Joe Burrow injury adds twist to NFC East playoff madness

The slogging NFC East race has tightened even further, with a serious injury suffered Sunday likely to factor greatly into the outcome of the division.

Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, indicated he expects to miss the remainder of the season after he injured his left knee in the third quarter of Cincinnati’s 20-9 loss to the Washington Football Team (3-7).

According to NFL Network, “based on the initial diagnosis,” Burrow has suffered a torn ACL and possibly “additional damage.”

“Thanks for all the love,” Burrow tweeted before the game ended. “Can’t get rid of me that easy. See ya next year.”

The Bengals will face the Giants (3-7) next week and the Cowboys on Dec. 13, so Burrow’s absence likely will factor in a division in which all four teams are separated by a half-game after first-place Philadelphia fell to 3-6-1 with a sloppy 22-17 loss to Cleveland.

Dallas improved to 3-7 after Andy Dalton — in his first start since Oct. 25 — tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Schultz with 1:37 remaining for a 31-28 road win against Minnesota (4-6).

The Bengals (2-7-1) were ahead of Washington at halftime, 9-7, but Burrow was carted off the field after being hit by multiple defenders on a third-down pass attempt deep in Cincinnati territory. The injury was so gruesome CBS didn’t even show a replay, and several Washington players — including No. 2 pick and former Ohio State teammate Chase Young (Burrow transferred to LSU)— came out to console Burrow before he departed.

“Joe was certainly in pain and we’ll wait to get a final update before I make any [statements],” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “It’s not fun. He’s making improvements every week and we were getting the offense headed in a direction that we felt was exciting. … To lose your quarterback is tough, but that’s the way it goes and next man up.”

According to ESPN, Burrow ranks fourth in NFL history for the most passing yards in a player’s first 10 games with 2,688, including his total (203) from Sunday’s game. Backup quarterback Ryan Finley, who made three starts last season, completed just 3 of 10 pass attempts for 30 yards following Burrow’s departure.

Alex Smith threw for 166 yards with a third-quarter touchdown pass to Steven Sims for Washington, which will visit Dallas on Thanksgiving.

“Another step, another thing I never thought I’d be doing again,” Smith said after his first win as a starting quarterback since Nov. 11, 2018, due to multiple leg surgeries. “It’s one thing to come out and get that first playing time and a whole other deal to play winning football as a starter. It’s amazing to get a win.”

Carson Tense

Carson Wentz endured another shaky day with two costly interceptions, but Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said he isn’t considering turning over the offense to rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts after the Eagles’ 22-17 loss to Cleveland.

Pederson said Wentz will start again next week against Seattle, the second of a five-game stretch against teams with winning records.

“With the way the game was going and the elements and we were just really a score from putting ourselves back into this, I did not consider [making a quarterback change],” Pederson said. “No questions about it, he’s our starter.”

Wentz completed 21 of 35 passes for 235 yards, but 57 of those yards and his second touchdown pass of the game came on the final drive with the Eagles down by multiple scores. He now has 14 interceptions through 10 games this season, matching his career-high (over 16 games) during his rookie season in 2016.

“I know that’s part of the deal. It’s always a scrutinized position, playing quarterback. That’s what I signed up for … going back to high school,” Wentz said. “So I can take it, I can wear it. It is what it is.

“Are we playing as good as we can as a team? No. Am I playing my best football? No. … You guys can ask whatever questions you want, but I’m just going to put my head down and go to work.”

Oh, Henry

A game that started with feisty words between the two teams and coaches at the center of the field ended with Tennessee defeating Baltimore again, 30-24 in overtime, in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional playoff game.

Derrick Henry, who ran for 131 yards to surpass 1,000 for the third straight year, ripped off a 29-yard touchdown in OT as the Titans improved to 7-3.

The Ravens (6-4) squandered a 21-10 lead in the third quarter, but Lamar Jackson led them on a field-goal drive to tie the score with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.

“We’re at two losses in a row, games we should have won. It looked like that team wanted it more than us,” Jackson said. “When we went up, I felt like we took our foot off the gas.”

Before the game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh got into a shouting match with Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler and into another heated discussion with Titans coach Mike Vrabel after most of the Tennessee team huddled on the Ravens’ logo at midfield. The two coaches did not appear to shake hands after the game.

“After the game, there wasn’t an issue,” said Harbaugh, whose team will visit undefeated Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving night. “And [what happened] before the game is irrelevant.”

Coughing It Up

Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble in Green Bay territory in overtime set up Indianapolis kicker Rodrigo Blankenship for a 39-yard field goal to lift the Colts to a wild 34-31 win over the Packers.

Aaron Rodgers (311 passing yards) had led Green Bay (7-3) on an 86-yard, 10-play drive in 82 seconds for a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation.

Philip Rivers finished with 288 passing yards and three touchdowns for the Colts (7-3), who trailed 28-14 at halftime before outscoring the Pack, 20-3, in the second half and overtime.

King of the Hill

The Saints went 5-0 during Drew Brees’s injury absence last season, and they are off to a strong start with the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader sidelined again with fractured ribs.

Taysom Hill threw for 233 yards and ran for two touchdowns in his first NFL start, while the Saints defense dominated the Falcons in the second half in a 24-9 victory in New Orleans.

Michael Thomas added nine receptions for 104 yards for the Saints (8-2), and Alvin Kamara (50th career touchdown) became the first player in NFL history with at least 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in each of first four NFL seasons.

The Hurt Locker

In addition to Burrow, another rookie quarterback, Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa was replaced in the fourth quarter by Ryan Fitzpatrick after appearing to suffer a foot or ankle injury.

New England running Rex Burkhead also reportedly suffered a torn ACL against Houston and Titans linebacker Jaylon Brown suffered a season-ending elbow fracture against Baltimore.

Other injuries: Falcons receiver Julio Jones (hamstring), Texans receivers Randall Cobb (foot) and Kenny Stills (leg), Steelers tight end Zach Gentry (knee) and cornerback Joe Haden (knee), Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen (knee) and safety Daniel Thomas (arm), Lions cornerback Phil Ford (concussion), Saints guard Andrus Peat (concussion), Panthers guard Dennis Daley (concussion), Eagles center Jason Kelce (elbow) and tackle Lane Johnson (shoulder).

Post Patterns

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s two scoring passes included rookie receiver Chase Claypool’s 10th TD in 10 games, as Pittsburgh completed the first 10-0 start in franchise history with a 27-3 win over Jacksonville (1-9). … Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (344 passing yards) accounted for three touchdowns (one rushing) in Houston’s 27-20 win over New England (4-6). … Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker was 24-for-34 for 258 yards in his first NFL start in place of Teddy Bridgewater (knee) with a TD toss to Mike Davis as Carolina (4-7) posted a 20-0 shutout over Detroit (4-6). … Broncos running back Melvin Gordon ran for 84 yards and two scores as Denver (4-6) ended Miami’s five-game winning streak, 20-13. Tagovailoa was held to 83 passing yards, and Fitzpatrick was picked off by Broncos safety Justin Simmons in the end zone with 1:07 remaining for Miami (6-4). … Ravens receiver and former Cowboys star Dez Bryant had his first NFL receptions (four for 28 yards) since December 2017. … Bengals receiver A.J. Green, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, caught his first TD pass since October 2018 before Burrow was injured.

Three Stars

1. Derrick Henry, Titans RB

The AFC rushing leader ran for 133 yards, including a 29-yard TD in overtime, in Tennessee’s 30-24 win over Baltimore.

2. Deshaun Watson, Texans QB

Watson completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns in Houston’s 27-20 win over New England.

3. Olivier Vernon, Browns DE

The former Giant recorded three sacks — including one for a safety — in Cleveland’s 22-17 win over Philadelphia.

Fantasy Insanity Fifth Down

  • There are cold, heartless fantasy ramifications to rookie Bengals QB Joe Burrow’s injury. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins take a pretty big hit. Boyd will become a Flex option rather than a solid WR2, and Tee Higgins becomes more of a filler than a strong Flex play.
  • Matt Ryan had a miserable game — his fourth of the season without at least one TD and sixth with one or fewer. Carson Wentz arguably played as badly, even if his fantasy results weren’t as awful. We wonder if the Eagles will consider, at some point, pivoting to Jalen Hurts. Really, as bad as Wentz has been, what could it hurt?
  • Taysom Hill wasn’t a disaster in his first start at QB. Realize, though, he was facing the softest D vs. opposing fantasy QBs, Atlanta wasn’t certain which QB it would face, and Hill’s fantasy output leaned heavily on two rushing TDs. It will get harder for him against prepared defenses. It also will be interesting to see if he maintains TE eligibility at ESPN and FanDuel.

He Said What?

“We are where we are because of the mistakes we’re making, coaches and players. This is a test to see who’s in and who’s out. That’s where we are. It’s a matter of challenging the leadership of the football team, challenging the guys to keep things together. We still have an opportunity in our division.”

— Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson after the NFC East-leading Eagles fell to 3-6-1 with a 22-17 loss to Cleveland.

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