Dec 4, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) runs with the ball after the catch against Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31) in the first quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals pull off OT win as Jags lose Trevor Lawrence (ankle)

Evan McPherson kicked a 48-yard field goal with 1:45 left in overtime to lift the visiting Cincinnati Bengals to a 34-31 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night.

The Jaguars (8-4) lost quarterback Trevor Lawrence to a right ankle injury after left tackle Walker Little stepped on Lawrence late in the fourth quarter. The QB tossed his helmet aside in frustration and left the game for backup C.J. Beathard. Lawrence could not put any weight on his ankle as he left the field.

Lawrence completed 22 of 29 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns before exiting the game.

Beathard fumbled on his first play, but it was recovered by Jaguars receiver Parker Washington. Beathard then directed a drive that ended when Brandon McManus connected for a 40-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in regulation to make it 31-31 and force overtime.

Beathard completed a 43-yard pass to Calvin Ridley down to the Cincinnati 2 in overtime, but Anton Harrison was called for holding to bring the play back. Two plays later, Jacksonville punted.

Cincinnati quarterback Jake Browning, making his second career start due to Joe Burrow’s season-ending wrist injury, then led the Bengals (6-6) on a drive that ended with McPherson’s game-winning field goal.

Browning had a career game, completing 32 of 37 passes for 354 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score.

Cincinnati receiver Ja’Marr Chase had 11 catches for 149 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown.

McPherson kicked a 54-yard field goal with 2:28 left in regulation to give the Bengals a 31-28 lead.

The Jaguars went down the field with little resistance on their first drive of the game, which was highlighted by a 26-yard pass to Christian Kirk. However, Kirk sustained a groin injury on the play. He left the game and did not return.

Travis Etienne ended up capping the drive with a 4-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead.

Things were tied at 14-all at the break after a pair of rushing touchdowns by the Bengals’ Joe Mixon — from 6 and 2 yards out — sandwiched Lawrence’s 22-yard scoring strike to Evan Engram.

The Bengals captured the momentum early in the third quarter when Browning tossed a perfect pass down the left sideline to Chase, who gave Cincinnati a 21-14 lead with his 76-yard TD.

Lawrence threw for a touchdown and rushed for another to put the hosts ahead 28-21 with 3:10 left in the third quarter. Browning plunged into the end zone from the Jacksonville 1 early in the fourth to set up the tight finish.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) reacts after a victory against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

NFL’s first-ever ‘MNF’ flex bumps Chiefs-Patriots for Eagles-Seahawks

The Philadelphia Eagles-Seattle Seahawks Week 15 game will be played on Monday, Dec. 18, marking the first flex in “Monday Night Football” history.

Bumped to make room for the battle of the birds, the Kansas City Chiefs and Patriots will play the day before — Sunday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. ET — a step that prevents New England (2-9) from making three consecutive primetime appearances.

The Seattle-Philadelphia game moved to Monday was previously scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET.

The NFL also made official the Week 15 tripleheader on Saturday, Dec. 16.

The Minnesota Vikings are at the Cincinnati Bengals (1 p.m. ET), followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Indianapolis Colts (4:30 p.m. ET) and the primetime Saturday finale featuring the Denver Broncos at the Detroit Lions (8:15 p.m. ET).

In other Week 15 scheduling news, the Atlanta Falcons-Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears-Cleveland Browns games will be played Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. ET.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) runs on to the field at MetLife Stadium before the game against the Buffalo Bills. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jets-Bills sets “Monday Night Football” viewership mark

The “Monday Night Football” game between the visiting Buffalo Bills and New York Jets drew more than 22.6 million viewers, the most since ESPN began airing the NFL broadcast in 2006.

The game featured the much-anticipated Jets debut of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who exited after tearing his left Achilles tendon on his fourth snap.

Despite Rodgers’ early departure, the Jets beat the Bills 22-16 in overtime on Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Jets announced on Tuesday that Rodgers would miss the rest of the season.

The game, which aired on ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, ESPN+, and ESPN Deportes, broke the network’s record that was set in 2009, when the Green Bay Packers faced their former quarterback Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. That game drew 21.8 million viewers.

The viewership total for this year’s season opener of “Monday Night Football” was up 14 percent from last year’s opener (Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks) that drew a then-record 19.8 million viewers for a Week 1 Monday night contest.

The breakdown for the Monday viewership included 11.7 million watching on ABC, 9.4 million on ESPN and 1.52 million on ESPN2, which aired the “ManningCast” alternate feed featuring Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.

Sports Business Journal noted that the total MNF viewership this week topped the most recent totals for the College Football Playoff final, the men’s NCAA Tournament final, the Kentucky Derby, the Oscars and the Grammy Awards.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and Tennessee Titans linebacker Rashad Weaver (99) during the fourth quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers at Colts: MNF Preview, Prop Picks, Prediction

The Los Angeles Chargers roll into Indianapolis for Monday Night Football knowing a victory clinches a playoff spot.

The Chargers (8-6) are riding a two-game winning streak and face a reeling Colts team coming off an historic 33-point collapse against Minnesota. The Colts (4-9-1) are without star running back Jonathan Taylor for the remainder of the season and are turning to Nick Foles, who will be their third starting quarterback this year.

Indianapolis has lost four consecutive games following an opening win for interim coach Jeff Saturday and has been eliminated from playoff contention.

The Chargers opened as 4.5-point favorites at BetMGM, but the line has moved to 3.0 with the Colts drawing 81 percent of the spread-line action. The 4.0-point line at DraftKings has seen the Chargers backed by 77 percent of the spread bets and 67 percent of the handle.

“Indianapolis was up 33-0 last week in an NFL game,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “That’s very difficult to do. The reason why they were is because they have a lot of good players and they have a lot of good coaches.”

PROP PICKS
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler Anytime TD (+450 at DraftKings): Ekeler has been the most popular prop play at both sportsbooks for good reason. He has 14 total touchdowns on the season, including at least one in nine of his past 11 games. His odds to score Monday night have a slightly smaller payout at BetMGM (+400). The Colts are allowing 123.7 yards per game on the ground and enter the game 25th in the NFL in giving up an average of 24.1 points.

Colts WR Parris Campbell Under 38.5 Receiving Yards (-115 at BetMGM): This has been the third most popular player prop at the sportsbook. Campbell has topped this mark in seven of his 14 games this season but is averaging only 4.3 targets over his past four games. What his role in the passing game is with Foles under center remains to be seen, but he’s fighting for targets behind Michael Pittman along with rookie Alec Pierce.

Over 44.5 Total Points (-100 at BetMGM/DraftKings): The total has been shifting downward all week, opening at 47.5 points at BetMGM, where 57 percent of the bets and 61 percent of the money has backed the Under. The action has been more split at DraftKings with the money 50/50 and the Over drawing 56 percent of the bets. The Chargers enter 21st in total defense and are just below the Colts in points allowed per game at 24.3.

INJURY REPORT
Chargers: S Derwin James (quad) is expected to return after missing the past two games, but DE Joey Bosa (groin) does not appear ready yet. DB Kemon Hall (hamstring) is officially out.

Colts: Taylor (ankle) is out along with CB Kenny Moore II (leg) and TE Kylen Granson (ankle). CB Brandon Facyson (illness) and WR Mike Strachan (concussion) are slated to play.

PREDICTION
Foles is accustomed to the relief role, having guided Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title after replacing an injured Carson Wentz in Week 14 in 2017. He could provide a steadying influence to the Colts’ lackluster offense, but he can’t fix the offensive line or running game woes. The Chargers are peaking at the right time and will be highly motivated to lock up a playoff spot before the New Year. — Chargers 27, Colts 20

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) runs the ball for a first down against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers, finally off and running, prepare for slumping Broncos

Showing more of the identity that was expected of them, the Los Angeles Chargers will play host Monday night to a Denver Broncos team searching for answers.

The Chargers have moved away from consecutive defeats, including one where they were dominated by the Jacksonville Jaguars, by earning consecutive victories. The latest was an impressive 30-28 showing on the road against the Cleveland Browns last week.

After working his way through a rib cartilage injury, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was an effective 22 of 34 for 228 yards and a touchdown. But the true star of the game was Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler, who revived what had been a dormant rushing attack.

The Chargers entered last week with an NFL-worst 64.5 rushing yards per game. They changed all that when Ekeler rushed for a career-best 173 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving), while Los Angeles had 238 yards total on the ground. It was the team’s most in a game since 2018.

Out of the basement rushing-wise, the Chargers moved up 10 spots, now at 99.2 yards per game.

“It wasn’t anything crazy that we changed schematically,” said Ekeler, who was running behind an offensive line that was without Pro Bowler Rashawn Slater (biceps). “I think it was just we were starting to attack the weakness of their defense, which we felt like was in their interior. We were able to get those guys up front moving people.”

The adjusted line included rookie Jamaree Salyer, who earned rave reviews.

“It’s been a team effort,” coach Brandon Staley said. “It starts with that premise. It takes a team effort to play like that. It’s not just the O-line. It’s their coaches. It’s the skill players around them. It’s the protection plan, the run-game plan.”

The Broncos’ offense could use a premise at this point.

New quarterback Russell Wilson has not been the savior Denver was looking for, with the Broncos’ 12-9 defeat against the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday earning mockery and scorn for offensive ineptitude from both teams.

Wilson and new head coach Nathaniel Hackett remained at Wilson’s locker long after the game had ended, forming their own private support group.

“Let’s face it, the offense has had too many negative plays,” Hackett said this week. “Just too many things that have put us in rough positions.

“For the offense, we just have to put those basic things together and not have those things that are self-inflicted. Once we do that, I think it’s going to be a good football team.”

Despite a partially torn right lat that required a recent injection, Wilson is expected to play Monday as the Broncos use a 10-day window between games to their advantage. Denver guard Quinn Meinerz (hamstring) was one of 12 limited participants in practice but is expected to play. Running back Melvin Gordon III (neck, ribs), a former Charger, also was limited.

“One thing I know about myself is I’m going to respond,” Wilson said after last week’s defeat. “I don’t know any other way. I always believe in myself. I always believe in this team. I believe in what we can do. I believe in what I can do.”

After missing the last four games, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, as were kicker Dustin Hopkins (quad) and tackle Trey Pipkins III (knee).

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) pass the ball to tight end Travis Kelce (87) during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs aim to continue dominance of Raiders on ‘MNF’

The Kansas City Chiefs will look to remain atop the AFC West by continuing their mastery of the visiting Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night.

The Chiefs (3-1) have dominated the Raiders (1-3), winning the past three meetings by a combined score of 124-54. They’ve won eight of the teams’ past nine meetings and 13 of the last 15 matchups.

The Chiefs’ strong start, which included a 41-31 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday, has been fueled by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards and 11 touchdowns, the latter tied for most in the league. His 82.3 quarterback rating is tops in the NFL.

“The NFL has not seen anything like Patrick Mahomes, I promise you that,” Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce said. “He’s the Houdini of our era. The guy just finds ways to make plays — just willing our team into the end zone and willing our team to win. That is our ultimate leader.”

Kelce (26 receptions, 322 yards, 3 TDs) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19 receptions, 224 yards) are Mahomes’ primary passing targets. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has rushed for 208 yards and two scores while averaging 5.1 yards per carry, powers the ground game for an offense that has scored a conference-high 129 points through four games.

“We use the phrase ‘eye candy,’” Las Vegas coach Josh McDaniels said. “They want you to look over here and then all of a sudden, the ball is over here and you’re kind of like, ‘What happened?’ What has always impressed me about them is how well they execute those things.”

Meanwhile, the Raiders, who are coming off a 32-23 win over the visiting Denver Broncos, have struggled defensively. They have yielded 100 points and 1,015 passing yards, ranking in the bottom third of the league for both.

Quarterback Derek Carr has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,038 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.

While he’s developed a strong connection with his former college teammate at Fresno State, Davante Adams (26 receptions, 290 yards, three scores), Las Vegas has overall failed to make plays down the stretch. Las Vegas’ three losses are by a combined 13 points.

By comparison, the Raiders were 7-2 in one-score games last year, a major reason why they made the playoffs before falling to the Cincinnati Bengals in the wild-card round.

Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker hasn’t practiced this week while he recovers from injuring his left ankle in Week 1.

If he can’t play, the Chiefs will stick with Matthew Wright, who made both of his field goals and all five of his extra points in the victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. He also recorded touchbacks on six of his eight kickoffs.

Guard Trey Smith (pectoral) was limited on Thursday and is questionable for Monday.

Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow practiced fully for the first time Thursday since suffering a concussion in Week 2, though eight other Raiders either didn’t practice or were limited in drills.

Tight end Foster Moreau (knee) and safety Roderic Teamer (illness) did not participate at all, while linebacker Jayon Brown (hamstring), offensive tackle Justin Herron (knee), linebacker Denzel Perryman (concussion), tight end Darren Waller (shoulder) and cornerbacks Sam Webb (hamstring) and Rock Ya-Sin (knee) were all limited.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baylor Bears linebacker Terrel Bernard (2) reacts to a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of the 2022 Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Sugar Bowl moved to Dec. 31 to avoid TV conflict with ‘MNF’

The Sugar Bowl will be played on New Year’s Eve at 12 noon ET on Dec. 31 next season, rather than in its regular primetime TV slot.

The bowl game is normally held on New Year’s Day, which will fall on a Sunday in 2023. But it could not be moved to Monday, Jan. 2 with other bowl games because ESPN owns the broadcast rights and had a conflict with its “Monday Night Football” game, an AFC tilt between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

Instead, the Sugar Bowl — held in New Orleans and usually pitting representatives of the SEC and Big 12 — will stay back on Dec. 31 and kick off at 11 a.m. local time.

Next season’s two College Football Playoff semifinal games, the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, will follow that day at 4 and 8 p.m. ET in some order.

The Orange Bowl will be played Dec. 30, but that isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Miami-based game that features the ACC champion. The two other traditional New Year’s Day bowls — the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl — will be played during the day on Jan. 2.

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; A San Francisco 49ers helmet sits idle against the Green Bay Packers in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Griese leaves ‘MNF’ to become 49ers’ QB coach

Longtime NFL quarterback Brian Griese is joining the San Francisco 49ers as their quarterbacks coach, leaving behind ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” booth, multiple media outlets reported Friday night.

Griese, who turns 47 this month, will take on a coaching role for the first time. The son of quarterback Bob Griese spent an 11-year playing career with the Denver Broncos (1998-2002), Miami Dolphins (2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004-05, 2008) and Chicago Bears (2006-07).

In 93 career games (83 starts), Griese threw for 19,440 yards, 119 touchdowns and 99 interceptions with a 62.7 percent career completion rate. He was a Pro Bowler in 2000.

Griese spent two seasons in the ESPN broadcast booth with play-by-play announcer Steve Levy and fellow analyst Louis Riddick. ESPN is reportedly pursuing Fox’s Troy Aikman in an effort to overhaul its “Monday Night Football” broadcast.

Riddick interviewed for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager opening earlier this week, further hinting at a shakeup at ESPN.

Griese fills a vacancy on the 49ers’ staff that opened when Rich Scangarello exited last month to become the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Kentucky.

The 49ers are coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance. They are expected to trade starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and elevate Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft, to take his place.

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; FOX Sports broadcaster Troy Aikman before the game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Troy Aikman ‘deep in negotiations’ to join ‘MNF’

Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, who is Fox Sports’ lead game color analyst, is expected to join ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” for the 2022 season, the New York Post reported Wednesday.

The outlet characterized ESPN as being “deep in negotiations” with the former Dallas Cowboys star. And while the deal isn’t finalized, there is an expectation that it will be.

Aikman, 55, has also been courted by Amazon to take on analyst duties for its “Thursday Night Football” package. Amazon has similarly pursued NBC’s Al Michaels, who has expressed interest in pairing with Aikman, per the report.

No contract details were reported. However, the Post notes that Aikman is expected to earn in the neighborhood of the 10-year, $180 million deal that Tony Romo landed with CBS Sports.

Aikman has spent 20 years working with FOX. For 19 years of that, he has been paired with Joe Buck on FOX’s lead team.

It is unclear if ESPN would pursue Buck, Michaels or a different option.

ESPN’s current “Monday Night Football” team includes Steve Levy at play-by-play and Louis Riddick and Brian Griese as analysts.

Aikman was a six-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys, throwing for 32,942 yards and 165 touchdowns (both marks good for second in franchise history) over a 12-year career. He famously led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl Championships (1992, 1993, 1995).

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (11) gestures after a catch for a first down during the second half against the New York Giants at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs slip past Giants on late FG

Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to two fourth-quarter field goals Monday, overcoming an uneven performance to help deliver a 20-17 home victory over the New York Giants.

Unable to connect on deep routes against the Giants’ two-deep safeties, Mahomes often settled for shorter options but proved inconsistent, passing for 275 yards while going 29-for-48 with one touchdown and one interception.

He eventually engineered a 55-yard march capped by a 34-yard Harrison Butker field goal with 1:07 remaining. The Giants (2-6) went nowhere on their final series, which included sacks by the Chiefs’ Chris Jones and Frank Clark.

The hard-fought win enabled Kansas City to balance its record at 4-4 after coming into the season as the favorite to capture a third consecutive AFC title. The Chiefs committed two turnovers to raise their league-leading total to 19, and they also committed 12 penalties.

An interception by Mahomes was wiped out on the game-winning drive by an offside call against the Giants, who then got flagged for a facemask on a 14-yard completion to Travis Kelce on the following play. A 24-yard touch pass to Mecole Hardman put the Chiefs in a goal-to-go situation. It was Kansas City’s longest play of the game.

Playing without several offensive threats, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones passed for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but New York lacked the firepower to pull off the upset.

New York, which committed 10 penalties, again played without two injured standouts, running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Kenny Golladay, and lost another prime target, Sterling Shepard, to a quad injury sustained in the second quarter.

After completing his first eight passes, Mahomes went 6 for 19 to close the first half, though Kansas City still led 14-10 at the break.

Willie Gay intercepted Jones’ first attempt and the Chiefs cashed in on that turnover with a 6-yard strike from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill, who finished with 12 catches for 94 yards. Kansas City’s Derrick Gore also scored on a 3-yard burst midway through the second for his first career touchdown, making it 14-7.

New York got a touchdown and a field goal off two first-half drives inside the Kansas City 5. Jones found Kyle Rudolph for a 1-yard TD in the first minute of the second quarter to forge a 7-7 tie, and Graham Gano’s 23-yard field goal late in the first half drew the visitors within 14-10.

–Field Level Media