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One and Done - FFL: Week 1 | NFL: Week 12

Browns' defense thinned by virus, injuries to face Jaguars

Fri Nov 27 3:35pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

Cleveland Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon (54) sacks Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) in the end zone for a safety during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)


Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is sacked by Cleveland Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon (54) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)


CLEVELAND (AP) Olivier Vernon's dominating, three-sack performance last week resulted in an award for the Browns defensive end - and a plea from one of his coaches.

For an encore.

With star Myles Garrett sidelined again for Sunday's game at Jacksonville as he continues to recover from COVID-19, and with two other defensive starters out due to injury and the virus, the Browns are counting on Vernon and others to deliver against the Jaguars (1-9).

Last Sunday, Vernon stepped in in Garrett's absence and had his most productive game since coming to Cleveland last year from the New York Giants as part of the trade involving flashy wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Vernon did his best Garrett impression by recording three sacks, including one for a safety, as the Browns beat the Philadelphia Eagles 22-17 to stay firmly in the playoff race. Cleveland sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz five times and swarmed him numerous others.

Vernon was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week, and the 30-year-old also received a pat on the back and pseudo pep talk from Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods.

''It was great that he got the award for being player of the week,'' Woods said Friday. ''That is what I told him: `Once you do it once, we expect to see it again.' He has always been capable of doing that.

''You have seen him flashing at times, whether it is just pressuring the quarterback and just missing a sack. It was good. I am happy for him that he had that type of game.''

The Browns needed it and will need another one.

Cleveland's defense will be ultra-thin at end - and elsewhere - Sunday.

Along with Garrett, the Browns will be missing ends Porter Gustin (he started for Garrett last week) and Joe Jackson, both of whom tested positive for the coronavirus this week and were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Also, top cornerback Denzel Ward, the NFL's leader in passes defensed, is out with a strained calf and starting linebacker Sione Takitaki, who had a 50-yard interception for a touchdown last week, is down after testing positive. Safety Sheldrick Redwine was ruled out Friday with a knee injury.

It's hardly an ideal situation, but Woods, who has had to plug holes all season because of injuries, thinks the Browns have adequate depth.

''I know you hear it a lot so it is a politically correct answer, but it is really next man up,'' he said. ''We were dealing with that same issue the week before with Myles being out. Now, it is just a different issue. We have flexibility across the defensive line so we will be able to move guys inside and outside whenever we need to. We feel comfortable going into this game.

''We are capable on the D line. It is just an opportunity for guys to show what they have.''

The rise in positive tests has made practicing difficult.

The Browns' offense and defense worked out separately Wednesday as a precaution to minimize the risk of spread of the virus, and Thursday's practice was limited to virtual meetings for the defense after Gustin's positive result closed the facility.

''A unique week,'' coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Not normal, for sure, but it's 2020. Woods wasn't surprised players handled the change well.

''It is right before a game, but you just have to deal with the circumstances,'' Woods said. ''We do not want to be in the business of making excuses. There are a lot of other teams that are dealing with similar issues across the league. We did the best we could. I feel like the guys are prepared and ready to go.''

The Browns were thrown another curveball when the Jaguars decided to start quarterback Mike Glennon over rookie quarterback Jake Luton. Glennon makes his first start since Week 4 in 2017.

''We watched that tape,'' Woods said with a smile. ''For us defensively, there are some little adjustments here or there in terms of things that we are going to do, but for the most part, we are really worried about us executing our game plan against them.''

NOTES: Rookie LT Jedrick Wills practiced after missing time earlier this week with an unspecified illness. ... RG Wyatt Teller (calf) and S Andrew Sendejo (groin) are listed as questionable for Sunday.

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Lamar Jackson Nov 27 3:50pm ET

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Nelson Agholor Nov 27 3:50pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Nelson Agholor had his most catches of the season last week against the Chiefs with 6. He had 88 receiving yards and a touchdown. However, Agholor's consistency is a major issue from week to week. Prior to last week, Agholor had just three total catches in the three previous games. He has a great matchup this week against the Falcons to put together good back-to-back performances. Agholor is typically a big-play receiver, and the Falcons Defense is one of the worst in the league at allowing the big play. He has flex value in this matchup, but his inconsistency makes him a risky play.

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San Francisco 49ers Nov 27 3:40pm ET

The 49ers Defense has been pummeled over their last three games. Each of their past three opponents have scored at least 27 points on them, with two of them topping 30. This week, the 49ers are coming off a bye to face the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers held the Rams to just 16 points in their previous matchup this year. However, the Rams are coming off a strong offensive showing where they scored 27 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This week's game shouldn't be super high-scoring and both teams will likely run the ball a lot, which will slow the pace of the game. If you're in a bind, you can do worse than starting the 49ers as a low-end option, but you might be able to find better options on the waiver wire.

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Jordan Reed Nov 27 3:30pm ET

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Adam Thielen Nov 27 3:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen isn't expected to play in Week 12 against the Panthers after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, according to a source. Thilen remains on the team's COVID-19 list, barring a change this weekend. It's a crushing blow to any fantasy managers that were relying on Thielen, the league leader with 11 touchdowns, to get them into the fantasy playoffs. Rookie Justin Jefferson, who has already proven to be a must-start fantasy asset, is likely to see double-digit targets in this one with Thielen sidelined. OlaBisi Johnson, Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe will fight for targets behind Jefferson, but none of that trio is a particularly intriguing deep-league flex play as a sleeper.

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Richie James Nov 27 3:20pm ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Richie James Jr. figures to see a decent amount of playing time in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. The team will be without Brandon Aiyukfor the game due to COVID-19, which means James and Kendrick Bourne will be the team's secondary receivers behind Deebo Samuel (hamstring), assuming Samuel is active for the game. Samuel is currently questionable but is expected to play. James has shown more of an ability to make plays this year than Bourne. James is averaging 17.5 yards per reception, while Bourne is averaging 13. The Rams have one of the league's best pass defenses, so 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens might be in for a rough day. Avoid starting James in fantasy this week. He can remain on waivers in the majority of leagues for now.

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Kendrick Bourne Nov 27 3:20pm ET

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Jerick McKinnon Nov 27 3:10pm ET

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Deebo Samuel Nov 27 3:10pm ET

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Tevin Coleman Nov 27 3:00pm ET

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Kenny Stills Nov 27 2:50pm ET

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Nick Mullens Nov 27 2:50pm ET

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Nick Foles Nov 27 2:50pm ET

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Derek Carr Nov 27 2:50pm ET

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Raheem Mostert Nov 27 2:50pm ET

It appears likely that San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (knee) will make his return to action in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. Mostert suffered a knee injury in Week 6 and was placed on Injured Reserve shortly after. While he's been out, the team has struggled to find consistent production in their running game. If Mostert is indeed activated prior to this week's game, he should see a heavy workload right out of the gate. The Rams have a tough defense, allowing just 91.3 rushing yards per game, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan should be able to put together a game plan that will allow Mostert to have success regardless. Start Mostert as a high-end RB2 this week.

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Arizona Cardinals Nov 27 2:40pm ET

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Los Angeles Chargers Nov 27 2:40pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers have ruled out cornerback Casey Hayward (groin) and defensive end Melvin Ingram (knee) for Week 12 against the Bills. Ingram has already spent time on Injured Reserve for a knee injury, so this is more bad news for the 31-year-old pass-rusher from South Carolina. He's totaled just 10 tackles, four QB hits and one interception in his seven games played this season. The Chargers secondary will be extra vulnerable without Hayward out there on Sunday, giving more upside to both Bills QB Josh Allen and top wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Los Angeles defense should be faded this week in DFS and season-long leagues with both Ingram and Hayward out.

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Andy Isabella Nov 27 2:30pm ET

If you're in a tight spot going into Week 12, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella could be a decent dart throw option for you. Isabella has been extremely quiet ever since his two-touchdown performance in Week 3 against the Detroit Lions. However, this week the Cardinals will be without Larry Fitzgerald (COVID) for the first time this year, which should open up extra opportunities for Isabella. The Cardinals will face the New England Patriots in Week 12. The Patriots Defense is known for focusing attention on No. 1 targets, which could mean DeAndre Hopkins will struggle in the game. Isabella is an extremely risky start, but he could see around five targets, which gives him a solid chance to make a few big plays and deliver a solid flex performance for deep league owners.

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Indianapolis Colts Nov 27 2:30pm ET

The Colts Defense has a tough test this week against a good Titans offense. The Titans offense is led by Derrick Henry who rushed for over 100 yards on 5.4 yards per carry against the Colts defense in Week 10. Henry has at least 100 yards in six of 10 games and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry on the season. They struggled in stopping the run in Week 10 but were good against the pass. They held Ryan Tannehill to just 147 passing yards and a passer rating of 83.4. They ended up holding the Titans offense to just 17 points in their first meeting and will look for a similar performance this week. It will be a tall task, but the Colts defense should have starting consideration based on how well they have played for most of the season.

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