Four NFL teams for sure are starting a different quarterback this week. Maybe five.
The New York Jets have benched under-performing, self-unaware second-year passer Zach Wilson, and are starting Mike White against the Chicago Bears.
The other performance-related benching is on the Houston Texans, who have seen enough of efficient but big-play-incapable Davis Mills, and are starting fifth-year journeyman Kyle Allen at Miami. It’ll be Allen’s first action of the year, and first start since 2020 in Washington.
The Los Angeles Rams won’t have Matthew Stafford at Kansas City. He’s in the concussion protocol after experiencing leg numbness upon taking a hard hit last week. It’s the second time this month Stafford is in the protocol. Either top backup John Wolford (who has a neck issue) or third-stringer Kyle Perkins will start.
Carolina benched Baker Mayfield and is starting Sam Darnold vs. Denver. It’ll be Darnold’s first action this season, after suffering an ankle injury in August. Mayfield ain’t hurt; it’s just “something I wanted to do,” interim head coach Steve Wilks said.
Chicago QB Justin Fields (left, non-throwing shoulder injury) is questionable to play at the Jets. Trevor Siemian would start if Fields cannot. Elevated Nathan Peterman would back him up.
RHULE LANDS IN NEBRASKA
The University of Nebraska announced Saturday morning it has hired recently fired Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule to take over its sagging football program.
Reports said Rhule signed an eight-year contract.
Prior to his NFL stint with the Panthers, which lasted less than 2½ seasons, Rhule went 28-23 at traditional US college doormat Temple from 2013-16, then in three years raised Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 in 2019 .
Twice, then, Rhule has turned around a college program. Nebraska has not had a winning season since 2016.
Rhule went 11-27 (.289) in Carolina before being fired Oct. 10.
Arizona activated WR Marquise (Hollywood) Brown off injured reserve, signed WR Andre Baccellia off its practice squad to the main roster, and elevated two other pass catchers for single-game purposes (WR Pharoh Cooper and TE Maxx Williams).
All this, after placing TE Zach Ertz and OL DJ Humphries on IR.
CHASE WON’T PLAY
Cincinnati ruled out WR Ja’Marr Chase for Sunday’s game at Tennessee. He’s not quite recovered from a reported hairline hip fracture and torn labrum. Reports say the Bengals hope he can play next week against Kansas City.
FOURNETTE RULED OUT
Tampa Bay won’t have starting running back Leonard Fournette for Sunday’s game at Cleveland. The Bucs ruled him out. He’s leg battling a hip injury.
But the Buccaneers activated RB Gio Bernard off IR.
Among players elevated from a practice squad: San Francisco DL TY McGill; Green Bay S Innis Gaines and RB Patrick Taylor; and Cincinnati P Drue Chrisman and WR Kwamie Lassiter II.
FIVE BIG QUESTIONS
- Are the Jets better off without Zach Wilson? Frankly it is surprising they’ve turned to Mike White when now third-stringer Joe Flacco averaged 300.3 yards in New York’s first three games. Maybe if Flacco were a past Super Bowl MVP they’d start him. Oh, wait.
- Who will win Bengals-Titans playoff rematch? Cincinnati’s AFC playoff win in January still stings in Tennessee. But Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is coming off his best game in a year and Derrick Henry is as daunting as ever.
- Are the Buccaneers ready for a run? They’re coming off their bye week at Cleveland, an under-achieving team irrespective of not having had Deshaun Watson yet.
- How badly will Miami beat Houston? Arguably the hottest team against the worst team, and in Miami.
- Do the Packers have a chance at Philly? The Green Bay offense has fired mostly blanks since September. And don’t forget, if Aaron Rodgers gets taken out for any reason, we’ll all be humming that old Nazareth ballad — Love Hurts. Because it’d be Jordan Love vs. Jalen Hurts.
THE BIG NUMBER
Combined point differential of AFC East (+171) and NFC East (+156) teams. Each of the six other divisions have a cumulative negative point differential. And those divisions’ 24 teams collectively, necessarily of course, have a -327 point differential.
The Detroit Lions have two wins at Ford Field this season, after three in all of last season, one in 2020, two in 2019, one in 2018. Meantime the Buffalo Bills have two wins at Ford Field this week.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It was dogsh–.”
— Robert SalehJets head coach, on his offense’s second-half performance in last Sunday’s 10-3 loss at New England.
If you stayed home to catch those three exciting games on US Thanksgiving, well, you didn’t regret it.
Speaking of giving thanks, I must extend a big thank-you to loyal reader John P, who emailed me to say I have been shortchanging myself for weeks — miscalculating my cumulative record. I checked and, sure enough, I gave myself an extra loss following Week 5 and had been carrying it over ever since.
So, in fixing that mistake, and in coming off my best week of the season to date in selecting NFL winners, straight up, not against the spread — 11-3 (.786) — my correct season record now stands at 95-68 -1 (.582).
And I’m already 3-0 to start Week 12:
Buffalo at Detroit, Thursday
KRYK PICK: Buffalo
Bills finish a five-day stretch 2-0 at Detroit’s Ford Field.
NY Giants at Dallas, Thursday
KRYK PICK: Dallas
Cowboys’ two-win, five-day point differential: +45 (68 to 23).
New England at Minnesota, Thursday
KRYK PICK: Minnesota
Four days after getting destroyed by Dallas, Vikes edge Pats.
Denver at Carolina, Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
KRYK PICK: Denver
Sam Darnold’s first start of the season, after suffering a nasty ankle injury in August. Which means he hasn’t experienced a live pass rush in a long time. Here comes Denver’s.
Tampa Bay at Cleveland, Sunday, 1 pm EST
(TSN 2; CTV Montreal, BC, Alberta; CTV2 Atlantic; via FOX)
KRYK PICK: Tampa Bay
Jacoby Brissett’s last start at QB for the Browns, before Deshaun Watson’s return next week. Have Tom Brady and the Bucs fixed their offensive woes? Enough probably to win here.
Baltimore at Jacksonville, Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
(CTV2 BC, Alberta; via CBS)
KRYK PICK: Baltimore
Coming off bye, the Jags might have a little advantage. But the Ravens defense — kind of quietly — has substantially improved in ’22. Expect Trevor Lawrence to be swarmed.
Houston at Miami, Sunday, 1 pm EST
KRYK PICK: Miami
The NFL’s Worst Team vs. arguably its hottest. In a hot setting. And in a week when Lovie Smith flipped the switch at QB, from Davis Mills to Kyle Allen. Dolphins all the way.
Chicago at NY Jets, Sunday, 1 p.m. EST
(CTV2 Toronto, Ottawa, London/Windsor; via FOX)
KRYK PICK: New York
With Bears QB Justin Fields battling a left-shoulder injury that amounts to an AC joint sprain, it doesn’t figure that vs. a rugged Jets defense he can be as dynamic as in recent weeks.
Cincinnati at Tennessee, Sunday, 1 pm EST
(CTV east of Alberta; RDS2; via CBS)
KRYK PICK: Tennessee
Ravens, Saints and Browns chewed up a spotty Bengals rush defense. Now comes Derrick Henry. Also, last week Ryan Tannehill passed for 300-plus for the first time in 12 months.
Atlanta at Washington, Sunday, 1 pm EST
KRYK PICK: Washington
Why not pick newly anointed No. 1 Taylor Heinicke and the 6-5 Commanders, winners of 5-of-6, against a Falcons team that is always life-and-death to stay in it, even against bad teams?
LA Chargers at Arizona, Sunday, 4:05 pm EST
KRYK PICK: Los Angeles
Kyler Murray’s hamstring has healed enough to allow him to play for the first time in three weeks. But how well? This year’s clubhouse leader for Team Turmoil likely can’t keep up.
Las Vegas at Seattle, Sunday, 4:05 pm EST
(TSN2; CTV BC, Alberta; CTV2 Atlantic; via CBS)
KRYK PICK: Seahawks
The Raiders are 0-7 against teams not named the Denver Broncos or Houston Texans. And of those seven victors, only the Chiefs and Titans have a winning record. Raiders are bad.
LA Rams at Kansas City, Sunday, 4:25 pm EST
(CTV Saskatchewan to Quebec; CTV2 Atlantic; via FOX)
KRYK PICK: Chiefs
For the second straight Sunday, the Chiefs play a Los Angeles team in a stadium with fans mostly donned in red and yellow. This one will be even louder, against the overmatched Rams.
New Orleans at San Francisco, Sunday, 4:25 pm EST
KRYK PICK: 49ers
Niners have won three straight, and are looking as crisp and as formidable this month as any team in the NFC — Philly and Dallas included. Saints have lost their last three on the road.
Green Bay at Philadelphia, Sunday, Sunday, 8:20 pm EST
(TSN; CTV2; via NBC)
KRYK PICK: Philadelphia
Eagles were fortunate to complete the comeback and win at Indy, 17-16. But the Packers are 1-4 on the road, and have laid offensive eggs in every game but one since September.
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis, Monday, 8:15 pm EST
(TSN; RDS2; via ESPN)
KRYK PICK: Indianapolis
A tough one to predict. Steelers offense is finding something of a stride with Najee Harris able to run it, finally, and rookie QB Kenny Pickett improving. Home-team-in-prime-time pick.
BYES THIS WEEK: None. They wrap up in Weeks 13-14.
SEASON RECORD: 95-68-1 (.582), through Week 11.
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