Cleveland Browns guard Joel Bitonio has signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2025 season.

The new terms are reportedly worth around $48million to Bitonio, who says he is hoping to finish his career in Cleveland.

The 30-year-old was a second-round NFL draft pick in 2014, having played college football at Nevada.

"I've been here for eight years now and seen a lot of ups and downs," Bitonio said in a statement. "To be part of that and for the team to have faith in me and allow me to be here for my entire career, it really means a lot. It's special.

"You see guys switch teams a lot and go from team to team, great players in this league. I saw Joe Thomas end his career here.

"It's something when you get into Year 8 and Year 9, it gets in the back of your mind where it'd be really special to be in Cleveland your whole career and try to win a championship with these guys.

"I just want to thank the Haslams, Andrew Berry and Coach [Kevin] Stefanski for having faith in me and providing me with this opportunity.

"I've got a lot of good friends on the O-line, and it's guys who work hard and love the game of football and are passionate about the Cleveland Browns.

"We want to run the ball, we want to protect Baker [Mayfield] and take our shots down field. There's sometimes a lack of good linemen in the league, so to get five, six, seven good ones on a team, it's really nice to have that depth and hopefully we can keep the guys together for as many years as possible."

Bitonio's extension comes just after fellow guard Wyatt Taylor was tied to a four-year extension worth $56.8million on Tuesday as Browns general manager Andrew Berry looks to lock down key players.

"After last season, we decided that one of our major football priorities would be to make Joel Bitonio a Brown for the rest of his career," Berry said in a statement.

"Joel is one of our most decorated players and is the ideal personification of our 'Tough, Smart, Accountable' mantra. We value Joel's high-level performance, leadership, consistency and durability.

"We are all excited about this extension and hopeful that at the end of his career we will all be looking forward to celebrating Joel's gold jacket fitting in Canton."

We're officially past the halfway point of the NFL season, meaning we are also heading into the home stretch of the fantasy campaign.

If you're in the cellar of your league, then it's probably time to take things a little less seriously, maybe find ways to have some fun with your lineup.

But if you're still firmly in the mix, then you can ill afford to make bad decisions as to which players to slot into the starting spots.

As always, Stats Perform is here to provide a helping hand with a look at four offensive players and a defense worthy of selection in Week 10.

 

Quarterback: Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Do not let the Chiefs' performance against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers fool you.

Yes, the Chiefs have improved somewhat on defense of late, but they are still one of the league's worst at defending the pass.

They have given up 7.49 yards per pass play this season, while the Raiders are fifth in yards per pass play on offense (7.40).

No quarterback in the NFL has attempted more passes of 21 air yards or more than Carr (41), and he is averaging 16.4 yards per attempt on those throws.

Motivated to bounce back and claim a key win in the division after a shock loss to the New York Giants, expect Carr to be aggressive and, crucially, successful in attacking a vulnerable opponent.

Running Back: James Conner, Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers

Conner leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 after his hat-trick in the Cardinals' win over the San Francisco 49ers last week.

He will likely get the bulk of the workload in the run game for at least the next few weeks, Chase Edmonds having gone down with an ankle injury at San Francisco.

His next assignment is a Panthers defense that has given up 100 yards rushing in three of their past four games. Back him to produce and find the endzone again at home.

Wide Receiver: Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

Back off the bye and ready to mount a charge for the one seed in the NFC, the Bucs could hardly ask for a better opponent.

Washington's pass defense has conceded 109 plays of 10 yards or more this season. Only the Indianapolis Colts (110) and Miami Dolphins (112) have been more generous in that regard.

Leading Tampa Bay with 69 targets so far this season and with Antonio Brown unlikely to feature, Godwin is the top candidate to be the latest wideout to capitalise significantly on Washington's unexpected defensive frailties.

Tight End: Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Detroit Lions

Freiermuth may be the answer to fantasy managers' prayers when it comes to the famously top-heavy tight end position.

He has emerged as a key weapon for Ben Roethlisberger in recent weeks, scoring three touchdowns in his past two games.

A matchup with a Detroit defense giving up the most yards per pass play in the NFL (8.28) could provide a recipe for a career day.

Defense: Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots

The Browns defense did an excellent job frustrating Joe Burrow and Co. in their thumping win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

This week, they get a favourable matchup in the form of the Patriots. Yes, the Pats are 5-4, but they rank 20th in yards per play (5.46), are tied sixth for the most giveaways (14) and lead the league with 60 negative plays on offense.

Look for Cleveland's defense to enjoy another successful day on the road.

The Cleveland Browns have placed Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton on their COVID-19 list, depleting their running back options.

Two-time Pro Bowler Chubb and rookie Felton tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The pair are vaccinated but will need to be symptom-free and produce two negative tests separated by 24 hours to be activated for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

The Browns have signed wide receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley and defensive tackle Shelton Day to their active roster from the practice squad.

Cleveland and New England both hold 5-4 records, with the Browns third in the AFC North.

Chubb has 721 yards from 120 rushing attempts with six touchdowns in seven games this season.

Odell Beckham Jr. is free to pick his next team after clearing waivers Tuesday. 

The Cleveland Browns released the veteran wide receiver Monday and no other NFL team put in a claim on him before Tuesday's deadline, making him a free agent. 

ESPN has reported Beckham plans to sign with a playoff contender and several such teams likely will be interested. 

Beckham asked to be traded before last week's NFL deadline but no deal materialised and he skipped practice the rest of the week. 

That came after his father, Odell Beckham Sr., complained on social media about Beckham Jr.'s lack of involvement in the Browns' offence.

Beckham Sr. posted a lengthy video on Instagram showing a number of occasions on which Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield failed to find his team-mate.

Mayfield said after the Browns routed the Cincinnati Bengals 41-16 Sunday that he considers Beckham a "good friend" and wishes him well. 

The three-time Pro Bowler was sidelined with a torn ACL in 2020 and has made 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns in six games this season. 

Beckham was traded to the Browns by the New York Giants in 2019, where he topped 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons. The year he failed to hit that mark he spent most of the campaign out with an ankle injury. 

Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) were the only wide receivers to average more yards per game than Beckham (92.8) between 2014 and 2018.

Odell Beckham Jr will not be heading to the Detroit after head coach Dan Campbell confirmed the Lions do not intend to claim him. 

Having failed to get a trade away from the Browns before the deadline, wide receiver Beckham is expected to be waived by Cleveland on Monday and hit the waiver wire on Tuesday. 

The Lions are 0-8 this season and will be first in line to snap up a significant talent at a position they could do with improving, but Campbell ruled out such a move happening. 

Asked if Detroit would be in the market for Beckham, Campbell simply replied: "Uh, no." 

He later added: "[General manager] Brad [Holmes] and I talk about everything, and he was no different. I would leave it at that. 

"Our ears and our eyes are open to everything, and if there was a certain way to make things work, we'd be open for just about any player if it made sense." 

It has been reported no team will make a claim for Beckham, meaning he will become a free agent capable of signing with any team. 

The tree-time Pro Bowler was sidelined with a torn ACL in 2020 and has made 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns since returning this season. 

Beckham was traded to the Browns by the New York Giants in 2019, where he topped 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons. The year he failed to hit that mark he spent most of the campaign out with an ankle injury. 

Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) were the only wide receivers to average more yards per game than Beckham (92.8) between 2014 and 2018.

 

In a tumultuous week, there was a lot of noise, from relatives of football players and one of the greatest basketball players ever, hinting that Baker Mayfield was the problem for the Cleveland Browns.

Turns out, it might actually have been Odell Beckham Jr.

It remains to be seen whether Mayfield can be the long-term answer at quarterback but, with Beckham getting his wish and being allowed to move on to as yet undetermined pastures new, Cleveland's signal-caller and the Browns flourished in Week 9.

Cleveland stomped Cincinnati 41-16 on the road sans Beckham in what was a clear case of addition by subtraction.

One of the biggest stars of that stunning blowout win was a receiver likely to receive an increased role in Cleveland's passing attack in the wake of Beckham's departure, with Donovan Peoples-Jones stepping up and delivering a huge play in a season that has provided more evidence he was a steal for the Browns in the sixth round of last year's draft.

 

Peoples-Jones proves his worth

Peoples-Jones broke the game open in the second quarter with a 60-yard touchdown catch from Mayfield, giving the Browns a two-touchdown advantage that the Bengals never threatened to eat into.

It served as a demonstration of Peoples-Jones' strengths as a route-runner, the former Michigan star getting separation from Eli Apple with a corner-post route as the Browns struck gold on a play-action shot against quarters coverage.

Mayfield's deep ball was not deadly accurate, but Peoples-Jones did an excellent job of adjusting his route to flight of the throw to haul it in and stroll into the endzone.

Targeted just three times in the game, Peoples-Jones finished as the Browns' leading receiver with 86 yards, taking full advantage of his limited opportunities.

His second and final catch of the day saw Peoples-Jones display those same traits that shone through on his touchdown, helping the Browns convert on third-and-11 in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.

This time, he defeated man coverage with a jab step to the right and swim move akin to that of a pass rusher, gaining outside leverage and separation before looking the ball into his grasp and hanging on despite a thumping hit from Bengals safety Jessie Bates II.

That ability to create separation has been a constant for Peoples-Jones this season. He has produced a burn, which is when a receiver wins his matchup with a defender on a play where he is targeted, 77.8 per cent of the time, the league average among receivers with at least 10 targets is 60.5.

Peoples-Jones' burn yards per target average of 17.91 is third among receivers who meet that 10-target threshold, while his big-play rate of 48.3 per cent is fifth.

Targeted only 18 times this season, those gaudy numbers are partially a product of a small sample size, but his 2020 performance in those same metrics suggests he would continue to perform efficiently with a more substantial role in the offense.

While his burn percentage of 65 was not as impressive, Peoples-Jones ended last season third in burn yards per target (17.11) and ninth in big-play rate (42.6 per cent).

Peoples-Jones is proving himself as a consistent downfield threat who wins with route-running, size and concentration at the catch point. His is a skill set conducive to long-term success, and that is something he should be able to enjoy playing on an offense where the strength of the run game gives the Browns plenty of strong passing game looks.

Bengals mauled by Browns run game

Like so many before them, the Bengals had no answer for Nick Chubb and the Cleveland running game. Chubb racked up his third 100-yard game of the season, averaging a remarkable 9.79 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.

He ripped off runs of 23, 22, 13 and 10 yards along with a 70-yard score that illustrated just how devastating the Browns' ground game can be when at its best.

Running from a three-tight end set, the Browns pulled right guard Wyatt Teller to the second level, where he executed a devastating block on Bates. Left tackle Jedrick Wills and left guard Joel Bitonio were similarly ruthless against Logan Wilson and Josh Tupou while tight end Austin Hooper and center J.C. Tretter sealed off their defenders.

That opened a gaping running lane for Chubb, who burst through into the secondary, with the aid of impressive downfield blocking from Harrison Bryant, and surged clear, leaving helpless defenders in his wake.

Chubb is now tied for the league lead with 22 rushes of 10 yards or more and, as that touchdown showed, he and the Browns can produce those backbreaking plays even when lined up in an obvious run formation against a defense playing a safety in the box.

With Cleveland consistently carrying that threat on the ground, receivers can benefit, with the danger posed by Chubb and Co. facilitating a play-action game that can deliver the kind of results Peoples-Jones produced on his touchdown.

It has been an uneven season for the Browns but at 5-4 they are still in the mix in a muddled AFC and still have a formula for success as long as that rushing attack is functioning as it did in Week 9.

That formula does not require Beckham. It is one that can work with young wideouts like Peoples-Jones, who has the traits to excel for a long time at the highest level and has proven he deserves increased opportunities.

When the Browns traded for Beckham back in 2019, he looked like a potential missing piece for a team primed to consistently contend. However, Peoples-Jones' performance in the first game since his contentious departure should leave Cleveland confident the void he leaves will not be at all difficult to fill.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said he wishes "good friend" Odell Beckham Jr. well after the NFL franchise won for the first time since the split.

The Browns released star wide receiver Beckham Jr. on Friday, having been excused from practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

That came after both his father, Odell Beckham Sr., and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James complained on social media about Beckham Jr.'s lack of involvement in the Browns' offense.

Beckham Sr. posted a lengthy video on Instagram showing a number of occasions on which Mayfield failed to find his team-mate.

On Sunday, without three-time Pro Bowler Beckham Jr., the Browns routed the Cincinnati Bengals 41-16.

"I wish him well, I really do. My feelings haven't changed," Mayfield said of Beckham Jr.

"From a personal standpoint, he's a good friend of mine. ... But I'm worried about the guys in our locker room.

"I'm proud of these guys, how they were able to focus up despite all the bulls*** that was going on this week and how they were able to do their job. We're going to see if we can build on it and continue to get better."

Beckham Jr. is set to go on waivers on Monday and Mayfield added: "We still haven't talked. But that doesn't change things. I wish him well. I wish him the best in his career."

Mayfield completed 14 of his 21 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns without an interception as the Browns improved to 5-4.

"We needed that win. Our whole locker room needed it. And they knew that. Played for each other," Mayfield said. "I trust the guys in this locker room.

"When adversity hit, nobody flinched. It was a long week. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. But proud of these guys."

Baker Mayfield threw a 60-yard touchdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones as the Cleveland Browns won without Odell Beckham Jr in Week 9, although Joe Burrow contributed to the Cincinnati Bengals' 41-16 defeat.

The Browns made the short trip to Cincinnati with Peoples-Jones back from a groin injury and in the lineup after fellow receiver Beckham was released at the end of a week that began with his father criticising quarterback Mayfield.

Beckham had underwhelmed this year since his return to fitness and his absence certainly was not felt on Sunday as Cleveland moved to 5-4 in a big AFC North matchup.

Before Mayfield came to the fore, though, Burrow endured a miserable start. Moments after a penalty reprieve when he was sacked on third and goal, the Bengals QB threw straight to Browns cornerback Denzel Ward on the goal line, covering Ja'Marr Chase and racing away for a 99-yard defensive TD.

Joe Mixon replied with the first of his two rushing scores, but Nick Chubb battled through contact to finish Cleveland's first drive with a TD, which Peoples-Jones added to as he caught Mayfield's first target to a wideout.

Long scores were the name of the day for the Browns, as Chubb's second saw him go 70 yards to score in the third quarter.

Burrow, who had scored three TDs in each of his previous three games, tying a Bengals record, was then picked off again throwing to Chase – this time by John Johnson III. Chase had earlier fumbled for a turnover of his own on a miserable day for two of Cincinnati's offensive stars.

Mayfield finished with 218 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 14-of-21 passing. His second TD pass to David Njoku was set up by another throw to Peoples-Jones, who had 86 yards on just two catches.

Big upsets for Boys and Bills

The Dallas Cowboys had not lost since Week 1 but have a miserable record against the Denver Broncos, who had won the teams' past six meetings – their best ever run against a single opponent and the Cowboys' worst such streak. And six became seven as the Broncos won 30-16 in Dallas, holding their hosts scoreless until the fourth quarter despite Dak Prescott's return.

The Buffalo Bills also suffered a shock defeat as they went down 9-6 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game of zero touchdowns. Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen picked, sacked and recovered a fumble from his namesake, Bills QB Josh Allen.

However, the Baltimore Ravens survived a scare, as Lamar Jackson led them back from 17-3 down to make overtime, where Justin Tucker clinched a 34-31 win. Jackson is now 12-0 as a starter against NFC opponents.

Darnold spooked again

Sam Darnold said he was "seeing ghosts" when he threw four interceptions for the New York Jets against the New England Patriots in 2019, and Bill Belichick's defense has continued to spook the quarterback. He had three picks with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and now has nine in just four career starts against New England, all four of which the Pats have won.

New England are hot on the heels of the Bills now, while AFC East rivals the Miami Dolphins snapped their seven-game losing run against the Houston Texans despite Tua Tagovailoa sitting out with a finger issue.

Releasing Odell Beckham Jr is "in the best interest of all parties", according to Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry.

The Browns confirmed on Friday that the wide receiver is poised to be released after being excused from practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

That came after both his father, Odell Beckham Sr, and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James complained on social media about Beckham's lack of involvement in the Browns' offense.

The situation appeared to have reached the point of no return, leading to reports Beckham would be released once he had signed a restructured contract for salary cap reasons.

When his release goes through, Beckham will go on waivers, where he can be claimed by another team. Should he clear waivers, he will be free to sign with any team of his choice.

Berry explained the move was coming only after long deliberation.

He said in a statement: "After careful consideration, internal discussions and conversations with Odell and his representation, we have determined that it is in the best interest of all parties that Odell no longer play for the Cleveland Browns.

"We appreciate all his efforts and contributions while in Cleveland, but it has just reached a point where it is best that we move forward as a team without Odell.

"We are finalising the process of granting Odell his release and we wish him well as he continues his career."

Beckham was traded to the Browns by the New York Giants in 2019, though he has failed to hit the heights expected during his time in Cleveland.

He finished his first season in Cleveland with 1,035 receiving yards, but the Browns missed out on the playoffs.

Beckham was sidelined with a torn ACL in 2020 as the Browns ended their postseason drought, reaching the Divisional Round, and he returned from that injury in Week 3 of this season.

So far this year, Beckham has made 17 catches for 232 yards for a Browns team that sit last in the AFC North at 4-4 as quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was seemingly the target of the ire of Beckham's father, has battled a torn labrum.

Despite his struggles in Cleveland, Beckham – a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro with the Giants – would seemingly have plenty of interest in his services.

He topped 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons with the Giants – most of 2017 was lost to an ankle injury – with Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) the only wide receivers between 2014 and 2018 to average more yards per game than Beckham (92.8).

Odell Beckham Jr. is expected to be released by the Cleveland Browns, according to multiple reports.

Beckham was excused from practice on Wednesday and Thursday, with Tuesday having seen both his father, Odell Beckham Sr, and four-time NBA MVP LeBron James complain on social media about his lack of involvement in the Browns' offense.

And the situation appears to have reached the point of no return, with Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reporting the Browns plan to release him on Friday.

Adam Schefter of ESPN and NFL Network reported the Browns are working on a restructured deal with Beckham. Once that is finalised, he will be released and go on waivers, where he can be claimed by another team.

Should he clear waivers, he will be free to sign with any team of his choice.

According to Schefter, the Browns are attempting to convert Beckham's $14.5mlillion 2021 base salary into signing bonuses in an effort to save money.

Beckham was traded to the Browns by the New York Giants in 2019, though he has failed to hit the heights expected during his time in Cleveland.

He finished his first season in Cleveland with 1,035 receiving yards, but the Browns missed out on the playoffs.

Beckham was sidelined with a torn ACL in 2020 as the Browns ended their postseason drought, reaching the Divisional Round, and he returned from that injury in Week 3 of this season.

So far this year, Beckham has made 17 catches for 232 yards for a Browns team that sits last in the AFC North at 4-4 as quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was seemingly the target of the ire of Beckham's father, has battled a torn labrum.

Despite his struggles in Cleveland, Beckham - a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time second-team All-Pro with the Giants - would seemingly have plenty of interest in his services.

He topped 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons with the Giants - most of 2017 was lost to an ankle injury - with Julio Jones (103.8) and Antonio Brown (100.6) the only wide receivers between 2014 and 2018 to average more yards per game than Beckham (92.8).

Baker Mayfield was "pretty surprised" by Odell Beckham Sr's apparent criticism of the Cleveland Browns quarterback, insisting he wants the best for Odell Beckham Jr.

The Browns wide receiver was thrust into the spotlight ahead of the trade deadline on Tuesday when his father posted a lengthy video on Instagram showing a number of occasions on which Mayfield failed to find his team-mate.

Beckham Sr. also responded to comments criticising Mayfield, seemingly agreeing the one-time Heisman Trophy winner was hampering his son's performances.

Beckham Jr., who returned from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Week 3 this year, has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns for the 4-4 Browns, who are bottom of the AFC North. He has been targeted 34 times.

In the six games before his Week 7 injury in 2020, Beckham had 23 receptions on 42 targets for 319 yards and three TDs.

With Mayfield – who is averaging a career-high 8.3 yards per passing attempt but has tossed only six TD scores – blamed by Beckham Sr., he described himself as "surprised" but not "hurt".

"I've had conversations with his dad before, man-to-man, face-to-face, and I was pretty surprised by the video and the intentions and the feelings behind it," Mayfield said.

He added: "Naturally, he wants his son to succeed. I can't blame him for that. I want Odell to succeed. That's where we were at – or at least so I thought."

Beckham will do well to succeed from the sideline, though. He was "excused" from practice on Wednesday, coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed, with his future in doubt despite staying in Cleveland.

Should he return, Mayfield is willing to work with Beckham again, having had 110 completions for 1,513 passing yards from 202 targets throwing to the former New York Giants wideout – second to Jarvis Landry in each category for the QB's NFL career.

"If he's back, then we'll work through it and do whatever it takes," Mayfield said. "I can put my ego and pride to the side to win. Because that's all I care about is winning.

"If not, then we'll roll with the guys we have out there. And those guys will know that I completely trust them, and they'll know that I'm always here for them, and that's the leader and the type of quarterback I am."

The Browns actually have a better record without Beckham than with him since his 2019 signing, going 14-15 when the receiver is in the team compared to 7-4 when he is missing.

Odell Beckham Jr remained with the Cleveland Browns beyond the trade deadline, but his future became no clearer on Wednesday when he was "excused" from practice. 

Despite Beckham not being realistically seen as a mover before the deadline on Tuesday, he was the source of plenty of conversation due to his disappointing returns this season. 

The Browns wide receiver has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns since returning from a torn ACL in Week 3. 

Odell Beckham Sr posted a lengthy video on Instagram on Tuesday showing Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield repeatedly failing to find his son. 

NBA great LeBron James, an Ohio native, tweeted "#FreeOBJ", saying Beckham would "show again why he's special". 

But when Beckham gets the opportunity to do so is in significant doubt, with the player not attending practice with his team-mates on Wednesday. 

Asked if the former New York Giants wideout was still a member of the team, coach Kevin Stefanski replied cryptically: "I would just tell you today he is excused, and we will see where this goes." 

Mayfield's media availability was postponed on Wednesday, and he has yet to comment. 

Odell Beckham Jr's father is not happy with the Cleveland Browns wide receiver's numbers this season, and a famous fan shares that sentiment.

Ohio native LeBron James took to Twitter to voice his frustration at Beckham's production, though, like the wideout's father, he appears to not blame the man himself.

The four-time NBA MVP posted on Tuesday: "OBJ will show again why he's special. WR1 #FreeOBJ."

That tweet followed an Instagram post from Odell Beckham Sr featuring an 11-minute video showing clips of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield eschewing chances to throw to an open Beckham.

The social media posts came on the day of the NFL's trade deadline, but Beckham is not among the players expected to be moved despite his struggles.

Beckham has 17 catches for 232 yards and zero touchdowns for the Browns since returning from a torn ACL in Week 3.

Those numbers have been somewhat impacted by a shoulder injury to Mayfield, who missed the Browns' Week 7 win over a Denver Broncos because of a torn labrum but returned on Sunday for Cleveland's 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baker Mayfield will return from a shoulder injury for the Cleveland Browns in Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed the news on Friday after the quarterback missed their 17-14 win over the Denver Broncos in Week 7 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Mayfield's absence broke his streak of 51 consecutive starts for the Browns, but he will return after a one-week layoff.

"Medically, he’s ready to go," Stefanski told reporters on Friday, confirming Mayfield will start. "Our doctors, our trainers, the second opinions felt very comfortable about that.

"Baker's feels that he's ready. He feels he's ready to help this team win."

The 2018 NFL Draft top pick has been able to participate in three days of practice this week.

Case Keenum started in Mayfield's absence against the Broncos, completing 21 of 33 attempts for 199 yards and one touchdown.

Mayfield, who is in the fourth year of his five-year rookie deal, has thrown at 67.1 per cent this season for 1,474 yards, including six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into Week 8 with a 6-1 record, though their form will be tested against the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 211 yards in the Bucs' 38-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears last week, though Tampa Bay's recent record against the Saints is poor.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 6-1, and are looking to extend their strong start when they take on the Houston Texans, who are out to avoid a franchise first.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, meanwhile, have been linking up to superb effect for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are at the New York Jets on Sunday. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)

Tampa Bay may have picked up from where they left off last season, but their recent run against New Orleans has not been at all profitable.

New Orleans have won five straight games against NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, which is the longest active losing streak for the Buccaneers against any single opponent.

However, the Bucs did set franchise records for points in a first quarter with 21, and points in a first half with 35, in their 38-3 win over the Bears. The 21 first-quarter and 35 first-half points are also the most scored by any NFL team this season.

Mike Evans caught three touchdowns against the Bears with all of them coming in the first half. He joined Marvin Harrison, Marvin Jones Jr, Jerry Rice, and Sterling Sharpe as the only players since the merger to have multiple games with three first-half touchdown catches.

The Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in their last outing, and had 35 passing attempts in that win. Both teams have combined to win 76.9 per cent of their games this season, the highest combined winning percentage that the teams have ever had when facing each other.

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) @ Houston Texans (1-6)

This will be only the fifth all-time meeting between the Texans and the Rams, and just the second game since the latter moved back to Los Angeles.

The Rams have outscored the Texans by an aggregate of 71-20 over the last two meetings, and, at 6-1, Los Angeles are enjoying their equal second-best start to a season this century, behind the 7-0 run in 2018.

They are also looking to win each of their first four road games of a season for the fourth time since 2000, having also done this in 2001, 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for 2,172 yards this season, the most by any Rams player in the team's first seven games of the season since Kurt Warner threw for 2,445 yards in the first seven games of 2000.

Houston, meanwhile, have lost six straight, with each of the last two losses coming by over 25 points. The Texans have not lost three straight games by at least 25 points in franchise history – the only team to do so in a single season in the last 25 years were the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) @ New York Jets (1-5)

The Bengals have won each of the last three meetings between these teams, matching their longest-ever win streak over the Jets (1973-81). Cincinnati's 23-22 win in New York in 2016 snapped a nine-game losing streak when visiting the Jets.

Cincinnati only managed four wins in 2020, but they surpassed that figure with a brilliant 41-17 victory in Baltimore last week, with quarterback Burrow and wide receiver Chase turning in stellar performances.

Burrow passed for a career-high 416 yards and tied a previous career high with three touchdown passes. It was his seventh consecutive game with multiple TD passes, tying a franchise record set twice before by Carson Palmer (2004-05 and 2010).

Chase, meanwhile, had 201 receiving yards, the most all-time by a Bengals rookie and the most by any rookie since Mike Evans had 209 in 2014. Chase's 754 receiving yards in 2021 ranks are the most by any player through seven career games in NFL history.

The Jets' 54-13 loss to the Patriots last week was their largest defeat since a 45-3 loss in Week 13 of the 2010 season, which also happened in New England. The 54 points are the fourth-most that New York have allowed in a single game and the most since 1980.

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions are still winless, going 0-7 so far, but could snap the losing streak against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions have won three straight against Philadelphia, with each of the last two games being decided by three points or fewer. 

Strugglers the Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo. With two receiving yards on Sunday, Stefon Diggs will reach 2,000 as a Bill in just his 23rd game with the team. That would be tied for the second fewest games needed by any player with any single team in the Super Bowl era (Odell Beckham Jr. – 21 with the Giants, Vincent Jackson – 23 with Tampa Bay, Brandon Marshall – 23 with Chicago).

Fresh from their win over the Jets, the Patriots will aim to maintain the momentum against the Los Angeles Chargers, against whom they have five straight wins and are 16-3 in the last 19 meetings.

An AFC North clash sees the Browns (4-3) host the 3-3 Steelers. Pittsburgh have not won in Cleveland since 2017, as the teams tied in 2018 before the Browns won in 2019 and 2020.

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