Tue Nov 12 5:03pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes between Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) and strong safety Micah Hyde (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
In this May 15, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns' Kareem Hunt (27) and Nick Chubb (24) talk during an NFL football organized team activity session at the team's training facility in Berea, Ohio. With Kareem Hunt returning from his eight-game NFL suspension to join Nick Chubb in Clevelands backfield, the Browns (3-6) have a dynamic duo that will test opposing defenses through the air and on the ground. In Sundays 19-16 win over Buffalo, the Hunt-Chubb tandem combined for 147 yards rushing and 49 receiving while helping the Browns snap a four-game losing streak that halted a season shaped by high expectations from dissolving into another mess. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, top, is tackled by Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) rushes against the Buffalo Bills during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Freddie Kitchens has struggled to make two star wide receivers happy. The Browns coach now has a pair of elite running backs to please as well.
One football. Four playmakers.
That's not necessarily a bad problem.
With Kareem Hunt returning from his eight-game NFL suspension to join Nick Chubb in Cleveland's backfield, the Browns (3-6) have a dynamic duo that will test opposing defenses on the ground and through the air.
In Sunday's 19-16 win over Buffalo, the Hunt-Chubb tandem debuted and combined for 196 total yards while helping the Browns snap a four-game losing streak that halted this season shaped by high expectations from dissolving into another maddening mess.
Kitchens, whose future was beginning to look bleak and remains unclear, understands that Chubb-Hunt can be a potent 1-2 combination.
''Anytime you can get guys who can do things with the ball in their hands and they can also play off of other people, that definitely impacts decisions, alignments and assignments,'' Kitchens said Tuesday as the Browns prepared for Thursday night's game against the surging Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) ''When you have more than a couple of options, it's always, from that positon in particular, very good.''
And very needed.
To this point, the Browns have lacked a clear offensive identity.
The two-back, Chubb-Hunt set may change that.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn't developed any consistent chemistry with Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has just one touchdown catch as teams have focused on taking him away with double teams. The Browns went out of their way to get Beckham involved on Sunday as he was targeted 12 times - Mayfield just missed him on two long throws - and had five catches.
Jarvis Landry had one of his best games this season with nine receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns have already seen how Hunt's versatility will prevent teams from keying on Chubb, who is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season, while creating more downfield opportunities for Beckham and Landry.
''We kind of did some experiments on just how much we can do with that package,'' Mayfield said. ''Obviously, two dynamic players with Nick and Kareem, we are able to do a lot but kind of make to where we format it where it all looks similar, but we are doing different things out of it. It can be an explosive package for us. We just have to go out there and do our job.''
From the start on Sunday, Hunt did his job, unleashing months of pent-up energy.
On Cleveland's second play, he lined up alongside Chubb and then delivered a kick-out block that cleared a path for his teammate on a 21-yard run. It was a tone-setter and perhaps a sign of things to come.
''They're both willing blockers, they both can catch out of the backfield, then can line up in different spots and they both run with great energy,'' said left guard Joel Bitonio. ''It was cool to see `em both out there. Hunt ran the ball hard the few times he got it. The cool thing was he was lead-blocking a few times and some of those were big spring plays. You know we don't have a fullback in there, but he kind of acted like it a couple times.
''That was really cool to see, his willingness to be that guy.''
Hunt's debut for the Browns was a revelation in many ways.
The 24-year-old former NFL rushing champion is determined to change his personal narrative following two ugly, off-field incidents that led to his release by the Kansas City Chiefs last year and subsequent league punishment. To some, the disturbing video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during an argument last year has painted him as an unforgivable villain.
However, the Browns have been impressed with his attitude and maturity. He's made strides off the field. On it, he's a potentially game-changing player.
''Whatever the team needs, he'll do,'' said center JC Tretter. ''He showed it.''
Hunt understands there may be people not thrilled that he's getting a second chance. That's something else he has avoided focusing on.
''I really do not pay too much attention with that,'' he said when asked if he senses how fans have received his return. ''It is up to you. If you like me, you like me.''
NOTES: DE Olivier Vernon (knee) and S Eric Murray (knee) remain sidelined and will likely miss Thursday's game. ... The season's first significant snowfall forced the Browns to practice indoors. But kicker Austin Seibert, punter Jamie Gillan and long snapper Charley Hughlett went outside to get their work in. ... Mayfield will match up Thursday against Steelers QB Mason Rudolph for the first time as pros. They faced each other three times in college with Mayfield leading Oklahoma to a 3-0 record against Rudolph and Oklahoma State. ''Mason is a great guy,'' Mayfield said. ''He is playing well, taking care of the ball, putting them in a good position to win.''
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught six of eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Golladay was having a quiet afternoon before a 10-yard touchdown with about two minutes to play gave his fantasy owners something to smile about. Golladay has the talent but will be hard to trust with rookie David Blough under center in Detroit. A matchup with a porous Buccaneers secondary in Week 15, however, will keep Golladay as a must-start fantasy receiver.
Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough went 24-for-40 passing for 205 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Blough connected with Kenny Golladay for a touchdown in garbage time but overall played like a rookie who was third on the depth chart most of the season. Blough shouldn't be owned in typical fantasy leagues but does have streamer appeal in 2QB leagues with a matchup against an atrocious Buccaneers pass defense in Week 15.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate caught all four of his targets for 30 yards and a touchdown in a Week 14 win over Indianapolis. Brate had one target less than O.J. Howard and both should see their target share increase with wide receiver Mike Evans injuring his hamstring in the game. Fantasy managers would need to see it with Brate before buying in as his usage has been sporadic all season making it almost impossible to trust Brate in fantasy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber had 11 carries for 36 scoreless yards in a win over the Colts Sunday. Barber caught both of his targets for 19 yards in the passing game. Tampa Bay abandoned the run game early in this one falling behind by multiple scores making Barber a spectator on the sidelines for most of the second half. Barber and fellow running back Ronald Jones both played less than 40 percent of the offensive snaps and will be hard to trust moving forward as part of a timeshare backfield on a pass-first team. Barber will be a touchdown-dependent dart throw in deep leagues at best in Week 15 at Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson launched himself into fantasy relevance Sunday making five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Watson, who had just one catch coming into the game, played 43 snaps after starting receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) left with an injury. Head coach Bruce Arians said he's be shocked if Evans played in Week 15 so expect Watson to play in three-wide receiver sets which should get him on the field plenty for the pass-happy Bucs. Watson's eight targets Sunday were second on the team to Chris Godwin so Watson has some fantasy appeal in deeper leagues, but is too untested to trust in 10 or 12 team leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman caught three of five targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Colts Sunday. Perriman played a season-high 83 percent of the team's offensive snaps with star receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) making an early exit in this game. Perriman has been the third receiver in this offense but should be a starter as long as Evans is sidelined. Fantasy owners scrambling to replace Evans should look to Perriman as a possible replacement. There are worse situations to be in than the starting wide receiver in a potent Tampa Bay passing attack. Expect Perriman to be a flex-worthy starter in Week 15 at Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday for a hamstring injury. Evans pulled up lame at the end of a 61-yard touchdown catch in the first half which was his only production in the game. Head coach Bruce Arians said he's be "shocked" if Evans can play in Week 15 vs Detroit. Breshad Perriman was working as the number two receiver after Evans' injury with Justin Watson playing in three-WR sets. Expect both to see more targets with Evans sidelined with tight end O.J. Howard also expected to see a bump in production.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin caught seven of nine targets for 91 scoreless yards in a win over the Colts Sunday. The nine targets were more than any other Buccaneer and that should continue to be the case as fellow receiver Mike Evans left with a hamstring injury leaving Godwin as the unquestioned number one for Tampa. Godwin will have an interesting matchup in Week 15 as the Evans injury means Godwin may see more of cornerback Darius Slay should the Lions decide to use Slay in the slot. Regardless of who he's facing, Godwin is a must-start WR1.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston had a typical day for him putting up huge fantasy numbers while also making enough boneheaded plays to keep things interesting. Winston threw for a league-high 456 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in a comeback win over the Colts. Winston also added a touchdown on a QB sneak. Winston did miss a series in the second half with a hand injury. After the game, it was discovered there is a small fracture on his throwing hand so that will be a situation to monitor. He did finish the game, however, and should make fantasy owners nervous again in Week 15 as a boom-or-bust QB1 at Detroit.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark (ankle) left the stadium in a boot with the use of a scooter.
Fantasy Spin: That doesn't sound good, and his season could be in jeopardy. Stay tuned for further testing.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) is eyeing a return for Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills.
Fantasy Spin: Smith-Schuster would return to a tough matchup, but he'll be a solid WR2.
Atlanta Falcons CB Desmond Trufant (forearm) will miss the rest of the season with a broken forearm that will require surgery.
Coming off of his best game of the year and facing a subpar New York Jets Defense, many fantasy owners likely put their playoff hopes in the hands of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, hoping the journeyman had a little more magic left. Unfortunately for those wayward fantasy players, Fitzpatrick's tricks on the field fizzled out, finishing with 245 yards, one interception, and just 11 fantasy points. The 11 points are actually generous, given Fitzpatrick's 59.4 quarterback-rating, as the sluggish quarterback got over half of his points by leading the Dolphins in rushing with an inexplicable 65 yards on the ground. Even with the dud in Week 14, Fitzpatrick is still worth keeping an eye on, getting to face a New York Giants Defense next week that is allowing the ninth-most points to quarterbacks this season.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (hand) is having tests done on his right hand Monday, Dec. 9, but he's believed to be OK. He had X-rays after the game, and there is optimism he'll play next week.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes figures to be a top-flight option against the Denver Broncos next week if everything checks out. Whenever the team locks into their playoff spot, though, he's almost a shoo-in to sit out.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (elbow) has really seen his practice time diminish due to maintenance of his elbow injury.
Fantasy Spin: The numbers show it, too, as Brady is the 23rd ranked quarterback in fantasy over the last five weeks. He'll be a low-end QB1 option that shouldn't have too many worries against the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the middle of a breakout season and coming off of the best game of his career, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker was forced out of the Dolphins 22-21 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday after suffering a concussion. Parker was removed from the game after hauling in a 21-yard catch at the beginning of the second quarter and finished his day with 28 yards, catching both of his targets. Finishing with just two points, Parker has now alternated single and double-digit fantasy performances since Week 3 and if healthy, will have a juicy matchup in Week 15, facing a New York Giants Defense that's allowing the second-most points to wide receivers this season.
Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers missed his first kick in four weeks when he missed an extra point in Seattle's Sunday night loss to the Rams. Myers' missed kick came after a pick-six by Quandre Diggs, and while it hurts to see any missed chances at points, Seattle's offense was so pitiful that the miss proved inconsequential. Myers has been money since his meltdown against the Bucs, and hopefully this will just be a minor blip. He did drill both field goals he attempted in the game, so maybe that'll help keep his confidence up and keep him focused.
Seattle Seahawks free safety Quandre Diggs continued to turn fans into believers by snagging a pair of interceptions, including a pick-six, in Seattle's loss to the Rams. Both of Diggs' interceptions came on back-to-back possessions, and he now has three interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in just four games. The Seahawks Defense certainly wasn't at its best on Sunday night, but with the offense doing it zero favors, it put up a pretty strong performance. Also of note, one-handed feel-good story Shaquem Griffin continues to be a revelation since he moved into a more pass-rushing role. He's given a huge boost to Seattle's pass rush as of late.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf was targeted six times on Sunday night, and he hauled in all six passes. That's the first time in his career that he's caught every pass thrown his way, and it further accentuates the growth he's had as a receiver this season. Unfortunately, Seattle lost the game and Metcalf was held without a touchdown, but improved catching is a wonderful bit of growth for the rookie. Metcalf now sits at 783 yards receiving on 50 catches, and he's been able to score five touchdowns. For a guy who was thought to just be a workout warrior, it's been quite the impressive rookie campaign.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett caught four passes for 43 yards on Sunday night against the Rams, but he's clearly still hampered by the combination of the serious shin contusion and flu. Lockett seemed to struggle to get open on critical downs, and Russell Wilson was forced to turn to less dependable options for some throws. Lockett's connection with Wilson is famous, so it's logical to conclude that the injury/illness are still affecting his play. It's unclear if the coaching staff will address it in any way or continue to run him out there, but the Seahawks will need him completely healthy if their offense is resume the high-flying act it was at the start of the year.