Poker-faced Patriots dismantle the Raiders!

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Following an “encouraging” loss in Week 2, the Patriots bounced back against the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) with a 36-20 victory that featured contributions from all three phases of the team. This win moved the Patriots to 2-1 on the season and second place in the AFC East, behind the Buffalo Bills (3-0).

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 contest.

1. The Pats’ offense rode their ground game to victory

The Patriots’ offense has constantly demonstrated their ability to morph from week to week, and yesterday was no exception, as they focused on establishing the run to attack a weak Raiders’ defensive line. Even though Cam Newton was shaky early, New England was able to score points by leaning on Rex Burkhead (who had a career day with three total touchdowns) & JJ Taylor. The best sign from yesterday was the fact that Sony Michel appeared to finally turn a corner after a mediocre start to the season, as a lack of snaps appeared to light a spark for him. Michel entered this game without any career rushes for more than 35 yards, but against Las Vegas, he had two of them on a day where he rushed for 117 yards off 9 carries. If Michel can continue to play like this, the Patriots could have a solid 5-man rotation at running back when James White & Damien Harris return.

One of the biggest factors for the revival of the rushing attack was the shuffled offensive line, which featured star guard Joe Thuney at center (due to David Andrews’ injury) and rookie Michael Onwenu at guard. The Patriots were able to dominate the line of scrimmage throughout the game, and only gave up two sacks. Cam Newton had an ugly interception in the first quarter, but he mostly rebounded, with a smart & decisive performance in the second half. Unlike the game in Seattle, Newton didn’t have to put the team on his shoulders, and he thrived as a complementary piece to the dominant rushing attack. However, Newton did flash his rushing ability once again, with a 21-yard run that helped put the game away in the fourth quarter. After an impactful Week 2, the receiving corps was quiet against Las Vegas, but Josh McDaniels probably won’t complain due to the 250 rushing yards they picked up.

It’s always great for the Patriots to easily win a game when their star quarterback isn’t asked to do a lot, but Cam Newton will definitely have to be his usual self if the team wants to win going forward.

cam rex v raiders w320
(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)

2. Takeaways win games

The Patriotsdefense wasn’t very sharp during certain stretches of yesterday’s game, but their saving grace was their ability to force turnovers. For instance, on Las Vegas’ first big drive of the game, the defense was able to force a fumble from star running back Josh Jacobs. Later on, Chase Winovich got to Raiders QB Derek Carr and stripped him, giving the Patriots the ball at midfield. Despite these smart plays, the Patriots’ secondary was uncharacteristically sloppy towards the end of the first half, as they allowed Las Vegas to drive 75 yards in 38 seconds to cut their lead to 13-10. Despite being two of the best Patriots’ defenders, Jonathan Jones & Stephon Gilmore struggled heavily on that drive, as they gave up a deep pass and penalty, respectively.

In the second half, the Patriots stiffened up, as they gave up 10 points in garbage time, and prevented the Raiders from maintaining the momentum they gained at the end of the second quarter. The only “low” point of the second half was when the Raiderstop weapon Darren Waller caught his lone reception of the game in the fourth quarter after being blanked for more than three quarters. The defense sealed the game with five minutes to go, when Deatrice Wise Jr. recovered a fumble by Carr in the end zone to give New England a 36-13 lead. The referees initially ruled the play as a safety, but after a review, it was clear that Carr lost the football before his knee hit the ground.

All in all, the defense had a good performance, but mental errors once again marred their overall efficiency. Most importantly, Bill Belichick had to use all three of his second half timeouts by the beginning of the fourth quarter, just to make sure that his defense was correctly aligned. I’m willing to bet that the film sessions for the defense won’t be fun when Belichick begins to point out all of their mistakes from yesterday’s game.

(Adam Richin/Boston Sports Journal)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Cam Newton – 17/28 for 162 yards, 1 touchdown & 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 9 carries for 117 yards
  • Receiving: Rex Burkhead7 receptions for 49 yards, & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 total tackles

Raiders

  • Passing: Derek Carr – 24/32 for 261 yards & 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Josh Jacobs – 16 carries for 71 yards
  • Receiving: Hunter Renfrow – 6 receptions for 84 yards & 1 touchdown
  • Defensive: Nicholas Morrow – 9 total tackles

What’s next?: The Pats head to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes & the Chiefs (2-0) in a matchup of the last 2 Super Bowl winners.

The Pats welcome Las Vegas for a high stakes contest in Foxborough!

Tomorrow, the Patriots will take on the newly-minted Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) for the first time in 3 seasons, in a matchup that will make or break New England’s season due to the mounting difficulty of their season.

Here are some things to consider entering this Week 3 contest.

1. Can Cam & the offense maintain their momentum?

During last week’s loss in Seattle, the Patriots’ offense came alive, with Cam Newton passing for almost 400 yards, along with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd having big performances as well. However, as the team has stated all week, you can’t take moral victories from a defeat, which means that the offense will have to show up once again to prove that Week 2 wasn’t an aberration. They may have a golden opportunity against a Raiders’ defense that ranks amongst the NFL’s worst. They have young players throughout their defense, such as Maxx Crosby & Johnathan Abram, to go along with veterans such as Lamarcus Joyner & Cory Littleton. Due to the Raiders’ relatively weak defensive line, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Josh McDaniels decide to emphasize running the football, with either Newton or the team’s running backs. As always, having success on the ground could open up the run-pass option or play action, which could help keep the defense off guard.

Either way, the Patriots will have to adjust to the absence of David Andrews, who broke his thumb against the Seahawks, and will miss at least three games. Andrews has been crucial blocker for both aspects of the offense, which will put a lot of pressure on his replacement. When it comes to the passing game, I’d expect New England to have a similar game plan to last week, with a greater deal of short to intermediate passes, along with deep passes when the opportunity presents itself. If N’Keal Harry & Damiere Byrd can deliver once again and complement the ever-reliable Julian Edelman, it may be hard to stop Cam Newton & the Patriots’ offense this week.

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

2. Will the defense rebound?

Last week, the Patriots’ defense got dissected by Russell Wilson, who had 5 passing touchdowns, which was more than they gave up during all of the 2019 season. They will face a much more conservative quarterback in Derek Carr, who is definitely more effective when he throws shorter throws. Regardless of his supposed shortcomings, Carr was efficient against the Saints last week, as he found his top weapon Darren Waller 12 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Waller is best described as a big receiver even though he’s listed as a tight end, as his speed cannot be understated. As Las Vegas’ top speedster in Henry Ruggs is missing this game with an injury, I’d expect Bill Belichick’s defense to double Waller with Stephon Gilmore or Joejuan Williams, along with a safety. This would leave the rest of the team’s secondary with the task of covering Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, & Nelson Agholor.

On the other hand, the Raiders are much more deadly running the football, due to the ever-brilliant play of Josh Jacobs. Despite some injuries, Jacobs had a strong game against the Saints, as he totaled nearly 90 yards on the ground, and helped to put the game away. If Jacobs is at full health, it may be a long day for the Patriots’ defense, as they have struggled stopping the run lately (with the game against Seattle being a prime example). It wouldn’t be surprising if Jon Gruden & Las Vegas coaching staff decide to primarily focus on their rushing attack, which could tire down the defense, and keep Cam Newton off the field.

If the Patriots want to avoid a tough game, they will need their defense to bounce back with a vengeance, and shut down a potentially potent Raiders offense. More than anything else, the defensive line & linebacking corps will need to step up & stop the run.

derek carr v patriots w3p20
(Photo via NBC Sports Boston)

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • David Andrews (hand) – Out
  • Josh Uche (foot) – Out
  • Adam Butler (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Brandon Copeland (knee) – Questionable
  • Julian Edelman (knee) – Questionable
  • N’Keal Harry (ankle) – Questionable
  • Isaiah Wynn (calf) – Questionable

Raiders

  • Trent Brown (calf) – Out
  • Henry Ruggs (knee) – Out
  • Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) – Out
  • Denzelle Good (thumb/illness) – Questionable
  • Josh Jacobs (hip) – Questionable
  • Darren Waller (knee) – Questionable
  • Sam Young (groin) – Questionable

What’re they wearing?:

(Photo courtesy of the Gridiron Uniform Database)

Prediction: Patriots 28, Raiders 20

Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 3 games.

Last week: 12-3

49ers at Giants: 49ers

Washington at Browns: Browns

Bengals at Eagles: Eagles

Bears at Falcons: Falcons

Rams at Bills: Rams

Texans at Steelers: Steelers

Titans at Vikings: Titans

Panthers at Chargers: Chargers

Jets at Colts: Colts

Cowboys at Seahawks: Seahawks

Lions at Cardinals: Cardinals

Buccaneers at Broncos: Buccaneers

Packers at Saints: Packers

Chiefs at Ravens: Ravens

Once again, the Jets are grounded in Foxborough!

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Today’s game was more of the same for the Patriots against the Jets (0-3) in Foxborough, as their dominant defense led them to a 30-14 victory. This win improves them to 3-0 on the season, with 2 of those wins coming against division opponents.

Here are some takeaways from this Week 3 victory.

1. Brady and the offense need to work on their rhythm 

Tom Brady and the Pats’ offense started off hot, as they scored on their first three drives to take an early 20-0 lead, with #12 throwing touchdowns to Philip Dorsett and Julian Edelman. However, the offense began to sputter in the second quarter as their next four drives ended with punts. The Patriots also had their depth at wide receiver tested, due to injuries sustained by Edelman (chest/ribs) and Josh Gordon (hand), which gave Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski more snaps than they’re accustomed to. Edelman ultimately left the game, but early signs indicate that he didn’t suffer a serious injury.

On the other hand, Gordon only missed a few snaps, and was able to make two jaw-dropping catches that helped the Pats move down the field. The Pats struggled to run the ball without James Develin in the backfield, and finished with a measly 68 yards off of 27 carries. Ironically, the Patriots’ offense gave up more points than their stingy defense, as backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw a pick-six to Jets safety Jamal Adams. Most viewers expected Brady’s day to be over when Stidham entered the game, but following the pick-six, Brady re-entered the game to finish it off. 

The Pats’ offense was able to use their quick start to emerge victorious, but they will need to patch things up to be successful down the line.

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(Photo via USA Today)

2. The Pats’ defense was unbelievably good!

The Patriots’ defense turned in another efficient performance, as they limited New York’s offense to 105 total yards and 0 points. They were able to shutout their opponent in the first half for the fifth straight game (including the 2019 playoffs). Third-string quarterback Luke Falk was never allowed to be comfortable during his first career start, as the Pats constantly got after him, and registered 5 sacks and 10 QB hits. Falk finished with a mere 98 passing yards, and threw an interception to Devin McCourty (where the closest Jet was 12 yards away). Dynamic running back Le’Veon Bell was utterly stifled, as he registered 18 carries for 35 yards. New York’s leading receiver was ex-Patriot Braxton Berrios who had 2 receptions for 29 yards. Jamie Collins was arguably the best player on defense today, as he pressured Falk and was effective against the run.

The Pats’ defense has given up only 3 points through 3 games, and will undoubtedly be tested as the schedule begins to become more difficult over the next few weeks.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Special teams had costly miscues, and an amazing highlight!

Stephen Gostkowski missed another extra point today, with his miss coming following the Pats’ first score. He has missed 3 extra points on the season, which matches his previous career high. Gunner Olszewski was responsible for breaking the Jets’ touchdown drought in Foxborough, as he muffed a punt that was recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter. 

On the other hand, Matthew Slater reminded the NFL why he’s still the premier special teams player in the league with a remarkable effort on a punt which pinned the Jets at the one-yard line.

Special teams will need to improve its performance for the Pats to continue winning, as they cannot afford to leave points on the field.

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(Stephen Senne/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 28/42 for 306 yards, and 2 touchdowns
  • Rushing: Rex Burkhead – 11 carries for 47 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Josh Gordon – 6 receptions for 83 yards
  • Defensive: Jamie Collins Sr. – 7 tackles (including 2 sacks)

Jets

  • Passing: Luke Falk – 12/22 for 98 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Le’Veon Bell – 18 carries for 35 yards
  • Receiving: Braxton Berrios – 2 receptions for 29 yards
  • Defensive: Brian Poole – 12 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Pats head to Buffalo, where they will take on the Bills (3-0), who are the only other undefeated team in the AFC East. Buffalo has won gritty games, with their young QB Josh Allen clearly taking a step forward over the last few weeks.

Will the Pats continue to be a source of turbulence for the Jets in Foxborough?

It has been nearly 10 years since the last time the New York Jets (0-2) won a game in Foxborough, as the Patriots have utterly dominated their long-time rival during their recent matchups in Gillette Stadium. Week 3 won’t be any easier for New York, as they bring an injury-riddled roster to the home of the champs.

Here are some things to consider entering this game.

1. What will the offense look like without AB?

Much of the conversation surrounding the Patriots’ offense in recent weeks was about the addition of mercurial wide receiver Antonio Brown who made his debut for the team during last week’s blowout victory against the Dolphins. However, due to Brown’s decision to send intimidating text messages to a woman accusing him of sexual misconduct, the Patriots opted to part ways with him on Friday.

Brown getting released just 2 days prior to the game likely throws a wrench into Josh McDaniels’ offensive game plan, as he’ll have to adjust the formations and sets he would’ve called if Brown was on the field. I’d expect McDaniels to focus on three receiver sets using Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon. The Pats’ rushing attack will likely be less effective on Sunday, as they’ll be missing their lead blocker, fullback James Develin who won’t be playing due to a neck injury. Another key issue will be depth on the offensive line, due to injuries sustained to Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon.

If the offensive line is able to keep Tom Brady upright, they’ll give the Pats a great chance to win this game.

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(Photo via the New England Patriots)

2. Will the defense finally give up a touchdown?

The Patriots’ defense has been on a remarkable stretch over their last 3 games, as they haven’t given up a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Remarkably, they also haven’t given up a touchdown to the Jets in Gillette Stadium since October 2015. The Jets will be playing without their starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to his bout with mononucleosis. Instead, they’ll be going up against third-stringer Luke Falk who will be making his first career start. The Pats are definitely aware of the danger Le’Veon Bell presents as a rusher and a pass-catcher, which means that their linebacking corps will likely be tasked with covering/shadowing him. Stephon Gilmore and the secondary will need to neutralise Jameson Crowder, Robby Anderson, and the rest of New York’s receivers.

Bottling up Bell, clamping down on the receivers, and pressuring Falk will put the Pats in a great position to emerge victorious.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

 

Injury Report:

Patriots

  • James Develin (neck) – Out
  • Shilique Calhoun (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Marcus Cannon (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Ryan Izzo (calf) – Questionable
  • Matt LaCosse (ankle) – Questionable

Jets

  • Sam Darnold (illness) – Out
  • Jordan Jenkins (calf) – Out
  • C.J. Mosley (groin) – Doubtful
  • Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee) – Doubtful
  • Quinnen Williams (ankle) – Doubtful
  • Kelvin Beachum (ankle) – Questionable
  • Josh Belamy (shoulder) – Questionable
  • Trenton Cannon (ankle/hamstring) – Questionable
  • Steve McLendon (hip) – Questionable
  • Rontez Miles (hip) – Questionable
  • Ty Montgomery (not injury related) – Questionable
  • Kelechi Osemele (knee) – Questionable
  • Brian Poole (groin) – Questionable
  • Brian Winters (shoulder) – Questionable

 

Prediction: Patriots 35, Jets 9

Here are my picks for the NFL’s other Week 3 contests.

Last week: 9-6

Dolphins at Cowboys: Cowboys

Bengals at Bills: Bengals

Lions at Eagles: Eagles

Falcons at Colts: Falcons

Raiders at Vikings: Vikings

Ravens at Chiefs: Chiefs

Broncos at Packers: Packers

Panthers at Cardinals: Panthers

Giants at Buccaneers: Buccaneers

Saints at Seahawks: Seahawks

Texans at Chargers: Texans

Steelers at 49ers: 49ers

Rams at Browns: Rams

Bears at Redskins: Bears

Shocker in the Motor City!

 

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Yesterday was one of the most bizarre NFL Sundays in recent memory, as several high-profile teams including the Vikings, Packers, and Jaguars succumbed to substantially weaker opponents. Unfortunately, our very own Patriots suffered the same fate, as they played atrociously in a 26-10 loss to the previously winless Lions.

Here are some takeaways from yesterday’s loss.

1. Tom Brady looked human 

Tom Brady was not his usual self last night, as he only threw for 133 yards (which was his lowest since a 2014 contest against the Bills, in which he only played the first half), and a touchdown, to go along with one interception. It’s possible to attribute his off-night to Detroit coach Matt Patricia’s familiarity with the Pats’ offense, and the inability of his receivers to get open, but Brady still wasn’t very efficient when he had opportunities. For example, with the Pats trailing by 13 with more than 7 minutes remaining in the game, Brady unnecessarily heaved a deep pass down the middle, which resulted in an interception by Detroit’s Darius Slay and ended the Patriots’ chances at a comeback. This was reminiscent of the ending of last week’s game against the Jaguars, when Brady fumbled late in the fourth quarter, which sealed the deal for Jacksonville. To be successful as the season progresses, the Patriots will need Brady to step up his game.

New England Patriots v Detroit Lions
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

2. The offense needs help

As mentioned earlier, the Patriots’ wide receivers, along with Rob Gronkowski struggled mightily against the Lions’ defense, which was a surprise for me to see, as I thought that they would have success against Detroit’s defenders (as mentioned in my preview for the game). For opposing defenses, the game plan to counter the Patriots has become quite simple, because all they need to do is double Gronk, and they’ll probably experience varying levels of success. The Patriots’ stable of running backs was not very efficient either, with Sony Michel serving as the feature back and James White & Rex Burkhead contributing as well. White easily had the best performance of the three, as he had the team’s sole touchdown. The Pats will need to be cautious with Burkhead as the season progresses, as he suffered a neck injury just 2 weeks after suffering a concussion.

Josh Gordon’s debut as a Patriot and Julian Edelman’s return from suspension cannot come soon enough. 

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(Photo via AP)

3. The defense looked slow

The Pats’ defense continued their downward spiral against the Lions, as they could not stop either Matthew Stafford or Kerryon Johnson (who became the first Lion to rush for over a 100 yards since 2013). The pass rush was non-existent for the entirety of the game, which gave Stafford time to dissect the secondary. It was also extremely disturbing to see the utter lack of lateral speed for the Patriots’ defense, as key players such as Dont’a Hightower seemed to just be a step behind as they chased after the explosive Lions. It may be easy to dismiss this game as your typical Patriots September, but if the defense continues to play like this, the Patriots won’t get far this season.

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(Photo via AP)

What’s nextThe Patriots host the division leading Miami Dolphins (3-0) in an absolute must-win.

 

Entering the Lion’s den!: Previewing the Pats’ Week 3 contest in Detroit

On Sunday Night Football, the Patriots head to the Motor City to take on the Detroit Lions and their former defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia. Both teams come off of disappointing losses in Week 2, and hope that a win tomorrow night can spur them in the right direction for the rest of the season.

Here are some things to look forward to during tomorrow’s contest.

1. Can the Pats’ defense rebound from last week?

Last week’s game in Jacksonville was not very successful for the Patriots’ defense, as they were absolutely inept against a very determined Jaguars offense. It was dispiriting to see the Jaguars advance down the field with absolute ease. Unfortunately for the Patriots, their Week 3 assignment will not be any easier, as they take on Matthew Stafford and the explosive Lions’ offense. The Lions offense has been a very inconsistent unit over the past 2 weeks, as they were decimated by the New York Jets in Week 1, during which Stafford threw 4 interceptions. Week 2 was a definite improvement for the Lions (even though they lost), as they nearly overcame a fourth quarter deficit to defeat Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. 

As mentioned by New England cornerback, Eric Rowe, the Lions feature the best wide receiver corps the Pats have faced all season, as they have Marvin Jones, and Golden Tate who are probably licking their chops at the prospect of facing a Pats’ secondary that got dissected last week. 

To have a chance at limiting the Lions’ high-powered offense, the Pats should take a look at what the Jets did in Week 1, as they were able to consistently get after Stafford and force him to make key mistakes. To do so, the Pats will need to have a consistent pass rush and a much better performance from their secondary.

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(Photo via USA TODAY)

McDaniels vs Patricia

The major schematic battle during tomorrow night’s game will be between former comrades, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels. As the two men worked closely for multiple years, they are most probably aware of each other’s preferences and weaknesses, which makes it interesting to wonder the ways in which both will exploit their knowledge of the other coach’s system. I also expect Patricia and McDaniels to tweak their game plans a fair amount in order to gain an edge. 

Switching the focus to the players on both teams, I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots offense should feel confident about their matchup against a short-handed Lions defense who may be playing without their best corner in Darius Slay. Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and the rest of the Pats’ playmakers should play much better than last week, as they are not facing a suffocating defense. It’s a stretch to expect new addition Josh Gordon to have a big role in tomorrow’s game, but he has had great success against the Lions in the past, as he totaled over 130 yards against them in 2013.

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(Photo by Winslow Townson/AP)

3. Other notes

a) RKK aiming for 300th win

If the Patriots emerge victorious tomorrow, it will be their 300th win under the ownership of Robert Kraft. This would be a remarkable accomplishment for Mr. Kraft, as he has been instrumental in helping lead the Patriots from being a laughing stock to the class of the league with 5 Super Bowl championships after purchasing the team in 1994.

rkk
(Photo via SI)

b) TB12 hopes to remain perfect against Detroit

Last week’s loss in Jacksonville snapped Tom Brady’s perfect record against the Jaguars, but a win tomorrow will make him 5-0 against the Lions. Interestingly enough, Brady and the Pats’ offense have outscored the Lions 127-66 in 4 previous matchups.

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(Photo via AP)

PredictionPatriots 31, Lions 17

 

Here are my predictions for the rest of the NFL’s Week 3 contests (excluding Thursday Night Football)

Saints at FalconsFalcons

Packers at RedskinsPackers

Colts at EaglesEagles

Bills at VikingsVikings

Raiders at DolphinsRaiders

Broncos at RavensRavens

Bengals at PanthersPanthers

Giants at TexansTexans

Titans at Jaguars: Jaguars

49ers at ChiefsChiefs

Chargers at RamsRams

Cowboys at Seahawks: Cowboys

Bears at CardinalsBears

Steelers at BuccaneersBuccaneers