One of the big contract decisions that we've been keeping an eye on this season is with Daron Payne and the Washington Commanders, who seemed to be preparing to maybe lose the defensive lineman in free agency by drafting Phidarian Mathis as a possible replacement.
Not so fast.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera went on the record this week and said that the team needs to re-sign Payne and bring him back next year.
"You look at the defensive line and you’ve got these two tackles that we want to keep together," Rivera said Monday via the Washington Football Talk podcast. "We want to do everything we can to keep them together."
Despite all the front-office and ownership issues (which only demonstrate how good of a head coach Rivera is), Washington went from a 1-4 start to above .500 and being in playoff contention.
A big part of that has been having a tough defense that begins upfront, with Jonathan Allen, Payne and (with Mathis out for the season with a knee injury) Montez Sweat.
Allen and Payne each have 6.5 sacks this year. They're the only interior defensive-line tandem in the league in which both players have five-plus sacks. The've also combined for 25 tackles for a loss.
"We know it’s going to be hard but we're going to do it," Rivera said of keeping Payne long-term.
In 2021, Allen signed a four-year contract extension that pays him approximately $18 million per season. Payne will probably make a little more than that regardless of which team he ends up signing with.
The Commanders host the Falcons on Sunday.
2) Coming to his quarterback's defense
You may have missed this, but the New York media has been all over Zach Wilson, not only for the offense struggling against New England, but when asked if he felt like he let the defense down during the 10-3 loss the Jets quarterback simply said "no."
After a report surfaced from SNY late Sunday that indicated Jets defensive players were getting frustrated by Wilson’s attitude and his lack of accountability for his poor play, one came to his defense on Monday: Quinnen Williams.
When asked if Wilson apologized for his comments the former Crimson Tide defensive lineman said “Not really man, and as a defensive player it’s not anything he has to do. We know Zach’s heart as a defense. He’s our leader of our team. He’s a great player and a great person inside and out. He don’t have to do anything when it comes down to covering up himself or doing anything that the media spit out because we know how hard he comes into work everyday.
“He knows the things he puts on the line for this team and for the offense and defense and special teams and organization itself. … We all have faith in Zach. We love Zach. We’re all a part of this team. That’s one of our brothers and we’re gonna stick by him through hell or high water.”
3) More Jets
Williams had his career-high eighth sack of season last week.
CJ Mosley needs just three more tackles for his sixth career 100-plus season.
The 6-4 Jets host the Bears on Sunday.
4) Game of the Week
It's a tough call, but we're going with the Bengals at Titans. There are only three matchups between teams with winning records, and the other two are on Thanksgiving Day (Patriots at Vikings, and the Giants at Cowboys), so this will be the spotlight matchup for the rest of the weekend.
The teams met in the AFC playoffs last season, with Derrick Henry back on the field after missing nine games with a broken foot. He pounded out 66 rushing yards and a touchdown for top-seeded Tennessee, but rookie kicker Evan McPherson made a 52-yard field goal as time expired to put Cincinnati in the AFC Championship Game, 19-16.
Henry leads the NFL in both carries (230) and rushing yards (1,010) this season. Moreover, the Bengals may not have prize wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase available.
5) Quote of the Week
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham on quarterback Jalen Hurts leading the comeback against the Colts last week:
“He’s a gamer—somebody that wants the ball,” said Graham, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. “Feel like he has a lot to prove, playing more with that mindset. But I just love how cool, calm and collected he is with everything, the way he processes information. I never really see him rattled too much. He stays consistent. That’s one thing I can say, through the wins and the losses, there’s always something to be learned with him—and I’m just thankful that he’s on our team.
“He definitely has the mindset that you want as a quarterback.”
6) Matchup of the Week
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs vs. Giants head coach Brian Daboll. How will the former Alabama offensive coordinator deal with Diggs, who has been a Giant-killer. He has 10 passes defensed and three interceptions in five career games against New York and aims for his fourth straight with a pickoff.
The Giants and Cowboys will play for the 121st time since 1960, with Dallas holding the all-time regular-season series advantage, 72-46-2, including wins in 10 of the past 11 meetings. The two clubs previously met on Thanksgiving in 1992 (November 26), with the Cowboys earning a 30-3 victory.
7) Rashaan Evans watch
Rashaan Evans kept up his torrid tackling pace last week, notching 11 for his seventh game this season with 10-plus tackles.
The Falcons linebacker is tied for second in the league with Jordyn Brooks of the Seahawks at 106, as Zaire Franklin of the Seahawks has 109.
Fourth on that list is Mosley with 97.
8) The Man of Steel
If you didn't see Najee Harris' elevated touchdown last week, check it out as he launched himself from the 3-yard line and over Bengals safety Jessie Bates.
The 19-yard touchdown run was:
• The Steelers longest touchdown play of the season.
• Was the first touchdown of 10-plus yards (the previous longest was eight yards).
• The most yards before contact on any carry this season, per ESPN Stats & Information.
That tells you how tough of a season it's been in Pittsburgh. Harris finished the game with 90 yards rushing on 20 carries and two touchdowns, and four catches for 26 receiving yards.
9) Sportsmanship Award
There are two former Alabama players up for the ninth annual Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes those who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field. Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II and Henry were nominated by their teams,.
10) It'll be a Ken Stabler weekend
The NFL is holding the inaugural “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration,” which will feature special broadcast tributes during games on CBS, Fox and NBC. Additionally, each network will select a “Madden Player of the Game,” who will receive a $10,000 donation in their name from the NFL Foundation to the youth or high school football program of their choice.
But you can't really talk that much about Madden without mentioning his Super Bowl quarterback, Ken Stabler.
Here's our throwback mention for the holiday, on this week 46 years ago, Nov. 28, 1976. Stabler and Cliff Branch connected on a 35-yard touchdown as the Raiders dominated Tampa Bay in a 49-16 victory.
They went on to win their next five games, including Super Bowl XI over Minnesota. It was part of a stretch in which the Raiders won 20 of 21 games, including the postseason.
“I've often said, 'If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny,'" Madden said. "Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders, you think about Ken Stabler.”
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