Wed Oct 5 1:42am ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) waves to fans as he leaves the field after a 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Games are going down to the wire in the NFL at an unprecedented rate.
With a record 15 of 16 games last week within one score in the fourth quarter, the league is having the most competitive start to a season in its history.
Of the 64 games, 50 of them have been within one score in the fourth quarter for the most ever through four weeks.
There have been a record 23 games decided by three points or fewer and 38 decided by eight points or fewer, tied with the 2018 season for the most through four weeks.
Sixteen games have been decided by a score in the final 2 minutes of regulation or in overtime, one shy of the record through four weeks set in 2012.
The average point differential of 8.6 per game is the second lowest since the merger through weeks, trailing only 8.2 ppg differential in 1983
The close calls have led to tight standings throughout the league with this being the first time since 1990 that every team enters Week 5 with at least one win or one tie.
There are 15 teams that are 2-2 so far this season, tying 2017 season for the most teams splitting their first four games. All four teams in the NFC West are 2-2. The only other time in the 21 seasons of the eight-division era that an entire division started 2-2 came in 2019 in the AFC South.
GROUND IT OUT
Seven teams gained more yards on the ground than through the air led by the 262 yards rushing by the New York Giants in a rare 4,000-yard rushing week in the NFL.
The teams combined for 4,052 yards on the ground for the fifth most prolific rushing week in the past 10 seasons and sixth time in that span that the league topped 4,000 in a week.
The combined 233.4 yards rushing per game are the second most through four weeks of a season since 2000, just 6 yards behind the 2020 season.
The ground game hasn't been prolific through the league. Tampa Bay had just six rush attempts for 3 yards in a loss to Kansas City. That marked the fifth time in NFL history a team had six or fewer rushes in a game with Brady the QB in three of those games.
It also happened in 2004 in a New England loss at Pittsburgh and in 2020 in a Tampa Bay loss to New Orleans.
LIGHT UP THE SCOREBOARD
No team has ever had quite a start to the season like the Detroit Lions who are lighting up scoreboards when they are on offense and defense.
The Lions are the 30th team in the Super Bowl era to average at least 35 points per game through the first four games of a season and the 18th to allow at least 35 points per game. But they are the first to do both in the same season.
The previous 29 teams to score at least 140 points in their first four games had a combined record of 109-7 (.940), with only the 2002 Chiefs failing to have a winning record before the Lions did it this year while losing three of four games.
The 281 combined points in Detroit's games are the most for a team through four games.
Jared Goff is tied for the league lead with 11 TD passes and Jamaal Williams leads the NFL with six TD runs. The Lions are the sixth team in the Super Bowl era to have the league leader in passing and rushing TDs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The 2022 season will finally get a rookie starting quarterback.
Kenny Pickett will get the nod for Pittsburgh on Sunday at Buffalo, marking the latest in the season since 2000 for the first start by a rookie QB.
That year, Doug Johnson and Spergon Wynn both made their first starts in Week 14.
Rookie Bailey Zappe could also get his first start for New England if Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer are still hurt. Zappe came off the bench to throw a 25-yard TD pass last week, marking the first time since 2007 that it took until Week 4 for a rookie to throw a TD pass. Trent Edwards had the first that year in Week 4 for Buffalo.
Pickett did run for two scores on Sunday after replacing Mitchell Trubisky, becoming the 22nd player and first QB to run for at least two TDs in his NFL debut.
The Green Bay Packers (3-1) will be the final team to play an international game when they take on the New York Giants (3-1) in London this week in the NFL's 35th international game.
This will be just the second of those games to feature two teams with winning records heading into the game, with Houston (6-3) and Oakland (7-2) doing it in 2016 in Mexico City.
The Giants are 2-0 abroad and can join New England (3-0) and Minnesota (3-0) as the only teams to play at least three international games and win them all.
Denver Broncos defensive back K'Waun Williams (knee) has been downgraded to out for the Week 13 contest against the Baltimore Ravens, according to a source. Williams was listed as questionable on Friday but now won't travel with the team to Baltimore. The 31-year-old is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss his third straight game. The good news is he was able to return to limited practices this week, so Williams should have a shot to return in Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver's D has been good at limiting opponents total yards and points per game, but they don't have much fantasy upside, especially in a tough matchup against Ravens dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson this Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (illness) wasn't given an injury designation on Friday and will play in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Goodwin was added to the injury report on Thursday, but he'll be good to go this weekend. The 32-year-old pass-catcher had a two-touchdown game in Week 7 and also scored a touchdown in Week 10 in the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but outside of those games he's done very little for fantasy managers. He caught all three of his targets for 48 yards in Week 12 and has 19 receptions for 265 yards and three TDs on 25 targets in nine games for Seattle in 2022. With both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett healthy, Goodwin has no business being in starting fantasy lineups in Week 13.
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (illness) was added to the injury report on Saturday and is now questionable to play in Week 13 against the Washington Commanders. The Giants could be short-handed at receiver on Sunday, as Darius Slayton (illness) and Richie James (knee) are also up in the air to play. The 29-year-old Golladay is nowhere near fantasy relevance this year, catching only four of 10 targets for 51 yards in seven games. Depending on which receivers can actually play for the Giants this weekend, Isaiah Hodgins, Marcus Johnson and David Sills could see expanded roles in the passing attack against the Commanders.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that quarterback John Wolford will start in Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, but rookie Bryce Perkins will also be available for the Rams, and there's "a chance" he could also play. Matthew Stafford (concussion, neck) will miss another game and may not return to play in 2022 with the Rams well out of playoff contention, so the Wolford-Perkins show could continue beyond this weekend. The 25-year-old Perkins has much more scrambling ability than Wolford, which probably makes him slightly more attractive as a desperation low-end QB2 in superflex leagues if he makes another start to close out the season. In his first career start last week, Perkins went 13-for-23 for 100 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while also carrying the ball nine times for 44 yards.
With New York Jets running back Michael Carter (ankle) doubtful to play in Week 13 against the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets are prepared to use a backfield by committee involving rookie Zonovan Knight, Ty Johnson and James Robinson on Sunday. Carter took over the starting gig when rookie Breece Hall (knee) was lost for the season in Week 7. The Jets are confident in Knight and Johnson, who combined for 131 rushing yards and a touchdown last week against the Chicago Bears. Knight had 103 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Jets rookie in his debut. Robinson was a healthy scratch last week. The Vikings run defense isn't anything special, so both Knight and Johnson could be productive again while sharing touches in New York's backfield this weekend.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle), who was placed on Injured Reserve before the Week 5 game due to a fractured ankle, is targeting a late-December return. Crowder suffered a clean break of his fibula and he began walking again a little under a month ago. He's been running on an underwater treadmill for the last two weeks and is intending to get back on the field to start jogging in "maybe like, two weeks." Getting Crowder back for the postseason would be big for the team's receiver depth, but they could also add free-agent Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) after they visit with him this weekend. Crowder would be an upgrade over normal slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie when working against zone coverage, but he's unlikely to have any fantasy appeal the rest of 2022.
There is "considerable doubt" around the league that free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) is healthy enough to play football this year, according to an NFC executive. It's a problem because Beckham has told teams he's seeking a multi-year deal that he hopes will end up being worth $20 million per season. He met with his old team, the New York Giants, on Thursday, but the Giants remain "the longest of long shots" to sign OBJ. The most likely team to sign him remains the Dallas Cowboys, who have been talking Beckham up for months. Beckham tore the ACL in his left knee twice in a 16-month span, with the last time less than 10 months ago in the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills will also visit with Beckham this weekend. If he signs with a team soon, there's no guarantee he'll become fantasy relevant anytime soon.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady threw for 190 yards and a touchdown while completing only 52.9% of his throws against the Saints in Week 2. In all fairness, the signal-caller was forced to navigate his way though that one without Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. Although the signal-caller will be without tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle), he'll at least have most of his weapons on the offensive end. With New Orleans also banged up defensively, the 45-year-old garners fantasy attention and starting consideration, despite the potential for another lackluster outing.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Skyy Moore has totaled 10 catches for 99 yards in his previous two games. Although the rookie hasn't scored a touchdown, his increase in production has been a welcome sight, especially for those who'd thought he'd be hot right out of the gate in 2022-23. While Moore has a way to go before being a must-start fantasy option, he may continue to benefit without Kadarius Toney (hamstring), Mecole Hardman (abdomen), and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) for the Week 13 AFC Championship rematch versus Cincinnati. However, Travis Kelce, JuJu Smith-Schuster (illness), and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (shoulder) will be on the field, so Moore will need to fight for targets from Patrick Mahomes. That said, the wideout has upside for those with nowhere else to turn, so he deserves starting considering for a likely high-scoring affair.
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign. However, he turned things around by totaling five touchdowns over a three-game span, beginning in Week 8. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old couldn't find the end zone in his previous two games, although he didn't have Justin Fields (shoulder) for the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets. Fields will be back against the Packers on Sunday, which is a plus. At the same time, the season-ending injury to Darnell Mooney (knee) could open up more targets for Kmet in Week 13, so fantasy managers should consider him a starting option in all formats.
Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams had 11 carries in the Week 12 loss to the Chiefs, three more than Cam Akers. He finished with two fewer rushing yards than Akers (35), although he was more involved on the receiving end, catching all three targets for 25 yards. Both men should have a role in Week 13 for the NFC West showdown with Seattle. However, Williams may be the lead option against a horrendous Seahawks run-stop unit, especially since Akers was under the weather throughout the week. That said, L.A. has averaged a second-worst 79.7 rushing yards per game this season, so Williams' outlook isn't bright by any means. Yet, his pass-catching prowess could be somewhat beneficial for desperate managers in deeper PPR fantasy setups.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst caught six passes for a season-high 57 yards in Week 12 against the Titans. With Joe Mixon (concussion) and Ja'Marr Chase (hip, labrum) sidelined for that one, Hurst got some extra attention from Joe Burrow. However, the 29-year-old hasn't scored a touchdown since early October, leaving many frustrated with his lack of production. Yet, with David Njoku (knee), Kyle Pitts (knee), Dallas Goedert (shoulder), and Darren Waller (hamstring) out, fantasy managers are struggling to fill the tight end spot on the roster. While Hurst has had plenty of underwhelming performances in 2022-23, he certainly has a higher upside than others for Sunday's meeting with the Chiefs, even if Chase and Mixon are back in the lineup.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine got the start in Week 12 against the Titans, filling in for Joe Mixon (concussion). He played well, too, finishing the day with 58 yards and a touchdown off 17 attempts while catching four of his seven targets for 35 yards. With Mixon still in concussion protocol, Perine may lead the backfield once again on Sunday for the AFC Championship rematch versus the Chiefs. If that's the case, the 27-year-old, who has amassed four total touchdowns over the last two weeks, could be in store for another productive outing, so fantasy managers should keep him on the roster for now.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker was not asked to do much last week but projects as a great option in Week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Dicker has proven himself to be reliable as he is perfect through his first five starts and could be busy on Sunday with the Raiders allowing over 25 points per game. Fantasy managers can start Dicker with full confidence in what could be a high-scoring divisional affair.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter posted a career performance last week and will hope to keep the momentum going in a Week 13 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders. Carter has finished as a top-30 fantasy WR in three of his last four games and should stay highly involved with Mike Williams (ankle) inactive once again. Both Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer should be viewed as superior options, but Carter is worth a look as a flex option in deeper leagues as the Raiders' defense ranks as a bottom-10 unit against the pass.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Gerald Everett disappointed fantasy managers in a great matchup last week but will have an opportunity to redeem himself against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13. The Raiders have allowed the sixth-most PPR fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season and surrendered a touchdown to Everett back in Week 1. His inconsistencies make him difficult to trust as a top fantasy option, but the list of reliable tight ends is so short that Everett should still be viewed as a low-end TE1 with solid upside.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer has been up-and-down for fantasy purposes this season but will have an excellent opportunity in Week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Palmer exploded for over 100 yards and two scores in Week 11 but was outshined by DeAndre Carter last Sunday. Both should remain involved this week with Mike Williams (ankle) inactive, but Palmer will be the preferred fantasy option due to his more consistent target volume. With Las Vegas allowing over 25 points per game, Palmer has great upside and can be deployed as a WR3 or flex option in all formats on Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has found the end zone in seven of 11 games this season and should be able to find success against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13. Ekeler leads all running backs with 98 targets and could easily feast as a PPR option against a Las Vegas defense allowing over 28 PPR fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. This divisional matchup has one of the highest projected point totals of the week, so fantasy managers should have supreme confidence deploying Ekeler as a high-end RB1 in all formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (illness) missed his second straight practice this week on Friday with an illness. If Brate doesn't return to practice on Saturday, there's a good chance he won't be available to play on Monday night against the New Orleans Saints. But even if the 31-year-old veteran tight end is out there in Week 13, he's not even much of a realistic TE2 streamer in fantasy with rookie Cade Otton's emergence. Brate is still searching for his first touchdown of the 2022 season in seven games and has only 16 receptions on 29 targets for 137 yards. In his last two games, he's hauled in three of his seven targets for 23 yards. Look elsewhere.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen has provided a much-needed spark to the team's offense since returning to the starting lineup and will have a great opportunity to produce in a Week 13 bout with the Las Vegas Raiders. With Mike Williams (ankle) ruled out once again, Allen will operate as the clear WR1 for the Chargers and should see a healthy number of targets from quarterback Justin Herbert. With the Raiders currently ranking as a bottom-10 pass defense in the NFL, Allen has obvious top-12 upside this week, especially in PPR formats. He projects as a great option in all lineups for what could be a divisional shootout.