Thu Oct 17 6:01pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
In this July 29, 2019, file photo, Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict attends NFL football training camp in Napa, Calif. Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther lashed out at the NFL for the severe suspension the league handed Burfict for his latest infraction for a helmet-to-helmet hit. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland defensive coordinator Paul Guenther lashed out at the NFL for the lengthy suspension the league handed to Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for a helmet-to-helmet hit, one of a series of violations for which he has been punished.
Burfict was suspended for the final 12 games of the regular season and the playoffs for the hit to the head of Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle on Sept. 29. It was longest suspension ever handed down by the league for an on-field infraction.
Burfict appealed the penalty hoping to get it reduced but that was denied last week by appeals officer Derrick Brooks. The previous longest suspension was five games handed to Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth in 2006 for kicking and stomping on Cowboys center Andre Gurode's face, leading to 30 stitches.
''I think it was a witch hunt from the beginning quite honestly,'' Guenther said Thursday. ''Somebody at the league didn't want him playing football and they got what they wanted.''
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan handed down the penalty to punish Burfict severely for ''repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules'' after the hit on Doyle. It was the third time Burfict has been suspended for a dangerous hit on the field to go along with several others that led to fines.
The suspension is without pay, costing Burfict more than $1.1 million in salary and per game active roster bonuses.
Guenther said he's most upset about the lack of a clear standard and that he and the team will keep a close eye on other infractions to see if they are dealt with the same way.
''Now they've opened up a whole can or worms as far as the next guy who is going to do this,'' he said. ''We have to make sure if we do this to this one guy, this one guy driving 38 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone, a cop looking for one guy doing it, then all the players should be held to the same one standard. To me that's where I have the issue.''
During his time in Cincinnati, Burfict was repeatedly suspended by the NFL for egregious hits and violating its policy on performance-enhancers. He was fined regularly for hits that crossed the line, most notably the one to Antonio Brown's head that helped the Steelers rally for an 18-16 playoff win in the 2015 season. That led to a three-game suspension to start the 2016 season.
Burfict then was penalized with a five-game suspension for a blind-side block against Kansas City fullback Anthony Sherman in the 2017 preseason. The suspension was later reduced to three games.
Burfict was also fined $112,000 last season for hits on Brown and James Conner in a game against Pittsburgh.
Despite that history, Burfict said after signing with the Raiders that he disputes accusations that he is a ''dirty'' player.
But it was that history that led to this punishment, with Runyan telling Burfict in a letter that he ''continued to flagrantly abuse rules designated to protect yourself and your opponents from unnecessary risk.''
''Does it make any sense to sign a guy if after one infraction he's going to get thrown out of the league for a year? No, it doesn't,'' Guenther said. ''I think it's very unfair. It's unfair to our team and unfair to Vontaze.''
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard is dealing with a stinger and has not been cleared for contact yet. With the Eagles facing off against the Patriots on Sunday, Howard's availability is in serious jeopardy. Darren Sproles was just ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn hip flexor, leaving rookie Miles Sanders and special teamer Boston Scott as the only healthy running backs on the Eagles roster. Free agent Jay Ajayi visited the Eagles and could be signed and even see some action as early as Sunday. It's a mess for the Eagles offense. Howard's fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles will miss the rest of the 2019 season due to a torn hip flexor. The veteran back suffered the injury originally in Week 5 but was able to return in Week 9. Sproles missed most of last season due to injury as well, which led him to return for one more year. After two straight injury-plagued seasons, however, this could be it for the former Saint and Charger. Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and Boston Scott remain on the Eagles running back depth chart.
Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (knee) is expected to play in Week 11.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald caught three passes for 33 yards on Thursday during the loss to the Cleveland Browns. McDonald led the team with seven targets on the night after James Conner (shoulder), Diontae Johnson (concussion), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) all suffered injuries. McDonald, who has been targeted 21 times over the last three games, could be more involved against the Bengals in Week 12 if any one of those three mentioned aren't able to go. Keep on an eye on things heading into next Sunday's matchup with Cincy.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington finished with a team-high 49 yards during the loss to the Browns on Thursday. With JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion), James Conner (shoulder), and Diontae Johnson (concussion) all getting banged up in this one, Washington received five targets while managing to catch just three of them. The 23-year-old could see his fantasy stock rise before the Week 12 showdown with the Bengals if any of those guys aren't able to suit up, especially for those playing in deeper formats.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Trey Edmunds finished with just three carries for 11 yards during the loss to the Browns. Edmunds yielded carries to Jaylen Samuels, who finished with five attempts for 26 yards, and while both men didn't fully capitalize on the ground after the premature departure of James Conner (shoulder), they were involved on the receiving end to some degree. If Conner is unable to suit up against the Bengals in Week 12, Edmunds has some value, but only as a desperation play in deeper leagues as Samuels will likely be more involved against Cincinnati.
Cleveland Browns LB Joe Schobert had 10 tackles (seven solo), a sack, two tackles for loss, four passes defensed and a pair of interceptions during the team's Week 11 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry had four receptions, 43 yards and a touchdown during the team's Week 11 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fantasy Spin: That's three games in a row with a touchdown for Landry, who has statistically been the team's top wideout for weeks now, being targeted 40 times over the last four contests (for 24 receptions). His weekly upside isn't as high as Odell Beckham, but Landry seems like a steadier play as a WR2.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels finished with five attempts for 26 yards in addition to five receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown against the Browns in Week 11. Samuels stepped up after James Conner was ruled out on Thursday night after re-injuring the same shoulder that kept him out over the last few weeks. Look for 23-year-old to once again be a popular waiver wire target, especially in PPR formats, heading into Week 12 against the Bengals if Conner is forced to miss another one.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) had four receptions for 60 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Nov. 14.
Fantasy Spin: Beckham had a 42-yard catch but was otherwise quiet on Thursday night. This seems to be the sweet spot for OBJ right now as he has posted between 50 and 60 receiving yards in three of his last four games. That's not terrible production, but it's certainly not what fantasy owners were expecting as Beckham hasn't scored since Week 2. His upside dictates he remain in that WR2 area even if his numbers don't.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph struggled in Week 11 in the loss to the Browns, finishing with 221 yards on 23-for-44 passing to go along with four interceptions. While the 24-year-old did throw a touchdown, the four picks he threw offset any chance for an adequate fantasy performance. He hasn't played well over the last three weeks, however, compiling only 654 yards and three scores, while throwing five interceptions. There is light at the end of the tunnel for Rudolph, nonetheless, as the Steelers will look to get back on track against the Bengals in Week 12, with his stock increasing if either JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) or James Conner (shoulder) are able to play after suffering in-game injuries on Thursday night.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt ran six times for 12 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11. He also caught six passes for 46 yards.
Fantasy Spin: For one week at least, Cleveland's passing game flowed through three players: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Hunt. That trio was targeted on 25 of the team's 32 passes. It certainly looks like Nick Chubb will be their bruiser, and Hunt will chip in on passing downs. In that role he holds some flex appeal.
Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb had 27 carries for 92 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday, Nov. 14.
Fantasy Spin: Chubb's 92-yard effort puts him over 1,000 yards for the season, and his 27 carries marked the seventh time this year he's had 20 or more. The return of Kareem Hunt has had no negative effects on Chubb to this point, and Chubb remains an RB1.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield completed 17 of his 32 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a Week 11 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mayfield also ran for a one-yard touchdown.
Fantasy Spin: Mayfield wasn't spectacular, but he did enough and avoided the mistakes that doomed counterpart Mason Rudolph. After throwing INTs in each of his first seven games, the Oklahoma product has gone three straight without one. He's not putting QB1 fantasy numbers right now, but he's worth carrying as your backup.
Pittsburgh Steelers TE Vance McDonald caught three passes for 33 yards on Thursday, Nov. 14, against the Cleveland Browns.
Fantasy Spin: McDonald entered 2019 as a top-10 tight end, but he hasn't topped 40 yards receiving in a game this season. Any optimism that was generated by him catching two TDs in Mason Rudolph's first game petered out long ago, and McDonald isn't worth owning outside of deep leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington caught three passes for 49 yards during the team's Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Fantasy Spin: Washington's numbers weren't great Thursday night, but he still led the team. It's a continuation of the second-year pro's maturation and development into a nice complement to JuJu Smith-Schuster. While Pittsburgh's passing offense is anything but prolific, Washington still holds potential WR3 value down the stretch.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has been one of the NFL's worst kickers this year, but head coach Frank Reich remains confident in him. However, in Week 11 with the fantasy playoffs looming, you can't trust him in your lineups. He's missed five field goals and six extra points this season. He's below 80 percent accuracy in both categories, and this figures to be a low-scoring game. You just can't trot him out this week, as there are likely several options available that are better than him.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack has only cleared 100 scrimmage yards in a game twice this season. One of those was all the way back in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers. In Week 11, he has a good matchup that could see that number grow to three. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Indy's Week 11 opponent, have been decent against the pass, but they're allowing over 120 yards per game on the ground. Mack is still in the RB2 conversation every week because he gets good volume, and this week he has a fair bit of upside.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (knee) is expected to start after missing last week's loss to the Miami Dolphins. After being a consistent QB2 for much of the season, he can't be trusted this week. He'll be without three of his top four wide receivers due to injuries, and he's playing against a defense that still has a fair bit of talent to make life difficult for him. With only four teams on a bye, there should be better streaming options available for this week than Brissett. Expect the Colts to lean heavily on the running game even with Brissett back in the fold.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal was quiet last week, and he'll see an uptick in his stock this week with quarterback Jacoby Brissett (knee) expected to start. However, he still can't be relied on for anything consistent. He's been boom-or-bust wideout nearly every week since he showed up on the scene in Week 3. He'll also have to deal with cornerback A.J. Bouye a fair bit in this game, which further downgrades him. Unless you have no other options, look elsewhere at wide receiver in shallow leagues. The Colts should lean more on the run this week once again.