05 p.m., CBS Regional
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Report: Ravens Planning to Sign Dez Bryant to Practice Squad
The Baltimore Ravens are planning to sign veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant to their practice squad, according to a report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The #Ravens plan to sign veteran WR Dez Bryant to the practice squad if his workout goes well and he passes a physical, source said. Baltimore previously worked out Bryant in August, so this is more of a check-in. He should land in Baltimore, finally.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 22, 2020
The 31-year-old had signed a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints last season, but suffered a torn Achilles his first day on the practice field.
Baltimore explored adding Bryant back in August, but it never materialized, likely due to ongoing concerns regarding his health.
While he may not provide much of a boost to the Ravens passing game on the field, he could add some much needed experience and a veteran presence in a young receiver room.
Bryant spent the first eight years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, catching 531 passes for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns. He has been selected to three Pro Bowls, and named First-Team All-Pro once.
Report: Ravens Trade for Vikings DE Yannick Ngakgoue
The Baltimore Ravens are reportedly trading for Minnesota Vikings defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, according the ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Ravens will send a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Vikings in acquiring Ngakoue.
Vikings and Ravens finalizing a trade to send DE Yannick Ngakoue to Baltimore for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 22, 2020
Vikings initially sent 2021 second-round pick and 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to Jags. Now get most back.
Minnesota had just sent a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a trade for Ngakoue this offseason, but are clearly trying to recoup their losses and sell high after their 1-5 start.
The Ravens will now pair Ngakoue alongside his former Jaguars teammate in star defensive end Calais Campbell, who they also added in a trade this offseason.
Ngakoue arrives in Baltimore to even more firepower to a defense that is already one of the best in the league. The Ravens are second in the league in scoring defense (17.3 points per game), second in takeaways (11) and second in sacks (22), trailing only the Pittsburgh Steelers in all three categories.
Selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Maryland by the Jaguars, Ngakoue has become one of the league’s most fearsome pass rushers in a short amount of time. The one-time Pro Bowler has 42.5 career sacks, 16 forced fumbles and 47 tackles-for-loss. He also has two career interceptions.
According to Schefter, the Ravens have attempted to trade for Ngakoue multiple times and he had been positioning himself to land in Baltimore ever since thing went sour in Jacksonville. Having grown up in Bowie, Maryland, he is finally home at his desired destination after a short layover in Minneapolis.
Schefter also reports that Ngokoue will arrive in Baltimore sometime over the next 24 hours to undergo COVID-19 testing with the Ravens on their bye. If all is well on the virus front, Ngakoue will be in line to make his Ravens debut in a massive Week 8 matchup against Pittsburgh.
Baltimore has attempted to acquire Yannick Ngakoue multiple times in recent months; Ngakoue hoped to land in Baltimore all along. He grew up in Bowie, Md., starred at Maryland, then was drafted by Jacksonville. Baltimore is his third team in three months, but what he wanted. https://t.co/B3NQfDaRqG— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 22, 2020
Report: Seahawks Positioning to Sign Antonio Brown
The Seattle Seahawks are reportedly positioning themselves to make a run at free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Brown is currently serving a suspension for multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy, but will be eligible to return after Week 8.
With Antonio Brown’s suspension eligible to end after week 8, the Seattle Seahawks are now positioned to make a push to sign him, though they’re not alone, league sources tell ESPN. Other teams also are interested. pic.twitter.com/ykn1NJ6LUm— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 21, 2020
Adding the four-time All-Pro would give Seattle an embarrassment of riches, considering they already boast the MVP frontrunner in quarterback Russell Wilson and a tandem of dynamic wide receivers in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.
Wilson leads the league with 19 passing touchdowns and 129.8 passer rating. He is also completing an absurd 72.8% of his passes. Metcalf and Lockett have five and four touchdowns thus far, respectively.
The Brown-to-Seattle rumors are nothing new, as the star wideout generated buzz when he was seen working out with Wilson in California this summer.
Selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Brown spent the first nine years of his career in Pittsburg before playing a single game with the New England Patriots last season. 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.
If Seattle is in fact pursuing the troubled wide receiver, it would appear the unbeaten Seahawks are thinking Super Bowl or bust in 2020.