Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) stands on the sideline with coaches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 38-31. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for a 20-yard touchdown as Washington Football Team free safety Troy Apke (30) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Cleveland. The Browns won 34-20. (AP Photo/David Richard)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Baker Mayfield got the homecoming stuff out of the way quickly as the Cleveland quarterback talked about preparing for his second NFL game in Texas.
Austin is the best city in the Lone Star State, he declared to laughter after the first question. The $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys is a cool stadium, particularly since Mayfield won a Big 12 championship the last time he played there with Oklahoma three years ago.
It didn't take Mayfield long to get to the more important stuff, such as the Browns (2-1) taking a winning record into Sunday's game for the first time since late in the 2014 season. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (1-2) are trying to get back to .500.
''I will have plenty of people there - friends and family, loved ones and all those good people there,'' said Mayfield, whose first NFL game in Texas was a 29-13 loss at Houston as a rookie. ''But I have to treat it like any other game and have to go do our job.''
Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett is coming home, too - much closer to home since he grew up a few miles from AT&T Stadium. Garrett was the NFL's top draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2017, a year before Mayfield.
Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin of Dallas didn't get to play his homecoming game at Indianapolis two years ago, missing a game for the first time in his career with a knee injury. But he sees where a player might be a little more hyped.
''I'm sure some guys definitely have that when they go to their hometown,'' Martin said. ''I think the message here, what we try, especially on the offensive line, you've got to prepare the same way for every game. You've got to be ready for whatever they throw at you.''
Mayfield hasn't had to do much in the fourth quarter in Cleveland's consecutive wins, including 34-20 last week over Washington. He's ready if that changes about 200 miles north of where he grew up.
Coach Kevin Stefanski turned to the running game against Cincinnati and Washington to grind out those victories - and eat up time - and asked Mayfield to throw just five total passes in the combined 30 minutes over the past two fourth quarters.
But if the situation dictates differently in Dallas, Mayfield is prepared to match Prescott pass for pass.
''When it comes down to it, we are playing the Cowboys' defense and we have to do whatever it takes to win,'' Mayfield said. ''If that is a shootout, then great, and if it is another game where we have to control the clock, then we will do that.''
The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year joined Jameis Winston (last season) as the only quarterbacks with consecutive games of at least 450 yards.
For Winston, those were two of Tampa Bay's wins in a 7-9 season. Prescott has just a 1-1 record to show for his after a 38-31 loss in Seattle. While Prescott did plenty to give the Cowboys a chance to win, his three turnovers proved critical. Dallas is tied for the third-worst turnover margin at minus-4.
''I thought Dak had a great command,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''When the result is what it was, you have to talk about the negative plays. But he clearly understands the importance of ball security. We'll continue to stress that.''
NICK OF TIME
Browns star running back Nick Chubb has gone over 100 yards the past two games by breaking off long gains and some tougher, ''dirty'' runs for minimal yardage.
Already one of the NFL's best, Chubb said the chance to play against an elite back such as Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott doesn't give him any more motivation. Chubb is fourth in the NFL with 292 yards. Elliott, a two-time rushing champion, is tied for ninth at 219.
''I go out there and play my game,'' Chubb said.
Martin played a different position for the first time in his seven seasons against Seattle, moving to right tackle when rookie Terence Steele had to leave the game because of an illness. Martin's move also resulted in Joe Looney sliding from center to right guard and rookie Tyler Biadasz filling Looney's spot.
Another factor in the uncertainty up front is seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith, who missed the past two games with a neck issue. Smith could return against the Browns, and Martin said the plan is for him to return to his normal position. If Smith is back, the Cowboys will have to decide between Steele and Brandon Knight at right tackle.
Dallas' Aldon Smith leads the NFL with four sacks after missing all of the previous four seasons while suspended for off-field issues. Garrett had two sacks last week, including a game-sealing strip-sack and recovery in the fourth quarter. Smith has 51 1/2 sacks in 62 career games, while Garrett has 33 1/2 in 40 games.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.
The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.
Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.