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.''
Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith (pectoral) is feared to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle Thursday, Dec. 5. If the MRI confirms the injury, he would be out for the season.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller recorded just three catches for 42 yards against the Cowboys but hauled in a touchdown toss from Mitch Trubisky midway through the third quarter. Though the 25-year-old had a much more efficient outing on Thanksgiving against the Lions, he continued to benefit from the absence of Taylor Gabriel (concussion), who has now missed the last two games. Keep on eye on Gabriel's status moving ahead, and if he is out against the Packers in Week 15, Miller should continue to have a place on fantasy rosters in deeper formats.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson had five catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns during the win over Dallas on Thursday. Robinson picked up both of his touchdowns in the second quarter and has now scored four times over the last three weeks while also combining for 30 targets during that span. He should continue to benefit from the absence of Taylor Gabriel (concussion), who has sat out the last two games, so keep an eye on his status leading up to the Week 15 matchup against Green Bay.
Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen pulled in all six of his targets for 24 yards in the win over the Cowboys. He also had seven yards off of three carries. Once again, Cohen did little on the ground as David Montgomery served as the workhorse on Thursday by logging 86 yards on 20 attempts. After scoring a touchdown in each game against the Lions and Rams, the 24-year-old hasn't done much over the last three weeks outside of picking up the scraps left over by Montgomery, Allen Robinson, and Anthony Miller. He is good for the occasional score, but don't expect much against the Packers in Week 15 or throughout the remainder of the year, for that matter.
Chicago Bears LB Nick Kwiatkoski had 10 tackles (eight solo) against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Updating a previous report, Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith (pectoral) sustained a pec injury during the team's Week 14 win over the Dallas Cowboys that 'does not look good,' according to head coach Matt Nagy.
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery ran for 86 yards on 20 carries during the win over the Cowboys on Thursday night. Montgomery once again outpaced Tarik Cohen, who had just three carries for seven yards, and maintained a respectable 4.3 yards per carry against a Cowboys Defense that has played decently against opposing backs this season. Next up for him is a Week 15 matchup against Green Bay, with the 22-year-old rushing for just 18 yards on six carries against the Packers back in Week 1.
Chicago Bears WR Anthony Miller caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Fantasy Spin: After teasing fantasy owners earlier this season, Miller looks to have arrived as the clear No. 2 target behind Allen Robinson, racking up 24 receptions, 313 yards and a TD in his last four games. Miller is still a WR3/flex type receiver, but he's worth owning in all leagues.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky finished with 244 yards on 23-for-31 passing while adding four touchdowns and an interception during the win over the Cowboys on Thursday. Trubisky shook off an early interception by tossing three touchdowns on the night, two of which went to Allen Robinson in the second quarter, before running one in off of a 23-yard attempt early in the fourth. While turnovers have been an issue (at times) for the 25-year-old, he has now compiled seven total touchdowns over the last two games. Nonetheless, things will get tougher in Week 15 against Green Bay, with Trubisky going 26-for-45 for 228 yards and a pick against the Packers back in Week 1.
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson tallied five receptions, 48 yards and two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Fantasy Spin: While other Bears receivers have risen and fallen this year, Robinson has been consistently the top guy with nearly 900 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the season, including four in the last three games. He should be a borderline WR2/WR3 candidate over the season's final few weeks.
Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen ran three times for seven yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14. He also caught six passes for 24 yards.
Fantasy Spin: Thursday was pretty much par for the course with Cohen, who was averaging 38 yards per game on the season entering Week 14. His six receptions gave him 60 on the year, which might afford him some depth appeal in PPR formats. Outside of that, though, Cohen isn't really worth owning.
Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky completed 23 of 31 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in a Week 14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He also ran 10 times for 63 yards and a score.
Fantasy Spin: It was relatively easy to dismiss Trubisky's Thanksgiving performance against the Lions, but it might be time to take another look at the much-maligned trigger man. Trubisky looked decisive and aggressive Thursday night, including the return of his long-absent running ability. He'll travel to Lambeau Field in Week 15 to face a team that hasn't exactly locked down QBs this season. It'd be a risk to plug him into your lineup, but it's at least something to think about depending on your other options.
Detroit Lions rookie quarterback David Blough will get the start in Week 14 when the Lions travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. With Matthew Stafford (back) unlikely to return this season and Jeff Driskel (hamstring) placed on the injured reserve, it looks like it will be all Blough from here on out. Those who advanced to the fantasy playoffs are likely not going to be putting their hopes into a rookie quarterback starting for just the second time of his career, but the Lions quarterback situation is terrible news for Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones going forward. Both receivers caught touchdown passes with Blough under center last week, but that cannot be expected on a weekly basis. Blough's performance was impressive, especially given the circumstances, but removing the first quarter of last week's game from the equation paints a much uglier picture, as he was only able to lead the Lions to two field goals the rest of the way. Blough is not a recommended start this week.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten had five receptions for 37 yards on Thursday, Dec. 5, against the Chicago Bears.
Fantasy Spin: After starting off fairly well, Witten has now averaged fewer than 10 yards per catch in seven straight games, scoring just once during that time. Witten might have a little fringe appeal in PPR leagues, but that's his ceiling.
Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin caught six passes for 50 yards in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Fantasy Spin: Fifty yards was a season high for Jarwin, who clearly looks more dynamic than Jason Witten even though the team insists on basically splitting their chances in the passing game evenly. Until he surpasses Witten, Jarwin only holds value in the largest of leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off a very disappointing performance in Week 13, but that shouldn't hold fantasy owners back from going right back to him in Week 14 against the Indianapolis Colts. Winston was only able to pass for 268 yards with no scores last week, but he should have no problem moving the ball against a bend-but-don't-break defense that gives up plenty of yards. Prior to last week's flop, the fifth-year signal-caller was averaging 324 passing yards and two scores per game since the Bucs bye and has put up QB1 numbers the entire season. Winston will comfortably slot in as a QB1 heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys WR Randall Cobb had two receptions for 43 yards against the Chicago Bears on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Fantasy Spin: After a nice three-game run in which he caught 14 passes for 307 yards and two TDs, Cobb has posted 53 and 43 yards, respectively, in the last two. While Cobb has already put together his best year since 2016, the veteran is a high-risk, moderate-reward option, which isn't what you want at fantasy playoff time.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense struggled mightily in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys defense seemed unable to stop the Bears on any third down play. Eternally struggling Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdown passes and ran for 63 yards and another touchdown. The Cowboys defense only intercepted him once and recorded just two sacks. A previously hyped fantasy unit, the Cowboys defense should probably be avoided for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott completed 27 of 49 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown during the team's Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Fantasy Spin: Prescott led Dallas to 17 fourth-quarter points, but the outcome was barely in doubt at that point as the Cowboys never even possessed the ball with the chance to tie the game. Still, it helped salvage an otherwise forgettable performance in prime time, and Prescott did drop a nice dime for six. He should be a midrange QB1 against the Rams in Week 15.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin caught six passes in Week 14, gaining 50 yards. Jarwin was targeted seven times, finishing third on the team. Jarwin's usage this season has been very unpredictable, but he has shown the ability to play a decent game when given the chance. He could have more fantasy relevance next season if Jason Witten were to retire again.