Tue Nov 12 5:03pm ET
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes between Buffalo Bills free safety Jordan Poyer (21) and strong safety Micah Hyde (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
In this May 15, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns' Kareem Hunt (27) and Nick Chubb (24) talk during an NFL football organized team activity session at the team's training facility in Berea, Ohio. With Kareem Hunt returning from his eight-game NFL suspension to join Nick Chubb in Clevelands backfield, the Browns (3-6) have a dynamic duo that will test opposing defenses through the air and on the ground. In Sundays 19-16 win over Buffalo, the Hunt-Chubb tandem combined for 147 yards rushing and 49 receiving while helping the Browns snap a four-game losing streak that halted a season shaped by high expectations from dissolving into another mess. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb, top, is tackled by Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) rushes against the Buffalo Bills during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
BEREA, Ohio (AP) Freddie Kitchens has struggled to make two star wide receivers happy. The Browns coach now has a pair of elite running backs to please as well.
One football. Four playmakers.
That's not necessarily a bad problem.
With Kareem Hunt returning from his eight-game NFL suspension to join Nick Chubb in Cleveland's backfield, the Browns (3-6) have a dynamic duo that will test opposing defenses on the ground and through the air.
In Sunday's 19-16 win over Buffalo, the Hunt-Chubb tandem debuted and combined for 196 total yards while helping the Browns snap a four-game losing streak that halted this season shaped by high expectations from dissolving into another maddening mess.
Kitchens, whose future was beginning to look bleak and remains unclear, understands that Chubb-Hunt can be a potent 1-2 combination.
''Anytime you can get guys who can do things with the ball in their hands and they can also play off of other people, that definitely impacts decisions, alignments and assignments,'' Kitchens said Tuesday as the Browns prepared for Thursday night's game against the surging Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) ''When you have more than a couple of options, it's always, from that positon in particular, very good.''
And very needed.
To this point, the Browns have lacked a clear offensive identity.
The two-back, Chubb-Hunt set may change that.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield hasn't developed any consistent chemistry with Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has just one touchdown catch as teams have focused on taking him away with double teams. The Browns went out of their way to get Beckham involved on Sunday as he was targeted 12 times - Mayfield just missed him on two long throws - and had five catches.
Jarvis Landry had one of his best games this season with nine receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The Browns have already seen how Hunt's versatility will prevent teams from keying on Chubb, who is on the verge of a 1,000-yard season, while creating more downfield opportunities for Beckham and Landry.
''We kind of did some experiments on just how much we can do with that package,'' Mayfield said. ''Obviously, two dynamic players with Nick and Kareem, we are able to do a lot but kind of make to where we format it where it all looks similar, but we are doing different things out of it. It can be an explosive package for us. We just have to go out there and do our job.''
From the start on Sunday, Hunt did his job, unleashing months of pent-up energy.
On Cleveland's second play, he lined up alongside Chubb and then delivered a kick-out block that cleared a path for his teammate on a 21-yard run. It was a tone-setter and perhaps a sign of things to come.
''They're both willing blockers, they both can catch out of the backfield, then can line up in different spots and they both run with great energy,'' said left guard Joel Bitonio. ''It was cool to see `em both out there. Hunt ran the ball hard the few times he got it. The cool thing was he was lead-blocking a few times and some of those were big spring plays. You know we don't have a fullback in there, but he kind of acted like it a couple times.
''That was really cool to see, his willingness to be that guy.''
Hunt's debut for the Browns was a revelation in many ways.
The 24-year-old former NFL rushing champion is determined to change his personal narrative following two ugly, off-field incidents that led to his release by the Kansas City Chiefs last year and subsequent league punishment. To some, the disturbing video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman during an argument last year has painted him as an unforgivable villain.
However, the Browns have been impressed with his attitude and maturity. He's made strides off the field. On it, he's a potentially game-changing player.
''Whatever the team needs, he'll do,'' said center JC Tretter. ''He showed it.''
Hunt understands there may be people not thrilled that he's getting a second chance. That's something else he has avoided focusing on.
''I really do not pay too much attention with that,'' he said when asked if he senses how fans have received his return. ''It is up to you. If you like me, you like me.''
NOTES: DE Olivier Vernon (knee) and S Eric Murray (knee) remain sidelined and will likely miss Thursday's game. ... The season's first significant snowfall forced the Browns to practice indoors. But kicker Austin Seibert, punter Jamie Gillan and long snapper Charley Hughlett went outside to get their work in. ... Mayfield will match up Thursday against Steelers QB Mason Rudolph for the first time as pros. They faced each other three times in college with Mayfield leading Oklahoma to a 3-0 record against Rudolph and Oklahoma State. ''Mason is a great guy,'' Mayfield said. ''He is playing well, taking care of the ball, putting them in a good position to win.''
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed for 59 yards on 15 attempts in Week 13's win over the 49ers. Ingram could produce a healthy amount of production against a Bills Defense with a weakness against the run. Ingram will continue to share the ball with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, but he is still the No. 1 option in the backfield and will get the majority of touches. If the Ravens can get the run game going early, Ingram has a good chance to get in the end zone. He is an RB2 going into Sunday's Week 13 matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross (shoulder) should see a 'healthy amount of targets' when he returns in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns, in the opinion of Ben Baby of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: Although Ross may have his snaps limited in a bit in his return, his game is built around big plays, not volume. He could still be worth a flier as a boom-or-bust flex play.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown caught 1-of-2 targets for one yard in Week 13 against the 49ers. Prior to last week, Brown hadn't been targeted less than four times in a game this season. Part of Brown's lack of involvement was due to Baltimore attacking San Francisco with its run game, but his output was disappointing, to say the least. The Ravens matchup against a Buffalo Bills Defense in Week 14 that has been stingy to opposing wide receivers. Hollywood is a touchdown-dependent play against Buffalo and stands in low-end WR3 territory.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back, hip) said his injured back is healing 'as it should' and won't cause any long-term issues.
Fantasy Spin: Stafford will remained sidelined in Week 14, and there is a good chance he won't play again this season. If you own Stafford in a dynasty league, he should be ready to roll for 2020.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews caught 3-of-6 targets for 50 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers in Week 13. Andrews was able to produce a solid performance despite playing a stout 49ers Defense. Baltimore matches up against a Bills Defense in Week 14 that has allowed only two touchdowns to opposing tight ends in 2019, including one to Jason Witten in Week 13. As the most heavily targeted option in Baltimore, Andrews is still a TE1 as reliable tight ends are scarce.
Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has turned his season around since his hiccoughs against Tampa Bay, and he'll need to be on point against a dangerous Rams team this weekend. Last time, Seattle squeaked out a victory thanks to a last-second shanked field goal by the Rams kicker, so Myers was bailed out for missing one of his own earlier in the game. Now he comes into the game having made six straight field goals and nine straight extra points. Expect Pete Carroll to continue to depend mightily on Myers, and he could be just what a desperate fantasy owner needs to finish out the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks is doubtful to go against the Rams on Sunday night due to a hamstring injury that has lingered all week. That means the Seahawks Defense will likely be starting rookie linebacker Cody Barton when they take the field in the Coliseum. The third-round pick out of Utah has gotten nothing but effusive praise from head coach Pete Carroll, but the notoriously upbeat coach is usually overflowing with praise about every player in the league. The good news is that Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah are both expected to be able to go, so hopefully the pass rush can stay mean and buy some more time for the newbie when he's in coverage.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett has had a rough couple of weeks, but hopes are high for Sunday's primetime game against the Rams. Lockett was downed with a serious shin contusion at the end of the 49ers game four weeks ago, and then just as he fully recovered from that, he was one of a handful of Seahawks to come down with the flu before the Vikings game. He made it through, but he didn't catch any balls along the way. Now removed from both issues, Lockett is expected to be back to full speed against the Rams, a team he's traditionally had a lot of success against. Fantasy owners should find solace in that.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf snuck behind the defense and hauled in a bomb from Russell Wilson for a touchdown in his first career game against the Rams, and LA is definitely preparing to try to prevent that from happening again. Metcalf has excelled in that arena, hauling in a pass for 20 or more yards in nine of his 12 games this season, and fantasy owners should bank on Seattle looking for Metcalf downfield once again on Sunday night. The workout wonder has grown throughout the season and turned into more of a possession receiver while Tyler Lockett was hampered with a leg injury, but Lockett is expected to be back to full speed on Sunday, which should give Metcalf the freedom to roam a little more. Expect to see at least one long bomb with his name on it.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson was one of the team's strongest weapons when they beat the Rams at home earlier this year, and he'll need to bring that same fire to LA if Seattle is going to come out on top again. Carson has been a beastly back this year, even if the recent surge of carries for Rashaad Penny has hurt fantasy owners. Carson has shown that he welcomes the addition of Penny to the mix, so expect him to share the load once again, but Carson remains the No. 1 option for the team. Any owner isn't going to turn away from him at this point, and Carson should easily clear the 1,000-yard hurdle in 2019 by putting up another strong game against his division rival.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny was bombarded with insults earlier in the season when he continued to struggle to find his footing in the NFL, but his last two games have silenced a whole lot of those critics. Now, he'll get another go at one of the team's bitter division rivals in primetime on Sunday night. Penny tallied just 18 yards on six carries last time he saw LA, but now he's coming off back-to-back thrashings of the Philadelphia and Minnesota defenses. Penny's impressive performances will likely keep his name in the mix throughout the game, and he should continue to show considerable improvement over his previous version.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson put up a huge game against the Rams last time out, and he'll need another top-tier performance if Seattle's going to hang on to first place in the NFC West. Unfortunately, the LA defense has had a renaissance since the last time Wilson saw them. They have allowed 20 or fewer points in six of their last seven games with the only outlier being the drubbing that Baltimore gave them. Now on Sunday night, Wilson will need to summon all his magic to ensure Seattle can bring home a victory. Fortunately, Wilson specializes at excelling in primetime. He should put up some big numbers on Sunday night.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 105 yards, ran for 101 yards and scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground in Week 13's win over the 49ers. The Ravens have another tough defensive matchup in Week 14 in Buffalo. The Bills Defense has conceded only nine passing touchdowns this season and has held opposing quarterbacks to an average of 12 fantasy points per game. Jackson remains in must-start territory for this game and for the rest of the season, if it wasn't already obvious. The Bills defense has allowed 109 rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks in 2019, but Jackson ran for eight yards shy of that in last week against San Francisco. Jackson simply cannot be sat.
Seattle Seahawks CB Neiko Thorpe (hernia) is expected to be placed on the Reserve/Injured list next week.
Carolina Panthers DE Mario Addison (groin) is expected to play in the Week 14 game even though he is listed as questionable.
New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) said he is not sure if he will be able to play again this season but will try his best to play in one of the last three games.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Engram's practice participation over the next few weeks to see if he has any chance to play again this season. Kaden Smith has been targeted 14 times over the last two games and posted 70 yards last week. He could be a possible low-end No. 1 tight end in deeper leagues.
Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is scheduled to undergo more tests on his injured neck Monday, Dec. 9. Head coach Jason Garrett said the team will not rush Vander Esch back.
Denver Broncos LB Von Miller (knee) said he will participate in pregame warmups before he decides if he will be able to play in the Week 14 game.
Tennessee Titans TE Delanie Walker (ankle) said he is scheduled to undergo a procedure on his ankle next week. He said he plans to play next season.
Fantasy Spin: Walker has been a solid fantasy option for several years, but it is not known if he will be able to find a starting job next season. Jonnu Smith has taken over as the starting tight end for the Titans and can be a low-end No. 1 tight end.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (illness) has been officially ruled out for the Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins this Sunday at 1 pm ET. The timing is not ideal for fantasy football owners, with most leagues starting their first round playoff matchups this week and now missing a top running back. Expect Bilal Powell to step in as the leading running back for the Jets on Sunday, with Ty Montgomery likely seeing increased usage as well.