Bengals in the mix in tough AFC North? Right now, they are

Thu Oct 21 11:43pm ET
AP Pro Football Writer

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Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates a defensive stop against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches as Detroit Lions cornerback Jerry Jacobs (39) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

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Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) dives into the end zone for a touchdown ahead of Buffalo Bills cornerback Levi Wallace (39) in the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after scoring a 9-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

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Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt (99) tackles Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) as Mayfield fumbles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. Mayfield was injured on the play. (AP Photo/David Richard)

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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins celebrates after scoring a 13-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Nearly everyone expected a tight race for the AFC North title, which also could carry a playoff bye with it.

Not many of those prognosticators would have cited the Bengals as being in the division mix. Yet, if they win at Baltimore on Sunday, the Bengals (4-2) will be tied for the top spot with the Ravens (5-1), and looking back at Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

How did this happen? Cincinnati not the Bungles in 2021?

They have a solid defense led by linebacker Logan Wilson, and an emerging attack with Joe Burrow throwing to an upgraded group of receivers that includes first-round draft choice Ja'Marr Chase.

''Ja'Marr just keeps being that spark for us,'' Burrow says. ''When we have a guy like that, and when you have the connection we have, (they) can't fall asleep on defense when you have that guy.''

This can be a true statement game for Cincinnati. The resourceful Ravens have overcome a slew of injuries and pulled off some stunning wins. Plus, Baltimore has won the past five meetings, including the past three by a combined score of 114-19. The Ravens are 5-1 for the fourth time in franchise history and the second straight season. They have never started 6-1.

The way Lamar Jackson is playing, nothing seems beyond Baltimore's reach.

''He understands this offense so well,'' tight end Mark Andrews says of his quarterback. ''He's always had great ball placement and great eyes, but just the way he's seeing the game, the game is progressing. It's slowed down to him a bunch.''

The action began Thursday night, when Case Keenum stepped in for Baker Mayfield and made the most of his first start in two years, leading Cleveland's injury-ravaged offense and the Browns to a 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos.

Off this week are Buffalo (4-2), Dallas (5-1), Jacksonville (1-5), Minnesota (3-3), Pittsburgh (3-3) and the Los Angeles Chargers (4-2).

Detroit (0-6) at Los Angeles Rams (5-1); Houston (1-5) at Arizona (6-0)

Mismatches galore: The points spreads for these two games hover around a total of 33.

Detroit is the NFL's only winless team and has lost 10 straight, going back to last year, the league's longest active losing streak. The Lions were routed by Cincinnati last Sunday, but before that showed lots of spunk. Coach Dan Campbell questioned quarterback Jared Goff's performance, and now Goff returns to LA, from which the Rams dealt him to Detroit for Matthew Stafford. A trade that looks massively one-sided.

''Appreciate my time in Detroit, appreciate all the players I played with, all the coaches that coached me and everybody else on our team,'' Stafford says. ''But I don't spend too much time thinking about it or reading that narrative, to be honest with you.''

The Cardinals are the lone unbeaten team, they come off an impressive win in Cleveland, and it would be shocking to see them stumble against the Texans, losers of five straight. Here are two good reasons why: J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins.

Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year for Houston, got his first sack for Arizona against the Browns, deflected a pass in the fourth quarter two weeks ago to help the Cardinals hold on against the 49ers, and has become a presence up front. Hopkins, traded to Arizona before the 2020 season, has caught three TD passes over the past two weeks.

Arizona hopes to have coach Kliff Kingsbury and three players back from the COVID-19 list, including sackmaster Chandler Jones.

Washington (2-4) at Green Bay (5-1)

A pair of 2020 division winners headed in opposite directions.

Green Bay has won five in a row and Aaron Rodgers has thrown 12 touchdown passes with only one interception during the streak. The Packers have won their past five home matchups with Washington; the previous time Washington won at Lambeau Field was in 1988.

Washington was supposed to be stingy on defense. Well, it ranks last in stopping the pass and in scoring, and is 31st overall.

Kansas City (3-3) at Tennessee (4-2)

After a scintillating win over Buffalo, the Titans take on the other team from the 2020 conference championship game. A victory could have them singing Super Bowl ditties in Music City.

Look for the scoreboard operators to be busy. Neither defense has shown the ability to take command, which means Patrick Mahomes could be completing tons of passes for KC, Derrick Henry might be rushing for hundreds of yards for Tennessee.

Mahomes says the Chiefs aren't close to where they need to be. He knows Henry is close to being unstoppable.

''The way he's able to run the football, to get 20 to 30, whatever, 40 carries it is and then he comes back the next week and he seems like he's just as fresh as the week before,'' Mahomes said.

''He's a special talent who works his tail off to be who he is, and so we understand it's going to be a great challenge for any defense to stop him.''

Philadelphia (2-4) at Las Vegas (4-2)

Following their impressive response to the Jon Gruden mess - a strong performance in a victory at Denver - the Raiders must show some staying power. Las Vegas had seven pass plays of at least 25 yards last week, the most in a game since at least 1991. The Raiders averaged 8.19 yards per play for their best performance since 1997.

They also found a pass rush, with Maxx Crosby involved in all five sacks. Philly, the most penalized team (54), also can pressure the passer.

Chicago (3-3) at Tampa Bay (5-1)

Nobody envies Chicago, which goes from Aaron Rodgers, who yelled so accurately during last's week's win at Soldier Field that he owns the Bears, to Tom Brady.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion will need protection against a defense that leads the NFL with 21 sacks. If he gets it, there's no reason to think Tampa Bay won't put up a bunch of points. The Bucs top the league in passing and are third in scoring. Meanwhile, only the Texans and Jets are averaging fewer points than the Bears.

Brady is 5-1 lifetime against the Bears, with the lone loss coming last season. In those six career meetings, Brady has thrown for 308 yards per game and 15 touchdowns overall.

Indianapolis (2-4) at San Francisco (2-3)

Jimmy Garoppolo returns at quarterback for the Niners, who come off a bye during which they stewed about three consecutive defeats. The Colts have won the past four meetings in the series. San Francisco's previous win came in 2001 when it intercepted Peyton Manning four times in a 40-21 victory. That loss led to then-Colts coach Jim Mora's ''playoffs'' rant.

Folks in Indy are raving, not ranting, about running back Jonathan Taylor. He ran for 145 yards in last week's victory over Houston and had 116 yards receiving the previous week at Baltimore. In his past 13 games, Taylor has 1,291 yards rushing and 12 TD runs.

New Orleans (3-2) at Seattle (2-4), Monday night

Even before Russell Wilson was sidelined because of finger surgery, Seattle had lost some luster as a difficult place to play.

The Seahawks are 0-2 at home in 2021, lost a wild-card playoff game there last season, and their defense, despite the outstanding play of linebacker Bobby Wagner, is more a Legion of Gloom. The previous time Seattle dropped four consecutive home games was 2008 when the Seahawks lost five straight.

Coming off a bye, the Saints have the second-best run defense, allowing 79 yards per game. With Wilson out, Seattle wants to run the ball but is injury-ravaged in its backfield.

New York Jets (1-4) at New England (2-4)

Even as the Patriots have become mediocre without Brady, they've handled the Jets. A win Sunday would give them 12 in a row, the past four without their star QB. The Patriots have a 17-4 record against the Jets at Gillette Stadium and seek their sixth straight season sweep and 22nd sweep overall vs. the Jets. New York last beat New England in Week 16 of the 2015 season, and hasn't won at the Patriots in the regular season since Nov. 13, 2008.

Carolina (3-3) at New York Giants (1-5)

Considering all of their injuries and ineptitude on offense, the Giants' best weapon could be kicker Graham Gano. Indeed, the Panthers' past two wins over New York came on field goals by the current Giants placekicker, including a career-long 63-yarder in 2018.

Carolina has lost its past three outings, not coincidentally games standout running back Christian McCaffrey was sidelined for. The Panthers had eight drops in last week's game, including three each by wideouts D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson.

Atlanta (2-3) at Miami (1-5)

So the Dolphins lose in London to the Jaguars, then don't take the bye week and now must face a Falcons team that was off last weekend following a win at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against the Jets? Go figure.

Miami is 9-0 when it scores at least 20 points against Atlanta, 0-4 otherwise.

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The Paur Report

Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12

Player Notes
Ian Thomas Nov 27 12:20pm ET
Ian Thomas

Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas should be far away from starting lineups in Week 12. The 25-year-old has posted three receptions for 26 yards total in the last three games and that goes to show how little of a role he has in this offense. There are much better TE options to start in fantasy this week.

From RotoBaller

Melvin Gordon Nov 27 12:20pm ET
Melvin Gordon

The Denver Broncos still have plenty of confidence in running back Melvin Gordon III despite the fact that he's fumbled twice in the last three games, and his last one in Week 10 was returned for a touchdown. "Melvin's one of the top backs in this league," head coach Vic Fangio said. Despite the fumbling issues, Gordon leads the team with 522 rushing yards on 118 carries (4.4 yards per carry) and has found the end zone seven times (five rushing, two receiving) while sharing snaps with rookie Javonte Williams almost evenly. There's no reason to think the Broncos will change their backfield game plan in Week 12 against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that is surrendering the most rushing yards per game (145.1). Gordon will be an RB2 in fantasy in this revenge game.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Nov 27 12:20pm ET
Tua Tagovailoa

The Carolina Panthers defense is a top-five option for Week 12 against the Dolphins. This unit has gotten 30 sacks, eight picks, and 14 forced fumbles on the season thus far. While they do allow more points in some games, this unit has generally done a good job against weaker offenses. The Dolphins don't have an explosive offense and Tua Tagovailoa is still a young QB who is prone to mistakes, so there is reason to stream the Panthers defense this week with confidence.

From RotoBaller

Jakobi Meyers Nov 27 12:20pm ET
Jakobi Meyers

New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has failed to surpass 50 receiving yards in each of his last six games. Although, it's worth noting that Meyers has seen four or more targets in every game this season. His production has been inconsistent, which makes him a difficult fantasy option on a weekly basis. Fantasy managers should consider Meyers a low-end flex option in PPR formats for Week 12. He'll face off against a Tennessee Titans defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to wideouts this season. The Patriots aren't exactly a pass-heavy team, but this is a favorable matchup for Meyers. The targets should be there, which makes him a solid candidate for PPR formats in Week 12.

From RotoBaller

D.J. Moore Nov 27 12:10pm ET
D.J. Moore

Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore is a WR2 option in Week 12 against the Dolphins. Moore's production has dipped a bit recently after a hot start to the season. In the last three games, he's posted 50 yards only once. Still, the WR is the top pass-catching option on this team and the target share will be there each week. Miami allows the second-most fantasy points to wideouts, so this could be the week Moore gets back on track.

From RotoBaller

Teddy Bridgewater Nov 27 12:10pm ET
Teddy Bridgewater

Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is coming off the bye week looking to put the team's disappointing Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the rearview mirror. A week after a huge upset over the Dallas Cowboys, Bridgewater went 22-for-36 for 226 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Bridgewater hasn't turned the ball over since Week 7, but he has only thrown for 300-plus yards twice this year and not since Week 6. The Los Angeles Chargers defense won't exactly make it easy on Bridgewater to put up big numbers, either -- they've allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards per game (209.9), although they've been more generous to QBs in recent weeks in fantasy. In Denver's run-first, ball-control offense, Bridgewater will come out of the bye as a low-end QB2 once again.

From RotoBaller

Robby Anderson Nov 27 12:10pm ET
Robby Anderson

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson should remain on benches for the Week 12 clash against the Dolphins. The WR has a been a super disappointing fantasy option all season, not having posted more than 40 yards in a game since early October. Despite having a good target share in most games, Anderson cannot seem to take advantage of that. Because of his low production, he shouldn't be trusted even in a matchup with a Dolphins squad that allows the second-most fantasy points to WRs.

From RotoBaller

J.J. Taylor Nov 27 12:10pm ET
J.J. Taylor

New England Patriots running back J.J. Taylor was a healthy scratch last week. In fact, Taylor has only played in five games this season. Although, he could be asked to step up for the Week 12 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Both Damien Harris (neck) and Rhamondre Stevenson (knee) are listed as questionable for this contest. That leaves Taylor and Brandon Bolden as the primary options. However, fantasy managers shouldn't get too excited. The only time Taylor was productive was in Week 7 when he posted a two-touchdown performance. It's uncertain if Harris or Stevenson will actually be inactive yet. Taylor would be a desperation deep league option even with an expanded role.

From RotoBaller

Mac Jones Nov 27 12:00pm ET
Mac Jones

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has thrown for over 230 yards just once over his last six games. Despite that, his team has won every game, but one of those contests. The rookie quarterback isn't putting together superstar numbers, but is helping his team win. That being said, Jones is unlikely to be worth streaming against the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. A defense that ranks ninth in pass DVOA this season. There isn't a ton of upside here with the Pats being a run-heavy offense. Jones will be towards the bottom in terms of streaming options at QB this week. It's not because he's bad, but because he normally doesn't produce reliable fantasy numbers.

From RotoBaller

Cam Newton Nov 27 12:00pm ET
Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is in the QB1 conversation against Miami in Week 12. The QB has been fantastic since returning to his old squad. He has now posted five touchdowns in the last two games, three passing and two rushing. The 32-year-old has proved he still has it in terms of his dual-threat abilities. The Dolphins allow the seventh-most points to fantasy QBs, so Newton is a solid start.

From RotoBaller

Christian McCaffrey Nov 27 12:00pm ET
Christian McCaffrey

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is a solid RB1 against Miami. The RB has accumulated at least 52 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards in the last three games and always has a high chance to get over 100 yards of scrimmage in any contest given his large role. Miami is somewhat stingy to fantasy backs, but McCaffrey's rich volume still makes him an elite play.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Bolden Nov 27 12:00pm ET
Brandon Bolden

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden is coming off one of his worst games of the season. He finished with one rushing yard and two receptions for 15 yards last week. Now, he could see a significant role in the offense versus the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. Both Damien Harris (neck) and Rhamondre Stevenson (knee) are listed as questionable heading into this contest. That means, Bolden and J.J. Taylor could be asked to pick up the slack, assuming both players are out. A majority of Bolden's value does come in the receiving game. However, two inactive backs would mean more chances for Bolden. A could have some sneaky PPR value, but it would be dependent on the status of Harris and Stevenson.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Nov 27 11:10am ET
Kareem Hunt

The Cleveland Browns officially activated running back Kareem Hunt (calf) and offensive tackle Jack Conklin (elbow) from Injured Reserve on Saturday, and both players are on track to play on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. It's great news for a Browns offense that has been slowed of late due to all the injuries to quarterback Baker Mayfield. Hunt has been out since Week 6, so it's fair to wonder if his snaps will be limited in his first game back. The 26-year-old had carved out standalone value in PPR leagues before his injury despite splitting backfield work with Nick Chubb. At the very worst, Hunt will probably be in play as an RB3/flex this week, even though the Ravens have been more vulnerable deep down the field than against RBs this season.

From RotoBaller

Mack Hollins Nov 27 11:10am ET
Mack Hollins

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Mack Hollins is coming off his best performance of the season. Last week, he hauled in two receptions for 72 yards and one touchdown in the win. That is not exactly an outstanding performance, but Hollins hasn't been involved much this season. There is a good chance he is quiet again versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. A defense that ranks second in pass DVOA heading into this contest. There might be a few targets for Hollins, but it won't be enough to warrant starting him in any formats. There are too many options ahead of him in the pecking order in Miami.

From RotoBaller

Blake Jarwin Nov 27 11:10am ET
Blake Jarwin

The Dallas Cowboys placed tight end Blake Jarwin on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday after he tested positive for the virus. Jarwin is also currently on Injured Reserve after he suffered a serious hip injury in Week 8. However, the 27-year-old has already missed four games, so if is asymptomatic and returns two negative tests, there's a chance he could be eligible to play next Thursday against the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys have yet to open his 21-day window to return from IR, though, so we'd be surprised if Jarwin is active for Week 13. Jarwin can be left to the waiver wire in most leagues, as he has only 10 catches on 15 targets for 90 yards and two touchdowns in seven games this year as the clear No. 2 TE option in Dallas behind Dalton Schultz when he's healthy.

From RotoBaller

Mike Gesicki Nov 27 11:00am ET
Mike Gesicki

Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki has seen at least six targets in all, but two games this season. The Dolphins continue to work the 26-year-old heavily into their weekly gameplan. Sadly, Gesicki could have some trouble making noise against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. He'll get to play against the second ranked pass defense in DVOA this season. The targets should be there, but Gesicki has also posted two zero-reception duds as well. Despite that, Gesicki should be considered a low-end TE1 for this matchup.

From RotoBaller

Albert Wilson Nov 27 11:00am ET
Albert Wilson

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson has seen an increased workload over the last few weeks. Sadly, the increase in targets hasn't exactly resulted in better results. In fact, Wilson has only surpassed 20 receiving yards in a single game once this season. That is unlikely going to change against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. A defense that ranks second in pass DVOA this season. There could be a handful of targets for Wilson, but that won't be enough to warrant starting him in any formats.

From RotoBaller

Myles Gaskin Nov 27 10:50am ET
Myles Gaskin

Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin has been held to 60 rushing yards or less in every game, but three this season. However, Gaskin is coming off a season-high 89 yards in Week 11. He also saw a season-high 23 carries in that performance. Now, he'll head into a fairly favorable matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. A defense that ranks 19th in rush DVOA this season. The absence of Malcolm Brown (quad) has increased Gaskin's involvement in the offense. Fantasy managers should be able to count on Gaskin as a RB2 for this week.

From RotoBaller

Jaylen Waddle Nov 27 10:50am ET
Jaylen Waddle

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has seen eight or more targets in five of his last six games. The Dolphins continue to work the rookie into their gameplan with DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Will Fuller (finger) still sidelined. Sadly, the Dolphins could have trouble getting Waddle the ball in Week 12. He'll head into a matchup against the Carolina Panthers who rank second in pass DVOA this season. Over the last three games, Waddle has been able to surpass 60 receiving yards in all of them. However, that streak could come to an end against Carolina. Fantasy managers should consider Waddle a WR3 in PPR formats for this matchup.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Nov 27 10:40am ET
Tua Tagovailoa

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been an inconsistent fantasy option all season long. However, it's worth noting Tagovailoa has three multiple touchdown games in three of his last five games. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that he is going to succeed against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. A defense that ranks second in pass DVOA this season. The Dolphins have limited weapons and one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Fantasy managers should continue to consider Tagovailoa a QB2 moving forward.

From RotoBaller