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.''
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has been on a roll as of late and will look to stay on course against Cleveland on Sunday. Boyd racked up 10 catches on 19 targets over his previous two outings, while also adding 160 yards and two touchdowns. John Ross (chest) will be back in the picture after missing some time, but Boyd is still an acceptable option in most fantasy leagues in Week 14, especially if you have nowhere else to turn.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has started to show signs of life as the season heads into the final stretch and will look to stay on track against Cleveland on Sunday. While the Browns have been effective against the run over the last four weeks, at least on paper, by allowing a third-best 16.73 fantasy points per game to opposing backs, the 23-year-old may be the most potent rusher that they have seen since Chris Carson back in Week 6. Mixon scored his first rushing touchdown of the year against Oakland and followed that up by recording another against the Jets in Week 13. He still has some work to do from a consistency standpoint, but he will likely keep trending in the right direction throughout the remainder of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton made his return to the lineup against the Jets after a three-game absence and played relatively well, throwing for 243 yards and a touchdown on 23-for-37 passing. While the Browns Defense isn't horrible, Dalton has played historically well against them throughout his career, making his outlook more promising than usual, especially with John Ross (chest) back in the lineup. If you need a quarterback with a solid upside in Week 14, Dalton could be your guy.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel will look to build off of the efficient showing that he had against the Redskins. After struggling against the Saints in Week 12, Samuel got his act together in Week 13 by finishing with four catches for 65 yards and a score against Washington. While that wasn't the most brilliant fantasy performance that we've seen out of the 23-year-old, he has the potential to score on any given week. With Greg Olsen (concussion) out against Atlanta, look for Samuel to get some extra attention from Kyle Allen, making him a decent option in deeper formats.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has been one of the most productive fantasy options as of late and will look to keep things moving against Atlanta on Sunday. After recording just one touchdown throughout his first 10 games of the season, Moore has three over the last two weeks. He hasn't been targeted less than eight times in each of his previous eight games and should retain his must-start status in all fantasy formats in Week 14.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had arguably the worst performance of the season, at least as a runner, against the Redskins in Week 13. While he had a favorable matchup against one of the league's worst defenses, the 23-year-old had just 44 yards on 14 attempts to go along with an acceptable seven catches for 58 yards. That game marked only the third time all season that he failed to record a touchdown, but he should get back on track against Atlanta after playing well against them just a few weeks ago.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has a difficult matchup on Sunday against the Falcons Defense. Atlanta has played well against opposing quarterbacks, especially as of late, and held Drees Brees to just one touchdown toss during the Thanksgiving matchup with New Orleans, while also forcing Allen to throw four picks just a few weeks ago. The 23-year-old is a different player than what we saw after he initially took over for Cam Newton (foot) earlier in the year, and should remain out of starting lineups across the board in Week 14.
The Green Bay Packers Defense gets a juicy Week 14 matchup against rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Redskins. For the season, Washington ranks in the bottom-10 of the league in points scored, sacks allowed, and interceptions thrown. Haskins has been sacked 14 times in the last three games combined. Green Bay ranks in the bottom-10 of the league in QB pressures but should have no trouble against Washington's offensive line.
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby will face the Washington Redskins in Week 14. The 35-year-old ranks 17th in fantasy points scored by kickers and only 26th in field goal attempts. Crosby has been money on extra points this year, sporting a 33 of 33 mark. He should have a chance to bolster these numbers against a Redskins team that allows 24.2 points per game, 21st in the NFL. Crosby should be able to nail at least a field goal and three extra points against Washington.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a middling QB2 in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. With a 101.2 quarterback rating, Garoppolos season-long body of work looks great but hes surpassed 300 yards just twice and committed 14 total turnovers. Facing a challenging Saints Defense on the road, Garoppolo will likely be tasked to pace with the Saints but will have his healthiest receiving corps in weeks. In a potential shootout, Jimmy G may have upside, but his volatile results dont render him a trustworthy fantasy quarterback in the vital playoff weeks.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a good matchup against the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter because the 32-year-old has seen a steady decline in snaps over the last three weeks. Graham even had a touchdown snatched away from him by backup tight end Mercedes Lewis. There's also the fact that he's registered only one catch in back-to-back games. Even the neediest of tight end needy fantasy owners should stay away from Graham this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard will take on the Washington Redskins in Week 14. The rookie had a career-high 103 receiving yards against the Giants last week. Lazard has out-snapped fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in three consecutive games. Unfortunately, that role hasn't lent a ton of volume, as his season-high for targets is six. Still, Aaron Rodgers seems to trust him- and he doesn't throw trust around lightly. It's worth noting that each of his three catches from last week went for 20-plus yards, giving him a boom-or-bust outlook. It's best to avoid Lazard this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a Week 14 matchup with the Washington Redskins. Adams is on a hot streak, with at least seven catches in four straight games and three touchdowns in his last two contests combined. He's been the Packers' undisputed number-one pass catcher this year, with 79 targets in eight games- the next closest is Aaron Jones with 52 in 12 games. That kind of volume makes him a must-start every week and especially against Washington. Like the Giants, the Redskins don't have anyone who can slow Adams down. Start him as a high-end WR1 this week.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) needs no introduction for Week 14s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Pro Football Focus highest-graded tight end since 2006 will be a premium TE1 against a battered Saints linebacking corps on Sunday. Kittle was muted in Week 13s rainy contest but should reemerge as the focal point in the Niners aerial attack in the dome. Despite missing two games and hobbled by a lingering ankle injury, Kittle leads Niners pass-catchers in all relevant metrics and should be treated accordingly this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman needs to prove his worth in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. Coleman helplessly watched backup Raheem Mostert notch 154 yards and a score in Week 13 as he managed just six touches for 15 yards. The de facto starter has struggled for six straight games, opening the door for a surging Mostert. With Matt Breida (ankle) also expected back in the mix, Coleman is a volatile RB3 against a tough Saints rush defense. Ideally, Coleman is positioned for double-digit touches this Sunday but with the Niners not shy to leverage the hot hand, fantasy managers will hope he capitalizes on his shrinking opportunities.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (knee) draws a great matchup against the Washington Redskins in Week 14. Williams was limited in practice this week but will play on Sunday against the Redskins' 27th-ranked run defense. The 24-year-old has been on a roll, with at least 13 touches and 50 scrimmage yards in each of the last three games. Fellow back Aaron Jones is still "the guy" in Green Bay, though Williams' recent production guarantees him a role. The Redskins have allowed two backs to exceed 50 scrimmage yards five times this year. Jones and Williams are a good bet to make this the sixth time. Start Williams in the flex spot this week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has caught four passes for 56 yards in two games since returning from a concussion. He's still worth holding onto, but he can't be played against the Seattle Seahawks this week.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hasn't had a lot of opportunities lately. He's 6-for-8 in field goals and 7-for-7 in extra points the last four games. The Seattle Seahawks are a midrange matchup, and he's a sketchy low-end kicker this week.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been stout of late with 15 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two picks, a safety and two touchdowns in the last four games. The Seattle Seahawks have allowed opposing defenses the most fantasy points over the last five weeks. They've surrendered two touchdowns, 16 sacks, six fumble recoveries and three picks in the last four games. The Rams Defense is a midrange option to start this week.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald broke free for 1.5 sacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. He now has sacks in six of the last seven games, and the Seattle Seahawks have allowed 16 in the last four. Donald won't offer much outside of that category, but he is a low-end DL1 option this week.