Aaron Rodgers returns, Patrick Mahomes stays hot as Chiefs lead SteelersSeptember 16, 2018
Sheldon Richardson sacks Aaron Rodgers, something the Packers hope to prevent. (Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press)
September 16 at 2:09 PM
NFL Week 2
Follow along here for frequent updates and developments from all of Sunday’s NFL games. Check back after “Sunday Night Football” for a look at the biggest moments and trends to watch.
Aaron Rodgers is active. Of course.
Listen to Aaron Rodgers. He confidently promised he would play against the Vikings and, sure enough, he is active for Sunday’s game.
The Packers’ two-time NFL MVP hurt his knee in the “Sunday Night Football” game last week, motoring off to the locker room on a cart. But as grim as the injury looked, he walked onto the field in the second half and, well, you likely know the rest. He led Green Bay to a 24-23 victory over Chicago in what will go down as one of the legendary performances of his career.
If you think he was motivated for a prime-time game against a division rival, just wait until the Packers host the Vikings, the team that essentially ended his season when Anthony Barr broke his collarbone on Oct. 15. It’s another big division game and Rodgers, who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, did join the team for its light, hour-long practice Saturday (the team does not practice on Fridays).
He skipped on-the-field warm-ups Sunday and walked onto the field shortly after noon Eastern time, wearing a heavy brace on the left knee on which he has twice had surgery. He was, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, “moving very gingerly.” There is a bone bruise with no ligament damage in his knee, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports, but the injury could take up to two months to heal, per sources, and he will continue to try to play through the pain.
On his first series, Rodgers completed 3 of 4 passes for 18 yards. The Packers took an early 7-0 lead, but it had nothing to do with him. The Packers defense penned the Vikings deep in their own end and Geronimo Allison blocked the punt, which was recovered for a TD by Josh Jackson. Minnesota bounced back and tied the score, but Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter. Rodgers looked more mobile on that drive, even running for a first down.
Their knowledge of Rodgers’s hyper-competitiveness led the Vikings and Mike Zimmer to prepare all week to face him. “He walks on water, so I’m sure he’s gonna play,” Zimmer said. Still, he isn’t likely to be the usual mobile, rambling Rodgers. He was, to use his word, a “statue” in the pocket when he returned last Sunday and this Vikings defense is far tougher than the Bears outfit he faced last week.
Smart move by Zimmer to prepare his Vikings for Rodgers. Only three times since becoming a starter has he been unable to play the week after an injury, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. He broke collarbones in 2013 and 2017 and had a concussion in 2010.
“Aaron is going to be Aaron,” Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes said (via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin). “I’ve seen Aaron sit in the pocket and still drop dimes. He’s going to adjust to the game. If he can’t be mobile, he’s going to adjust to it. They’re going to run route concepts for him to get the ball out fast. They’re going to figure out our defense — we have to adjust to their offense.”
In the second half against Chicago, he was kept mostly to the pocket and had an average time of 2.82 seconds to throw, the third-highest time he’s had since 2011. He completed 28 passes from the pocket for the game.
As he showed last week, his arm is just fine.
Patrick Mahomes still looks good
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes continued his hot start, passing for three touchdowns in the first half against the Steelers. That follows his four-touchdown performance last week.
He passed for another touchdown and could have had a fourth for a 28-0 lead but for a penalty by Orlando Scandrick.
Ben Roethlisberger isn’t saying how he hurt his elbow, describing the injury as a bruise, but he started against Kansas City. The Chiefs gave up 424 yards passing last week to San Diego, so you really can’t blame him.
The same intention cannot be ascribed to running back Le’Veon Bell, whose holdout continues and has now cost him $1.7 million. It’s just another opportunity for James Conner.
Cam Newton takes a big hit
Cam Newton took a vicious hit by the Falcons’ Damontae Kazee, who was ejected for the dirty play. Newton was hot about the hit, but stayed in the game and passed for a touchdown.
Ryan Fitzpatrick picks up where he left off
Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick just kept going after last week’s 48-40 victory over the Saints. This time, he hit DeSean Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game against the Eagles.
The Eagles lost wide receiver Mike Wallace to an ankle injury early in the game and he was listed as questionable to return.
A Saturday surprise about Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon, the Cleveland Browns’ talented wide receiver whose troubles with substance abuse often kept him off the field, wasn’t expected to play Sunday because of a hamstring injury, but the Browns announced Saturday evening that they would be releasing him Monday. Gordon, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, was a late arrival at the Browns’ facility on Saturday and “was not himself,” which raised a red flag for a possible relapse within the organization. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the issue stems from the hamstring injury, which was discovered Saturday after being a full participant in practice all week. ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the expectation is that the Browns will trade Gordon before Monday and that multiple teams have already made inquiries.
Gordon missed training camp this summer, saying he needed to focus on his mental health.
Wentz on track to return for Week 3
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who suffered a knee injury last season, reportedly will be cleared this week and could return next Sunday against Indianapolis, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
Everybody wins on the Cousins carousel
Week 1’s results left no one grumbling about the cascading quarterback moves triggered in part by Kirk Cousins in the offseason. All five men were winners: Cousins, Case Keenum (who went from Minnesota to Denver), Alex Smith (who came from Kansas City to Washington), Patrick Mahomes (who replaced Smith in KC) and Sam Darnold, the rookie drafted by the Jets after their advances were spurned by Cousins. Can they do it again in Week 2?
Fournette reportedly out for heavyweight matchup
The Patriots and Jaguars will meet in a rematch of the AFC championship game won by the Patriots and Jacksonville running back Leonard Fournette is officially questionable with a hamstring injury. However, Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reports that he will not play and, on Friday, Coach Doug Marrone admitted that the decision could “go all the way to game time.”
In news that is likely to please Tom Brady, defensive lineman Calais Campbell is listed as questionable with a knee injury. As for Brady’s offense, first-round draft pick Sony Michel is expected to start at running back, recovering from a knee injury to make his NFL debut. Rex Burkhead, who has had a concussion, must be cleared after warm-ups, but is likely to play.
Keep an eye on Rob Gronkowski and Jalen Ramsey as Ramsey’s “tour of NFL players he has trash talked” continues. Last month, he wasn’t too high on the Patriots’ tight end. “I don’t think Gronk’s good,” Ramsey said. “Let me say, I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is . . . Any time Gronk has been matched up with a corner, he’s had a very bad game, and that corner has had a very good game.”
Last week, he was more measured. “I might be crazy, I don’t care,” Ramsey said. “He’s good, don’t get it twisted, he’s good. You saying this to me is supposed to bring fear to me or something? I don’t fear no man, period. So he’s going to have to come out there and line up on me.”
A rough start for new head coaches, experienced or not
New coaches, regardless of experience, were 0-7 on the first week of the NFL season. Yes, that’s historically awful.
Teams with new head coaches went 0-7 in Week 1, the worst record by a group of new head coaches in NFL history. The previous worst was 0-6 in 2001.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 11, 2018
Some NFL history by the numbers
A total of 765 points were scored in Week 1 (47.8 per game), third-most in NFL history on Kickoff Weekend, according to the NFL. (There were 791 points scored in 2012 and 788 in 2002 season openers.) How nutty was Tampa Bay’s 48-40 victory over New Orleans? The 88 points are the most scored in a single game on Kickoff Weekend in NFL history. The record of 87 was set by Philadelphia and Washington (Philly won 45-42) on Sept. 28, 1947.
The Rodgers rule is being enforced
Flags are flying with the new “Aaron Rodgers Rule,” which calls for defenders to be flagged for landing on a quarterback with all or most of their body weight as the quarterback sets up to throw. Defenders were flagged 15 times for roughing-the-passer penalties in Week 1.
Citing numbers from Stats LLC, the Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling reports that roughing-the-passer penalties made up 5.9 percent of the flags thrown in Week 1, nearly double the 3.1 percent figure from last year.
The rule was enacted after the Vikings’ Anthony Barr landed on Rodgers last fall with all his weight, breaking his collarbone and limiting him to one game the rest of the season.
Kendricks can play, for now
The Seattle Seahawks’ new linebacker, Mychal Kendricks, will be allowed to play while an appeal of his suspension is pending. Kendricks, who pleaded guilty to insider trading and was cut by the Browns, is expected to make his debut with the team Monday night against the Bears. Kendricks’s sentencing is set for January.
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‘Challenge accepted’: Dak Prescott responds to Giants’ trash talking. (Read more)
First up, Andrew Luck: The Redskins start a stretch of facing elite quarterbacks begins with a visit by Andrew Luck and the Colts. (Read more)
Are the Bengals the best? Cincinnati may be the team to beat in the AFC North after its Thursday night victory over the Ravens. (Read more)
Texans take a hit: Houston linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will miss the game against Tennessee because of a strained muscle in his side. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, whose ability to grip the ball is compromised by an elbow injury, is listed as active, but he may share time with Blaine Gabbert.
Olsen hurt: Panthers tight end Greg Olsen refractured his foot against the Cowboys last week and will be evaluated monthly.
Mixon has surgery: Bengals running back Joe Mixon will miss two-to-four weeks after having arthroscopic surgery for a knee injury he suffered Thursday night in a victory over Baltimore.
The best of the best: The fantasy football players you absolutely must have in your Week 2 lineup. (Read more)
Week 2 Cheat Sheet: Choice fantasy advice. (Read more)
The Bell conundrum: Here’s what fantasy owners should do with Le’Veon Bell. (Read more)
Week 2 Start/Sit: Bench Aaron Rodgers. We mean it. Really. You can thank — or blame — Neil Greenberg. (Read more)
ATS Betting Tips/Picks
The top trends and insights from Las Vegas. (Read more)