Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) stands on the sideline with coaches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 38-31. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) rushes for a 20-yard touchdown as Washington Football Team free safety Troy Apke (30) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Cleveland. The Browns won 34-20. (AP Photo/David Richard)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Baker Mayfield got the homecoming stuff out of the way quickly as the Cleveland quarterback talked about preparing for his second NFL game in Texas.
Austin is the best city in the Lone Star State, he declared to laughter after the first question. The $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys is a cool stadium, particularly since Mayfield won a Big 12 championship the last time he played there with Oklahoma three years ago.
It didn't take Mayfield long to get to the more important stuff, such as the Browns (2-1) taking a winning record into Sunday's game for the first time since late in the 2014 season. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys (1-2) are trying to get back to .500.
''I will have plenty of people there - friends and family, loved ones and all those good people there,'' said Mayfield, whose first NFL game in Texas was a 29-13 loss at Houston as a rookie. ''But I have to treat it like any other game and have to go do our job.''
Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett is coming home, too - much closer to home since he grew up a few miles from AT&T Stadium. Garrett was the NFL's top draft pick out of Texas A&M in 2017, a year before Mayfield.
Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin of Dallas didn't get to play his homecoming game at Indianapolis two years ago, missing a game for the first time in his career with a knee injury. But he sees where a player might be a little more hyped.
''I'm sure some guys definitely have that when they go to their hometown,'' Martin said. ''I think the message here, what we try, especially on the offensive line, you've got to prepare the same way for every game. You've got to be ready for whatever they throw at you.''
Mayfield hasn't had to do much in the fourth quarter in Cleveland's consecutive wins, including 34-20 last week over Washington. He's ready if that changes about 200 miles north of where he grew up.
Coach Kevin Stefanski turned to the running game against Cincinnati and Washington to grind out those victories - and eat up time - and asked Mayfield to throw just five total passes in the combined 30 minutes over the past two fourth quarters.
But if the situation dictates differently in Dallas, Mayfield is prepared to match Prescott pass for pass.
''When it comes down to it, we are playing the Cowboys' defense and we have to do whatever it takes to win,'' Mayfield said. ''If that is a shootout, then great, and if it is another game where we have to control the clock, then we will do that.''
The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year joined Jameis Winston (last season) as the only quarterbacks with consecutive games of at least 450 yards.
For Winston, those were two of Tampa Bay's wins in a 7-9 season. Prescott has just a 1-1 record to show for his after a 38-31 loss in Seattle. While Prescott did plenty to give the Cowboys a chance to win, his three turnovers proved critical. Dallas is tied for the third-worst turnover margin at minus-4.
''I thought Dak had a great command,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''When the result is what it was, you have to talk about the negative plays. But he clearly understands the importance of ball security. We'll continue to stress that.''
NICK OF TIME
Browns star running back Nick Chubb has gone over 100 yards the past two games by breaking off long gains and some tougher, ''dirty'' runs for minimal yardage.
Already one of the NFL's best, Chubb said the chance to play against an elite back such as Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott doesn't give him any more motivation. Chubb is fourth in the NFL with 292 yards. Elliott, a two-time rushing champion, is tied for ninth at 219.
''I go out there and play my game,'' Chubb said.
Martin played a different position for the first time in his seven seasons against Seattle, moving to right tackle when rookie Terence Steele had to leave the game because of an illness. Martin's move also resulted in Joe Looney sliding from center to right guard and rookie Tyler Biadasz filling Looney's spot.
Another factor in the uncertainty up front is seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith, who missed the past two games with a neck issue. Smith could return against the Browns, and Martin said the plan is for him to return to his normal position. If Smith is back, the Cowboys will have to decide between Steele and Brandon Knight at right tackle.
Dallas' Aldon Smith leads the NFL with four sacks after missing all of the previous four seasons while suspended for off-field issues. Garrett had two sacks last week, including a game-sealing strip-sack and recovery in the fourth quarter. Smith has 51 1/2 sacks in 62 career games, while Garrett has 33 1/2 in 40 games.
Five Sleepers: Week 7
The Las Vegas Raiders defense has been statistically one of the worst defenses in the league this season. They are averaging under two fantasy points per game and face an ascending Buccaneers offense this week. Tom Brady is currently fourth in the league in passing touchdowns, and this Tampa Bay offense is ascending after hanging 31 offensive points on Green Bay in Week 6. The Raiders rank 27th in scoring defense and 24th in yards allowed. There is nothing to suggest they will have a good performance this week and should be kept on the bench or dropped entirely.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has a tough test against the Buccaneers this week, but he should be able to produce a solid fantasy performance. Waller has been great at home this season, with 21 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown in two games. The Buccaneers have one of the league's best defenses, but the Patriots are the only team to hold Waller under five catches so far this season. He currently ranks third in fantasy points per game among tight ends, and he leads the Raiders in targets. The Buccaneers rank sixth in the league against tight ends, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable starting him based on his performances so far this season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will have a tough matchup against a good Buccaneers secondary in Week 7. Ruggs had a breakout performance in his last game against the Chiefs, but his value rests with the deep ball at this time. That is not great news considering the Buccaneers are one of the best defenses against the deep ball, ranking third in the league in allowing receptions of over 20 yards. He was able to get loose in the Chiefs secondary with a 72-yard reception in the first half but caught just one other pass the rest of the game. Ruggs' big-play potential makes him a fringe flex option in deeper leagues, but don't expect a lot of targets for the rookie this week.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will face one of the league's best run defenses this week in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are allowing just three yards per carry and rank second in the league in total rushing yards allowed. Jacobs is having a productive year and is certainly a must-start option, but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on the season. Jacobs has just one game this season where he has rushed for over four yards per carry. With that being said, he is still seventh in points per game among running backs. It will not be an easy day for Jacobs, but fantasy owners should feel encouraged that he can put up a solid fantasy performance despite a difficult matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will have one of his most difficult tests of the year against a great Buccaneers Defense. The Buccaneers defense has allowed just seven passing touchdowns and have grabbed eight interceptions in their six games this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82 against this Todd Bowles defense. They confused Aaron Rodgers and made him uncomfortable, so this will not be an easy day for Carr. With that being said, Carr has thrown for almost 600 passing yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in two home games this season. The Raiders are coming off a bye, and Carr is having a career year. However, he is likely a bench option this week due to the matchup.
The New Orleans Saints Defense faces a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. It's a date with former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, who started five games for the team in 2019. New Orleans' defense is finally starting to get healthy after a rash of injuries, as they will get Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) back and essentially be at full strength. This unit may start to put together some good performances, starting with this week. They can be used as a starting option.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz faces a favorable matchup in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Lutz is perfect on the season, having made all nine field-goals and all 18 extra-points. Carolina ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to kickers, making this a juicy matchup for Lutz. Expect strong fantasy numbers from the 26-year-old.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook could see more opportunities in Week 7 against the Panthers. Cook had one of his better games against the Chargers, catching two passes for 52 yards and a score. New Orleans is down two of it's best pass-catchers- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- heading into the contest against the Panthers. The veteran tight end should see more targets, making him a good start as a TE1 in Week 7.
Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder, toe) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde will serve as the backup for Chris Carson but should see a handful of touches during the game. Fantasy players should be able to find better options and can keep Hyde on the bench.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the injury, so fantasy players should look for other options to use. Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty likely will share playing time while Mostert is sidelined. McKinnon probably has more fantasy value and can be a flex option in leagues. Hasty should be rostered in leagues and has a chance to be a flex option depending on the opponent.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen (back) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Allen has been targeted at least eight times in four of the five games this season and seems to have a good connection with Justin Herbert. Allen can be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is listed as questionable for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins likely will be able to play despite the injury, but fantasy players will need to check the inactive list for his status. He is a must-start option in all leagues if he is active for the game.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith faces a tricky matchup in Week 7 against the Panthers. However, matchup concerns are alleviated by the fact that New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Smith will be busy against a Panthers Defense that has surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts. With a good chance of finding the end zone, Smith is looking like a high-end WR3 in Week 7, despite the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Demarcus Robinson served as the No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs last week and probably will have a similar role this week. He can be a flex option or bye week replacement in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara gets an excellent matchup against the Panthers Defense. Kamara has offered fantasy managers the safest floor of any running back, particularly in PPR formats, as he's had at least 19 fantasy points in every game this season. He'll go up against a Panthers defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing halfbacks. The Saints will probably go with a more run-heavy approach, seeing as their top-two wideouts- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- are out for the contest. Kamara is a must-start in redraft leagues and is well worth the price in DFS formats.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray has a favorable matchup in front of him against the Panthers in Week 7. Murray has had at least 13 touches in three of five contests this season, with two of those games coming against teams that struggle to stop the run. New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) against the Panthers' 24th-ranked run defense. Murray is a good bet for 12-15 touches in Week 7, putting him squarely in the flex discussion.
Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods (groin) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on the situation to see if Woods will be able to play in Week 7. He can be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues if he is cleared to play.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee probably will need to practice Saturday, Oct. 24, if he wants a chance to play in the Week 7 game. He is coming off his best game of the season and would see a few targets if he plays this week. He could be a low-end No. 1 tight end in some leagues.
Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury) and DT Aaron Donald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees faces the Panthers in Week 7. Brees will face a sneakily-good Carolina defense without his top two receivers, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Despite not having Thomas, Brees has thrown for at least 250 yards or two touchdowns in each game this season, giving fantasy managers a solid floor. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, limiting Brees' upside. However, he should be able to finish as a solid QB2 in Week 7.