In this Feb. 3, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots' Tom Brady (12) passes under pressure from Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald (99) during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta. The Rams, the defending NFC champions, with an offense teeming with talent and defense led by incomparable star tackle Donald, will visit Cleveland in the Browns first nationally televised Sunday night game in 11 years. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) The Browns passed their first prime-time test. The second one won't be nearly as easy.
Here come Aaron Donald and those big, bad Los Angeles Rams.
The defending NFC champions, with an offense teeming with talent and defense led by incomparable star tackle Donald, will visit Cleveland in the Browns' first nationally televised Sunday night game in 11 years.
On Monday night, the Browns (1-1) bounced back from a dreadful 30-point loss in their season opener to Tennessee by bullying the New York Jets, who were already missing quarterback Sam Darnold when his replacement, Trevor Simiean, went down with a season-ending injury.
The uber-hyped Browns, who have gone from winless two years ago to somewhat overexposed in 2019, get a chance to see how they stack up to a legitimate Super Bowl contender, one fixated on winning an NFL title this season.
''It'll be a challenge and we'll be able to really measure where we're at as a team,'' said Browns guard Joel Bitonio. ''Now it's a true team, a true playoff team, a team that was in the Super Bowl, a team that we can see, `Hey, how are the Cleveland Browns this year?'''
It's hard to gauge them to this point. The Browns were undisciplined in Week 1, committing 18 penalties and allowing the Titans to score 28 unanswered points in the second half. Cleveland cleaned things up considerably against the Jets, but quarterback Baker Mayfield had his second straight shaky performance and the Browns suffered a couple major injuries that may force first-year coach Freddie Kitchens to play rookies in key spots.
That could help the Rams (2-0), not that they really need any.
Quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles offense have had some issues, but Donald and the rest of the defense are playing at a high level already. They shut down New Orleans last week, helped by Donald inadvertently sidelining Saints quarterback Drew Brees with a thumb injury.
Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. said Donald will have everyone's attention.
''There's no way to even go around him,'' said Beckham. ''He's probably the best player in the league. If not the best player in the league, one of the most disruptive players I've ever seen. So, yeah, No. 99 has to be accounted for. The game plan starts right there. They have a lot of other stars, a lot of very, very talented, great players, but it starts with 99.
''So we have to get that handled, and we're going to be tested in every position.''
The two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year, Donald has no sacks and just two tackles through two games. The numbers are deceiving as teams are scheming to stay clear of Donald. The Browns will probably do the same.
''Everybody is sliding to him,'' defensive end Michael Brockers said. ''He's going to get a lot of attention, and that's what's happening now. It's leaving a lot of opportunities for other guys to make plays. As the season goes on, they're going to have to pick their poison on which guys to block, and that's when it's going to get really fun.''
It didn't get fun for Donald until Week 4 last year. He have record a sack in his first three games and still finished with 20 1/2.
Mayfield has been guilty of holding onto the ball too long, and not taking advantage of receivers being open while trying to complete long passes.
He's still getting into a rhythm with Beckham, who sat out the preseason but showed why he's elite on Monday by scoring on an 89-yard play.
''It's a learning curve,'' said Mayfield, who while not as accurate as usual has still completed 60 percent of his throws. ''Needing to know when I can take my shots and check the ball down to get completions. It's a little difficult at times but, like I keep harping on, I just need to get completions.''
The Browns could exploit inexperience up front for the Rams, who are likely to have three untested starters on their offensive line.
Right guard Austin Blythe is unlikely to play due to a left ankle sprain. If he becomes the first starting offensive lineman to miss a game due to injury in McVay's tenure, sixth-round pick Jamil Demby is expected to make his first start alongside fellow 2018 draft choices Brian Allen at center and Joe Noteboom at left guard.
Allen and Noteboom will be making their third career starts. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right tackle Rob Havenstein haven't been spectacular so far this season, either.
Rams running back Todd Gurley has fond memories of the team's last meeting with the Browns: Gurley scored his first two NFL touchdowns against Cleveland during a 128-yard performance as a rookie in St. Louis in 2015.
Gurley is a quiet ninth in the league this season with 160 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Backup Malcolm Brown has 17 carries as the Rams attempt to lessen the load on Gurley, who leads the NFL in yards rushing since the start of the 2017 season. Gurley has insisted his knee is fine and he's ready for any workload.
New England Patriots TE Eric Tomlinson's role within the offense is still being determined, according to head coach Bill Belichick.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has caught 13-of-16 targets for 187 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games (Giants and Eagles). Week 7's matchup is a bit less favorable, however, as the Lions have been stingy against outside wide receivers with top cornerbacks Darius Slay and Rashaan Melvin. However, Thielen runs about one-third of his routes from the slot this season - an area that the Lions Defense has really struggled to contain. There remains a possibility that Slay shadows Thielen all over the field, which would clearly be a downgrade for Thielen's expected production. The Vikings also still lean on the run and will be featuring Dalvin Cook heavily against the Lions' weak rush defense. Start Thielen as a WR2 in Week 7 but keep in mind that his volume (and ceiling) could take a hit.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is not a player you need to force into lineups in Week 7. Rudolph caught 3-of-3 targets for 36 yards in his best game of 2019 in Week 6. He has just nine catches this year and his average target distance is 2.2 yards. He's still playing at least 90% of offensive snaps every game, but he doesn't get enough targets or red-zone work to be in consideration for fantasy lineups. Rudolph is an unexciting TE3 with limited upside in a run-heavy offense and he should not be started in Week 7.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes left the Thursday night game with what looked to be some sort of knee injury. He walked to the locker room after suffering the injury.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey (back) was listed as a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has provided an uptick in production the last two weeks, compiling 639 passing yards and a 6/1 TD/INT ratio in wins against the Giants and the Eagles. Cousins will look to keep it going against the Detroit Lions in Week 7 on the road in what should be a close contest (Vikings are currently favored by one point). The Lions Defense has not performed up to their reputation so far in 2019 as they're allowing 280 passing yards per game (fifth highest) and have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in 3-of-5 weeks. Their pass rush hasn't been there either as they have just 10 total sacks on the season. The Lions are also getting destroyed on the ground at 133.8 rushing yards per game (sixth highest), so it does seem likely that the Vikings revert to featuring Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack as the focal point of their offense. Start Cousins as a high-end QB2 in Week 7 as he should be afforded enough opportunities to take advantage of a struggling secondary - though the likelihood of scaled-back volume limits his ceiling.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is in line for a monster game in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. The Lions Defense has already given up seven rushing touchdowns and are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 133.8 rushing yards per game. They've also allowed a running back to score at least 20 PPR points in 4-of-5 weeks. Cook only received 18 touches in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles and still had a useful fantasy day (54 yards and a touchdown) despite the brutal matchup. Expect his touches to return to the 20-25 range as the Vikings will again look to feature him in their run-heavy attack. Start Cook as a top-tier RB1 option with tremendous upside and consider using him in all daily formats as well.
Free-agent CB Parry Nickerson (Seahawks) signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Oct. 17. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (calf, oblique) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller has been targeted at least seven times in four of the last five games but has posted at least 60 yards in only two games this season. He can still be considered at least a flex option in some leagues because of his big play ability.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ribs) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins has caught at least five passes in every game this season but has not found the end zone in the last five games. He is still a must-start option in all leagues because of the targets he receives each game.
Houston Texans WR Kenny Stills (hamstring) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Stills appears to be on track to play this week after missing the last two weeks because of his injury. He has posted 188 yards in four games this season and could be a flex option in some deeper leagues.
Washington Redskins TE Vernon Davis (concussion) was limited during practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Davis needs to be cleared by doctors before he will be allowed to play, so he only has a few more days before the Week 7 game. Fantasy players in all leagues should avoid Davis this week even if he is cleared to play.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (non-injury) was upgraded to a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Carson has continued to hold off Rashaad Penny as the workhorse out of the Seahawks' backfield. He has seen 20-plus carries in three straight games and topped 100 yards each time. There's no need to worry about Penny unless Carson were to miss time.
Seattle Seahawks TE Will Dissly (Achilles), OT Duane Brown (biceps), S Lano Hill (elbow), S Bradley McDougald (back) and DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 17. G D.J. Fluker (hamstring) and DE Quinton Jefferson (oblique) were limited. LB K.J. Wright (knee) was a full participant.
Houston Texans RB Carlos Hyde (calf) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season and has recorded a touchdown in three of the last four games. He will continue to be the main option in the running game and can be a No. 2 running back in most leagues.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (quadriceps) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson is coming off his best game of the season with 118 yards but has been held to under 40 yards in the other four games. He will be facing a good San Francisco 49ers defense this week and may only be a flex option in standard leagues.
Baltimore Ravens CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), CB Anthony Averett (ankle), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) and DT Brandon Williams (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 17. CB Jimmy Smith (knee) and OT Ronnie Stanley (knee) were limited.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury) got in a full practice session Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: All clear for the Seahawks' No. 1 receiver. Lockett has scored a touchdown every-other week through his team's first six games of 2019, and he didn't find the end zone in Week 6. Coincidence aside, he remains a steady WR2 as QB Russell Wilson's top option.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Keenum threw for two touchdowns last week but finished with only 166 yards. He will be facing a tougher defense in Week 7 and should be avoided in all leagues.