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Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills may have a quarterback problem heading into Week 15. Tyrod Taylor is day-to-day with a knee injury and Nathan Peterman is in the concussion protocol. If Buffalo’s top two quarterbacks cannot play against the Miami Dolphins, here are 8 options for the Bills behind Joe Webb.

Keith Wenning

The Bills aren’t looking for long-term options so a call to Keith Wenning would make sense. Wenning backed up Nathan Peterman in the Bills’ preseason finale against the Detroit Lions earlier this season. He completed 5-of-15 passes for 41 yards during the game. Wenning isn’t an ideal option, but options are limited.

Logan Thomas

One option for the Bills is to do nothing at all. Logan Thomas was Buffalo’s emergency quarterback in Week 14 behind Peterman and Webb. Buffalo’s playbook would be limited if Thomas was called into action.

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick is the most talented quarterback available on the market. That said, multiple teams have had quarterback injuries occur and no one has given the former 49ers QB a call. It’s doubtful that Buffalo would go this route.

Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder has some experience playing under offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. The veteran spent two weeks with the Broncos during the 2015 season. He could be a top target for the job if Taylor and Peterman’s status for Sunday doesn’t improve.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants had a new head coach and a new starting quarterback in Sunday’s 30-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. They weren’t unfamiliar names, but it wasn’t the same combination as last week, when the Giants lost to the Oakland Raiders.

They were familiar faces with Eli Manning at quarterback and Steve Spagnuolo stepping into Ben McAdoo’s role as head coach. McAdoo was fired on Monday. Manning was essentially reinstated as the starting quarterback moments later.

After having his streak of 210 consecutive starts end last week with Geno Smith taking his place against the Raiders, Manning looked much like the quarterback who had led the Giants (2-11) during their first nine losses. He completed a high percentage of his passes, made minimal plays downfield, and it didn’t result in many points. It ended with another loss.

Manning finished 31-of-46 for 228 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions after a whirlwind two weeks that saw an outcry over his benching followed by his eventual reinsertion into the starting lineup.

Both interceptions Sunday came in the fourth quarter, when the Cowboys outscored the Giants 20-0.

The fans got what they wanted with Manning starting. So did the Giants, who reversed course after firing the coach and general manager.

The fans gave Manning a standing ovation prior to the opening drive.

“Yeah, I did [hear the crowd],” Manning said. “I thought we had a good crowd [Sunday] and I appreciate all the support these past weeks and sorry we couldn’t get them a better game.”

The Giants came into Sunday averaging 15.6 points per game in Manning’s first 11 starts. They didn’t even get there this week against a below-average Cowboys defense.

Manning drove to the stadium Sunday trying to convince himself it was just another game, even if he’s admitted last week’s demotion was emotional.

“I guess I just looked at it as, hey, it’s another opportunity to go play and win a football game, so obviously the last few weeks have been difficult with losing my starting job and losing your head coach,” he said. “Those things are hard and they are personal, and hurt. I don’t like losing a head coach, I take that personally. That’s on me for not doing my job.

“I don’t like losing my starting job. That’s personal, also, and that’s because I haven’t played well enough and we’re not winning games. I appreciate Spags giving me an opportunity to get to start this week and see if we could get us a win and I’m sorry we didn’t play well enough to get that win.”

The original plan before McAdoo was fired was for the Giants to eventually get rookie Davis Webb some game action. That apparently changed with last week’s firing. It’s now Manning’s job potentially for the duration once again.

Manning is likely to start again next week when the Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium, although Spagnuolo will sleep on it first.

“I don’t know. I’m not going to comment on that right now,” he said after the game. “That would be my gut feeling [that Manning starts] … without looking at it and evaluating, but Eli Manning is the quarterback right now.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s game plan with Manning back at quarterback was conservative at best. Manning took few shots downfield and hit one pass over 20 yards, a second-quarter completion to wide-open rookie tight end Evan Engram.

Manning was well received in his return. The fans chanted “Eli Manning” after he threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rhett Ellison in the second quarter.

But Manning’s presence failed to provide a spark to a stagnant offense that hasn’t topped 21 points in almost two months. It was back to business as usual for them with Manning — instead of Smith — at quarterback.

“No different,” Engram said. “We just showed up. Came together all week to play a football game together. It’s not different.”

Going back to Manning looked promising for the Giants early. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown in the first half, with much of the damage being done on underneath passes. Ten of those 14 completions were to running backs and tight ends.

In the second half, Manning and the offense hit a wall. They did not produce a point.

The afternoon ended with a fan near the press box chanting (likely sarcastically): “We want Geno! We want Geno!”

But after this, don’t be surprised to hear, “We want Davis” next.

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The Cleveland Browns are just four weeks and a little bit of luck away from owning the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Cleveland Browns are now 0-12 after Sunday’s road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Cleveland is also the NFL’s lone winless team, and thanks to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s ability to lead his team to multiple field goals, the Browns hold what is likely an insurmountable lead for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Browns would have to split their final four games – home the next to Sundays to the Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Ravens, then road games against the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers – and have the New York Giants and 49ers each close out with four consecutive losses to lose out on the top pick.

So, with the first pick pretty much locked up – be real, with head coach Hue Jackson in charge the Browns are not getting to two wins this season – fans can comfortably turn their attention to the Lone Star state, where the Houston Texans are sitting in the No. 8 position in the draft.

The Browns, of course, hold Houston’s first-round pick (as well as the Texans second-round pick) in the upcoming draft, so the fate of the Texans is very much on the mind of the Browns.

Houston closes out the season with games against the 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

In a perfect world, Garoppolo leads the 49ers to just enough field goals this Sunday to take down the Texans. The Jaguars and Steelers and both in the playoff race, so they will not be taking the day off against Houston. It is only the season finale, where neither the Texans or Colts will have anything to play for, that looks worrisome.

It is highly unlikely that the 49ers or Giants will catch the Texans, but a Colts win in Week 17 would be a big help, as would a win somewhere along the way from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Browns could further help their cause by dropping their Christmas Eve game to the Chicago Bears.

As it stands, the Browns are going to have two picks among the first 10 selections, and with a little luck the Texans pick could be as high as No. 4 or No. 5, which would make for quite an opening night of the draft.

While you ponder that, Browns fans, let’s take a dive into the weekly NFL power rankings.

The Browns have put in a considerable amount of hard work to get where they are. With a little bit of luck, and the continued mismanagement of Jackson, the Browns are going to be in a prime position come draft weekend.

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Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch

OAKLAND, Calif. — Riding the legs of Marshawn Lynch, while holding on for dear life all day against a battered New York Giants team, the Oakland Raiders pulled out a 24-17 victory Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum. The win sets up a showdown for first place in the AFC West next week at Kansas City.

What it means: After a 2-4 start, the Raiders are at .500 for the first time since Week 4, when they were 2-2 and in the midst of a four-game losing streak from which they have been playing catchup ever since. There is now also a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West between the Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs at 6-6. The three teams are 1-1 against each other thus far this season.

What I liked: The Raiders defense got off to an extremely fast start. They forced three straight three-and-outs to start the game and were in line for a fourth straight, save for Denico Autry jumping offside. At halftime, the Raiders had allowed only 100 yards of total offense to the Giants, on 30 plays, and limited them to just 2-of-7 on third-down conversions. Oakland also had two sacks of Geno Smith in the first half.

What I didn’t like: How cute the Raiders got offensively after Lynch ran wild through the Giants on the first series. True, it did look as though Lynch tweaked something on his 51-yard touchdown run, but he was not in the game for the next two offensive series. Instead, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was running the ball on third-and-short. By the time Lynch returned, the Raiders’ offense was backfiring all over the field. Yeah, missing your top two receivers will have that effect.

Fantasy fallout: With Michael Crabtree serving a one-game suspension and Amari Cooper out with a concussion and left ankle injury, the Raiders’ WR corps was depleted. Then TE Jared Cook got nicked up on a tackle. Leave it to Lynch, then, who with 101 yards on the ground went over 100 yards for the first time since Oct. 22, 2015, when he had 122 yards for the Seattle Seahawks against the San Francisco 49ers. Lynch also caught two passes for 20 yards to go with his 51-yard TD run.

Mack attack: Khalil Mack put on a clinic with a pretty strip-sack of Smith in which he recovered his own forced fumble on a play that began at the Raiders’ 4-yard line late in the first half. It was sack No. 7.5 for Mack, who leads Oakland, as Mack simply swallowed up Smith and took the ball from him as the two fell to the grass.

What’s next: The Raiders, who have already defeated the Chiefs this season, play at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday against Kansas City, which has lost six of its past seven games to fall to 6-6. The Raiders have not swept the Chiefs since 2012.

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Josh McCown

Josh McCown

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This was a game in which a team could have lied down on its coach. The New York Jets were down two touchdowns to the Kansas City Chiefs before five minutes had even run off the clock. It would have been easy to quit on coach Todd Bowles.

Instead, the Jets roared back and fought for Bowles, beating the reeling and undisciplined Chiefs 38-31 in an unmemorable return for former Jet Darrelle Revis. While an ineffective Revis sat out the second half, the Jets finally got over their fourth-quarter woes to win just their second game in their last seven.

At 5-7 in the up-in-the-air AFC, the Jets play at Denver and New Orleans before hosting San Diego and finishing up in Foxborough. It may be a “Dumb and Dumber” chance, but the Jets still have a chance at the playoffs.

It is a credit to their coach, who is likely fighting for his job and watched his team score a season high in points in an effort to save it.

“I know how this thing goes,” said quarterback Josh McCown, who threw for 331 yards, threw a touchdown and rushed for two more. “If we weren’t doing that, you guys would be blaming him or somebody would be blaming him. It is hard not to give him the credit.”

While the other MetLife Stadium tenant, the Giants, appear as if they are about to dump their coach, Ben McAdoo, Bowles’ future is less clear. The Jets were supposed to be ripping a page out the Philadelphia 76ers’ “process” handbook, tanking for a top draft pick. Instead, they have fought, even as they remain a tad short on talent.

While Revis was mostly a nonfactor for the Chiefs in the first half and sat out the second half, the Jets’ corners had no answers for the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill, who ran free all day.

On the Jets’ side, wideout Jermaine Kearse was a beast, going for nine catches and 157 yards. Routinely, Kearse, quarterback Josh McCown and the Jets converted on third downs.

Bowles has committed to McCown all year, not liking his younger choices. McCown again showed why he is a pro. While not a great player, he is serviceable. Revis and the Chiefs had no answers for him, and they lost their composure as corner Marcus Peters tossed a penalty flag into the seats. Peters’ form was not up to McCown’s.

McCown went 26-for-36 for 331 yards, throwing one touchdown and running for two others. His 1-yard sneak for a score just prior to the two-minute warning gave the Jets the lead. It gave their coach a little more breathing room — and even a chance at the playoffs.

“To come out of one of these finally, it is refreshing,” Bowles said.

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Aqib Talib

Aqib Talib

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With cornerback Aqib Talib’s suspension now official — it was reduced from two games to one after his appeal hearing Tuesday — the Denver Broncos have two major items to wrestle with over the next week.

The first is that they’ve had a team captain suspended for fighting, an oddity few folks in the league have dealt with. The second is that the to-do list in the passing game for the Miami Dolphins is now to throw the ball at anybody not named Chris Harris Jr.

Given that Talib has been named to the Pro Bowl three times and been a first-team All-Pro selection once (in 2016) in his four years with the Broncos, he will certainly be missed in coverage. He’s also earned enough cache in the Broncos’ locker room that his teammates voted him captain.

Former Broncos coach Gary Kubiak often said Talib was one of the hardest-working and smartest players he had been around. But once you’ve been selected a team captain, there is more to do than walk out for the coin toss.

On that list, at least in Broncos coach Vance Joseph’s mind, is to not get tossed out of a game. But Talib was tossed for rekindling a long-standing feud and fighting with Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree on Sunday.

“It’s unacceptable; we can’t do it,” is how Joseph framed it earlier this week. “We can’t lose our best corner in a game like that. It obviously hurt us down the stretch. I told our guys, if we can defuse those things, we have to defuse them. We can’t fall into the trap of getting into a fight that ends up losing one of our best players. We can’t do it. It’s unacceptable; we can’t do it.”

So, in a season in which the Broncos were shut out for the first time in a quarter century and suffered their first seven-game losing streak since 1967, they’ve now had a team captain ejected from a game and then suspended. This was after a team captain (quarterback Trevor Siemian) was made a game-day inactive against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Losses, pressure, mistakes and personnel decisions that haven’t worked out have dented the Broncos’ beloved culture this season. Talib’s suspension is now on the growing pile of missteps.

Talib has had moments before — he had some off-the-field problems in Tampa and missed the Broncos’ visit to the White House in the months following their Super Bowl 50 win due to gunshot wounds he had suffered in his leg that offseason. He has admitted to trying to grow beyond those things now that he has a family of his own.

Talib and the Broncos had hoped the NFL would look at the circumstances of Sunday’s fight — Talib said, “I hope the league sees how it started” — and his appeal said that they believed Crabtree just kept coming after Talib and that a fight was almost inevitable. The suspension reductions — Crabtree’s also was reduced from two games to one — show both players made some procedural points worth noting.

For his part, Talib said his week he was “disappointed” that he and Crabtree started up the fight again in the end zone after extracting themselves from the initial scuffle.

“The second half of it could have definitely been defused,” Talib said. “That’s what I’m disappointed about — the second half of it. The first half, that was him being extra. That’s what he wanted. He didn’t want to play that game. He wanted to come out and wrestle all day.”

From a football perspective, it means Harris won’t get much of a look from the Dolphins if the Broncos don’t match him up on specific receivers. The past two Broncos opponents have been especially effective at isolating Bradley Roby or rookie Brendan Langley in coverage.

The Bengals went after Roby plenty — including on a touchdown by A.J. Green — and the Raiders went after Langley after Talib’s ejection, including on a 9-yard touchdown catch by Amari Cooper. The Dolphins, with former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase as their coach, figure to spread the Denver defense out, forcing it to play nickel or dime and then direct the ball away from Harris.

Joseph said Talib’s absence adversely affected the Broncos against the Raiders. There’s no reason to think it won’t have the same effect against the Dolphins, yet another self-inflicted problem in a season full of them.

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PITTSBURGH — Just when the Pittsburgh Steelers start to round into contending form, their sloppy play forces you pump the brakes.

With all respect to Antonio Brown’s insane footwork, of course.

The gap with the New England Patriots is not exactly closed after the Steelers’ sluggish yet brilliant 31-28 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, a performance that required an insane, toe-dragging, 23-yard sideline catch by Brown to set up Chris Boswell’s 53-yard, game-winning kick in the final seconds.

The catch with 13 seconds left was so good that Ben Roethlisberger noticed officials were “almost like, ‘Did he really do that?’”

“Anything thrown his way is a catch,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said.

Coach Mike Tomlin can predict late-season fireworks with the Patriots, but don’t expect a solution to Tom Brady when Brett Hundley goes for 118 yards and two scores on his first five third-down attempts against the Steelers’ defense. (Still, that wasn’t a match for Roethlisberger, who posted his second straight four-touchdown game, along with 351 yards.)

As if the five first-half receiving drops weren’t enough, the Steelers’ pass defense again had leaky moments without the injured Joe Haden. Since Week 10, opponents have passing touchdowns of 54, 60, 61, 75 and 55 yards. Three of those came on the opening drive of a second half.

The very position the Steelers have tried voraciously to rebuild looks like a weakness at times. Actually, the entire defense looked disjointed as the Packers drove 77 yards on 12 plays for a Jamaal Williams touchdown with 2:02 left.

“We’ve got to eliminate the explosive plays,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “Then we’ll be a top-notch defense.”

Forcing Green Bay’s three-and-out in the final minute helped seal the game, though.

The momentum started to shift the Steelers’ way late in the third quarter, with a Cam Hayward sack to take Green Bay out of manageable field goal range and a six-play, 53-yard scoring drive that was all Le’Veon Bell and Brown. That defensive sequence late in the third was huge, with T.J. Watt showing his range on a pass deflection in coverage of Jordy Nelson.

But it took a full three quarters for Hundley to look at least mildly rattled — the quarterback with two touchdown passes in his first four NFL games in place of Aaron Rodgers. Yet there was Hundley, completing six of his first eight passes for 110 yards and two scores on throws outside the painted numbers,

The stars played like stars.

Bell posted his 38th career game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, and Brown (169 yards) added his ninth and 10th touchdowns in his past four prime-time games. Each made breathtaking plays with a football playlist of open-field cuts and body contortions. And Martavis Bryant quieted the boos with a 17-yard touchdown.

“The last two series, [Brown] and I were just improvising and making plays,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what is so special about him. … To me, the big story was the passing game. That was Le’Veon [12 catches, 88 yards]. They were trying to take away a lot of passes, and Le’Veon made play after play and bailed me out on checkdowns. As great as AB always is, Le’Veon was extra special today, too.”

But the Steelers generally didn’t have enough help from the supporting cast in a second straight game in which Roethlisberger was throwing the ball with authority. They missed the sure hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who missed action with a hamstring injury.

They converted eight of their first 12 third downs to offset the damage of three turnovers. And when all else fails, throw to Brown. Roethlisberger was 10-of-12 for 169 yards, two scores and 10 first downs when throwing to Brown.

The game never really felt in doubt for Pittsburgh, clearly the better team. But this performance should be more alarming than satisfying, at least from a defensive standpoint.

“We can’t lay down any kind of sympathy for nobody,” guard Ramon Foster said. “I don’t care what their record is. We have to smash faces.”

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Brett Hundley and the Packers

Brett Hundley and the Packers

The Bavarian Bierhaus in suburban Milwaukee has a pretty strong NFL game-day special: No one pays for beer until the Packers score.

You know the drill! #GoPackGo

Posted by The Bavarian Bierhaus on Sunday, November 19, 2017

With Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers’ offense for most of the season, that hasn’t meant all that much free beer. Over Green Bay’s first nine games, the Packers scored in the first quarter six times. The worst hit for the Bierhaus came in Week 1, when Green Bay didn’t score until about five minutes had elapsed in the third quarter against the Seahawks.

The promotion remained viable even after Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone in Week 6. The Packers scored just two minutes into their first game with Brett Hundley as their starter in Week 7 and — after going nearly an entire half without scoring in Week 8 — needed only 7:40 of game time to score in Week 9.

But then Sunday’s game against the Ravens happened, and the free beer never stopped flowing. Final score: Ravens 23, Packers 0, Green Bay’s first shutout loss at home in exactly 11 years, when Brett Favre got knocked out of the game and the Patriots won, 35-0. It was just the third time the Packers have been shut out overall since 1992.

Bierhaus GM Scott Bell told WTMJ radio that the restaurant served up between 275 and 300 servings of free beer to the 200 people who were taking in the game. He added that he has no plans to halt the promotion after the Packers’ offensive power outage.

“Wisconsinites and Packers fans are at least somewhat responsible,” Bell said.

The Steelers are up next for the Packers. Pittsburgh is allowing only 16.5 points per game to rank second in the NFL but also has allowed first-quarter points in six of its 10 games and hasn’t shut out an opponent since 2011.

Read more:

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The president attacked her son. So Marshawn Lynch’s mother fired back.

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Jerry Jones once told Robert Kraft to ‘take your medicine’ on Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension

Saints’ Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are the best running back tandem in the NFL

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NEW ORLEANS — Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson broke his right fibula late in the third quarter Sunday against the Saints and was carted off the field.

Thompson, the Redskins’ most dynamic player this season, suffered the injury at the end of a third-down run by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Thompson was engaged in a block, and his right leg bent back after he got caught in an awkward position under Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.

An air cast was placed on Thompson’s right leg before he was helped off the field and loaded onto the cart. Teammates gathered around him and offered words of encouragement as he was lifted up.

Cousins also took a heavy hit on the play and received brief treatment from trainers while Washington executed a successful fake punt on fourth-and-1 on its own 15. Cousins came back on the field and led the Redskins on a touchdown drive, hitting Ryan Grant on a 40-yard scoring pass for a 24-13 lead.

The lead didn’t last, however, as the Saints rallied to tie the game at 31-31 in regulation thanks to Alvin Kamara’s 18-yard touchdown reception and two-point conversion rush with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining, then won 34-31 in overtime when Wil Lutz kicked a 28-yard field goal.

“That hurts me more than anything, that we lost for Chris,” Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. “I told him we’ll bring this back home for him. I didn’t keep my word. If anything bothers me, that bothers me the most. We have one of our best guys go down, and we didn’t get the W for him. That’s tough. That’s tough.”

Thompson tweeted about his injury after the game, writing: “This hurts.”

Thompson entered the game leading Washington in rushing (277 yards) and receiving (494) and had scored four touchdowns. He also has improved dramatically in pass protection the past two years.

“He’s one of the most important players on our offense, especially when you get the ball back and need him for pass protection routes coming out of the backfield there at the end,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We obviously have to make do with the guys we have, and we will.”

The Redskins already lost running back Rob Kelley for the season with an ankle injury. They now have two running backs on the active roster: rookie Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, signed earlier in the week off the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.

The Redskins have suffered a number of injuries this season, but Thompson’s could arguably be the biggest because of his productivity and the fact that he’ll be difficult to replace. Marshall offers quickness and played some receiver in college, but Thompson’s ability to pass protect has made him invaluable.

“To have him go down is a huge, huge setback for us,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “Chris Thompson is one of the best in the league when it comes to running the ball, catching and making plays. To lose him is tough. It’s hard to replace a guy like that with his talent and his ability to do what he does. It’s a tough situation to be in.”

Redskins offensive tackle Morgan Moses echoed this sentiment.

“It’s hard to replace a guy like that,” Moses said. “You might not be able to replace a guy like that, what he brings to the offense, what he brings to the locker room. … But we can’t [dwell] on it.”

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Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams

After a 4-12 finish last year, the Los Angeles Rams are in the midst of an eye-popping turnaround with a 7-2 this season. One big reason for that is quarterback Jared Goff’s rebound from an abysmal rookie campaign.

He’s revived his career this season — throwing for 2,385 yards to go along with 16 touchdown and only four interceptions in nine games.

He posted a 63.6 passer rating in seven games last season. That’s up to a 101.5 rating this year, the second-largest improvement over two seasons in NFL history, according to NFL research.

Those numbers are no accident. The 23-year-old is playing with confidence and authority under new head coach Sean McVay — traits you didn’t see when Jeff Fisher was in Goff’s ear. He’s playing the best football of his career so far, and spurring the Rams’ playoff push.

Goff has reinvigorated Los Angeles’ offense by successfully taking shots down field, spreading the ball around to a newly loaded group of playmakers, and by avoiding back-breaking turnovers.
The deep pass is working for Goff

Last season, Goff only completed four deep passes (20 yards or more) on 205 total attempts in his seven starts. This season, prior to the Rams’ Week 10 matchup against the Houston Texans, Goff held a 104.7 deep passer rating, which is 10th-best among quarterbacks —according to Pro Football Focus. He was 2-for-3 on deep shots last week against the Texans.

He’s completed nine passes this season that traveled 40 yards or more through the air, which is tied for a league-high. The Rams’ offensive line, anchored by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, a free agent addition last spring, has done a great job of providing clean pockets. Whitworth has five games this season where he hasn’t allowed a single pressure to get to his quarterback, including the last two weeks. Goff has only been sacked 13 times in nine games.

When the Rams’ offensive line gives Goff ample time to survey the field and make throws, he’ll take shots down the field. Just watch this 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods last week.

Woods ran a post route and made cornerback Johnathan Joseph look silly.

Woods told ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez that “it’s probably my longest play in NFL, college, high school — ‘Madden,’” Woods said. “It was a big play.”

Goff is willing to target any player who runs a deep route. If that player is able to create separation, Goff will rifle a pass in his direction. Just ask Sammy Watkins, who burned the New York Giants with this 67-yard touchdown pass in Week 9.

Goff launched this pretty pass, which traveled 60 yards through the air, to Watkins — who galloped past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins with ease.

The Rams have players who can make big plays at any moment. And what makes Goff’s play impressive this season is that he wants to get everyone involved on splash plays.
Spreading the ball around

Los Angeles’ offense ranks in the top 10 in nearly every statical category. This team averages a league-high 32.9 points per game. What’s fascinating about this passing attack is everyone gets in on the action.

Back in October, McVay told Rich Hammond of The Orange County Register that they do not focus on targeting one player on offense.

“When you do have the variety of skill players that we have, you don’t want to just force-feed a guy,” McVay said. “So I think that enables us to be able to spread the field and use everybody.”

In nine games this season, Goff completed at least one pass to an average of 7.3 different players a game. If you’re not convinced, look at how well he spread the ball around in the Rams’ blowout victory against the Giants in Week 9.

You never know who will make a big play on this offense. It could be veteran players like Watkins, Woods, or … Tavon Austin.

Woods told Gonzalez that “this offense has so many weapons.”

“A lot of people are touching the ball,” Woods said. Austin agreed with Woods, saying “that’s the good thing about this offense.”

But opposing defenses also have to keep eyes on rookie tight end Gerald Everett and rookie receiver Cooper Kupp. In fact, New York underestimated Everett — and Goff made them pay with this 44-yard throw.

McVay has done a masterful job of surrounding Goff with talent. Goff no longer has to stare down one target and risk the possibly turning the ball over — something he hasn’t done a lot this season.
Cutting back on the mistakes

When Goff was under center for the Rams in his rookie season, every drive was a disaster waiting to happen. He committed nine turnovers in 2016, including seven interceptions in seven games.

However, Goff only amassed five turnovers so far this season, only four of those being interceptions. He has fewer turnovers than quarterbacks like Matt Ryan (11), Ben Roethlisberger (11), Carson Wentz (7), and Dak Prescott (6). Goff played mostly mistake-free football in six games and hasn’t committed a turnover over the past two games.

After the Rams defeated Houston in Week 10, McVay praised Goff’s decision making during the post-game press conference.

“He continues to gain a grasp of exactly what we’re trying to get done — the intent of the playcalls, being that extension of the coaching staff,” McVay said.

“We threw it a lot today. And when he didn’t turn over the football over at all, that’s big-time. And you feel very comfortable and confident to be able to put the game in his hands, and he’s shown why.”

Thanks to Goff’s tour de force performances this season, the Rams sit atop of the NFC West at 7-2. Los Angeles won six of its last seven matchups and the last three games by a combined score of 117-24. They own the league’s best point differential at +134 this season.

The Rams are in great position to clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2004, and Goff is steering the team in the right direction.