Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) celebrates with teammates after his touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) fires a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Indianapolis Colts' Marlon Mack (25) is tackled by Los Angeles Rams' Darious Williams (11) and Kenny Young (41) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) Whenever Bruce Arians' teams face Matthew Stafford, the veteran coach makes a point to hit the field early on Sunday morning just to watch the quarterback's pregame workout.
Even after nearly two years of watching Tom Brady on a weekly basis, Arians plans to check out Stafford's pure talents again Sunday at SoFi Stadium when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0) visit the Los Angeles Rams (2-0) for an early season showdown between the team that won the Super Bowl in its home stadium last season and a team that hopes to duplicate that feat this year.
''He's one of the most talented guys that I've ever seen,'' Arians said of Stafford, who spent the past 12 seasons in Detroit. ''He can make every single throw on the field, and with ease. He can stretch you all kind of ways, horizontally and vertically. You have to be in great position defensively to stop him.''
Tampa Bay and Los Angeles have been two of the most impressive teams in the NFL over the first two weeks of the season. Much of that success is down to the smooth, prolific performances of their veteran quarterbacks, who have thrown for 1,254 combined yards with 14 TDs and two of the NFL's top passer ratings.
Stafford is among the handful of quarterbacks talented enough to last 13 years as an NFL starter, yet he is winless in the playoffs while Brady has 34 victories and seven rings. The first-year Rams passer doesn't wonder what might have been if he had been drafted by a coach like Bill Belichick rather than a team like the Lions.
''I don't think about that kind of stuff,'' Stafford said with a smile. ''I try to be as present as I possibly can. I have a ton of respect for what he's been able to accomplish. What a talented guy. What a great leader to be able to do what he's done at two different spots and really elevate the guys around him. ... Right now, he's playing great football, about as good as I've ever seen him play.''
The NFC powers are meeting for the second straight year, following the Rams' 27-24 victory at Tampa Bay last November. The Bucs took another home loss six days later against Kansas City by an identical score - and they haven't lost a game since, going 4-0 in the 2020 regular season, 4-0 in the playoffs and 2-0 this season to extend the longest winning streak in franchise history.
Brady leads the NFL with nine touchdown passes, the most he's ever thrown through the first two games of a season. With four more against the Rams this week, he'd join Russell Wilson (14 in 2020) and Patrick Mahomes (13, 2018) as the only players in NFL history to toss at least 13 scoring passes in the first three games of a team's season.
Arians partly attributes the fast start to Brady being more comfortable in an offense he was still learning at this point a year ago.
''I think he has a great grasp of it. That's obvious. The way teams are trying to play us, he sees it early and they usually don't break their pattern,'' Arians said. ''I mean, he didn't know the plays last year. ... He knows them all now.''
Tampa Bay allowed three sacks and five quarterback hits on Brady last week by Atlanta's fairly ordinary defense. The Rams have one of the league's most formidable pass rushes with Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd leading the way, so keeping Brady uncomfortable in the pocket seems a logical key to success for Los Angeles this weekend.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris wasn't on the Rams' staff last season, but he says the win at Tampa Bay ''was kind of the formula on what you'd like to get done versus a Tom Brady football team.''
The Rams bothered Brady early and forced him to get rid of the ball quickly, and they prevented big plays in the short passing game with sure tackling.
BELIEVE THE HYPE
Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has a pair of TD receptions in three consecutive games going back to the Super Bowl, said this week's matchup against the Rams definitely has a special feel to it.
''Every game is important - that's a fact - but there are games that definitely feel more important, even though each is just a single game,'' Gronkowski said.
''They've got a very solid team. They're 2-0, so there is a lot more hype,'' the 11th-year pro added. ''Sometimes you go into a game and there's just no hype. ... It kind of gets the jitters going with games like this. It's going to be a good one.''
The Bucs avenged three of their five regular-season losses during last winter's playoff run, ousting the Saints (who had beaten them twice) before getting payback against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
A potential rematch with the Rams in the NFC championship game failed to materialize when the Rams were eliminated by the Packers.
''We played them close last year and they beat us,'' Bucs receiver Mike Evans said. ''I actually wanted to play them in the playoffs just to avenge that loss as well. But, we get to go to LA ... I'm looking forward to seeing what the new stadium is like, and hopefully we can come out of there with a W.''
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that "all signs" are pointing toward offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (head) entering the league's concussion protocol this week. Lewan was strapped to a stretcher and carted off the field in Monday night's win over the Buffalo Bills, so all things considered, this has to be good news. The 30-year-old won't be guaranteed to return in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it looks like he has avoided a serious neck injury. Kendall Lamm replaced Lewan at left tackle for the rest of the Monday night game and would likely get the start on quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side if Lewan isn't cleared for this weekend.
Denver Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb's (ankle) return isn't quite around the corner, according to head coach Vic Fangio. Chubb had a walking boot on his surgically repaired ankle on Tuesday and has been on Injured Reserve since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle on Sept. 22. Denver's defense got off to a hot start against some of the worst teams in the NFL, but they've come crashing back down to Earth and allowed a season-high 34 points to the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in the Week 6 loss. They could certainly use Chubb's pass-rushing help, but it doesn't look like it's coming anytime soon. Despite Denver's struggles on defense of late, they'll be on the streaming radar in Week 7 on Thursday night against a banged-up Cleveland Browns team.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (hip) was upgraded from a limited practice on Monday's estimated report to a full practice on Tuesday. Gordon has been dealing with some nagging injuries in recent weeks, but it hasn't kept him from playing on game days, and he continues to split the backfield work right down the middle with rookie Javonte Williams. The 28-year-old should be good to go for Thursday night's clash with the Cleveland Browns. Williams has been more efficient and has shown more big-play ability through six games, but Gordon is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns on 332 rushing yards on 70 carries. He'll be on the RB2/3 borderline again this week.
The New Orleans Saints designated wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring), linebacker Kwon Alexander (elbow) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) for return from Injured Reserve this week. The Saints will now have 21 days to activate the trio from Injured Reserve. Michael Thomas (ankle) is also getting closer to a return, but Smith appears to be ahead in his recovery. Smith has only played in one game in Week 4 before getting injured, and he wasn't targeted at all in the passing game. Marquez Callaway currently leads all Saints receivers with 13 receptions on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with Deonte Harris actually leading the team with 236 receiving yards. Smith could have a bigger role before Thomas returns, but it's hard to get excited about him in this low-volume Saints passing attack.
The Denver Broncos cut wide receiver David Moore on Tuesday, according to a source. The move isn't unexpected after the team added John Brown last week. Moore was active for two games but didn't record a reception on his two targets. The Broncos are also looking forward to the return of Jerry Jeudy, who remains on Injured Reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Jeudy has resumed workouts but has a less than 50% chance to return on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. There's a much better chance that Jeudy will make his return in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team. The second-year wideout figures to return to a considerable role in Denver's offense and should be rostered in all leagues.
New York Giants wide receiver C.J. Board (arm) was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after suffering a broken arm in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Board will miss at least the next three games while on IR, but he'll probably be out longer. The 27-year-old has just four catches on six targets for 51 yards through the first six games of the season, and he hasn't played more than 31% of the offensive snaps in any one game so far this season. With Kenny Golladay (knee) and rookie Kadarius Toney (ankle) unlikely to play in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, the Giants could be down to Sterling Shepard, Dante Pettis, Collin Johnson and John Ross as their primary receivers.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) missed another practice on Tuesday. His DNP designation on Monday came on the estimated practice report, but he actually missed practice on Tuesday. Beckham is looking truly questionable after missing some game time in the Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It could be a death blow to Cleveland's offense, as they'll also be without both starting running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf). If OBJ cannot play on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins and rookie Anthony Schwartz would operate in three-receiver sets if Jarvis Landry isn't ready to come off Injured Reserve. Peoples-Jones would be the most attractive after going for nine catches (11 targets), 171 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks.
New York Giants OT Korey Cunningham and WR Dante Pettis were signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Rashard Robinson was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The New York Giants placed left tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle, foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, so he'll be forced to miss at least the next three games. Thomas is dealing with a right foot injury and also a left ankle issue, so he was pretty hobbled in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants offensive line will be more vulnerable in the near future, beginning in a Week 7 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. It's bad news for quarterback Daniel Jones, especially if he's without starting running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) for a second straight game this weekend. Expect Matt Peart to fill in on Jones' blind side in the immediate future.
Denver Broncos WR David Moore was released Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is expected to be out for at least one game, according to a source. However, as of right now, it doesn't sound like the Giants plan on placing Toney on Injured Reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. The 22-year-old first-rounder exploded for 10 catches and 189 yards in Week 5 when Kenny Golladay injured his knee, and he was in line for another big role in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams before he aggravated his ankle on Sunday. Toney should remain involved in the passing game whenever he returns from his ankle injury, so he's worth stashing in deeper leagues. With Golladay not a lock to return in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers, Sterling Shepard could be in line for a massive target share.
Chicago Bears S Deon Bush (quad) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19. DB Teez Tabor was signed off the practice squad to replace him on the roster.
Free-agent RB Chris Thompson was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New Orleans Saints LB Kwon Alexander (elbow), DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and WR Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring) were designated for return from the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The Indianapolis Colts are signing defensive tackle Antwaun Woods to their active roster on Tuesday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Woods was signed to the Colts practice squad before the Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans, but he was released last week. He'll now rejoin the team and provide defensive line depth at nose tackle. Woods, 28, recorded 23 tackles (seven solo), two QB hits and a sack in 14 games (seven starts) for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. He played on just 18% of the defensive snaps and had one solo tackle in the Week 3 loss to the Titans. Woods will serve in a rotational role once again.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder), RB Nick Chubb (calf), OT Jack Conklin (knee), A.J. Z. Green (shoulder, groin), C JC Tretter (knee) and OT Jedrick Wills (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 19. DE Jadeveon Clowney (ankle, chest, knee), DE Malik Jackson (knee), QB Baker Mayfield (shoulder), TE David Njoku (limited), LB Malcolm Smith (abdomen), and LB Mack Wilson (calf) were limited. DE Myles Garrett (knee, ankle), DE Takkarist McKinley (ankle), DT Malik McDowell (elbow, foot), CB Greg Newsome (calf), CB Denzel Ward (neck) and CB Greedy Williams (knee) practiced in full. The Browns did not practice Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.
Chicago Bears DE Robert Quinn was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Denver Broncos LB Baron Browning (concussion), S Caden Stearns (illness), LB Alexander Johnson (chest), LB Andre Mintze (hamstring) and LB Aaron Patrick (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 19. OT Garett Bolles (knee), QB Teddy Bridgewater (foot) and TE Noah Fant (foot) were limited. RB Melvin Gordon (hip), DE Shelby Harris (wrist) and S Justin Simmons (hand) practiced in full. The Broncos did not practice Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.