Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
View All Scores

Daily Dose: TNF Preview Plus Injury Notes

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

The NFL allowed us to have fun on Thursday nights for two weeks before yanking the rug out from under us. Both TNF matchups have ended up with game totals of 59 points or more. I’ll be surprised to see any player from the home team over 59 yards. The undefeated Panthers travel to Houston to face Davis Mills and the Texans. Houston did have an entertaining start to the season, but the injuries have drained any expectation of making this a competitive game to start Week 3.

TNF Preview: The Davis Mills Experience

I’ll admit it. I was skeptical about the Panthers’ decision to move on from Teddy Bridgewater and bring in Sam Darnold. I’ll get into why I think there’s credit to be shared across the whole team, but what they’re doing has been working extremely well.

Of course, it’s just two games. Two games with one of them against the Jets. But Carolina had started off 0-2 the last two seasons. To go from contemplating becoming the Joker as a Panthers’ fan to handily winning your first two games is quite the turnaround! And, credit where it’s due, Darnold has emphasized what life can be like away from Adam Gase.

After Darnold moves the protection pre-snap, you can see the defensive realign as they’re anticipating a handoff to Chuba Hubbard. Immediately after the snap, seven Saints shift slightly south to meet Hubbard at the line of scrimmage. But the play action fake doesn’t fool the secondary. Darnold’s eyes do. He locks onto Ian Thomas, the safeties move up, and Darnold flicks the ball to Brandon Zylstra for an easy touchdown. Simple, but a step up from seeing ghosts not too long ago.[[ad:athena]]

Now, don’t get me wrong. He’s had his moments. But they’ve come under pressure. Something Houston’s defense has only generated on 21.3% of their opponents dropbacks. Carolina is eighth in Pass Rate Over Expectation (PROE) through two weeks which drives right at the weakness of the Texans’ defense.

Perimeter receivers have done the most damage with both Marvin Jones and DJ Chark exceling in Week 1. The Browns were without Odell Beckham to start the game and lost Jarvis Landry midway but dominated the middle of the field with their tight ends Austin Hooper (5-40-0) and Harrison Bryant 4-49-0). Even Demetric Felton got involved with a 2-51-1 stat line through the air which bodes well for Christian McCaffrey. The only question is how the Texans will respond.

Davis Mills has just 14 collegiate games under his belt after having multiple knee injuries throughout high school. Houston drafting Mills in the third round is about as bizarre as seeing him out in the field but it wouldn’t be a normal NFL season without some chaos injected early.

In relief for Tyrod Taylor, Mills did the best he could on short notice. His first pass attempt was at Brandin Cooks’ feet and the second went into the arms of a Cleveland defender. After a hot start, the Browns’ offense fell to just 28.8 Yards per Drive after the change under center. Mills was able to put together two scoring drives, but their touchdown drive was extended by taunting and pass interference penalties that moved them into the red zone. Two more penalties against Cleveland moved them into scoring position during the final minutes of the game.

The Panthers dialed up pressure on 60.7% of Jameis Winston’s dropbacks moving Winston back to his pre-LASIK days as a starter. For Mills to succeed, we’ll need short-area, high-percentage throws that will keep the offense moving and avoid disaster.

Points of Interest in TNF

For Carolina, my interest lies in how their wide receivers are deployed. Last season, Anderson led the duo in target share and receiving yards with a lower aDOT. And offseason evaluations hinged on Anderson’s prior connection with Darnold would sustain his WR1 status. But the roles have flipped to start the season.

Moore has the greater overall target share (27.9% to 13.2%), has a red-zone target (which converted to a touchdown), and a 9.5 aDOT. Anderson has run more targets out of the slot but, outside of a 57-yard touchdown, has been quiet in the boxscore. Houston allowed 10-137-1 on targets of 15 or more air yards in Week 1 alone. Both receivers have top-24 outings should be well within the range of outcomes.

In Houston, all eyes are on Davis Mills. There’s really nothing else we should care about. Of course, some folks are rostering Mark Ingram or Phillip Lindsay but their production is directly linked to Mills’. His ability to mount drives will be tested as Carolina will likely take the same defensive approach to Mills as they did for Jameis Winston. Mills still has plenty to learn about pocket awareness so, hopefully, David Culley scripts up shorter routes for Mills work through on Thursday night.

Injury Slants

The Dolphins came into the season with a porous offensive line and its netted them a serious blow to their offense.

Original reports suggested Tua Tagovailoa’s injury was of the “day to day” variety but imagery revealed the fracture after additional tests. No timeline has been given and Miami has been forced to turn to Jacoby Brissett who fared no better than his predecessor against the Bills on Sunday. Rumors of a Deshaun Watson trade will continue to swirl unless we see a seismic shift in production from a team with such high hopes to start the season. Pittsburgh is in a somewhat better position.

There were concerns about the entire Steelers’ offensive line prior to the start of the season and the latest news out of Pittsburgh will serve as confirmation bias. Roethlisberger is tied for second in hits while attempting a pass and he ranks below the league average in deep-ball attempts. Plus, he’s reportedly at odds with the play-calling. If he’s forced to miss time, Diontae Johnson’s absence will add more strain on an already anemic offense. Mike Tomlin is yet to announce if Roethlisberger will be out, but more drama awaits in Pittsburgh. But at least he can walk.

Notice the injury designation for Carson Wentz. Ankles. Plural. To add to the concern following his foot surgery from early August, he now has two sprained ankles on the mend. Jacob Eason took his place, Aaron Donald literally tried to have Eason’s back, and he threw an interception on his second attempt. To boot, Zach Pascal, somehow their best red-zone threat, is out with a non-COVID illness. Even against a beatable Titans’ secondary, any non-Jonathan Taylor option on that squad would be hard to start in Week 3. The Raiders seem to the opposite problem.

Unfortunately, Josh Jacobs starts the week with a DNP on the Raiders’ practice report. However, there’s some room for optimism. Jacobs was listed with multiple injuries which sparked our concern for his Week 2 availability. But now, the list is down to an ankle injury. The worry for any long-term injury like turf toe seems to be past him, but the rest of the week will give us more information. At least we have clarity regarding Las Vegas’ backup RB situation.

So, the answer to “which San Francisco running back to acquire” was none of them. At least, after just one game. The injuries piled up for the 49ers in horrific fashion as one option after another headed to the sidelines. It’s gotten to the point where San Francisco has signed Chris Thompson to replenish the ranks. On a positive note, Kyle Shanahan did note that Trey Sermon is trending in the right direction after a scary collision on his first carry. Regardless, a position fantasy managers were scrambling to get a piece of apparently has a curse on it and we’re left without an answer until we get more information. I doubt we’ll get any additional information out of Tampa Bay.

Editor’s Note: Drafting is only half the battle! Get an edge on your competition with our NFL Season Tools - available in our EDGE+ Roto tier for $3.99/mo. (annually) or $9.99/mo. (monthly) - that are packed with rankings, projections, a trade evaluator, start/sit tools and much more. And don’t forget to use promo code SAVE10 to get 10% off. Click here to learn more!

Antonio Brown tested positive for COVID-19 and is likely to miss Sunday’s game in Los Angeles. Bruce Arians, in true Arians’ fashion, said it’d be “gravy ” if Brown was available but isn’t expecting any change to his status. So, in the meantime, we get to figure out which ancillary receiver (if any) is worth add.

Player Target Share
Scott Miller 12.3%
Tyler Johnson 3.6%
Justin Watson 3.6%
Jaydon Mickens 3.2%
Cyril Grayson 1.0%
Tanner Hudson 0.6%

While Brown was serving his suspension to start the 2020 season, Scott Miller was the only receiver outside of the primary trio to receive consistent targets. He was target out of the slot and down field at nearly equal rates making him a fine option if you’re looking for help on the waiver wire. We probably shouldn’t be going to the waiver wire for anyone on Atlanta’s team.

The Falcons are missing two of their tertiary receivers in Russell Gage and Frank Darby to start the week. Gage is considered a “long shot” to play against Giants. It’s no surprise as Gage left the Falcons’ Week 2 contest and was considered questionable to return then. He gutted out 28 yards on 7 targets which says about all you need to know about Atlanta’s day and how the coaching staff feels about their depth at the position. It forced the team to get more creative with Wildcat snaps to Cordarrell Patterson, but they’ll need to continue the ingenuity to finally get their first win of the season. Cincinnati needs a little bit more than ingenuity to help them right the ship.

Higgins did spend some time in the medical tent but eventually returned to the game on Sunday. He played on 91% of the team’s snaps so his absence was hardly noticed. But his lack of practice participation has certainly caught out eye. Zac Taylor, the latest occupant of the coaching hot seat, said Higgins is “day to day” and will rehab throughout the week. As of now, there’s nothing to indicate the star receiver will miss Week 3. The same could be said about Odell Beckham.

Odell Beckham was mysteriously shutdown prior just hours before their Week 1 kickoff and quickly shutdown for Week 2. In between tweeting memes, Beckham was a limited participant in practice last week and he’s ramped up to “full go” with Jarvis Landry sent to short-term IR. Beckham immediately resumes his role as the team’s primary target against an up-and-down defense in Chicago.