NFL’s London games have never matched teams with winning records

Sunday’s Ravens-Jaguars game is as good as the NFL gets for London — literally.

It’s not much of a headliner on the surface of things, but from the perspective of the NFL in England, it’s as close as the 18-game series has come to matching two teams with winning records (per ProFootballTalk).

Oh, and the streak is guaranteed to stretch to 19 games next week. The Saints are 0-2, so they’re guaranteed of not being over .500 when they meet the Dolphins at Wembley Stadium.

Where did Sunday’s slate compare to great RedZone afternoons of years past? With the help of both Burke and ESPN Stats & Information, I found the average Excitement Index for the top five games from each 1 p.m. ET kickoff going back through 2005. I included only the top five because every weekend will have stinkers, and Sunday’s scoring bonanza wasn’t any less fun because Miami Dolphins- New York Jets was a bummer.

By my count, the top five games in Week 3 produced the seventh-best average Excitement Index since 2005, with an average EI of just under 5.95. The record, which requires going back to Week 6 of that 2005 campaign, was an average EI of 6.55 points per game. Four games that week were either tied or saw a lead change in the final minute of regulation, including a Steelers-Jaguars game in which Pittsburgh blew two chances to win in overtime.

This week’s big five was nearly as great. Let’s run through those games in order of Excitement Index and break down some of the key takeaways from each:

Then the two remaining London games on the 2017 schedule are Cardinals-Rams and Vikings-Browns. Given the Rams’ and Browns’ recent history, it looks like the streak is safe for another season.
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The above statement seems like an obvious thing.

The above statement seems like an obvious thing. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the NFL today, and that’s not up for debate — but hear me out.

Hopkins does a great job of getting open, even when he might not be open. Numerous times in the Texans’ game Thursday night, he forced himself off defensive backs to get open for Watson. Eventually he was called for pass interference in the fourth quarter, but it made a big difference.

On this play, you can see Bengals corner Darqueze Dennard nearly falling to his feet because of the spacing that Hopkins created:

The offensive tackle was a project when he came into the NFL, but now he’s in year three and things look worse than ever. Manning was sacked five times by the Lions — three of those came because Ansah destroyed Flowers.

The Giants fans let him hear it — thumbs down and all — when he elected to run out the clock instead of attempt to score before halftime. Then again when he waffled on a decision to go for it on fourth down near the goal line and the team got a delay-of-game penalty.

He didn’t roll the dice on fourth down until it was too late, and it didn’t work out for the Giants anyway.

The Bears signed the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback to a three-year, $45 million contract, but the deal is easy to part with after the 2017 season. That looks like good news for Chicago, because he’s playing far below the $16 million cap hit he’d be due in 2018 if the Bears keep him beyond this season.

After an uninspiring, but decent showing against the Atlanta Falcons — when a pair of drops in the final seconds kept Glennon from being a Week 1 hero — an implosion for the quarterback in Week 2 buried the Bears.
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8 things to watch in NFL’s Week 2

The NFL’s opening week unleashed a scattering of twists and turns that reset this offseason’s storylines. 30 teams began their 2017 campaigns, leading to some surprising outcomes — like the Patriots losing, the Jaguars winning, and the Rams obliterating the Colts — and others that carried on familiar narratives.

But one week of the season isn’t enough to get a sense of what to expect around the league this season. Is Alex Smith a gunslinger now? Is Jared Goff really as improved as he looked in Week 1, or was that a byproduct of playing the Colts? Is the NFC West really going to be one of the weakest divisions in the league? Week 2 should give us a clearer picture.

We can expect more surprises, emerging stars, and rebounding veterans this week. Here are the eight things to watch for in Week 2 of the 2017 NFL season.

It’s a popular stat that likes to get passed around on Twitter — only a small percentage of NFL teams start 0-2 and make the playoffs. The exact number changes depending on what parameters you set, but OddsShark tracked recent trends and found that 9 percent of teams since 2007 have made the playoffs after going 0-2.

Is that an overblown narrative? Probably, and the Giants would be the first to tell you. The last time they started 0-2 was in 2007, and that team went on to win the Super Bowl. I doubt many fans even remember that 0-2 start after the fact.

So no doubt there’s time to right the ship, but that time has to start right now. This offense has too many fatal flaws to settle for business as usual, and the defense can’t do it all by itself. It’s on McAdoo, and this staff to figure out a solution before the Giants spin out into a lost season.
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Marshawn Lynch sideline dance in his Oakland home debut inspired Raiders teammates ‘he never did that in Seattle’

“It was exceptional. I was actually very inspired,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said of Marshawn Lynch’s dancing on sideline during the Raiders’ 45-20 win over the Jets.

Today was all about Lynch making his Oakland home debut. For a man who represents Oakland and its people like few others, the game really couldn’t have gone better.

The Raiders scored six touchdowns, three through the air and three on the ground. One of those touchdown was Lynch himself punching it up the middle from 2 yards out. It was his first touchdown as a Raider and hit happened in his home debut. What more could you ask for?

Between dropped passes and a vicious pass rush, neither Texans quarterback was set up to succeed against Jacksonville. But Watson, who was dealing with an ankle injury early in the week, has been named as the starter for Houston’s Thursday night matchup against the Bengals. Savage isn’t happy, but he’s keeping it to himself.

“So Tom’s obviously taken the high road and I would only expect Tom to take the high road and he’s gonna support DeShaun, he’s gonna support the team, and he wants to be a part of the Houston organization, he loves it down there,” Schwartz said. “It’s just frustrating and to be benched after 31 plays it just doesn’t make sense.”

O’Brien’s tendency to switch out quarterbacks has become a hallmark of his Texans career. Houston has started more quarterbacks than any team in the NFL since O’Brien took over in 2014. That includes the Browns, who basically had a revolving door behind center last season due to injuries.

But in this case, his agent thinks the team should have given Savage more time to prove himself. O’Brien must not agree, because Watson will get his first NFL start Thursday.
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Umenyiora remembers it being “a unique bonding experience” for the Giants.

“Once we got to London, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had on a team before,” he said. “You have training camp where you’re together all the time, but for us to be together like that in another country, experiencing different cultures, going around, always together. In the NFL, once training camp is over, you’re there from 8 to 4 and everyone goes their separate ways.”

Manning had his family and friends with him in London, as well, and recalled the team’s victory celebration.

“After the game we stayed in the city, and we had the whole team gathered at one spot, with guys on the mic announcing other guys coming in,” Manning said.

The Redskins had initially placed him on the exempt/left squad list Sept. 4, giving him a month to reconsider his plans or be lost for the season.

Cravens, a former Trojans player, was seen on the sideline of the Texas-USC game in Los Angeles on Saturday night standing near Washington senior vice president of personnel Doug Williams, who was in town for the Redskins’ game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Although a report by the NFL Network suggested that Cravens might return to the team facility this week, Redskins officials on Sunday did not express any hope or knowledge that that might be the case — or that Cravens had changed his mind about his plans. They had hoped that giving him time to reconsider would help.
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When is Super Bowl 2018? Date, location, odds for Super Bowl 52

It’s never too early to start planning for the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl 52, set to be played Sunday, Feb. 4 2018, will take place in a dome just like Super Bowl 51 did … but much further north, where the weather outside the venue won’t be as inviting.

Super Bowl 52 will be played in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium, which will have just finished hosting its second Minnesota Vikings season after being built in time for the 2016 NFL season.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced in May of 2014 that Minnesota and its new stadium would host the Super Bowl in 2018. The stadium seats 66,200 but can be expanded to fit up to 70,000 people.

The receiver was taken to the locker room and was first ruled questionable to return but was downgraded to out before the end of the first quarter.

Brady was 16-for-36 for 267 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Chiefs; shortly after the Patriots were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter, he said the team’s turnaround needs to start with attitude and competitiveness. Players were off on Saturday and Sunday, which gave them extra time to think about it.

“It kind of sits with us a little bit longer, but maybe it’s good to sit with us longer and continue for us to evaluate and nitpick and so forth. So it’s probably a couple of extra days in weeks like this as opposed to a normal seven-day week,” he said on WEEI.

The Patriots visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. With the Saints visiting the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night (ESPN, 7:10 ET), Brady said he planned to watch the game closely.

From a big-picture perspective, he said, “I wish we were 1-0, but we’re not. We have to do something about it. It’s part of the challenge of the football season, Mental toughness is a real thing. … It’s understanding how competitive all these games are. There’s no easy game. Every team is going to bring it, certainly against us.”images

Cowboys telethon raises more than $2 million for Hurricane Harvey victims

The Cowboys and Texans canceled their final preseason game Thursday as the city of Houston continues to deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

While Texans players spent Thursday with their families and tried to help clean up their city, the Cowboys held a telethon to raise money to assist hurricane victims.

Current and former Cowboys players, coaches and other staff manned the phones for 90 minutes Thursday and raised $2 million for the Salvation Army to assist in hurricane relief efforts.

Thursday’s game was originally scheduled to be played at Houston’s NRG Stadium, but was moved to AT&T Stadium in Arlington before the decision was made Wednesday to cancel the game. About 40,000 tickets had been solid for the game, but ticket buyers could choose to either take a refund or have the cost of the tickets donated to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

The Texans’ quarterbacks didn’t get much help from the offensive line, which allowed 10 sacks, six of which came in the first half. Jaguars DE Calais Campbell, playing in his first game with the team after signing in free agency, had 3.5 of those first-half sacks, which set the Jacksonville franchise record for sacks in a game. Campbell finished with four sacks.

The Texans named Savage the starter early in the offseason, and O’Brien stuck by that even after the team traded up in the first round to draft Watson. Savage outplayed Watson during training camp and the preseason, and O’Brien reiterated that Savage was his starting quarterback.

Quarterback wasn’t the only concern for Houston. Linebacker Brian Cushing, tight ends Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz and wide receiver Bruce Ellington all left the game with concussions.

Hue Jackson says rookie QB DeShone Kizer gives Browns ‘hope’

The Browns quietly impressed this weekend in a 21-18 loss against the Steelers.

Most figured the game would be a blowout, but rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer gave the Browns a spark. The former Notre Dame standout completed 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown, while turning the ball over just once.

Hue Jackson said Monday that the future of the franchise may be a little bit brighter with Kizer under center.

While the Browns might still struggle to win games this season, they finally have a promising future on the horizon.

Mack came to Indianapolis with the 143rd overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft, making him the 15th tailback selected. He was prolific in three seasons at South Florida, rushing for more than 1,000 yards each year and scoring 32 touchdowns — including 15 as a junior in 2016.

Unfortunately, he fumbled on the Colts’ next drive, which Jacoby Brissett recovered for a safety in the end zone.

Where does Marlon Mack fit in the Colts’ lineup? Frank Gore’s presence in Indianapolis gives the team a steady veteran presence in the backfield, but Mack is being groomed to be his heir. Gore was the team’s go-to on Sunday, earning seven carries to Mack’s two in the first quarter. Where Mack can add value is as an extra receiver out of the backfield — something the Colts have utilized often the past two seasons.

Gore has 72 receptions for 544 yards over that span, but Mack’s availability could put the rookie on the field for more third down situations. He had 28 receptions in 12 games for the Bulls last fall.

Also, he was drafted by an orangutan, which immediately gives him more promise than anyone drafted by Ryan Grigson.