The winless Cleveland Browns remained competitive through halftime on Thursday night against Baltimore before the Ravens punched the gas pedal in the second half and pulled away to a 28-7 victory.
Cleveland held the Ravens to just two first half field goals and rolled into halftime with a 7-6 lead, only to fold after intermission. Rookie QB Cody Kessler looked timid in the pocket while completing 11 of 18 pass attempts, prompting coach Hue Jackson to replace the young quarterback with Josh McCown. The quarterback switch promptly backfired on Cleveland, with McCown going 6/13 for just 59 yards and turning the ball over three times in a brutal performance. The Cleveland running game didn’t fare any better, as the Browns ran for a mere 33 yards on 13 attempts, led by Isaiah Crowell’s 23 yards on nine chances. Crowell did chip-in with 30 receiving yards on three receptions, but once again was not afforded many rushing opportunities with the Browns trailing late. Fellow Browns running back Duke Johnson handled only five touches on the night for 31 total yards and has become unplayable in fantasy leagues.
The Ravens managed to take advantage of a prime matchup, racking up 396 total yards against the struggling Cleveland defense. The Browns own the NFL’s second-worst run defense and the Ravens did run for 119 yards, but RB Terrance West turned in an uninspired 65 yards on a healthy 21-carry workload. Rookie Kenneth Dixon was far more productive in his opportunities, running for 38 yards on six carries and racking up 42 receiving yards on five catches. The Baltimore backfield has been stagnant for weeks, but Dixon could have the most upside for fantasy owners looking for a spark down the stretch.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco overcame a pair of tough turnovers to turn in a productive fantasy night. Flacco finished with 296 yards and a trio of scores to go with the two interceptions, and targeted six different players four times or more on the night. Flacco delivered in a cushy streaming spot for fantasy owners, but the Baltimore quarterback should be safely placed back on the waiver wire with no advantageous matchups looming in the foreseeable future.
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Browns at Ravens Quick Slants
Timeless veteran Steve Smith Sr. caught five passes for 60 yards and a score, his second touchdown of the season, on a team-high seven targets. … Corey Coleman caught three passes early but was quiet for most of the evening. Coleman saw five targets and won’t be a reliable fantasy asset until the Cleveland quarterback situations smooths out. Please do not hold your breath waiting for that to occur. … Breshad Perriman hauled in three of four targets for 64 yards and a score in the finest performance of his young career. … Gary Barnidge caught just one of four targets on the night and watched rookie TE Seth DeValve catch a 25-yard touchdown. Barnidge’s fantasy stock is trending down quickly. … Terrelle Pryor caught five passes on a team-high nine targets for 48 yards. Pryor looked the part again on Thursday night but was limited by the ineptitude of the Cleveland offense. … Dennis Pitta’s night in PPR leagues was saved by six receptions to go with just 26 yards.
In Other News…
Doug Martin (hamstring) has been back at practice this week and is reportedly “hopeful” that he will return to the field in Week 10. Martin’s troublesome hammy has rendered him useless to fantasy owners since the second week of the season, but a return is nearly a reality. With Jacquizz Rodgers (foot) set to miss Sunday’s game, Peyton Barber will draw another start and lead the Tampa Bay backfield with Martin likely on a snap count if he does indeed return. The Chicago defense has been tough on opposing running games in recent weeks, so the Bucs backfield could be a tough nut to crack this week.
Dion Lewis (knee, PUP) has been on the practice field this week and has a shot at seeing playing time on Sunday night when the Patriots host the Seattle Seahawks. Lewis will slide back into the New England backfield alongside LeGarrette Blount and James White, and has a serious chance to provide a boost to fantasy squads down the stretch. While Lewis warrants owning in fantasy leagues of all varieties, he may be eased into action in Week 10 against Seattle.
Rob Kelley has been labeled as Washington’s “first-string” running back by coach Jay Gruden, slotting him ahead of Chris Thompson and Matt Jones for a Week 10 game against Minnesota. Jones’ spiral down the Washington depth chart continues, and The Washington Post even believes he could be a healthy inactive this week. Kelley has rumbled for 5.0 yards per carry on the season and rolled for 87 yards on 21 carries in the lead back role in Week 8. Kelley is a decent RB2 option against the Minnesota defense that has allowed 118.7 rushing yards per game since Week 6.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans has passed the NFL concussion protocol and will be ready to roll on Sunday when the Buccaneers host the Chicago Bears. Evans has seen double-digit targets in seven of eight games, and is averaging a beefy 12.9 targets per game on the season. Evans will be an excellent top-tier receiving option on Sunday.
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Per the USA Today, Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly being investigated by the NFL regarding a domestic violence incident from February. There is no reason to expect any disciplinary action from the league at this point, but the investigation is a bit concerning. … Todd Gurley (thigh) did not practice on Thursday and should be monitored as Sunday approaches. … Carlos Hyde (shoulder) has been limited at practice this week but is reportedly optimistic about his chances of suiting up this week. DuJuan Harris will fill-in once again if Hyde sits. … Randall Cobb (hamstring) was limited at practice on Thursday but should be ready to play on Sunday against Tennessee. … Jeremy Maclin (groin) missed practice on Thursday and will likely miss Week 10. … Tevin Coleman (hamstring) hasn’t practiced this week and is a dicey bet to return to the field for the first time since Week 7. … DeSean Jackson (shoulder) has not practiced this week and is not expected to play on Sunday against Minnesota. … Derrick Henry (calf) missed practice on Thursday but expects to return on Friday. Henry will be a risky flex option on Sunday if he does indeed suit up. … James Starks (knee) practiced on Thursday and should return to the Green Bay backfield this week alongside Ty Montgomery. … Thomas Rawls (fibula) is back at practice, but has been limited while attempting to return from a leg injury. Rawls is expected back in Week 11. … DeAngelo Williams (knee) underwent knee surgery this week and will miss roughly a month of action. Fitzgerald Toussaint will back up Le’Veon Bell while Williams is sidelined. … Ladarius Green (PUP, ankle) appears ready to make his Steelers debut in Week 11, but will be a risky fantasy play in his first game action of the season. … Allen Hurns (concussion) remains in the league concussion protocol and should be monitored over the weekend. Marqise Lee could steal extra targets if Hurns misses action.
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