What We Saw: Week 9

James Conner can still be relied upon as an RB1 when needed

Browns @ Bengals

Final score: Cleveland 41, Cincinnati 16

Writer: Sami Alsado (@SamiAlsado on Twitter)


In a pivotal inter-state rivalry divisional matchup between two fringe playoff teams, the Browns dominated on offense and made big plays on defense that made this a surprising blowout. This is best exemplified by the 100 yard pick-6 Denzel Ward housed on the Bengals’ first drive of the game. The Browns ran it with ease on offense and succeeded when needed through the air against a Bengals D that continued its downtrend from last Week’s Jets loss.


Cleveland Browns




Baker Mayfield: 14/21, 218 yards, 2 TD | 1 carry, 1 yard


Baker Mayfield executed the Browns’ game plan to perfection today. Handing off to his all-world RB and keeping the defense honest with successful shots downfield – Mayfield demonstrated the safe, secondary option, game managing QB they are casting him into. Most of Baker’s throws in this game were shorter underneath routes to his tight ends and notorious short-yardage dynamo Jarvis Landry. But, Baker’s most impressive throws today went downfield – twice to 2nd year ascending WR Donovan Peoples-Jones once hitting him on a play-action 60 yard TD:



Then hitting David Njoku on a 3rd and goal from the 18 post route where Baker rifled a bullet right under tight coverage.



Running Backs


Nick Chubb: 14 carries, 137 yards, 2 TD | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards

D’Ernest Johnson: 8 carries, 16 yards 


Nick Chubb finished the day just short of 10 yards/carry. I’m not sure any words I could write that better describe the greatness of this run offense today. The Oline created space and Chubb patiently penetrated holes with such ease that I think he could have maintained that absurd pace for even double the carries they needed of him today. Naturally, the highlight reel run was a 70-yard run that Chubb took to the house.



Chubb seems so undeterred by arm tackles that you’d think you were watching a college RB running against pee-wee defenders. It’s truly miraculous the level of dominance this running game showed today and has throughout the year. Chubb’s injury is clearly a thing of the past. This was a massive day where Chubb compiled an elite stat-line with ease.

D’Ernest Johnson spelled Chubb through this game and took carries once the game was decided but wasn’t able to create much space when the Bengals knew the run was coming.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Jarvis Landry: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards | 1 carry

Donovan Peoples-Jones: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 86 yards, TD

Harrison Bryant: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards

Demetric Felton: 1 target, 1 reception, 22 yards

David Njoku: 3 targets, 1 reception, 18 yards, TD

Anthony Schwartz: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards

Austin Hooper: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards


As the media was focused on OBJ’s departure, the Browns were looking to see who would step up in his absence.

Though Jarvis Landry led the Browns in targets today, securing all his catches near the line of scrimmage, 2nd year WR Donovan Peoples-Jones was the focal point of the Browns downfield passing game corralling the two longest passes of the game. One was a 60 yard TD (vid in Mayfield section) and the other was a 26-yard sideline fly route where he held strong through a big hit from Jessie Bates. This was an impressive showing for DPJ although the volume wasn’t there in a game that didn’t ask much of the Brown passing game.

Past DPJ the Browns TE’s collectively put together a nice display but are used so interchangeably it’s hard to anticipate consistency with any of them. Njoku utilized his big frame to secure a post route TD on 3rd and goal from the 18.


Cincinnati Bengals




Joe Burrow: 28/40, 282 yards, 2 INT | 2 carries, 1 yard

Brendan Allen: 1/2, 6 yards | 1 carry


Burrow’s final statline here looks ugly given the lack of TDs and 2 INTs. But the majority of the turmoil here is due to his WR’s who had trouble getting open in man coverage and suffered drops on well-thrown downfield passes, as well as his offensive line that understandably struggled to contain the Myles GarrettJadeveon Clowney duo. With that said, Burrow certainly forced passes into tight coverage in this game whether by necessity or poor read those throws resulted in the two interceptions. This includes the one devastating 100-yard pick-six by Denzel Ward on the Bengals’ first drive:



As you can see, this throw was both late and thrown too far inside. Burrow has nobody to blame but himself for this one. His second INT was on a short route where Ja’Marr Chase was blanketed yet thrown the ball. The ball was tipped and subsequently fell right into the hands of the creatively named safety John Johnson.

Aside from the INTs, Burrow was his usual judicious accurate self but his inability to complete balls downfield hampered the offensive output. Although Burrow’s current status as the NFL’s league leader in INTs necessitates some questions about his decision making, I feel a lot of that, including today’s INTs, demonstrate his gunslinging mentality on broken plays whereupon he refuses to throw a ball away or take a sack and instead forced it to his favorite target Chase. Regardless, Burrow deserves a mulligan for this performance as he received little support from an OLine that couldn’t provide him time and Ja’Marr Chase who dropped two downfield passes including one potential TD.


Running Backs


Joe Mixon: 13 carries, 64 yards, 2 TD | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 46 yards

Chris Evans: 4 carries, 18 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 11 yards

Trayveon Williams: 6 carries, 13 yards

Samaje Perine: 5 carries, 20 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards


Despite the dud for the rest of the offense, Joe Mixon ran successfully all day today and again found his way to contribute in the passing game as well. Mixon found most of his success on outside runs where he could use his acceleration to find space the interior of the offensive line couldn’t create. This was demonstrated on his first TD run:



Mixon was called upon for numerous screens and even reeled one in a one-handed grab as he broke upfield for significant chunk gains. Naturally, given that the game got out of hand, the Bengals had to go away from the running game which limited Mixon’s overall touches. But, Mixon looked great when called upon throughout the day and created yardage on plays that seem stunted with his usual regularity. His work in the passing game should be a welcome sight for his fantasy managers. With elite volume, elite talent, and an ideal role, Mixon is a stud and just needs his team to stay competitive to show it on a weekly basis.

Perine, Evans and Williams all picked up more usage in garbage time in carries I’m sure the Bengals wish they could have given to their star Mixon. Perine, the assumed backup to Mixon, dropped a key 3rd and short ball and missed a block on another play which forced punts by the Bengals. Chris Evans continues to show some burst in the passing game and could see his role expand if Perine struggles.


Wide Receivers/Tight Ends


Ja’Marr Chase: 13 targets, 6 receptions, 49 yards | 2 carries

Tee Higgins: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 78 yards

C.J. Uzomah: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 24 yards

Tyler Boyd: 2 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards

Drew Sample: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 36 yards

Mike Thomas: 1 target, 1 reception, 16 yards


Ja’Marr Chase had one of his weaker outputs of the season in this game which also saw him hit a season-high in targets. Chase was prioritized in the passing game possibly to a fault here as Burrow’s two INTs were both forced into tight windows toward Chase. On the first pick-six, Chase ran a zig route which got undercut by Denzel Ward on a poorly thrown ball that was late. Then, early in the 3rd quarter, Chase caught a quick out route and coughed up the ball for a fumble:



Chase was able to break free a couple of times in this game but saw a TD pass fall straight through his hands and then another simple fly route which was slightly overthrown fall through his fingertips. The volume is great to see but the production is concerning. The upcoming bye week should give Chase a chance to breathe from his record-breaking start and unfortunate performance today.

Tee Higgins seems to finally be rounding into form after a shoulder injury forced him out for a couple of weeks earlier in the season. Higgins got targets both on the outside and while cutting inside to use his large frame for short/mid-level routes. Higgins almost made a tough contested catch over the middle for a TD but was unable to secure it as Denzel Ward ripped at his arms. Higgins is a solid option to have in fantasy and will certainly find more looks in the red zone in time but there is no denying his role in this passing offense is as a #2 to Chase. He has not gotten the downfield routes of a high ceiling option and has struggled to create separation as consistently as Chase has.

Tyler Boyd played on all 3 WR sets but was mostly invisible today, only reeling in one catch in his usual classic inside slot form.

Bengals TE’s Uzomah and Sample both saw relatively solid usage in this game but didn’t get downfield at all or have a red-zone target which limits their ceiling.


— Sami Alsado (@SamiAlsado on Twitter)

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