Here's a film nugget for each team playing this weekend that should impact the action on the field:
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Entering last Sunday's Steelers-Cowboys game, a lot of the talk centered on the Cowboys' offensive line. That's rightfully so, since it is the best in the NFL. Right guard Zack Martin is considered to be perhaps the best lineman in the league this season. But last week he wasn't even the best right guard on the field. That distinction went to Steelers right guard David DeCastro, who was outstanding against the Cowboys. He got great push in the run game, he was really good pulling to lead runs and he was also good in pass protection.
DeCastro is one of the best in the NFL, and he's a big reason why things click for Le'Veon Bell when they do. DeCastro had several impressive blocks against the Cowboys to key runs for Bell and was stout in pass protection. He, not Martin, was the best right guard on the field that day.
The Browns haven't had a lot to be brag about in their 0-10 start, but the play of second-year defensive tackle Danny Shelton is something they certainly have to be happy about. Shelton wasn't as good as expected in 2015 when he was a first-round rookie, but he's been really good this season, especially against the run.
Shelton did a really nice job last week against the Ravens in the loss. On a 2-yard gain for the Ravens in the second quarter, he had a stalemate with Jeremy Zuttah at the point of attack, shed him, came down the line, and made the tackle. On a later run, he threw Zuttah to the ground, and when left guard Alex Lewis tried to help he got away from him as well to drop Terrance West for a 2-yard loss. In the fourth quarter he spun away from Zuttah and tackled West for no gain. For a big man, Shelton has great athletic ability and he's powerful at the point. He is a building block going forward.
Baltimore at Dallas
The Ravens are getting good play from a lot of young players, and one of those is rookie corner Tavon Young. He has become a nice cover player on a team that badly needed it.
Young has impressed the past few games and was really good last week against the Browns. He showed he could play both man and zone and do well in both. He broke up a slant to Corey Coleman in man coverage, then in zone came up on a play and made a nice one-on-one tackle on Isaiah Crowell.
In another one-on-one situation, he dumped Coleman for a 2-yard loss on a quick throw outside. He had great recognition and good form on his tackle. With Jimmy Smith on the other side, the Ravens have a nice duo now at a position that was a major concern heading into the season.
The Dallas cornerback play has been a big part of this team's resurgence. The corners were a major issue heading into the season, but they've been a strong part of the team so far. With Morris Claiborne having his best season, there was some thinking the Cowboys would have big coverage issues against the Steelers with him out with an injury. But Brandon Carr had an impressive game and, like Claiborne, is having a bounce-back season.
Carr did give up a 39-yard completion in off-man coverage to Cobi Hamilton, but he even had good coverage on that play. On the game's first offensive possession, he did a great job in man coverage when the Steelers split out Le'Veon Bell wide to the right and threw a fade. Carr had him blanketed.
On a third-and-3 in the third quarter, he had Antonio Brown in man coverage on the left side. That's where Ben Roethlisberger wanted to go with the football. But Carr did a great job and Roethlisberger had to pull it down. When he did, DeMarcus Lawrence crashed in from the quarterback's right side to dump him for an 8-yard sack.
A few plays later, Carr beat the block of Eli Rodgers to dump Brown on a quick screen outside for a 2-yard gain. Carr looked comfortable playing both zone and man coverage against the Steelers.
Jacksonville at Detroit
When the Jaguars signed right tackle Jeremy Parnell away from the Cowboys in 2015, they thought they were getting an up-and-coming player who could be a long-term starter for them. Parnell hasn't been awful in his one-plus seasons, but he hasn't been good either. The past two weeks he really had a rough go of it, especially in pass protection.
There is some talk that he is playing injured, but his play hasn't been as expected. The Jaguars thought with Parnell and Kelvin Beachum that they would have two tackles good enough to win with on a consistent basis this season. Beachum has been good in pass protection, but has struggled in the run game. Parnell has struggled with both at times, although pass protection has been the bigger issue. This week against Lions pass rushers Ziggy Ansah and Kerry Hyder, he has to pick it up.
The Lions are getting good play from center Travis Swanson, who's in his third year. He has made big improvements in both the run game and in pass protection. Along with rookie left tackle Taylor Decker and guard Larry Warford, the Lions have three pretty good offensive linemen. They need to get better play from right tackle Riley Reiff and left guard Graham Glasgow, who is a rookie.
The Lions haven't been a great running team this season, but it's not because Swanson can't get push or get out to the second level. As the Lions come out of the bye, I would expect them to run it more, which will make Swanson even more important.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is making big strides as a passer from the pocket. Last week against the Packers, he made some really impressive throws. What I liked about it was the different ways he completed passes.
His first throw was good for 21 yards to Tajae Sharpe. The Packers were in a two-deep zone look. Mariota took the snap and looked to his left first -- toward Sharpe -- then came back to the right before coming back to Sharpe as he got open behind the corner and in front of safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, who drifted inside a bit for some reason. Mariota fired a bullet to Sharpe. He took that snap from the shotgun.
On the next play, under center, Mariota hit tight end Delanie Walker for a 41-yard gain. The long gain was because of a missed tackle, but what I liked was the way Mariota put touch on the ball to drop it into Walker's hands as he was on the move, just out of reach of the safety Kentrell Brice.
Later in the quarter, Mariota read the two-deep look and knew he had Walker inside over the linebackers. He calmly sat in the pocket and hit Walker in the middle for 19 yards. This is a kid who is growing up as a passer. I wasn't sure that would be the case with the run-heavy offense.
I still think if he is asked to throw it around more he would be even better. He also put nice touch on a 32-yard TD throw to Rishard Matthews and hit Kendall Wright with a 6-yard touchdown pass while on the move to his right. Mariota has a lot of tools when it comes to playing the position, but the thing that's standing out now is his ability to see the field better.
When the Colts played the Packers two weeks ago, they used safety Clayton Geathers as their hybrid linebacker. And he did a heck of a job. Geathers lined up much of the time as a buck linebacker against Green Bay and was good in both the passing game and in the run game.
Teams can be reluctant to use smaller players like Geathers as a buck linebacker because they are fearful of getting pounded with the run. But he held up well when he was asked to play the run against the Packers. On the second play of the game, he took on the fullback in the hole and tackled Ty Montgomery for a 2-yard gain. On another run play, he got off the block of left guard Lane Taylor and tackled Montgomery in the hole for a 4-yard gain.
He also did some good things in coverage against the tight end. Geathers can play deep as well, which is where he normally will play. But in long down-and-distance situations, he slides up as an extra linebacker. He can blitz from that spot as well. It will be interesting to see how the Colts use him this week against a power-run team like the Titans.
Buffalo at Cincinnati
The Bills have benched second-year corner Ronald Darby for spans this season, but Stephon Gilmore is not playing that much better. Gilmore, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, has had a rough go of it in coverage in the last two games before the Bills took a bye.
He got beat for a 53-yard touchdown by Chris Hogan against the Patriots, although he looked like he thought he would get safety help. He also gave up a 33-yard completion in man coverage to Rob Gronkowski, compounding the problem by missing the tackle.
Jermaine Kearse got him on a 16-yard square-in against man coverage when the Bills played Seattle. Then he got him for 20 yards on a stop-fade. Gilmore hasn't been terrible, but for a guy who will be seeking a big-dollar deal on the market he hasn't been quite as good as expected, and nowhere near as good as he was in 2015.
When I was at Bengals camp, several coaches and players insisted right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi would be a good player. So far, that hasn't been the case.
He has struggled in his first season as a starter, which has shown up on a weekly basis. His pass protection has been an ongoing problem, and he's had some issues in the run game as well, which is why the Bengals haven't run it that well. That's compounded by the below-average play of center Russell Bodine.
This is a line that was expected to be a good unit, but it certainly isn't that. The entire group had moments last Monday against the Giants where it seemed like they couldn't block anybody. That has to improve if they are to turn this season around.
Tampa Bay at Kansas City
Getting veteran defensive lineman Robert Ayers back after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury has really helped the defense. Ayers, who is a defensive end, is also good at moving inside on passing downs to rush the passer.
He got a half sack last week against the Bears on a tackle-end stunt when he came from the outside as the end. He also got a pressure where he was the tackle looping outside the end. He also got a sack-fumble that was a safety when he beat left guard Josh Sitton and came around behind Jay Cutler to sack him and force the ball out in the end zone, netting the Bucs two points.
Ayers made a really nice play in the run game from the tackle spot when he jumped around center Cody Whitehair with a quick move and chased down Ka'Deem Carey for a 2-yard loss near the sideline. He was missed in a big way for those five games he sat.
Marcus Peters is a star at one corner for the Chiefs, but they are getting good play from Steven Nelson as well. He is the starter on the outside opposite Peters and when they go to the nickel Nelson moves into the slot, where he really impresses.
Last week against Carolina, on a quick throw outside to Ted Ginn Jr., Peters beat the block of Devin Funchess to help drop Ginn for a 1-yard loss. Kelvin Benjamin caught an 18-yard strike against him in man coverage, but the pass was perfect and the coverage was pretty good. He also broke up an out pass to Benjamin in man coverage with a nice break on the ball.
Chicago at New York Giants
What can the Bears do on offense with so many players missing? They had trouble up front when healthy, and now it looks like right guard Kyle Long will be lost for a while and right tackle Bobby Massie, who hasn't exactly played well, is also in the concussion protocol. Not only that, but Alshon Jeffrey is now suspended for four games.
This offense is a disaster right now, and Jay Cutler's play last week didn't help. Ted Larsen took over for Long and Mike Adams took over for Massie against Tampa Bay. Neither one played very well, but Adams had more problems. Massie might be cleared to play this week, but even so the Giants pass rushers have to be excited to face this group this week.
What happened to center Weston Richburg's game this season? He isn't playing close to the level he played at last season. Richburg came into the season as one of the better centers in the league, but he hasn't played to that this season.
He did look much better last week against the Bengals in the run game. That's important for the Giants moving forward. He got a great block on Vontaze Burfict on the Giants' final run for a first down to kill the clock and give the Giants the victory. He was also part of a combo block that gave up a sack to Geno Atkins, but it's hard to put the blame squarely on him.
It looked like he was expecting Marshall Newhouse, starting for the injured Justin Pugh, to squeeze down more than he did. At any rate, Richburg's improved game is a good thing for the Giants moving forward. That's the type of game they expected to get from him this season, even if it had some flaws.
Arizona at Minnesota
With Jared Veldheer out for the season, the Cardinals are now starting John Wetzel at left tackle. I thought he did a good job last week against the 49ers in pass protection, even though he was graded as giving up two sacks.
On the one sack, he actually did a nice job against DeForest Buckner, but Carson Palmer held the ball and allowed him to come around and sack him. That was not on Wetzel. The second sack went to Eli Harold, but Wetzel handled him and Harold chased Palmer down from behind when he got out of the pocket to make a throw. Again, it was not on Wetzel. The Cardinals have to be happy with the way he played. Now comes a tough test against Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffin.
One player who hasn't played as well this season on the Minnesota defense is end Brian Robison. Always a player who got by with his effort and hustle, he still does that, but he isn't winning nearly as much. He had big problems last week in Washington with Redskins tackle Morgan Moses. Robison has four sacks, but two came in one game. He just hasn't looked like the same player and maybe age -- he is 33 -- is starting to become an issue.
Miami at Los Angeles
The Dolphins got back defensive tackle Earl Mitchell from injured-reserve last week against San Diego and he made an immediate impact. In this scheme he will be a much better player than he was the past two seasons for the Dolphins. He was dominant in the run game last week against San Diego. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh, he took on the double in the first quarter, held the point, and got in on the tackle to keep Melvin Gordon to a 1-yard gain.
Then he came behind the pulling right guard on a run to the left and chased down Gordon for a 1-yard loss as the pursuit slowed Gordon some on the front side of the play. Then on the goal line, he beat the block of center Matt Slauson to drop Gordon for a 6-yard loss.
Mitchell re-injured a calf that kept him out of camp this summer in the opener against Seattle. In his place, Jordan Phillips was solid, but he doesn't make those kinds of plays. Suh has to be happy Mitchell is back. Now when Suh is doubled, at least the Dolphins can make the opponent pay.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is having an incredible season, one that just might earn him the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Donald is so quick, yet strong, that he causes problems for all types of offensive interior players.
But the Dolphins are really good inside. Mike Pouncey is a good center and rookie Laremy Tunsil is quickly becoming one of the better guards in the league. This week, however, it looks like Tunsil will move to left tackle with Kraig Urbik in at left guard. Right guard Jermon Bushrod, a converted tackle, has been the weak link of the Dolphins line when they are all healthy, but he can be strong at the point as well.
The Dolphins are a big line, while Donald isn't a big defensive tackle. So what will win out: His quickness or their power? It will be fun to watch.
New England at San Francisco
Earlier this season, Patriots corner Logan Ryan had some good games. It started to look as if Ryan were a player the Patriots had to re-sign. But then the team sat him down as a starter for two weeks, and he struggled in a big way against the Seahawks last week. The Seattle receivers beat him a bunch of times.
On one crossing route to Jermaine Kearse, he missed a tackle and let a short play turn into a 20-yard gain. It was a tough cover going across the field, but the missed tackle was bad. He also got beat for a touchdown by Doug Baldwin in off-man coverage when Baldwin ran by him after Ryan made some contact with him.
Ryan wasn't alone in his struggles in the secondary last week. Coach Bill Belichick isn't one to tolerate guys playing poorly. Strangely, he started Eric Rowe over Ryan for two games, but then Rowe was inactive last week. The secondary, aside from corner Malcolm Butler and safety Devin McCourty, has to pick up the play going forward.
When the 49ers played the Cardinals the first time this season, David Johnson ran wild. But last week the 49ers did a nice job on him. Part of that is because linebacker Gerald Hodges, who didn't play much at all in the first game, did a nice job as a run-stuffing linebacker. He made several plays in the run game, showing instincts to get to the ball and then reacting to it and making the tackle.
Hodges, who came over in a trade last year from the Vikings, has 17 tackles the past two weeks, including six solo tackles last week against the Cardinals. If the Patriots want to run LeGarrette Blount this week, they need to get him blocked.
Philadelphia at Seattle
The Seattle offensive line was better last week against the Patriots, but the Eagles' front will be a much bigger challenge. The best player on that front is defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who is a handful every week. He was good last week against Atlanta, but the Falcons got him on a 29-yard run by Devonta Freeman when they trapped him with guard Andy Levitre. The Falcons used Cox's aggressiveness up the field against him. But can Seattle do that?
Fox commands the double and the Seattle interior is young. The other guy who will be in focus here is pass rusher Brandon Graham. He got a sack last week of Matt Ryan, but he can thank Cox for it. On the play, Cox beat Chris Chester with a quick move inside and Ryan had to step to his right and Graham came from the defensive left to knock him down. Cox and Graham against the Seattle line could decide the game this week.
When Jarran Reed came out of Alabama last year, I thought the Seahawks were getting a steal. It's starting to look that way. Reed still isn't a starter on their defense, but he's playing more and more as the season moves along, getting 35 snaps last week against the Patriots.
Reed is a strong, power player, but he also has quickness inside. He got a half sack against Tom Brady last week when he walked Patriots guard Shaq Mason back into Brady and then shed him to bring down the quarterback. On tape, he should have been credited with a whole sack. He's a player to watch down the stretch for the Seahawks, who always seem to find these types of players for their defense.
Green Bay at Washington
The Packers have lost the past two weeks, which has put the focus on other areas of the team, but the return of center Corey Linsley in the middle of the line has kept the line playing well. Linsley was supposed to be the team's starter this season, but he tore a hamstring before the season. That meant J.C. Tretter would be the starter, and Tretter was having a good season before he suffered a knee injury.
That put Linsley back in as the starter two weeks ago against the Colts. In two games he has been good and the Packers haven't really missed a beat up front. Both are good players and the Packers should be glad they have them around.
When Trent Williams was suspended for four games, the Redskins had to be concerned about putting Ty Nsekhe in at left tackle. But he did a heck of a job last week in place of Williams. Facing a good Vikings front, and especially pass rusher Everson Griffin, he had a good day in pass protection and also was good in the run game.
Nsekhe has played in relief several times this season at both left and right tackle, and he appears to be getting better every time out. Redskins line coach Bill Callahan deserves a lot of credit for this kid's growth. He has really good feet and he's athletic in the run game. He isn't overpowering, but he does a nice job with positioning in the run game.
On one play in pass protection last week, the Vikings blitzed safety Harrison Smith off Nsekhe's side. He not only helped block Smith, but he got Griffin on the play as well. It was a two-for-one block. The Redskins will be fine playing this kid for the short run.
Houston at Oakland
One of the most improved players on the Texans roster is inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney. He flashed last year as a rookie, but he's so much more instinctive this season, which allows him to use his athletic ability a lot more.
On the first play of the game last week against the Jaguars, he read the run to the offensive left, attacked downhill with his speed and dropped T.J. Yeldon for a 1-yard loss with a form tackle at the legs. He is also good against the pass. In a one-on-one situation with Yeldon out of the backfield in the first quarter, he got over quickly on a swing pass to keep it to a 3-yard gain. The Jaguars scored on similar type play the week before against Kansas City.
McKinney later made a nice tackle in a one-on-one situation on a quick throw to the right against Julius Thomas for a 1-yard loss. On another play in the second quarter, he read the run, jumped into the hole, and took on Chris Ivory for a 2-yard gain. He is certainly among the best defensive players on the Texans roster right now.
Earlier this season, when the Oakland defense was really struggling, one of the players having issues was veteran safety Reggie Nelson. He wasn't playing like he did in recent years with the Bengals.
But in the past few games, Nelson has been more like the player he was with the Bengals. He has picked up his play against the pass and he's also tackling better. That's big when you consider he's playing next to a rookie safety in Karl Joseph. Nelson was always regarded as a player with range, but he seemed to struggle with that early on. Now he's back playing good football on the improved Oakland defense.