Things change pretty quickly in a football game. Cleveland was winning in Detroit, the Texans were locked up in a close one with the Rams. Then a couple of plays here and there, and the Lions were in control of one and the Rams were just clobbering Houston. It somewhat carried over to Patriots-Broncos, with Denver seemingly ready to give the Patriots a battle until a couple of special teams gaffes opened the door to a rout. But the best game was a lower-scoring affair in Jacksonville, between two good defenses and mistake-prone offenses. Let's get to it.
Saints at Bills: The Bills traded Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville a few weeks back; something about him being a malcontent or poor fit for their defense or something. Since that time the Bills have been getting gouged on the ground, capped by everybody who carried the ball for New Orleans getting in the end zone (including Drew Brees scrambling one in). Even with all that success running it Michael Thomas had his best game of the season, albeit without scoring, since everything was run in. Still, Saints are putting up big offensive numbers, Bills are at the Chargers and Kansas City the next two weeks, so get those running backs into lineups. Nathan Peterman finished the game, not that this game was on the offense.
Packers at Bears: Play in this game where the Bears appeared to have a touchdown on a screen to Benny Cunningham (dang that guy stealing Tarik Cohen's chances), ruled short of the goal line, and John Fox challenged it. He was ruled to have fumbled through the end zone, giving the ball to Green Bay. Not only did the ruling appear incorrect, but it basically cost the Bears the game. That aside, a much better offensive showing from Green Bay, notably Brett Hundley with a couple of really nice throws to Davante Adams. Maybe they'll hang around the playoff chase a little while after all; better on offense than Chicago, it seems. Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) hurt, so pick up the unexciting Jamaal Williams (just don't get your hopes too high: 20 carries for 67 yards). Dontrelle Inman looks like the Bears No. 1 wideout, but seems to be kind of a weekly rotation.
Browns at Lions: Browns got off to a fast start, but with their defense they can take early leads a lot and not prosper. Marvin Jones disappointed, but I guess he was due for a disappointing game. Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate finished strong, Ameer Abdullah scored again, and DeShone Kizer played well for while (until getting knocked out of the game). Seth DeValve Cleveland's leading receiver, but lost a costly fumble to kind of turn the tide.
Steelers at Colts: It's funny watching the Steelers on the road, and evidently coming out of the bye. They just seem to be playing a step slow, like on an early interception, and then on a LeVeon Bell carry late where it seemed like he had an easy touchdown run around the right side and just couldn't seem to get started. Steelers lost Joe Haden to injury and then safety Mike Mitchell, factors in giving up a pair of long touchdowns (not to T.Y. Hilton, relieved that cautionary advice worked out). But big plays late by Ben Roethlisberger and Juju Smith-Schuster, and Steelers win. Not pretty though.
Chargers at Jaguars: At some point you move from feeling bad for the Chargers blowing games like this one to feeling disgusted. Some probably got there quicker than I did with this team. Just another game they controlled for a large portion of and really should have won, but couldn't make the big plays late (and indeed, gave the ball away in a critical situation on a fumble by Austin Ekeler (who'd had a couple of nifty touchdown catch and runs earlier). Looks like Melvin Gordon's days of being a workhorse are over, since he was vastly outperformed in this one, but Ekeler's miscue (and a penalty on Joey Bosa that helped put Jacksonville in field goal range late) loomed large. Chargers could easily be 6-3, but yeah -- not good enough. Best guess is Gordon-Ekeler committee next week.
Jets at Buccaneers: Probably the less said about this game the better. At one point Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw interceptions on consecutive plays. Neither team really put up great offensive numbers, but at least Robby Anderson caught a late touchdown and ASJ (I can go with that right? Long name) had a good PPR game. And another near touchdown, knocked away. Decent game for DeSean Jackson, but probably not to chase that production once Evans is back.
Bengals at Titans: So Corey Davis almost had a touchdown in this game. Instead, it was yet another play -- second of the day, third in a few weeks -- when it ended up being a fumble through the end zone and a touchback. Crazy stuff. Titans the first team to win despite a costly play like that, at least. Long touchdown and a big game for A.J. Green, as expected. Huge game for DeMarco Murray, with 3 TDs. Big game also for Brandon LaFell, and Joe Mixon scored (though under 40 yards rushing).
Vikings at Washington: A ton of offense in this game, with Case Keenum, I guess never sure what start might be his last, throwing it all over the yard. Kirk Cousins ran in a pair of scores, and he had to, because Jamison Crowder dropped a couple (one maybe not a drop but should have been caught). Some Washington receiver just brought up from the practice squad, Maurice Harris, had a great touchdown grab -- they really don't want to use Terrelle Pryor. Huge game for Adam Thielen, good game for Stefon Diggs. Rob Kelley also hurt, saw a couple of nice runs by Samaje Perine (but it was still mostly passing and Cousins scrambling near goal line).
Texans at Rams: This game was actually close for a while. Then Jared Goff threw a beautiful 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, and then Watkins, and the rout was on. Nice game for Gurley too -- didn't score, but had one sweet breakaway run that almost went for a 90-plus yard score of his own. Rams are beating up on some bad teams right now (Houston definitely qualifies at this point), but they're also really talented. Enjoy.
Cowboys at Falcons: Dallas led this game early, but the importance of a left tackle could not have been more apparent. Tyron Smith was out, his replacement was beaten for 6 sacks by Adrian Clayborn. His absence definitely felt more than Ezekiel Elliott's. Alfred Morris looked good, but didn't get enough work. But he got the most of the backs. Matt Ryan finished with decent numbers after a slow start. Thought the Falcons got a few things figured out despite losing to Carolina last week; maybe so. A good team is going to miss the playoffs in the NFC; probably one of these teams.
Giants at 49ers: San Francisco found a team its speed. Giants are bad, perhaps Ben McAdoo has already been fired by the time you read this. Anyway, loved the garbage-time work by Eli Manning and Sterling Shepard. Start players against both of these defenses whenever you can. Good game for C.J. Beathard, one to build on if he actually gets to start any games the rest of the way. (Note: I think he should.)
Patriots at Broncos: Sort of seemed like the Broncos might make a game of this one early on, when they were moving the ball up and down the field and getting a defensive stop or two. But their field goal ended up producing 7 points when they gave up a kick return score (at Mile High, where most kickoffs are deep in the end zone), and their forced punt set up 7 more on a muff. Just sad. Plus New England's really good on offense and that's two weeks in a row when Denver's defense has ultimately let down. Main takeaway as expected: New England's gonna be a tough out.
Monday, Monday: Hope you don't need a lot of yards and points tonight. These offenses probably won't deliver, the defenses are both capable enough to keep it from happening, and the quarterback play will very possibly be bad. Maybe a primetime breakout for Christian McCaffrey (or my pre-draft favorite Curtis Samuel)? Those guys and maybe a couple of components of the Dolphins passing game are the intriguing pieces in a game it's tough to get excited about. Panthers 23, Dolphins 16.