In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots' Tom Brady (12) passes under pressure from Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald (99) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. The Rams, the defending NFC champions, with an offense teeming with talent and defense led by incomparable star tackle Donald, will visit Cleveland in the Browns first nationally televised Sunday night game in 11 years. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns passed their first prime-time test. The second one won't be nearly as easy.
Here come Aaron Donald and those big, bad Los Angeles Rams.
The defending NFC champions, with an offense teeming with talent and defense led by incomparable star tackle Donald, will visit Cleveland in the Browns' first nationally televised Sunday night game in 11 years.
On Monday night, the Browns (1-1) bounced back from a dreadful 30-point loss in their season opener to Tennessee by bullying the New York Jets, who were already missing quarterback Sam Darnold when his replacement, Trevor Simiean, went down with a season-ending injury.
The uber-hyped Browns, who have gone from winless two years ago to somewhat overexposed in 2019, get a chance to see how they stack up to a legitimate Super Bowl contender, one fixated on winning an NFL title this season.
''It'll be a challenge and we'll be able to really measure where we're at as a team,'' said Browns guard Joel Bitonio. ''Now it's a true team, a true playoff team, a team that was in the Super Bowl, a team that we can see, `Hey, how are the Cleveland Browns this year?'''
It's hard to gauge them to this point. The Browns were undisciplined in Week 1, committing 18 penalties and allowing the Titans to score 28 unanswered points in the second half. Cleveland cleaned things up considerably against the Jets, but quarterback Baker Mayfield had his second straight shaky performance and the Browns suffered a couple major injuries that may force first-year coach Freddie Kitchens to play rookies in key spots.
That could help the Rams (2-0), not that they really need any.
Quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles offense have had some issues, but Donald and the rest of the defense are playing at a high level already. They shut down New Orleans last week, helped by Donald inadvertently sidelining Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a thumb injury.
Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. said Donald will have everyone's attention.
''There's no way to even go around him,'' said Beckham. ''He's probably the best player in the league. If not the best player in the league, one of the most disruptive players I've ever seen. So, yeah, No. 99 has to be accounted for. The game plan starts right there. They have a lot of other stars, a lot of very, very talented, great players, but it starts with 99.
''So we have to get that handled, and we're going to be tested in every position.''
The two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year, Donald has no sacks and just two tackles through two games. The numbers are deceiving as teams are scheming to stay clear of Donald. The Browns will probably do the same.
''Everybody is sliding to him,'' defensive end Michael Brockers said. ''He's going to get a lot of attention, and that's what's happening now. It's leaving a lot of opportunities for other guys to make plays. As the season goes on, they're going to have to pick their poison on which guys to block, and that's when it's going to get really fun.''
It didn't get fun for Donald until Week 4 last year. He have record a sack in his first three games and still finished with 20 1/2.
Mayfield has been guilty of holding onto the ball too long, and not taking advantage of receivers being open while trying to complete long passes.
He's still getting into a rhythm with Beckham, who sat out the preseason but showed why he's elite on Monday by scoring on an 89-yard play.
''It's a learning curve,'' said Mayfield, who while not as accurate as usual has still completed 60 percent of his throws. ''Needing to know when I can take my shots and check the ball down to get completions. It's a little difficult at times but, like I keep harping on, I just need to get completions.''
The Browns could exploit inexperience up front for the Rams, who are likely to have three untested starters on their offensive line.
Right guard Austin Blythe is unlikely to play due to a left ankle sprain. If he becomes the first starting offensive lineman to miss a game due to injury in McVay's tenure, sixth-round pick Jamil Demby is expected to make his first start alongside fellow 2018 draft choices Brian Allen at center and Joe Noteboom at left guard.
Allen and Noteboom will be making their third career starts. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Rob Havenstein haven't been spectacular so far this season, either.
Rams running back Todd Gurley has fond memories of the team's last meeting with the Browns: Gurley scored his first two NFL touchdowns against Cleveland during a 128-yard performance as a rookie in St. Louis in 2015.
Gurley is a quiet ninth in the league this season with 160 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Backup Malcolm Brown has 17 carries as the Rams attempt to lessen the load on Gurley, who leads the NFL in yards rushing since the start of the 2017 season. Gurley has insisted his knee is fine and he's ready for any workload.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense should continue their dominant run in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. Entering the contest as the second-best defense by DVOA, the Niners should wreak havoc against quarterback Case Keenum and the woeful Skins. Operating as heavy favorites, the defense should steer Washington away from its stagnant run game and put constant pressure on an offensive line thats allowed 15 sacks. Facing one of the sloppier teams in the NFL, the 49ers make for a premium defensive unit this Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enters Week 7 against the Washington Redskins with seven turnovers through five games (five picks, two fumbles). While he draws a cake matchup against the one-win Skins, Garoppolo is just an upside QB2 facing a weak pass defense. To climb the ranks of fantasy relevance, Garoppolo needs to stop committing mistakes and opposing teams must force the Niners away from their dominant rushing attack. That probably wont happen in Week 7 with the 49ers heavy favorites. While the run-heavy game plan partially offsets the juicy matchup, Garoppolo could finish the week a top-15 quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was able to haul in a few receptions after a dud last week. Robinson didn't catch anything in the loss to the Colts during Week 6, but got back on the board in this one. He caught three of his five targets for 31 yards in the Week 7 victory over the Broncos. However, losing quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) is a big concern for the Chiefs offense. Robinson would only be a desperation flex option with veteran Matt Moore at quarterback in Week 8. Fantasy owners will have to wait and see what happens with Mahomes.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce continues to remain a strong and reliable fantasy option each and every week. He caught six of his eight targets for 44 yards in the Week 7 win over Denver. Kelce only has one touchdown this season, but continues to see a high volume of targets. It's unclear if quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) will suit up in Week 8 versus the Packers. However, Kelce is probably the only player on the Chiefs' offense that shouldn't lose value with Matt Moore at quarterback. Fantasy owners should continue to trust Kelce as a top five tight end.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was having a slow game in the Thursday night matchup versus the Broncos, until one play changed it all. Hill caught a 57-yard touchdown from quarterback Matt Moore late in the third quarter. He finished with three receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown in the Week 7 victory. Patrick Mahomes (knee) going down will hurt the Chiefs offense, assuming he misses time. Hill would be downgraded to a high-end WR2 for Week 8, assuming Mahomes sits out at least one week.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman was able to save his fantasy value with a touchdown in the Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos. He caught two of his three targets for 28 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) going down did hurt the Chiefs offense a bit in this one. However, losing Mahomes for multiple games could kill Hardman's fantasy value. Veteran Matt Moore didn't look his way often after he replaced Mahomes in the second quarter. Hardman would have some shaky flex value, assuming Mahomes misses Week 8 versus the Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs running game Damien Williams has been basically a ghost on the field since Week 2. He finished with six total rushing yards during Week 6, but manages to have a worse fantasy game the following week. Williams rushed nine times for seven yards in the Week 7 victory over the Broncos. Williams got negative yards in the passing game, so he can't even be trusted there. Fantasy owners in standard leagues should probably be benching Williams at this point. He'll have low-end flex appeal versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. LeSean McCoy is looking like the better running back in KC right now.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Moore played surprisingly well after being thrown into the fire during Thursday's Week 7 matchup versus the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) exited in the second quarter after suffering a right knee injury. The veteran Moore was asked to take over and run the offense for the rest of the game. Moore completed 10 of 19 passing attempts for 117 yards and one touchdown in the victory. It's unclear if Mahomes is going to miss time yet, but Moore could carry some fantasy value, assuming Mahomes is out at least one week. Moore might have limited fantasy value for QB needy fantasy teams since he's surrounded by such a great offense. Don't expect him to light it up like Mahomes, but Moore looked decent on Thursday.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy was strong in the running game for the team during their Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos. McCoy rushed 12 times for 64 yards and caught two passes through the air for 12 extra yards on Thursday. McCoy has been clearly rushing better than lead back Damien Williams over the last few weeks. The Chiefs seem to be leaning more on McCoy than Williams at this point in the season. However, losing quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) could hurt the offense, assuming he misses time. McCoy is on the radar as a flex option for Week 8 versus the Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) was playing well in Thursday's Week 7 matchup against the Denver Broncos. He completed 10 of 11 passing attempts for 76 yards and a touchdown. However, Mahomes was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after suffering a right knee injury. Mahomes was able to walk into the locker room under his own power, so that's a good sign. He reportedly avoided a fracture, but it's unclear if there is any ligament damage. More information should be known in a day or two. Fantasy owners will just have to wait and hope for the best.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (groin) was limited in practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Kittle is perfectly fine to play in Week 7 against the Redskins. Against one of the weaker defenses in the NFL in Washington, Kittle is an easy top-three fantasy tight end this weekend, although the Niners probably won't have to throw a ton to win this game easily.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and running back Raheem Mostert (knee) both missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Samuel and Mostert are on the wrong side of questionable to play in Week 7 against the Redskins. On a run-first team, Samuel just hasn't seen enough targets to be fantasy relevant in most redraft leagues in his rookie season. If he sits, it's good news for Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. Mostert's fantasy value took a huge hit once Tevin Coleman came back from his injury two weeks ago. He belongs on the waiver wire unless you own one of Coleman or Matt Breida.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was limited in practice on Thursday. Thomas should be fine to play on Monday night against the Patriots. The 31-year-old is a little bit more attractive to fantasy owners with quarterback Sam Darnold back under center. Thomas has eight catches for 109 scoreless yards the last two weeks, but he's still third on the receiving depth chart behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. The Jets have a tough matchup in the Patriots on Monday night, making Thomas more of a WR5 in fantasy.
The New Orleans Saints are doing their due diligence in making phone calls to see what's available on the trade market. Wide receiver and tight end seem to be the most likely options for them on the trade market, and they could be targeting Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert now that he is fully healthy. The Saints already have Jared Cook at tight end, but they could utilize more two-tight end sets if they were to acquire Eifert, especially since they don't have a ton of receiver depth behind Michael Thomas. In a bad Cincy offense this year, Eifert has just 15 receptions (22 targets) for 108 yards and one touchdown. He'd be more attractive in New Orleans in the second half of the season, but he wouldn't be guaranteed to be a TE1 with Cook also in the fold.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron (illness) and rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) both missed practice on Thursday. Campbell also missed practice on Wednesday and is on pace to miss his second straight game. He's well off the fantasy radar for now in redraft leagues. Ebron should be fine to play in Week 7 against the Texans, although he's a low-upside, touchdown-dependent TE2 against a Houston defense that has shut down the tight end position in 2019.
Houston Texans wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins (ribs), Will Fuller (calf, oblique) and Kenny Stills (hamstring) all practiced in full on Thursday. All three receivers should be in uniform for Week 7's divisional tilt against the Colts. Stills missed the last game and should return to split slot duties with Keke Coutee, limiting both player's fantasy upside as a WR4/5 in deeper leagues. Hopkins has been quiet this year but could blow up at any moment and is a must-start. Fuller boomed in Week 5 and busted last week. He typically has high-end WR2 upside on a week-to-week basis.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday after being a full participant on Wednesday. Waller should be fine for Week 7 against the Packers, but his foot injury is worth watching. The first-year Raider should be targeted heavily with wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) out for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that Waller had his worst game in Week 5 with Williams out of the lineup. The Packers have been pretty stingy against opposing wideouts, too, so they'll likely devote attention to slowing Waller down. His expected high target share should give him a high floor, so continue to roll Waller out there as a strong TE1.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (quadriceps) and quarterback Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) both returned to a full practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. The Redskins were likely just resting their veterans on Wednesday, so expect Peterson and Keenum to be out there in Week 7 against the 49ers. Peterson had 20-plus carries and over 100 yards against the winless Dolphins in Week 6, but he'll have a much tougher time finding holes against San Fran's strong defense this Sunday. He makes for a low-upside RB3/flex. Keenum has a tough challenge ahead and not many weapons to work with. He's an unattractive low-end QB2.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes(knee) was ruled out of Thursday night's game after suffering a dislocated knee cap on a fourth-and-one sneak attempt. Everybody is still waiting for more information, but being ruled out so quickly is not encouraging for his availability going forward. If you have Mahomes, you may want to plan ahead at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Matt Moore is Kansas City's backup. All of the Chiefs skill players will take a hit with Mahomes likely to miss some time with this injury.