Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) passes the ball against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Tua us: New-look Dolphins meet Bills in AFC East showdown

As NFL proving grounds go, Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins might not get a more tailor-made opportunity to legitimize their fast start than this one.

Undefeated AFC East rivals collide in Miami Gardens, Fla., when the Buffalo Bills roll into Hard Rock Stadium after wrecking the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans in primetime pummelings by a combined score of 72-17.

The Dolphins are also 2-0, averaging 31 points per game with an offensive arsenal that believes it could be ready to measure up with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

“We’ve all been witnesses to, he’s steadily become one of the best players in the National Football League,” Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said of Allen. “(You could) easily argue he’s the best one. And it’s not because he’s God’s gift. It’s because he’s unbelievably talented. But it’s because you can tell more than that, it’s because he works at his craft. He’s developing every time he’s on the field. He’s a really, really good player that you’ll never, I don’t think, see him stopped necessarily. It’s about minimizing and containing all together.”

The Dolphins have a seven-game home winning streak and enter with one of the more improbable wins in recent memory, rallying from a 35-14 deficit entering the fourth quarter at Baltimore to beat the Ravens 42-38. Tagovailoa, who threw a pair of first-half interceptions, finished with six touchdown passes and wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle each had 11 receptions and two touchdowns with a combined 361 yards through the air.

Checking Hill, the NFL’s leading receiver, and Waddle could fall to a pair of rookies for the Bills because Dane Jackson (neck) is uncertain and Tre White is on the PUP list.

“They do a great job — their receivers — with yards after catch. So our ability to be able to tackle and get guys running to the football is going to be very, very important,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

McDaniel said he’ll mention keeping emotions in check with Tagovailoa but not dwell on it. He said they re-lived his second interception against the Ravens and boiled it down to pressing. The critical test in McDaniel’s mind is how quickly a quarterback rebounds from errors.

“If he feels himself pressing, like he did when he threw that second pick, how fast can you get out of that yourself and utilize that whole experience for confidence moving forward,” McDaniel said.

Buffalo packs a streak of their own for the trip to Florida. They’ve won the past seven meetings with the Dolphins and have surrendered just 8.5 points per game this season.

Lost in the blazing start by Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs — 20 receptions, four touchdowns — has been the smothering defense that Miami knows all too well. With pass rusher Von Miller added to the mix, Buffalo can squeeze teams shoved into comeback mode by the Bills’ high-octane offense.

“Regardless if it works or not, you’re going see outside zone. They’re going to play unbelievable strenuous defense,” McDaniel said. “They’re going to play hard and run to the ball. And they’re going to force you into mistakes because they can get home with their four-man rush.”

Buffalo could be without the cornerbacks mentioned above and tight end Dawson Knox, who didn’t practice Wednesday due to a foot injury.

Miami’s injury concerns include left tackle Terron Armstead (toe), cornerback Xavien Howard (groin), linebacker Melvin Ingram (rest) and tight ends Cethan Carter (concussion) and Hunter Long (ankle). Armstrong played at Baltimore with the same injury. Howard is new to the injury report this week.

–Field Level Media

Sep 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) hands the ball off to  running back Josh Jacobs (28) in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots, Newton prepped for revved-up Raiders

Cam Newton knows there’s no sense in ever trying to fill Tom Brady’s legendary shoes. The former NFL MVP plans to focus on making an impact on the Patriots as they enter Sunday’s home game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Newton has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 552 yards but is making even more noise as a runner with 122 yards and four touchdowns through his first two games for New England (1-1). He’s well ahead of his MVP pace of 2015.

The four rushing scores are the most in NFL history for a quarterback through two games and perhaps the total could have been one higher if Newton wasn’t stopped at the 2-yard line on the final play of Sunday night’s 35-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Newton, the former Carolina Panthers star, is still exerting himself as a leader with his new team, but quickly took responsibility for the decisive play not working.

“We just have to execute. And I could have bounced it,” Newton said of the play. “I just have to do better. I just have to do better here at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win and when you do that, you just have to finish and we didn’t do that.”

Overall, there are few complaints about Newton as he assimilates his style into the existing and well-established Patriot Way.

New England coach Bill Belichick feels Newton is quickly picking up the game plan and adding just the right amount of spice.

“Each week’s a new challenge, but Cam understands what we want to do,” Belichick said. “He has a good grasp. He’s got a lot of playing experience and is a very instinctive player, and when things come up in the game, he’s very quick to identify the differences from what we’ve prepared for and or what the team has shown in the past based on the last two weeks. But, we’ll continue to work together on that.”

Raiders coach Jon Gruden has Las Vegas at 2-0 after taking down the Saints on Monday night. He fears Newton’s combination of strength and size, as well as his prowess throwing the ball.

“I haven’t seen many guys walk through my doors that look like Cam,” Gruden said. “I call him ‘Slam.’ Slam Newton. That was the nickname. He’s a power forward playing quarterback.”

Newton, who has one touchdown pass and one interception, also has quickly built a strong rapport with veteran receiver Julian Edelman, who had eight receptions for a career-high 179 yards against Seattle. Overall, Edelman has 13 receptions for 236 yards.

The Raiders scored 34 points in both of their wins — by four over the Carolina Panthers and an impressive 10-point margin in Monday night’s win over New Orleans in their first game in Las Vegas.

Quarterback Derek Carr has completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 521 yards and four touchdowns without being intercepted. He takes aim at a New England defense torched for five touchdown passes by Russell Wilson last week.

Carr is looking for a strong rebound season after hearing chatter in the offseason that the Raiders would be better off moving on from him despite the fact he passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.

“This organization has stuck behind me through some hard times,” Carr said. “Through some times when our team struggled, there’s no doubt about it, but when you can get on the other side of things and be 2-0 as the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a pretty cool thing.”

The Raiders have emerging star Josh Jacobs (181 rushing, three touchdowns) in the backfield and tight end Darren Waller (18 receptions) off to a strong start for an offense that ranks fourth in scoring, which was a problem area — specifically in the red zone — in 2019.

The defense could use improvement and is allowing 27 points and 406 yards per game. Las Vegas has just one sack and the failure to pressure quarterbacks could be exploited by a dynamic player like Newton.

Las Vegas is hurting on the offensive line after placing guard Richie Incognito (Achilles) on injured reserve on Wednesday. Others missing practice were Jacobs (hip), Waller (knee), offensive tackle Trent Brown (calf), guard/tackle Denzelle Good (thumb/illness), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) and defensive end Carl Nassib (illness).

New England center David Andrews (hand) was the only player to miss Wednesday’s practice due to injury. Running back James White was also absent as he deals with a family tragedy. His father was killed and his mother injured in an auto accident in Florida on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) runs the ball in the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Winless Vikings to pound the rock, not panic button, against Titans

The Minnesota Vikings are 0-2 to begin the season for the first time since 2013.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins believes he has a pulse on the way to spark a turnaround when the Vikings welcome the 2-0 Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

“The urgency is there every week, but what we certainly need to improve on in addition to just having urgency is to have production,” Cousins said. “That’s where my focus is. The urgency is there, but we need the production to go with it.”

Cousins admitted he needs to improve. Minnesota lost its season opener 43-34 to Green Bay, falling behind with Cousins playing a bit part in the first half, and dropped its Week 2 game at Indianapolis 28-11.

A Pro Bowler in 2019 after throwing for 3,603 yards with 26 touchdowns, six interceptions and a career-best 107.4 passer rating, Cousins has struggled to begin 2020. His passer rating was 0.0 late in the third quarter at Indianapolis, but Cousins ultimately raised it — to a sparse 15.9 — after finishing 11-of-26 for 113 yards and three interceptions.

To keep heat off of Cousins, the Vikings are looking to establish the ground game and take a page out of the Titans’ book with multiple tight ends plowing on an eight-man line on occasion. Dalvin Cook brings big-play flair but cutback lanes have been clogged as defenses dare the Vikings to push the ball downfield.

Cousins has been sacked in the end zone for a safety in consecutive games. According to Pro Football Reference, Minnesota has allowed safeties in back-to-back games only one other time in franchise history, in December 2007.

Now comes a quick Tennessee front seven that includes defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a late addition to the team who is looking to make his mark with the Titans.

“Clowney, they move [him] around quite a bit,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Sometimes he’s on the right, sometimes he’s on the left, sometimes he lines up over the center. So, they move him around. Identification will be big for us.”

Tennessee is 2-0 for the first time since 2008 and rolling behind efficient quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill as well as clutch heroics from placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has hit game-winning field goals against Denver and Jacksonville. Gostkowski has all but erased memories of his four missed field goals at Denver.

“We’re 2-0 and you would think in this locker room that we’re 0-2 with the way we’re focused, which I think is different than I’ve seen in past years,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “Guys are definitely like, ‘We know how much better we can be.’”

Tannehill completed 18-of-24 passes for 239 yards in a 33-30 home win against Jacksonville. He had four touchdowns and zero interceptions. It marked the third time Tannehill had four touchdown passes in a game in his career and first since Oct. 25, 2015, when he led the Miami Dolphins past the Houston Texans.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the run game has experienced too many plays halted at or behind the line of scrimmage, but running back Derrick Henry remains second in the league with 200 rush yards.

Tennessee cornerback Johnathan Joseph suffered a calf injury in the second half Sunday and did not return, but was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Cornerbacks Malcolm Butler (quad) and Chris Jackson (hamstring) didn’t practice, and neither did receiver A.J. Brown (knee).

Four-time Minnesota Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr was placed on injured reserve Monday with a torn pectoral muscle and will miss the rest of the season. Barr sustained the injury in the first half at Indianapolis and didn’t return.

“AB is a beast,” Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said. “He’s very good at a lot of things. … He calls the plays for our defense, so we’ve got to make adjustments there.”

Cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler (rib) and Mike Hughes (neck) missed Wednesday’s practice for Minnesota, as did running back Mike Boone (concussion) and linebacker Troy Dye (ankle). Offensive tackle Riley Reiff was limited with an ankle injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 20, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off of the field after suffering an injury during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Week 3 waiver wire targets

Week 2 was the first sign attrition might win the 2020 NFL season.

Season-ending injuries and other major dents and bruises resulted from the second full week of regular-season games.

Gone for the year are popular first-round fantasy football pick Saquon Barkley (torn ACL) and trendy breakout wide receiver Courtland Sutton.

A player many fantasy football teams drafted No. 1 overall prior to the season, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, is out for up to six weeks.

Multiple-week injuries are expected for 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and his backfield mate Raheem Mostert, Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, Colts quarterback Parris Campbell and Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who didn’t play in Week 2.

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (concussion) and Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor could be back this week.

If you need to fill an immediate vacancy in your roster, here are some players to consider:

Free agent RB Devonta Freeman
The former Atlanta Falcons running back is an option to replace Barkley with the New York Giants. He met with the team Monday. But given the ineffectiveness of the offensive line in losses to the Steelers and Bears, Freeman might be only a spot-use type of addition. That’s not to mention Dion Lewis could be a better fit for a team that has played from behind for most of the first two weeks of the season.

49ers TE Jordan Reed
We are making the grand presumption that Titans tight end Jonnu Smith is no longer on the waiver wire after two strong weeks (three TDs).

Injuries, namely concussions, ushered Reed out of Washington. With George Kittle (knee) uncertain for Week 3 after sitting last week, Reed could again be the top target of San Francisco’s passing game. However, eight targets and two touchdowns should not be the expectation if Garoppolo doesn’t play.

Panthers RB Mike Davis
Davis, 27, is going to get his chance to carry the load for Carolina. Head coach Matt Rhule said Davis is definitely “a starting running back in the National Football League” but he logged only one carry after McCaffrey went out at Tampa. Temper expectations but he’s worth a look for RB-needy teams.

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky
Need a one-week sub for Jimmy G.? Give Mitch a shot, the matchup works out perfectly with the Bears rolling into Atlanta. The Falcons have been bludgeoned by the Seahawks and Cowboys at a rate of more than 35 fantasy points per game to their quarterbacks. Not to suggest Mitchell T. is in the same stratosphere of Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. However, the Falcons defense has been so user-friendly, this sets up as a winning proposition.

49ers RB Jerick McKinnon
Mostert and Tevin Coleman, the top two backs on the 49ers’ depth chart, are both injured. McKinnon stands to get a heavy workload if one or both can’t play against the Giants, an 0-2 team looking to establish any type of identity on both sides of the ball.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay addresses the crowd in a ceremony to honor former Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney being inducted into the Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor at halftime of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Colts to host 7,500 fans in Week 3 game vs. Jets

The Indianapolis Colts will host a maximum of 7,500 fans for their Week 3 game against the New York Jets, the team announced Thursday.

Colts owner Jim Irsay and COO Pete Ward cited the approval of the Marion County Department of Health in announcing that total for the Sept. 27 game. Lucas Oil Stadium has a capacity of 67,000 fans.

Ward said, per the Indianapolis Star, that the hope remains that even more fans will be allowed for future home games.

The Colts (0-1) will have a crowd of 2,500 for Sunday’s game versus the visiting Minnesota Vikings (0-1). Kickoff is at 1 p.m. ET.

–Field Level Media

NFL WEEK 3 STAT RECAP TABLE: QB, RB AND WR

NFL Week 3 Stat Recap Table: QB, RB and WR

In a shootout at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Drew Brees passed Brett Favre’s record of 6300 pass completions. He tossed for 3 touchdowns and ran for 2, including the game winner in overtime.

On Monday night, Big Ben Roethlisberger came out firing in the first half, recording 3 Touchdowns to Vance McDonald, Antonio Brown, and Ryan Switzer. Following a slow start and 3 first-half interceptions, Ryan Fitzpatrick led a comeback but came up short, sending the Steelers to 1-1-1 and the Bucs to 2-1.

Notable performances:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 411 yards (his third consecutive with 400+ passing yards), 3 Touchdowns, and 3 Interceptions
  • Drew Brees and Matt Ryan combine for over 700 passing yards and 8 touchdowns
  • Calvin Ridley caught for 146 Yards and 3 Touchdowns
  • Robert Woods records 10 catches for 104 yards and 2 Touchdowns
  • Adrian Peterson rushes 19 times for 120 yards and 2 Touchdowns
  • Christian McCaffrey gained 184 yards on 28 rushes

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