1. NFL owners had committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday in New York. They were scheduled before the anthem mess, but of course the topic came up, partly as a result of advertisers asking where things go from here. For now, those plans will be handled on a team-by-team basis. My understanding is that the Cowboys’ method—whole team kneeling linking arms, then standing in unison—came up in the context of this question: Is there a way we can allow for signs of unity and protest outside of the national anthem?
2. On that note, it will be interesting to see if the rest of the league follows the lead of the Packers (who play Thursday night) and Falcons (who play Sunday); both teams plan to lock arms for the national anthem and have asked their fans to do the same. Also, the Dolphins and Saints, set for a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff in London, have a chance to set the tone for Sunday the way the Ravens and Jags did.
3. Most teams were unified last week publicly, but there were difficult moments in Saturday night team meetings as players and coaches tried to plan for Sunday and also react as President Trump kept tweeting. “We all addressed it,” said one veteran over the phone, in the aftermath of one of these meetings, late Saturday night. “Whole team, and nothing much came of it.” There was one unintended benefit, though, and we’ll get to that in the next section, Four Downs.
4. The Ravens didn’t do a great job handling the London trip, admitted John Harbaugh, so you can toss a mulligan at what you saw Sunday. The real concern internally is the offensive line. Baltimore lost Ricky Wagner in March to Detroit, and starting guards Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda to injury in August and September, leading to a lot of shuffling. All the attrition showed up against a fierce Jaguars front, and Baltimore knows it needs to be better there, particularly with a 30-something quarterback trying to get his rhythm after summer back issues.
5. Speaking of the Jaguars, I’ll take a “we’ll see” on Blake Bortles for now (which is better than where we were a month ago), but I’m buying on their defense. Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler can get after it up front, Myles Jack is improving quickly at linebacker, and JalenRamsey already is one of the NFL’s best defensive backs. All that investment on defense is finally paying off, and better work on conditioning, turnovers and special teams has factored in too.
6. Should be fun to see on Sunday morning whether the Saints’ improvement against Carolina was grounded in reality, after the team looked messy in Weeks 1 and 2. The New Orleans coaching staff saw, in Charlotte, a team that found a way to clean up its mental errors across the board, and play with better tempo on offense.
7. Replacing Darren Sproles in Philly won’t be a one-man operation, so here’s a fair expectation on where changes will come. I’d expect LeGarrette Blount to be less managed and more of a workhorse, with rookie Corey Clement taking on an increased share of the load. That combo will free up second-year dynamo Wendell Smallwood to take on the Sproles’ role in the offense.
8. No mistake that the Lions on Wednesday went out for practice in pads and hit. Detroit’s been able to cover up some fundamental issues with big plays over the season’s first three weeks, so the staff’s intention is to get blocking and tackling and ball-handling back where it needs to be.
9. Mike Glennon will get the start for Chicago on Thursday night in Green Bay, but we’ll see how the greater plan to stick with him all year goes. A potential mitigating factor: The coaches now believe that Mitch Trubisky could be plenty functional in a regular-season game setting, which means one reason to stick with the vet (protecting Trubisky’s development) isn’t there like it was three months ago.
10. Seems as if some of the concerns the Panthers staff had over Cam Newton—before the opener, we mentioned that they were nervous since they hadn’t seen him let it rip yet – were warranted, as he works through some hesitancy with his repaired shoulder. It also contextualizes the Colts’ caution with Andrew Luck, who remains in a throwing and strength program, and could return to practice next week.