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 perspective of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
THURSDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS
Kansas City Chiefs 34, Houston Texans 20
The reigning Super Bowl champs proved early and often Thursday night why they are the favorites to hoist the Lombardi Trophy again this season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked as talented as ever, completing 24 of 32 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire dazzled in his NFL debut, almost immediately proving the Chiefs right for drafting him with the final pick in the first round. The former LSU Tiger carried the ball 25 times for 138 yards and a score.
The Chiefs defense made things difficult for quarterback Deshaun Watson, who looked out of sorts at time in his first game without wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Running back David Johnson, who the Texans acquired for Hopkins, was solid in his Texans debut, rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown. Houston’s warts showed Thursday night, especially on the offensive line, as Watson was sacked four times.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Baltimore Ravens 38, Cleveland Browns 6
With expectation high heading into the 2020 season, reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens delivered in Week 1, thrashing the Browns in all facets of the game.
Jackson was stellar, completing 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards. The former Heisman Trophy winner is making a habit of shining in season openers. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has completed 82 percent of his passes, thrown for 599 yards and eight scores.
Although they debuted a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, it felt like 2019 all over again for the Browns, who experienced similar offensive woes to what they had under Freddie Kitchens.
Third-year quarterback Baker Mayfield was inaccurate and erratic throughout the day, under constant duress by the Ravens’ defensive front. He went 21 of 39 for 189 yards and touchdown with an interception. Mayfield has now thrown an interception in seven-straight games dating back to last season.
Cleveland also struggled to get wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. involved, which was one of biggest errors of Kitchens’ tenure. The three-time Pro Bowler had the second-fewest receptions, yards and touchdowns of his career in 2019. He caught just three passes for 22 yards on Sunday, but was targeted ten times.
The Browns will have a short turnaround hosting the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, while the Ravens will battle Deshaun Watson and the Texans Sunday afternoon.
New Orleans Saints 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
In a duel of legendary passers, it was New Orleans’ Drew Brees that bested Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady on Sunday.
Brees was a solid 18 of 30 for 160 yards and two touchdown passes, but his supporting cast was just as successful. Fresh off his new five-year, $75 million extension, running back Alvin Kamara scored twice, through the air and on the ground. Tight end Jared Cook led the Saints with five catches for 80 yards.
While the Saints played well, it was self-inflicted errors that sunk the Buccaneers. Going 23 of 36 for 239 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing), Brady’s two interceptions proved costly, resulting in 14 New Orleans points. The Bucs also muffed a perfectly executed pooch kickoff, which turned into a Saints field goal.
Brady and the new-look Bucs offense looked out of sync in their debut, in large part because of the New Orleans defense. The Saints pass rush kept Brady under duress all afternoon, while the secondary was opportunistic and blanketed receivers. They sacked the future Hall of Famer three times, hit him on six other occasions and held wide receiver Mike Evans to one catch for two yards, a garbage time touchdown.
The Saints will battle the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football next week. The Buccaneers will host another NFC South rival in the Carolina Panthers early Sunday.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos, 10:10 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Before the Steelers and Broncos meet at Heinz Field on Sept. 20, Denver will follow Pittsburgh on Monday night, taking on the Tennessee Titans in the second half of ESPNâ€™s annual doubleheader.
Quarterback Drew Lock is entering his first full season as the starter in Denver. The Missouri product put up solid numbers as a rookie a year ago, throwing for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns over just five games.
With the addition of explosive rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler and Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon, expectation are high for Lock entering year two. He will get a favorable matchup to start his sophomore season, facing a Tennessee Titans defense that was 24th against the pass in 2019.
Fresh off an appearance in the AFC Championship last year, the Titans committed long-term to their workhorse Derrick Henry and quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Henry led the league with a career-high 1,540 yards last season, while Tannehill’s 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Green Bay Packers 43, Minnesota Vikings 34
Washington 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17
Seattle Seahawks 38, Atlanta Falcons 25
Buffalo Bills 27, New York Jets 17
Chicago Bears 27, Detroit Lions 23
New England Patriots 21, Miami Dolphins 11
Las Vegas Raiders 34, Carolina Panthers 20
Jacksonville Jaguars 27, Indianapolis Colts 20
Los Angeles Chargers 16, Cincinnati Bengals 13
Arizona Cardinals 24, San Francisco 49ers 20
Los Angeles Rams 20, Dallas Cowboys 17
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 7:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Around the NFL: Chiefs-Ravens a ‘Monumental’ AFC Clash
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 Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
After an abysmal performance last week in Indianapolis, quarterback Kirk Cousins is looking to bounce back in a big way this week when his Vikings host the Titans. Cousins went 11 of 26 for just 113 yards and three interceptions with no touchdowns against the Colts. He was also sacked three times.
Cousins has to be relieved to be returning to the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium, where he has posted a passer rating of 100 or more in seven of his last eight starts. He has also won three-straight home games over AFC opponents.
While a bounce-back performance for Cousins may be in the cards for Sunday, the most intriguing storyline has to be the matchup between two of the NFL’s top running backs in Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry.
Henry led the league in rushing yards (1,540) and rushing touchdowns (16) last season, while Cook’s 13 rushing scores were the third-most. Cook
Although neither team has defended the run well so far this season, the Vikings hold the fourth-worst in the league and lost linebacker Anthony Barr to a torn pectoral last week. Both backs should shine, but expect Henry to have the bigger day.
Henry and the Titans should savor Sunday’s opportunity while they can, as they will host the Steelers and their top-ranked rush defense on Oct. 4.
Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
Beginning a stretch of three games in four weeks against AFC North opponents, the Eagles will start by hosting the Bengals on Sunday, with both teams still seeking their first win of the season.
Optimism abounds in Cincinnati, with No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow impressing just two games into his NFL career. The LSU product has tossed for 509 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for another.
There is significantly less positivity in Philadelphia, as franchise quarterback Carson Wentz has looked troublesome to start the 2020 campaign. He has thrown for 512 yards and just two scores with four interceptions, tied for the league lead. Wentz is only completing 58.8% of his passes and has been sacked eight times. He leads the league with 20 off-target throws, 15 of which came in a clean pocket.
Carson Wentz has made 20 off-target throws this season, most in the NFL.
15 have come inside a clean pocket (not pressured or under duress).
— Paul Hembekides (@PaulHembo) September 21, 2020
Philadelphia may be wise to turn rely on the run Sunday, lightening the load on Wentz’s shoudlers. Although he missed the season opener with an ailment, second-year running back Miles Sanders was great against the Rams last week, rushing for 95 yards and a touchdown. Facing one of the NFL’s worst rushing defenses in the Bengals, look for the Eagles to feature the Pittsburgh native.
In addition, former Steeler defensive tackle Javon Hargrave made his Philadelphia debut last week against the Rams, but failed to record a sack. The former third-round pick will be looking to make much more of an impact this weekend.
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m., WPGH-TV
Following Steelers-Texans, local football fans who flip over to FOX will be treated to a battle of NFC heavyweights when Russell Wilson and the Seahawks host Dak Prescott and the Cowboys.
Wilson has put on quarterbacking clinic through two weeks, already passing for 609 yards and nine touchdowns in two victories. Even more impressive, he has completed 82.5% of his passes. It is mind-numbingly insane Wilson has never received a single MVP vote over his eight-year career.
Prescott’s 716 passing yards are the fourth-most in the league, but the true offensive star of America’s Team has been running back Ezekiel Elliot. The former Ohio State standout has rushed for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) already.
Elliot will face his toughest hurdle yet Sunday afternoon when he opposes the league’s second-best run defense in the Seahawks.
If Seattle is able to stifle Elliot, Dallas will have to rely on the arm of Prescott and his trio of talented pass catchers. Wide receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup have combined for 32 receptions and 454 yards, but amazingly have scored no touchdowns. That will likely need to change Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens, 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN
Monday night’s clash between the Chiefs and Ravens feels like a monumental game in what is still a very young 2020 season. Both teams will enter the game at 2-0, and are led by two of the league’s most electric, dominant young players.
The quarterback duel between the last two MVPs will garner the bulk of the attention leading up to Monday night, and deservedly so. Fresh off a Super Bowl win in February, Patrick Mahomes amazingly looks even better starting his fourth season, having thrown for 513 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions through two weeks. Last year’s phenom Lamar Jackson is off to a strong start as well, throwing for 479 yards and four scores with no turnovers.
Eye-catching as the two offenses are, Monday’s game will be decided by the defenses. Specifically, which unit is able to generate the ever-elusive takeaway off the opposing offense. The Chiefs have yet to turn the ball over, while the Ravens have just once.
Baltimore’s defense leads the league with five takeaways already this season, Kansas City has forced a passable two turnovers through two weeks.
In an explosive game that could very well be decided in the thirties, the club that steals a possession could be the one that snatches the win and the driver’s seat in the AFC.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Miami Dolphins 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 13
Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Washington at Cleveland Browns, 1:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots, 1:00 p.m., CBS Regional
San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, 1:00 p.m., FOX Regional
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1:00 p.m., KDKA-TV
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts, 4:05 p.m., CBS Regional
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m., CBS Regional
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., FOX Regional
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m., FOX Regional
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
NFL, NFLPA Announce Zero Positive Cases Among Players
The NFL had zero positive cases among players and just five among staff members in their last round of COVID-19 testing, the league and NFLPA announced Tuesday.
This week’s results mark a slight improvement from the last testing period, where two players and five staff tested positive.
In the period spanning from Sept. 13 – 19, the league administered 36,664 total tests to 7,845 players and staff.
14,074 tests were distributed to 2,438 players. 5,407 staff members received 22,590 coronavirus tests.
As the 2020 season approaches week 3, the league’s COVID-19 protocols appear to be working perfectly with no significant virus outbreaks to date.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had any virus-related issues since running back Jaylen Samuels was removed from the COVID-19/ Reserve list on Aug. 13.
Around the NFL: Ravens Roll as Texans Fall to 0-2
Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap the week’s action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
Baltimore Ravens 33, Houston Texans 16
Houston’s nightmarish start to the 2020 season went from bad to worse Sunday, as they have now started 0-2 with losses to the Chiefs and Ravens.
The Texans did fairly good job of keeping quarterback Lamar Jackson contained on the ground, but Baltimore’s plethora of running backs picked up the slack. Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins combined for 176 yards and a touchdown, averaging a startling 8.38 yards per carry.
Jackson still found a way to make an impact with his arm, throwing for 204 yards and a scores. He completed 75% of his passes and connected with nine different receivers.
Baltimore’s defense did their part as well, making like difficult for quarterback Deshaun Watson. They sacked him four times and intercepted him once. Former Steelers linebacker L.J. Fort also returned a Keke Coutee fumble for a touchdown.
With the Ravens firing on all cylinders and Pittsburgh also sitting at 2-0 on the year, their Oct. 25 meeting cannot come soon enough.
Things will not get easier for either team in Week Three. The Ravens are set for another heavyweight slugfest on Monday Night Football next week versus the Chiefs, while the Texan’s brutal opening slate continues against the Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams 37, Philadelphia Eagles 19
A week after he was sacked eight times by Washington in the season opener, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz struggled again on Sunday, but the pass protection was not to blame this time. Philadelphia’s patchwork offensive line did not allow a single sack to star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and company, yet Wentz still looked inaccurate and inconsistent.
The former No. 2-overall pick went 26 of 43 for 242 yards and no scores with two costly interceptions. Wentz was even booed off the field after missing a wide-open receiver on a crucial third down. Unfortunately for Wentz, there were no fans in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field.
Even in a pandemic, Philly gonna Philly.
Carson Wentz was getting booed off the field with NO FANS in Philly 💀pic.twitter.com/MZ7pfQruTn
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) September 20, 2020
The man picked prior to Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft looked great in contrast, as quarterback Jared Goff completed 20 of 27 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. All three of Goff’s touchdown tosses went to tight end Tyler Higbee, who made his fantasy owners across the country jumping for joy.
Former Steelers defensive tackle Javon Hargrave made his Eagles debut yesterday, but played sparingly and recorded no stats. In comparison, Hargrave’s replacement on the Pittsburgh defensive line Tyson Alualu was a problem for the Broncos’ offense all afternoon, posting a sack, a tackle-for-loss, batting down one pass and hitting the quarterback twice.
The Rams will travel to Buffalo next weekend. The Eagles will host the Bengals and visit the 49ers, before travelling to Pittsburgh in Week Five.
Arizona Cardinals 30, Washington 15
Reigning NFL Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray was stellar again on Sunday, accounting for three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) and accounted for 353 yards of offense, as the Cardinals improved to 2-0 to start the year.
Murray also looks to have seamlessly built a rapport with his newest weapon DeAndre Hopkins, who had eight receptions for 68 yards and touchdown in the win. The duo has already combined for 22 completions and 219 yards through two games.
Running back Kenyan Drake also rushed for 86 yards, as Arizona looks like a contender in a stacked NFC West division.
Washington’s offensive duo of the future did not disappoint either, with quarterback Dwayne Haskins completing 19 of 33 passes for 223 yards and a score. Fellow Ohio State Buckeye Terry McLaurin was the biggest beneficiary Sunday, catching seven passes for 125 yards and the score. Still, their connection was not enough to overcome their porous defense.
Washington will battle a pair of AFC North foes in the Browns next Sunday and the Ravens Week Four. Arizona faces Detroit next at home.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Cleveland Browns 35, Cincinnati Bengals 30 (Thursday)
Chicago Bears 17, New York Giants 13
Dallas Cowboys 40, Atlanta Falcons 39
Green Bay Packers 42, Detroit Lions 21
Tennessee Titans 33, Jacksonville Jaguars 30
Indianapolis Colts 28, Minnesota Vikings 11
Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 28
San Francisco 49ers 31, New York Jets 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Denver Broncos 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Carolina Panthers 17
Kansas City Chiefs 23, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (OT)
Seattle Seahawks 35, New England Patriots 30
New Orleans Saints at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:15 p.m. Monday, ESPN