Nov 20, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Streaking Lions chase four in a row, brace for Bills

Heading into November, the Detroit Lions resembled a train wreck. Entering their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, the Lions are suddenly on the fast track to playing meaningful games in December.

Their hopes of entering the playoff picture could quickly be derailed when they host the powerful Buffalo Bills (7-3).

Detroit (4-6) comes into the game with a three-game winning streak, including a convincing 31-18 road triumph over the New York Giants on Sunday. The Lions will be seeking to string together four consecutive wins for the first time since 2016, when they had five victories in a row.

“It’s huge. I think just getting a win against a good team on the road is always a good boost,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “We came into that game, all we heard about was how good they were in the red zone, how good they were on third down. And we said, ‘Well, we’re pretty good in the red zone too, and we’re pretty good on third down.’ And being able to prove that against a good team on the road is a lot of fun, and hopefully that carries over.”

The Lions have a razor-thin margin for error, but an upset Thursday would put them in the NFC wildcard race.

“None of it matters in my opinion if we don’t win this next one,” coach Dan Campbell said. “We’re in a good place, the guys understand the things that we’re doing that are allowing us to win. And we’ve got to continue to do that, and I know we can’t start thinking other things and get ourselves out of the mold of what we’ve been the last three weeks. We’ve got to stay the course.”

Protecting the ball has been a key component to the turnaround. They’ve committed just one turnover in the past three games.

In an ironic twist, the Bills have spent more time in Detroit’s Ford Field lately than the home team. A massive snowstorm in the Buffalo area forced a relocation of the Cleveland-Buffalo game to Detroit last week, and the Bills snapped a two-game losing streak with a 31-23 victory.

Quarterback Josh Allen was held to a modest 197 yards passing but connected with Stefon Diggs for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half. Allen led them on five scoring drives in the second half, four of which ended with Tyler Bass field goals.

“Everyone expects him to be Superman every game all the time, every throw,” coach Sean McDermott said. “I just love the fact that A, he’s human, and B, that he was able to work himself through (a slow start). That says way more about him than probably most people give him credit for in terms of his performance.”

Buffalo is familiar with playing in Detroit and no stranger to Thanksgiving Day games. The Bills defeated the New Orleans Saints 31-6 last Thanksgiving and recorded a 26-15 victory over Dallas in 2019.

“For the players and coaches who have never done it before, I think it’s an honor and fun to be a part of a tradition like that, especially playing at Detroit, who has traditionally played on Thanksgiving,” McDermott said.

Detroit’s top cover corner, Jeff Okudah, is expected to miss the game due to a concussion.

Center Mitch Morse (elbow, ankle) was among the Bills who didn’t practice on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback Brady Cook (12) celebrates with fans after a score against the New Mexico State Aggies during the second half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Missouri, Arkansas swing into Battle Line Rivalry

Missouri can secure bowl eligibility while Arkansas will try to raise its bowl profile when these Southeastern Conference rivals meet Friday in Columbia, Mo.

The Tigers (5-6, 2-5 SEC) and Razorbacks (6-5, 3-4) have dubbed this annual game the Battle Line Rivalry. A trophy will be at stake on Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.

Missouri won five straight games in the series before Arkansas prevailed 34-17 last season.

“The only thing we’re focused on is it’s a rivalry game and it’s trophy week,” Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “That’s it. None of the other stuff matters. The most important thing to us is that they have a trophy and we want it and the only way to get it is to play our best game and to prepare the way that we know how to prepare and to play with unbelievable effort.

“That’s the focus and that’s why we did Senior Week last week. This week is all about rivalry week, Arkansas and the Battle Line trophy.”

Missouri rolled to a 45-14 victory over New Mexico State in their previous game after suffering a 66-24 beating at Tennessee. Brady Cook continued his improved play by completing 19 of 27 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 71 yards on seven carries.

“I felt like with the way things ended against Tennessee, I thought it was really important for us to bounce back,” Drinkwitz said. “Offensively, to score on our first three drives, to score on this opening series of both the first half and second half which was the first time we’ve done that all year ? there was real growth there to convert some big third downs and we converted the fourth down.”

The Razorbacks are coming off a 42-27 upset of then-No. 14 Ole Miss. They got quarterback KJ Jefferson back from his clavicle injury and their offensive clicked back into high gear.

“Man, it’s nice to have KJ back,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “We weren’t too clean on the first two drives, first two scoring drives, but he made us clean because of his athleticism.”

Jefferson completed 17 of 22 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns against the Rebels. He also rushed for 47 yards on eight carries.

“When you have a guy behind you like that, it builds confidence in you when you have a big runner that can physically run over people,” Pittman said. “I mean, on the draw play, they all came inside, and he cut outside for 20, 30 yards. When you have a guy back there that can break tackles and make things happen, you play a little bit better, to be honest with you.”

The Arkansas offense has averaged 34.9 points per game with Jefferson and just 13.5 in two games in which Jefferson has been sidelined.

On defense, the Razorbacks may be missing cornerstone linebacker Bumper Pool, who is battling hip and back injuries. Pool is second on the club with 92 tackles.

“Bumper is still Bumper and trying to hang on,” Pittman said. “I don’t know that he’ll be able to or not. He’s beat up, not healthy. We’re bowl eligible. I don’t know if he’ll be able to play or not.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Darryl Peterson (17) and linebacker Jordan Turner (54) react as Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) looks on during the game at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa can get Big Ten title shot by beating Nebraska

After losing three consecutive conference games, Iowa stands one victory from the Big Ten championship game thanks to a four-game winning streak.

Iowa, at one point, was 3-4 overall and 1-3 in conference play. Then came victories over Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, pushing the Hawkeyes (7-4, 5-3 Big Ten) in position to play either Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game.

A victory over Nebraska (3-8, 2-6) on Friday at Iowa City, Iowa, will make it happen.

“Really happy for our guys,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who was embroiled in criticism after the early struggles this season. “Really happy locker room. That’s November football, whatever it takes to get it done.”

Iowa has won seven straight games against Nebraska, which is likely playing its last game under interim head coach Mickey Joseph.

The Cornhuskers lost five consecutive Big Ten games after starting 2-1, including a painful defeat last week.

Nebraska was competitive in the 15-14 home loss to Wisconsin but fell short when the Badgers scored on a touchdown run with 35 seconds left.

The Cornhuskers’ offense totaled 171 yards, with 106 yards passing and 65 yards on the ground.

Casey Thompson completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 106 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Take a hat off to these kids,” said Joseph, whose team has lost three of the five games in the losing streak by a touchdown or less. “Just a good character group. A group that’s not going to quit.”

Iowa limited Minnesota to 87 passing yards in the 13-10 victory last week — the third time this season an opponent has passed for less than 100 yards.

This is the first season since 1929 that the Hawkeyes’ defense has allowed 10 or fewer points in eight games. The 1929 team gave up 28 points the entire eight-game season.

Jack Campbell, a linebacker, had a fourth-quarter interception against Minnesota and also tallied 10 tackles — his seventh game of 10 tackles or more this season. Campbell is now 20th in school history with 287 career tackles.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) and running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrate a touchdown during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys set table for East run as Giants come knocking

Winning the NFC East becomes a longshot with a loss on Thanksgiving Day, hiking the stakes for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.

Dallas has won 10 of the past 11 over their rivals, who meet for the second time this season following a 23-16 Cowboys’ victory on Sept. 26 at East Rutherford, N.J.

The rematch arrives as the Cowboys host a game on Thanksgiving for the 45th consecutive season. Dallas has lost three straight on Turkey Day and look to end the slide at Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys (7-3) enter against New York (7-3) on a high note after steamrolling the host Minnesota Vikings 40-3 on Sunday, but both teams are well off the pace set by division-leading Philadelphia (9-1).

Tony Pollard had a career-best 189 yards from scrimmage (80 rushing, 109 receiving) and caught two touchdown passes in the stunningly easy victory.

Star linebacker Micah Parsons and defensive end Dorance Armstrong each had two of Dallas’ seven sacks against Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Cowboys lead the NFL in sacks (42) and scoring defense (16.7 points per game) and rank ninth in total defense (310.6 yards per game).

Parsons, who ranks second in the NFL with 10 sacks, injured his left knee and ankle against the Vikings. He maintains he will be ready to play against the Giants but his status is something to watch during a short week.

“I just got rolled up. I felt like everyone on the line just kind of fell on my leg,” Parsons said. “It was a quick shot — I’ve never had that (pain) before. But my health is great. The knee is cool, definitely in a positive manner.”

Dallas sacked New York quarterback Daniel Jones five times during the September victory with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence registering three of them.

But Jones also rushed for 79 yards and recorded first downs on seven of his nine rushing attempts, passing for 196 yards with one interception.

“Daniel Jones is a phenomenal quarterback when it comes down to things breaking down and him using his legs,” Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse said. “He’s a pretty mobile quarterback when it comes to that. Everything coming from me boils down to guys just doing their jobs.”

The Giants had a disappointing 31-18 home loss to the Detroit Lions last week. Jones passed for 341 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and ran for a score.

Star running back Saquon Barkley was limited to 22 yards on 15 carries. Barkley is second in the NFL in rushing yardage (953) and fourth in scrimmage yards (1,163). The setback was the second in three games following New York’s surprising 6-1 start.

“We’re not going to panic. We’re not going to worry. We’re not going to waver at all,” Barkley said.

Giants coach Brian Daboll is expecting a turnaround against the Cowboys.

“They’ll respond,” Daboll said. “… We’re in an outcome, results-oriented business. We all understand that. But the things that we do during the week, the work we put in, how we study, that’s what’s important to me. Obviously, we want to win every game. But I think you stay consistent. We’re going to go through our preparation. And then we’re going to go out and try to play the best we can play Thursday.”

Prescott did not play in the first meeting this season due to a thumb injury. He has thrown 21 touchdown passes against five interceptions in 11 career games against the Giants.

New York lost wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson to a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee against the Lions and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee) is expected to miss at least four weeks with a sprained MCL.

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring) will miss his third straight game. Running back Ezekiel Elliott (knee) will be watched closely during the short week. He rushed for two touchdowns against the Vikings after missing the previous two games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and forces a fumble during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings hungry for holiday reset, host Patriots

If Marcus Jones hadn’t returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown with five seconds remaining in regulation last week, the New England Patriots may have found themselves in the same salty mood the Minnesota Vikings bring into their holiday meeting.

The Vikings (8-2) followed an overtime win over AFC heavyweight Buffalo with a 40-3 basting at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, leading them to eagerly shuffle into Week 12 preparation and a primetime date with the Patriots (6-4).

Despite recording just 10 points, New England still managed to pull off a 10-3 win over the Jets. The Patriots’ defense was suffocating, holding New York to just 2 yards total offense in the second half and 103 for the game.

New England has stirred up a winning recipe on defense. The Patriots allowed six points and 224 yards in the past two games, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows the Vikings pose a serious threat to that success.

“They’re really good,” Belichick said. “It starts with (Kirk) Cousins, outstanding quarterback, has had tremendous production throughout his career. Again, this year (Dalvin) Cook’s one of the top running backs in the league. They’ve got a wealth of talent at the skill positions and a lot of guys to stop. So yeah, they’re as explosive as anybody we’ve seen.”

Belichick credits a man he once interrogated in a job interview, Minnesota first-year coach Kevin O’Connell. The former quarterback first met Belichick as a pro prospect and passed that interview — he was drafted by New England in 2008.

“He’s done a heck of a job and climbed through the coaching ranks quickly,” Belichick said of O’Connell. “Based on the way the Vikings are playing this year, you could see why he’s done it. He’s done a great job.”

Minnesota converted just 1 of 11 third-down attempts and gained 183 total yards against the Cowboys. Cousins threw for 105 yards, wide receiver Justin Jefferson managed three receptions for 33 yards and Cook added 72 on the ground.

The Vikings’ offensive line, shuffled with left tackle Christian Darrisaw (concussion) exiting in the second quarter, couldn’t stop the Dallas pash rush and surrendered seven sacks. Darrisaw had a documented concussion in Week 10 before being cleared to play Dallas. He was already ruled out for Week 12.

“We’ve got to learn from this,” O’Connell said. “We’ve got to use this as an opportunity to grow as a football team and handle adversity the right way.”

Although it’s a short week, the Vikings are embracing it, and are looking forward to getting back out on the field to avenge the ugly loss against the Cowboys.

“We don’t like what happened (Sunday), but we have a chance to move on faster than normal,” Jefferson said. “We don’t have time to really think about the loss (or) have time to figure out what was going on. It’s a quick turnaround.

“We’re so glad that we can play Thursday, get this loss out of our minds and get back to where we would like to be.”

Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. missed Monday’s practice with a knee injury and linebacker Za’Darius Smith (knee) was limited.

Center David Andrews (thigh) missed the Patriots’ practice on Monday. Linebacker Josh Uche (hamstring), receiver DeVante Parker (knee), offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn (foot) and Jones (ankle) were limited participants.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Trenton Bourguet (16) throws a pass under pressure from Oregon State Beavers defensive lineman Sione Lolohea (90) during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona, Arizona State chase feel-good finale

Neither team will be traveling this bowl season, but either Arizona or Arizona State can walk away feeling good after playing for the Territorial Cup on Friday in Tucson, Ariz.

The visiting Sun Devils (3-8, 2-6 Pac-12) are looking for a new head coach after firing Herm Edwards during the season and will finish with just their fourth losing regular season since 2003. Amid their troubles, they would love to continue to claim superiority over their neighbors to the south, looking to win their sixth consecutive game in the rivalry.

“It’s absolutely amazing that you can win one football game and most of the rest of the season will be forgotten,” said Arizona State’s Shaun Aguano, who has gone 2-6 as interim head coach. “It’s a legacy for this class.”

For Arizona (4-7, 2-6), ending the losing streak to Arizona State and finishing with five victories would widely be considered a successful second season for coach Jedd Fisch. The Wildcats’ triumphs include beating then-No. 12 UCLA on Nov. 12, but they were eliminated from bowl consideration by losing 31-20 at home to Washington State last Saturday.

“It’s a huge game for older guys that have been a part of this program for a while and having not gotten a win,” Fisch said of the matchup with the Sun Devils. “It’s a big, big game for our young guys … to take the momentum of winning this game into the offseason.”

Turnovers have been a common theme in Arizona’s losses, including when Jayden de Laura threw four interceptions last week. But when he is in sync with a talented group of receivers — de Laura ranks fifth nationally at 316.8 passing yards per game — the Wildcats are dangerous.

Arizona State recently turned to quarterback Trenton Bourguet, who supplanted Florida transfer Emory Jones. Bourguet, who is from Tucson, will be a major storyline this week, but the Sun Devils’ key offensive player is running back Xazavian Valladay, who has rushed for 1,095 yards. He will be going against an Arizona run defense that rates 125th nationally (213.5 yards per game).

The Sun Devils’ five-game run against Arizona is the longest in the rivalry since the Wildcats won five in a row from 1982 to 1986 to start a nine-year unbeaten streak that included a tie in 1987. Arizona State won 70-7 when the teams last met in Tucson in 2020, prompting Arizona to fire coach Kevin Sumlin.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23) on the field before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals, 49ers detour to Mexico in pursuit of Seahawks

Seventeen years ago, the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals traveled to Mexico City for the NFL’s first regular-season game played outside the United States.

The NFC West rivals are south of the border again Monday night with nearly 90,000 fans expected at Estadio Azteca.

Telemundo broadcast analyst Rolando Cantu, who was an offensive lineman on the Cardinals’ practice squad in 2005, compared it to a playoff atmosphere.

“That day, the fans were different. They were hungry to be a part of something unique,” Cantu said. “And the unique part about it was, this was a regular-season game. This game was going to count. It wasn’t an American Bowl. It wasn’t an exhibition game. This game was going to be remembered in the history books. If you got a ticket to go to Estadio Azteca, you were a part of history.”

The 49ers (5-4) have won two in a row and move into a first-place tie with idle Seattle atop the division with a victory.

The Cardinals (4-6) defeated the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams 27-17 last weekend, a step closer to nudging their way back into the playoff picture.

The Cardinals are unsure who will start at quarterback. Kyler Murray missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury and backup Colt McCoy, who went 26 of 37 for 238 yards and a touchdown, tweaked his knee late in the victory. Both quarterbacks were limited participants in practice this week.

“I’m hoping at least one of them, yeah,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said when asked if either Murray or McCoy would be available Monday. “I think we should be able to get to that point hopefully by later in the week.”

Murray said he originally felt a tweak in Week 8 against Minnesota but played through it against Seattle the following week.

“I feel good,” Murray said. “I don’t know percentage or anything like that, but I feel a lot better. The way I play, I’ve got to be able to do what I do. I’ve played through those things, but there’s a fine line between making it worse and not making it worse. We’re on the right track.”

The Cardinals will be without tight end Zach Ertz, who suffered a knee injury against the Rams and is facing season-ending surgery. In addition, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), offensive lineman D.J. Humphries (back), cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (back) and safety Budda Baker (ankle) have also missed practice.

The 49ers defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 22-16 last week in primetime, getting short touchdown runs by Christian McCaffrey and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and three field goals from Robbie Gould to score the Sunday night win.

The 49ers’ offense is ranked ninth in the league but they’re just 18th in scoring with 22 points per game.

They scored two touchdowns on five trips inside the red zone against the Chargers. Their TD conversion rate of 57.8% inside the opponents’ 20-yard line is well below their league-leading rate of 66.7% from last season

“I do think there are a lot of things clicking,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But you’re not going to get points if you move it and can’t score inside the 10. You’re not going to get enough points, that’s for sure.”

The 49ers practiced this week at Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, Colo., to get acclimated to the high altitude in Mexico City.

While relatively healthy offensively, the 49ers have practiced without defensive linemen Arik Armstead (foot/ankle), Samson Ebukam (quadricep/Achilles) and Javon Kinlaw (knee).

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals head to Pittsburgh looking to keep pace in AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have watched their seasons go in opposite directions after the Steelers won their Week 1 meeting.

The Bengals are out to avenge that loss and keep pace in the AFC North Division standings when they visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Joe Burrow was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions when the Bengals (5-4) fell to the Steelers 23-20 in overtime on Sept. 11. Pittsburgh managed to spoil host Cincinnati’s first game since reaching Super Bowl LVI the previous winter.

The Bengals went on to start 0-2 but have gone 5-2 since. They’re one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North race with seven games to go. The Bengals, who lost to the Ravens on Oct. 8, close the regular season by hosting Baltimore.

“That’s always the goal. That’s right there for us,” Burrow said. “We are a game out of first place. We have to go and get this one and then we will take it from there.”

In their most recent game before their Week 10 bye, the Bengals trounced the Carolina Panthers 42-21. Joe Mixon scored a career-high five touchdowns, rushing for a career-best four scores and a season-high 153 yards on 22 carries and catching four passes, including a 12-yard touchdown, for 58 yards.

“We ran the ball great two weeks ago now, but that’s just one game,” Burrow said. “So we got to build on that. The coaching staff is really excited about the plan, so am I and Joe’s looking to build on that momentum from that week.”

Burrow stands at 9,834 career passing yards through 35 regular-season games and can become the fourth-fastest in NFL history to reach 10,000 if he throws for at least 166 Sunday.

The Steelers (3-6) started Mitch Trubisky at quarterback in Week 1, but amid a four-game losing streak after that season opener they moved on to first-round selection Kenny Pickett. The rookie had one of his best performances of the season in last week’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints by completing 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards and rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown.

So far Pickett is completing 66.7 percent of his passes but has just two touchdowns against eight interceptions. He said that red-zone offense is one particular area where he must improve.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Pickett said, per the team website. “Obviously, there’s less grass, so it’s tighter windows, the timing, everything is faster. I’ve got to meet the guys at certain spots with the ball and they’ve got to get there on time. The game changes when you get down there. The calls change. The system changes. There are definitely things we need to get better at.”

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not practice Wednesday after having an appendectomy last Saturday. Coincidentally, Burrow was still recovering from an August appendectomy when he faced Pittsburgh in Week 1.

Asked if he had any advice for Fitzpatrick during his recovery, Burrow quipped, “Maybe wait just an extra week.”

Pittsburgh was also without cornerback Akhello Witherspoon (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Allen (illness), linebacker Devin Bush (knee), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (knee) and offensive linemen Kevin Doston (hip) and Trent Scott (back) Wednesday. But star edge rusher T.J. Watt (pectoral) and starting running back Najee Harris (knee) were full participants.

Cincinnati would like to have star receiver Ja’Marr Chase back this week from a hip injury, but he did not practice Wednesday, nor did safety Dax Hill (shoulder) or defensive tackle Josh Tupou (calf). Coach Zac Taylor said Tupou won’t play this week.

Running back Chris Evans (knee) and cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) were limited participants in practice while corner Mike Hilton (finger) practiced in full.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA;  Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (56) in the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hobbled Rams, Saints enter survival mode

The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl last season.

The New Orleans Saints had a winning record in each of the last five seasons.

Understandably high expectations ushered the franchises into the 2022 season.

But as they prepare to meet Sunday in New Orleans, both the Rams (3-6) and the Saints (3-7) have been hampered significantly by injuries and desperately need a win if they hope to turn their seasons in a positive direction.

“You’ve got to be more process-oriented than ever before,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay said. “It’s easy to say that when things are going well, and now you really get forced to kind of put it to the test.”

Things got worse for the Rams this week when star wide receiver Cooper Kupp underwent ankle surgery that will sideline him indefinitely.

“We have to figure out how to accentuate the skill sets of the guys that will be playing,” McVay said.

The Rams also lost two starting offensive linemen because of health issues. Tackle Alaric Jackson will miss the rest of the season because of blood clots and guard Chandler Brewer will miss four to six weeks because of a knee injury.

Los Angeles did receive some good news Wednesday when quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had been in concussion protocol, practiced fully.

New Orleans is without former All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas due to foot surgery and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore and starting linebacker Pete Werner remained sidelined.

“I told the team, ‘Man, there’s got to be a sense of urgency in everything we do,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got to get some things corrected, and there has to be a sense of urgency about doing that. And what we’ve done to this point has not been good enough.

“And so we keep doing the same things and expect it to be different, that’s the definition of insanity. So we’ve got to change the way we prepare, we’ve got to change the way we get ready to play a game. That’s coaches, players, that’s all of us because it hasn’t been up to the standard that we have here.”

After poor offensive performances in consecutive losses to Baltimore (27-13) and at Pittsburgh last Sunday (20-10) Allen pondered benching quarterback Andy Dalton and returning to Jameis Winston, who was sidelined after three games because of a back injury but has been cleared to play.

“We’re going to go with Andy,” Allen said after practice Wednesday. “We discussed it as a staff. I got an opportunity to talk to both quarterbacks, and I feel like right now, Andy is the direction that we want to go.”

Dalton will try to get the offense back on track while playing without a majority of his starting offensive linemen.

Left tackle James Hurst, who was sidelined by a concussion during last week’s game, didn’t practice Wednesday, nor did left guard Andrus Peat, who missed last week’s game because of a triceps injury.

Center Josh Andrews, who moved into the starting lineup when Erik McCoy went on injured reserve last week, missed practice because of illness, as did right tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) in a game against the Washington Commanders at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One is enough: Eagles eager to erase losing feeling in Indy

There is no time for reflection as the Philadelphia Eagles hit the road following the team’s first loss of the season Monday night.

Now with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys nipping at their heels in the NFC East, the Eagles will pay a visit to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday afternoon.

Philadelphia (8-1) is gearing up to recover quickly from Monday’s stunning 32-21 home loss to the Washington Commanders when they travel to play the Colts (4-5-1).

The Eagles lead the Giants by one game and the Cowboys by two and will play New York twice and Dallas once over the season’s final five weeks.

The Colts are a more pressing concern.

Indianapolis is coming off a 25-20 victory at Las Vegas in interim coach Jeff Saturday’s debut, with on-again/off-again starter Matt Ryan throwing the game-winning TD with 5:07 left.

Jonathan Taylor ran for 147 yards (with a 66-yard touchdown) against the Raiders and will be facing a Philadelphia defense that has allowed 464 yards on the ground over the last three games.

“They are going to run until we stop it,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said after Monday’s defeat. “We’ve got to fix our issues.”

Making his debut as the Colts’ offensive play-caller, Parks Frazier saw his team score more than 20 points for just the second time all season.

“You don’t know when you get in the moment how you’re going to respond,” Frazier said. “For me, just being in the moment and everything just felt natural to me. I think that gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.”

Frazier has some familiarity with the Philadelphia playbook, having worked on the Indianapolis staff with Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon.

The chess match goes both ways, as Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen held the same roles together with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020.

“They do a great job running the ball, obviously, and they do a great job getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands,” Bradley said of the Eagles. “… What separates them is you go into a game saying how do we limit these explosive plays?

“If they’re on the field a lot, they’re going to score a lot of points.”

The teams are polar opposites entering Week 11 when it comes to turnovers.

The Eagles still lead the NFL with a plus-13 turnover differential despite four giveaways on Monday night — one more than they had in their first eight games combined. Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson leads the NFL with six interceptions, all in his last five games.

The Colts rank 31st with nine more turnovers than takeaways, and Ryan is tied for second in the league with nine interceptions. In nine career games against Philadelphia, Ryan has a 4-5 record with 17 touchdown passes and 12 picks.

Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is out after sustaining a shoulder injury Monday.

“It’s not going to be easy to replace Dallas, and it’s not just one guy that’s going to do it. That stinks for us as a team, stinks for Dallas,” Sirianni said.

Cornerback Josh Jobe didn’t practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Wide receivers A.J. Brown (ankle) and DeVonta Smith (knee) were limited, as were center Jason Kelce (ankle), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot) and linebacker Haason Reddick (thigh).

Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard had season-ending back surgery Tuesday. Defensive end Kwity Paye left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and did not practice Wednesday. Neither did running back Deon Jackson (knee), defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (neck) or cornerback Kenny Moore II (illness).

–Field Level Media