61 passes! Joe Burrow carries offense but Bengals still lose

Fri Sep 18 3:40pm ET
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor, right, watches during the second half of the team's NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow throws a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)


CINCINNATI (AP) Joe Burrow was sacked three times and hit hard seven more times, roughed up by a defense that allowed the short completion while knocking the rookie quarterback around.

It's a formula the Bengals have to change quickly.

Burrow was impressive again Thursday night during a 35-30 loss in Cleveland, throwing 61 times and keeping the Bengals (0-2) in the game until the end.

Good impressions are only that, as the Heisman Trophy winner and national champion from LSU knows so well.

''I will never adjust or accept losing,'' Burrow said. ''That is just something that is not in my mindset so this 0-2 start is really hurting me.''

The Browns (1-1) got the intrastate win by running over Cincinnati's defense and keeping Burrow in check just enough to hold the lead from the first quarter until the end. The Bengals realize they've found a franchise quarterback in Burrow, who improved significantly from a 16-13 opening loss to the Chargers.

Burrow, the only rookie quarterback starting in the NFL this season, went 37 of 61 for 316 yards with three touchdowns, no interception and one fumble. Twenty-nine of his throws came late in the fourth quarter when the Bengals trailed by two touchdowns and abandoned the run.

The Bengals ran only 24 times in all, including seven scrambles by Burrow, who was hit often when he set up in the pocket.

''We don't want our quarterback taking shots,'' coach Zac Taylor said Monday. ''We don't want to live in a drop-back world.''

WHAT'S WORKING

Burrow feels comfortable in an up-tempo, spread offense that allows him to get rid of the ball quickly. His best moments in the first two games came when Cincinnati ditched the huddle and got plays off quickly. The challenge now is to figure out how to get a more balanced offense while allowing Burrow to do what he does best.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Bengals overhauled the defense in the offseason, but it was as bad as ever in Cleveland. The Browns ran for 215 yards overall, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. When the Bengals cut it to 28-23 in the fourth quarter, the Browns put it away by running six consecutive times in a touchdown drive that included runs of 26, 33 and 10 yards. Cincinnati had the NFL's worst run defense last season, allowing 149 yards per game. The Chargers ran for 155 in the opener, and the Browns went 60 yards better.

''That is rough,'' defensive tackle D.J. Reader said. ''Phew - 200 yards rushing yards is just a lot of yards. You never want to give up that much.''

STOCK UP

In addition to Burrow's performance, the Bengals were encouraged by second-year tight end Drew Sample, who had seven catches for 45 yards, including a one-hand grab. He matched Tyler Boyd for the team high in catches. Sample was a second-round pick last year who was limited to nine games and five catches as a rookie before suffering an ankle injury.

STOCK DOWN

The offensive line had a shaky opener and was shoved around again in Cleveland. Fred Johnson started at right guard in place of Xavier Su'a-Filo, out with an ankle injury. The Browns kept steady pressure on Burrow, and Joe Mixon was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. Taylor indicated there could be changes on the line before the next game in Philadelphia.

''Nothing's off the table, that's for certain,'' Taylor said.

INJURED

Tight end C.J. Uzomah tore his left Achilles on Thursday night and is done for the season. Uzomah was the top returning tight end with 27 catches last season. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins might be back for the game in Philadelphia after missing the first two with a shoulder injury.

KEY NUMBER

5 for 5: The Bengals stayed in the game by taking risks and converting all five of their fourth-down attempts, with Burrow finding open receivers.

NEXT STEPS

Stop Burrow from getting hit so often and stop opposing running backs from picking up so many yards.

Player Notes
Tevin Coleman Oct 31 5:00pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) has been activated off the IR and will be available for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. Coleman last played in Week 2 against the Jets, where he suffered a knee sprain that kept him out until now. It's anyone's guess as to who leads this backfield after head coach Kyle Shanahan pulled a fast one on us all last week. The best guess is that Coleman leads the backfield, with JaMycal Hasty mixing in as a change-of-pace option and Jerick McKinnon operating as the third-down back. Coleman and Hasty are probably the best plays of the bunch, though they're hard to look at as anything more than flex plays against Seattle.

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A.J. Green Oct 31 4:50pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will face the Titans in Week 8 fresh off two of his best games of the season. Green has at least 80 receiving yards in two straight games and has seen 24 targets over the last couple of weeks. That's elite-level volume that he may not be able to sustain with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins both playing great football, though it's clear that he and Joe Burrow are developing a strong connection. Tennessee struggles to defend opposing wide receivers, as they've surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to the position. Green can be started as a high-end WR3 with upside for more.

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Latavius Murray Oct 31 4:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray gets a seemingly tough matchup against the Bears in Week 8. Chicago has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs but ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run. Murray has seen at least 10 touches in all but one game this season and could see some more opportunities in this one with the Saints down a couple of pass-catchers. Look for Murray to see around 10 touches again and check-in as an RB3 for Week 8.

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Joe Burrow Oct 31 4:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow gets a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Titans in Week 8. Burrow is coming off the best game of his young career, with 406 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception against Cleveland. Tennessee ranks 18th in fantasy points allowed to enemy passers, though they've allowed at least 250 passing yards and two touchdowns to each of the last three quarterbacks they've faced. Burrow is coming into this one hot with a full stable of weapons, so keep him in your lineups as a solid QB1.

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Julian Edelman Oct 31 4:10pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) has been placed on the injured reserve. Edelman had surgery on his knee and is expected to miss at least the next three games, though head coach Bill Belichick seemed optimistic about the veteran receiver returning at some point. It's safe to drop Edelman in all formats. With starter N'Keal Harry (concussion) also out, the Patriots will have to turn to Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, and Gunner Olszewski for three-wide receiver sets. Meyers and Byrd can only be used by the most desperate of fantasy managers, as the matchup against Buffalo is tough.

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Sterling Shepard Oct 31 4:00pm ET

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (shoulder, toe) doesn't have an injury designation and will take the field heading into a tough matchup against the Buccaneers. Shepard was limited all week in practice after sustaining a turf toe injury in Week 7 against Philadelphia in addition to the shoulder ailment- though he's evidently shown the Giants enough to be confident in his health. It won't be an easy matchup for Shepard against Tampa Bay, as they've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Still, Shepard's eight targets from Week 7 indicate that he'll be a big part of the offense moving forward. Look at him as a solid WR3 option in Week 8.

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Scott Miller Oct 31 3:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (shoulder) and wide receiver Scotty Miller (hip, groin) are both good to go for Sunday. Both Gronkowski and Miller were limited on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, though they have no injury designations after both were full participants on Friday. Without Chris Godwin (finger), both players could potentially see more looks in the passing game. Look at Gronkowski as a solid TE1 and Miller as a risky WR4 against the Giants Defense on Monday night.

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Devonta Freeman Oct 31 3:30pm ET

New York Giants running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was expected, as Freeman was not able to take the practice field all week. He suffered the injury during the Giants' Week 7 contest against the Eagles on Thursday night, though the added time didn't help him heal any quicker. The Giants will turn to Wayne Gallman- who looked good in spurts against Philadelphia- as their lead back. He'll get enough touches to be started as a flex option, though it's hard to envision him finding much success against Tampa's league-best run defense.

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Stephon Gilmore Oct 31 3:30pm ET

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) is out for a key Week 8 divisional clash against the Bills. There was a glimmer of hope on Thursday when Gilmore was able to get a limited practice session in, though Friday's DNP made his status for Sunday grim. New England doesn't have much depth behind last year's Defensive Player of the Year and is inconveniently about to face Stefon Diggs. Diggs was already a must-start based on his previous production and is now arguably a top-five wide receiver this week.

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Phillip Lindsay Oct 31 2:40pm ET

Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) will go for one more post-concussion evaluation on Saturday, but the team expects him to play in Week 8 against the Chargers, barring a setback in that test. It's bad news for Melvin Gordon, who will now share touches in the backfield with Lindsay, making him more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3/flex. Lindsay was the better runner in Week 7, too, racking up 79 yards on nine carries. He's averaging just under five yards a carry and Gordon lost two costly fumbles against the Chiefs. Lindsay will be an RB3/flex option in PPR leagues if he can pass his final concussion test.

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Andy Dalton Oct 31 2:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) has been downgraded from doubtful to out for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Eagles in Week 8. This was the expectation all along after Dalton was unable to clear the concussion protocol or practice all week. Owner Jerry Jones thinks that the signal-caller will be ready to go for Week 9 against the Steelers, but we'll have to keep a close eye on his progress in the league's protocol. If he is available next week, he'd be a low-end QB2 against a tough Steelers Defense. Rookie Ben DiNucci will make his first career start against Philadelphia this Sunday, but he's also a low-end desperation QB2 in superflex leagues.

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Ryan Succop Oct 31 1:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop makes for a good play in a Week 8 matchup against the New York Giants. Succop has made at least five kicks in four straight games and has at least five extra points in two straight. There's no reason to doubt Tampa Bay's offense against the Giants, even though their defense has shown signs of improvement. Fire up Succop as a solid starting option this week.

From RotoBaller

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Oct 31 1:40pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense has been one of the best options for fantasy this year. They get their best matchup of the year in Week 8 against the Giants, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Giants' offensive line ranks dead-last in adjusted sack rate while Tampa Bay's defensive front ranks second in sack rate. This is a dream matchup for the Buccaneers' defense, so expect more than a few sacks and a couple of turnovers forced at the expense of Daniel Jones. The Buccaneers are probably going to be the highest-scoring defense of the week.

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Rob Gronkowski Oct 31 1:30pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski faces a semi-tough matchup in Week 8 against the Giants. Gronkowski has at least six targets and 50 yards receiving in each of his last three contests and has scored a touchdown in two straight games. The Giants are not the soft spot they used to be for tight ends- they've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Still, Gronkowski is too hot to bench right now, especially with how thin the tight end position is for fantasy. He has a good chance of putting up top-12 numbers at his position in Week 8.

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Alshon Jeffery Oct 31 1:30pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) has been ruled out for Week 8's Sunday night matchup with the division-rival Cowboys. Jeffery still has yet to make his 2020 season debut and missed practice all week. The 30-year-old miss the start of the season after having offseason foot surgery, but the calf injury is what's holding him back of late. The oft-injured veteran might not even have much of a role once he finally does return, so he's not a very attractive stash in standard-sized leagues at this point. The Eagles will be getting tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb) back in Week 8 as well. Jeffery has become a fantasy afterthought.

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Tyler Johnson Oct 31 1:20pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson will take the place of the injured Chris Godwin (finger) in Week 8 against the Giants. Johnson got the start in Week 5, playing a season-high 79 percent of the snaps and putting up a 4-61-0 line. With Brady currently rolling, it's fair to consider starting a player such as Johnson. There is some risk here, as the game script may tilt this towards a more run-heavy gameplan for the Buccaneers. Still, Johnson can be started by managers who are struggling with injuries or bye weeks.

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Damien Harris Oct 31 1:20pm ET

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (ankle) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the division-rival Bills. Harris was a limited practice participant all week, so he should be able to suit up on Sunday against Buffalo, barring any setbacks. New England will need as much help as possible from their backfield this weekend with both receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and N'Keal Harry (concussion) out, but the Patriots crowded backfield and their stagnant offense are both big concerns for Harris' potential upside. Harris has seen double-digit carries in two of his three games this year, but he'll need positive game script to reach his ceiling this weekend, and that might be tough going against a strong Buffalo offense. With just two catches in three games as well, Harris is an uninspiring RB3/flex in this crowded backfield picture.

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Mo Alie-Cox Oct 31 1:10pm ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) and center Ryan Kelly (knee) are both questionable for Week 8 against the Lions. Alie-Cox didn't practice on Wednesday, but he was limited both Thursday and Friday. He sat out of the team's Week 6 game and rested up during the bye last week. The 27-year-old has a decent shot at playing this Sunday against Detroit, but his moment in the fantasy sun appears to have come and gone in 2020. Alie-Cox went over 100 yards receiving in Week 2 and scored in back-to-back games in Weeks 3 and 4, but he failed to haul in his only target in Week 5 when he was injured, and he's expected to take a back seat to Trey Burton moving forward.

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Bryan Edwards Oct 31 1:10pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards (ankle, foot) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Browns. Edwards was limited in practice all week, so he definitely has a chance to return for the first time since Week 3. The third-rounder has caught five of his six targets for 99 yards in the first three games of his career, but he won't carry any fantasy appeal if he returns to action against Cleveland, as rookie Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor should operate in three-receiver sets this Sunday. The Browns are an enticing matchup for wideouts; they've allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to them this year. Edwards might be able to make a splash play if he's active, but you can't trust him in fantasy lineups.

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Allen Robinson Oct 31 1:00pm ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and is expected to play in Week 8 against the Saints. Robinson missed practice all week, making it seem unlikely on Friday that he would be able to suit up on Sunday. But it looks like fantasy managers can return him to their starting lineups for this weekend. Chicago's offense has been stagnant the last two weeks, though, which has limited A-Rob to nine receptions for 123 yards on 13 targets in that span. The Bears need to make their top receiver a bigger part of the game plan to get back in the win column, but the 27-year-old will be a WR2 for fantasy managers against New Orleans.

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