Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski, left, touches the helmet of quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) after an injury during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum (5) talks with Baker Mayfield during an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, in this Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, file photo. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will sit out Thursday's game against the Denver Broncos with a painful left shoulder injury and backup Case Keenum will start. Cleveland announced the quarterback switch on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, ending speculation about whether Mayfield would try to push through an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that he suffered last month and has worsened in recent weeks. (AP Photo/David Dermer, File)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum (5) looks for a receiver during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., in this Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, file photo. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield will sit out Thursday's game against the Denver Broncos with a painful left shoulder injury and backup Case Keenum will start. Cleveland announced the quarterback switch on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, ending speculation about whether Mayfield would try to push through an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that he suffered last month and has worsened in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Kendall Hinton (9) walks to the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Denver. The Raiders won 34-24. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick (81) sits on the bench after an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Denver. The Raiders won 34-24. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sits on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio walks the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
CLEVELAND (AP) One starting quarterback is limping, the other has his arm in a sling. There are injuries up and down both rosters, and the two coaches are feeling some external pressure - one for the first time.
The Denver Broncos are banged up, reeling and desperate for a win. Ditto for the Cleveland Browns.
Two teams with a history of meeting in meaningful games - three AFC championships from 1986-90 - will square off Thursday night, a matchup in which the stakes feel a lot bigger than normal for October.
''It's huge,'' Browns safety John Johnson III said. ''This is like a pivotal point in the season.''
If sure seems that way for the Broncos (3-3) and Browns (3-3), both of whom come into the game with major injury issues, notably to Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is out with a shoulder injury, and Denver's Teddy Bridgewater, dealing with foot and quadriceps issues.
The Browns have lost two straight under coach Kevin Stefanski for the first time, and won't have Mayfield, who made 53 straight starts and hasn't missed a game with injury since 2013 at Texas Tech. Mayfield's injury has affected his play and pushed Cleveland's season to a precarious ledge.
Backup Case Keenum will make his first start since 2019. This is nothing new for the 33-year-old journeyman who came off the bench in Minnesota and spent a season with Denver, going 6-10.
''I'm built for this,'' he said. ''This is what I have done my whole career of not knowing if I am going to start up until game time to not knowing who is out there with me to introducing myself to players while I am calling a play type stuff. I'm excited.''
Keenum won't have running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who are both out with calf injuries, and it's not yet known if he'll be protected by starting tackles Jack Conklin (knee) or Jedrick Wills Jr. (ankle).
The injuries, piled on the short week, have complicated things for Stefanski, whose suspect defense along with some head-scratching play calls have triggered scrutiny in Year 2. The Browns came into the season with sky-high expectations. They're falling fast.
''It's definitely a must-win game on a short week,'' Johnson said.
Bridgewater got hurt Sunday when guard Graham Glasgow stepped on him as he delivered a touchdown pass in a demoralizing 34-24 loss to Las Vegas, which rallied in the wake of the Jon Gruden mess.
Bridgewater is expected to play - he's listed as questionable - and he's hoping to avoid the beating he took from the Raiders, who hit him 17 times, sacked him five and forced him into throwing three interceptions.
The Broncos have lost three straight, erasing a 3-0 start and rattling the team's confidence.
''I'm sure it's shaken a little bit,'' coach Vic Fangio said. ''It's hard not to be. We have to rally back.''
Broncos edge rusher Von Miller called his shots. With Cleveland's tackle situation in flux, Miller predicted he'd have a big game - and all but guaranteed a Denver win.
''I'm gonna have a great game,'' he said. ''I'm gonna go out there and play well, get a couple sacks.''
As for who the Browns might use to block him, Miller said with a laugh, ''I'll going to kill him and the other guy, too, on the other side.''
Keenum heard Miller's comments and immediately texted his former teammate.
''We came to an agreement that he's just going to go out there and not rush the quarterback,'' Keenum joked. ''He's going to take a knee every time on third down, so I think we will be good.''
Miller kept tabs on Browns star end Myles Garrett, the NFL sacks leader, at Texas A&M, and considers himself a fan.
''That's my guy,'' Miller said. ''I've definitely got to play better than Myles this week. Myles, he's going to make a couple of plays, as well. He's a beast.
''I keep in touch with him. That's just how it is when you go to Texas A&M, Aggies take care of Aggies. We've got a lifelong brotherhood outside of the NFL. I'm a huge fan of Myles on and off the football field. I want to see him have all the success in the world for sure.''
Fangio was hired as Broncos head coach after the Bears' defense he coordinated had 36 takeaways in 2018. But in 38 games as Denver's head coach, the Broncos have forced just 39 turnovers, six this season. That's 16 1/2 per year, much lower than any of his five predecessors averaged: Vance Joseph (22 1/2), Gary Kubiak (25 1/2), John Fox (23 1/4), Josh McDaniels (24) and Mike Shanahan (28).
One big reason for Denver's dearth of takeaways is that Miller and Bradley Chubb have played just 21 games together out of a possible 54 since the Broncos drafted Chubb with the fifth overall pick in 2018. Chubb has played in just one game this year and is recovering from ankle surgery that will sideline him for another month.
''You lose a guy like Chubb, there's no plugging and replacing a talent like his,'' safety Justin Simmons said. ''Not only his play, his energy, what he brings leadership-wise to the team and the defense.''
The Broncos allowed the Raiders to become the first team since at least 1991 to have seven pass plays gain at least 25 yards, according to Sportradar. That's certainly not what GM George Paton had in mind when he made the Broncos' defense the league's highest paid.
''Surprising,'' Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. ''It's NFL football and sometimes you're just off a little bit. We were off a little bit at the ball. You couldn't believe in our guys more than we do. We have such mature men that are prideful and who want to do better for the team on the back end.
''That's the emphasis for this week.''
Washington Football Team tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (hip) is expected to play in Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders. Seals-Jones is traveling with the team to Las Vegas after being listed as questionable for Week 13. He missed the last two games due to a hip issue. The 26-year-old is expected to serve as Washington's TE2 behind Logan Thomas, who was activated from injured reserve last Sunday. RSJ has caught 23 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns over nine games in 2021. Seals-Jones is no longer the top passing catching tight end for Washington with Thomas back and can be left on the waiver wire in most leagues.
New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and kicker Nick Folk (knee) are questionable for Monday's game against the Buffalo Bills. Bolden was a limited participant at practice this week and is set to play Monday Night. The 31-year-old is used as a change of pace back and mainly plays on special teams. Bolden has rushed for 141 yards on 26 carries over 12 games in 2021. If active, he is a dart-throw at best against a Bills defense that is first in rush DVOA. Folk has been limited throughout the season with a knee injury but has yet to miss a game. He's converted 31-of-34 field-goal attempts, and 29-of-33 extra-point tries in 2021. Folk is expected to play and can be used as a streamer against the Bills in Week 13.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has told former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season. The 39-year-old is in the last year of his contract and returned in 2021 for one more run at a Super Bowl. This season, he has been solid, throwing for 2,522 yards and a 14:6 TD: INT ratio over 10 games in 2021. His 410 career touchdown passes entering Sunday's game are the eighth-most in NFL history. The Steelers are 5-5-1 and will have to make a late-season push to make the playoffs to give "Big Ben" one more opportunity at a championship run. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are the only other quarterbacks on the roster; expect the Steelers to search for Roethlisberger's replacement in the offseason if he does decide to hang his cleats up.
The San Francisco 49ers placed running back Trey Sermon on injured reserve Saturday. In the Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings, he sprained his right ankle and was already ruled out for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The rookie running back will miss the next three games and is eligible to return at the end of the season. It's been a disappointing rookie campaign for Sermon, who has rushed for 167 yards on 41 carries and a touchdown over nine games. He was buried behind Elijah Mitchell, JaMycal Hasty, and Jeff Wilson on the RB depth chart. Sermon is mainly a stash in dynasty leagues and can be safely dropped in all redraft formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott (illness) is expected to play in Sunday's game against the New York Jets. The 26-year-old dealt with an illness and missed practice all week. He could have an expanded role as starting QB Jalen Hurt (ankle) was ruled out; the Eagles could lean on the ground game more for Sunday's game. Scott is used in passing down situations and will see more early-down work with Jordan Howard (knee) sidelined. He has rushed for 285 yards on 61 rushing attempts and four touchdowns over 12 games in 2021. Scott is on the flex radar in deep-league formats for Week 13.
New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith has surpassed 30 yards in only three games this season. However, one of them was a three-catch performance for 49 yards last week. Despite that, it's tough to believe Smith can replicate that performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. A defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest points to tight ends this season. Smith is normally barely involved in the passing attack and that'll likely happen again. He should be considered a desperation TE2 for this week.
New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor has struggled to make much of an impact this season. In fact, Agholor has recorded more than three receptions in a game only twice this season. That is unlikely going to change against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. A defense that ranks first in pass DVOA this season. Agholor is not normally targeted frequently and could easily fall out of the gameplan on Monday. Fantasy managers should consider Agholor a desperation deep league option for this week.
New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry has been a touchdown-dependent option throughout the season. That will remain the case for the Week 13 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. A defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season. Henry has recorded over two receptions only once over his last seven games. It's hard to imagine him having much success against the Bills this week. He'll be a touchdown-dependent TE2 for this Monday night matchup.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has seen four or more targets in every game this season. However, he has only surpassed 50 receiving yards in one of his last seven games. That being said, Meyers could struggle during the Week 13 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. A defense that currently ranks first in pass DVOA this season. The targets are normally there for Meyers, but he has struggled to do anything with him. That being said, Meyers falls into low-end WR3 territory in PPR formats for this matchup.
New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is normally someone who makes the play whenever he's targeted. Sadly, the yardage isn't always there and that has been his biggest problem this season. Bourne has scored three times in his last three games, so he has been able to keep up his fantasy value. However, he could struggle against the Buffalo Bills defense in Week 13. A defense that has allowed the fewest points to wideouts this season. Bourne could have some low-end PPR value as a flex option, but is tough to trust outside of that.
New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson has seen an increased workload over the last month or so. In fact, Stevenson has eight or more carries in each of his last five games. Although, that trend might come to an end against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. Currently, Buffalo is ranked fourth in rush DVOA this season. Damien Harris remains the lead back, so Stevenson could see less touches in this possible pass-heavy situation. Regardless, it's tough to imagine Stevenson having much success against the Bills this week. He'll be a risky flex option for this tough matchup.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is coming off one of his better performances of the season. Last week, Jones threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns in the win. That performance marked the fifth time this season that Jones has thrown multiple touchdowns in a game. However, he could have a tough time doing it again versus the Buffalo Bills defense in Week 13. A defense that ranks first in pass DVOA this season. Often times, the Pats use a run-heavy scheme and that might be the same for this one. Fantasy managers should consider Jones a low-end streaming option for this tough matchup.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris has only surpassed 50 rushing yards in one of his last three games. Although, Harris does have a touchdown scored in six of his last seven games. Sadly, he'll head into a matchup against the Buffalo Bills defense in Week 13. A defense that currently ranks fourth in rush DVOA this season. Regardless, there should still be 10-plus carries for Harris in this game. However, it's uncertain how well Harris will play in this tough matchup. Rhamondre Stevenson has been more involved lately. Harris could fall into flex territory for this Monday night contest.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (hip, shoulder) has officially been ruled out for the Sunday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13. It will pave the way for impressive rookie Javonte Williams to make his first career NFL start in prime time against an underrated Chiefs defense. Head coach Vic Fangio said that Williams would see most of the backfield work if Gordon was inactive, so Mike Boone won't be a real threat to Williams' increased playing time this weekend. Even if the Broncos fall behind by several scores, Williams should remain involved in the passing attack, making him a strong RB2 for fantasy managers. The Broncos promoted Damarea Crockett from the practice squad to serve as the No. 3 RB behind Williams and Boone. Wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland was waived.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 13 against the New York Jets, according to a source. Hurts was hurt in the fourth quarter of the Week 12 loss to the New York Giants and was limited in practice all week. Head coach Nick Sirianni said earlier in the week that the offense could look different if Gardner Minshew starts. The Eagles have been very run-heavy the last five weeks, but that could change with Minshew under center and running back Boston Scott (illness) questionable and RB Jordan Howard (knee) out. Miles Sanders should be the primary back, even if Scott plays, and his ceiling as an RB2 just went up slightly with Hurts out for the week in a great matchup against the porous Jets run D. Minshew will be a low-end QB2 with some upside in superflex leagues. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the Eagles want to see how hurts feels Sunday morning before making a final decision about his Week 13 status.
Seattle Seahawks running back DeeJay Dallas has seen his role increase in recent weeks, and he could enter the flex conversation in Week 13 against the San Francisco 49ers. Teammate Alex Collins (abdomen) is dealing with an injury that could cause him to miss this week's matchup, or at the very least be limited. Dallas led all running backs with a 60 percent share of the snaps last week, although Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer were both out due to injury. If Collins ends up missing the game, Dallas should have a bigger role, but he'd still be more of a long shot as an RB3/flex in deep PPR leagues with Penny, Homer and Adrian Peterson potentially in the mix as well in a Seahawks offense that has really struggled the last three weeks.
Houston Texans WR Danny Amendola (knee) and DE DeMarcus Walker (hamstring) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Dec. 4.
Free-agent WR Phillip Dorsett was signed to the Houston Texans practice squad Saturday, Dec. 4.
Houston Texans C Justin Britt (knee) and LB Christian Kirksey (thumb) were activated from the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Dec. 4.
Houston Texans practice squad S Jonathan Owens was signed to the 53-man roster Saturday, Dec. 4. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived CB Cre'von LeBlanc.