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.''
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis (groin), who was downgraded to doubtful on Saturday, is officially inactive for Week 12 against the Houston Texans. It's a blow to the Jets offense with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) finally returning from his PCL sprain. Davis and Wilson had developed some nice chemistry earlier in the season. Rookie Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole should operate in three-wide sets for Gang Green in Week 12 against a Texans defense that has surrendered 269.7 receiving yards per game this year. With Davis beat up of late, Moore has really stepped up and taken advantage, catching 18 of 25 targets for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. The rookie will have WR2 upside with Davis out.
Houston Texans rookie wide receiver Nico Collins (hip) is active for Week 12 against the New York Jets after being questionable on the team's final injury report. Collins popped up on the injury report late in the week, but his hip injury wasn't serious enough to keep him from playing on Sunday. The Jets defense allows the second-most receiving yards per game (296.7) in 2021, so the Texans offense could actually find some explosive plays down the field this week. The 22-year-old has been a fixture in three-receiver sets, but he has only 16 receptions for 200 yards and no touchdowns on 24 targets in his seven games played this season. In a Houston offense that just isn't very explosive, it's hard to recommend any receiver not named Brandin Cooks in fantasy.
New England Patriots running back J.J. Taylor is a healthy scratch for the Week 12 contest against the Tennessee Titans. Running backs Damien Harris (neck) and Rhamondre Stevenson (knee), who were questionable for Sunday, are both active and should share most of New England's backfield touches against the Titans. It will be Taylor's second straight week being a healthy scratch with New England's backfield fully healthy. The 23-year-old will only be worth a pickup in deeper PPR leagues again if one of Harris or Stevenson miss time with an injury. Brandon Bolden will be the No. 3 change-of-pace, pass-catching back on Sunday, but he'll be a desperation play in PPR formats.
New England Patriots tight ends Hunter Henry (neck) and Jonnu Smith (shoulder) are both active for the Week 12 battle against the Tennessee Titans, as expected. Both players were listed as questionable on the final injury report but were expected to play after practicing all week. Henry and Smith will continue to split playing time at the position on Sunday. Henry has been much more productive than Smith this year, catching 33 passes for 378 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith has just 22 receptions for 210 yards and one score in 10 games. There hasn't been much volume for New England's tight ends, but Henry is the preferred red-zone target and will remain a low-end, touchdown-dependent TE1.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea (knee) will play against the Colts on Sunday, a lift for this Tampa Bay defense as it tries to slow down Colts running back Jonathan Taylor. With how Taylor has played lately, starting the Buccaneers defense in fantasy isn't the slam-dunk it usually is, but fantasy managers can feel better about it. Meanwhile, running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn is a healthy scratch after playing the past two weeks. He took a season-high nine offensive snaps in Week 11 and had three carries for four yards. He has no impact on fantasy football.
Tennessee Titans tight end Geoff Swaim (concussion) is active for the Week 12 game against the New England Patriots. Swaim only has 19 receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 26 targets in 10 games for the Titans this year, but Tennessee is desperate for playmakers with receivers A.J. Brown (chest), Julio Jones (hamstring) and Marcus Johnson (hamstring) all on Injured Reserve. Swaim could be more involved in the passing game after sitting out last week, but the Titans have also involved tight ends MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser plenty this year. Swaim will have a little bit more appeal in fantasy with the Titans lacking offensive weapons, but he'll still be a touchdown-dependent TE2.
New England Patriots running backs Damien Harris (neck) and Rhamondre Stevenson (knee) are both active for the Week 12 meeting with the Tennessee Titans. Both players had questionable tags on the final injury report but were expected to suit up. With New England having its full stable of running backs available, J.J. Taylor was made a healthy scratch. Harris has been sharing more reps with the impressive Stevenson since he returned from a concussion, which has made him more of a low-end RB2 in fantasy as long as Stevenson continues to have a bigger role. The Titans have also allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game (97.2) in 2021, so the Patriots may find running lanes harder to come by on Sunday. Stevenson will be on the RB2/3 borderline and has looked more explosive than Harris in recent weeks.
New England Patriots TE Jonnu Smith (shoulder) is active for Week 12's game against the Tennessee Titans.
Fantasy Spin: Smith had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week. He only has four catches for 34 yards over his last three games and is not a recommended option in any fantasy format.
New England Patriots TE Hunter Henry (neck) is active for Week 12's game against the Tennessee Titans.
Fantasy Spin: Henry had been listed as questionable on the injury report but participated in all three of the team's practice sessions during the week on a limited basis, so it is no surprise that he is active for this afternoon's contest. He has been a popular red-zone target for New England this season and can be viewed as a low-end TE1 option in deeper fantasy leagues.
Atlanta Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle) is officially active for the Week 12 game.
Fantasy Spin: Patterson has been one of the main options in the offense for the Falcons this season and should see plenty of touches in the running and passing game. He can be a No. 2 running back or flex option in fantasy leagues.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) is officially active for the Week 12 game.
Fantasy Spin: Barkley appeared to receive a limited workload last week but likely will be more involved in the offense this week with a new play caller. He should be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) is active for Sunday's game against the Eagles, while wide receiver Kadarius Toney (quad) is out, as previously reported. Barkley saw 12 touches last week for 56 yards and definitely doesn't look like Barkley was expected to look, but he should find a little more space against the Eagles, who allow the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. You should go ahead and play Barkley in all your redraft leagues, though he's someone you might avoid in DFS contests based on how he looked last week.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate (thigh) has officially been ruled out for the Week 12 contest against the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Tate was doubtful heading into Sunday's game, so it's no surprise that he'll miss yet another game. The 24-year-old has not seen action since Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens and hasn't been on the fantasy radar at all in 2021 while working as the fourth wideout behind rookie Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins in a loaded Cincy receiving corps. With Tate out again, Mike Thomas and Stanley Morgan will fight for snaps as the No. 4 pass-catcher against Pittsburgh.
The New York Giants have declared WR Kadarius Toney, TE Kaden Smith, FB Cullen Gillaspia, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Sterling Shepard and OG Wes Martin inactive for Week 12.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared CB Joe Haden, LB Buddy Johnson, QB Dwayne Haskins, DL Isaiah Buggs and TE Kevin Rader inactive for Week 12.
The Houston Texans have declared WR Davion Davis, TE Jeff Driskel, QB Deshaun Watson, TE Jordan Akins, CB Cre'Von LeBlanc and S Justin Reid inactive for Week 12.
The Indianapolis Colts have declared RB Marlon Mack, LB Ben Banogu, OT Julie'n Davenport, WR Mike Strachan and OG Will Fries inactive for Week 12.
The Carolina Panthers have declared TE Colin Thompson, WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LB Kamal Martin, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Kenny Robinson and QB Matt Barkley inactive for Week 12.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (arm, back) doesn't have an official injury designation ahead of the Week 12 meeting against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. However, the veteran signal-caller has reportedly been dealing with "chronic pain," specifically in his back and elbow. Nonetheless, Stafford has undoubtedly demonstrated his toughness and has played through various ailments over the years, so fantasy managers should continue to start him, at least until he shows signs of slowing down. Yet, the veteran has taken a beating this season, and Sean McVay will need to figure things out if he hopes to keep him under center, which could include more work moving ahead for Darrell Henderson Jr.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (foot) has been ruled out for Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It will be Haden's second straight missed game, but the good news for the Steelers defense is that they will be getting linebacker T.J. Watt (hip, knee) and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick back for this divisional game. The 32-year-old Haden has 24 tackles (15 solo), five passes defensed and one forced fumble in eight games this season. With him out for the second straight week, James Pierre is expected to get another start at cornerback. With Watt and Fitzpatrick back in the fold, though, the Steelers defense should once again be a top-10 fantasy defense in Week 12.