This year’s version of the NFL’s visit to Mexico City went much better than last year’s, as the 2018 date between the Chiefs and Rams was canceled at the last minute due to poor field conditions following a Shakira concert. Estadio Azteca was roaring Monday night, and they were treated with a fun AFC West battle that saw the Chiefs edge the Chargers, 24-17. The 7-4 Chiefs now hold a half-game lead over the 6-4 Raiders in the division with Kansas City headed into its bye week ahead of a suddenly big Week 13 game against Oakland at Arrowhead.
Mahomes’ 182 passing yards Monday night were a career-low for a non-injury shortened game for the reigning MVP, but he didn't play like he had a career-low night. Tyreek Hill left with a hamstring injury after the first series and never returned. Sammy Watkins (2-26) made little impact in his absence. But Travis Kelce beasted with 7-92-1 on 10 targets after entering halftime with 1-31 on three looks. Kelce made a sick toe-tap grab in the end zone for the 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter which proved to be the game-winner. Despite Mahomes' career-low passing day, his 59 rushing yards were actually a career-high, as he had a pair of 20-plus yards scampers on critical third downs. The bye should do Mahomes some good. He is still limping around a bit on that injured knee. A big stretch run will put him back in the MVP mix.
On the opposite side of the field Monday, Philip Rivers tossed four more interceptions and now has seven picks over his last two games, losses to the Raiders and Chiefs, to put the Chargers deep in the AFC West hole at 4-7. The Chargers absolutely clocked the Chiefs in total yards, 438-310, but Rivers couldn't get the offense into the end zone early and then tossed a bunch of mind-melting picks, including a final-minute one in the end zone to salt away the loss. It's become commonplace for Rivers at this point. His lone touchdown was a hookup with Keenan Allen. The Chargers have a Week 12 bye before going to Denver in Week 13. Rivers had 211 yards, zero TDs, and two INTs in a Week 5 home loss to the Broncos earlier this year.
The Kansas City backfield remains a weekly mess, and Monday was no different. After being a healthy scratch last week, LeSean McCoy got the green light in this one and was outplaying Damien Williams before Damien left the game in the second quarter with a ribs injury. McCoy scored the lone touchdown of the first half on a six-yard run. But Darrel Williams actually led the backfield with 13 touches and also scored. Darrel saw all the work late in the fourth quarter after McCoy left to be evaluated for a concussion. All three backs continue to push for snaps on a weekly basis, and it’s become a hot-hand thing. McCoy looked refreshed, however, after the week off and now gets the bye to clear the concussion ahead of a date with the Raiders.
Fresh off the AFC North bloodbath that was last Thursday night’s WWE-esque ending between the Steelers and Browns, Pittsburgh star playmakers James Conner (shoulder) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion, knee) are both up in the air for Week 12 against the winless Bengals. It presents a massive get-right spot for both, but Conner is uncertain after aggravating his sprained AC joint early against Cleveland. Conner has been banged up all year it feels like and certainly won’t be 100% if he does suit up against Cincinnati. Still, if active, Conner will be a must-start, even if he plays a dialed-back role. He’s a key name to watch on practice reports this week. JuJu, on the other hand, was sporting a bulky knee brace Monday. He took a helmet shot versus the Browns and simply hasn’t been a box-score difference-maker with Mason Rudolph under center. Even if he plays, Smith-Schuster will be little more than a low-floor WR3 play.
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Speaking Monday, coach Dan Quinn said both Devonta Freeman (foot) and Austin Hooper (knee) are “trending the right way.” Hooper is almost certain to miss another game with a sprained MCL, and it’s a shame he’s going to be absent against the nonexistent Bucs’ tight end defense. Fill-ins Luke Stocker (0 targets) and Jaeden Graham (2 targets) were nonfactors against the Panthers in Week 11. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will be in glorious spots versus Tampa Bay on heavier volume. Freeman has a better shot at playing, but his matchup is real tough against the Bucs’ No. 1 run defense. Brian Hill was a total fantasy dud in Carolina, turning 15 carries into 30 empty yards while rookie RB Qadree Ollison scored from two yards out and Kenjon Barner looked like the most explosive back for Atlanta. Hill would be a low-ceiling RB3 if Freeman sits while Freeman would be a mere back-end RB2 if he plays.
Cooks Expected Back for Week 12
Coach Sean McVay expects Brandin Cooks (concussion) to return for Week 12 against the Ravens. Cooks has missed the last two games but was running routes ahead of the Sunday night Week 11 win over the Bears. As long as he makes it through this week setback-free, Cooks should be back out there next Monday night. However, the matchup coupled with Cooks' poor year and Jared Goff's steps back as a passer make him a tough sell as a WR3 against a stout pass defense. Josh Reynolds will head back to WR4 duties for the Rams, assuming Robert Woods (personal) is also back.
Quarterback & Running Back Quick Slants
Deshaun Watson injured his ankle in the Week 11 blowout loss to the Ravens but didn’t miss any game action and practiced in full Monday ahead of Thursday’s tilt with the Colts. … Coach Matt Patricia said Matthew Stafford (back) remains week to week. There was a weekend report he could miss up to six weeks. Jeff Driskel will continue to fill in. … Jordan Wilkins (ankle) was inactive for Week 11 and was listed as DNP at Monday’s practice. Coach Frank Reich mentioned Wilkins and Jonathan Williams as replacements for Marlon Mack (hand), who is expected to miss time. Wilkins said he “feels ready to go” for Week 12 against the Texans. … Mitchell Trubisky is dealing with a hip pointer. Chase Daniel is the early favorite to start Week 12 against the Giants considering Trubisky’s injury and poor play.
Wide Receiver & Tight End Quick Slants
Bucs sixth-round rookie Scott Miller played 52% of the snaps in the Week 11 loss to the Saints, securing 4-of-6 targets for 71 yards as the team’s second-leading receiver. He’s a name to monitor down the stretch if he continues to steal snaps from Breshad Perriman. … Amari Cooper played just 55% of the Week 11 snaps and is believed to still be fighting through his knee injury. He now gets a Week 12 date with the Patriots’ No. 1 pass defense and shutdown CB Stephon Gilmore. … Sterling Shepard (concussion) is practicing in full out of the Giants’ bye. Evan Engram (foot) said it’s “definitely possible” he could return Week 12. … With the Colts set to face the Texans Thursday night, their practice week started Monday with Eric Ebron (ankle) and T.Y. Hilton (calf) missing practice. The two will be up against it to be ready on a short week. Parris Campbell (hand) also remains sidelined. … Will Fuller (hamstring) was inactive for Week 11 and was listed as “limited” in Monday’s estimated practice session. … After being carted off against the Raiders, Auden Tate is in the league’s concussion protocol and is also dealing with cervical strain in his neck. He’s a long shot for Week 12, leaving Alex Erickson and Stanley Morgan behind Tyler Boyd with A.J. Green (ankle) still out indefinitely. … Jaguars placed rookie TE Josh Oliver (back) on injured reserve and signed TE Nick O’Leary in a corresponding move. … David Njoku (wrist, I.R.) is day to day. … 49ers rookie WR Jalen Hurd (back, I.R.) is not expected to play this season after suffering another setback.