Fri Aug 23 11:09pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins (81) can't hang onto the ball after getting past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (33) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) eludes a tackle by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Carl Nassib (94) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon III Hargreaves III (28) knocks the ball away from Cleveland Browns wide receiver Derrick Willies (84) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr., (36) knocks a pass away from Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins (81) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith (50) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) knocks the ball away from Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman (19) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jameis Winston (3) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Cleveland Browns Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Matt Gay kicked a 21-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining, giving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a 13-12 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns on Friday night.
The rookie's game-winner capped a 16-play drive lasting more than seven minutes. Cairo Santos booted a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter and third-string quarter Ryan Griffin threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett for the Bucs (2-1).
Rookie Austin Seibert kicked four field goals for the Browns (2-1), who led 9-0 when Baker Mayfield and the rest of Cleveland's starters left the game.
Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft, started and played the entire first half after getting just one series of work in Cleveland's preseason opener against Washington and sitting out last week's game at Indianapolis.
Playing without starting receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (hip) and Jarvis Landry, the second-year quarterback led three short field-goal drives and was not particularly sharp while completing 10 of 26 passes for 72 yards and one interception.
Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston had an even tougher night, though it wasn't all his doing.
Gay missed a 37-yard field goal and Tampa Bay's leaky offensive line had difficulty protecting Winston, allowing five sacks while the fifth-year pro was in the game.
The No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft, who's closing in on becoming the franchise's career passing leader yet still trying to prove he's the club's long-term answer at quarterback, finished 9 of 19 for 88 yards without an interception.
Winston played seven series after seeing limited action the previous two weeks against Pittsburgh and Miami. Backup Blaine Gabbert started the second half and led the Bucs into field goal range before falling awkwardly at the end of an 8-yard scramble and heading to the locker room with a shoulder injury. Griffin's TD pass to Leggett gave Tampa Bay a short-lived 10-9 lead late in the third quarter.
Browns: Starting CB Denzel Ward made his preseason debut after missing two games with a minor leg injury. ... Coach Freddie Kitchens doesn't view the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. He's more concerned with keeping players fresh and healthy for the Sept. 8 opener, so his plan was to determine playing time for regulars on a case-by-case basis.
Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans, ILB Lavonte David, DL Vita Vea, TE Cameron Brate, S Mike Edwards, ILB Devante Bond, OLB Anthony Nelson and OLB Kahzin Daniels did not play. ... Backup TE Antony Auclair (calf) left the game in the first half and did not return. ... ILB Deone Bucannon (knee) and S Kentrell Brice (shoulder) were injured during the second quarter.
With field goals of 54, 36, 30 and 35 yards, Seibert may have made some headway in the competition for Cleveland's kicking job. Incumbent Greg Joseph has struggled and Seibert, a fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, had not been consistent before converting all three of his attempts Friday.
Tampa Bay's kicking situation is unsettled, too, with Gay, a fifth-round draft pick from Utah, competing against incumbent Cairo Santos. Gay kicked a 55-yard field goal against Miami last week, but hasn't been as accurate on shorter kicks. His 37-yard attempt against the Browns hit the right upright and bounced away.
Browns: Preseason finale at home vs. Detroit next Thursday
Buccaneers: Close the preseason next Thursday at Dallas
Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard is firmly planted as a distant backup to Josh Jacobs this season after dominating touches for the offense in 2018. He's picked up just five touches through two games so far for a total of eight measly yards after leading the team with 68 receptions a year ago. Richard was a valuable pass-catcher last season, but with more weapons added to the passing game, it appears Richard is starting to fade away in this offense. Jacobs is dealing with a hip issue as well as an illness so he may see a few more touches this week versus the Vikings, but he carries no standalone value in any format. Unless Jacobs misses significant time, Richard can be ignored for fantasy purposes.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny led the team in rushing last week, but it was really because of one big run that he got fortunate on. Penny lumbered 37 yards for a touchdown on a broken play where he cut back to the other side of the field and used lead blocker Russell Wilson to make way for him. Outside of that single run, Penny has carried the ball 15 times for 43 yards in the first two weeks, averaging less than 3.0 YPC. While starter Chris Carson has been catching some passes, Penny has caught just one for three yards. At this point, Penny needs to hit a huge run to matter. Outside of that, he continues to be a disappointment.
Coming off a big week where he snagged 10 passes for 79 yards, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett gets to face another one of the softest secondaries in the league. So far, wide receivers have scored the sixth-most fantasy points against the Saints Defense this season, and Lockett's quickness and route running should keep the passes headed his way. Lockett has received a surprising amount of support from teammate D.K. Metcalf after many thought Metcalf wouldn't be useful, and Metcalf's presence has freed up Lockett to juke and slide his way through coverage with ease. Seattle's offense is always one where the ball can go anywhere, so he's not a lock, but it looks like it should be another good week for Lockett owners.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told the media on Wednesday that he's sad that Drew Brees won't be out there on the field on Sunday. Wilson mentioned that he's close friends with Brees, who he also said is one of his favorite players of all time. Wilson will instead be facing off against Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, though it will likely be the New Orleans defense that he's paying more attention to. The Saints Defense has struggled so far, and Wilson has been lights out up to this point. Completing 78% of his passes and racking up five touchdowns through the first two games, owners should expect another consistent performance by Wilson in Week 3.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson will be facing the best run defense he's seen this year when he welcomes the Saints to Seattle on Sunday. That said, the biggest thing that may help pad Carson's stats is the lack of Drew Brees in the New Orleans huddle. Without Brees, the Saints enter the game as a four-point underdog, and if Seattle can get out to a fast start, Carson could see a considerable amount of ground work later in the game. The coaching staff has made good on their promise that Carson would see more work through the air too, and he's already racked up nine catches for 61 yards and a score over the first two weeks. Expect to see a lot of opportunities again on Sunday, and he should be able to put up solid numbers.
When the Los Angeles Chargers signed 36-year-old linebacker Thomas Davis over the offseason, the question was whether he would still have it. That seems to be clear now. After two weeks, Davis is tied with former Defensive Player of the Year and former teammate Luke Kuechly for the league lead in tackles. It's been a blessing that the Davis signing has worked out so well since the Chargers Defense is riddled with key injuries. After losing Derwin James before the season, LA lost Adrian Phillips in the Detroit game. The continued losses means it's a tough sell to believe the Chargers defense can hold up against Deshaun Watson and company, but Davis will certainly be leading the charge.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams will be facing off against his college teammate Deshaun Watson for the first time as a pro on Sunday. Obviously, the two won't be going head-to-head on any given snap, but it will be the first time they've been on opposite sidelines on the field. Williams and Watson gained national attention their starring duo helped lead Clemson to a national title in 2016, and they're still close friends. Williams will be trying to build on his career-high 83-yard game from last week, and he'll be facing a secondary that has struggled so far. Williams is still a home run play because Keenan Allen is the man in LA, but owners should be prepared for Williams to break out in any game.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams should be benched by fantasy owners this week. The running back position has been dominated by Aaron Jones, even though Williams has been more involved in passing plays. However, the Packers are the home favorite, meaning that they are unlikely to be utilizing Williams' pass-catching ability. Fantasy owners should still hold Williams on their roster, but he doesn't hold much fantasy value this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams faces a tough personal matchup this week. Adams is likely to find himself matched up against one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Chris Harris Jr. Harris was effective last week in limiting the impact of Chicago Bears lead receiver Allen Robinson. However, Robinson isn't as talented at running routes as Adams and has an inferior quarterback throwing him the ball. Adams is an elite talent, therefore meaning he is effectively a must-start every week, but this week the matchup means his upside is limited and Aaron Rodgers may look for easier matchups.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas may be missing his starting quarterback, but that shouldn't stop the fourth-year wide receiver from contributing in a potentially juicy Week 3 matchup against Seattle. Teddy Bridgewater peppered Thomas with targets last week after Brees was forced to leave the game due to injury, and there's no reason to believe the game plan will change without the Saints No.1 quarterback under center. Seattle has allowed a downright ugly 575 yards through the air so far this season, so moving the ball should not be an issue for the Saints. Expect Thomas to get his usual 10-plus targets this week, slotting him in as a low-end WR1 even with the loss of his starting quarterback.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues his series of tough matchups this week against the Denver Broncos. Rodgers flashed at the start of last week's matchup but struggled as the game progressed, as well as appearing to suffer some type of arm injury in the game. The Broncos are one of the better units against the run this season, so the Packers may have to rely on Rodgers' arm to get things done. However, the Broncos are one of the more effective units against quarterbacks this season, giving up just 10.1 points to the position. Rodgers should be an effective fantasy option this week, but he doesn't have week-winning upside.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is a must-start this week against the Denver Broncos. Jones was highly effective as a battering ram all game for the Packers in Week 2 and is likely to be used the same way for this matchup. Jones is clearly the lead back in the offense with over double the touches of teammateJamaal Williams. The Broncos have shown their ability to limit running back production so far this season, limiting rushers to an average of 3.47 yards per carry and three touchdowns. However, this week the Broncos will not be able to stack the box while facing Aaron Rodgers. As a home favorite, the game script should allow Jones to be involved throughout the game, making him a must-start for fantasy owners.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith may ultimately wind up suiting up Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, but he certainly isnt trending in that direction after having been held out of practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury. Additionally, even if Smith is able to get on the field, hell be dealing with a new signal caller, as Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill are expected to see the snaps under center with Drew Brees sidelined. When factoring in the absence of Brees, Smiths inability to practice, and his competition among his fellow wideouts, he appears to be safe to avoid in any fantasy capacity come Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is in for another challenge on Sunday as he faces a Texans Defense that has been better than either of the teams he's faced so far this season. That said, Ekeler has been electric this year, and he is still a sure start in every league. Ekeler has successfully killed Melvin Gordon's bargaining position so far by putting up back-to-back 130-yard games with four touchdowns. He also lost a critical fumble in last week's game against Detroit, but hopefully, that's a lesson learned. So far, Ekeler looks like he could end up being one of the top backs in the league this year.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson has become the new Austin Ekeler. Not the 2019 version of Ekeler that is blowing up and costing Melvin Gordon millions of dollars. The 2017 and 2018 version of Ekeler that worked as the change-of-pace back and put up gaudy YPC numbers while Gordon did the dirty work. Jackson is currently averaging a ridiculous 8.9 YPC, but he's only carried the ball 13 times in two games. He's also caught a couple of passes so far. The problem with a back in Jackson's position is that his success is unpredictable because he'll be entirely dependent on touchdowns, and he hasn't scored any yet. Owners in deep leagues can roll the dice on Jackson, but he's a home run play for now.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is set to start his 211th consecutive game on Sunday when the team faces the Texans. That start will pass Eli Manning and give Rivers sole possession of second place on the all-time Iron Man list behind Brett Favre. While the accomplishment was always going to be noteworthy, it is especially magnified this week since Manning just got benched and Ben Roethlisberger, Rivers' other famous draft classmate, was placed on IR this week with an elbow injury. Rivers will match up against a Texans Defense that hasn't looked as intimidating as in years past, and owners should expect him to put up excellent numbers once again.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater saw ample playing time during the teams Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after he replaced the injured Drew Brees. Bridgewater finished 17-for-30, and while he did not commit a turnover, he was unable to lead New Orleans into the end zone. Despite that, Bridgewater appears in line to start Sunday on the road against Seattle, although Taysom Hill may throw a wrench into those plans. New Orleans offensive Swiss army knife has been utilized essentially everywhere but as a passer this season, but head coach Sean Payton has left the door open for both men seeing considerable snaps. With that in mind, rostering either man seems a difficult proposition until theres further clarity to the situation.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara is an explosive fantasy play on any weekend, but with the news that quarterback Drew Brees will be sidelined for at least the next month, Kamara figures to take on a bigger role in the Saints offense against Seattle. While head coach Sean Payton has oscillated on who will see the most snaps under center, its without a doubt that Kamara will be the bellcow out of the backfield. After carrying the ball 13 times in each of the first two weeks, he is still yet to find the end zone, something the Saints will likely need to occur if theyre to snag a road victory. If there is an area of concern, its that Kamaras high DFS price tag may make some owners shy away, as he reeled in just one reception last week without the aid of Brees over 60 minutes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II faces a relatively weak Giants Defense in Week 3, but that pretty much sums up the good news when it comes to the second-year running back. After an encouraging Week 1 performance, Jones, who was rumored to be the No. 1 back in Week 2, ended up touching the ball just four times compared to 23 for Peyton Barber. Until the Buccaneers backfield situation gets sorted out, Jones holds very little fantasy value and can be safely ignored against the Giants in Week 3.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday. His injury is not serious and he will play in Week 3 against the Falcons in the team's home opener. Going up against an explosive Falcons offense, the Colts may need to throw often in this one to keep up, making Hilton a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 play. He should be in all starting lineups.