Week 13 stock up, stock down: Browns have found a punt return man

Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns got another much-needed win against the Texans and these players saw their stock rise and fall in a very odd game. 

In one of the most bizarre games of the entire season, the Cleveland Browns were able to essentially blow out the Houston Texans without scoring an offensive touchdown. Instead, the team got two defensive touchdowns and one on special teams. If you had the Browns’ defense in fantasy this week, you fared pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The offense could not find its rhythm and that is due in large part to the rust that quarterback Deshaun Watson dealt with, but more on that later.

Here are the players that saw their stock rise and fall in Week 13.

Browns Week 13 stock up, stock down

Stock Up: The defense and special teams units

Hire Joe Woods!

Oh, wait.

If you are on Browns’ Twitter, then you will see at least once a game the phrase “Fire Joe Woods!” or at least some variation of that. While he may not return next season, this season he has gotten a lot more flak than he probably deserves, but over the last month or so, the defense has played better in spurts.

Turnovers were not something that the Browns had a lot of coming into the game, something Myles Garrett said there was a “lack of importance in practice” but when the clock hit triple-zeroes in the fourth quarter, they had four. Two of those went for touchdowns.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has got a lot of deserved flak this season, but on Sunday his unit eased that a bit as they got a punt return for a touchdown, and forced a fumble as well.

Stock Down: Offensive Line

One aspect of the Browns that gets heavily praised, and rightfully so, is the offensive line. Well, on Sunday afternoon, that couldn’t be further from the case. The line has had a bad couple of weeks, so of course, Browns’ Twitter is having a meltdown as if they were unaware that the o-line could possibly have bad games.

Wyatt Teller is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, but on Sunday he just seemed a step off. Sure, he is still dealing with a calf injury, but it was glaring on Sunday. He hasn’t ever been good in the pass protection aspect of the game, and that was on display yet again against the Texans.

One guy the team sorely missed was tight end David Njoku. It seems that when he misses time, the line misses the grit and toughness he brings to the table.

Stock Up: Tony Fields II

As aforementioned, the defensive side of the ball produced two touchdowns to lead the charge, and one of those touchdowns came on an interception return from linebacker Tony Fields II.

In the fourth quarter, Fields took a tipped pass by Chase Winovich to the house from 16 yards out. This marked his first career interception and first career touchdown. It was a huge boost for this unit. Cleveland deployed Fields to the WILL linebacker position, allowing Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to go to the SAM position. Fields might have to play the MIKE position more as the Browns lost Sione Takitaki for the season due to an ACL tear.

Stock Down: Deshaun Watson’s debut

If you were under the belief that Deshaun Watson would play an NFL game for the first time in 700 days and return to 2020 form, then you simply do not understand how fast the game is actually played.

Watson was rusty all game but did show glimpses of why the Browns traded away three first-round picks and gave him the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history. The game was too fast for Watson, but this was a glorified preseason game for him and the team.

The rust will eventually wear off and then this offense can be fully unleashed, but until then, don’t be shocked if it takes him a game or two to get fully caught up to NFL game speed.

Stock Up: Donovan Peoples-Jones the punt returner

When the Browns signed Jakeem Grant in the offseason, they figured their special team’s woes were over. Unfortunately, we never got to see that pan out as Grant was lost for the season before it even began due to an Achilles tear.

After different trials and tribulations, Cleveland has seemed to finally found a dependable punt return guy in wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones. On Sunday, DPJ fielded a punt at his own 24-yard line and took it to the crib for the first punt return touchdown of his career. The touchdown and ensuing extra point put the Browns up 7-5, which jumpstarted the team for the rest of the game.

As a receiver, DPJ has been a good No. 2 this season opposite of Amari Cooper, and has really lifted this offense at times, which seems all but guaranteed that he earned himself a contract extension this offseason.