Bengals-Browns Preview

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Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks on in the first half during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore. Stefanski didn't need long to be lumped together with so many Browns coaches before him. One game into his tenure, he's 0-1, being criticized for a head-scratching decision and faced with a lengthy list of problems. The Ravens beat the Browns 38-6. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams, File)


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs past Los Angeles Chargers' Rayshawn Jenkins (23) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)


Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts after running for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)


Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser (54) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


CLEVELAND (AP) Joe Burrow's childhood was pretty much the same as every other boy raised in football-obsessed Ohio, the NFL's birthplace.

He learned his ABCs and multiplication tables in school. Outside, Burrow got lessons on Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bernie Kosar, The Ickey Shuffle and Dawg Pound.

On Thursday night, Burrow connects to those roots.

This year's No. 1 overall draft pick, reigning Heisman Trophy winner and just maybe the quarterback to change Cincinnati's fortunes, makes his first road start as the Bengals visit the Cleveland Browns to renew a rivalry Burrow learned about as a youngster.

''I know the history behind it,'' he said. ''Excited for my first one.''

The 23-year-old's entry into the ''Battle of Ohio'' also comes on a significant date as it marks the 100th anniversary of the league's start in Canton, where an organizational meeting on Sept. 17, 1920 kicked things off.

Burrow's debut last week against the Los Angeles Chargers went about as expected. He made mistakes, showed the same resilience that took him from a third-stringer at Ohio State to national champion at LSU, and had the Bengals poised for a possible win. They missed a last-second field goal to force overtime and lost 16-13.

Burrow scored his first TD on a 23-yard run. He finished 23 of 36 for 193 yards, but was sharp down the stretch, going 8 of 11 for 70 yards on his drive.

''In my eyes I played terrible through 3 1/2 quarters and then played up to my standards in the last drive and almost won the game,'' Burrow said. ''I know I'll be ready for it and I just have to keep that same mindset in the 2-minute drill and bring that along for the rest of the season.''

The Browns were searching for any positives after getting blown out 38-6 at Baltimore, a rout that soured any excitement about the team's potential under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski.

Cleveland was undone by turnovers, penalties and missed kicks. Sound familiar?

It was just one game, but it was a really bad one, and it's put early pressure on Stefanski to get things fixed quickly.

There's also more scrutiny on quarterback Baker Mayfield. He set the tone last week with an interception on Cleveland's first possession, and another uneven performance has raised more questions as to whether he's the long-term answer for the Browns.

Mayfield knows he's got to be better.

''There is a sense of urgency,'' he said. ''We hurt ourselves very early on in that game. The focus is on eliminating those mistakes and playing our game.''

SELECT GROUP

It will certainly be the smallest crowd in Bengals-Browns history as only 6,000 will be allowed inside FirstEnergy Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions.

''It better be a rowdy 6,000 in those stands,'' Mayfield quipped.

Stefanski said cardboard cutouts and ambient crowd noise created a ''strange'' environment last week in Baltimore, but he did enjoy hearing some of the banter from players and coaches.

''It does take you back to like a JV high school game,'' he said. ''But it was is kind of cool also just to hear some of the sounds coming from the field, from our sideline and their sideline.''

BURROW DEEP

One of the Cincy quarterback's biggest issues in the opener was missing open receivers downfield. John Ross and A.J. Green got behind the coverage, but Burrow overthrew them and missed all five deep throws against the Chargers.

''I just have to hit them, that's all there is to it,'' Burrow said.

''Certainly missed opportunities,'' Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. ''I certainly didn't expect that to be the case.''

CHEMISTRY EXAM

Mayfield and receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still haven't found their rhythm.

They seemed on different pages last season, and started 2020 similarly disjointed. Beckham had three catches for 22 yards - his second-lowest career game - against the Ravens despite Mayfield targeting him 10 times.

Beckham said he won't demand more touches as that only reinforces the narrative that he's selfish.

''It's a tough position to be in with the way that I feel like I've been misrepresented to the world,'' he said. ''It makes it just seem as if I just want the ball, when really I just want to help. I just want to be able to help this team in any way I can.''

RUN OVER

The Bengals significantly overhauled the NFL's worst run defense of last season - 149 yards allowed per game -- and had a tough start against the Chargers, who ran for 155. Now it faces a Cleveland offense with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb.

''I'd say they can both get 100 yards, either one of them,'' linebacker Germaine Pratt said.

Hunt and Chubb combined for 132 last week against Baltimore's tough front.

KICKING AND SCREAMING

The Browns gave Austin Seibert two chances. His next one could be for the Bengals.

Cleveland waived Seibert after he missed a field goal and extra-point try last week. The second-year kicker was claimed by Cincinnati as insurance for Randy Bullock, whose calf cramped on his miss from 31 yards with 2 seconds left last week.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor expects Bullock, who practiced on Tuesday, to handle kicking duties against the Browns.

HISTORY

Centennial Plaza in Canton will be dedicated during halftime. More than 25,000 names adorn 11 ''Player Pylons'' placed in the plaza. Everyone who played a down in an NFL regular or postseason game has been etched into posterity on the pylons' surfaces.

Centennial Plaza is a public space intended to be open 365 days a year.

Player Notes
Cleveland Browns Sep 18 12:20am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense picked up three sacks in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cleveland also recovered a Joe Burrow fumble near the Cincinnati goal line in the game, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Myles Garrett led the way as he was the one who forced the Burrow fumble on a sack in the third quarter. The Browns offense cashed in on that turnover two plays later on a Nick Chubb one-yard touchdown run. Cleveland's defense has another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Beckham and Baker Mayfield connected for a pretty 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Cleveland their second TD of the evening. That went in the books as Beckham's first score of the 2020 season. The star receiver has now drawn 16 targets through the first two games of the season, totalling seven catches for 96 yards. He will be a solid WR2 in Week 3 when he faces the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Michael Pittman Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was a limited practice participant on Thursday after not showing up on the injury report on Wednesday. Pittman should be good to go on Sunday against the Vikings as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The talented big-bodied receiver played fewer snaps than Zach Pascal in the season opener, finishing with two catches for only 10 yards in his NFL debut. Even if tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) doesn't play, Pittman is too far down the pecking order in Indy's passing game to be considered a viable fantasy starter in most leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught three of his four targets for 46 yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was a quiet game for Landry, who can normally be counted upon to see more than four targets in most games. That being said, the Cleveland offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to be run-heavy, which will cut into Landry's looks. Landry has caught eight of 10 targets for 107 scoreless yards through the first two games of the season. He will take on the Washington Football Team in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Duke Johnson Sep 18 12:10am ET

Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday for the second straight day. Johnson was listed as week-to-week after suffering an ankle injury last Thursday in the season opener, but it looks as though he's made some quick progress. However, even if the 27-year-old winds up playing against a nasty Ravens Defense this week, he'll be a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. Buddy Howell is set to be the primary backup to David Johnson if Duke Johnson has to sit this one out.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper caught two of four targets for 21 scoreless yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was another quiet game for Hooper, who only caught two passes for 15 yards in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. There was some hope he would have more chances in Week 2 after David Njoku was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. It didn't help that the Browns only attempted 23 passes in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. With just four catches for 36 yards through two games, Hooper is slipping into low-end TE2 territory in fantasy. He will look to rebound in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Nick Chubb Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 22 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Chubb also tacked on a nine-yard reception on the way to Cleveland's first win of the season. It was an excellent performance for Chubb, who had a quiet game in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He capped off Cleveland's first drive with an 11-yard TD run and then scored on a one-yard plunge in the third. Chubb now has 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns after the first two weeks of the season. He will be a strong play in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt had a big day in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Hunt carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards and a score while adding two catches for 15 yards and another TD in the winning effort. Hunt got wide open behind the closest defender on his touchdown reception, an easy six-yard grab near the right pylon toward the end of the second quarter. He later tacked on what would be Cleveland's final score on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. The veteran running back has been busy over Cleveland's first two games, racking up 23 rushes and six receptions. The new Cleveland coaching staff seems more inclined to use Hunt than the previous regime did in 2019, which bodes well for his fantasy value going forward. Hunt will be a solid option in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Jack Doyle Sep 18 12:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday. The Pro Bowl tight end is now in serious doubt to play in Week 2 against the Vikings. With Trey Burton already on the shelf with an injury, Mo Alie-Cox would be forced into a starting role if Doyle can't suit up this weekend. Doyle played 54 offensive snaps in the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and was targeted four times, finishing with three catches for 49 yards. For now, consider Doyle a very shaky TE2 this weekend. He'll need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at playing. Receivers T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. could see more targets if Doyle is inactive.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Diontae Johnson (toe) all returned to practice on Thursday. Conner, who was an injury disappointment in 2019, was injured in the season opener and gave way to an efficient Benny Snell Jr. If Conner can avoid setbacks on Friday, he should be ready to go for Week 2 against the Broncos, although it's fair to wonder how much time he'll split with Snell. Snell will be the more attractive RB3/flex for fantasy managers until the Steelers show that they're willing to go back to Conner as the featured back. Smith-Schuster and Johnson should both be fine and could both feast against a young and inexperienced Denver secondary. Smith-Schuster had two touchdowns in Week 1 and is a must-start WR1. Johnson is more of a WR3/flex with upside now that Ben Roethlisberger is back and healthy.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 23 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Mayfield was effective in the win, finding Odell Beckham Jr. for a 43-yard score in the second quarter and a wide-open Kareem Hunt for a six-yard touchdown right before the half. It was a much-needed outing for Mayfield, who had begun to hear whispers that his starting job wasn't safe after a Week 1 loss. Mayfield heads into Week 3's showdown with the Washington Football Team with three touchdowns and two interceptions through two games.

From RotoBaller

John Brown Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (foot) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Barring a setback, Brown should be expected to suit up in Week 2 against the Dolphins. The 30-year-old had six catches on a team-high 10 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Jets, but he should see a lot of cornerback Byron Jones this Sunday. Brown beat Miami for three touchdowns in his two meetings with them last year, but things might be a bit more difficult this time around. Don't forget that Stefon Diggs is Buffalo's top wideout. Treat Brown as a WR3/flex this week and don't expect a repeat of his Week 1 numbers.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Uzomah Sep 17 11:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) has been declared out for the Thursday night game after leaving the contest on a cart with an Achilles injury. The only good news here is that Uzomah had four receptions on six targets for 42 yards and a touchdown before departing with what looks to be a serious injury. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (45) in Week 1, too, catching four of his five targets. If Uzomah is forced to miss considerable time, Drew Sample should step in as the primary pass-catching tight end for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. A long-term injury would also likely mean more targets for the receiving corps of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross.

From RotoBaller

Amari Cooper Sep 17 11:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday, while left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) sat out. With La'el Collins and Cam Erving already on Injured Reserve, Smith's injury is one to watch heading into Week 2 against the Falcons. Cooper should be good to go this weekend as long as he doesn't suffer a setback in practice on Friday. If he were to sit out on Sunday, rookie CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup would see more targets in the passing game, especially with tight end Blake Jarwin out for the season. But if Cooper is active as expected, he'll be a surefire WR1 against a defense that was carved up by Russell Wilson in Week 1.

From RotoBaller

Robert Woods Sep 17 11:20pm ET

On the heels of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp's long-term contract extension, head coach Sean McVay said that the team wants to give wide receiver Robert Woods an extension next. "We want to get him extended, too. He's a huge part of what we're doing. So, that's something that, I think, is definitely important," McVay said. Woods had six catches for 105 yards in the Week 1 win over the Cowboys, and the 28-year-old has back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Kupp might be quarterback Jared Goff's favorite target, but Woods isn't far behind. He has a consistent target share in this offense and is one of the safest WR2 options in football. Against a leaky Philly secondary, Woods has WR1 upside in Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Clyde Edwards-Helaire Sep 17 11:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 138 yards in his first NFL game and leads the league in that department after just one week, but the young back needs to improve near the goal line. He gained minus-two yards on six carries in goal-to-go situations against the Texans. Running backs coach Deland McCullough suggested that the rookie would remain the team's goal-line back in Week 2 against the Chargers. "Although it was a good performance, he knows he left some things out there on the field that could have helped us to be better," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. Fantasy managers shouldn't worry, as CEH should continue to see a big workload. He's a must-start each and every week in this explosive Chiefs offense.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Sep 17 11:10pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) missed practice for the second straight day and is unlikely to play in Week 2 against the Raiders on Monday night at this point while dealing with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1. It's a really tough blow for those that took the All-Pro wideout in the first round of their fantasy drafts, but you'll have to be patient as he works his way back. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should be the team's top receivers with Thomas on the shelf, with Tre'Quan Smith serving as the No. 2 receiver behind Sanders. Veteran quarterback Drew Brees will have a lower ceiling without his go-to target in the fold, but he could still put up QB1 numbers on Monday night.

From RotoBaller

Miles Sanders Sep 17 11:00pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring) practiced in full for the second straight day on Thursday, making it likely that he'll make his season debut in Week 2 against the Rams. Sanders was inactive for the season-opening upset to the Washington Football Team, with backup Boston Scott and company unable to get much going on the ground. With Alshon Jeffery still out with an injury and rookie Jalen Reagor being eased into things with his injury, Sanders should see plenty of work in his season debut, assuming he's close to full strength. Against a Rams Defense that was gashed by Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, Sanders is a borderline RB1 this week.

From RotoBaller

James Robinson Sep 17 8:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson had a strong NFL debut in Week 1, rushing for 62 yards on 16 carries and adding a 28-yard reception. He played 68 percent of Jacksonville's snaps. While this Week 2 game against the Titans isn't prime for Robinson to have a breakout performance, his projected role gives him a relatively high floor and makes him worth a look as a fantasy flex option. No one else on the active roster right now should challenge Robinson for the job as the early-down back.

From RotoBaller

D.J. Chark Sep 17 8:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. caught a touchdown in Week 1, but also was targeted just three times, catching all of them for 25 yards. Against a good Titans Defense this week, Chark's got a lot of downside. His low volume of work last week could be an anomaly, but it could also signal that quarterback Gardner Minshew II is set to spread the ball around this season, limiting the upside of each of his weapons. Chark's still the top fantasy receiver here, but there's a lot more risk than there was in 2019, even if it's really tough to justify sitting the third-year wideout.

From RotoBaller