Rodgers-Brady a spicy prime-time matchup in NFL’s Week 9
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
Friday, November 2
NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady. Green Bay vs. New England. Talk about one spicy prime-time matchup.
Sure, the Packers are hovering around the .500 mark and the Patriots don’t appear as invincible as they sometimes — well, often — are. But the matchup between these two quarterbacks features lots of wins, even more touchdown tosses — and plenty of mutual admiration.
“I love watching him play,” Brady said of Rodgers. “To see him up close is great. I watch him play whenever he’s out there. I study a lot of the Packers’ offense, I study Aaron as a player and he just does an incredible job.”
The two will meet for just the second time in their careers, when the Packers (3-3-1) and Patriots (6-2) square off Sunday night.
Rodgers and the Packers won the only other showdown, 26-21 at Green Bay, in 2014.
“I loved going to Lambeau Field and playing him four years ago,” Brady said. “It’ll be great to play him at home this time. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The weekend began Thursday night with the San Francisco 49ers’ 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders in a lopsided Battle of the Bay. Nick Mullens threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns for the most productive NFL debut since the merger for the 49ers (2-7). The Raiders are 1-7.
Off are: Indianapolis (3-5), Arizona (2-6), New York Giants (1-7), Jacksonville (3-5), Philadelphia (4-4), Cincinnati (5-3).
Football fans will have to wait until Sunday night for the Packers and Patriots to kick off, but they could be treated to plenty of passing.
Rodgers (24 of 38 for 368 yards, two touchdowns) and Brady (22 of 35 for 245 yards, two TDs) combined for 613 yards passing the last time they faced each other. Rodgers (103.6) and Brady (97.6) also rank first and third, respectively, in NFL history in career passer rating.
“I enjoy competing against great players,” Rodgers said, “and obviously Tom is right at the top.”
LOS ANGELES RAMS (8-0) at NEW ORLEANS (6-1)
The Rams put their undefeated mark — the only team in the NFL yet to lose — on the line in a game that features the squads with the NFC’s best records.
Los Angeles boasts the No. 2 overall offense with the top-ranked running game in the league, led by the versatile and electric Todd Gurley. But the Saints have the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, so something’s got to give, right?
One thing the Rams have working in their favor: quarterback Jared Goff has won his past seven starts on the road with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in that span.
Meanwhile, Drew Brees has been sensational at home lately, with 1,045 yards passing with eight TDs and no INTs in his last three games at the Superdome.
PITTSBURGH (4-2-1) at BALTIMORE (4-4)
Joe Flacco and the Ravens won the first meeting this season, 26-14 on Sept. 30, and Baltimore will try to complete its first series sweep since 2015.
That game, by the way, was the last Ben Roethlisberger and the surging Steelers have lost.
Big Ben & Co. are looking for their fourth straight victory, and that’s despite all the drama — will he show up or not? — surrounding the still absent Le’Veon Bell. James Conner has done just fine in his place, though, rushing for 599 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
It might be tougher sledding this week, though, as the Steelers face a Ravens defense that ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL and is allowing a league-low 17.1 points and 293.8 yards per game.
KANSAS CITY (7-1) at CLEVELAND (2-5-1)
Just what the struggling Browns need: a matchup against the team that has the best record in the AFC as well as the NFL’s most potent offense.
The Chiefs average a league-high 36.3 points per game and Patrick Mahomes has been putting up eye-popping numbers. He has a league-leading 26 TD passes, just four shy of the franchise record set by Len Dawson in 1964, and has thrown for 300 yards or more in a Chiefs-record seven straight games. Mahomes also leads the NFL in yards passing (2,526) and TD-to-INT rate (plus-20).
The Browns are coming off another turbulent week following the firings of coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will make his debut as the Browns’ interim coach against Kansas City’s Andy Reid, who is 6-0 in his career against Cleveland.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-2) at SEATTLE (4-3)
Philip Rivers and the Chargers are well-rested after their bye-week break, looking to keep things going after a solid start to the season.
Rivers will start in his 200th straight game, becoming just the 10th player since the merger in 1970 with such a streak. And, he has shown little signs of slowing. Rivers is tied for third in the NFL with 17 touchdown passes.
He’ll face a Seahawks team that has won four of five and begins a stretch of six of nine games at home to close the regular season. Russell Wilson has 11 TD throws and no interceptions in his last five home games, and will look to build off last week’s performance when he became the first player in franchise history to post a perfect quarterback rating.
HOUSTON (5-3) at DENVER (3-5)
Hey, that guy looks familiar, huh?
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will make his debut with the Broncos on Sunday against the team with which he spent his first eight-plus NFL seasons before being traded to the Texans on Tuesday. He’ll be counted on by Houston right away to replace the injured Will Fuller and keep the DeShaun Watson-led offense humming.
The Broncos will also try to change the Texans’ fortunes. Houston is the fifth team since the 1970 merger to win five consecutive games following an 0-3 start.
TAMPA BAY (3-4) at CAROLINA (5-2)
Fitzmagic is back. Again.
Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback for the Buccaneers — who rank No. 1 in the NFL in total offense — in place of the benched Jameis Winston. He’ll look to recapture some of the success he had during his four-game stint as the starter at the beginning of the season. The 35-year-old Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 yards in each of the first three games, and had 11 touchdowns in that span with four interceptions before giving way to Winston.
While the Buccaneers have instability at the quarterback spot, Cam Newton is firmly entrenched as the guy in Carolina and has the Panthers looking for their 10th straight home win with him under center. Newton has 17 combined touchdowns and just four interceptions this season.
NEW YORK JETS (3-5) at MIAMI (4-4)
Sam Darnold faces the Dolphins for the second time, looking for a much better outing than the one he had in Week 2 when New York lost 20-12. The rookie threw for 334 yards — still a personal best — but also had two interceptions.
This also begins a three-game stretch in which New York takes on AFC East opponents.
The Jets will see a different face running the offense on the other side, with Brock Osweiler getting the start for the Dolphins in place of the injured Ryan Tannehill. Osweiler has played well with six touchdown throws and three interceptions in his three starts, during which Miami is 1-2.
ATLANTA (3-4) at WASHINGTON (5-2)
The ageless Adrian Peterson and the Redskins will try to go two games up on Philadelphia in the NFC East. They’ll have to get past the Falcons first, though, and Atlanta has won each of the last five meetings.
Peterson, by the way, rushed for 149 yards and a TD last week against the Giants. He has some past success when facing Atlanta, with 442 yards from scrimmage and three TDs in three games against the Falcons.
Despite the Falcons’ mediocre record, Matt Ryan is off to a solid start and leads the NFL with 333.6 yards passing a game. Julio Jones, his favorite target, needs 134 yards receiving in his 102nd game to become the fastest to 10,000 in a career.
DETROIT (3-4) at MINNESOTA (4-3-1)
Adam Thielen comes into this one with his sights set on the end zone — as usual.
The Vikings wide receiver is tied with former Lions star Calvin Johnson (2012) with eight straight games of 100 or more yards receiving, the longest streak in NFL history.
To get the record, he’ll have to do it against Matt Patricia’s fourth-ranked passing defense.
Speaking of Patricia, this is his first NFC North road test. The Lions have mostly fared well against division opponents overall, going 21-10 since the start of the 2013 season — the best of the NFC North teams.
CHICAGO (4-3) at BUFFALO (2-6)
The Bears stopped a two-game skid last week by manhandling the Jets. Even more impressive was the way Mitchell Trubisky rebounded from a so-so first half in that game.
The second-year QB failed to throw for 300 or more yards after three straight while finishing with 222, but he had two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He has 13 TDs in his last four games, the most in that type of span for Chicago since Sid Luckman in 1947.
The Bills are turning back to turnover-prone Nathan Peterman, who’s starting with rookie Josh Allen ruled out with a sprained elbow and Derek Anderson dealing with a concussion. Peterman, who lost his starting gig midway through the season opener, has thrown 10 interceptions in just 84 career attempts.
TENNESSEE (3-4) at DALLAS (3-4)
Amari Cooper makes his Cowboys debut after being acquired from Oakland on Tuesday, giving Dak Prescott a new No. 1 wide receiver.
He comes just in time to boost a passing game that ranks a lowly 29th in the NFL. Dallas made another change during its bye-week break by firing offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoting former Cowboys lineman Marc Colombo.
Maybe the shake-ups will help energize the Cowboys, who are looking to improve to 4-0 at home.
The Titans are looking to change their luck a bit, too. They have lost three in a row, but two of those defeats were by one point each.
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DJ Durkin’s firing won’t solve college football’s deepest problems
November 2, 2018
Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, University of Connecticut
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Ursinus College
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Connecticut provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Maryland college football coach DJ Durkin was ultimately fired after the death of a player during practice – and findings that his players were bullied and abused by coaches and staff over the course his three-year tenure. However, his 11th hour ouster on Oct. 31 is evidence of how much the culture of college football still needs to change.
This culture encourages players to ignore signs of physical or mental exhaustion and is present across the college football landscape, not just at Maryland.
Durkin may be gone, but only because the public – including current players, students and alumni at the University of Maryland – wanted him gone. It wasn’t because the people in charge of Maryland’s university system suddenly realized how wrong it was for Durkin to run a program in which complaining of pain was seen as unmanly.
The board of regents at the University System of Maryland actually wanted to keep Durkin. The board even reportedly pressured University of Maryland President Wallace Loh to keep Durkin or risk losing his own job.
Loh initially responded by announcing his own resignation. But after hearing the public outcry after the board moved to reinstate Durkin – Loh fired Durkin instead.
In a statement, Loh noted how “the overwhelming majority of stakeholders expressed serious concerns about Coach DJ Durkin returning to the campus.”
“This is a difficult decision, but it is the right one for our entire University,” Loh stated. He also vowed to devote the remaining months of his presidency to “advancing the needed reforms in our Athletic Department that prioritize the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”
A student-led protest was reportedly being planned before the firing took place.
In our view as researchers who focus on the intersection of race and college sports, none of these events will rid big-time college sports of its deepest problems. Those problems include the placing of winning games and generating revenue ahead of the best interests of the student-athletes.
In recent years, legal activists like former athletes Ed O’Bannon, Cain Colter and Martin Jenkins have sought to change this state of affairs.
Risking their lives
It would be naive not to view big-time college sports through the lens of race. A recent report that shows black males make up only 2.4 percent of the general student body at Power 5 Bowl Championship Series schools, but 55 percent and 56 percent, respectively, of football and men’s basketball teams.
Further, black male college athletes graduate at the lowest rates among all college athletes and in the NCAA and Division I Power 5 member institutions, which generate billions of dollars primarily off the broadcasting and sponsorship rights for football and men’s basketball.
These trends underscore how black males are primarily valued at these institutions as athletic gladiators, but not as students deserving of quality educational opportunities and support for their overall well-being.
Failed to render medical aid
Had Durkin been allowed to continue to coach despite the toxic culture uncovered at Maryland following the May 2018 death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair, many would have considered it a gross miscarriage of justice.
McNair died of heatstroke during practice earlier this year. A cold-water immersion would have likely saved his life but team staff and coaches failed to promptly seek medical assistance.
While player deaths during practice may be rare, indifference toward black athletes, especially their physical and mental health, is widespread in college sports.
The prevalence of college athletes’ unmet mental and physical health needs is well-documented. The NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, through its own research, has acknowledged that college athletes’ health issues remain a major problem.
Disparities in discipline?
Yet, as the story of Durkin demonstrates, both the NCAA – and the University of Maryland as one of its member institutions – have failed to create and enforce policies that hold coaches responsible for creating conditions that are injurious to college athletes’ overall well-being.
The system seems more bent on policing and punishing black student-athletes than it does on holding accountable those who are responsible for their care.
For instance, several players on the University of North Carolina football team were suspended for four games for selling their team-issued shoes in violation of NCAA rules. Another black player, a University of Central Florida kicker, was ruled ineligible after receiving money through a YouTube channel he created.
These student-athletes who engaged in victimless acts and tried to make a few dollars in a system that makes billions of dollars from their labor are made to sit out games or get kicked off the team entirely. Yet, as demonstrated by the initial decision to keep Durkin, neglecting the health needs of a player in medical distress is excusable.
Balancing academics and sports
Being a college athlete is inherently tough work. One of us is conducting research into black Division I football and men’s basketball players. Thus far, the research shows 64 percent of respondents find it difficult or very difficult to balance their student and athlete identities while they’re in season, compared to only 34 percent when out of season.
These numbers illustrate the imbalance in what college athletes are expected to do versus how much time they have for school. If it’s already difficult for players to manage the demands of college and the obligations to their team, how much more difficult was it for Maryland football players, who faced a football culture that normalized physical and mental abuse under Durkin. It was noted in a report that before McNair passed away, one of the staff called him a vulgar name for a female private part.
College football players are not allowed to form a union. In our view, this curtails their ability to seek recourse if their rights are being violated.
Before Durkin was fired, blame initially fell on strength and conditioning coach Rick Court, who resigned after McNair’s death. Court was, in some ways, cast as a bad apple and the tragedy allowed to be seen as an isolated case of inattentiveness to one player’s medical needs by a few replaceable athletic staff.
The wrong kind of firing
It’s important to note that in being “fired,” Durkin is still reportedly being bought out for the remainder of his five-year contract, valued at more than $5 million.
If the University of Maryland had taken the more difficult route of firing Durkin for just cause and taking away his payout, that would have sent a powerful message that players’ lives matter.
Gavin Moodie, Adjunct professor, RMIT University: Thanx for this analysis.
I understand that around 2% of college footballers are employed as professional footballers after they finish playing for their college. I also understand that students on athletic scholarships have modest graduation rates. I therefore wonder what long term benefit college athletes gain from their time in college.
Perhaps colleges should be expected to invest greater effort in improving their athletes’ academics. I wonder whether it is feasible to restructure athletes’ academic program to take account of their athletic load during season.