Buffalo Bills: People talk about “The Patriot Way” in New England. Is coach Sean McDermott trying to build “The Bills Way” in Buffalo? Apparently so, based on this recent statement: “We’re trying to develop a culture here. Culture, to me, trumps strategy,” McDermott said. “That’s what I believe in wholeheartedly, and it doesn’t mean we have choir boys — it means we’ve got guys that love football and do the things the right way, for the most part. ...If you do things the right way and you continue to build it the right way ...those things will take care of themselves.”
Miami Dolphins: Dolphins players were among the team contingent visiting Alex’s Place at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Miami this week to hand out gifts and cheer up childhood cancer patients and their parents. “It was so crazy there were so many Dolphins fans in there and the patients were Dolphins fans too,” cornerback Xavien Howard said. “My favorite moment was playing with the kids, taking pictures, and just laughing and giggling with the kids. You never know what people go through these days.” He added that being “in that position to put a smile on people’s faces, then seeing that smile and helping them to keep fighting, that’s what it’s all about.”
New England Patriots: Retired linebacker Rob Ninkovich said he thinks the Patriots need to work Julian Edelman back into the lineup slowly. Speaking Tuesday on the Ex-Pats Podcast with Phil Perry and Rob Ninkovich, he had this to say about his former teammate, Edelman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury and was suspended the first four games of 2018: “Everyone is anticipating like ‘Julian’s back, feed him the ball.’ Well, yeah. Julian’s back, give him the football, but don’t overrun him into the ground when he’s coming back from an ACL (injury) last year. Yeah, it’s been a year, but it’s an ACL, and just like everybody else that has an ACL (injury), it’s not easy to just come back and just take a guy flying at your legs and your knees and take those hits.”
New York Jets: Fourth-year coach Todd Bowles has until mid-season to right the ship, The Athletic’s Jay Glazer wrote this week. “I think even Bowles knew going into this season that he had to win this year,” Glazer wrote. “I don’t know how great their personnel is at this point but I believe Sam Darnold is a quarterback that you can build around in the future. The Jets are 1-3, but it’s still hard to gauge a team in the first few weeks of the season because of how little they play in the pre season — it’s after Week 8 that I really start looking to see how teams are shaping up and how things might potentially change within the organization. The NFL is a results-oriented business, and Coach understands that.” Under Bowles, the Jets have yet to make the playoffs. They finished 10-6 in 2015 but missed the wild card on a tiebreaker, then went 5-11 in 2016 and 2017.
Baltimore Ravens: Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst is expecting to make his season debut on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Hurst, a first-round pick, had foot surgery on Aug. 24. He practiced on a limited basis last week but was not cleared to return, coach John Harbaugh said. But as a full participant Wednesday, Hurst feels he’ll have the go-ahead to play against the Browns. “I was healthy enough, but throughout the week, just didn’t get the first-team reps and all that to be prepared for the game,” he said. “My foot felt great. I could’ve gone if they needed me, but there was no sense in rushing it.” Maxx Williams has 12 receptions to lead the tight end group that Harbaugh described as deep.
Cincinnati Bengals: Running back Joe Mixon will play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, 22 days after undergoing what coach Marvin Lewis termed minor arthroscopic knee surgery. “The sun is up. It’s a bright sunny day out there. Joe has worked hard,” Lewis said of Mixon. In a near-even split of carries with Giovani Bernard — Mixon has 38 carries for 179 yards, Bernard 34 for 155 — the Bengals’ top two backs are averaging more than 4.6 yards per carry as a duo, up from 3.8 in 2017. Lewis intends to keep Bernard heavily involved even if Mixon receives the starter designation.
Cleveland Browns: Taking care of the ball was stressed by the Browns as they prepare to entertain the Baltimore Ravens. “It’s all the little things,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday. “We’re very, very close to being a great team.” Mayfield said offensive coordinator Todd Haley prepared him for everything the Raiders would bring in his first start last week and “slowed it down” significantly. “Now it’s just about translating things I’ve seen — having an open mind on it, realizing I have a lot of room to grow,” Mayfield said. He added his takeaways from last week included the importance of communication and being fundamentally sound on “the little things.” The Ravens have 10 sacks and five takeaways through four games. “The Ravens’ defense is known for being physical. On top of that, they can run,” Mayfield said.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Balance is eluding the Steelers’ offense, but measuring the factors involved is complicated. “One, me not playing well enough. Two, playing from behind. You’ve got a big deficit, so you’ve got to throw the ball every play,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “Kind of takes the run game out of play. There’s a lot of factors involved.” Roethlisberger said teams are constantly double-teaming Antonio Brown, and he said more of the same is coming this week. Roethlisberger said the Steelers are still moving Brown around the formation. He played the slot and outside on the first possession last week. “We haven’t done enough to score enough points to win football games. We have to be better,” Roethlisberger said.
Houston Texans: Pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney is coming off an AFC Defensive Player of the Week showing in which he recorded two sacks, four tackles for loss and recovered a fumble for touchdown in an overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts. Clowney’s thoughts on the award: “I’m very happy about it. I hope I can go ahead and do it again this week.” Clowney underwent off season knee surgery and was off to a slow start before the breakout performance. “I think he feels better,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “I think with J.D., when he feels good body-wise, he goes out there and he’s hard to handle. I think he feels better.”
Indianapolis Colts: Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will miss Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots due to a hamstring injury suffered during last Sunday’s loss to Houston. It will be the third game Hilton has missed during seven NFL seasons. “It impacts us losing a great player in T.Y,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “But as far as game planning we have a lot of confidence in the next guy up. I think that showed this past week when T.Y. went out. We still were able to move the ball well, credit to the guys and really the offense.” Hilton had a season-best 115 receiving yards against the Texans and has 21 receptions for 294 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: There won’t be any game-time decisions involving running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) this Sunday as coach Doug Marrone ruled him out on Wednesday. Fournette initially injured the right hamstring in Week 1 against the New York Giants and missed the ensuing two games before aggravating the injury during last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. T.J. Yeldon will serve as the main back in Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jaguars hope to get a better average per carry (2.9) from him than what he provided while gaining 52 yards on 18 carries against the Jets. Corey Grant (five carries, 5 yards versus New York) will be the No. 2 back.
Tennessee Titans: The club has won three consecutive games entering Sunday’s road game against the struggling Buffalo Bills (1-3). The winning streak includes last Sunday’s 26-23 overtime victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, which prompts speculation a letdown could be in store against the lowly Bills. Veteran linebacker Brian Orakpo said he doesn’t foresee any overlooking of a team occurring this Sunday. “When you have a group of veterans like this team has, we should be fine,” Orakpo said. “We are going to carry ourselves as professionals, get ready for the Bills — it’s a new challenge, so erase the Philly game. We don’t want to worry about the “trap game” and all that other noise that comes with it.”
Denver Broncos: After failing to contain Patrick Mahomes for a full 60 minutes on Monday, the Broncos’ defense will face a similar sort of sandlot player in Jets rookie Sam Darnold this week. “He’s extending plays like Mahomes,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Wednesday. “Great footwork. ...That’s something right there we’ve definitely got to prepare for.” However, Harris added that he also sees opportunities for big plays against a rookie who has been mistake-prone thus far. “The Jaguars dropped about three picks last week, so that’s something,” Harris said of Darnold’s last game. “I definitely noticed that. He’s going to force it in there. He’s going to try to make all the throws. He has no fear and he’s playing to win. That’s one thing you like from a rookie.”
Kansas City Chiefs: With Jalen Ramsey and the Jacksonville Jaguars next up on Kansas City’s schedule, wideout Tyreek Hill is preparing for a showdown with All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. “I’m always up for a challenge,” Hill said Wednesday. “The best always go against the best.” The Chiefs’ speedster added that he’s excited to go up against the league’s best cornerbacks to “get my name out there more,” and called Ramsey the “top dog right now.” “He think high of himself,” Hill said. “He’s all right, I guess. I can’t wait to line up against him. I hope he presses me.” The Chiefs lead the NFL in points (36.3 per game), and the Jags’ defense ranks first in points allowed (14.0 per game).
San Diego Chargers: With defensive end Joey Bosa (foot) still several weeks away from returning, the Chargers are still looking for alternatives to pressure opposing QBs. They rank 25th in sack rate (6.0 percent) and 22nd in sacks (eight) through four games, and the defense ranks 28th in points allowed (30.0). “We haven’t won enough one-on-ones to be honest with you,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “People have given Melvin Ingram a lot of attention, as they should, and it’s freed some guys to go in on the backside, and we just haven’t got it done. We’ll make adjustments and we’ll create pressure different ways.”
Oakland Raiders: With right tackle Donald Penn on injured reserve with a groin injury, the Raiders will be starting two rookie tackles for the foreseeable future, as third-rounder Brandon Parker will take over opposite first-rounder Kolton Miller. Though Parker allowed 1.5 sacks on 57 snaps last week, quarterback Derek Carr called him “one of the smartest rookies I’ve ever been around.” “You don’t feel like you have two rookies because they’re so talented but at the end of the day, they are,” Carr continued. “It’s something that we have to do a good job with helping those guys out.” Miller has allowed just half a sack in four starts.
Dallas Cowboys: It’s pretty clear what motivates center Joe Looney, according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News. As Looney led the way as Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 38-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions, he had the ultimate reward on his mind. “Everybody was just so surprised about how fast I was running and I told them there was a little Krispy Kreme box down there that I saw,” Looney told George. “And I had to go down there and get me one of them.”
New York Giants: Coach Pat Shurmur is the first to admit prized rookie running back Saquon Barkley should have been more involved in Sunday’s 33-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “Looking back on it, I think Barkley had touches,” Shurmur said. “I’d like to have a couple more probably, and those being runs certainly.” Barkley said he’ll be ready when the coach calls on him. “My mindset is do whatever it takes to help the team win. And if that’s touch the ball 10, 15 times or touch the ball 30 times, then whatever it takes. ... I am aware that there are going to be games where sometimes the ball’s not supposed to be in my hands and sometimes we’re supposed to throw the ball,” Barkley said.
Philadelphia Eagles: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery returned from injury to help out quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense in Week 4. His return pushed Nelson Agholor back to his spot as the slot receiver. On Sunday, a 26-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Agholor caught five passes for just 22 yards while in the slot. Still, offensive coordinator Mike Groh sees the benefits to the move. “Well, we think Nelson’s a really productive player inside,” he said. “He was throughout the course of the entirety of last season, and (we) feel really comfortable with what he’s done for us there.”
Washington Redskins: With a Thursday game in Week 3, a bye in Week 4 and a Monday night game in Week 5, the Redskins will be going on nearly two weeks without playing a game when they meet New Orleans Monday night. The break gave players a chance to rest nagging injuries, but coach Jay Gruden says the early bye week could pose a struggle down the road. “That’s the grind. That’s going to be the biggest challenge, 13 straight weeks of nonstop football,” Gruden said. “We have short weeks in there. Sometimes a couple Thursday games I believe. That’s going to be tough keeping these guys healthy and ready. If I have to taper off practice from time to time, I will.”
Chicago Bears: After telling reporters he would limit the preparation load heaped upon quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, head coach Matt Nagy shared with NBC’s Peter King what he felt was the difference entering Trubisky’s six-TD showing last week. “I go back to this week. When everybody was gone after practice, Mitch stayed after practice and threw about 50 to 60 deep balls into a stationary net about 50 yards downfield,” Nagy said. “Him and Dave Ragone, our quarterbacks coach, they were dropping back ... Dave was giving him some pressure in the pocket. Mitch would slide his feet and just throw. There was a span there where he hit 10 out of 12 into the net. Just like Michael Jordan shooting threes. (General manager) Ryan Pace and I were standing back there watching him doing it and we just looked at each other. We said, ‘This kid’s in a zone.’ He’s out there after a three-hour practice. For it to come to fruition (against the Buccaneers) and see him have success with downfield throws, it was really cool.”
Detroit Lions: There is no discussion of preparing for an injured quarterback this week. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said film review of Aaron Rodgers since Week 1 shows the Packers’ passer is making significant progress. “I know that he was hurt in the first game against the Chicago Bears, but as you evaluate the film, especially last week’s film against Buffalo, he’s moving extremely well,” Pasqualoni said. “He’s playing at a very, very high level. He’s running the ball. He’s doing everything that he’s always done and he’s doing it very well. So I think we have to be prepared for Aaron Rodgers to come in here, we got to be prepared for his best shot cause that’s what we’ll expect to get.”
Green Bay Packers: Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson has renewed optimism about resuming his playing career following a second surgery on his ankle. NFL Network reported Wednesday that Wilkerson, 28, went under the knife with Dr. Robert Anderson and is expected to make a full recovery. His exact timetable will be determined in the coming weeks after Wilkerson begins weight-bearing exercises. A free agent released by the New York Jets in February, Wilkerson signed with the Packers and reunited with former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on a one-year, $4.7 million deal. Wilkerson first underwent surgery at a local hospital after he was injured at Washington on Sept. 23.
Minnesota Vikings: Perceived to be a shutdown cornerback, Xavier Rhodes has been attacked by opposing quarterbacks early in the season. But head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t believe in evaluating his players at the quarter pole of the season. “I know everybody wants to evaluate everybody after four weeks, but I think if you remember last year or early in the year Xavier had some penalties early in the year,” Zimmer said. “We cleaned them up. This isn’t a time for ‘woe is me.’ If people remember we were 2-2 this time last year. We finished 13-3. We were 5-0 the year before and we finished 8-8. We were 2-2 the year before that and we finished 11-5, so all the predictors, this isn’t a good time to predict.”
Atlanta Falcons: Injuries on the defensive side continue to plague Atlanta and coach Don Quinn revealed Wednesday that defensive tackle Grady Jarrett will miss Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jarrett injured an ankle in last Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and is expected to miss multiple games. “When we get him back right, we’ll get him back in there when we can,” Quinn said. “He looks good right now and we’re hopeful that as we get into next week we’ll have a better feel for when he might return.” On the other hand, running back Devonta Freeman (knee) feels he has a chance at playing this Sunday after missing the past three games.
Carolina Panthers: Recently signed safety Eric Reid is making a good impression on his new teammates and Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washington is pleased with what he is seeing. “We’re excited to have him. His resume speaks for itself,” Washington said. “He’s kind of been there, done that in terms of establishing himself as one of the top players at his position in the league. In a very short period of time that we’ve been interacting with him, you can see the experience, the character in terms of how he is communicating with his teammates. Everything is positive. We’re very excited.” Quarterback Cam Newton is also happy about the addition of Reed. “We welcome him with open arms,” Newton said. “We need him to be him. Can’t ask for nothing else.”
New Orleans Saints: Running back Mark Ingram is eligible to play again after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Ingram was so happy to see his suspension end that he greeted his teammates at the airport on Sunday as they returned from a victory over the New York Giants. Saints coach Sean Payton feels Ingram, who rushed for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, will be ready to roll on Monday night against the Washington Redskins. “He looks fine,” Payton said. “I’m sure he stayed busy. He wasn’t gone for a year-and-a-half or been a castaway on an island. He was (gone) four weeks. He’s in good shape.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The bye week comes at a good time for a defense that was roasted for 48 points by the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Buccaneers have allowed 30 points in three of their four games and rank last in the NFL in scoring defense at 34.8 points per game. That has put the spotlight on defensive coordinator Mike Smith and coach Dirk Koetter is quick to defend him. “I think, for those people who think that snapping your fingers and changing your coordinator a quarter of the way through the season — OK, well what would you do after that? If we fire Mike Smith, then what would the next move be?” Koetter said. “We as coaches have to coach better and that starts with me. But Mike Smith didn’t miss any tackles, did not rush the passer, he didn’t blow any coverages, he didn’t have any communication errors.”
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals’ receiving corps let down rookie quarterback Josh Rosen some in his first start, dropping several key passes, including a deep ball to a wide-open J.J. Nelson. However, coach Steve Wilks isn’t losing faith in the group of young wideouts. “I’m not down on J.J. nor the other receivers,” Wilks said. “I think those guys are improving. You look at Chad (Williams). J.J. is a major part of that, being able to take the top off, as we call it, with his speed. That’s a weapon that we like.” Rosen knows that connecting on more of those deep shots will aid the offense elsewhere. “That will create separation,” he said. “If you get hot and hit a couple deep balls, it will open up a lot of other guys.”
Los Angeles Rams: After making several high-profile additions this off season, the Rams’ defense has been one of the NFL’s best through four weeks, and it might be about to get better. Linebacker Mark Barron, who had 85 tackles and three interceptions in 14 games last season, has yet to play this season due to an Achilles injury but is expected to make his debut in Week 5 against the Seahawks. “We’re hopeful to be able to get him back, and if that’s the case, we’ll be excited to get Mark back out there,” coach Sean McVay said Wednesday. Barron would move right into the starting lineup, sending either Cory Littleton or Ramik Wilson to the bench in base packages.
San Francisco 49ers: Having already lost their starting quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo) and running back (Jerick McKinnon) to season-ending ACL tears, the 49ers watched both starting offensive tackles and multiple wideouts go down on Sunday. The team has yet to make any roster moves, but that could change as the hits keep coming. “It’s the biggest challenge I think in our game,” coach Kyle Shanahan said of the rash of injuries. “I know the fortunate thing is ... all of the O-linemen and the receivers I spoke about today, they’re not going on IR. They will return eventually, hopefully sooner than later. ... You hope to weather the storm and get through it and win some close games and you hope to get healthier as it goes, just like we did last year.”
Seattle Seahawks: With the Rams coming to town this week, the Seahawks will be facing a player they hoped to add to their own roster this off season, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. After his release by the Miami Dolphins, Suh visited the Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans and Rams before joining L.A. on a one-year, $14 million deal. “We weren’t able to get close financially on the deal,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday of the situation. “But we did a lot of talking, spent a lot of time with him about the thought of it, and he was considering it. But when it came down to it, our cap situation didn’t allow it.” Suh leads the Rams with six QB hits and is tied for the team lead with two sacks. The Seahawks have allowed 16 sacks this year, tied for third most in the NFL.
—Field Level Media