Battle of the Heismans
In this week's Thursday Night Football matchup, we'll see 2017 and 2019's Heisman Trophy Winners face off in a battle of the AFC North. Each of them was drafted as the first-overall pick in his respective draft to teams that sorely needed gutted and remodeled from top to bottom
Notes from Cleveland: As someone who literally named their dog after Baker Mayfield, I can officially say it's time to be concerned. The flashes from Mayfield's rookie season seem long gone, and the confidence that once helped to carry a chip on his shoulder seems to have fizzled. Among the 32 starting quarterbacks in Week 1, Mayfield had 66.7% adjusted completion percentage - the third-lowest - and tied for 0.26 fantasy points per drop back - the second-fewest in the league. He completed just 58.3% of passes from a clean pocket, the second-lowest among QBs to start the season. The list of reasons to be concerned for Mayfield's regression as a passer goes on and on.
Notes from Cincinnati: Joe Burrow has been described by many as the most pro-ready rookie quarterback of his class, and his teammates have spoken highly of his leadership throughout training camp. He's just too cool for school; nothing seems to bother him. It's a characteristic that can't be taught. There's no playbook for emotional intelligence. As for the physicality of Burrow himself, he stands strong in the pocket and doesn't get flustered under pressure. He and his receivers certainly need more work with timing, too.
What We Should Expect: It wouldn't be surprising to see each of these teams deploy a run-heavy approach to alleviate pressure on each of their respective quarterbacks. For Mayfield, establishing the run may help with Mayfield's efficiency and alleviate some pressure from opposing defenses. For Burrow, the establishing the run may provide him just a moment longer in the pocket to progress in his read. It's a win-win game plan for each of these young QBs.
Questions in the Backfield
Both the Browns and Bengals backfields have some questions as we start to make our way through the 2020 NFL season.
Notes from Cleveland: The Browns have one of the best 1-2 punch running back sets in the NFL in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. We still have some questions about how they'll be deployed however. The Ravens quickly ran up the score, which didn't allow the team much time to run out the clock, though both Chubb and Hunt were moving the chains well.
Notes from Cincinnati: The question for the Bengals isn't who will be receiving touches but is rather what Joe Mixon will produce on those touches. Mixon has been utilized heavily since drafted in 2017, averaging nearly 16 rushing attempts and 2.5 receptions per game. With all of that he remains inefficient with 3.6 yards per rushing attempt and had just one run of 10+ yards to start the season ... the second-fewest of any back to see at least 17 rushing attempts on the week.
What We Should Expect: Hunt saw 17 touches to Chubb's 11 and saw the team's only carry inside the five-yard line on the day. Each back exceeded 5.5 yards per attempt and 4.0 yards after contact per attempt to rank in the top-10 among RBs in Week 1. An ideal game plan? Get each of these backs 15+ touches per game and reset the spotlight anywhere but with Baker Mayfield. Whether Mixon does much with his own carries, he's a must-play start on the premise of volume alone and where he was drafted in fantasy football leagues.
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RB Miles Sanders practiced in full Wednesday after missing the Eagles' Week 1 matchup versus the Washington Football team. His presence will be a welcome addition to the offense, which had just two drives of more than 17 yards in the second half. QB Carson Wentz took eight sacks in the game. ... The Broncos placed CB A.J. Bouye on injured reserve with a shoulder dislocation. ... Bucs WR Chris Godwin was placed in the concussion protocol on Wednesday after Sunday's matchup against the Saints. If he is indeed out, expect to bet the over on WR Scotty Miller, who has curried favor with Brady through the offseason and saw a career-high in receptions and receiving yards in Week 1 ... Broncos WR Courtland Sutton got in a limited practice Wednesday, an encouraging sign for his Week 2 availability. Rumor has it that his ability to do 10 jumping jacks is the benchmark to clear him to play following his AC joint sprain. If he returns, we may see less involvement for TE Noah Fant. ... WR DeVante Parker left Sunday's matchup against the Patriots with a slight hamstring injury and could be on track to return to the field in Week 2. If he does, he is a liability as a starter in fantasy considering the matchup versus the Bills and potential to dial back his workload. ... DB Richard Sherman was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain. The 49ers simply cannot keep players on the field.
Some Wednesday DNP's worth watching: Steelers RB James Conner got the DNP tag Wednesday after spraining his ankle Monday night against the Giants. It's possible he'll be ready to roll against the Broncos. If he's not, Benny Snell looks as though he's made some significant strides in the offseason and could provide instant RB2 value. ... TE George Kittle sat out of practice with a sprained knee Wednesday and remains questionable for game day. Even if active, we should expect limited snaps, and therefore fewer targets. WR Brandon Aiyuk didn't practice either, leaving their receiving options extremely limited. Worth noting: Trent Taylor saw four red zone targets in Week 1 and two of the team's end zone targets. It may be worth dropping a couple of bucks on his odds to score a touchdown in Week 2.