The Chiefs and their handful of former Dawg’s got the weekend started on Thursday night with a victory over the Oakland Raiders to top them in division standings. Premiere pass rusher Justin Houston continues to get after the quarterback better than just about anyone else in the league. After recording four sacks in his first three games back, Houston collected half a sack and six tackles. Former Volunteer and fellow teammate Eric Berry said of Houston’s return so far, “he’s just getting his feet wet.”
On the same side of the ball, former linebacker Ramik Wilson recorded a team-high eight tackles in the victory, since starting in week seven against the Saints, Wilson has seen regular playing time and has averaged almost six and a half tackles a game. He has yet to record a sack from the inside linebacker position, but he does have an interception and a forced fumble to his name.
Finally, for the Chief-Dawg’s, second-year receiver Chris Conley caught a season-high 70-yards on two receptions. All three of Conley’s targets came on throws farther downfield than the Chiefs usually throw, and with his success there could be some increased targets for Conley. So far this season he is averaging close to three receptions per game on four and a half targets, because the Chiefs run the ball more than pass, and when they do pass, most throws go to Travis Kelce.
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions put their division lead on the line against the Bears last Sunday. With the Lions and Vikings in a dead heat for the division lead in the NFC North and the Packers breathing down both their necks, every game is now a playoff game in that division. Early in the game, Stafford’s hand made awkward contact on the follow through with fellow UGA football alum Leonard Floyd’s helmet. The diagnosis on Stafford’s hand was a dislocated finger, and after four glove changes, he settled on a Michael Jackson-esque white glove on the throwing hand. The finger and glove didn’t hold Stafford back for long, as he got loose and even got a little revenge on Floyd (3 tackles, 0 sacks) for having his helmet in the way of his follow through.
After throwing an interception early in the fourth quarter in the red zone and then a pick six to give the Bears the lead, Stafford gathered himself for the final drive and put the team on his back to secure the victory. On the seventh play of the 76-yard, Stafford scrambled all over the pocket desperate to find a receiver in the end zone until he finally decided to use his legs to take the lead with a little over three minutes left.
It wasn’t Stafford’s best game this season, throwing two interceptions for the first time since he played the Bears in week four. But after his latest comeback in the fourth quarter he now leads the NFL in fourth-quarter comebacks this season at eight. The Lions still own the division lead, but remaining on their schedule are three teams that are likely or have a serious shot at making the playoffs. This week on the road against the Giants, and on the road again against the Cowboys and they finally wrap up the season hosting the Packers in week 17. After last week’s game, it was confirmed that Stafford dislocated his finger, but with the glove, he can practice and play this week.
While at first he was just filling in for A.J. Green’s touchdown quota while he was injured, now the rookie wide receiver is earning his own headline spot in this column after Monday Night’s victory over the Ravens. Malcolm Mitchell has now recorded four touchdowns in as many games. His meteoric rise is now longer a one-week up-tick, Mitchell is now a serious red zone and downfield target for Tom Brady. I’m sure his locker location next to his quarterback hasn’t hurt his chances to get more targets, and the rookie receiver has now climbed into fifth place in touchdowns by rookie wide receivers. Next week the Patriots travel to Denver to face off against the Broncos’ “no fly zone” in high altitude. The Patriots will need help from Mitchell to pick apart the strong pass defense.
“We looked like a middle school offense out there.” Strong words from the Rams' most iconic offensive weapon after the Falcons’ traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum and thrashed the Rams – scoring more touchdowns in that stadium in that game (6) than the Rams have scored in that stadium all season (5). Stats like those, in addition to having the league’s worst offense, were the nail in the coffin for Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher. After firing Fisher on Monday, the Rams’ face a short work week before they play the Seattle Seahawks. After just 16 carries for 61 yards, Gurley is now flirting with finishing the season below 900 yards. He eventually found the end zone in garbage time, giving him five on the year – but against a team like the Falcons that struggle in run defense, a player like Gurley should be able to get more than just 61 yards. With the Seahawks in just two days from now, the Rams offense is probably facing the largest uphill challenge to fix an offense and don't expect much to change this week.
After partially tearing his hamstring three weeks ago, Bengals' wide receiver A.J. Green is now set to return to practice this week and possibly play the last three games of the season if he's healthy enough. Green needs just 46 yards to be the only wide receiver, with Randy Moss, to record 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first six seasons.