Wed Nov 13 2:03pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)
In this Oct. 27, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield passes during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, in Foxborough, Mass. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) Separated by roughly 130 miles and six Super Bowl titles, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns have a hostile, historic rivalry resuscitated from being heavily one-sided to much more competitive the past few years.
The hatred has never waned.
''It's a big game. It's Browns vs. Steelers,'' said Cleveland running back and native Kareem Hunt, who is about to get his first on-field taste of the long-running football feud. ''I've been watching this my whole life.''
The Steelers and Browns are getting together again Thursday night for the 135th time, renewing their deep disdain for each other in front of a national TV audience in what have been unexpected seasons for both teams.
The Steelers have salvaged theirs.
Cleveland has work to do.
''Everything's at stake, man,'' said Browns cornerback T.J. Carrie. ''We have no more time to waste.''
Their margin for error expunged by a flurry of penalties, turnovers, questionable plays calls by rookie coach Freddie Kitchens in several disappointing early season losses, the Browns (3-6) will try to keep their faint playoff hopes flickering against the Steelers (5-4).
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, leaned on its championship pedigree to regroup after moving on from Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown and then losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 to injury. Led by a ball-hawking defense, the Steelers have wiped out a 1-4 start.
''We are still scratching and clawing to make this thing happen and to keep winning games and keep stacking victories and let the chips fall where they may,'' said second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has settled in after replacing Big Ben. ''We are not in the position where we can take anyone lightly.''
Talent and commercial endorsements haven't been nearly enough in Cleveland. The NFL's most publicized team in the preseason has failed to live up to expectations.
However, the Browns, who stopped a four-game skid with their first home win of the season Sunday over Buffalo, have a soft schedule ahead and haven't given up on ending the league's longest playoff drought going back to 2002.
Another loss would all but end their chances.
The key for Cleveland will be ball security. The Steelers are second in the league with 26 takeaways, the most for a Pittsburgh team through nine games since 1987.
''They are making a lot of plays right now,'' said Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who hasn't thrown a pick in two games after having a league-high 12 through seven.
During their winning streak, the Steelers have forced 14 turnovers, with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick returning two for touchdowns. Fitzpatrick came over in a trade from Miami and already has five interceptions and a fumble recovery in seven games.
Browns guard Joel Bitonio isn't surprised by the Steelers' surge. It's who they are.
''I know a lot of people probably tried to write `em off at the beginning of the year when they lost all those guys and had the injury to Ben,'' he said. ''But they fight. ... They rallied around their defense and their culture and said, `Hey, we're not giving up on this season.' It's really been impressive to see.''
Mayfield and Rudolph have history. They played each other three times in college, with Mayfield leading Oklahoma to a 3-0 mark against Rudolph's Oklahoma State squad in a rivalry known as ''Bedlam.''
In their last meeting, Mayfield passed for 598 yards and five touchdowns and Rudolph had 448 and five TDs in a 62-52 loss to the Sooners.
Rudolph isn't looking for revenge or at the past.
''You want to win every game you can and do your rival games hurt more when you lose? For sure. You wouldn't be human if you said otherwise,'' Rudolph said. ''We are trying to push the mud off us from the earlier September run we had.''
Now that Hunt is back from an eight-game suspension, the Browns are likely to pair him often in the backfield with Nick Chubb, who is closing in on 1,000 yards.
Both backs can run and catch, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knows his defense can't focus on one or the other.
''They have big-time weapons,'' he said. ''Obviously, the two-back set is something that they did a week ago with a great deal of success. ... They are very multiple. That is one of the things that is challenging about them. Our hands are going to be full.''
SHOULDERING THE LOAD
Steelers running back James Conner is expected to play after missing two games with a sprained shoulder suffered against Miami on Oct. 28. Conner will wear larger shoulder pads for extra protection.
Pittsburgh's running game has languished much of the season. The Steelers are 27th in yards rushing, 28th in yards per carry. Those numbers need to change if Pittsburgh wants to take pressure off Rudolph.
''Having James back will be big for us, especially with the confidence that he'll have coming into it,'' tight end Vance McDonald said.
Conner lit up the Browns last season, piling up 404 yards of total offense and four touchdowns.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden remembers his days with the Browns fondly even though they didn't have a single winning season during his tenure.
''It's always going to be a little special because I spent seven years there,'' said Haden, drafted by Cleveland with the No. 7 overall pick in 2010 and cut in 2017. ''That's not going to go away. I just want to win a little more. I don't know if that's possible.''
The 30-year-old has revived his career in Pittsburgh, signing a contract extension in August.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage (ribs) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. He wasn't alone. Julio Jones (shoulder), Calvin Ridley (toe) and Austin Hooper (knee) were all limited as well. Assuming Gage is able to play in Week 14, his upside varies greatly depending on which of the other three hobbled Falcons pass-catchers are good to go. If Jones, Ridley and Hooper all suit up, Gage is tough to trust in any format. If one of them sits, Gage is a decent PPR play. If two or more sit, Gage is worth starting in all formats. Gage has 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown over his past two games.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder has disappointed fantasy owners two weeks in a row totaling just four catches for 26 yards in both games combined. Seeing numbers like that can make it hard to trust the fifth-year receiver, but based on his target volume and matchup fantasy owners should turn back to Crowder in Week 14. Crowder has 18 more targets than any other Jet on the season and has done all of his damage this year when QB Sam Darnold has been healthy. Darnold looks Crowder's way often and even with just two catches last week Crowder was targeted nine times. Crowder will be a low-end WR2 vs a very beatable Miami secondary.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman saw a heavy workload in Week 13, following a two-game absence. He had a total of 21 touches in Week 13, including four receptions. He should be similarly featured this week as the team takes on the Panthers. Freeman has greatly struggled from an efficiency standpoint this year, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the season. However, his workload has somewhat made up for his struggles and he's performed as an RB2 most of the year. Start him as an RB2 this week and look for him to gain around 80 yards on the day with a solid chance to score a touchdown.
New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson has been disappointing for most of 2019, but appears to be heating up as the weather cools down in the Big Apple. Despite the Jets offense looking lost for most of their Week 13 loss to the Bengals, Anderson was able to make seven catches for 101 yards as one of the few bright spots for New York. Even before that game, Anderson had scored a touchdown in the previous two games as it seems he's finally being treated as the number one receiving option by this first-year coaching staff. Miami gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and Anderson is coming off a 10-target game. Expect the Jets to take a few deep shots to him in this one making him a high-ceiling WR3.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (shoulder) missed his first game of the year in Week 13 and is currently questionable for Week 14. He was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. If he can practice in full before Sunday's game against the Panthers, he should be good to go. Jones has had a somewhat underwhelming year, by his lofty standards. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3 and he has just two 100-yard games since Week 3. However, he's still regularly seen around eight or more targets throughout the year. Expect him to catch around six passes for 80 or more yards in Week 14 if he's active.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (toe) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. He's currently questionable for Week 14 against the Panthers, but there doesn't seem to be much indication that he's at risk to miss the game. Ridley is riding a three-game hot streak. He has 22 receptions for over 300 yards and two touchdowns over his past three games. Julio Jones (shoulder) missed the team's last game and appears trending towards playing in Week 14. If Jones is active, Ridley's upside takes a small hit, but he's a strong WR2 play in all formats regardless.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a solid bounce-back performance in Week 13, throwing for 312 yards and two touchdowns. This week, Ryan and the Falcons face the Panthers. The Falcons are riddled with injuries on offense, but signs seem to be pointing towards a return for Julio Jones (shoulder) and Austin Hooper (knee) this week. The Falcons have struggled so much to run the ball this year that Ryan is regularly forced to throw a lot of passes. Expect him to top 300 yards and throw for multiple touchdowns in Week 14.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (knee) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday and could be slated to make his return in Week 14 against the Panthers. Hooper was having a monster season before the injury sidelined him. He earned at least five targets in each of the nine games he played this year and he has six touchdowns on the year. Keep an eye on his status the next few days, but if he's active for the game, he's a must-start.
The Bills Defense did a solid job holding a strong Cowboys offense to just 15 points in Week 13, but this week, they face an even tougher opponent, the Ravens. The Ravens are averaging over 33 points per game on the year and about 420 yards from scrimmage per game. The Bills defense has been exceptional all year and even though this week doesn't figure to be one of their stronger showings, they should still be able to make it out with an adequate fantasy day. They're a low-end starting option this week.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell has had a rough first year in green and white averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and scoring just four total touchdowns through 13 games. Despite the rough season, a juicy matchup with a porous Dolphins run defense should have Bell in fantasy lineups once again this week. Miami gives up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and the Jets should focus on giving Bell the ball. Last week the Jets only gave Bell 10 carries against a bad Bengals run defense and were rightfully panned in the New York media for their game plan vs Cincinnati. Expect the coaching staff to learn from their mistake and feed Bell 20-plus touches this weekend putting Bell in the low-end RB1 conversation based on volume and matchup.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a miserable game in Cincinnati last Sunday, but will be in the streaming quarterback mix again in Week 14 with a home date against Miami. Darnold was roughed up by the Bengals taking several big hits and was seen limping during the last drive, but he practiced in full on Wednesday and will be good to go Sunday. The Jets offense looked lost last week but before that they scored 34 points in three straight games with Darnold looking much better than he did in his first few games back from illness. Darnold isn't the sexiest option to start in the fantasy playoffs, but he's been playing much better, he only has two turnovers in his last five games, and the Dolphins give up the third-most points to opposing QBs on the season.
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has had a steady role in the offense over the past month, but his usage isn't high enough to inspire confidence for fantasy owners. He has five catches on six targets in his past two games, but has only managed to gain 28 yards total in those two games. The team's passing offense has relied heavily on John Brown and Cole Beasley this year. Knox has shown promising flashes and could be a decent sleeper to target next year, but he can remain on waivers for now.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown is coming off of his worst game of the season. He caught just three passes for 26 yards in Week 13, only the second time he'd been held under 50 receiving yards in a game on the season. This week, the Bills face a tough Ravens Defense and they'll likely need to rely on Brown, one of their top playmakers, in order to stay in the game. Expect Brown to see around seven targets in the game, giving him a good chance for four or five catches and a few big plays. He's a WR2 this week.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has been on a roll lately. He's topped 70 receiving yards in three of his past four games and has scored touchdowns in two straight. He's earned more targets than the team's No. 1 receiver John Brown each of the past two weeks. This week, the Bills face a tough Ravens Defense and quarterback Josh Allen may need to rely on Beasley as his short-yardage safety net once again. Expect Beasley to see around seven or eight targets in the game, making him a solid WR3 or flex play in PPR leagues. In non-PPR, he's a bit risky, but could still be considered a low-end WR3 or flex.
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary has 55 touches over his past three games and figures to have a heavy workload once again in Week 14 against the Ravens. Singletary is averaging a remarkable 5.6 yards per carry on the year and has topped 100 yards in each of his past two games. The Ravens allow the sixth-fewest rushing yards per game in the league and they will pose a challenge for Singletary, but his talent and workload should be enough to make his day solid. Expect around 18 touches for Singletary, giving him a solid shot to gain between 80 and 100 yards.
Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore has continued to be heavily involved in the team's offense. He has had double-digit touches in three straight games. However, he's struggled to make the most of his touches, particularly in Week 13, when he rushed for just 11 yards on nine carries. Devin Singletary is the clear No. 1 running back in the offense, with Gore behind him. The Bills face a tough Ravens run defense this week and it will be hard enough for Singletary to find running room, so it's impossible to trust Gore in the matchup. He can be left on waivers or dropped at this point.
Buffalo Bills running back T.J. Yeldon has been inactive for six straight weeks and there's little reason to believe that streak will end against the Ravens this week. The Bills are going exclusively with Devin Singletary and Frank Gore at this point, making Yeldon unworthy of ownership in any league format.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has scored multiple touchdowns in eight straight games, but this week, he has a particularly difficult test against the Ravens, who are allowing just 18.2 points per game on the year. Allen has done well against tough matchups vs. the Cowboys and Broncos the past two weeks, so there's reason to believe he could end up fine once again this week. If you have better options on the table, you might want to consider benching Allen in one-quarterback leagues. In two-quarterback leagues, he's good to go as a mid-tier QB2.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning is 'very likely' to start against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday, Dec. 9, according to head coach Pat Shurmur.
Fantasy Spin: An ankle injury is the culprit for Daniel Jones, who is expected to give way to Manning on MNF. It would certainly be a nice moment if Manning stepped in and led his team to an upset win in prime time, but it seems unlikely given the team's overall struggles and Manning's before he got benched. He's not worth rolling the dice on.
Oakland Raiders LB Quentin Poling and OG Kyle Kalis were released from the practice squad on Wednesday, Dec. 4.