Goff to make first start
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Welcome to an NFL huddle, Mr. Goff .
Your assignment, as No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft who has not gotten on the field yet, but starts Sunday for the Rams against the Dolphins, is simple: win.
Doing so against a Miami team that has won four straight makes your task a bit tougher. But never mind, Jared, go out and play like fellow rookie quarterbacks Dak Prescott in Dallas and Carson Wentz in Philadelphia have done.
“It’s been a long time, it feels like, since I’ve gotten out there and played,” says Goff, and he’s right — it was the preseason when he last took a meaningful snap. “I’m excited to get back out there and play.
“I’ve been working hard to get to that point. I’m glad it’s finally come, glad they’ve given me that vote of confidence and the nod. I’m ready to go and proving them right.”
The Rams (4-5) come off a 9-6 victory at the Jets, hardly a boost of confidence for the offense. So coach Jeff Fisher made the switch.
The opponent has looked formidable the past month. After winning last weekend at San Diego, the Dolphins (5-4 ) stayed in California this week to train.
“It’s a different week for us just being away from home and being out of our normal facility,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill says. “It’s definitely a challenge for us, but I think we have the focus to get it done the right way.
“I think that’s one of the benefits of being out here together is we have time to spend together, to go to dinner, to hang out and build that team unity.”
The action began with Carolina’s 23-20 home victory over New Orleans.
Cam Newton threw for 192 yards and a touchdown in the game marred by injuries to key players. Newton was 14 of 33 and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. to help the Panthers (4-6) pull even with the Saints for third place in the NFC South.
The Panthers lost former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly (concussion), two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), defensive end Mario Addison (foot) and cornerback Leonard Johnson (chest) to injuries. Kuechly left the field on a cart while tears streamed down his face. The Saints lost running back Mark Ingram to a concussion in the third quarter.
Off this week are the Falcons (6-4), Chargers (4-6), Jets (3-7) and Broncos (7-3).
Houston (6-3) vs. Oakland (7-2) at Mexico City
Football returns to a mecca of “futbol,” when the Raiders host the Texans at Azteca Stadium — the first regular-season game south of the border in 11 years.
“I like to watch soccer, so I’m wondering is it going to be like a soccer atmosphere where they have the horns playing and stuff like that,” Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye says. “I looked at the field just to see what it’s like and everything. I’m already visualizing everything on what it’s going to be like.
“At the end of the day, you just got to expect the unexpected, you know, packed crowd. You don’t know what type of atmosphere you’re going to have or how loud it’s going to be, so it’s exciting and you try not to think about it. At the same time, you just try to focus on the task at hand.”
The Raiders have impressed with their high-powered offense and opportunism in the league’s best division, the AFC West. Don’t expect Houston’s Brock Osweiler, averaging a league-low 5.6 yards per pass, to keep up with that.
Pittsburgh (4-5) at Cleveland (0-10)
Sure, the Steelers have lost four in a row. In Cleveland, they are saying “So what!”
The Browns never have been 0-10 i n a season and they enter the game with a 416-416-10 record for the two installments of the franchise. They have never been below .500, but are 14-44 since Jimmy and Dee Haslam took over as owners.
To get off this schneid, they must figure out how to beat Ohio native Ben Roethlisberger, who is 20-2 against them overall. The Steelers are 28-6 against the Browns since Cleveland returned to the league in 1999.
Baltimore (5-4) at Dallas (8-1)
The Ravens and Cowboys each are division leaders. Similarities end there.
Dallas is the NFL’s hottest team, not having lost since the opener. It has that dynamic offense led by the league’s best line and sensational rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Prescott. Home-field advantage in the NFC is there for the taking.
Baltimore’s only reason for being on top in the AFC North is how poorly the other division members have performed. The Ravens are too streaky, winning three, losing four, then winning two.
Jacksonville (2-7) at Detroit (5-4)
Detroit is another first-place team with few credentials to be thinking January success. Again, a weak division, the NFC North, has helped the Lions, who play nothing but tight games. All nine this season have been decided by seven points or fewer and Detroit has been trailing or tied at some point in the final two minutes of regulation in each of them.
Jacksonville has struggled in great part because it has not had a takeaway in the past five games. That’s tied for the longest drought since the 1970 merger. The Jaguars are an NFL-worst minus-14 in turnover differential.
Philadelphia (5-4) at Seattle (6-2-1)
Both come off impressive victories, and Pete Carroll could get his 100th NFL win on Sunday. It looks as if he’ll have regular RB Thomas Rawls back from a Week 2 leg injury, and rookie C.J. Prosise gained 153 yards from scrimmage in the win at New England. They could provide balance to an offense that QB Russell Wilson had humming against the Patriots.
Philadelphia won its fourth straight at home by beating Atlanta, but is 1-4 on the road. Wentz has been up and down, though the team has scored at least 20 points in 11 straight games, the longest streak in the league. Defense and special teams have been solid for the Eagles.
Green Bay (4-5) at Washington (5-3-1)
The previous time they met, the Packers won a playoff game here in January. Now, Green Bay is reeling, losing three straight, the ground game mediocre, the blocking unsteady and the defense keeping them competitive much of the time.
Eddie Lacy has missed four games with an ankle injury, and the Packers signed running back Christine Michael after Seattle waived him.
Aaron Rodgers will need for his line to come together this week because Washington has three sacks in five consecutive games. Redskins tight end Jordan Reed had nine receptions for 120 yards and a TD in that wild-card game.
Tennessee (5-5) at Indianapolis (4-5)
Some good things are happening in Nashville, and to punctuate that, the Titans also could end a 10-game slide against the Colts. Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray have the offense hopping — Tennessee has scored 35 or more points in three consecutive games for the first time in a single season in franchise history. Mariota has thrown an NFL-high 17 TD passes over the past six weeks and Murray is second in the NFL with 930 yards rushing.
Indianapolis was off last week. It won the Week 7 matchup when TE Jack Doyle caught a 7-yard TD pass with 1:55 to go. The Colts will honor the 10-year anniversary of their 2006 Super Bowl championship team.
New England (7-2) at San Francisco (1-8)
Coming off that bruising home loss to Seattle, the Patriots might take out their frustrations on the 49ers. Tom Brady, who grew up in the Bay Area, has never played at San Francisco. With a win over a team that has dropped eight in a row, Brady would tie Brett Favre for second in victories by a quarterback with 199. Peyton Manning holds the record with 200.
The 49ers come off a strong but losing performance at Arizona. QB Colin Kaepernick should have fond memories of the Patriots: Kaepernick threw four TD passes in his only meeting with them, in 2012, a season the 49ers went to the Super Bowl.
Buffalo (4-5) at Cincinnati (3-5-1)
Two slumpers. Buffalo has dropped three straight and comes off a bye. The Bungles, uh, Bengals, have won only one of their past five, against inept Cleveland.
The Bills have found ways to score, getting at least 25 points in each of the past five games, and are second in rushing behind Dallas with 155 yards per game. QB Tyrod Taylor comes off a strong outing in a loss to Seattle.
Since opening last season 8-0, the Bengals are 7-10-1, including a playoff meltdown loss to Pittsburgh. Of note, though: A.J. Green is 36 yards shy of joining Randy Moss as the only NFL receivers with 1,000 yards in each of their first six seasons. Green ranks second in the league with 964 yards and third with 66 catches.
Chicago (2-7) at New York Giants (6-3)
New York has taken four in a row and has shown a penchant for big plays on offense, defense and special teams. The previous time the Giants won five straight, they also won the championship in 2011.
Safety Landon Collins has sparked the defense with four interceptions in the past three games and excellent pass coverage and run support.
Chicago has shown nothing on the road, dropping all five contests. The Bears seem to have found a running back, however, in Jordan Howard, who rushed for 100 yards in a loss to Tampa Bay last week. Howard ranks second among rookies with 605 yards rushing.
Arizona (4-4-1) at Minnesota (5-4)
What’s the deal with these two 2015 playoff teams?
For Minnesota, awful blocking and injuries have contributed to four straight defeats. A defense that looked impenetrable earlier this season now looks vulnerable at times, and the kicking game has been woeful.
Still, the Vikings are tied with Detroit atop the NFC North.
The Cardinals have lost all eight meetings in Minnesota since their move to Arizona in 1988, and haven’t won at the Vikings since 1977 as the St. Louis Cardinals. For them to make any headway in the NFC playoff race after being a preseason favorite, they must prosper on the road: five of their final seven games are away from Arizona.
Tampa Bay (4-5) at Kansas City (7-2)
Don’t look now, but the Chiefs are tied for the AFC’s best record. And they could get back their star pass rusher, Justin Houston from a lengthy injury rehab. Regardless, they are getting major contributions from safety Eric Berry, who had his fourth career interception return for a TD in last week’s win at Carolina, and LB Dee Ford, whose 10 sacks are tied with Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander for the NFL lead. KC leads the NFL with a plus-14 turnover margin.
The Buccaneers have won four straight in this series.