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Giants COVID-19 close contacts able to return to work Friday

The New York Giants received the good kind of positive COVID-19 news.

After sending home several players Thursday following a positive COVID-19 test after close contact tracing, those players were able to return to work Friday.

The team announced that all of the Giants’ close contacts under the COVID protocols who remained home Thursday would be back with the team today.

“The team will hold its meetings remotely and will practice at MetLife Stadium due to wet grounds at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center,” the club’s statement read.

The news indicates that all other players tested negative in the most recent round of testing.

Big Blue quarantined all but four of their offensive linemen after one tested positive for COVID-19, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Thursday. The Giants later placed guard Will Hernandez on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Giants are set to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night at MetLife Stadium. Friday’s news is a good sign it will remain on schedule. Like other teams that have had a player test positive, New York is under the more strict intensive protocols leading up to Monday’s game.

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How does political perception differ from reality in American sports?

    Previously a Staff Writer at Bleacher Report
    Cornell University graduate

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of six pieces that shows how professional sports owners in America contribute to political campaigns, why they spend millions in the space and what that financial power means as athletes across sports continue to embrace activism of their own.

THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS faced a decision. They had just paid one of baseball’s highest-profile stars, Mookie Betts, $365 million. And now their star, after expressing hesitancy in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem because of his father’s military service in Vietnam, had changed his position.

“I wasn’t educated,” Betts said in July about why his stance changed. “That’s my fault. I need to be educated on the situation. I know my dad served, and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there’s also gotta be change in the world, and kneeling has nothing to do with those who served our country.”

How would the team respond?

The organization backed him publicly — a purposeful move into politics that historically hasn’t been a choice that sports franchises have been all that comfortable making. Image, the saying goes, is everything, and businesses have long been concerned about alienating customers. Yet the Dodgers’ move, like so many similar efforts seen in 2020 from throughout the sports industry, would seem to indicate a significant philosophical change that emanates right from the top of these organizations.

Not so much, at least by one measure: Campaign donations by owners to politicians and parties can be at odds with the public statements and actions of the teams they own. According to an ESPN study of publicly accessible Federal Election Commission donation records, owners of American pro sports teams have tended to support Republican politicians over their Democratic counterparts since 2015.

Looking closer over the past two years, owners in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and NASCAR all donated significantly more money to the Republican Party than they did to Democrats. Among these leagues, owners in the NBA — the league most often at the center of discussion regarding its overt messaging — actually contributed the second-most cash to the GOP ($8.4 million), trailing MLB ($15.1 million).

The WNBA, a league that has been on the forefront of social activism in American professional sports, provides a clear example of perception vs. reality. The league is the only one of the six in ESPN’s research with a liberal tilt, though it’s small, with owners sending $1,634,153 (51.7%) to purely Democratic causes vs. $1,338,459 (42.3%) to Republicans. The conservative donations from the league as a whole come largely from a single source, Atlanta Dream co-owner and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia). She accounts for more than 65% of the WNBA ownership’s GOP donations. (WNBA players have worn shirts reading “Vote Warnock” to support Raphael Warnock, one of Loeffler’s opponents in her 2020 Senate race.)

“It appears there’s no link between a league’s image and the politics of its owners, or at least their political spending patterns,” said University of California, Davis political science professor Ethan Scheiner, who studies the intersection of sports and politics. “This pattern of no connection between image and politics is common in business.”

WHILE THE NBA might have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement more strongly than any of the other four major men’s sports leagues, the audience of the league also differs from the NFL, MLB or the NHL. At the height of social unrest in the nation, public support was strong.

A Nielsen study in July found growing support for Black Lives Matter among American sports fans, with 83% of NBA fans, 81% of NFL fans, 80% of MLB fans and 78% of NHL fans supporting the role of athletes in raising awareness for racial injustice. Additionally, 76% of NBA fans, 72% of NFL fans, 69% of MLB fans and 66% of NHL fans supported the Black Lives Matter movement at the time.

“There was such overwhelming support in the country for athlete activism and for teams supporting their athletes and for the public, even wanting their brands to be engaged in social justice issues,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity & Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida and a human rights activist involved in the intersection of sports and race since the 1970s. “From a business perspective, when you read stuff like that, it’s also good business to do what I would call the right thing.”

It’s easier to do “the right thing” when the issues are popular among a broad array of a business’ demographics — and even easier when those issues affect a significant portion of its core fan base.

According to a Morning Consult poll from September 2020, the NBA has the highest percentage of Black and Hispanic fans at 27% and 23%, respectively, with also the highest percentage of fans identifying as Democrats among the four major men’s sports leagues at 42%, versus 38% in the NFL and MLB, and 36% for the NHL.

Additionally, 58% of sports fans believe brands are making a difference in combating racism, according to an October study by Kantar. And 51% of the overall population feels the same way.

Still, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving questioned before the NBA restart whether playing games in the bubble would take attention away from the social justice movement across the country. That early skepticism from Irving and additional players, including Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, helped push the NBA to make financial commitments beyond the painting of Black Lives Matter on the court and printing social justice phrases on the back of jerseys.

The NBA board of governors and the NBPA finalized a deal in August to contribute $300 million to the Black community over the next decade, with each team donating $1 million. But Heat forward Andre Iguodala questioned whether this support from the league amounted to marketing for its core fan base.

In an interview before Game 3 of the 2020 NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver tamped down expectations that such displays of activism would continue next season: “I would say in terms of the messages you see on the court on our jerseys, this was an extraordinary moment in time, when we began the discussions with the players and what we all lived through this summer.”

“My sense is there will be some sort of return to normalcy. That those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor,” Silver continued. “And I understand those people who are saying ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game.'”

The shift in rhetoric also alludes to waning public enthusiasm. In the Kantar poll in October, the number of sports fans saying they considered themselves supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement had dropped to 60%.

Harry Edwards, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a mentor to Colin Kaepernick, said that in large part, fans do not support a sports franchise based on the political leanings of team ownership. If activist messaging no longer makes business sense to buoy a fan base, owners have little incentive to abide by politics incongruent with their own.

Edwards said: “Part of that transactional structuring has been the owners saying, ‘OK, look, we’ll let you wear the T-shirts. We’ll let you make the statements. We’ll even get behind you in not playing the first game, and hold meetings and town halls. We’ll even open up the pavilions for voting registration and casting votes, and so forth. But in exchange, you play out this season as scheduled.'”

TEN DAYS AFTER George Floyd’s killing, NFL stars including Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson filmed a video asking the league to “listen to your players.”

“On behalf of the National Football League, this is what we, the players, would like to hear you state,” the players said in the video. “We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter.”

A day later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a video through Twitter where he said, “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.”

Amid pressure from players and a changing social landscape, Goodell later told ESPN he encouraged teams to sign free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. No team has taken him up on that.

“I think as a society, we have kind of listened to athletes casually. It’s always been like singular voices here and singular voices there,” Lapchick said. “Now, with athletes acting as a group, they have, like any other group that forms, a bigger voice than a single leader.”

Before the season, the NFL announced it would paint the phrase “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” in each team’s end zone. The league also announced it would play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — known as the Black national anthem — before games on opening weekend while supporting the right for players to freely protest, a marked change from the Kaepernick era. After decades of controversy surrounding the team’s name, the Washington Football Team adopted its new moniker.

“The biggest factor in shaping the extent to which leagues are going to take a stand, make statements … absolutely is the workforce,” Scheiner said.

But that hasn’t changed how owners donate. In 2020, NFL owners have donated more than $1.2 million to Republican campaigns. Six owners across sports — Ken Kendrick (Diamondbacks), Dan Gilbert (Cavaliers), Micky Arison (Heat), Josh Harris (76ers), Dan DeVos (Magic) and Charles Johnson (Giants) — have collectively donated $26,000 to Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s campaigns or to PACs supporting the Republican in this election cycle. In June, Cotton called for “an overwhelming show of force” against protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.

At the same time, Texas Sen. John Cornyn questioned the idea of systematic racism in America. Cornyn is among the most popular politicians in ESPN’s database. Over the past two election cycles, 15 owners have contributed more than $340,000 to his campaigns either directly or indirectly. That list includes Charles and Greg Johnson, Clark Hunt, Edward Roski, Jimmy and Susan Haslam, John Stanton, Josh Harris, Kelly Loeffler, Ken Kendrick, Micky Arison, Philip Anschutz, Ray Davis, Stephen Ross and Tilman Fertitta.

The group approach behind recent athlete activism, Edwards said, has forced leagues and owners to at least acknowledge player demands. Instead of a single target for criticism, such as Kaepernick, many star players are standing together in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality.

As owners and leagues begin to roll back public support, it’s easy to allow the perception of progressiveness to fill their societal obligation. The pressure that athletes have collectively wielded in recent months will be increasingly important.

“These athletes realize now that they can demand a seat at the table,” Edwards said. “When you demand a seat at the table, you’re not talking about, ‘Put a chair against the back wall.’ You’re not talking about, ‘Put an additional chair in the room.’ Somebody has got to get up! Somebody who had influence and power, who determined how these things go, has to get up.”

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Trevor Lawrence: Clemson Tigers quarterback tests positive for coronavirus

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has tested positive for COVID-19, putting into doubt whether the face of college football will be available to play the top-ranked Tigers’ biggest game of the season.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement released by the school on Thursday night that Lawrence is in isolation with mild symptoms.

Swinney said Lawrence would miss Clemson’s game on Saturday against Boston College. The Tigers are scheduled to play No. 4 Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on November 7.

  • Los Angeles Chargers and New York Giants announce positive Covid tests
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  • NFL Predictions: Week Eight

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for a minimum of 10 days.

Lawrence said in a statement on Twitter that his symptoms have been relatively mild and he was following protocol from Clemson and the ACC about the virus.

“The only thing that hurts is missing an opportunity to be with my teammates this weekend and play the game I love,” he said.

Lawrence said he’d be watching and cheering for the Tigers from isolation.

The junior from Georgia is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy and potentially the top overall pick in next year’s NFL draft.

pic.twitter.com/bj9A33te65

He led the Tigers (6-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a national championship as a freshman and back to the College Football playoff championship game last season. Clemson’s loss to LSU in the title game was the first and still only game the Tigers have lost in Lawrence’s 32 career starts.

Clemson is tested three times a week per Atlantic Coast Conference protocol.

Lawrence created a stir earlier this week when asked about his NFL future.

“My mindset has been that I’m going to move on,” Lawrence said on Tuesday. “But who knows? There’s a lot of things that could happen.”

Swinney said that while Lawrence will be missed against the Eagles (4-2, 3-2), it was an opportunity for other guys to step up.

Freshman passer D.J. Uiagalelei has been the first in after Lawrence this season when games get out of hand. Uiagalelei was rated the country’s second-best college prospect by Rivals.com last season. He enrolled in January and went through spring drills until the coronavirus pandemic shut down college sports in March.

Uiagalelei has completed 12 of 19 passes for 102 yards. The Tigers also have used sophomore Taisun Phommachanh and Hunter Helms at quarterback this season.

Clemson has won its past 27 games against ACC competition and the past nine against Boston College.

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Hit on Bridgewater draws ejection for DE Harris

  • Covered Panthers, NFL for 11 years
  • More than 25 years experience covering NFL, college football and NASCAR
  • Joined ESPN in 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Atlanta Falcons defensive end Charles Harris was ejected in the third quarter Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers after a vicious hit that briefly sidelined quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Bridgewater was scrambling on the third-and-7 play when he was tripped and went down for a 2-yard loss . Harris came in after Bridgewater was down and delivered a blow to the helmet.

Bridgewater went to the sideline tent to be checked for a possible concussion. He came out a few minutes later and began throwing on the sideline.

Bridgewater returned in the fourth quarter after clearing concussion protocol.

Former XFL star P.J. Walker took over at quarterback for three plays and the Panthers settled for a 39-yard field goal to pull within 19-17.

Bridgewater was 10-for-15 passing for 112 yards and a touchdown before the play.

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Adam Gase: Jets' focus is on beating Chiefs, not Le'Veon Bell

One byproduct of Le'Veon Bell’s fresh start in Kansas City is the chance for the running back to face the New York Jets just weeks later.

Sunday in Kansas City, the Chiefs host Bell’s former New York Jets teammates and coach Adam Gase, with whom the running back rarely saw eye to eye during his 17 games played with Gang Green. New York cut Bell on Oct. 14.

Gase said Wednesday he’s focusing on earning a win — the Jets’ first of the season — not facing Bell. The embattled coach believes the veteran RB has the same mindset.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that he’s going to be worried about just winning a game, period,” Gase said, via ESPN. “That’s what most players are worried about. They’re worried about, ‘Hey, what do I have to do this week to help my team win?’ So, I’m sure that’s what he’s going to be worried about doing. We’ve got a lot of guys to worry about on that side of the ball against them.”

Fortunately for Bell — and unfortunately for Gase — any residual motivation left from how his tenure in New York went would play hand-in-hand with the Chiefs beating the brakes off the Jets.

The 28-year-old RB is on a mission the rest of the year to show that Gase used him incorrectly in New York, and his struggles were more of a byproduct of a poor offensive line than a player on the downslope of his career.

In his first game with K.C., Bell began proving his point. His first carry as a member of the Chiefs was a 16-yard gain, and two of Bell’s six carries were 16-yarders. Just once in 264 rushing attempts with the Jets did Bell rush for more than 15 yards.

In Week 7, Bell had six carries for 39 rush yds. It marked his highest rush yards per carry average (6.5) in a game since Week 4, 2016 with the Steelers — coincidentally versus the Chiefs.

Bell averaged just 80.2 scrimmage yards per game in his Jets tenure after earning 129.0 scrimmage YPG from 2013-2017 with the Steelers. He had 18 career games with 100-plus rush yards with Pittsburgh. He earned zero with New York.

Bell might never get the volume in Kansas City to put up overwhelming stats while splitting carries with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but he’s already taking advantage of a friendly Chiefs offense.

Bell played 17 snaps in Week 7 — a game which turned into a blowout in Denver — with all six of his rushing attempts coming against light boxes (less than seven defenders). In New York, only 44.3 percent of his attempts were into light boxes.

Andy Reid won’t force his offense to run through Bell in a revenge game, but the coach always knows the score. Don’t be surprised if Bell gets a couple more looks this week — particularly in the screen game — against his former team.

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Fantasy Injury Updates: Aaron Jones, Mark Ingram, Joe Mixon affecting Week 8 start ’em, sit ’em decisions

At the midpoint of the fantasy football regular season, the running back position is very banged up. Aaron Jones is dealing with a calf injury that has already cost him a game, Mark Ingram has an ankle injury that could knock him out this week, and Joe Mixon continues to deal with a troublesome foot injury that kept him out last week. With Week 8 approaching, fantasy football owners will need updates as to whether these guys are healthy ahead of key start ’em, sit ’em decisions. 

For more fantasy injury updates and news, follow us on Twitter @SN_Fantasy .

WEEK 8 STANDARD RANKINGS: 
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Is Aaron Jones playing Week 8?

Jones (calf) missed the Packers’ Week 7 win over the Texans after picking up a late-week injury, and his status ahead of Sunday’s game against the Vikings is murky. Jones missed practice on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, and given how cautious the Packers have been bringing players back from injury this year, he will probably have to log a full practice to be considered anything other than a game-time decision.

If Jones sits out another week, Jamaal Williams would be in line for an increased workload for the Packers. He had 114 scrimmage yards and a TD against the Texans, so he would probably fit into the fringe-RB1 range against the Vikings. AJ Dillon would also see extra carries, but the second-round rookie wouldn’t be anything more than a TD-dependent flex, at best.

WEEK 8 FANTASY: Sleepers | Busts | Start ’em, sit ’em

Is Mark Ingram playing Week 8

Ingram (ankle) picked up an injury in the Ravens’ win over the Eagles before their Week 7 bye. He was expected to be questionable, at best, in Week 8 and according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, Ingram was not at practice for the Ravens on Wednesday. If he continues to sit out Thursday, that should be an indicator that he is unlikely to play or that he will be a game-time decision.

If Ingram can’t play, Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins would likely split most of the work at the RB position in a tough matchup against the Steelers. Edwards is readily available in many leagues, so he can be added as a potential volume-based flex despite the tough matchup. Dobbins can also draw consideration for a flex spot, but it’s worth wondering if Justice Hill could play and steal some receiving opportunities from him.

WEEK 8 PPR RANKINGS: 
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Is Joe Mixon playing Week 8?

Mixon (foot) missed the Bengals’ loss to the Browns in Week 7, and coming into Week 8, he is considered to be “day-to-day”. However, according to Jay Morrison of The Athletic, Mixon wasn’t at Bengals practice on Wednesday, which will cast a shadow of doubt about his availability for Sunday’s game against the Titans.

If Mixon is out, Giovani Bernard would once again be the lead back for the Bengals. Bernard totaled 96 yards and a TD against the Browns, with most of his damage coming through the air. Either way, he’s in play as an RB2 if he’s the lead back.

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Dallas Cowboys’ release of Dontari Poe was due to his weight and lack of production

The Dallas Cowboys' release of defensive tackle Dontari Poe on Wednesday was due to his weight and lack of production, team owner Jerry Jones told ESPN. 

The eternally open-door Cowboys defense currently ranks 27th in yards allowed per game (408.1) and last in the league in points allowed per game (34.7). That prompted some roster changes this week. Defensive end Everson Griffen was traded to the Detroit Lions on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, the Cowboys released Poe and defensive back Daryl Worley.

"When you're 30 pounds overweight and you're not doing anything about what's keeping you from performing well on the field, there is no reason to get into the other stuff," Jones told ESPN.

According to ESPN, the "other stuff" Jones was referring to is Poe being the only Cowboys player to protest during the national anthem. Jones had been among the strongest voices in the NFL opposing the form of peaceful protest in its early days. He had insisted players stand at attention. Jones softened his tone heading into the 2020 season.

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Dontari Poe (95) kneels during the national anthem prior to the Week 2 game against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. (Photo: Matthew Emmons, USA TODAY Sports)

In the offseason, Poe – a nine-year NFL veteran and a 2012 first-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs – signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Cowboys. That deal included $3.5 million guaranteed. In seven games – all starts – for the Cowboys this season, Poe had just seven tackles and no sacks.

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Yes, Browns WILL miss Odell Beckham; Week 8 fantasy sleepers

NFL franchises use contextualized data to create competitive advantages. In order to realize an edge, teams need to employ the right data in the right way at the right time. This means distilling, interpreting and applying only the most influential data in a framework that accounts for personnel, opponents and evolving game situations. My goal is to be your analytics department. Each week this season, I want to work for you by giving you a peek into which numbers flag in my models as the most impactful … or the most misunderstood.

As always, let me know if your eye test is picking up on something interesting, or if there’s a stat/trend you’d like me to take a deeper look at. You can hit me on Twitter @CFrelund. As with any great analytics department, the more collaborative this is, the more value we can create.

STAT TO TRUST

Cam Newton has a 0:5 TD-to-INT ratio over the past two games.

In Weeks 6 and 7, Cam Newton has thrown zero touchdowns compared with five interceptions, the worst TD-to-INT ratio in the league in that span. Jarrett Stidham also threw a pick in Week 7 after Newton was benched against the Niners, bringing the team’s season-long TD-to-INT ratio to an NFL-worst 3:11. The Patriots’ passing offense has a problem — and there is now enough data to support saying this is a negative trend.

This season, Next Gen Stats shows Pats pass-catchers are averaging 2.8 yards of separation per route run, which ranks 21st in the NFL. This is actually the same number as New England pass-catchers averaged last season, which ranked 14th in the NFL then — but it’s a lot less cushion than they were working with in 2018, when they led the league with a 3.3-yard average. If you look at average separation on receiving targets (and not on all routes run), the Pats’ pass-catchers are averaging 3.4 yards of separation (ranking 13th in the NFL), which is better than last season’s average (3.2, which ranked 23rd) but still well behind 2018’s average of 3.5 (which ranked seventh best).

Now, there are a number of ways that context needs to be factored into this number, including score, routes and situations (like being in obvious passing downs, e.g., third-and-long) in order to more accurately compare the seasons. When adjusting for route and situation, Newton and the receivers (as a group) are tracking at a full 2.2 yards of separation worse for the rest of the season than 2019 and 4.0 from 2018.

Despite a strong start to the season, the past two weeks have created a troubling balance of inaccurate passing from Newton and unsuccessful circumstances to catch passes from the receivers. There are three factors that share responsibility here: passer, receivers and play-caller. It will be imperative that all three balance out if the Pats are going to take advantage of a Bills defense this week that is ranked 30th on third down and 15th in passing.

STAT TO QUESTION

Baker Mayfield has thrown 27 interceptions with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field.

Baker Mayfield has thrown 27 picks against just 29 touchdowns with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field since OBJ joined the Browns in 2019, compared to just one pick (against eight touchdowns) when the receiver has been off the field in that span. This NGS stat might lead you to believe that Mayfield is more likely to throw a pick with OBJ on the field than off, perhaps indicating he was trying to feed the three-time Pro Bowler even when the pass wasn’t there. And you might then assume Mayfield and the Browns’ offense could potentially be more effective without Beckham, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Sunday.

Here’s the main reason this is something I am questioning: So much has changed about the Browns’ offense since the start of the 2019 season, from the play-caller to the available weapons to the offensive line, that it’s tough to draw many solid conclusions from those numbers.

Just look at how Cleveland’s run-pass balance has shifted. This season, no team is rushing for more yards on first and second downs (146.9 rushing yards per game, 5.35 rushing yards per carry), and only the Ravens call run on a higher number of early downs (55.8% versus 55.3%). Consequently, the Browns have earned 107 first downs on early downs, which is already more than halfway to their season total of 211 in 2019.

Last season, the Browns ranked 11th in rushing average and 18th in run play-calling percentage. One observable trend this season before Beckham’s injury was that rather than relying on Beckham, Cleveland was able to be strategic about his use on a greater number of passes. The win share of the Browns’ receiver unit will undoubtedly decrease without him. This is especially clear when evaluating the off-ball metric that says the opponent’s best defenders have had to account for OBJ at the seventh-highest rate in the NFL this season. (This stat reflects the frequency with which two or more defenders come within a 5-foot halo of a receiver between the time that the ball is released and caught on a given play, even if the receiver isn’t the intended target.) Based on this metric, which helps measure the opportunity other pass catchers enjoy with Beckham on the field, the loss of Beckham is definitely something the rest of the Browns receivers will have to contend with going forward.

The good news for Browns fans is that Mayfield seems to have quickly adapted to coach Kevin Stefanski’s game plan, with a diversity of successful catches (and for touchdowns) from all of the pre-snap alignments, as well as in varying circumstances (under pressure, no pressure, facing the blitz, no blitz, etc.). Targeting the Raiders’ secondary this week should give the receivers who have to step up, like Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones, an opportunity to find their rhythm.

FOUR SLEEPER PLAYERS FOR WEEK 8

Let’s dig deeper into the potential of Rashard Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. It’s easier to make an argument in Higgins’ favor, based on his target share against the Bengals (he caught six of six targets for 110 yards), but don’t forget Peoples-Jones, who caught three of the three targets that came his way. NGS shows Peoples-Jones had a 17.8 air-yards-per-target mark and earned Baker Mayfield a perfect passer rating on throws targeting him.

Bonus here, because of the air yards: NGS shows that on Darnell Mooney’s seven targets against the Rams, he averaged 22.1 air yards per target. Now, do I love recommending someone who only caught three of those seven passes, with one intended pass earning an interception? Yeah, actually, I do. Because this is forward-looking analysis, and the Bears’ upcoming matchup with the Saints will likely create more space for Mooney to work with than he had against the Rams on Monday. Thus, I value the targets as a signal for volume going forward, as opposed to over-weighting last week’s catch rate.

I love a good rookie running back recommendation, and this week, the Jets’ La’Mical Perine has the opportunity to flex into your lineup and add value. First, the Chiefs’ defense ranks as the third-most generous to opposing rushing attacks, giving up 149.9 yards per game, and they also rank third in yards allowed per play on early downs (5.1). Jets QB Sam Darnold was sacked SIX times in Week 7, meanwhile. In order to keep pressure — like, say, from Chris Jones — away from Darnold this week, the Jets will have to establish the run game on early downs. Even if the game script in this one does not necessarily favor a running back, Perine received the red-zone call in Week 7, which helps drive a lot of upside here. (He scored his first NFL touchdown, a 5-yard rush.) 

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter.

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Missing out on a title must sting, but Price was right to sit out after Turner COVID mess


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NFL Fantasy Football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 8: Intro

I was on KNBR recently, doing a segment with my guy Mark Willard called “mistakes were made.” And like an idiot, I was talking (bragging?) about not having any major blowups this year. And then I faded Tyler Lockett in this space last week. I mean, he has been inconsistent. The Cardinals hadn’t allowed a lot of production to wide receivers. There seemed like there were some other good options out there.

But mistakes were made.

And it’s not like Lockett just scored a pair of touchdowns and it was bad. Russell Wilson apparently took this all very personally as he targeted Lockett 20 times. TWENTY TIMES. I haven’t seen a level of devotion this big since my boy Sully first purchased Chumbawamba’s CD when we were kids and he kept playing Tubthumping over and over again. (And kids, ask your parents who Chumbawamba was, and what a CD was as well.)

So that was fun to live through, what with it being a prime-time game and all. And me having numerous shares of DK Metcalf all over the place. I did thankfully start him in one league against IMPACT Wrestling’s Eric Young, so I wasn’t completely left out of the party. Which is of small consolation. (Although beating a world champion is always nice.)

And if you’re wondering why I had Lockett in one of my lineups when I had him as a sit, I’m glad you asked. Because while I talked about my reasons for sitting Lockett (he wasn’t being targeted and it was a bad matchup), you need to apply reason. I had Lockett rated behind guys like Terry McLaurin, Tee Higgins, Davante Adams and some others last week. And if you started one of those guys ahead of him, that made sense. They all got into the end zone. I did have Lockett behind Chase Claypool, which wouldn’t have been so bad if Diontae Johnson hadn’t been taking all of his production. Ultimately, that was a terrible choice. The others look bad in hindsight as well because Lockett put up 50-plus points in various scoring formats. That’s fantasy and it happens some time. Put it behind you and move on. Let’s get ready for Week 8. WEEK EIGHT ALREADY. We are getting close to the fantasy playoffs. It’s hard to believe.

Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

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