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 York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol and was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Shepard missed last Thursday's game and will likely be questionable for Week 7 against the Cardinals. He'll have to gain clearance from the protocol later this week in order to have a shot at suiting up, making him a risky fantasy option despite the excellent matchup. Golden Tate and Darius Slayton would be the team's top two receivers if Shepard remains out, although the Cardinals will be getting cornerback Patrick Peterson back from suspension this week. Tight end Evan Engram (knee) is also on track to return after missing last week's game.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor is not a great starting option for Week 7. The Eagles hit the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys and their strong pass defense on Sunday Night Football. Agholor managed to catch four of his seven targets in Week 6, but caught only one pass in Weeks 4 and 5. He simply does not possess NFL-level hands and will always battle with drops and fumbles. The Eagles passing game will likely run through Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, leaving Agholor far behind.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins is not a fantasy option in Week 7. The Eagles will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, and even if DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is forced to miss another game, Hollins will only play a bit role. Hollins saw seven targets in Week 3, but has seen just five total targets since then. He's playing plenty of snaps in three-wide sets, but just isn't seeing much of the ball going his way. He's droppable in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has not seen a pass thrown his way since Week 3. The hyped rookie saw four targets in Week 2 and three in Week 3, but hasn't seen any since then. He's been mostly working on special teams even without DeSean Jackson (abdomen) available on offense. The Eagles have been rolling with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins in three-wide sets, and that's not likely to change any time soon. Arcega-Whiteside is a dynasty hold for sure, but seems unlikely to develop much redraft value this season.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and tight end Evan Engram (knee) were both full participants in practice on Wednesday. Barkley and Engram are both on track to return for a mouthwatering Week 7 matchup against the Cardinals. Barkley's owners have to be ecstatic that he will wind up missing just two games after suffering a mild high right ankle sprain. Barkley and Engram will be high-end fantasy options at their respective positions this weekend. The Cardinals allow the most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. The return of both players should also boost rookie quarterback Daniel Jones' appeal as a QB streamer.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Devin Smith could be back in the starting lineup for a key Week 7 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) both questionable at best for Sunday Night Football, Smith could play the biggest role he's played all season against an Eagles pass defense that barely exists. Smith, as usual, will be a boom-or-bust play in fantasy, but could be a solid DFS value if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson could be elevated to a starting role on Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles. With wide receivers Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday's matchup, the Cowboys could be forced to roll with Michael Gallup, Devin Smith, and Wilson in three-wide sets. Wilson appeared out of nowhere onto the Cowboys box score in Week 6, catching five passes for 48 yards. He'll get an easy Eagles secondary to contend with, so Wilson could be a near zero-cost moderate upside value in DFS leagues this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin could have a legitimate role on offense in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles and their porous, generous pass defense. With Amari Cooper (quad) and Randall Cobb (back) not sure things for Sunday night, Austin should see more snaps than usual. He somehow led the Cowboys in receiving last week, catching five passes for 64 yards. He's not a huge-upside play, but could end up as a decent bye week filler if Cooper and Cobb are both out.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery should have another solid performance in Week 7 despite a tough matchup. DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is questionable at best for Sunday and would likely be limited even if he were able to play, making Jeffery once again the top target in the passing game. The Cowboys defend well against the pass, but the Eagles will have to move the ball and Jeffery will likely be the one to do it. He's been solid this season although he hasn't shown a ton of upside. He's settled in as an every-week WR2.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (thigh) and Randall Cobb (back) will not practice on Wednesday. Offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (back) also aren't practicing. Consider all of them questionable to play on Sunday night in a big divisional showdown against the Eagles. Cooper was in serious pain after the Week 6 loss to the Jets and is in serious danger of sitting out this weekend. With Cobb also banged up and sitting out on Sunday, the Cowboys could be looking at three-wide sets of Michael Gallup, Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson against the Eagles beatable secondary.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup should see an increased role in Week 7 and has a good matchup to exploit. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles and their struggling pass defense. Gallup could be playing as the top receiving option as Amari Cooper (quad) is not a sure thing for Sunday. With Gallup likely running as the top target through the air, he'll be a low-end WR1 if Cooper is out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard could struggle in Week 7. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in a battle for first place, and Howard will face off against a tough Dallas run defense. While he has become the head of the Philly backfield, Howard is still a zero in the passing game, limiting his upside to touchdowns. He's right on the RB2/3 border, but his goal line role will always give him some upside in any matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders is not an exciting choice for a Week 7 fantasy lineup. Sanders is playing passing downs behind early-down lead back Jordan Howard and isn't doing much in the red zone, severely limiting his upside. The Eagles travel to Dallas to take on a strong Cowboys Defense and could have some trouble moving the ball. Sanders shapes up as an unexciting RB3 with not too much upside for the Sunday Night Football contest.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores announced on Wednesday that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will start over Josh Rosen in Week 7 against the Bills. Rosen failed against the Redskins in Week 6 and was benched in favor of the veteran late in the game. Fitzpatrick has had his ups and downs this year. He likely gives Miami a better chance to win in the short term, but he'll be an unappealing QB2 in a terrifying matchup against Buffalo's strong defense on the road this Sunday.
Buffalo Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) will practice in full on Wednesday. It looks like Singletary will return to action in Week 7 against the Dolphins after resting up during the bye week. The 22-year-old rookie has just 10 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown in two games this year and hasn't played since Sept. 15. Even if he's active in a great matchup with Miami, Singletary will be a low-end RB3/flex that should continue to play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore in the backfield.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will face a difficult challenge in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the Philadelphia Eagles in a winner-takes-first-place-for-now battle on Sunday Night Football. The Eagles Defense has essentially been non-existent against the pass but has actually been very strong against the run. Elliott should still put up numbers, especially since he can play a role in the passing game if necessary, but his upside could be a little limited. He's absolutely an RB1 as always, but he's more top-five than top-two for this week.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg), who suffered a gruesome leg injury in November of last year, said he wound up having 17 surgeries on his right leg. Smith developed an infection following an operation to fix the broken fibula and tibia he suffered against the Texans. The 35-year-old recently resumed throwing and hopes to return to the field again eventually, but it's a long shot that he'll be back in 2019. The fact that Smith has made it this far is even a minor miracle, and there's no guarantee he'll play another down in the NFL again. The 'Skins will move forward with Case Keenum under center for another week after getting their first win against the Dolphins in Week 6.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard won't likely have too big of a role in Week 7. The Cowboys will welcome the Eagles into town for Sunday Night Football, and starter Ezekiel Elliott will almost certainly see a monster workload in what should be a close game. Pollard remains a handcuff with league-winning upside, but his own value is completely game flow dependent and too difficult to predict.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is set up well for a strong performance on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. The Cowboys will host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles in what should be one of the better games of the week. The Eagles Defense has been awful at limiting opposing quarterbacks, so Prescott has a chance to go off this week to make up for the losses that are starting to pile up. He may be without his top receiver though, as Amari Cooper is recovering from a thigh bruise that forced him to make an early exit in the loss against the Jets. Still, Prescott is a solid mid-range QB1 for the first-place matchup against the Eagles.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) said he is doing well and is "on track," but he will not practice on Wednesday. Jackson will instead run on a side field on Wednesday. The Eagles are optimistic that D-Jax can return on Sunday night against the Cowboys in Week 7, but it's not a certainty. The Eagles desperately need the return of their deep threat, and quarterback Carson Wentz's fantasy stock would receive a big boost if Jackson returns. As of now, though, he's a risky fantasy option this weekend with the game being on Sunday night. If Jackson misses another game, it'll be Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins remaining in three-wide sets.