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 Dallas Cowboys will have four important pieces of their offense back for Sunday's meeting with the Eagles, with wide receivers Amari Copper (thigh) and Randall Cobb (back) plus tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (knee) expected to play. All four players' statuses have been up in the air this week, but if the four of them play, the Cowboys offense sees a huge boost. Cooper will be a solid start, and both quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott will see a boost to their fantasy stock.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (shoulder) will likely play against the Bengals in Week 7, though he'll test the shoulder out in warmups to be safe. The Bengals Defense is an enticing matchup for Westbrook, but he's fallen from his team's top wideout to the number-two guy for quarterback Gardner Minshew, which limits his value. Play him in 12-team PPR leagues, but feel free to avoid him in shallower leagues and in standard scoring.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky will play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. He had been questionable heading into Week 7 with a shoulder injury. New Orleans allows the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, so this isn't a bad spot for Trubisky if you're in a pinch at the quarterback position. With Trubisky back, owners who picked up Chase Daniel in two-quarterback leagues can safely drop him.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (ankle) is expected to play in Week 7 against the New York Giants. New York has struggled to keep opposing running backs in check, so feel comfortable firing up Johnson in all formats on Sunday, even if we see Chase Edmonds worked into the mix a little more than usual.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers are facing a stingy Titans Defense this week. In the last three weeks, the Titans have only allowed two passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, in Rivers last three games hes passed for four touchdowns and 4 interceptions, which included a juicy matchup against the Dolphins that helped pad his stats. Rivers is a usually a streaming option, but fantasy owners shouldnt count on him this week.
Melvin Gordon has been off to a shaky start this year after missing four weeks of the season due to his holdout. Hes put up a lowly 31 and 18 yards respectively in his first two games. He plays a stiff Titans run defense this week. On the season, the Titans havent allowed much fantasy production to the RB position. The highest scoring RB to date is Nick Chubb who finished with 14.50 points in half-PPR leagues. The best is yet to come for Gordon, but this is not the week that he gets rolling.
Hunter Henry is coming off the heels of a monster performance against the Steelers. He made good on eight of his nine targets where he stacked up 100 yards and a touchdown. The Titans are a middle of the pack defense against the TE position, and they've only faced one legitimate threat in Austin Hooper back in Week 4 where he blew their secondary out of the water. The TE position is paper thin, and Henry should be a shoo-in for a TE1 week.
Chris Carson is gobbling up the running downs work in Seattle. In the last three weeks, Carson has seen no less than 26 touches in a game. Carson is a true workhorse back. He's going up against a Ravens Defense that ranks 10th against opposing rushers, but don't let that number fool you. Baltimore played the Dolphins in Week 1 and the Cardinals, who had yet to put things together, in Week 2. The Ravens have been exposed on the ground in matchups versus the Chiefs and the Browns. Don't expect Carson to slow down this week. If you own Carson, start him with full confidence.
The Baltimore Ravens Defense isn't nearly as dominant as they were a year ago. They've been involved in a couple high-scoring affairs already this season. Russell Wilson is on a roll right now, he's managed to score more than 30 fantasy points in each of his last two appearances. The Ravens are currently allowing an average of 281.5 yards per game to QB's, though things might change with the addition of Marcus Peters. Still, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense should be able to put up points against Seattle's defense, forcing Wilson to throw. If Wilson can get 30 passing attempts, or anywhere near that total, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Mike Williams has been a bit of a disappointment this season to those who drafted him. He's been dealing with an injury, but in the last two weeks he saw 13 and 10 targets respectively. If he sees a similar target share this week, he just needs one broken play to post a great stat-line. He's best as a WR3 or flex, but his upside is sky-high.
Keenan Allen has pulled a Houdini in recent weeks. The last time he saw more than six targets was back in Week 3 where he received a whopping 17 targets. He faces a middle of the pack passing defense in the Titans who rank 14th against the WR position in the last four games. Philip Rivers has his full array of targets this week with Hunter Henry and Mike Williams both healthy and ready to go. While Allen is still a must-start, if he doesn't receive an uptick in opportunity, he could disappoint yet again.
Austin Ekeler started the season with a bang, but the Ekeler show ended when Melvin Gordon returned to the fold. Ekeler barely left the sidelines last week against the Steelers. Granted, the game script couldnt have been worse for the Chargers as they found themselves trying to erase a 14 point deficit early in the game. Still, the disparity in touches was alarming if you own Ekeler. The Titans dont have the fire power to put up points quickly against the Chargers, so there should be a more equal timeshare in the backfield. Regardless, weve seen what Ekelers floor is, and it isnt pretty.
Tyler Lockett's out-of-this-world touchdown per catch ratio has finally caught up with him this season. Russell Wilson is distributing the ball more, and it's been at Lockett's detriment. In weeks 2 and 3, Lockett saw double-digit targets in each game and converted those into nice fantasy outings. Now that Will Dissly is out of the picture, Lockett's target share should go up again, and we all know what one well-placed long ball from Wilson can do for Lockett's fantasy day. Lockett goes up against a Ravens Defense that hasn't been playing at a high-level this season. However, the newly acquired Marcus Peters may change things. In what looks to be a high-scoring matchup, pencil Lockett in as a WR2 with upside.
D.K. Metcalf has pieced together a couple of nice fantasy outings this season, but his outlook for the future is contingent on touchdowns. In games without a touchdown, Metcalf has yet to score more than 10 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. Baltimore's secondary is exploitable, and there will be more targets to go around with Will Dissly's absence, but it's best to avoid Metcalf unless absolutely necessary.
The Chargers play a Tennessee Titans team with newly appointed Ryan Tannehill at the helm. The Chargers have to find a way to contain Derrick Henry if they expect to win, as they currently rank 24th against fantasy RB's. If they can win the battle up front, they might be able to take advantage of Ryan Tannehill who threw an interception in limited action last week. Though not ideal, there are worse defenses to stream this week.
Free-agent TE Dan Arnold (Saints) was signed to the New Orleans Saints' active roster roster Saturday, Oct. 19. TE Brian Parker was waived in a corresponding move.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caught six passes on eight targets for 99 yards in Week 6 against the Bengals. On the season he has 34 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns. Andrews has been targeted at least seven times in every game this year, but hasn't gotten in the end zone since Week 4 against Cleveland. The Ravens play a Seahawks Defense that has allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends in 2019, two to Vance McDonald and one in Week 6 to Ricky Seals-Jones. Seattle has been somewhat stingy against tight ends, but also gave up 187 yards to the Rams tight ends in Week 5. If receiver Marquise Brown is unable to go in Week 7, Andrews has a high possibility of leading Baltimore in receiving again in Hollywood's absence. Andrews is a TE1 for Week 7.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 against the Bengals. The Ravens play a Seahawks Defense that has allowed 557 rushing yards and given up six touchdowns to opposing backs in 2019. In Week 6 Seattle allowed the Browns to rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Ingram has rushed for at least 44 yards in every game this season, but is becoming a touchdown-dependent option. He hasn't even come close to his outlier performance against Kansas City when he rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Baltimore still hosts a run-first offense so expect Ingram to get his touches, but he's in RB2 territory for Week 7.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson posted 236 passing yards, 152 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown against the Bengals in Week 6. Baltimore plays a Seahawks Defense in Week 7 that's allowed the eighth-most passing yards in the league through six games (1,602). Seattle has allowed at least 15 fantasy points every week to opposing quarterbacks in 2019 and let Baker Mayfield run for a touchdown in Week 6. Receiver Marquise Brown is still questionable to play with an ankle injury. If Hollywood is unable to go on Sunday, expect tight end Mark Andrews to get the bulk of targets and for Jackson to use his legs to get the ball moving. Jackson has firmly placed himself as a top-three QB start for the rest of the way.
New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is questionable for Monday Night Football.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas may not get to face his former team in the New England Patriots. He's coming off his best game of the season in Week 6, catching all four of his targets for 62 yards. He's a flex option at best as a bye-week replacement if active.