It's weeks like this why my editor at Doc's added this Friday NFL news update story on top of the Opening Line Report I write on Mondays. Not sure if you have heard, but the NFL is a contact sport and there tend to be injuries. Sometimes we don't hear about major ones until Tuesday because players have Mondays off. And obviously injuries can occur in practice.
Of course, head coaches also can decide to bench or promote guys (or fire or promote coaches) after having a bit more time to stew over what happened on Sunday. That's what happened with Rams coach Jeff Fisher. On Monday, I wrote that Fisher planed to stick with Case Keenum as his quarterback even though Keenum had been terrible this season other than perhaps two games. Fisher had said he wanted to keep No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff on the bench until the Rams were eliminated from the playoffs. The coach didn't want to lose the locker room.
But Fisher came to his senses and has announced Goff will make his NFL debut on Sunday at home against the Dolphins -- Goff's first game was always going to be in front of a friendly (i.e. quiet while Rams offense has the ball) home crowd. The Rams did end a four-game losing streak last Sunday at the Jets, but that 9-6 win was in spite of Keenum rather than because of him. Is Goff any good? I have no idea. Sure, he looked great at Cal, but plenty of quarterbacks star in those Air Raid college offenses and stink in the pros. For example, Keenum played in a similar system at the University of Houston and was one of the statistically greatest NCAA players ever.
Goff looked a bit overmatched during the preseason, which many of us saw on "Hard Knocks." He completed just 22 of 49 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His main problem was hanging on to the ball too long and getting sacked or hit instead of just throwing it away. So typical rookie stuff. Dolphins-Rams was a pick'em on Monday with a total of 40.5, but now it's Miami -2 with a total of 39.5. The Fins have one of the NFL's better defensive lines, but I expect the Rams to be very conservative in their play-calling, especially early in the game. Think two Todd Gurley runs and a short, high-percentage pass being an average first-half series.
The Rams are the first team since the 1997 Bills to win two games in which they scored fewer than 10 points. Bovada offers a prop this week asking if the Rams win another game this season without scoring a touchdown: "no" is -5000 and "yes" +1000. Obviously that's highly doubtful, but the Rams' Week 16 home game vs. the 49ers is a possibility.
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 11.
Patriots at 49ers (+13, 51): Line has dropped a half-point as has the total. I touched on this Monday as well, but a Rob Gronkowski injury update happened after Monday's posting. There were initial reports he punctured a lung on a big hit from Seattle's Earl Thomas on Sunday night. If you watched the game, you know the exact play. Gronk looked shaken up but did return. The Pats are being rather vague about things, but Gronk had to skip an EA Sports event Tuesday because he couldn't fly and that sounds like a punctured lung to me. I would be surprised if Gronk, who hasn't practiced, makes the trip. The Pats don't need him for this one. They do next week at the Jets.
Packers at Redskins (-3, 50): Line has jumped a half-point. Bovada offers a prop on the future of Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy. That he will be the team's head coach Week 1 of next season is -300 and no +200. Aaron Rodgers has seemed to be pointing some fingers at the coaching staff during the Pack's three-game losing streak. But then this week, Rodgers said any criticism of his head coach is "ridiculous." Still, there's no doubting the Pack underachieved last year a bit and much more so this season. I think I'd take no on that prop. McCarthy wouldn't be out of a job for long. Two of Rodgers' offensive linemen are in question here: left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and right guard T.J. Lang (ankle) couldn't finish last Sunday's game. It's still not clear if Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews will finally return from his hamstring injury. His defense badly misses him. Washington is hoping WR DeSean Jackson can return after missing last week because of a rotator cuff injury in his left shoulder. These teams met in last year's wild-card round, with the Packers winning 35-18 on the road. In his past two against the Redskins, Rodgers has completed 55 of 78 passes for 690 yards with six touchdowns and no picks for a 123.3 passer rating.
Ravens at Cowboys (-7, 45): One of the games of the day and featuring division leaders. Your new NFL MVP betting favorite at Bovada? That would be Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott at +250. He has overtaken Tom Brady (+275). Elliott is also the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite at -500, with teammate Dak Prescott at +275 (+1000 for MVP). Prescott has won eight consecutive starts, tied for the second-longest winning streak by a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger holds the mark of 13 in 2004 when he led the Steelers to the AFC title game. Meanwhile, Baltimore receiver Steve Smith needs three catches to become the 14th player with 1,000 career. Former Steeler Hines Ward retired right on 1,000. Baltimore will get a key defender back in outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. He has played only two games this season.
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