I would go further than Walt did on our D-Line and give us one star. Benson Mayowa & Ryan Russell are our starting DEs for at least 4 games and they have 1 1/2 sacks between them & Irving who may have to rotate in. Gregory looks like he's possibly done for the year and Lawrence had issues at Boise so it's not like this is new territory for him even though this is his first suspension. We should've picked Ramsey and looked heavily at DL but we are going with Mayowa & Russell. Our pass rush will absolutely suck unless Russell shows big improvement and Mayowa becomes more than he has been so far.
You know how coaches are supposed to play their starters for a full half or more in Week 3 of the preseason? Marvin Lewis apparently didn't get that memo. Carson Palmer saw one quarter of action, and the rest of Cincinnati's starters left the game at random points in the second quarter.
Carson Palmer played decently in his limited action at Buffalo, going 9-of-11 for 95 yards and two touchdowns in one quarter of action He was very accurate, but still failed to demonstrate the zip he once showed prior to all of his injuries. Still, given the weapons he has, he's going to post solid numbers. He's a fine high-end QB2.
Here were Palmer's targets:
Cedric Benson: 1
Jermaine Gresham: 3 (1 in end zone)
Chad Ochocinco: 2 (1 in end zone)
Terrell Owens: 4
Jordan Shipley: 2
I'm going to harp on this one last time this summer: You want Terrell Owens on your team and you should stay away from Chad Ochocinco. Owens once again out-produced Ochocinco; the latter has no rapport with Carson Palmer right now because he's been wasting his time making crappy reality TV shows all offseason.
Jermaine Gresham continues to grow as part of Cincinnati's offense. He saw three of Carson Palmer's 12 targets at Buffalo, including one in the end zone that he converted for a touchdown. I usually hate drafting rookie tight ends, but Gresham is talented enough to be a very rare exception. I'd have no qualms about having him in my starting lineup at this point.
Cedric Benson ripped right through Buffalo's anemic defensive front, gaining 50 yards on eight carries. His only blemish on the night was a dropped pass. Benson is well worth a second-round fantasy pick; don't worry about Bernard Scott stealing touches.
Trent Edwards surprisingly looked somewhat decent in this game. He went 13-of-17 for 153 yards and a touchdown. He took some deep shots, nearly connecting on a long bomb to Lee Evans. Of course, he was also nearly picked by Leon Hall.
Here were Edwards' targets:
Joique Bell: 1
Lee Evans: 3
Steve Johnson: 2
Corey McIntyre: 1
David Nelson: 1
Roscoe Parrish: 4
C.J. Spiller: 2
Jonathan Stupar: 2
Lee Evans should have a solid, WR3-type fantasy campaign. He caught only one pass for eight yards in a half of action against the Bengals, but saw three targets, including a deep bomb downfield. Evans is the No. 1 option again in Buffalo's passing attack, so his numbers are bound to increase over last year's totals.
Facebook friend Zach V. suggested I check out Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish so I can move him up my fantasy rankings. Parrish saw four targets, catching all of them for 56 yards and a touchdown. He certainly was impressive, but Buffalo's stale, run-oriented offense simply can't support two receivers, as we saw last year with Terrell Owens and Lee Evans. Parrish is not draftable until the Bills find a legitimate quarterback and offensive line.
C.J. Spiller opened the game with a pair of negative runs. He simply had nowhere to move and was pushed back by Cincinnati's defense. He actually had minus-16 yards on his first three carries. Spiller finished the contest with 52 yards and two touchdowns on 12 attempts, as well as two catches for 33 receiving yards. However, some of that positive production came against Cincinnati's second-team defense. Spiller is definitely a dynamic talent, but his awful offensive line is going to make things very difficult for him in his rookie campaign.
Jaguars 19, Buccaneers 13
The big news surrounding Jacksonville's third preseason game was that Maurice Jones-Drew had to sit out because of knee soreness. Fox Sports' Jay Glazer says that Jones-Drew "should be OK." One of the appealing things about Jones-Drew has been the fact that he was seen as this year's safest fantasy player. That's no longer the case, so I'm going to move Ray Rice ahead of him.
After a miserable start to the preseason, David Garrard has gotten better in each succeeding game. Garrard was 24-of-31 for 211 yards and an interception in three quarters of action at Tampa Bay. The pick was ugly - he didn't see Barrett Ruud in coverage and consequently tossed an interception in the end zone - but Garrard played well otherwise.
Here were Garrard's targets:
Brock Bolen: 3
Jarett Dillard: 2
Rashard Jennings: 4
Greg Jones: 1 (1 in end zone)
Marcedes Lewis: 2
Zach Miller: 2
Montell Owens: 1
Mike Sims-Walker: 2
Mike Thomas: 8 (2 in end zone)
Tiquan Underwood: 1
Ernest Wilford: 4 (1 in end zone)
Troy Williamson: 1
Mike Thomas is emerging as a solid PPR flex receiver. The second-year wideout saw eight targets from David Garrard at Tampa Bay, catching five balls for 30 yards. Garrard looked toward Thomas twice in the end zone. Thomas had a touchdown in his hands, but Buccaneers rookie safety Cody Grimm made a great play to break up the pass.
Starting instead of Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings rushed for just nine yards on four carries. However, he was very good in the passing game, catching four balls for 36 receiving yards. If Jones-Drew's knee continues to hinder him, make sure you pick up Jennings.
Josh Freeman didn't play for the Buccaneers, but that didn't stop Mike Williams from producing. Williams caught three passes for 83 yards. His longest play was a 53-yard reception, which wasn't as impressive as it sounds because Jacksonville's corner fell down. However, Williams had a great back-shoulder reception in the third quarter. Quite simply, he doesn't look like a rookie at all. As I've been saying, make sure you get Williams on your team because he is a stud.
Kellen Winslow Jr. actually played for the first time this preseason. He caught just one pass for five yards. He'll be fine for the regular season, but the fact that he's had six knee surgeries in the past five years concerns me. I'm staying away.
Broncos 34, Steelers 17
If we learned one thing from this contest, it's that the Steelers are screwed for the first four games of the regular season. Both Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon were awful at Denver. Dixon continuously made poor decisions, such as an interception in the end zone and a pick-six at the end of the first half. Leftwich entered the game afterward, but was simply too slow behind a horrendous offensive line. Most of his passes were knocked down or deflected because his wind-up spans a few lifetimes. Of course, he only attempted four throws, failing to complete any of them.
Here's a thought: How about Charlie Batch? Unlike Dixon, he's experienced and competent. Unlike Leftwich, he can get more than one pass off in a decade. Batch took the Steelers down the field for a touchdown on his first drive, connecting on both passes for 27 yards and a score. He finished 3-of-4 for 44 yards, the aforementioned touchdown and an interception that wasn't his fault (the receiver ran the wrong route). I really don't see why Batch can't be Pittsburgh's starter for the first four games. He's their best shot at going 2-2.
Ben Roethlisberger played exactly one quarter - Mike Tomlin took him out in the middle of the drive. Big Ben was very sharp, going 4-of-6 for 67 yards. He's well worth owning as a QB2. Pick him up if he's available in Round 10 or later.
Steelers rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer was really impressive in this contest. In one sequence, he ran to a group of defenders, but was somehow able to push the pile forward 10 yards. After that, he broke free for a 40-yard burst. It took him a while to transition from Georgia Tech's silly triple option offense, but he's starting to really showcase his high level of talent.
I'm not sure who Denver's starting quarterback is right now, but it's certainly not Kyle Orton. This man may look like Orton and talk like Orton, but he's not playing like Orton. The guy wearing Orton's jersey has inexplicably shown improved arm strength this preseason. He was 9-of-14 for 80 yards and a pick against the Steelers, but was much better than those numbers suggest. In all seriousness, Orton is a solid QB2 to own.
Where did this Brandon Lloyd character come from? He was essentially out of the league last year, but has really shined this preseason. He led Denver's receivers in targets (5) against the Steelers, catching four balls for 40 yards. He's worth a late-round flier and should produce as long as he's in the lineup, but could be headed to the bench if Demaryius Thomas ever gets healthy (which may not even happen this year).
Eddie Royal caught all three of his targets for 36 yards against Pittsburgh. It's still hard to trust him because Josh McDaniels is very erratic and unpredictable, but this was a good sign.
The NFL's lord and savior, Tim Tebow played most of the second half in this game. He went 5-of-10, 72 yards, a touchdown and an interception. As the stats suggest, it was a mixed bag. Tebow made some really nice throws, but had an ugly pick-six. Overall though, Broncos fans should be mildly encouraged, though optimism should be curbed because Tebow was going against Pittsburgh's scrubs.
49ers 28, Raiders 24
You never want to see anyone get hurt in the preseason, but the Raiders unfortunately suffered two major injuries in this contest. Jason Campbell was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Michael Bush later broke his thumb.
The good news is that Campbell is expected to be ready for Week 1 after suffering a stringer and a wrist injury. Bush, meanwhile, hasn't been ruled out for Week 1. I don't expect Bush to play in the opener, but a Week 3 return is reasonable.
Jason Campbell played well, going 6-of-8 for 93 yards. He's definitely a solid QB2, though he doesn't have much upside. And don't worry about his injury; he'll likely be in the lineup at Tennessee.
Here were Campbell's targets in slightly more than one quarter of action:
Michael Bush: 1
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 2
Darren McFadden: 2
Louis Murphy: 1
Brandon Myers: 1
Marcel Reese: 1
It's a shame Michael Bush broke his thumb because he looked good when he was on the field. He rushed for 23 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. More importantly, he took the ball into the end zone when Oakland was on the 1-yard line, so it's clear that he'll have the goal-line touches when he returns to the lineup.
Darren McFadden played for the first time this preseason against the 49ers. He predictably struggled on the ground (7 carries, 9 yards), but was effective as a receiver coming out of the backfield. He could be a passable flex option in PPR leagues if he manages to stay healthy (not likely).
The Raiders made it a point to feed the ball to Darrius Heyward-Bey early on. DHB shockingly caught two passes on the first drive, but was pretty quiet afterward.
As you'll see below, Louis Murphy caught a 74-yard touchdown from Bruce Gradkowski. Murphy saw only one target in a quarter from Jason Campbell, but he's still the receiver to own in Oakland. Gradkowski, by the way, was pretty brilliant (14-of-22, 202 yards, 2 TDs). He made some really impressive throws, and any team looking for a quarterback right now (cough, Bills, sneeze) should consider trading for him.
There's not much to note about the 49ers' passing game because neither Michael Crabtree nor Vernon Davis played. Despite throwing to junk once again, Alex Smith was a solid 9-of-15 for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Frank Gore saw his first preseason action in this contest. He ran for gains of 49 and 9 yards, and then was taken out of the game. He should be the No. 5 overall pick in normal and touchdown leagues.
The guys on the Raiders TV Network win the award for Most Excited Biased Announcers. Seriously, they made Gus Johnson sound pretty tranquil. When Bruce Gradkowski hit Louis Murphy for a 74-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the following was yelled: "GOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO LOUIS MURPHY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOO TOUCHDOWN RRRRRRRRRRRRAIDERS!!!!!!!!!! YEAHHHH!!!!!!!"
Here's a funny quote from them: "The Cowboys call themselves 'America's Team.' Well, the Raiders are the planet's team."
I guess this is what happens when you don't see your team win six or more games in nearly a decade.
Ravens 24, Giants 10
Baltimore's offense has to be considered among the league's elite. Now in his third year, Joe Flacco has a wide array of weapons to work with. The Ravens moved the chains with ease in their third preseason game, scoring 17 points in one half - a total that could have been 27 if it weren't for a tipped interception and a penalty that moved them out of field goal range.
Now completely healthy, Joe Flacco is making a strong case to be considered an elite NFL quarterback. Flacco went 21-of-34 for 229 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a half plus one drive against the Giants. Baltimore's coaching staff has such faith in Flacco that they let him throw on two separate fourth-down attempts. Flacco didn't disappoint, converting both of them.
Here were Flacco's targets:
Anquan Boldin: 6 (1 in end zone)
Mark Clayton: 4
Ed Dickson: 1
Todd Heap: 7 (1 in end zone)
Derrick Mason: 10 (2 in end zone)
Ray Rice: 6
Marcus Smith: 1
Despite the addition of Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason has led the Ravens in targets the past two games. He saw 10 looks against the Giants, including two in the red zone, catching five balls for 35 yards. He remains a PPR monster.
Anquan Boldin was more involved on offense in Baltimore's third preseason contest, which is encouraging. Boldin saw six targets, grabbing four of them for 52 yards and a score.
So much for Baltimore's rookie tight ends. Todd Heap caught six of seven targets thrown his way against New York, leading the Ravens with 69 receiving yards and a touchdown. As long as Flacco keeps feeding him the ball, Heap could pick up where he left off at the end of last year and perform as a low-end TE1. Of course he'd have to stay healthy, which is a long shot.
Eli Manning started this game slowly, nearly tossing an interception in the first quarter and then underthrowing a wide-open Steve Smith for a potential 80-yard touchdown. However, Manning settled down afterward, playing better than his 9-of-18 for 63 yards and a pick would indicate. The interception wasn't his fault, as the ball bounced out of Steve Smith's hands.
Speaking of Steve Smith, he led the Giants in targets at Baltimore with seven, catching four balls for 48 yards. Hakeem Nicks, meanwhile, had six targets, including one in the end zone. He finished with four grabs for 26 yards.
Ahmad Bradshaw once again started for the Giants and looked like the more impressive running back, showing a nice burst and knocking helpless defenders off with a powerful stiff-arm. Bradshaw had 22 yards on seven carries, but that YPC is skewed because three of those attempts were failed tries in short yardage. Brandon Jacobs totaled 41 yards on six attempts, but most of that came on a 29-yard burst. Jacobs also saw some time with the second-team offense in the third quarter, which is good news for Bradshaw's fantasy prospects.
Cardinals 14, Bears 9
The Cardinals made a well-publicized quarterback switch before this contest, handing the starting job to Derek Anderson over Matt Leinart. My take: If Anderson is sober, he should be the guy. He has a much better arm than Leinart and can actually get the ball downfield to Larry Fitzgerald. If Anderson plays like a drunk, as he has in Cleveland the past two years, then it really doesn't matter because the Cardinals will be terrible no matter what.
Derek Anderson performed well at Chicago, going 7-of-12 for 94 yards and a touchdown. He had one poor throw in which Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer dropped an interception, but Anderson was impressive otherwise, showing very good arm strength and accuracy. The job should be his.
If you're wondering about Leinart, by the way, he employed his usual strategy of repeatedly throwing 5-yard checkdowns. He probably won't make the final roster.
Tim Hightower was once again the starter in Arizona's third preseason game. For the Chris Wells believers shrugging this off, consider the following:
1. Wells didn't touch the ball until the 13:30 mark of the second quarter.
2. Wells dropped a pass and fumbled in the red zone - two things that certainly won't help him receive more touches.
3. I can't believe I'm writing this even though I watched it, but Hightower actually ran better than Wells. Hightower showed more quickness and broke tackles, rushing for 62 yards on eight carries. Wells had just 14 yards on eight attempts.
Wells is going WAY TOO EARLY in most fantasy drafts. I would advise against drafting him.
Undrafted rookie Stephen Williams caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. You can't draft him because he's not going to play ahead of Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, but he's worth monitoring on the waiver wire in the event that Arizona suffers injuries to its receiving corps.
Maybe I'm wrong, but wasn't Mike Martz brought in to energize Chicago's offense? If so, why can't the Bears score at all? Why are they having problems with turnovers and pass protection? I actually know the answer to these questions (Martz sucks), but I'm just asking rhetorically.
Jay Cutler was 10-of-20 for 129 yards and two ugly interceptions. He also took four sacks in two-and-a-half quarters, bringing that total to nine in the past two contests. The offensive line was responsible for some of those sacks (left tackle Chris Williams couldn't block Calais Campbell), but Cutler held on to the ball too long on other occasions.
Here were Cutler's targets:
Devin Aromashodu: 3
Desmond Clark: 1
Matt Forte: 1
Devin Hester: 4
Johnny Knox: 8
Chester Taylor: 2
Jay Cutler's favorite target clearly is Johnny Knox. Knox saw more targets from Cutler (8) than Devin Aromashodu and Devin Hester combined (7) against the Cardinals. Knox finished with three catches for 57 yards, including a 41-yard bomb.
Panthers 15, Titans 7
Chris Johnson ran for just 10 yards on eight carries at Carolina. Fantasy bust? Not yet. I don't think Johnson can stay healthy this year - check my Fantasy Running Back Carries article for more - but production while in the lineup shouldn't be a problem. It was a bit troubling though that Tennessee's offensive line couldn't open up any running room for the man who thinks he's rushing for 2,500 yards this year.
Vince Young was a solid 6-of-9 for 48 yards. He should be a decent QB2 this season. Here were his targets:
Kenny Britt: 4
Lavelle Hawkins: 2
Chris Johnson: 1
Craig Stevens: 3
Nate Washington: DID NOT PLAY
Matt Moore had yet another ugly preseason game. He was 18-of-33 for 190 yards. He could have easily thrown two interceptions, and at one point in the first half, Carolina had five consecutive three-and-outs. Like I've been saying all August though, we can't judge Moore legitimately without Steve Smith. Moore literally has nothing to work with right now outside of DeAngelo Williams. Any quarterback would struggle throwing to no-talents like Kenneth Moore and Wallace Wright.
Brandon LaFell caught two passes for 31 yards. He made a great diving catch on the final drive of the first half, but dropped an easy reception right before that. LaFell's hands remain a concern, and he's not going to be a fantasy factor this year.
If Moore struggles in the regular season, John Fox shouldn't hesitate to give Jimmy Clausen the nod.
Clausen went 4-of-5 for 79 yards on just two drives. On his first pass, he hit Kenneth Moore for a 15-yard strike along the sidelines, showcasing great arm strength and accuracy. Unfortunately, the drive stalled because the offensive line committed four false start penalties, including three in a row. The Panthers actually had a 3rd-and-2 turn into a 3rd-and-17.
Clausen hit Gary Barnidge for a 50-yard pass on the second drive. However, this was just a short completion that Barnidge turned into a long gain, thanks to a pair of broken tackles.
Clausen's only incompletion was deflected on the line of scrimmage. He didn't get to play much, but he actually did show some maturity in his limited action, moving a confused receiver around to the correct place in the red zone.
Vikings 24, Seahawks 13
Preseason games aren't very important in the grand scheme of things (unless you're talking about 2010 Fantasy Football Preseason Stock pages of course). However, this contest was much more important to Minnesota than Seattle. This was the Vikings' only opportunity to get Brett Favre some extensive action against a first-team defense.
Brett Favre was pretty solid against the Seahawks considering that he was frequently pressured behind his pedestrian offensive line. He went 16-of-28 for 187 yards and two interceptions. One of the picks wasn't his fault; Bernard Berrian bobbled a ball that popped into Earl Thomas' hands that went back for a touchdown. The second interception was awful, as Favre carelessly launched a deep ball into double coverage.
Here were Favre's targets:
Bernard Berrian: 4
Greg Camarillo: 5
Toby Gerhart: 1
Percy Harvin: 4
Greg Lewis: 1
Adrian Peterson: 2
Visanthe Shiancoe: 3
Naufahu Tahi: 1
Javon Walker: 2
Albert Young: 1
Of all of Brett Favre's receivers not named Percy Harvin, I was most impressed with Greg Camarillo. Camarillo saw five targets in Minnesota's third preseason game, catching four of them for 47 yards. He's a smart receiver and will become a favorite of Favre's on third downs. He may turn out to be a decent bye-week filler in PPR leagues.
I was not impressed with Bernard Berrian. Berrian saw four targets, but converted just one of them for eight yards. He was also responsible for a pick-six. Fantasy owners are reaching for Berrian in their drafts because he's going to start this season. Don't fall into that trap. B-Twice just isn't that talented.
Matt Hasselbeck was a pretty nondescript 9-of-17 for 126 yards. He's just not worth owning in any fantasy league, so let's move on to his targets:
Deion Branch: 1
John Carlson: 1
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 5 (1 in end zone)
Julius Jones: 3
Anthony McCoy: 1
Mike Williams: 5 (1 in end zone)
Matt Hasselbeck targeted Mike Williams five times at Minnesota, including once in the end zone. Williams has actually been pretty impressive this preseason. He caught three passes for 54 yards, showed some separation ability and made nice moves after his receptions. You could do worse than Williams as a late-round flier with upside, but remember that he's not even a No. 1 option in a stagnant offense.
I'm not seeing what I want out of John Carlson. He caught just one pass last week, and was targeted only once at Minnesota. Even worse, he was playing in the fourth quarter with Charlie Whitehurst, so Pete Carroll's obviously not too concerned with his starting tight end staying healthy.
Leon Washington started at Minnesota. He rushed for 16 yards on six carries, but two of those attempts came when he was stuffed in short-yardage situations. Washington is the most talented running back on the roster by far. He's well worth a late-round flier.
Texans 23, Cowboys 7
In my 2010 NFL Season Previews, I wrote that the Cowboys were the most talented team in the NFL. Well, they certainly haven't played like it this preseason. They've had major problems in the red zone and in pass protection. They committed numerous mistakes at Houston, and had a net total of minus-1 yards midway through the second quarter of this contest.
Tony Romo went 13-of-18 for 146 yards and an interception that wasn't his fault. Romo grew more frustrated as the night went on. His offensive line couldn't give him a clean pocket, and Felix Jones looked like he didn't know what he was doing half the time. Romo and Jones engaged in a heated discussion on the sidelines following a miscommunication.
Here were Romo's targets:
Miles Austin: 5 (1 in end zone)
Tashard Choice: 1
Felix Jones: 3
Jason Witten: 6
Roy Williams: 5
The Cowboys once again rotated running backs. Marion Barber (4 carries, minus-2 yards) started, and Felix Jones (3 carries, 6 yards) came in on the next series. Neither was particularly effective against a monstrous Houston run defense.
Matt Schaub was brilliant against the Cowboys, going 18-of-29 for 183 yards and a touchdown. Several of his incompletions were thrown away. He looks like he's in mid-season form and remains a top six fantasy quarterback.
Here were Schaub's targets:
Joel Dreessen: 1
Arian Foster: 5
Andre Johnson: 11
Jacoby Jones: 7
Kevin Walter: 3
Andre Johnson turned 11 targets in two-and-a-half quarters into seven receptions for 79 yards. He nearly scored on one play when he was dragged out of bounds at the 1-yard line. He should be the No. 5 or 6 overall pick in PPR leagues, depending on how many receivers you start.
I was really encouraged by Jacoby Jones' involvement in Houston's third preseason game. Jones saw seven targets compared to Kevin Walter's three, catching five of them for 63 yards and a touchdown. I'm back on board for Jones being a high-upside late-round sleeper.
As I wrote on the forum: Arian Foster, Australian for Fantasy Stud. Foster was unbelievable, rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also chipped in with four catches for 40 receiving yards. Foster was active in the passing game and goal-line situations. He's a legitimate RB2.
Lions 35, Browns 27
I'm feeling more and more confident about my prediction that the Lions will go 9-7 this year. Their offense is going to be unstoppable.
Jahvid Best is amazing. He opened the third exhibition game with a 51-yard run on the first play. On the next snap, he caught a pass and juked a defender for a 10-yard reception. He was done after the first series, which is a great sign because Jim Schwartz obviously plans on utilizing him heavily in the offense. Best is a must-draft if you can get him in the fourth round. Personally, I wouldn't have any problem taking him in the third round of a 12-team league.
Matthew Stafford continued his preseason tirade against the Browns. He finished 15-of-20 for 159 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 49-yard pass to Nate Burleson wiped out because of a Gosder Cherilus holding penalty. Those numbers were definitely indicative of his play, as Stafford showed off his elite arm strength and accuracy in front of the Detroit crowd. He even converted a 3rd-and-16 to Calvin Johnson, making it look very easy.
Through three exhibition games, Stafford is now 36-of-49 for 350 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He should be considered as a legitimate low-end QB1.
Here were Stafford's targets:
Jahvid Best: 1
Aaron Brown: 1
Nate Burleson: 6 (1 in end zone)
Bryant Johnson: 1 (1 in end zone)
Calvin Johnson: 4 (2 in end zone)
Maurice Morris: 1
Jake Nordin: 1
Brandon Pettigrew: 1
Tony Scheffler: 1
Kevin Smith: 2
I'm really starting to like Nate Burleson as a late-round sleeper. Burleson saw more targets (6) than any other Lions receiver (including Calvin Johnson) against the Browns (6). Burleson notched two catches for 21 yards, but had two receptions of 49 and 9 yards wiped out by holding and offensive pass interference penalties. Detroit's offense is going to be explosive this year, and Burleson will benefit from Calvin Johnson's constant double teams.
While I'm in love with the Lions as a sleeper team this year, I'm also really liking the Browns. They've really looked like a solid team this preseason, and it all stems from Jake Delhomme.
I joke about Delhomme's son being safe, but in all seriousness, I really don't know what happened to the former Panthers quarterback. Delhomme is no longer committing interceptions and penalties on every other play. Instead, he looks confident and competent, and completely in control of Cleveland's offense. He was an impressive 20-of-25 for 152 yards and a touchdown at Detroit.
Here were Delhomme's targets:
Joshua Cribbs: 4 (1 in end zone)
Bobby Engram: 1
Jerome Harrison: 3
Peyton Hillis: 6
Mohamed Massaquoi: 2 (1 in end zone)
Evan Moore: 2
Brian Robiskie: 3
Chansi Stuckey: 2
Lawrence Vickers: 1
Ben Watson: 2
Stay away from Jerome Harrison. A week after fumbling twice against the Rams, Harrison lost the football yet again in this contest. Harrison was benched afterward for the rest of the half. He ran for 34 yards on 11 carries, and was overshadowed by Peyton Hillis, who compiled 26 rushing yards on seven carries, 40 receiving yards off four catches and a touchdown. Hillis is awesome; it's a shame Cleveland spent such a high pick on Montario Hardesty because I'd like to see him get as many touches as possible.
Redskins 16, Jets 11
I was really eager to see how Mark Sanchez would play against the Redskins. Sanchez has been awful this preseason, particularly a week ago at Carolina. He really needed to rebound.
That didn't happen. Sanchez finished 13-of-21 for 139 yards, one touchdown and an interception, but those numbers are a farce. Sanchez was 6-of-8 for 60 yards and a score against Washington's scrubs in the third quarter, meaning he went just 7-of-13 for 79 yards against the starters.
I found myself saying "ugh" out loud on nearly half a dozen of Sanchez's passes in this contest. It was that bad. Sanchez's pick was a stupid throw into double coverage. He should have tossed a second interception, but DeAngelo Hall dropped a potential pick-six on what was a weak sideline pass toward LaDainian Tomlinson.
Here were Sanchez's targets:
John Conner: 2
Jerricho Cotchery: 5
Jeff Cumberland: 1
Braylon Edwards: 3
Santonio Holmes: 2
Dustin Keller: 6
Tony Richardson: 1
LaDainian Tomlinson: 2
Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez just don't have any sort of rhythm going. Holmes was targeted only twice and was able to come up with just one reception for 23 yards against Washington. Many fantasy players are drafting Holmes, eagerly waiting to use him when he returns from suspension in Week 5. Based on what I've seen this preseason, it doesn't seem like he's going to have much of an impact.
Braylon Edwards saw just three targets versus the Redskins, catching two balls for 31 yards. Mark Sanchez is really struggling right now, so it's difficult to get excited about Edwards' fantasy season.
Mark Sanchez's favorite target in the playoffs last year was Jerricho Cotchery. Cotchery unsurprisingly led all Jets wide receivers in targets (5) against the Redskins. He caught three passes for 25 yards. He's a solid option in PPR leagues.
Dusin Keller saw six targets from Mark Sanchez versus Washington, catching five of them for 46 yards and a touchdown. Sanchez and Keller have some serious chemistry going. Keller is yet another reason you can wait on drafting a tight end.
Shonn Greene ran unbelievably well in New York's third preseason game, gaining 56 yards on 12 carries. He bulldozed over defenders, and Jets play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle got so excited on one play that he shouted, "Shonn Greene... emerging! There wasn't even a hole there!"
That said, I'm moving Greene a bit down in my rankings. The reason being LaDainian Tomlinson. I can't believe I'm writing this, but Tomlinson looks like the same dominant back we watched a few years ago. He inexplicably has his speed, burst and power back. He totaled 86 yards on 11 carries. Unfortunately for Greene, Tomlinson will be receiving tons of touches this season.
There's not anything to really note about the Redskins. Donovan McNabb was out, so Rex Grossman started the game.
I do have to criticize Mike Shanahan though. I need to know why Willie Parker and Joey Galloway played a ton of snaps with the first-team offense in this game. Neither Parker nor Galloway should be in the league at this point, and their presence on the field stole reps away from younger, more deserving players.
Parker really embarrassed himself, rushing for 16 yards on eight carries. Larry Johnson ran for 42 yards on nine carries, but did this against New York's scrubs. Rookie Keiland Williams was the team's most impressive running back with 11 yards on four attempts.
Falcons 16, Dolphins 6
Finally, a dry Dolphins game! Both of Miami's previous two exhibition contests were ruined by heavy rain. Chad Henne had to be thrilled to finally avoid tossing around a drenched football, but the stats don't back that up.
Henne was 10-of-22 for 123 yards and an interception against the Falcons. He suffered two drops, but the pick was his fault; he simply didn't see linebacker Mike Peterson in the end zone, who tipped Henne's pass into the arms of Erik Coleman. Henne has been pretty disappointing in two of three games this preseason.
Here were Henne's targets:
Davone Bess: 1
Ronnie Brown: 1
Anthony Fasano: 2 (1 in end zone)
Brian Hartline: 6
Brandon Marshall: 7
Ricky Williams: 4
Brandon Marshall paced all Dolphin receivers in targets with seven, catching three passes for 51 yards. Marshall dropped yet another pass in this contest, which has been a common occurrence for the former Denver wideout this preseason.
Aside from Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline led the Dolphins in targets with six against the Falcons. He came up with three grabs for 32 yards. He dropped a short, easy pass, but made up for it on the next play with a tough sideline reception. He left the game in the third quarter with an injury, but all the trainers did was ice his leg down. Hartline remains a solid late-round flier with upside.
Matt Ryan's numbers at Miami were really dismal. The third-year quarterback went 13-of-26 for 103 yards, one touchdown and an ugly interception (he didn't see the safety). Some of the incompletions were Ryan's fault; he was inexplicably inaccurate at the beginning of the game, particularly on throws to Tony Gonzalez. Ryan improved as the contest went on, but was victimized by two drops by Roddy White, including a potential 53-yard touchdown.
I'm not really concerned about this performance. Had the ball not slipped through White's hands the second time, Ryan's stat line would have read: 14-of-26, 156 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in two-and-a-half quarters.
By the way, I was asked to monitor how Ryan performed in the no-huddle offense as opposed to when he received plays from inept offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. Here's the breakdown:
Harry Douglas: 2
Brian Finneran: 1
Tony Gonzalez: 6
Ovie Mughelli: 1
Jerious Norwood: 1
Eric Weems: 1
Roddy White: 12 (1 in end zone)
Roddy White saw a whopping 12 targets in two-and-a-half quarters of work at Miami, catching six of those passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. The bad news is that White dropped two passes, including a potential 53-yard score. Still though, the fact that Matt Ryan is looking toward White so much is very encouraging.
Watching every preseason game thus far has been time-consuming, but really fun. The thing I look forward to most each week is hearing Dolphins TV announcers Bob Griese and Nat Moore continuously screw up.
There were three funny instances worth noting:
1. Nat Moore: "Most of the guys playing special teams in the preseason have never played special teams in college."
Three minutes later, Bob Griese: "These guys playing special teams right now have never played special teams in college."
Wow, Bob! Where in the world did you come up with that tidbit of information?
2. Nat Moore: "Great job [of Vontae Davis] stripping Finner... Finnerman of the football."
3. Bob Griese: "I really like this Matt Ryan at quarterback. He's tall and uhh..."
This was possibly worse than Emmitt Smith saying that Tom Brady is a good quarterback because "he can throw."
Eagles 20, Chiefs 17
I'm such a degenerate gambler. At 11 p.m. Friday night, I was flipping back and forth between the end of the Eagles-Chiefs game on my local ABC station, and the beginning of the same contest on the NFL Network re-air. I had three units on the Eagles, so I was desperately hoping for a Philadelphia comeback. Fortunately for my bank account, rookie quarterback Mike Kafka was able to go 80 yards in two minutes with no timeouts. Kafka did this calmly as if he were some polished veteran. It was damn impressive, and the usually stoic Andy Reid beamed on the sidelines after the game-winning touchdown.
But Kafka is just a possible future for the Eagles. Philadelphia's present is Kevin Kolb, who was very inconsistent in this contest.
Kevin Kolb went 11-of-25 for 103 yards and an interception at Kansas City. Now, a couple of excuses can be made for this. First, Kolb should have had a touchdown to Jeremy Maclin, but there was an uncalled pass interference. DeSean Jackson also left the game in the first quarter with a neck strain. More troubling, Kolb was constantly pressured by Kansas City's defensive front. Left tackle Jason Peters looked particularly helpless, allowing a couple of pressures and getting whistled for two false starts. What's worse is that following each of the infractions, Peters turned toward his center and yelled at him. Peters is just a bad, lazy guy, and it's more evident than ever that trading for him was a horrible mistake.
However, Kolb made a number of mistakes. His pick was carelessly heaved into double coverage as he escaped pressure. Kolb also should have thrown two more interceptions; Eric Berry was half a step away from a pick-six at the beginning of the game, while linebacker Demorrio Williams had a ball go through his hands in the third quarter.
I have to downgrade Kolb in my 2010 Fantasy Football Rankings. After an impressive showing against the Jaguars, he has regressed in each succeeding game. I still like him to post big numbers because of all of his weapons, but my expectations have been curbed.
Here were Kolb's targets:
Jason Avant: 5
Mike Bell: 2
Brent Celek: 2
DeSean Jackson: 1 (left game early)
Jeremy Maclin: 10 (2 in end zone)
LeSean McCoy: 2
Kelley Washington: 1
Leonard Weaver: 1
Jeremy Maclin saw a whopping 10 targets in about three quarters of play at Kansas City. He caught three passes; two were dropped, and two would have been receptions had a pair of uncalled pass interferences never occurred. Still, Maclin is a stud. I'm expecting a big year from him as an undervalued top 15 fantasy wideout.
LeSean McCoy didn't play much at Kansas City, but was impressive when he was on the field. McCoy had 28 yards on five carries, including an 18-yard touchdown on the second play of the game. McCoy also had two targets (1 catch, 8 yards).
Believe it or not, Jamaal Charles started in the third preseason game. No, it's true! Charles was in the lineup on Kansas City's first play. People who didn't watch the game will cite that he was credited with a lost fumble on his first carry, but it was really a botched exchange from Matt Cassel. Charles looked great otherwise, totaling 40 rushing yards on six attempts to go along with a 20-yard reception.
Charles limped off the field after injuring his ankle at the end of the first half, but was walking around pretty freely on the sidelines in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs Television Network also neglected to mention anything about it, so go ahead and confidently take him in the second round of your fantasy draft.
Matt Cassel stinks. He can't throw a sharp pass longer than 15 yards downfield and Charlie Weis knows this, so the Chiefs remain a great bet to lead the league in shotgun draws this season. Cassel was 14-of-23 for 85 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The pick wasn't his fault - rookie Tony Moeaki bobbled a ball that was caught by Eagles corner Trevard Lindley - but Cassel should have tossed another interception later on.
Cassel engineered two touchdown drives, though neither was impressive. One possession was helped by a free first down on a fourth-down Eagles penalty. The second scoring drive was against Philadelphia's scrubs.
Here were Cassel's targets:
Dwayne Bowe: 6
Chris Chambers: 3
Jamaal Charles: 2
Thomas Jones: 3
Dexter McCluster: 4
Tony Moeaki: 2
Aside from Jamaal Charles, the only Kansas City Chief that should ever be in your starting lineup this year is Dwayne Bowe. Bowe saw six targets, catching four of them for 32 yards and a touchdown. Completely in shape this year, Bowe is a very good WR2 despite his miserable quarterback.
Saints 36, Chargers 21
This game was fun to watch for two-and-a-half quarters, but I'm glad it's over. If I have to hear one more segment where super-hot CBS sideline reporter Sam Ryan gushes over how much Drew Brees and the Saints mean to the city of New Orleans, I'd seriously have to consider slitting my wrists. And did I mention that Sam Ryan is super hot?
Speaking of hot, Drew Brees was on fire in his third preseason game. He was 18-of-27 for 240 yards and two touchdowns despite the fact that his receivers dropped four passes (though Brees' first score could have easily been picked off). Brees could finish as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback this year, though I'm concerned about some post-Super Bowl lackadaisical play from the rest of the team.
By the way, it's worth noting that like Peyton Manning on Thursday night, Brees was whistled for one of these awful illegal snap infractions. Roger Goodell needs to revert back to the original umpire rule immediately to prevent further embarrassment.
Here were Brees' targets:
Reggie Bush: 7
Marques Colston: 7
Devery Henderson: 2 (1 in end zone)
Robert Meachem: 3 (1 in end zone)
Lance Moore: 2
Jeremy Shockey: 1
David Thomas: 2
Pierre Thomas: 2
Reggie Bush caught all seven targets thrown to him in the third preseason game for 70 yards. Bush also had three carries for 16 yards. He has really picked up where he left off during his impressive playoff run. He's undervalued right now.
While Reggie Bush was the bigger factor in the passing game, Pierre Thomas was more impressive on the ground, gaining 41 yards on seven carries to go along with his two receptions for 17 receiving yards.
Targeted seven times in the third preseason game, Marques Colston had four grabs for 55 yards. He's fine to draft as a low-end WR1, though expect the usual inconsistency because of all of Drew Brees' options.
Since leading all Saints receivers in targets from Drew Brees in the preseason opener, Lance Moore has just a pair of targets in the previous two games. There's nothing wrong with Moore; Brees simply has too many people to throw to.
Still no Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill, but Philip Rivers isn't letting it bother him. Rivers went 16-of-27 for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Here were Rivers' targets:
Malcom Floyd: 8 (1 in end zone)
Antonio Gates: 7
Jacob Hester: 1
Ryan Mathews: 2
Legedu Naanee: 3
Darren Sproles: 2
Kris Wilson: 1
A very promising third preseason game for Malcom Floyd if you have him on your roster or plan on drafting him. He saw eight targets, catching four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Mathews once again looked great. He rushed for 43 yards on 13 carries, and also caught two passes for nine yards at New Orleans. You may notice that Jacob Hester scored a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Don't be discouraged by that; Mathews was lined up in the backfield, but Philip Rivers opted to give the carry to the upback. Mathews should be getting most of the goal-line touches this season.
Rams 36, Patriots 35
With A.J. Feeley out, Sam Bradford had the opportunity to audition to be the starting quarterback for the season opener. He passed with flying colors. Bradford was 15-of-22 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Granted, he was playing a very vanilla New England defense, and the Patriot players looked like they were mailing it in (you can't exactly get up for the Rams in the preseason). Still though, Bradford was really accurate and in total command of the offense. He opened the game with a perfect 31-yard pass to Donnie Avery, and later looked off receivers like a veteran. If the Rams can keep him from getting sacked 50 times per year, he's going to be really good.
Something else Bradford needs is someone to throw to. Unfortunately, that won't be Donnie Avery this year. Avery suffered a season-ending knee injury at the end of the first half at New England. It was really UGLY. Avery's knee buckled, prompting Patriots color commentator Randy Cross to say, "Your leg's not supposed to wobble like that." Avery is just snake-bitten. He can't stay healthy, which is a shame because he's very talented.
With Donnie Avery out for the year, Laurent Robinson will be St. Louis' No. 1 receiver. Robinson, however, didn't catch a single ball at New England. In fact, the only thing he did was drop a pass. You can't rely on Robinson to stay healthy either, so he's not much more than a late-round flier.
In a few years, NFL.com might be airing commercials of a fantasy player saying, "Michael Hoomanawanui. Championship!" Hoomanawanui really impressed at New England, catching four balls for 53 yards and two touchdowns. His most impressive grab was a one-handed reception at the end of the first quarter. It wouldn't be a surprise if Hommanawanui led all Rams players not named Steven Jackson in catches this year, as he appeared to be Sam Bradford's favorite target.
Speaking of Steven Jackson, the dynamic runner once again ran with speed and power, totaling 22 yards and five carries. He remains a moderately big injury risk coming off back surgery though, so draft him at your own risk.
Tom Brady wasn't exactly going up against Rex Ryan's Jets defense on Thursday night. The Rams are the Rams. But Brady still looked really sharp, going 18-of-22 for 273 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of play. He connected on a perfect 65-yard bomb to Randy Moss and would have had another big completion had a Rams corner not committed an obvious, but uncalled pass interference penalty. Brady won't post 2007 numbers, but a 40-touchdown season isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Here were Brady's targets:
Sam Aiken: 4
Alge Crumpler: 1
Kevin Faulk: 4
Rob Gronkowski: 3
Randy Moss: 5
Brandon Tate: 3
Wes Welker: 2
The Tom Brady to Randy Moss connection is alive and well. Moss caught three balls for 74 yards and a 65-yard touchdown that was right on the money. Had a Rams corner not grabbed Moss' arm, that yardage total would have been 130 or so because it negated another deep bomb. Moss is easily a top-three receiver worth drafting in the first round of any format.
Wes Welker saw just two targets against the Rams. He caught both balls for 41 yards, but simply doesn't look like the same receiver. Julian Edelman might actually be the better option right now, which makes me wonder why the Patriots are hurrying Welker back from his horrific knee injury. He's simply going way too early in fantasy drafts.
Michael Hoomanwanui wasn't the only rookie tight end to star in this contest. Rob Gronkowski was awesome against the Rams, catching three balls for 66 yards and two touchdowns. On his first score, a St. Louis defender grabbed Gronkowski by the ankle at the 7-yard line. Gronkowski impressively dragged the helpless defender four yards on one leg and leaped toward the end zone for the score. He's worth monitoring as a waiver-wire addition.
For the second preseason game in a row, Laurence Maroney didn't receive a single carry. It was all Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Rams, and neither had much success (12 and 13 yards respectively on five carries each). Fred Taylor remains the top running back on the Patriots, but only by default.
Packers 59, Colts 24
If you've been watching these preseason games, you've been beaten over the head continuously with announcers telling you about the umpire standing behind the line of scrimmage. I didn't give much thought to it until this contest. The officials' inability to stop the ball quickly really disturbed Peyton Manning, who was whistled for two illegal snaps. A completely frustrated Manning barked at the officials to no avail.
This has to be really embarrassing to Roger Goodell. You can't have the face of your league hampered by a stupid rule change. Goodell needs to eliminate this new rule immediately.
Manning went 15-of-26 for 214 yards and two touchdowns. He made some great throws, of course, so as much as the new rule bothers him, he'll still post big numbers. It should be noted though that Manning had an interception and a lost fumble.
Here were Manning's targets:
Joseph Addai: 2
Brody Eldrige: 2
Pierre Garcon: 6
Anthony Gonzalez: 4
Jacob Tamme: 1
Reggie Wayne: 9
Reggie Wayne saw nine targets at Green Bay, catching seven balls for 96 yards and a touchdown. I was concerned about Wayne's age, knees and declining production toward the end of the 2009 season, but he looks as dominant as ever. He made some really nice grabs, including a diving, fingertip catch along the sidelines in the second quarter. Still though, it's a little naive to completely dismiss a disastrous nine-game stretch because of one exhibition contest. I'm moving Wayne up my rankings, but I won't have him as high as other publications. Draft him at your own risk.
Pierre Garcon played for the first time this preseason. He saw six targets at Green Bay, though he came up with just two grabs for 42 yards and a score. Garcon looked good early on, but dropped a pass in the third quarter.
Joseph Addai appears to be a great RB2 option this year. He opened the third preseason game with a 49-yard run on Indianapolis' first play. He finished with 60 yards on seven carries, and chipped in with two receptions for 40 receiving yards. Unfortunately, Addai suffered a concussion when chasing down a Green Bay defender following a Peyton Manning fumble. With 16 days to go until the regular season, Addai should be fine. Donald Brown, who once again struggled, (5 carries, 6 yards) is not a threat to take touches away from Addai.
Dallas Clark and Austin Collie did not play.
Aaron Rodgers continued his preseason tirade, going 21-of-29 for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He also drew a long pass interference penalty on an attempt to James Jones. And all of this was without Greg Jennings, who missed the game with a minor injury.
Here were Rodgers' targets:
Donald Driver: 8
Jermichael Finley: 9
Brandon Jackson: 3
James Jones: 6
John Kuhn: 1
Jordy Nelson: 1
I've been harping about Donald Driver's knees all offseason, but the 35-year-old wideout is doing a great job of proving me wrong. Driver saw eight targets against the Colts, catching five balls for 35 yards and a touchdown. I'm moving Driver up my 2010 Fantasy Football Rankings, but I'm still going to have him lower than most publications. Driver had two offseason knee surgeries, so that's something that could come into play toward the middle of the season.
Jermichael Finley's heading to the top of my tight end rankings. In just one half of action, Finley saw nine targets, and caught six balls for 85 yards and a touchdown. He's a freak of nature who can't be stopped.
James Jones, starting in place of Greg Jennings, saw six targets go his way. He caught four balls for 30 yards and a score. I like him as a late-round flier because of Donald Driver's knee issues, but don't count on using him as long as Driver is healthy.