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NFL insider notes: Mediocrity rules AFC North, plus Josh McDaniels on head coach radar once again

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Please, someone, tell me what to make of the AFC North. Are all of these teams good? None of them? Just patently mediocre (like much of the league)?

I can’t figure it out on my own.

But this much is certain – none of these teams seems capable of running away with this division, and it might only get more bonkers from here as we head into a stretch where the Ravens, Browns, Bengals and Steelers truly begin to meet with greater regularity. In this topsy-turvy division, sometimes not playing at all is the best thing possible. Because in Week 10, the Bengals (5-4) – who limped into their bye off two straight humbling defeats – fared better than anyone else, as the Ravens (6-3) were throttled by the woeful Dolphins, the Browns (5-5) yielded 45 straight points in a humiliating defeat at New England and the Steelers (5-3-1) somehow conspired with the winless Lions to complete a 70-minute football atrocity that resulted in a 16-16 tie.

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We know at least one of these teams is going to the postseason, but are we convinced that two or more are? How can it be that whenever it appears an opportunity is there for one of these teams to step forward, and make a real statement, no one does? If nothing else, Week 10 was another reminder about how bonkers this league can be, and it’s clear that serious flaws remain for all these teams as we enter the playoff push.

The Ravens allowed the 30th-ranked defense to blitz them with abandon on pretty much every second and third down, they made no adjustments, their defense continued to surrender big play after big play and they were suffocated 22-10 on Thursday night in the lowest output of the Lamar Jackson era. But we were only getting started. The AFC North had more follies to come.

The Browns looked great on their opening drive, roaring behind the run game for a 7-0 lead. Then the beatdown began. The Patriots doubled Baker Mayfield‘s tight ends and he started turning the ball over. New England put together four 90-yard scoring drives (including a 99-yarder) and systematically dismantled the Browns on both sides of the ball. This looked like a bad high school game with how one-sided the output was.

The Patriots led 24-7 at the half, outgained Cleveland 247-91, held the ball for 19-and-a-half of the final 25 minutes of that half, and blanked the Browns on third downs. Mayfield was knocked out of yet another game, posting a rating of 56.3 in the process, Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones left in garbage time with a nearly perfect rating (142.1) and they were outgained 452-217. Finding a way to get Mayfield through this season might be difficult at best, and this team has been unable to build any momentum this season.

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And the Steelers wrapped up play in the division this weekend with perhaps the most bizarre outcome of all. Mason Rudolph was an abject failure filling in for Ben Roethlisberger with the future Hall of Fame on the COVID-19 list, and even though Lions QB Jared Goff was even worse, the Steelers couldn’t muster a way to score one more point than the sad-sack Lions in Pittsburgh. With their constant turnovers and lack of discipline, the Steelers were quite lucky not to lose. Rudolph managed to thrown for 4.8 yards per attempt, his accuracy and decision-making were suspect and the vaunted Steelers defense allowed Detroit to roll up 229 yards rushing, including one scoring drive of nothing but five running plays (for 85 yards) and one incomplete pass, including a 42-yard TD by a converted safety.

Yeah, it really was that bad in the AFC North.

And it makes the jumbled-up AFC even more difficult to figure out as we approach Thanksgiving. If nothing else, I wouldn’t write the Bengals off just yet, and I wouldn’t be in a hurry to crown any of these teams.

Josh McDaniels back on head coach radar 

Expect to hear a lot about Josh McDaniels next month when the head coaching carousel starts to churn. He is doing elite stuff bringing Mac Jones along as a passer, and the scope of the Patriots’ offense has expanded exponentially since September.

Nothing gets owners hot and bothered like bringing a rookie quarterback along, and we all know McDaniels has had opportunities to leave New England in the past. In a year in which there aren’t many hot new names percolating, I expect McDaniels will have ample interest. The Patriots, who have reconfigured their offensive line on the fly, now have a balanced attack and Jones doesn’t rattle easy.

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After a slow start, the Patriots have won four in a row and five of seven and are playing better at home again and won’t be an easy out from here on out. They have a playoff-caliber defense and the run game is humming. Look out.

More Week 10 notes

  • The Mike White hype was fun, but Sunday against the Bills was ugly. Tipped balls, picked off passes, and too much heat from a Buffalo defense that might be the best in the NFL. After four picks, you can rest assured that top pick Zach Wilson will be back out there as soon as his knee allows, for better or worse.
  • Speaking of better, Dak Prescott was markedly improved in Week 10, after clearly not being himself coming back from a calf injury. That offense was hitting on all fronts from the onset and Atlanta was pretty much expunged in the second quarter.
  • Hard to figure that the first overall pick in the NFL Draft could complete three of 14 passes in a half of football for 36 yards, but that’s what happened for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars on Sunday. Despite that, the Colts‘ somehow let Jacksonville stick around in a game that was far closer than it should have been.
  • Welcome back to the NFL, Cam Newton. Not sure anyone saw his fast start and immediate impact for the Panthers coming, but that team was certainly more fun and interesting with him on the field than it has been in a long time without him.
  • In a season in which everyone else seems to be finding ways to lose to a lesser team at least every few weeks, the Titans continue to stand out. They have been fairly flawless since an early loss to the Jets, and oozed guts and poise in holding off the Saints on Sunday. Mike Vrabel might be the NFL Coach of the Year.
  • The 1 p.m. ET window once again featured some truly lopsided ball games. Of the seven early kickoffs, four were total blowouts (Cowboys 43-3 over Falcons; Patriots 45-7 over Browns; Bills 45-17 over Jets).





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San Diego State vs. Toledo: How to watch, schedule, live stream info, game time, TV channel

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Who’s Playing

Toledo @ San Diego State

Current Records: Toledo 2-1; San Diego State 1-2

What to Know

The San Diego State Aztecs may be playing at home Saturday, but the experts are forecasting a three-point defeat. They will take on the Toledo Rockets at 3:30 p.m. ET at Snapdragon Stadium. Both of these teams will be looking for a pick-me-up after considerable defeats in their previous games.

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The Aztecs were expected to have a tough go of it last week, and, well, they did. They found themselves the reluctant recipients of an unfortunate 35-7 punch to the gut against the Utah Utes. San Diego State was in a tough position by the half, with the score already sitting at 21 to nothing. One thing holding San Diego State back was the mediocre play of QB Kyle Crum, who did not have his best game: despite one touchdown, he threw one interception with a passing completion percentage of only 31.25%.

Meanwhile, it’s never fun to lose, and it’s even less fun to lose 77-21, which was the final score in Toledo’s tilt against the Ohio State Buckeyes last week. The Rockets were down 56-21 at the end of the third quarter, which was just too much to recover from. Toledo’s loss came about despite a quality game from QB Dequan Finn, who passed for two TDs and 153 yards on 19 attempts in addition to rushing for one TD and 70 yards. Near the top of the highlight reel was Finn’s 50-yard TD bomb to WR Thomas Zsiros in the first quarter.

The losses put San Diego State at 1-2 and Toledo at a reciprocal 2-1. A couple offensive numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: San Diego State enters the game with 221 rushing yards per game on average, good for 22nd best in the nation. The Rockets have displayed some offensive firepower of their own as they rank 17th in the nation when it comes to rushing touchdowns, with nine on the season.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Snapdragon Stadium — San Diego, California
  • TV: Fox Sports 1
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $14.85

Odds

The Rockets are a 3-point favorite against the Aztecs, according to the latest college football odds.

The line has drifted a bit towards the Rockets, as the game opened with the Rockets as a 1-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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Miami (FL) vs. Middle Tenn.: How to watch online, live stream info, game time, TV channel

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Who’s Playing

Middle Tenn. @ No. 25 Miami (FL)

Current Records: Middle Tenn. 2-1; Miami (FL) 2-1

What to Know

The Middle Tenn. Blue Raiders are staring down a pretty large 25.5-point disadvantage in the spread for Saturday’s game. They will take on the Miami (FL) Hurricanes at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. The Blue Raiders should still be riding high after a win, while Miami (FL) will be looking to regain their footing.

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Middle Tenn. simply couldn’t be stopped last week, as they easily beat the Tennessee State Tigers at home 49-6. The team ran away with 42 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, Miami (FL) came up short against the Texas A&M Aggies last week, falling 17-9. Miami (FL) couldn’t find the end zone and got their points from three field goals.

Special teams was responsible for all of the team’s points. K Andres Borregales delivered a perfect 3-for-3 game.

Middle Tenn.’s win brought them up to 2-1 while the Hurricanes’ loss pulled them down to an identical 2-1. Two defensive numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: The Blue Raiders haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season. Miami (FL) is not quite as good, but they are no chumps, either: they enter the contest with only one rushing touchdown allowed, good for 11th best in the nation. Looks like the running backs might have a tough go of it.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, Florida
  • TV: ACC Network
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $4.00

Odds

The Hurricanes are a big 25.5-point favorite against the Blue Raiders, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Hurricanes as a 26.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -111

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.

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Watch Memphis vs. North Texas: How to live stream, TV channel, start time for Saturday’s NCAA Football game

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Who’s Playing

North Texas @ Memphis

Current Records: North Texas 2-2; Memphis 2-1

What to Know

The Memphis Tigers’ homestand continues as they prepare to take on the North Texas Mean Green at 3:30 p.m. ET Sept. 24 at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The defensive coordinators will surely put in extra hours ahead of this game since these teams’ offenses combined for 1,021 yards last week.

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The Tigers were able to grind out a solid win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves last week, winning 44-32. Memphis’ QB Seth Henigan was on fire, passing for three TDs and 360 yards on 28 attempts in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown. Henigan’s 51-yard touchdown toss to WR Joseph Scates in the fourth quarter made for one of the most memorable moments of the night.

Meanwhile, North Texas’ and the UNLV Rebels’ contest last week was up for grabs at halftime, but the Mean Green were thoroughly outmatched 35-7 in the second half. North Texas found themselves the reluctant recipients of an unfortunate 58-27 punch to the gut against UNLV. RB Oscar Adaway III put forth a good effort for the losing side as he snatched one receiving TD.

Memphis is the favorite in this one, with an expected 12.5-point margin of victory. True fans might be the only ones betting on them, currently 0-2 ATS, to cover the spread.

The Tigers are now 2-1 while the Mean Green sit at 2-2. Two offensive numbers to keep in mind before kickoff: Memphis comes into the matchup boasting the 18th most passing yards per game in the nation at 313.3. North Texas has displayed some offensive firepower of their own as they enter the contest with nine passing touchdowns, good for 17th best in the nation.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium — Memphis, Tennessee
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $15.00

Odds

The Tigers are a big 12.5-point favorite against the Mean Green, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers were right in line with the betting community on this one, as the game opened as a 12.5-point spread, and stayed right there.

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Over/Under: -112

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.

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