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Around the AFC North: Tee Higgins Is Hot With Ja'Marr Chase Moving Closer to Return

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) carries in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

Cincinnati Bengals: Tee Higgins Is Hot, Ja'Marr Chase Closer to Returning

Tee Higgins is flourishing as Cincinnati's No. 1 receiver, with Ja'Marr Chase (hip) reportedly set to return.

In Sunday's 20-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Higgins had his second-straight 100-yard game with seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals (7-4) moved into a first-place tie with the Ravens in the AFC North, and Joe Burrow has supreme confidence in Higgins' ability to get open in clutch situations.

"We've got really good players on the outside that can threaten vertically and come out of it quickly," Burrow said via the team’s website. "We have great players. When the going gets tough I'm going to find the guy that I have the most trust in and Tee is that guy."

Higgins had 74 catches for 1,091 yards and six touchdowns last season, but he's on pace to top that this season with 57 catches for 826 yards and four touchdowns. He made a late-game 29-yard reception against the Titans on Sunday that helped secure the win.

The Bengals expect to get Chase back in Week 13 against the Chiefs, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Chase, one of the NFL's most explosive wide receivers, has been out since Week 7 with a hip injury.

With how hot Higgins has been, he will remain a key part of the Bengals' offense as they try to win the division for the second-straight year. 

"If we get on-on-ones, we expect our guys to rise up to the challenge and make the plays," Head Coach Zac Taylor said. "That's what Tee did."

Browns Hope Deshaun Watson Sparks Late-Season Surge

Cleveland (4-7) pulled out a much-needed 23-17 overtime victory against the Buccaneers in Week 12, in what is expected to be Jacoby Brissett's last game as the Browns' starting quarterback. Cleveland plans to pass the baton from Brissett to Deshaun Watson, who has served his 11-game suspension and is expected to start Week 13 against the Houston Texans, his former team.

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski said he felt confident Watson was ready to play well despite his long layoff.

"I believe in his preparation," Stefanski said via "I believe he's worked really hard and he's ready to go."

Stefanski said Brissett's professional attitude would help make the transition at quarterback easy.

"Unique situation with these two parties," Stefanski said. "They really respect each other. We saw support from Deshaun to Jacoby and now Jacoby is going to support Deshaun. Jacoby is going to help us win this week and get Deshaun ready."

The Browns have only reached 30 points in a game twice this season, but hope to attack more downfield with Watson at the helm.

"I feel like Deshaun is very explosive," Browns cornerback M.J. Emerson said. "We'll see more explosive plays."

Diontae Johnson and Kenny Pickett Hope to Connect More Often

As the Steelers (3-7) prepared for their Monday Night Football matchup against Indianapolis, they hoped to get more production from wide receiver Diontae Johnson. The switch from Mitch Trubisky to Kenny Pickett at quarterback has not led to more opportunities for Johnson. Coming off his best season in 2021 (107 catches, 1,161 yards, eight touchdowns), Johnson has not caught more than five passes in any game since Pickett became the starter midway through Week 3.

Pickett said the amount of double-coverage that Johnson draws makes it more difficult to get him the football.

"That's frustrating when he's that good of a player, that talented, and they try and take him out of the game plan," Pickett said via Noah Strackbein of "There are some things, maybe move him around more and get him in different spots to try and get him the ball. You know, but when they're playing a two-high shell and they got a safety over the top, it's tough."

Pickett hoped that he could find opportunities to feed Johnson consistently against the Colts.

"He's a great player and he wants to help us win," Pickett said. "We'll get him in some spots to be successful."

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