Let’s jump right into this week’s newsletter.
Rest In Peace, Dick Butkus
Chicago Bears and NFL legend Dick Butkus has died at 80.
- The Hall of Fame linebacker was from Chicago, played college at Illinois, and played all nine of his NFL seasons for the Bears.
- Butkus is widely considered one of the greatest players in league history, a standard-setter at middle linebacker, and the exemplary Chicago Bear.
- He was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Teams for both the 1960s and 1970s, and he was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary Team.
- College football’s Butkus Award goes to the most outstanding linebacker in the nation each season.
The NFL is mourning the loss of legendary Hall of Famer Dick Butkus. Our thoughts are with his family and the Bears organization. pic.twitter.com/arzssONXMB
— NFL (@NFL) October 5, 2023
Dick Butkus was a legend who embodied what it means to be a Chicago Bear. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/8UEVuuZLwi
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 5, 2023
Week 5 NFL highlights
In a battle of two of the NFL’s best, the 49ers dismantled the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, 42-10. Brock Purdy threw four touchdowns (three to George Kittle) and continues to silence the critics and haters. And the San Francisco defense was dominant and continues to have Dallas’ number, intercepting Dak Prescott three times. Prescott said he didn’t see the performance coming and called it the most “humbling” loss of his career.
— NFL (@NFL) October 9, 2023
A heavy rotation at receiver continued for the Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes thew for 281 yards and two touchdowns to help Kansas City defeat the Vikings, 27-20. KC improve to 4-1 while Minnesota dropped to 1-4, and Justin Jefferson left the game with a hamstring injury for the Vikings and will miss at least the next four games while on injured reserve. There’s been speculation that Minnesota could look to trade away players—even quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The #Vikings plan to place WR Justin Jefferson on injured reserve because of the hamstring injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City, per sources.
The exact timeline is TBD based on how he responds to treatment. But Jefferson is out at least four games. pic.twitter.com/hBAYZHZqlV
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 10, 2023
The Eagles took over in the second half to beat the Rams, 23-14, in front of a Philly-friendly crowd at SoFi Stadium. Jalen Hurts threw for 303 yards, ran for 72 yards, and had a touchdown both through the air and on the ground (on the unstoppable “Brotherly Shove”). The defense tightened up in the second half after allowing Cooper Kupp—looking like himself in his season debut—and Puka Nacua to do damage the first 30 minutes.
Jalen Hurts is 22-1 over his last 23 regular season starts 🔥🔥
The only other QBs over the last 73 years with a stretch of 22-1:
Joe Montana pic.twitter.com/i75htBPsDn
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 9, 2023
A week after their worst loss under Bill Belichick, the Patriots suffered their worst home loss under the legendary head coach, getting blown out by the Saints, 34-0. New England (1-4) has been outscored 72-3 over their past two games, and quarterback Mac Jones was pulled from both games—but the offense behind a struggling offensive line doesn’t look better with Bailey Zappe in the game. This is a low point for Belichick, and we believe it is a cautionary tale of the critical blow of not having a weak offensive line—especially if you don’t have a bunch of superior talent at other spots on offense (like the Bengals two seasons ago).
✈️ Playing for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (who got a game ball), the motivated Jets beat the Broncos in Denver in a highly anticipated game after Sean Payton’s comments about Hackett during the offseason. An unleashed Breece Hall went off for 177 yards and a touchdown on the ground, and New York let Payton’s team hear it after the victory. Unfortunately, New York lost offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker to a torn Achilles—the second consecutive season-ending injury for AVT.
“I got one game ball…Hack!!” pic.twitter.com/ugW4xjXgms
— New York Jets (@nyjets) October 9, 2023
Sparked by big plays by the Pittsburgh defense and a 41-yard touchdown from Kenny Pickett (playing through a bone bruise in his knee) to George Pickens with just over a minute remaining, the Steelers beat the Ravens, 17-10. It felt like a typical Ravens-Steelers type of game, with Pittsburgh pulling it out in the end—keyed by a clutch interception by second-round rookie Joey Porter Jr. in the red zone and big plays from T.J. Watt and company. But the Ravens did catch a case of the drops, with a few dropped touchdowns by a few different players in the loss.
PICKETT TO PICKENS! What a comeback for the @steelers 😮
— NFL (@NFL) October 8, 2023
The Bills got off to a slow start, and the Jaguars—staying the week in London—took advantage in a 25-20 victory for their second consecutive win across the pond. Travis Etienne Jr. had an exceptional showing, rushing 26 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns—though it was comically bittersweet, as he played against himself in fantasy football:
I played against myself in fantasy fb today 😭
— Travis Etienne Jr⁶𓅓 (@swaggy_t1) October 8, 2023
For Buffalo, again, they seemed to come out sluggish after the long trip, and it cost them after being unable to mount a comeback. And after losing Tre’Davious White to a torn Achilles in Week 4, the Bills lost star linebacker Matt Milano indefinitely due to a leg injury in the London loss. For a team with Super Bowl hopes, they are taking massive hits. We’ll see if general manager Brandon Beane works the phones at some point.
♂️ After contentiousness over the summer, a healthy Jonathan Taylor was suddenly given a three-year, $42 million contract and played in his first eligible game off injured reserve—but it was Zack Moss that starred in the Colts’ Week 5 win over the Titans, rushing 23 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Indy will unfortunately be without rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson for a month due to an AC joint injury to his right throwing shoulder, and veteran Gardner Minshew will step in for the 3-2 club.
Other Week 5 games:
- Bears 40, Commanders 20: As road underdogs, the Bears—playing for Dick Butkus hours after his death—totally blew out the Commanders in Washington. DJ Moore exploded for 230 yards and three touchdowns. The Commanders attempted 55 consecutive passes, yet didn’t get much production (or involvement) from Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. First-round rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes has been benched in consecutive weeks for a draft class that hasn’t contributed much. And new team co-owner Magic Johnson is not happy:
Tonight the Commanders played with no intensity or fire. We didn’t compete in the first half and got down 27-3 heading into halftime. It was too big of a hole to climb out of and that is why we ended up losing 40-20.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) October 6, 2023
- Lions 42, Panthers 24: Even without Amon-Ra St. Brown (abdomen) and Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring), Jared Goff totaled four touchdowns (three passing) for the 4-1 Lions. Detroit looks super legit!
- Falcons 21, Texans 19: Desmond Ridder moves to 5-0 at home in his NFL career after going unbeaten at home in college. Rookie runner Bijan Robinson did more crazy things on the field in the victory.
- Dolphins 31, Giants 16: The offensive issues for the Giants continued without running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), and Daniel Jones left the loss with a neck injury—though thankfully it doesn’t sound too serious despite Jones dealing with a neck issue a couple of years ago. All of De’Von Achane, Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle scored for Miami. We’ll have to keep an eye on the knee issue that Achane—off to an insane start to his career after more big plays on a 11/151/1 rushing line—had pop up late in the win.
- Bengals 34, Cardinals 20: Ja’Marr Chase matched DJ Moore’s Thursday night performance by scoring three touchdowns himself, including a beautiful throw from Joe Burrow for a 63-yard score. Cincy was in desperate need of a win to get some momentum ahead of matchups with the Seahawks, 49ers, and Bills.
- Raiders 17, Packers 13: The Green Bay defense limited Davante Adams (four receptions, 45 yards) in a friendly reunion, but Jordan Love was intercepted three times (including a heave to the end zone at the end of the game) while Vegas gets to 2-3.
More news around the league
Star rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez’s rookie year is likely done due to his shoulder injury. Pass rusher Matthew Judon hopes to return from his biceps injury in December. Injuries certainly haven’t helped with the Pats off to a slow start.
But New England brought back cornerback J.C. Jackson in a late-draft-pick trade with the Chargers. Jackson had 17 interceptions in his final two seasons with New England before signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with Los Angeles during free agency in 2022 that didn’t work out for either side.
The rich get richer, as the Niners added pass rusher Randy Gregory in a late-round swap with the Broncos. Denver signed Gregory to a five-year, $70 million deal during the 2022 offseason, and they figure to be a team that might trade away more players before the October 31 trade deadline.
The Bills are signing veteran cornerback Josh Norman, who played for the team in 2020, to the practice squad.
Other Sports Updates
Dillon Gabriel hit Nic Anderson with over a minute remaining as No. 12 Oklahoma beat No. 3 Texas in a classic Red River Rivalry. No. 25 Louisville topped No. 10 Notre Dame (now ranked No. 21) to remain unbeaten and virtually end the Fighting Irish’s CFP hopes. The No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs dominated No. 20 Kentucky, while No. 9 USC survived in triple overtime versus Arizona. And Miami lost to Georgia Tech in terrible fashion:
“That’s one of the biggest coaching mistakes at this level that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
Miami could've taken a knee and closed out Georgia Tech. Instead … disaster struck 😳 pic.twitter.com/I5vAvtn78p
— ESPN (@espn) October 8, 2023
Also, after a lengthy and frustrating process for the program, North Carolina receiver Tez Walker has been granted eligibility by the NCAA as a two-time transfer.
The 2023 NHL season begins tonight.
⚾️ 2023 MLB Division Series (best-of-five):
- Rangers lead Orioles, 2-0.
- Twins and Astros tied, 1-1.
- Phillies and Braves tied, 1-1.
- Diamondbacks lead Dodgers, 2-0.
Marlins pitcher and 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara will miss the 2024 season after Tommy John surgery.
Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara announces he underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2024 season. pic.twitter.com/R5umd1BZEp
— MLB (@MLB) October 6, 2023