The marquee game on U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday is still a go, at least for now, but one of the teams is definitely going to be playing shorthanded.
One day after running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins tested positive for COVID-19 and lineman Brandon Williams joined them on the reserve list as a close contact, the Baltimore Ravens had two more players (including outside linebacker Pernell McPhee) and four staffers reportedly contract the virus.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter was told by a source that further positive tests could force a postponement of Thursday night’s game against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers.
That would leave audiences stuck with two real turkeys: The Houston Texans (3-7) at Detroit Lions (4-6) at 12:30 p.m. and the Washington Football Team (3-7) at the Dallas Cowboys (3-7).
Even if the Ravens don’t lose any more players, the recent rash of positive tests forced them to cancel practice Tuesday, affecting a valuable preparation day for a game 48 hours away.
So it appears the path to a perfect season for the Steelers won’t have as formidable an object on it as was originally expected.
RAM TOUGH, AGAIN
It’s starting to look like last season was just a hiccup for the Los Angeles Rams.
Once again they are a force to be reckoned with in the NFC.
“We can be as good as we want to be, honestly,” quarterback Jared Goff said after Monday night’s 27-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improved the Rams to 7-3 and kept them deadlocked with the Seattle Seahawks atop the conference’s West division. “We’ve got it all in front of us. Everything is there for us to take.”
The numbers back Goff’s claim.
The only NFC team with a better record than the Rams is the New Orleans Saints, who have won seven in a row and sit 8-2, one more win and a game in hand on the division-rival Buccaneers.
Like the Rams and Seahawks, the Green Bay Packers are also 7-3.
The Rams defence is the team’s strength. It ranks first in the NFL in average yard allowed per game, second in passing yards allowed, fifth in rushing yards allowed and second in points allowed (19.2).
The offence is fifth in average yards per game, ninth in passing yards, ninth in rushing yards (124.5) and 17th in points per game.
But in an airshow Monday might, it outperformed the vaunted Tampa attack.
Goff threw for a season high 376 yards while completing 39-of-51 passes, 12 to Robert Woods and 11 to Cooper Krupp, while also connecting on three touchdown tosses.
Both he and Tom Brady turned the ball over twice on interceptions, but Brady only threw two touchdown passes and for 216 yards, while connecting on 26-of-48.
The Rams have now won 40 of 58 games since Sean McVay as coach in 2017. The first year they collected all sorts of hardware — McVay was named coach of the year, Aaron Donald the defensive player of the year and Todd Gurley the offensive player of the year — but after an 11-5 regular season they were knocked off 26-13 by the Atlanta Falcons in a the Wild Card game.
In 2018 they went 13-3 with only one individual award (Donald was again the best defensive player in the league) and went to the Super Bowl, where they lost 13-3 to Brady and the New England Patriots.
Last year they were 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
But with Goff outplaying Brady in their first meeting since that Super Bowl battle, it appears the Rams are back to being a legitimate contender.
BUCKING THE TREND
Brady is building a reputation as a sore loser after failing to shake Goff’s hand following Monday’s game, much the same way as he avoided Nick Foles after the Bucs were defeated by the Chicago Bears earlier this season. He did congratulate Drew Brees following the two losses to the Saints, but that could be just one Hall of Famer paying his respects to another … Brady has thrown nine interceptions in 11 games, which means that aside from the 11 he threw in 2018, he’s now been picked off as many times as he has been in a season since 2013. “Other than the deep ball, I think he’s getting confused a few time with coverage that might be causing some inaccurate balls,” said head coach Bruce Arians. “We’re not missing the deep ball at all in practice, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter on Sundays of hitting them.” … Tampa has lost two of its past three games heading into next Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In other words, the Bucs are headed in the wrong direction with a third of the season left. The pressure is mounting for a team that’s built to win now. “I think it’s just a matter of preaching every week that every game is a must-win at this point in time,” Arians said Tuesday. “We put ourselves in a really good position to make the playoffs, and each and every week now, they just get ramped up more and more.”
HALL OF A LIST
Among the 25 semifinalists, from an original list of 130 nominees, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 are four first-year eligible players: DE Jared Allen, WR Calvin Johnson, QB Peyton Manning and CB/S Charles Woodson. The rest of the list includes: CB Eric Allen, T Willie Anderson, CB/S Ronde Barber, LB Cornelius Bennett, T Tony Boselli, S LeRoy Butler, G Alan Faneca, S Rodney Harrison, WR Torry Holt, FS John Lynch, LB Clay Matthews, LB Sam Mills, DE/DT Richard Seymour, ST/WR Steve Tasker, RB Fred Taylor, LB Zach Thomas, WR Hines Ward, WR Reggie Wayne, LB Patrick Willis, S Darren Woodsen and DT Bryant Young. The Class of 2021 will be announced during Super Bowl week in Tampa …
IN OTHER NEWS
The Dallas Cowboys cancelled practice Tuesday after strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul experienced a “non-COVID related emergency” at the team facility around 7:30 a.m. The 54-year old Paul was rushed to hospital for further tests. A former Syracuse Orangemen who played 70 games for the Bears and one for the Bucs between 1989-93, Paul joined the Cowboys organization in 2018 … According to official data released Tuesday by Nielsen, Sunday night’s Chiefs-Raiders game had a Total Audience Delivery of 20.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched primetime show since the NFL Kickoff Game on Sept. 10
The Browns placed DE Joe Jackson on reserve/COVID-19 list, while DE Myles Garrett will also miss his second consecutive game when Cleveland faces the Jaguars on Sunday … Cowboys LB Luke Gifford has been suspended two games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs
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