NOVEMBER 12: Chase will be active for today’s bout with the Texans. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says that Chase “did what was necessary” in his warmups this morning to get the green light.
NOVEMBER 11: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will be a bit shorthanded coming into a battle with an excited Texans team. We know that much. We learned yesterday that the team’s second-leading receiver, Tee Higgins, will be held out as he deals with a hamstring injury. Today, it was confirmed that rookie receiver and return specialist Charlie Jones, who has been on injured reserve for Cincinnati’s last five games, has been downgraded from questionable to out, per Jay Morrison of Pro Football Network.
Already down two wide receivers, things could potentially become even more dire for the Bengals offense if star wideout Ja’Marr Chase is unavailable to play tomorrow. According to Dianna Russini of The Athletic, Chase, who is listed as questionable after being limited in practice while dealing with a back injury, will be a true gametime decision, working out Sunday morning in order to determine whether or not he will be able to play.
If Chase is unable to go tomorrow, that will leave Cincinnati with an active roster lineup of Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and sixth-round rookie Andrei Iosivas. That trio has combined for 51 catches, 424 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. Chase alone has 64 receptions for 697 yards and four touchdowns. His presence against the Texans could be crucial in keeping a hot Bengals team rolling.
Knowing that they will be extremely short-staffed, Cincinnati has elected to promote two practice squad wide receivers as their standard gameday elevations, choosing Stanley Morgan and undrafted rookie Shedrick Jackson. Morgan has been with the team for the last five seasons, catching five balls for 29 yards over that time. Jackson would be making his NFL debut tomorrow after averaging 13.2 yards per catch over a five-year college career at Auburn.
We should know more tomorrow about the Bengals’ full situation at wide receiver, most notably Chase’s availability. Burrow and the rest of the offense will have to be at their best knowing that the wide receiver corps will be a bit thin.
After a 2022 rule change, teams can activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises proceed with their activations, and teams will again need to be cognizant of their activation counts in 2023.
The NFL had reintroduced IR-return options in the 2010s, after a period in which an IR move meant a player’s season was over. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the league to loosen restrictions on IR from 2020-21. Teams were permitted to use unlimited activations to start the decade, but roster math is again a consideration.
Players who land on IR after cutdown day must miss at least four games. Once a team designates a player for return, the activation clock starts. Clubs have 21 days from a player’s return-to-practice date to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.
Here is how the NFL’s IR situations look for Week 14:
November 10th, 2023 at 10:05pm CST by Sam Robinson
Divisions have produced four playoff teams previously. The 1994 NFC Central sent every team but the Buccaneers to the postseason, while the 1998 AFC East moved every team but the Colts — in Peyton Manning‘s rookie season — into that year’s playoff field. (The NFC Central also accomplished this in 1982, but eight teams made each conference’s field due to the strike-induced format change.) The NFL realigning its divisions, killing the five-team divisional setup, in 2002 made it impossible for four teams in one quartet to venture to the playoffs. The 2020 expansion to a 14-team postseason field, however, reopened that door.
Entering Week 10, the AFC’s seven-team “if the season ended today” field would consist of the division-leading Chiefs, Jaguars and Dolphins, along with the fourth North-division clubs. No other division features more than two teams with winning records; the AFC North carries four. This is shaping up to be one of the most interesting divisional stretch runs in modern NFL history.
The Ravens lead the way at 7-2 and hold a runaway DVOA lead on the rest of the NFL. Baltimore’s defense leads the league in points allowed and paces the NFL in sacks — by four — with 35. The Ravens’ summer additions of Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy have paid dividends. Clowney’s 11 QB hits trail only Justin Madubuike‘s 14, while Van Noy now has at least five sacks in six of the past seven seasons. The veteran linebacker has managed to get there despite being signed in late September. Van Noy, 32, is on a one-year, $1.6MM deal; Clowney, 30, signed for one year and $2.5MM. The team’s $20MM-per-yearRoquan Smith extension is paying off early; Pro Football Focus ranks the ex-Bears top-10 pick fourth among off-ball linebackers.
QBR slots Lamar Jackson 11th, and the Ravens remain a run-oriented team. Though, Jackson is operating efficiently in Todd Monken‘s offense. The team’s remaining schedule resides as the NFL’s second-toughest — in part because of the AFC North games remaining — though the squad with the hardest slate remaining may be the Ravens’ top competitor for this hotly contested crown.
Joe Burrow‘s return to full strength has reinvigorated the Bengals, who made the fourth-year passer the NFL’s highest-paid player. After the Ravens and Chargers incrementally moved the AAV bar following the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts extension, the Bengals slid it to $55MM for Burrow. The superstar passer is back in form, leading Cincinnati to four straight wins. The Bengals (5-3) have now downed the 49ers and Bills on the road, but Tankathon slots their remaining schedule as by far the most difficult. Trips to Kansas City and Jacksonville remain, but the two-time reigning AFC North champs are surging at midseason, aiming to turn another 0-2 start into a playoff home game.
Moving forward without Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, the Bengals have not seen their safety setup match Bates’ Falcons work. Then again, the team was not exactly expecting that, given Bates’ talent and $16MM-per-year price tag. Cincinnati keeping its linebacker tandem (Logan Wilson–Germaine Pratt) together has provided considerable help, though the team continues to run into injury trouble on offense. The Bengals faced the Ravens during Burrow’s early-season health issue, losing at home and raising the stakes for the sides’ Thursday-night tilt in Week 11.
The most notable improvement by an AFC North unit comes in Cleveland, where the Jim Schwartz DC hire is looking like one of the best assistant additions in recent memory. The Browns have gone from a miscommunication-plagued defense to one that is producing dominant efforts. The Browns held the Cardinals to 57 total yards, the team’s fewest since 1955, and has seen Myles Garrett (9.5 sacks) become a Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner (and surefire candidate for a market-setting second extension). Offseason adds Za’Darius Smith and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have boosted the Browns as well, and Cleveland’s elite pass defense led to the 5-3 mark amid the Deshaun Watson shoulder saga.
The highly paid quarterback returned in Week 9 but has still not closely resembled his Houston version, with the off-field issues that produced a historic hiatus still impacting the former Pro Bowler’s trajectory. As the Browns’ defense leads the NFL in DVOA, its offense ranks 28th. Watson’s rotator cuff issue will be a key divisional subplot, and the team seeing both tackles joinNick Chubb on IR will make matters tougher. But Cleveland’s defense is providing a strong safety net thus far.
Also 5-3, the Steelers rank 14th in DVOA. Punching-bag OC Matt Canada continues to draw heat, with Pittsburgh’s defense also carrying an inconsistent offense. The Steelers have notched home wins over the Browns and Ravens — even as their streak without 400 total yards has reached 56 games. Kenny Pickett sits 27th in QBR, but the team has been without Pat Freiermuth and Diontae Johnson for chunks of the season. That has not stopped calls for Canada’s ouster, as the 2022 first-round QB’s work down the stretch will help determine how the Steelers see the Pitt product in the long term.
Who will end up winning this captivating race? The Bengals and Steelers still have four divisional games left, the Browns and Ravens three. How many playoff teams will this division produce? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
The Bengals will be without their second leading receiver for their Week 10 matchup against the Texans. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Tee Higginswill miss Sunday’s game after injuring his hamstring in practice on Wednesday. He will reportedly continue to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
Partially due to the early struggles of quarterback Joe Burrow, Higgins is off to the worst start of his career this season. After averaging 1,009.33 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, Higgins is currently on track to finish the season with only 703 yards. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger, as well, threatening to take even more away from Higgins this year.
Leading wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase has been limited this week with a back injury and is currently listed as questionable. Should he play, though, he will be joined by Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, and sixth-round rookie Andrei Iosivas. With Higgins out, tight end Irv Smith may, too, continue to see an increased role in the Bengals’ passing gameplan.
Here are a few other injury updates from around the NFL:
Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer was placed on IR earlier this week without much word on the specifics of what was being called a knee injury. Daniel Popper of The Athletic provided an update on Wednesday that Palmer is dealing with a knee sprain. Popper’s report comes from head coach Brandon Staley, who relayed that Palmer will obviously be out for the next four weeks, the minimum required on IR, but he has “no expectations” after that. They will simply have to reassess once Palmer is eligible to return.
Two Saints rookies suffered injuries this past Sunday. Defensive end Isaiah Foskeysuffered “a low-grade quad strain,” according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Foskey’s absence, as a rotational lineman, will open the door for more potential snaps for either Tanoh Kpassagnon or Kyle Phillips, who was signed to the active roster weeks ago but has yet to make his season debut. Foskey is expected to miss a week or two, but the injury isn’t considered serious. Running back Kendre Miller was the other Saints rookie to suffer an injury, spraining his ankle against Chicago last week, per Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football. He hasn’t participated in practice all week and will also be out this Sunday. It’s unclear whether or not his injury will linger to hold him out for much longer. Miller’s usage has decreased significantly since the return of Jamaal Williams, but with Eno Benjamin on IR, the team may feel the need to elevate practice squad running back Jordan Mims to back up Williams and Alvin Kamara.
The Browns will be down three offensive tackles for this weekend’s trip to Baltimore. According to Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald and Morning Journal, rookie fourth-round tackle Dawand Joneshas been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Starting tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills both currently reside on IR, Conklin since Week 1 and Wills just this past week. Jones had been starting across from Wills in place of Conklin. With Wills and Jones out next week, Cleveland will have to start two fresh faces at offensive tackle. Schudel reports that James Hudson III is expected to start at right tackle. Starting left guard Joel Bitonio is expected to slide out to serve as a left tackle. Backup center Nick Harris will get an opportunity to start in Bitonio’s place at left guard. A beleaguered offensive line will face a significant challenge with three new starters in new positions against a Ravens defense that leads the league in sacks.
Yesterday’s Panthers-Bears game carried signficant draft implications, as many noted in the build-up to the primetime matchup. With Carolina having dealt its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago as part of the deal involving last year’s No. 1 selection, the Bears were able to boost their chances of picking first in April with a win.
Owning the top selection in a draft touted for having multiple high-end options at the quarterback spot would of course add further to the speculation surrounding Justin Fields. The Bears gave the 24-year-old a vote of confidence last spring by trading out of the No. 1 slot, but he has yet to develop as hoped this season. Chicago could opt for a fresh start under center (particularly if they declined Fields’ fifth-year option) this spring while also having the opportunity to add help elsewhere on the roster with their own first-rounder, which seems destined to fall within the top 10 or perhaps even top five selections.
Of course, teams like the Giants, Cardinals and Patriots have experienced signficant troubles of their own this year. A continuation of their first half performances could leave them in pole position for the Caleb Williams–Drake Mayesweepstakes. All three teams face potential uncertainty with respect to their current passers’ futures, despite each having term remaining on their respective contracts.
For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. With plenty still to be sorted out over the coming months, here is an early look at the current draft order:
Cory Littleton is back in Houston. The linebacker already got into six games with the Texans this season, mostly playing on special teams. After getting cut in late October, he caught on with the Saints practice squad and quickly earned a promotion on Sunday. This time around, Littleton should be sticking in Houston, at least temporarily. The Texans are required to keep the LB on their active roster for at least three weeks.
The veteran had a productive stint with the Rams to begin his career. He spent four years in Los Angeles, including a two-year stint between 2018 and 2019 where he averaged 129 tackles per season.
NOVEMBER 4: Confirming the Jets’ attempt at pulling off an Adams trade, ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that New York contemplated such a move “throughout the summer.” Patience was exercised in terms of waiting for when to approach the Raiders, and a swap before the deadline would not have come as a shock given his frustrations with the previous regime. With Vegas having gone in a new organizational direction, though, it will be interesting to see how active the Jets are in making a renewed push for Adams in the offseason.
NOVEMBER 2: Mentioned as pursuing Mike Evansduring training camp, the Jets do not appear to have shut down their efforts to upgrade their receiving corps. They kept going through this week’s trade deadline.
The Adams call obviously generates the most intrigue, given the Jets’ April trade for Aaron Rodgers. Adams going from the Raiders’ setup to Zach Wilson might not have been particularly appealing, but his Raiders extension runs through 2026. Rodgers also continues to reference an against-the-odds return from an Achilles tear this season — to the point the Jets are also aiming for a late-season return. Adams certainly would have moved the needle opposite Garrett Wilson this season, but even if Rodgers does not come back this year, he is expected to return for the 2024 season. Adams might be back in play ahead of that point, though the Raiders did not make him available this week.
The Raiders executed a surprise housecleaning shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, firingJosh McDaniels, GM Dave Ziegler and OC Mick Lombardi. This came just more than a day after Adams violently slammed his helmet down during a one-sided loss to the Lions. Adams has not topped 60 receiving yards in a game since Week 4; the ex-Rodgers WR1 has been vocal about the Raiders QBs’ inconsistency in locating him. With the power duo that traded for Adams gone, his Las Vegas future is in limbo. It is interesting Mark Davis let McDaniels and Ziegler operate through the deadline, considering his plan to scrap the setup he authorized in 2022. But for the time being, Adams is effectively trapped.
Adams, 30, showed support for the Raiders despite the Derek Carr decision this offseason. But with Jimmy Garoppolo struggling, Adams is now on a team executing a midseason reboot. The Jets, however, could have another chance to reunite Rodgers and Adams in 2024. An anonymous GM told the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora that Adams will be traded during the ’24 offseason. It is unclear how the next Raiders staff will view Adams, but after he anchored three straight playoff-bound Packer teams’ receiving corps, languishing on a team potentially aiming to rebuild might not work at this point in the All-Pro’s career.
The Jets could also have another chance on Evans and Higgins. As of now, both are on track for free agency. Evans does not plan to talk an extension with the Buccaneers again, and with the perennial 1,000-yard pass catcher never previously reaching free agency, that would be an interesting chapter. The Bucs are not believed to have made Evans an offer to stay yet. Evans, 30, is in the final season of a five-year, $82.5MM extension. Fox Sports’ Greg Auman also adds the Jets did not call about Evans this week. While differing reports have come out about this situation, it does not appear any substantive Jets-Bucs conversations have occurred about the 10th-year receiver.
Higgins could be a franchise tag candidate, which would allow the Bengals to retain he and Ja’Marr Chase for another year. That said, the contract-year wideout has struggled this season. Joe Burrow‘s return to full strength may lead to a reignited Higgins soon, but thus far, the former second-round pick has compiled just 19 receptions for 218 yards in six games. Higgins and the Bengals could not agree on an extension this summer, and he is not planning in-season discussions. Teams called Cincinnati about Higgins, but considering the Bengals’ Super Bowl window, they were never expected to entertain inquiries. A more realistic trade scenario involving Higgins would be a tag-and-trade move next year.
With none of these Hail Mary-type trade efforts succeeding, the Jets will continue to rely on Garrett Wilson and Rodgers come-with guys Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Wilson is the only Jet to have surpassed 260 receiving yards this season. But these trade inquiries point to the team being interested in adding another impact weapon for Rodgers in 2024.
With Matthew Stafford listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game, the Rams are adding some depth at the quarterback position. Dresser Winn had a breakout 2022 campaign at UT Martin, tossing 18 touchdowns while adding another three scores on the ground. He joined the Rams as an UDFA but was cut at the end of the preseason. He had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League before rejoining the Rams practice squad earlier this week. If Stafford can’t go, Brett Rypien will get the call under center for the Rams.
Peters will be elevated for the second straight week in Seattle. The 41-year-old, playing in his 19th NFL season, split snaps with right tackle Stone Forsythe last week against Cleveland.
Anderson, a fifth-round draft pick last year for the Bengals, missed his entire rookie season on injured reserve. After contributing in seven games this year as a core special teamer, Anderson’s sophomore season will also be cut short with head coach Zac Taylor confirming that the young safety tore his ACL, per Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. He played through the initial injury in last week’s win but will be unable to continue the rest of the year.
The Patriots’ Anderson, on the other hand, is a more intriguing situation. After he spent most of the preseason on the non-football illness list with an undisclosed illness, the team is placing Anderson on IR with an “illness” designation. It’s not clear at this time if this is a similar issue to what held him out of the preseason, but illness has surely dealt a significant blow to Anderson’s 2023 season so far.
The Giants got ahead of the waiver rules by releasing Olszewski in a procedural move on Monday before the trade deadline. This allowed them to plainly sign Olszewski back to the active roster on a new deal without him having to clear waivers. As predicted, he returns to the roster for Week 9.
With Matthew Stafford questionable for Week 9, the Rams are adding some additional QB depth. Winn had a standout career at UT Martin before going undrafted in this year’s draft. The QB spent training camp with the Rams before eventually joining the Edmonton Elks in the CFL. As Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes, the signing is especially notable considering Winn also punted in college; Rams punter Ethan Evans is currently dealing with a sprained ankle.