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Analysis: The pass seduces even the NFL's best run teams

Mon Nov 29 2:27am ET
AP Pro Football Writer

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts runs the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Munson)

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson scrambles against the Cleveland Browns during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor (28) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Sean Murphy-Bunting (23) and Lavonte David (54) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Throwing the football in the NFL is so alluring it can seduce even the best run teams.

The Indianapolis Colts forgot they have Jonathan Taylor after relying on Carson Wentz's arm to build a 10-point halftime lead against the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

The Philadelphia Eagles climbed into the playoff race because of a potent rushing attack and let Jalen Hurts throw it away against the Giants.

The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns combined for five turnovers on pass plays in the second quarter Sunday night. Lamar Jackson threw three picks. Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Jarvis Landry fumbled on sacks.

If the Ravens didn't play against the Browns, the NFL's five top running teams would've lost in Week 12. The Tennessee Titans, who entered with the league's fifth-ranked rushing offense, kept rolling on the ground with 270 yards, but they were blown out by the Patriots 36-13.

Most baffling was the Colts' play calling in the second half.

Facing the league's stingiest run defense, Indianapolis couldn't get Taylor going early. The Buccaneers (8-3) weren't going to allow Taylor, the league's first 1,000-yard rusher this season, to beat them. They dared the Colts to throw, and Wentz responded with three perfect touchdown passes in the first half for a 24-14 lead.

The Colts (6-6) got the ball to start the third quarter and kept on throwing. Wentz dropped back on 26 straight plays at one point, including the final eight plays in the second quarter. The results in the second half were disastrous. Shaquil Barrett's strip-sack of Wentz led to a touchdown for Tampa Bay. Wentz then threw a pick on a deep ball in which Antoine Winfield Jr. made a leaping grab over Michael Pittman Jr. That led to another touchdown for the Bucs.

When the Colts finally handed it to Taylor again in the fourth quarter, he gained 58 yards on eight carries, including a game-tying TD. But Tom Brady then led the Buccaneers on the winning drive with Leonard Fournette scoring his fourth TD of the game for a 38-31 victory.

Why didn't Taylor run the ball on the first three possessions of the second half?

''We were rolling,'' Colts coach Frank Reich said. ''We tried to run it in the first quarter, this is the No. 1 run defense, and we weren't getting anything. We tried throwing in the second quarter and started having a lot of success. Carson was hot. Called a bunch of RPOs that got to throws because they were throw reads. We come out in the third quarter, we move the ball well in the third quarter. We moved down there twice, we're moving it well.''

The Colts became enamored with the pass because it was working, but the turnovers ended up hurting them. Perhaps, giving the ball to Taylor in the third quarter would've allowed Indianapolis to extend the lead and avoid those costly mistakes.

''When we turn it over, it gives them life,'' Reich said. ''That's No. 1. No. 2, they have Tom Brady.''

Reich's former offensive coordinator, Nick Sirianni, helped the Eagles turn things around this season after he committed to the run. The first-year coach guided Philadelphia (5-7) to three wins in the last four weeks with a heavy emphasis on the run, led by Hurts. But against New York, the Eagles moved away from it for stretches. Hurts threw 31 passes and was picked three times, including twice in the red zone. He had a chance at the end to win it, but Jalen Reagor couldn't make a catch near the goal line and the Giants held on for a 13-7 win.

When the Eagles ran, they had success, racking up 208 yards on the ground. They just didn't run it enough to beat the Giants (4-7).

''When you turn the ball over three times, there are different things at play there, but not a winning performance,'' Sirianni said. ''Running the ball was good.''

The Ravens (8-3) defeated the Browns (6-6) 16-10 despite a career-worst four interceptions by Jackson. Cleveland entered with the league's No. 1 rushing offense, but handed the ball to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt just 15 times while Mayfield made 37 passes.

As the weather gets colder in December, running teams will have to do what they do best to win.

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Player Notes
Chase McLaughlin Nov 29 12:10am ET
Chase McLaughlin

Cleveland Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin continued his struggles in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. McLaughlin made one of two field goals and his lone extra point in the loss. The veteran kicker missed a 46-yard field goal at the end of Cleveland's first drive of the game, his fourth miss over the past six games. He came close to missing his other field goal, too, as the ball hit the left goalpost and ricocheted through the uprights for three points. McLaughlin will enjoy a bye in Week 13 before he gets a rematch with the Ravens in Week 14.

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Myles Garrett Nov 29 12:10am ET
Myles Garrett

The Cleveland Browns defense played well in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Cleveland intercepted Lamar Jackson four times and picked up two sacks in the loss. In all, it was an impressive performance out of a Cleveland defense that has been up-and-down all season long. The Browns got interceptions from John Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison Jr., Denzel Ward, and Grant Delpit while Myles Garrett provided his 14th sack of the season. Cleveland will be on bye in Week 13 before they get a rematch against the Ravens in Week 14.

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Donovan Peoples-Jones Nov 29 12:00am ET
Donovan Peoples-Jones

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones caught two of five targets for 10 yards in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Peoples-Jones struggled with drops and inefficiency in a difficult night for the Cleveland offense. The Browns will certainly need more out of Peoples-Jones, who they are counting on to be their WR2 now that Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer on the team. Peoples-Jones will enjoy a bye in Week 13 before he gets a rematch with the Ravens in Week 14.

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Austin Hooper Nov 29 12:00am ET
Austin Hooper

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper failed to catch any of his three targets in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. It goes down as a disappointment for Hooper, who had been playing better over the previous two weeks. Hooper should have had a catch on Cleveland's final drive of the game but he dropped a pass that was right in his hands. The veteran tight end will go on bye in Week 13 before facing off against the Ravens again in Week 14. He is becoming increasingly hard to trust in all fantasy formats these days.

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David Njoku Nov 29 12:00am ET
David Njoku

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku caught three of five targets for 35 yards and a touchdown in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Njoku's performance was one of the few bright spots in an ugly, sloppy game between these two AFC North rivals as his touchdown catch was Cleveland's only TD of the game. The ball came close to hitting the ground in the end zone but the call on the field was upheld after an official review. Njoku has shown flashes this season but the Browns have not been keen on featuring him in the offense thus far. He will be on bye in Week 13 before he gets a rematch with the Ravens in Week 14.

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Jarvis Landry Nov 28 11:50pm ET
Jarvis Landry

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry turned in a big game in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Landry caught six of 10 targets for 111 yards to lead Cleveland in all receiving categories. He also lost a fumble attempting a pass on a direct snap trick play during the first half. Week 12 marked the first time since Week 11 of the 2020 season where Landry topped 100 receiving yards. A low-upside WR3 in fantasy, Landry will now enjoy a bye in Week 13 before he gets to take on these same Ravens in Week 14.

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Kareem Hunt Nov 28 11:50pm ET
Kareem Hunt

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt carried the ball seven times for 20 yards and failed to corral his lone target in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. It was a rough evening on the ground for Cleveland as Hunt's 20 rushing yards were enough to lead the team. In a bit of good news, Hunt appeared to emerge from the game without any setbacks from his calf, an injury that caused him to miss the past five games. An RB3 in PPR leagues, Hunt will now head into his bye in Week 13 before he gets a rematch with the Ravens in Week 14.

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Matthew Wright Nov 28 11:40pm ET
Matthew Wright

Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Matthew Wright made both of his field-goal attempts and didn't attempt an extra point in the team's 21-14 Week 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Wright has been a fairly accurate kicker since getting the job in Week 4, but he's still plagued by his team's inability to move the ball. As a result, there are many better options for fantasy managers to choose from.

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Mike Gesicki Nov 28 11:40pm ET
Mike Gesicki

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki didn't see a huge role during the Week 12 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. He hauled in all three of his targets for 17 yards in the blowout victory. His breakout season has stalled in recent weeks, which is certainly frustrating for fantasy managers. The hope is that Gesicki will bounce back against the New York Giants defense in Week 13. He should be in the low-end TE1 mix for that matchup.

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Baker Mayfield Nov 28 11:40pm ET
Baker Mayfield

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 18 of 37 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Mayfield also lost a fumble in the mistake-filled contest on Sunday night. While the 247 passing yards were Mayfield's most since October 10 against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Cleveland offense continues to struggle to move the ball and score points. Mayfield will welcome a Week 13 bye as he has been dealing with foot, shoulder, and groin injuries for much of the season. After his bye, he will face off against the Baltimore Ravens again in Week 14, this time in Cleveland.

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Albert Wilson Nov 28 11:40pm ET
Albert Wilson

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson has seen his role in the passing attack increase over the last few weeks. On Sunday, Wilson hauled in five of his six targets for 17 yards in the win over the Carolina Panthers. This Week 12 performance marked the third week in a row that Wilson has seen four targets or more. That trend will likely continue against the New York Giants in Week 13. Sadly, Wilson hasn't surpassed 20 total yards in either of his last two games. There is not enough upside here to warrant starting him in any fantasy formats next week.

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James O'Shaughnessy Nov 28 11:40pm ET
James O'Shaughnessy

Jacksonville Jaguars tight end James O'Shaughnessy caught three of five targets for 29 yards in the team's Week 12 loss at home against Atlanta. O'Shaughnessy's performance was nothing special, but Dan Arnold, the team's primary receiving tight end, suffered a knee injury, which could open up a major opportunity for O'Shaughnessy. The veteran tight end is competent enough to provide fantasy value if Arnold were to miss time, especially with Trevor Lawrence targeting the tight end position at a high rate this season. Fantasy managers in deeper formats should monitor the situation closely while anticipating solid mid to low-end TE2 production from O'Shaughnessy should he get a chance at the starting role.

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Nick Chubb Nov 28 11:40pm ET
Nick Chubb

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb was uncharacteristically quiet in a 16-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Chubb gained just 16 yards on eight touches while adding two catches for 23 yards in the Sunday night loss. The Ravens did a nice job taking Chubb out of the game as Cleveland was unable to get anything going on the ground in the loss. The veteran running back will now enjoy a bye in Week 13 before he gets a rematch with Baltimore, this time at home in Cleveland.

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Jaylen Waddle Nov 28 11:30pm ET
Jaylen Waddle

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has been heavily involved in the passing attack this season. In Week 12, Waddle hauled in nine of his 10 targets for 137 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Carolina Panthers. This marks Waddle's first 100-yard performance of his career. It's also worth noting that he has seen six or more targets in every game since Week 1. The absence of DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Will Fuller (finger) have increased Waddle's usage. Fantasy managers should feel comfortable with Waddle as a WR2 for the Week 13 matchup with the New York Giants.

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Justin Herbert Nov 28 11:20pm ET
Justin Herbert

The Denver Broncos defense made a statement in the 28-13 Week 12 win over the Los Angeles Chargers at home. Going into the Sunday night game, they had the second-most fantasy points of the week with only 13 points allowed, three sacks and two interceptions, one which was returned for a touchdown. And that all came with both safety Kareem Jackson (neck) and defensive end Shelby Harris (ankle) inactive. Rookie first-round cornerback Patrick Surtain II had both of Denver's interceptions of quarterback Justin Herbert. The Broncos D allowed 357 total yards to a potent Chargers offense, but they held Austin Ekeler and Company to only 72 total rushing yards on the day and stiffened up when it mattered most. Despite the strong game, most fantasy managers won't be targeting them in Week 13 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Phillip Lindsay Nov 28 11:20pm ET
Phillip Lindsay

Miami Dolphins running back Phillip Lindsay made his team debut against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. He rushed 12 times for 42 yards in the victory. Lindsay was the obvious No. 2 back behind Myles Gaskin in this one. That being said, Lindsay should remain involved in the gameplan going forward. Sadly, there isn't a ton of fantasy upside due to the fact Gaskin is the lead back. It's uncertain if Lindsay would even see over 10 touches most weeks. It's tough to imagine Lindsay having much fantasy value against the New York Giants next week.

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Salvon Ahmed Nov 28 11:20pm ET
Salvon Ahmed

Miami Dolphins running back Salvon Ahmed has seen his role in the offense decrease over the last few weeks. He was a healthy scratch in Week 11, but made his return to the field on Sunday. Ahmed rushed five times for 17 yards in the Week 12 win over the Carolina Panthers. Both Myles Gaskin and Phillip Lindsay out-touched Ahmed in this one. It's not good news for Ahmed that newcomer Lindsay already saw more attempts than him. There is a good chance that Ahmed has a minimal role or falls out of the rotation completely against the New York Giants in Week 13.

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Brandon McManus Nov 28 11:10pm ET
Brandon McManus

Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus wasn't really needed much in the team's Week 12 win over the Los Angeles Chargers by a score of 28-13 on Sunday. It was the third time that McManus hasn't attempted a field goal in a game in 2021. Thankfully for his fantasy managers, he was at least able to convert all four of his extra-point attempts. The 30-year-old has been extremely efficient this year, only missing four total kicks (three field goals and one extra point), but the Broncos inconsistent offense isn't giving him consistent kicking tries on a weekly basis. Denver's offense could be chasing points against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13, which will make McManus a shaky low-end streaming option at the position.

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Tua Tagovailoa Nov 28 11:10pm ET
Tua Tagovailoa

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has put together back-to-back solid performances. Last week, Tagovailoa completed 81.8 percent of his throws against the New York Jets. Somehow, he was able to top that with 87 completion percentage versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. Tagovailoa completed 27-of-31 passing attempts for 230 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions in the win. The Dolphins have won four games in a row and pushed themselves back into the playoff picture. Tagovailoa will be a high-end QB2 against the New York Giants next week.

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Matt Ryan Nov 28 11:10pm ET
Matt Ryan

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense managed just one interception and one sack while allowing 24 points to the Atlanta Falcons at home in Week 12. Jacksonville's defense has been fairly lackluster all year long, but this outing was especially disappointing against Matt Ryan and a turnover-prone Falcons offense that was averaging a league-worst 10 points per game in their last three contests. The Jaguars defense is firmly off the radar going forward in nearly all formats.

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