In this Nov. 25, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (6) and Tyrod Taylor (5) warm up before an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. When Cleveland fans fill FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for the first time in nearly two years, they'll see several familiar faces on Houston's roster, including Taylor, who was briefly the Browns' starter when Mayfield was a rookie in 2018. (AP Photo/Gary Landers, File)
CLEVELAND (AP) Brash and even a little belligerent, Baker Mayfield waltzed into the NFL thinking he had things figured out. He quickly learned he had a lot to learn.
Tyrod Taylor taught him.
When Cleveland fans fill FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday for the first time in nearly two years, they'll see several familiar faces on Houston's roster, one of them Taylor, who was briefly the Browns' starter when Mayfield was a rookie in 2018.
Taylor only started three games, but Mayfield said the 32-year-old veteran had a major impact on his career.
''I think people took Tyrod for granted,'' said Mayfield. ''He's an extremely good leader. His work ethic alone, just his routine and being the same guy every day for every single person in the building is a tremendous way of showing his leadership.
''Obviously great athlete and he's a great quarterback.''
Taylor is coming off a strong debut in a win over Jacksonville for the Texans (1-0), who elevated him into the starting job this summer in the midst of Deshaun Watson's legal entanglements and his trade request.
Desperate to solve their quarterback issue three years ago, the Browns (0-1), who are coming off a Week 1 loss in Kansas City, traded a third-round pick to Buffalo for Taylor. The previous season he had helped the Bills end their long playoff drought.
Cleveland then chose Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick, but he was not given a chance to beat out Taylor in training camp.
Things changed, though, in Week 3 when Mayfield replaced a concussed Taylor during a nationally televised Thursday night game against the New York Jets and rallied the Browns to their first win in 20 games.
Taylor's era in Cleveland may have been brief, but he helped shape Mayfield into the QB he is today.
''Everything that he taught me, leading by example and doing different things, not that we lead the same way, but there's always different ways to learn,'' Mayfield said. ''I'm very thankful to have stepped in a QB room with Drew Stanton and Tyrod, that I was able to learn from those guys. It's something I'm obviously very grateful for.''
Taylor said he hasn't closely followed Mayfield's career, but he was impressed by the young QB's quick rise in their one season together.
''Just to see his growth throughout that year was definitely impressive and to see him endure some of the stuff that came up throughout that year, with coach changes and different schemes,'' Taylor said. ''But he'd done a great job of handling it, and he's done a great job for the team since then.
''I know they're looking forward for him to have a big year this year.''
The Texans' red-white-and-blue uniforms are tinged with orange.
Houston has eight former Browns on its 53-man roster. And while Taylor said he's looking forward to being back in Cleveland and seeing friends, he's not returning with revenge in mind.
''It's not about me,'' he said. ''It's about our team here and us working hard throughout this week and us executing on Sunday. It's never about me or my feelings when it comes to going to play against previous teams.''
Browns center Joel Bitonio plans to catch up with Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was in his 2014 draft class with Cleveland and spent six seasons with the club.
''We spent a lot of time here together,'' Bitonio said. ''Nothing really happens during the game, but after the game it'll be good to say 'Hey' to those guys.''
One of Houston's primary problems last season was an inability to force turnovers. The Texans were last in the league with just nine.
First-year defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is fixing things. Houston had three interceptions last week against the Jaguars, matching their total for 2020.
''We have put an emphasis on it as a part of what we have to do to have success defensively,'' Smith said. ''So that part is good and as a coach you start looking at what other opportunities that you had. We haven't played our best game, so we'll need to be able to do that in order for takeaways to come.
Odell Beckham's Jr.'s return is on hold.
Cleveland's star receiver was ruled out early in the week, further delaying his comeback from knee surgery last year. Beckham seemed to be a go in the opener against the Chiefs, but after pregame warmups he told the Browns he wasn't confident he could play as much as they needed.
''The most important thing is that he's continuing to get healthy and when he's comfortable enough he'll be out there,'' said Browns receiver Jarvis Landry.
TURN IT UP
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has never heard Cleveland's crowd at maximum volume.
On Sunday, it will be at full roar - or in this case, full bark.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only 12,000 fans were allowed inside the Browns' lakefront stadium in 2020. Those crowds were loud, but nothing like what Stefanski, who is in his second season, or the Texans will experience.
''I'm excited, man,'' said Browns running back Nick Chubb. ''It's been almost two years. I know the Dawg Pound will be out and we'll be rocking in FirstEnergy.''
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) was forced to exit early during the Week 7 matchup with the New England Patriots. The rookie quarterback was originally expected to miss some time, but the organization didn't have a timetable until they could do an MRI. Now, it has been announced that Wilson is going to miss two-to-four weeks of action. The Jets offense was already struggling heavily, but things are likely only to get worse now. It's assumed that backup quarterback Mike White will take over the starting duties until Wilson returns. That means, basically all Jets players are going to be avoidable in fantasy formats without Wilson available.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 26-year-old had one less carry than starter Joe Mixon (12) and churned out his best performance of the season. In the fourth quarter, he busted out a 46-yard touchdown run to give the Bengals a 41-17 lead. Perine was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in the week and is expected to serve as Mixon's backup over the rookie Chris Evans. The veteran is a boom-or-bust flex against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught 7-of-15 targets for 62 yards in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He led the team in targets (15) but was only able to haul in seven of them on Sunday. Bengals QB Joe Burrow looks Higgins way in most games, but it hasn't generated much fantasy success. The 22-year-old has a catch rate of 41.9% on 43 targets in 2021. Higgins hasn't found the end zone since Week 2 and has only eclipsed 50 yards receiving just three times this season. The Clemson product is a boom-or-bust WR3 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
New York Jets running back Ty Johnson put together arguably his best game of the season against the New England Patriots in Week 7. He rushed five times for six yards, but also hauled in six of his seven targets for 65 yards in the loss. It was an active day for the Jets running backs in this game. Both Johnson and Michael Carter were the two leading receivers for New York on Sunday. However, neither player carries much fantasy value through the rest of the season. Carter has a bit more upside because he gets a significant amount of carries. Johnson can remain on the waiver wire for their battle with the Cincinnati Bengals next week.
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis has been starting to heat up with his new team. Sadly, most of his momentum is gone with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) expected to miss some time. In Week 7, Davis hauled in four of his six targets for 47 yards and one touchdown in the blowout loss to the New England Patriots. Fantasy managers can usually count on Davis as a solid WR3, but those days might be numbered. Backup quarterback Mike White is likely to take over, which means Davis could see his value take a significant hit.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon rushed for 59 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He salvaged his fantasy day by busting out a 21-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The 25-year-old has rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 90 yards and over seven games in 2021. Mixon continues to lead the Bengals backfield and is a solid fantasy option against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah caught all three targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 28-year-old exploded for two scores, including a 52-yard touchdown reception. He has now hit pay dirt in three of his last four games. The Bengals' tight end has reeled in 17 catches for 256 yards and five touchdowns across seven games in 2021. Uzomah is a boom-or-bust low-end TE1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 rout of the Ravens. He led the team in catches and receiving yards in Week 7. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase showed great chemistry on Sunday, connecting for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 21-year-old has had an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns over seven games. Chase is a borderline WR1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for two touchdowns and fired an 82-yard score to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. In his sophomore campaign, the 24-year-old has been excellent, throwing for 1.956 yards and a 17:8 TD: INT ratio over seven games in 2021. Burrow is a borderline QB1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense struggled again in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 33-22 loss, the Eagles defensive unit allowed Derek Carr to throw for 323 yards and let multiple Raiders runners combine for over 100 yards on the ground. They did not record a sack or force a fumble, but they did end up with one interception. All of that made for a fantasy score of -2.0 in standard scoring, the fourth time this season where they've scored one point or less. This is not a defense worth starting in fantasy, regardless of their opponent. They can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins made two catches in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Watkins saw four targets, catching half of them for 37 yards. Watkins is playing an important role on the Eagles offense, but this is not a passing game that can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers. With tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith ahead of Watkins on the passing tree, Watkins is not much more than a hold-and-hope asset in most fantasy formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is undergoing X-rays on his injured ankle, but head coach Nick Sirianni doesn't think Sanders suffered a broken ankle in the Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Sanders was carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with his ankle injury. While he may have avoided a broken ankle, it doesn't mean that he won't be forced to miss time moving forward. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment so far this year and had six carries for 30 yards before his injury, adding one catch for minus-three yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team with 13 carries for 61 yards, but Boston Scott had seven carries (two more than rookie Kenneth Gainwell) for 24 yards and a rushing score after Sanders left the contest. Gainwell was second on the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. If Sanders misses time, Scott and Gainwell figure to share the backfield, with Scott being the early down back and Gainwell playing in passing situations.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor finally did something useful in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Reagor was targeted twice, catching both for 25 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within two scores. Last year's first round pick has two touchdowns on the year and hasn't totaled more than 25 yards since Week 3. He's been jumped on the receiver hierarchy by Quez Watkins and does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott attempted and made two extra points in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Elliott did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, leaving him with just two fantasy points in most scoring formats. Elliott is a decent enough NFL kicker, but he's kicking at a very low volume in this offense and doesn't have the big leg upside to make him worth starting in any formats. He can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored a touchdown in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Miles Sanders (ankle) forced to leave the game early, Gainwell and Boston Scott took over in the Eagles backfield. Both of them worked behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, however, who once again led the Eagles in rushing yards and attempts. Gainwell ran the ball five times for 20 yards and added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He saw eight targets and scored on a 13 yard catch in the first quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Gainwell should get the first crack at leading the Eagles running back room with Scott working behind him. Gainwell is likely to be one of the top waiver wire adds heading into Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert worked in an alpha-TE1 role in this one. He was the only Eagles tight end to see a target. He was thrown to five times, catching three for 70 yards. It was a decent game for Goedert, but more importantly it was a sign of things to come. Without Ertz around, Goedert should be an easy TE1 every week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught five passes in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith led the Eagles in targets, seeing nine balls thrown his way. He came down with five, gaining 61 yards. Smith continues to see WR1 usage but just hasn't done much with his plentiful targets of late. He gained 122 yards in Week 4 but has gained just 169 total since then. He may be a decent buy-low target in redraft leagues right now, there should be big weeks ahead for the rookie.
The Las Vegas Raiders ruled running back Josh Jacobs (chest) out of the Week 7 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after he was injured during the game, but early indications are that he avoided a major injury, according to a source. The Raiders are on bye next week as well, so Jacobs will have extra time to recover and may not have to miss a game. The 23-year-old had six carries for 29 yards and managed to find the end zone before leaving the game, so at least it wasn't all bad for his fantasy managers on Sunday. He also caught all three of his targets for 39 yards. Jacobs has scored in three straight games after a rough start to the season, and it sounds like he won't have to miss much time, if any. With Peyton Barber a healthy scratch, Kenyan Drake led the team with 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown with Jacobs leaving the game against Philly.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had another solid fantasy performance in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts attempted 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 236 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he led the team in rushes and yards, running 13 times for 61 yards. It was another up-and-down performance on the field for Hurts, but he's the only quarterback in fantasy to score 20 points or more every week of the season (in standard scoring formats). Hurts has shown that he's probably not the long-term answer on the NFL field for the Eagles, but he's a valuable QB1 in all formats as long as he keeps running the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott shows up on offense in Week 7 and scored a touchdown, his first of the season. Starting running back Miles Sanders (ankle) was forced to leave with an injury, leaving backfield duties to rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Scott. Scott had been playing exclusively on special teams this season, but ran the ball seven times in this game, gaining 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. His score came on a one-yard plunge at the end of the third quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Scott will likely find his way into a role on offense, but he's unlikely to develop much if any fantasy value.