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FFL: Playoff Week 8 | NFL: Superbowl

Mayfield in spotlight as Patriots prepare to host Browns

Thu Oct 24 9:42pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Mohamed Sanu, Josh Gordon, Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield, Luke Falk, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield celebrates a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)


New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with teammates Kyle Van Noy (53) and Stephon Gilmore (24) after intercepting a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks off the field after the Seattle Seahawks defeated his team in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) At one point during the Patriots' 33-0 shutout over the Jets last week, second-year quarterback Sam Darnold said he felt as if he was ''seeing ghosts.''

New England's defenses have had that effect on young quarterbacks during coach Bill Belichick's tenure.

The Patriots have won 20 straight games against first- or second-year signal callers, the longest such streak in NFL history.

Five of those victories have come this season, with New England's top-ranked defense limiting the Jets' Darnold and Luke Falk, Dolphins' Josh Rosen, Bills' Josh Allen and Giants' Daniel Jones to a combined 44 percent completion rate and 595 yards, while coming away with 12 interceptions. Jones had the lone passing touchdown among the group.

The next to try to break the streak is Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield , who is coming off a three-interception performance in a loss to Seattle and leads the league with 11 picks.

''They try to get you to give the perfect look or perfect protection and they mix stuff up,'' Mayfield said of New England's defense. ''They pressure you. They hit you up. If you are a young quarterback, you can see that.''

But knowing how the Patriots defense attacks is just part of it. New England has also been masters at taking away opposing offenses' top options.

Browns receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. knows that means that Belichick will be trying to take him out of the game plan and capitalize of any miscues.

''You can't beat them by making mistakes. They do not make many mistakes,'' Beckham said. ''They have few penalties. They play perfect.''

Or at least very close to it.

New England enters Week 8 leading the NFL in several defensive categories including fewest points allowed (48), fewest total yards allowed per game (223.1), fewest yards per play (4.0) and fewest net passing yards per play (4.3).

The Patriots also are holding teams to a league-low 14.3 percent success rate on third down and lead the NFL with 18 interceptions.

Safety Devin McCourty said despite Cleveland's recent struggles, they are aware of the big-play potential the Browns possess.

''The way Baker Mayfield plays, he's able to escape the pocket, (and) still throw the ball on the money,'' said McCourty, who leads the NFL with five interceptions. ''So, it's an offense that you have to be ready to go (against).''

GOING FOR 300

Belichick could experience a bit of symmetry on Sunday.

Belichick earned his first NFL victory as Browns coach in 1991 against the Patriots. But with a win over the Browns on Sunday he would earn his 300th victory (including playoffs) as an NFL head coach.

He sits behind only Hall of Famers Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the NFL's win list.

NEW RECEIVER

Tom Brady's receiving group will undergo another adjustment this week after the Patriots placed receiver Josh Gordon on injured reserve with a knee injury .

The Patriots will now be leaning even more on veteran Mohamed Sanu, acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Tuesday, to provide stability to an offense that leads the league in scoring at nearly 32 points a game.

The 30-year-old Sanu has 33 receptions for 313 yards, but only one touchdown this season.

PRAISING PATRIOTS

Beckham said that playing for Belichick and with Brady was on his bucket list.

When Beckham was with the New York Giants, there were rumors that he was going to be traded to New England. The deal never materialized, but Beckham said he would have welcomed a chance to play for the NFL's gold standard.

''I was willing and ready to go over there,'' he said. ''That was always a dream of mine to play for Tom Brady and Belichick.''

Beckham would love to see the Browns follow Belichick's championship blueprint.

''It's about winning, but it's about the way they go about it,'' he said. ''How everything is precise and everything is just perfect. It feels good to win.''

O-LINE SHUFFLE

The Browns may look different up front on Sunday.

Coach Freddie Kitchens and his staff spent the bye week mulling possible lineup changes, and it's possible there will be one - and perhaps two - switches on Cleveland's offensive line. Left tackle Greg Robinson, who made a huge impact when he was promoted to a starter midway through last season, could be replaced by Justin McCray.

Robinson has committed some drive-killing penalties and hasn't played as well as the Browns hoped - or needed.

A year ago, the Browns subbed Robinson for Desmond Harrison, and Mayfield was only sacked five times over the final eight games.

ABOUT FACE

Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett's bye week began oddly - with a fan punching him in the face. Stopped in traffic, Garrett took the unexpected blow from a man who initially asked him for a photo before lashing out.

Garrett downplayed the incident this week.

''Nothing really happened,'' he said. ''It was a what, 10-minute thing? I went on with the rest of my day and the rest of my week. It's in the past.''

Garrett has a great rapport with fans and doesn't think the matter will make him more cautious in public.

''Hesitant to open my window,'' he said. ''That's about it.''

Player Notes
Dak Prescott Jan 28 9:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who can become a free agent in March, remains confident that he will work out a long-term extension with the team. "So when you put that in perspective, my mindset is to be in Dallas. And I've got the confidence in my team to get something done and the confidence in the Cowboys that we'll be able to," Prescott said. The Cowboys are putting Prescott as their No. 1 priority this offseason, but the franchise tag is also an option. The Cowboys disappointed by not making the postseason, but Prescott wasn't the problem. He was the No. 3 QB in terms of fantasy points and threw for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If he remains in Dallas as expected, he'll be a high-end QB1 for fantasy owners in 2020 and beyond.

From RotoBaller

Philip Rivers Jan 28 4:40pm ET

Updating a previous story from Monday, the Los Angeles Chargers haven't officially moved on from quarterback Philip Rivers, as FOX Sports' Jay Glazer alluded to. All options remain available with the veteran gunslinger, including the franchise tag. However, the fact that Rivers moved his family 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles to Florida could factor into the decision on both sides. The writing seems to be on the wall for the Bolts to cut ties with Rivers when he becomes a free agent this March. The 38-year-old had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2019 in his 16th and likely final season with the Chargers. Rivers can still put up numbers as he gets closer to retirement, but fantasy owners will likely be drafting him as a backup for the 2020 season, no matter where he winds up.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 28 2:50pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the team could wait until next year to sign quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a long-term contract extension. "I don't want to say necessarily it has to be this offseason, but I will say that it's a priority to get him done," Hunt said. A first-round pick in 2017, Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension now that he's finished his third year in the NFL, but it sounds like the Chiefs aren't exactly in a hurry to get something done. The 24-year-old didn't post the gaudy numbers he had in 2018 -- 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns -- but he was still more than adequate with 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 14 games. Mahomes is an elite signal-caller with exceptional athleticism with both his arm and legs. He's here to stay as a high-end QB1 and will take on the 49ers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Alex Collins Jan 28 12:43pm ET

Free-agent RB Alex Collins (Ravens) and QB Chris Streveler (CFL) worked out for the Miami Dolphins recently.

From TheHuddle

Dee Ford Jan 28 12:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (knee, hamstring) said he's not 100 percent and will play through pain of knee tendonitis and a hamstring injury in the Super Bowl.

From TheHuddle

LeSean McCoy Jan 27 10:10pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't had a touch since Week 15 and who was inactive for the AFC Championship against the Titans, said he's not ready to retire after this season. "Nah, I'm not ready to retire, yet," McCoy said. "I still can play. So, I'm not going to retire yet, but that day is coming. That day is definitely coming." The 31-year-old has taken a back seat to running backs Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson down the stretch, and he's unlikely to have much of a role, if any, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Shady has become more of a mentor in the running back room than an on-field performer for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Tevin Coleman Jan 27 10:03pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) said his injured shoulder is feeling good but wants to see how his range of motion is and how he will be able to manage the pain in his shoulder.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Coleman's practice participation this week to see if he will be in any danger of missing the Super Bowl. He will be part of a committee if he plays and can be a flex option.

From TheHuddle

Philip Rivers Jan 27 7:23pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent QB Philip Rivers' status with the Chargers is uncertain at this time, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The team may consider placing the franchise tag on him or let him leave in free agency.

Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor the situation to see where Rivers will be playing in 2020. He likely will find a starting job this offseason but may only be a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Jan 27 6:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (shoulder) said he has been playing the last two seasons with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and does not plan to have surgery on the shoulder.

Fantasy Spin: Kittle seems to be playing fine despite the injury and continues to be an important part of the running and passing game. He continues to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL and is a must-start fantasy option.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle Jan 27 6:00pm ET

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.

From RotoBaller

Tommylee Lewis Jan 27 5:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Tommylee Lewis (Lions) signed a Reserve/Future contract with the New Orleans Saints Monday, Jan. 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Taylor Gabriel Jan 27 5:13pm ET

Chicago Bears WR Taylor Gabriel could be released this offseason since the team could save $4.5 million in salary cap space.

Fantasy Spin: Gabriel struggled with concussions this season but can be a role in an offense because of his playmaking abilities. He probably will be avoided in most fantasy leagues no matter where he plays in 2020.

From TheHuddle

Kareem Hunt Jan 27 3:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.

From RotoBaller

Philip Rivers Jan 27 3:00pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers have "moved on from Philip Rivers," according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. Rivers is set to become a free agent in March, and the writing was on the wall when he recently moved his entire family from San Diego to Florida. Rivers will end a 16-year run with the Chargers, but it remains to be seen where he'll land on the free-agent market this offseason. The Buccaneers are a popular expected destination, but that'll only be if they move on from Jameis Winston. Rivers completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 2019 for a QB rating of 88.5. He might have a few more seasons left in him, but at 38 years old his arm strength is clearly deteriorating, and he'll probably be more of a QB2 in 2020, depending on where he winds up.

From RotoBaller

Jerry Hughes Jan 27 11:13am ET

The Buffalo Bills were cleared of violating policy over the reporting of DE Jerry Hughes' (wrist) wrist injury in 2019. Hughes posted to social media that he was undergoing surgery after playing the season with torn ligaments, but he was not listed on the injury report.

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Fletcher Cox Jan 26 6:43pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox was credited with a 61-yard interception return for touchdown at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

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Jack Doyle Jan 26 6:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle posted three catches for 63 yards and a touchdown on four targets for the AFC at the Pro Bowl Sunday, Jan. 26.

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T.J. Watt Jan 26 6:33pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers DE T.J. Watt posted an 82-yard fumble return for touchdown in the fourth quarter for the AFC at the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Sunday, Jan. 26.

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Mark Andrews Jan 26 6:23pm ET

Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews ended up with a game-high nine receptions for an AFC-best 73 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Chark Jan 26 6:23pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. registered two grabs for 67 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown in the third quarter, for the AFC at the Pro Bowl on Sunday, Jan. 26.

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