Sep 27, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a touchdown pass in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Decades apart: Brady, Buccaneers welcome Herbert, Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers were hoping to have Tom Brady on their side of the field this season.

Instead, they visit the future Hall of Famer in Florida on Sunday.

Brady, a six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, chose to stay on the East Coast and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason after spending 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The Chargers get their close up with Brady this week. He has led the Buccaneers (2-1) to two straight victories following a season-opening loss to the New Orleans Saints.

“We built this team on defense,” Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said. “Tom (Brady) was the icing on the cake.”

Brady, 43, threw two interceptions in his debut Sept. 13, including one returned for a touchdown in the 34-23 loss to the Saints.

After the Buccaneers bounced back with a 31-17 win against the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sept. 20, Brady delivered his best game with Tampa Bay in the win against the Broncos.

Brady enters Sunday with a 9-2 all-time record against the Chargers, including a 3-0 mark in the postseason.

The Chargers (1-2) are expected to start 22-year-old rookie Justin Herbert at quarterback, marking the first time since at least 1950 that the starting quarterbacks in an NFL game had an age gap of at least 20 years.

After cutting ties with quarterback Philip Rivers following his 16th season with the Chargers and failing to land Brady, Los Angeles turned to last season’s backup, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor started Week 1 and the Chargers won at Cincinnati, but Taylor sustained a rib injury. And prior to Week 2, he suffered a punctured lung while receiving a pain-killing injection by a team doctor just prior to the overtime loss against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Taylor was inactive for Week 2 and Week 3. His status is week to week, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.

Herbert has performed well in two starts, passing for more than 300 yards in each game while completing nearly 70 percent of his throws.

“We wouldn’t have taken him at (No.) 6 if we didn’t think he could lead this team and play in this league,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said of Herbert. “I promise you that.”

The main holes on the Chargers lie in their defensive unit, which will be without key players again Sunday.

Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is out 4-6 weeks because of a right foot injury sustained midway through the third quarter of a 21-16 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.

Harris had missed just five games over the previous nine seasons in Denver.

Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Melvin Ingram (knee) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder) landed on short-term injured reserve last week, keeping them out the next two games.

The Buccaneers are without one of the league’s top wide receivers this week and possibly beyond.

Chris Godwin, who made his first Pro Bowl last season, left in the third quarter against the Broncos on Sunday because of mild hamstring strain.

Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski could see increased involvement in the passing game with Godwin out.

Gronkowski, a five-time Pro Bowler who came out of retirement to play for Tampa Bay this season, was targeted seven times against the Broncos after combining for four targets the first two weeks.

The Buccaneers shut out the Broncos in the second half after letting Carolina creep back into the game following halftime in Week 2.

“We’ve got to finish stronger than what we’ve been finishing, and I just think that starts with the players,” Tampa Bay linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to get it right.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2020; Lake Forest, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (9) looks to pass the ball during training camp at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Close connections create complications for Colts, Bears

The Chicago Bears could face their toughest test yet this season when they host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon.

Chicago (3-0) enters Week 4 as one of seven unbeaten teams to start the 2020 campaign. It has been an unorthodox path to perfection for the Bears, who have won all three games by four-point margins. Furious three-TD rallies at Detroit Week 1 and in Atlanta last week with Nick Foles at the controls off the bench helped carve a most unpredictable path.

“It has truly taken everybody,” Bears tight end Jimmy Graham, who has three receiving touchdowns to lead the team. “It’s truly taken every player, every coach — offense, defense and special teams — to pull out these wins. And when you’re able to do things like this … that’s when you know you’re building something special.”

Foles heads into the Colts game as the Bears’ clear-cut No. 1 signal-caller after replacing teammate Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter last week. Foles engineered a fourth-quarter rally to knock off the Atlanta Falcons and seize the starting job going forward.

For Foles and the Bears, the challenge figures to be tougher this week against the Colts (2-1). The Colts are guided by Frank Reich. The second-year head coach was with the Philadelphia Eagles as quarterback coach — and Foles’ bible study partner, meeting room mentor and friend — when Foles replaced Carson Wentz and won Super Bowl MVP.

“He was the one who really figured me out as a player,” Foles said of Reich’s tutelage in 2017.

Indianapolis is coming off back-to-back wins over the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets.

The Colts rolled to a 36-7 victory over New York last week thanks in large part to an aggressive defense that registered two sacks and three interceptions against Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

The Colts have allowed only 225.3 yards per game, which is the best mark in the NFL. They’ll have plans to get Foles out of a rhythm.

“Nick is about as unflappable of a person as I’ve ever been around,” Foles said. “”He’s a very unique player in that regard. Extremely talented. He’s a big-time passer; this guy, he just has this knack for making big plays like few I’ve ever seen, and then he has this knack for coming up big in big moments. In the biggest moments, that’s usually when he’s at his best. … He’s a stud, man.”

Colts veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has skillfully managed the offense, completing 17 of 21 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown in his latest game. Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor added 59 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

Taylor credited Rivers with setting the tone for the calm-and-steady Colts.

“Seventeen years, there’s not one defensive scheme that you can put in his face that he doesn’t have an answer to,” Taylor said. “When you have a guy who has experience like that, you know that you’re in good hands.”

The line of scrimmage could decide this showdown, and a special matchup is likely to take place on the interior as Colts offensive lineman Quenton Nelson goes up against Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.

Chicago’s defense as a whole will look for a better performance in Week 4. The Bears are No. 15 in the league with 364.0 yards allowed per game, and they have not yet shown the elite performance they hoped to achieve.

This is the first time the Bears and Colts have met since 2016, when Indianapolis held on for a 29-23 win at home. The Colts lead the all-time series 24-19 but have lost two of the last three matchups.

The Bears will be without dynamic running back Tarik Cohen, who tore his ACL last week against Atlanta and will miss the rest of the season. Cohen’s absence could mean a heavier workload for David Montgomery, and former Oregon State running back Artavis Pierce could make his NFL debut after the team promoted him from the practice squad this week.

–Field Level Media

Sep 28, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws to wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

QBs headline Chiefs-Patriots showdown in KC

Patrick Mahomes does not have to check many more boxes in 2020.

A year most people would love to forget has become incredibly special off the field for the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback.

He helped the Chiefs claim their first NFL title in 50 years and was named Super Bowl MVP between the white lines.

Then he got engaged, became part owner of the Kansas City Royals and just this week announced that he and his fiancée, Brittany Matthews, are expecting their first child.

With Mahomes, you never quite know what’s next as he and the Chiefs (3-0) prepare for a home game Sunday against the New England Patriots (2-1).

He’s coming off another dazzling performance Monday night when Kansas City toppled Baltimore in a matchup of the top-seeded teams from last season’s AFC playoffs. Mahomes passed for 385 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for another TD in a 34-20 win.

“I truly believe it’s how we run training camp,” Mahomes said. “I mean, Coach (Andy) Reid puts us in these situations that are very game-like, they’re very similar to the situation that we’re really presented in the game, and we’re prepared for it.”

Mahomes has nine touchdowns, no interceptions and leads the NFL with a 91.8 quarterback rating.

Reid continues to tap a vast playbook. Mahomes happened to spot a couple of unlikely targets, fullback Anthony Sherman and tackle Eric Fisher, for touchdowns at Baltimore.

“Whenever we say that we work on something a lot, with Coach Reid’s playbook that means we practice something three or four times,” Fisher cracked.

Fisher’s primary responsibilities include protection for Mahomes, who has been sacked just twice despite a variety of blitzes used by opponents.

“We call it a flavor of the week; (opponents are) going to tweak it every week a little differently,” said Fisher, a former first-round draft pick. “We’ll see something different than what’s been on film this week.”

Coming off their Monday night road game, the Chiefs have less time to prepare for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. A solid secondary must provide the kind of coverage that can help New England’s pass rushers pressure Mahomes.

Belichick worries about the mobility Mahomes brings and his ability to escape, extend plays downfield and dial up long strikes to the likes of speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill, dependable tight end Travis Kelce or versatile rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

“The skill players are hard to tackle, they’re good guys with the ball in their hands, they can also get down the field and good route runners,” Belichick said. “You force the ball out quick, you don’t have to cover as long, but you don’t have much help. So, it’s just a tradeoff there.”

Cam Newton is off to an impressive start in his first season with the Patriots. He can stoke the hype machine with a win at Kansas City and solidify his stature as Tom Brady’s replacement.

The former NFL MVP has completed two-thirds of his passes (62 of 91) for 714 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions, while adding four rushing TDs.

He’s a force in the open field and now healthy after a foot injury put him on the sideline in Carolina last season. The Chiefs are likely to use a similar approach to the one defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo used to slow Lamar Jackson last week. Newton passed Randall Cunningham last week for the second-most career rushing yards by a QB all-time, behind only Michael Vick.

Newton will face an ailing Chiefs defense. Rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is out after breaking his collarbone at Baltimore. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland is completing a four-game suspension. Also, tackle Chris Jones (groin) and end Alex Okafor (hamstring) were limited Wednesday at practice. Offensive guard Andrew Wylie is back after missing the Ravens game with a stomach illness.

Reserve safety Cody Davis (rib) did not participate at the Patriots’ Wednesday practice, while defensive tackle Adam Butler (shoulder), wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee), running back Sony Michel (quad) and tackle Isiah Wynn (calf) were limited.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis (28) runs past Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers aim to run winning streak vs. Cardinals to five

Now that the Carolina Panthers crashed the win column, they’re answering different questions going into their Week 4 game.

Just how can they take their one-game success and turn it into more?

The Panthers take on an opponent dealing with a different perspective — the Arizona Cardinals are coming off their first defeat of the season — when the teams meet Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

“We’re continuing to just learn (about) each other,” Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “We have to stay motivated, stay hungry to be the best.”

Carolina held on to topple the Los Angeles Chargers last week, ending the franchise’s 10-game losing streak and providing first-year coach Matt Rhule with his first NFL victory.

Rhule wants the Panthers (1-2) to be as critical in their evaluation of the past game as they were after losses.

“The fun of it is over,” he said. “I’m on to the Cardinals.”

Arizona (2-1) is stewing after a home loss to the Detroit Lions. The Cardinals saw too many shortcomings on offense come back to hurt them.

“I have to do a better job of getting us in a flow offensively,” Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said.

They’ll want to discover that groove against a Carolina defense that suddenly looked better, particularly after generating a pass rush that had been dormant for the first two weeks of the season.

“We think we can be a top-three, top-five offense in the NFL,” Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds said. “We have to find a way to make it happen.”

The Panthers were tripped up repeatedly in the red zone in their game with the Chargers. They scored just one touchdown and settled for five short field goals from Joey Slye.

“We have to have the mindset when we get down there that we can still run the ball or we can throw the ball,” Bridgewater said. “We want to make sure we get better down there.”

The disturbing trend was Carolina’s 3-for-12 rate on third-down conversions.

“We want to score more touchdowns,” Bridgewater said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

The Panthers are counting on a largely new group of playmakers. This will be the first home game without running back Christian McCaffrey, whose Sept. 20 ankle injury at Tampa Bay is going to cause him to miss about a month of action.

Mike Davis filled in at Los Angeles and scored the team’s only touchdown on a screen pass.

The Cardinals have concerns on defense, especially because injuries have depleted the safety position. Safeties Budda Baker (thumb) and Chris Banjo (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

Adding to the scrutiny is that the Cardinals are without an interception through three games.

“I think those will show up. It just hasn’t happened yet,” Kingsbury said. “I do think the defense has made big strides overall.”

The game will mark a return to the Carolinas for Arizona rookie linebacker Isaiah Simmons, a first-round draft pick in April out of Clemson. Given the roster situation on defense, Simmons’ ability to play multiple positions in college could come in handy for the Cardinals, Kingsbury said.

“He has a feel for multiple positions,” he said. “I think that will help the learning curve. He has done a nice job of picking things up.”

Carolina defensive tackle Kawann Short returned for limited practice Wednesday, increasing the chance he could play after missing the past two games with a foot ailment. Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung missed the Chargers game and remained off the practice field by mid-week because of a groin injury.

This is the first of three consecutive road games for the Cardinals, including next week’s return to the East Coast to meet the New York Jets.

This will be the fourth out of the past five meetings between the teams to be held in Charlotte. In that stretch, the Panthers won a pair of playoff encounters before a 2016 regular-season matchup. The Cardinals have lost six of their last seven visits and four in a row overall.

Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) did not practice Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) walks to the locker room following pregame warmups against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys open October home blitz with Baker, Browns

The Dallas Cowboys have racked up nearly 1,500 yards total offense in three games but only have one win to show for it.

Thanks to a poor turnover ratio and a porous defense, the Cowboys are 1-2 but atop the NFC East.

Their chance to begin moving toward bigger goals begins with the first of three consecutive October home games. The Cleveland Browns (2-1) ride into Dallas with wins over the Washington Football Team and Cincinnati Bengals.

“By no means are we a clean football team right now. We need to execute better,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said after last Sunday’s 38-31 loss in Seattle.

The Cowboys’ six turnovers have led to 31 points for their opponents, nearly a third of the 97 total points Dallas has surrendered. On the flip side, Dallas has scored only three points off two takeaways. Only the Minnesota Vikings (minus-5) and Philadelphia Eagles (minus-7) have a worse turnover ratio than the Cowboys’ minus-4.

With starting cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) and Anthony Brown (ribs) on injured reserve, the secondary was shredded by MVP front-runner Russell Wilson (315 yards, five touchdowns) of the Seahawks.

“There are things we’ve got to correct in practice,” rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs said. “We’re going to get it right. It’s just communication. That’s it. That’s literally it.”

Dallas is 30th in the NFL in scoring defense (32.3), 28th in passing defense (277.0) and 26th in total defense (404.7), effectively canceling out the prolific start by Dak Prescott and the offense.

Prescott leads the league in completions (96), attempts (143) and passing yards (1,188). Three receivers — Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb — have more than 200 yards, and two-time NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard season.

Cleveland’s two-game winning streak includes Sunday’s 34-20 victory against Washington. Baker Mayfield tossed two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb rushed for two scores and the Browns climbed above .500 for the first time since 2014.

“We’re just trying to get to 1-0 every week,” coach Kevin Stefanski said, attempting to downplay the significance or perhaps temper expectations for a franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2002.

Baltimore demolished the Browns in Week 1.

The Browns have lost the last four meetings with Dallas and haven’t beaten the Cowboys in Texas since 1994, the year before Mayfield and Chubb were born.

Chubb is coming off back-to-back 100-yard, two-TD games and the Browns rank third in the NFL in rushing (170.3). Mayfield has only attempted 85 passes, 27th in the league, in coordinator Alex Van Pelt’s conservative offense. Odell Beckham Jr., who had some big days against Dallas while with the New York Giants, leads the team with 155 yards on 11 catches.

Anchoring the other side of the ball is defensive end Myles Garrett, who will challenge a Dallas offensive line dealing with injuries to tackles Tyron Smith (neck) and La’el Collins (hip). Collins isn’t ready to return from IR and Smith missed practice Wednesday. Garrett already has three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

“That is really what we expect from Myles. I know he expects it of himself,” Stefanski said. “We need him to play great, and when it turns into a pass-rush game, he is built for that. You get an honest day’s work out of Myles Garrett.”

Browns running back Kareem Hunt (groin), cornerback Denzel Ward (groin) and left guard Joel Bitonio (back) all missed practice Wednesday. Stefanski said Bitonio and Hunt are day-to-day.

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals bid to jolt Jaguars for first win of season

The Cincinnati Bengals will try to get over the proverbial hump against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon.

The Bengals (0-2-1) are still winless on the season, but lost their first two games by a combined eight points. Last week, Cincinnati settled for a 23-23 tie at Philadelphia.

“We just need a win, period,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It doesn’t matter who it’s against. It’s an ongoing process, it doesn’t click overnight. We continue to look for improvement with our guys.”

Jacksonville (1-2) also is beginning to feel desperate for that winning feeling. A surprise winner in the season opener, the Jaguars then lost on a late field goal at Tennessee before a humbling 31-13 loss to visiting Miami on Sept. 24.

It’s not hard to find the Jaguars’ most pressing issue. Jacksonville has yet to score on an opening drive this season, and its defense has allowed a touchdown on the opening drive in each of the first three games. Better starts will lead to better end results, quarterback Gardner Minshew said.

“That’s a goal of ours — to jump out early and let the defense go hunt,” Minshew said.

Rookies will play a role for both offenses on Sunday.

Running back James Robinson put up 129 scrimmage yards (83 receiving, 46 rushing) and two rushing touchdowns for the Jaguars last week. Robinson’s 339 scrimmage yards in his first three career games are the most for an undrafted player in the common draft era of the NFL.

For Cincinnati, No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow has certainly looked like a franchise quarterback in his first three starts. Burrow is completing 64.5 percent of his throws, has 821 yards passing and two 300-yard games. He has thrown five touchdowns against one interception.

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, who has helped Minshew develop quickly at the NFL level, said Burrow is the real deal. He’s seen similar attributes in Minshew, who is completing 73.8 percent of his throws for 787 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

“Doesn’t play like a rookie quarterback,” Marrone said.

“He can run, he can move, he has a quick release, he can throw the ball, he can hit all the different spots. He’s got a hell of a lot of talent around him and he’s a very talented player. He’s tough as hell. You can see that on film.”

The Bengals hope to see fewer hits on their QB in the near future. Burrow has been sacked a league-high 14 times in just three games, and taken at least twice that number in additional hits. Philadelphia ramped up the pressure last week by sacking Burrow eight times.

It’s a recipe the Jaguars may not be able to follow, however. Jacksonville is next to last in the NFL with just three sacks in three games. Over the last two games, Marrone’s defense has defended just two passes and has no interceptions.

“But really, the guys who are creating it are on the back end at times,” Marrone said. “If their quarterback’s going to their first read and that first read’s open, unless you just completely whiff it’s going to be very difficult to get guys down.

“We’re working on this group effort to try to get a little bit more pressure on the quarterback.”

The Bengals’ ground game has been largely ineffective, and the defense has had issues getting stops — particularly late in halves and games. But Burrow is pressing to get Cincinnati a win, and that means he’s not going to change how he plays. He doesn’t sound worried about the hits taken in the process.

“I’m going to get hit. I’m going to try to extend the play as much as I can. That’s just something I understand is going to happen,” Burrow said. “Guys (on the offensive line) are going to lose (sometimes), guys are going to get beat. That’s the nature of the league,” Burrow said. “It’s my job to limit mistakes and make plays.

“I don’t get paid to take sacks. I get paid to make plays, so that’s my job.”

The Bengals’ job on defense would be easier with the return of defensive tackle Geno Atkins (shoulder), but he remained a limited participant at practice on Wednesday.

“I’m hopeful, as always,” Taylor said.

Starting left guard Michael Jordan (knee) was limited on Wednesday, and cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander (ribs/hamstring) and Darius Phillips (knee) were non-participating and limited, respectively.

For the Jaguars, Pro Bowl receiver D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) was limited at practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Quincy Williams (core muscle) was also limited as he was scheduled to return from the injured reserve list.

Out on Wednesday were two starting offensive linemen: center Brandon Liner (knee) and right guard A.J. Cann (illness).

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saints take on Lions, hope to snap two-game skid

New Orleans could have All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas back in action this weekend. The Saints also hope their defensive focus will return.

The Saints gave up 34 points to Las Vegas and 37 to Green Bay in dropping their last two games. New Orleans now goes on the road to confront the Detroit Lions’ potent passing game on Sunday.

Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in the season-opening victory over Tampa Bay and has missed the last two games. He practiced in a limited basis on Wednesday.

Unless the Saints (1-2) do a better job of stopping the opponent, Thomas’ status won’t matter that much. They allowed the Packers, who were missing top receiver Davante Adams, to score on three passing touchdowns while recording only one sack and failing to force a turnover.

“We need to have better eyes. We know we need to have much better eyes relative to what we’re doing,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Honestly, we looked like a high school team defending the bootleg the other night and that was kind of embarrassing. So that has to get corrected.”

Detroit (1-2) won its first game last weekend, edging Arizona on the road, 26-23. That coincided with the return of Kenny Golladay. The team’s standout receiver sat out the first two games with a hamstring injury. He caught six passes for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals.

“The first thing that comes to mind is his downfield, scoring threat. He is a big play target,” Payton said. “He had great production a year ago. (Head coach) Matt (Patricia) has a ton of confidence in him and if you just look at his numbers from a year ago, I think it’s pretty evident.”

What’s also become apparent is that Adrian Peterson still has something left in the tank. The 13-year veteran was released by Washington late in camp and the Lions surprisingly signed him, despite using two high draft picks on running backs the last three seasons.

Peterson is averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

“I’ve told you, this guy is a freak of nature now. I don’t know where that wall is or where he’s going to hit it. The guy is always asking for more,” Detroit offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He is in great shape. He takes care of his body. He does all those little things to set himself up for that success.”

Saints running back Alvin Kamara has done big things this season. He has racked up six touchdowns (three rushing, three receiving) and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He has also gathered in 27 Drew Brees passes.

“Obviously, we want to have balance and that’s something that we look to have in each game, the ability to run the football,” Payton said. “But yes, he’s playing well for us and he’s an explosive player. We need to continue to look at ways of getting him the ball in his hands.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for an average of 270.3 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Brees is averaging 253.3 yards per game with six touchdowns against one pick.

The Saints have some other personnel concerns besides Thomas. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (illness), tight end Jared Cook (groin) and guard Andrus Peat (ankle) missed Wednesday’s practice.

For the Lions, cornerback Desmond Trufant was limited in practice Wednesday after missing the past two games. Trufant injured his hamstring in Week 1.

–Field Level Media

Sep 28, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens  quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) huddles the offense in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens, Jackson ready to run for rebound at Washington

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson earned NFL MVP accolades last season, but realizes he didn’t keep up appearances on Monday night.

In a 34-20 home loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson completed just 15-of-28 passes for 97 yards while rushing for 83 yards, including 30 on one carry on Baltimore’s first series.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jackson said of his struggles. “We’re going to keep playing ball.”

The Ravens have a short week to forget about their woes. They visit Beltway rival Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re 2-1,” Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “There’s a lot more football to come.”

Washington (1-2) has similar resolve after inconsistent play marred a 34-20 Week 3 loss at Cleveland. Washington took a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Dontrelle Inman — their first of two scoring connections on the day — but the Browns responded with a 17-0 second quarter.

Thirteen unanswered points in the third staked Washington to a 20-17 lead entering the fourth before the Browns closed the game on another 17-0 run.

Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, sustained a groin injury in the second quarter Sunday and didn’t return to action, although he did watch the second half from the sidelines. Young, who has collected 2.5 sacks in his first three professional games. He is unlikely to play this week. NFL Network reported Young would not play this week.

“We’ll see how the week goes with Chase,” said Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who ran practice Wednesday as coach Ron Rivera underwent cancer treatment. “We’ve got time. To make declarations early in the week doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose. We’ll see how that goes as we progress through the week.”

Inman (wrist) and rookie WR Steven Sims Jr. (toe) didn’t practice Wednesday.

Although the Ravens called 28 passes against 21 runs Monday, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that he didn’t view the split as an imbalance. The Ravens rushed the ball on six of the first seven plays before the drive stalled with three successive passes in the red zone.

“I don’t think we got away from the run after the first series, but we need to score a touchdown there,” Harbaugh said. “I think once we got in the red zone, we’ve looked at those plays really hard. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] has, especially hard. Nobody looks at the play-calling more than Greg Roman, who in my opinion is one of the best play-callers in the National Football League and has proven that.

“We’re a running team. We want to run the ball as much as we can. We also want to be productive in the passing game. … We’re not going to get away from being a running team. That’s something that we think is very important and we’ll try to do our best at calling as many runs as we can every single week.”

Baltimore averaged 7.5 yards a carry against the Chiefs, but the team’s running backs combined for just 12 carries.

Washington defeated Baltimore in the teams’ past two meetings, including a 16-10 victory in the most recent encounter, on Oct. 9, 2016. The Beltway rivals have split six meetings all-time, with the Ravens holding a 102-94 scoring edge.

–Field Level Media

Sep 13, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (98) reacts after defeating the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos sign free agent DL Jernigan

The Denver Broncos signed free agent Timmy Jernigan on Wednesday, two days after the defensive lineman was abruptly released by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Broncos pounced after putting three defensive linemen on the injured list the past two weeks.

Jernigan, 28, played in all three games for the Jaguars this season, including 20 snaps on defense in a loss to the Miami Dolphins last Thursday.

Jernigan has played in 74 games (51 starts) after getting drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He has 17.5 career sacks, most of those coming with the Ravens (2014-16). He played three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, including their Super Bowl winning campaign. His regular-season career totals include 133 tackles, one interception, three passes defensed, 48 quarterback hits and one fumble recovery.

The Broncos have seen Dre’Mont Jones, DeMarcus Walker and five-time Pro Bowl selection Jurrell Casey all felled by injuries.

The team plans to bring in former first-round pick Sylvester Williams and Darius Kilgo for workouts on Friday. Kilgo hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2018 and Williams played 63 snaps for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. Williams also started 48 of 60 games played for the Broncos from 2013-16.

The Broncos also promoted running back LeVante Bellamy and outside linebacker Derrek Tuszka to the active roster.

Bellamy is a rookie from Western Michigan University who has appeared in two games with Denver after being elevated from the practice squad in Weeks 2 and 3.

Tuszka is a rookie from North Dakota State University who has appeared in two games with Denver after being elevated from the practice squad in Weeks 1 and 2. He was selected by the Broncos in the seventh round earlier this year.

The Broncos (0-3) play the winless New York Jets on Thursday night.

–Field Level Media

Jul 24, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott speaks during Pac-12 football media day at Hollywood & Highland. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Pac-12 request for expanded CFP turned down

The Pac-12 requested an eight-team playoff for this season but the College Football Playoff management committee turned it down, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott urged the committee to make the change amid the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which will lead to teams playing fewer games in the 2020 campaign.

But the committee that includes the 10 FBS conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick reviewed the situation and determined to stick with the status quo of four qualifying teams.

“They decided that doing that now would be such a significant change, and come with so many challenges, especially given the timing with the season already underway, that they concluded that the best outcome would be to make no changes in the format,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN. “They will continue to discuss the future, which is just good, responsible business practice, although I must say that dealing with COVID has become everyone’s focus now.”

In Scott’s view, the pandemic has so gravely affected the season that expanding the number of teams would have been the most equitable solution. For example, the Pac-12 and Big Ten haven’t yet started their schedules while the ACC, Big 12 and SEC have already begun play.

“In light of the pandemic and the varied schedules and reduced number of games — including no nonconference games for most teams — the committee will have to evaluate, I felt it was our responsibility and important to consider an expanded playoff that would include more teams and automatic qualifiers who are conference champions this year,” Scott told ESPN.

Stanford coach David Shaw told reporters the number of playoff teams will eventually increase.

“Whether it’s six or eight, at some point in time it’s going to happen,” Shaw said. “We all know it; we all believe it. We’re just going to do it very, very slowly and methodically, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.

“The only thing that should matter is: Did you fight really, really hard your entire season to win your conference? If you did, you should get a ticket to the dance. Now, outside of those five, now who deserves it? You have to look at independents, you have to look at No. 2s in some of those conferences, look at the roads they traveled. That’s the only thing that truly makes sense, and I believe eventually we will get there, whether it’s six or eight teams, I think it’ll eventually happen.”

According to Hancock, there will be no change this season to how the selection process is handled.

“They trust the judgment of the 13 experts on the (selection) committee to make the best decisions, understanding how much more difficult 2020 will be,” Hancock said.

–Field Level Media