Cleveland Browns: Mayfield Shines, Sends Best Wishes to Beckham
Two days after announcing the release of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Cleveland Browns exploded offensively.
Coincidence or not, Baker Mayfield (14 for 21, 218 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) looked comfortable and efficient as the Browns rolled past the Cincinnati Bengals, 41-16. The breakup between Beckham and the Browns made news all week, after Beckham's father shared a video on social media showing plays when Mayfield didn't throw his son the ball.
The Mayfield-Beckham relationship as teammates is over, but the Browns' season is far from done. The victory moved Cleveland (5-4) above .500, and Mayfield sounded confident about building momentum and took the high road when talking about Beckham.
"I wish him well, I really do," Beckham said via Jake Trotter of ESPN.com. "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 despite all … 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."
The win rekindled discussion about whether the Browns are actually better without Beckham. The Browns are definitely better when they have a healthy Nick Chubb, who appears fully recovered from his early-season calf injury after his 70-yard touchdown run against the Bengals.
Cleveland also got a huge defensive play from star cornerback Denzel Ward, who picked off Joe Burrow on Cincinnati's first drive and took it 99 yards to the house.
The AFC North race remains wide open and the Browns still have four games left against division opponents, including two against the Ravens. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett said the Browns are on the same page again, and he gave the floor to Mayfield to address the team after pregame warmups, setting the right tone for their impressive performance.
"He looked at me before I was about to speak and I pointed at him and said, 'You got it,'" Garrett said via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal. "It was kind of important for him to address the team and show that this is not bothering him, it's not on his mind, he's looking forward and we all need to. I think that it was important that I gave the reins to him."
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow's Interceptions Proving Costly
Since beating the Ravens in Week 7 to take the division lead, the Bengals (5-4) have lost two straight and have fallen to last place pending the outcome of Monday night's game between the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) and Chicago Bears.
One of Cincinnati's major issues is turnovers. Burrow and Sam Darnold of the New York Jets are tied for the NFL lead with 11 interceptions, and Burrow has thrown at least one pick in all but two games this season. A late-game pick last week led to the Jets' upset win.
If the Bengals are going to right the ship, Burrow says he has to be more careful with the football.
"Today, the interceptions were frustrating," Burrow said via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Over the course of the season, there have been some that are my fault, some that were good plays by the defense. The ones that I can control, I need to limit. And that's that."
Sunday's loss dropped Burrow's career record against the Browns to 0-3. The Bengals have a bye in Week 10 before visiting the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 11.
Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt Can Strengthen Case for Defensive Player of the Year Monday Night
Facing the Bears on Monday Night Football will give Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt a chance to shine under a national spotlight. The Defensive Player of the Year candidate has 8.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hits, 27 tackles and three forced fumbles, and the Steelers (4-3) are riding a three-game winning streak.
One of the main things on Watt's mind is containing the running ability of Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who had a spectacular touchdown run in Week 8. But Fields had also taken more sacks than any quarterback in the league entering the week.
Watt said facing run-heavy attacks like the Ravens and the Browns in the AFC North will help him prepare for the Bears, who are using Fields' running ability as a weapon.
"We've seen a lot of running offense, obviously with Cleveland and Baltimore as well," Watt said via PittsburghSteelers.com. "But like I said, this isn't a Baltimore-style run offense. They like to run the ball downhill and they like to move the quarterback around to out of the pocket to get him comfortable. So it'll be a challenge."