Sat Sep 14 5:00pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase looks at the scoreboard during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Well, this isn't quite how the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets expected to start the season.
Both are coming off opening losses and look to avoid going 0-2 with a Monday night matchup loaded with juicy storylines, surprising twists and a slight hint of desperation.
And, it's only Week 2.
''I think every game is a must-win game,'' Jets running back Le'Veon Bell said, ''but obviously this game holds a lot of weight to it.''
The Browns didn't live up to the preseason hype that had some making them potential Super Bowl contenders.
Instead, Cleveland committed 18 penalties - the most by the team since 1951 - in a 43-13 loss to Tennessee that put early pressure on first-year coach Freddie Kitchens.
''I feel a lot of confidence with this team that we're going to get all the haters and naysayers out of here,'' cornerback Denzel Ward said, ''so I hope everybody's all gone now and we're just focused on us.''
Well, most of the Browns, that is.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. returns to MetLife Stadium for the first time since being traded by the Giants in March. But that's not even the biggest headline.
Neither is all the attention on his expensive watch.
Beckham spiced things up Thursday when he called out former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams - now in the same role with the Jets - and said the coach instructed players to hurt him in a preseason game in 2017. He sustained a severe ankle injury when Cleveland's Briean Boddy-Calhoun cut his legs out, something he says ''changed my life forever'' because he says it led to other injuries.
''Just got to watch out for the cheap shots and the dirty hits and all the things that he likes to teach,'' Beckham said.
Williams denied Beckham's accusations, and told reporters they should ignore the receiver's comments.
''We don't do that,'' Williams insisted. ''Never done it anywhere that I've been. We don't do anything to hurt the team.''
Williams, of course, is facing the Browns for the first time since leading them to a 5-3 record after taking over when Hue Jackson was fired - and then losing out to Kitchens for the vacancy.
''Obviously, he has a chip on his shoulder about this game,'' Jets safety Jamal Adams said. ''We're going to go out there and play for him. He's going to be all riled up.''
Adam Gase was plenty fired up this week himself after the Jets blew a 16-0 third-quarter lead last Sunday in his debut for New York and lost 17-16 to Buffalo.
WILD WEEK FOR JETS
Kicker Kaare Vedvik was waived after he missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal, and Sam Ficken was signed to replace him.
Second-year defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd was suspended six games for two violations of the NFL's policy on performance enhancers.
They swung a rare trade with New England, acquiring wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick.
Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa was lost for the season with his second neck injury in just over two years.
And, then, the capper of `em all: Quarterback Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis, likely sidelining him for several games. That means it'll be Trevor Siemian starting against Baker Mayfield, who appears OK after needing X-rays on his hand Sunday, and the Browns on Monday night.
''I guess maybe I'm messed up,'' Gase said, trying to put a positive spin on it all. ''I'm like, `Great, let's go. Trevor is up, let's go find a way to win the game.'''
On Saturday, the Jets ruled out linebacker C.J. Mosley and rookie defensive tackle Quinnen Williams for the game.
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Beckham dismissed any extra motivation in going back to his old, New Jersey stomping grounds.
''It is just another game,'' he said. ''It really is. `Monday Night Football' in the lights. Just trying to get wins.''
But Beckham is an entertainer and loves the big stage, so he'll undoubtedly try to put on a performance with the rest of the league watching.
And speaking of watching, Beckham said he'll sport the Richard Mille-designed watch: ''if I want to wear it, I'll wear it.'' The league told the Browns that Beckham is violating their policy on ''hard objects.''
BAKER & THE JETS
Mayfield has fond memories of the Jets. He made his NFL debut against them last season, coming off the bench in Week 3 and leading the Browns to a 21-17 win to end Cleveland's 19-game winless streak.
Following the game, fans streamed from FirstEnergy Stadium singing, ''Bak-er, May-field,'' feeling the Browns had finally found their franchise quarterback. Mayfield took off from there, setting the league rookie record with 27 touchdown passes while leading Cleveland to a 7-8-1 record.
Bell had a solid return in his first game action in nearly 20 months. He rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries and caught six passes for 32 yards and a TD in his Jets debut. He also caught a pass for a 2-point conversion.
The star running back sat out practice Wednesday and had an MRI on a shoulder, but it came up clear and he should play against the Browns.
It was an emotional week for the Browns following the tragic death of defensive end Chris Smith's girlfriend.
Petara Cordero, who gave birth to the couple's daughter last month, was struck by a car as she stood on a highway roadside Wednesday. She was a passenger in Smith's Lamborghini, which blew a tire and spun out. The 26-year-old Cordero had exited the car when another car, driven by a 47-year-old woman who admitted to police she had been drinking, smashed into her.
''It's a tough situation,'' guard Joel Bitonio said. ''You forget about things when you're in this building, sometimes the outside world you forget. We love this game and this game does a lot for us, but football comes second to a lot of things sometimes. We're trying to pick Chris up and his family, his little baby and all those things. We're thinking about him every chance we get.''
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is unlikely to suit up for Thursday Night Football against the Washington Redskins in Week 8. The 29-year-old seems to think he is capable of playing, but the Vikings will likely rest their ailing star against a mediocre opponent on a short week. In his absence, rookie Olabisi Johnson will likely serve as the WR2. Johnson, who had 40 yards and a touchdown in Week 7, is a viable streaming option for fantasy managers that are desperate for a receiver in Week 8.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller is expected to miss several weeks with a significant hamstring strain, per Ian Rapoport. Fuller suffered the injury against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7. With Fuller sidelined, Kenny Stills becomes a must-add asset in almost all formats. The 27-year-old produced 105 yards on four catches against the Colts after Fuller exited the game. Stills can be considered a mid-tier WR3 against the Oakland Raiders in Week 8.
Seattle Seahawks S Bradley McDougald (back) sat out of practice all week after suffering from back spasms and was unable to play in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens, but head coach Pete Carroll told reporters during his postgame press conference that he believes McDougald will be able to make it back for Week 8 versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen only hauled in 4-of-11 targets for 61 yards during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Despite having a positive pass-catching game script, Allen and Philip Rivers failed to connect on several deep balls. Luckily, due to the Chargers' uninspiring defensive unit, the game script is almost always positive for the passing attack. Allen remains a mid-tier WR1 against the Chicago Bears in Week 8.
Updating a previous report, New Orleans Saints CB Eli Apple (knee) likely suffered a hyperextended knee late in the team's Week 7 game versus the Chicago Bears, although more tests are scheduled to determine the extent of his injury Monday, Oct. 21.
Updating previous reports, Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) is expected to miss 'several weeks' after suffering 'a rather significant hamstring pull,' according to a source via NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller hasn't come close to playing a full season in four years in the NFL, so fantasy owners can't exactly be shocked by this development. While the Texans will miss his ability to stretch the field, Fuller's lack of durability was probably one of the biggest reasons Houston made sure to land Kenny Stills in the Laremy Tunsil trade this summer. Stills should be able to fill in nicely and serve as a high-upside WR3 for however long Fuller is sidelined.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins S Montae Nicholson (ankle) was seen walking around in a boot Monday, Oct. 21, after injuring his right ankle in Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Free-agent CB Kayvon Webster (Saints) worked out for the New Orleans Saints on Monday, Oct. 21.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry caught six passes for 97 yards during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. The 24-year-old has seen 17 targets over his past two games. Now fully healthy, Henry is unquestionably a top-tier tight end for the remainder of the season. He has a tougher matchup against the Chicago Bears in Week 8, but he is still an undisputed TE1 for the contest.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert pulled in just two receptions for 10 yards against Jacksonville in Week 7. The veteran has been a huge fantasy disappointment this season, and with rumblings of a trade before the deadline, Eifert's days in Cincy may be over soon. He has the potential to produce, and if you're able, he is worth a stash in deeper formats, at least for now.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt (abdomen) has been cleared by the NFL to rejoin the team and begin practicing with them Monday, Oct. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Hunt has been sidelined all season recovering from sports hernia surgery and serving an eight-game suspension for domestic abuse for an incident that occurred during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former rushing champion is not eligible to return to game action until Week 10, so Nick Chubb will serve as a team's featured back for at least two more weeks. It's expected Hunt will serve as the change-of-pace back when he returns.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler only produced seven rushing yards on five carries in Week 7, but he salvaged the day by catching seven passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Melvin Gordon had 16 carries in the contest despite being outplayed by Ekeler, but the Chargers continue to let Gordon dominate the ground game. Nevertheless, Ekeler's ability as a receiver continues to give him value as a fantasy asset. He is an above-average flex option against the dominant Chicago Bears' defense in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate finished with three catches (six targets) for 65 yards against Jacksonville in Week 7. After getting 11 looks from quarterback Andy Dalton against the Ravens in Week 6, Tate's production was yielded by Alex Erickson, who hauled in eight receptions for 137 yards on the day. With A.J. Green (ankle) expected to return soon, Tate will likely be relegated to backing up Green and Tyler Boyd moving forward. Keep an eye on Green's status for Week 8 and plan accordingly.
Updating previous reports, Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, Oct. 21, but he faces the 'real possibility' of not playing in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins.
Fantasy Spin: While everyone around the team believes the injury is not serious, the Vikings play on Thursday, making it an almost impossible turnaround for Thielen. In theory, Minnesota should not need him against the Redskins, but the Vikings' passing attack is not so deep and talented that it can just assume it will thrive without Kirk Cousins' favorite receiver. If Thielen sits, it will be the first game he's missed in his NFL career. Fantasy owners should feel free to bump up Stefon Diggs in their weekly rankings as well.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon produced 32 yards on 16 carries during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. While he caught a one-yard touchdown pass, he also lost a fumble at the goal line in the final seconds of the game to drop the Chargers to 2-4 on the season. The 26-year-old continues to be outplayed by Austin Ekeler, but Gordon continues to get the majority of the touches. As long as he remains the workhorse in the offense, he is a worthy RB2 in fantasy formats. Unfortunately, he has a tough matchup in Week 8 against the daunting Chicago Bears Defense, which likely makes him a flex play at best.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd finished with five receptions for 55 yards against Jacksonville on Sunday. With 14 targets on the day, which was tied with Alex Erickson, who hauled in eight catches for 137 yards, Boyd wasn't able to get anything going against a Jaguars Defense that was all over quarterback Andy Dalton. A.J. Green (ankle) is expected to return within the next week or so, and while it may decrease Boyd's looks, Green's presence back in the lineup may open things up for 24-year-old moving forward.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers completed 24 of his 38 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns during a 23-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Rivers has now thrown for over 300 yards in a game five times this season and has also had five games with multiple passing touchdowns. Despite the notable production, Rivers is a tough fantasy asset to trust in Week 8 against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. He is only an option in two-quarterback leagues for that contest.
Free-agent RB Spencer Ware (Colts) is working out for the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Oct. 21.
Free-agent WR Eli Rogers (Steelers) is working out for the Houston Texans Monday, Oct. 21.
Free-agent RB Jay Ajayi (Eagles) is working out for the Arizona Cardinals Monday, Oct. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Ajayi has been training and preparing to sign with a team for a few weeks. He's definitely worth stashing in deeper leagues and would be a flex option in the right situation.