2021 NFL Preseason Recap and Fantasy Football Notes: Week 3

**** NOTES FOR EVERY GAME WILL BE UP AS SOON AS I WATCH THEM **** Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

2021 Preseason Notes: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
2021 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 1 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 3

Browns 19, Falcons 10

  • Neither starting quarterback saw any action during the preseason leading up to this game. That didn’t change for Matt Ryan, but Baker Mayfield played a couple of drives against the Falcons.

    Mayfield was sharp in this game. Granted, he was battling Atlanta’s backups, but he also didn’t have Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry at his disposal. He finished 6-of-10 for 113 yards and a touchdown, and that doesn’t include a deep interference flag he drew on a pass to rookie receiver Anthony Schwartz.

    Here were Mayfield’s targets:

    KhaDarel Hodge: 3 (2 end zone)
    Austin Hooper: 2
    D’Ernest Johnson: 2
    Donovan Peoples-Jones: 3
    Anthony Schwartz: 1

  • Donovan Peoples-Jones started with Beckham and Landry sidelined. He tied a team-high in targets from Mayfield (3), though he caught just one of those passes for eight yards. Peoples-Jones would be a viable fantasy option if one of Beckham or Landry were to suffer an injury, but I can’t back a third receiver in a run-heavy offense.

  • As for the Falcons, Feleipie Franks and Josh Rosen each played a half. Franks was a mediocre 5-of-8 for 66 yards, with a big chunk coming off a short pass turned into a long run. Rosen, meanwhile, finished 9-of-18 for 118 yards and a touchdown. Rosen made some nice throws, but he also had three potential interceptions that were dropped. Neither looks like a viable NFL quarterback at the moment.

  • Kyle Pitts finally made an appearance. He caught a short pass from Franks and turned it into a 27-yard gain. That was his only target of the night.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Cris Collinsworth was trending on Twitter during this game. Perhaps it was because he said, “Kyle Pitts has huuu-u-u-u-u-uu–u-u-u-ge thighs!” in Matt Millen-esque fashion. Collinsworth also said “being smart” has been an issue for Josh Rosen in the past.

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    Patriots 22, Giants 20

  • Reports circulating out of the Patriots-Giants practice sessions indicated that Mac Jones had outplayed Daniel Jones. The former Jones entered the game following a couple of Cam Newton drives. He made a couple of mistakes, but was spectacular otherwise.

    Mac Jones had a blunder right away when he was flagged for a delay-of-game penalty after a commercial break. However, he rebounded with a great first throw over a linebacker for a gain of 21. Later, he began the third quarter with a 27-yard strike, then followed that up with a 17-yard dart touchdown. Jones’ next drive featured a pretty back-shoulder throw to Devin Asiasi, which was a 30-yard completion.

    Jones took a couple of bad sacks on his final drive because he held on to the ball too long. He did that once earlier as well. That said, he was great otherwise. Jones finished 10-of-14 for 156 yards and a touchdown, with one of his incompletions being a drop that should’ve been a 16-yard connection. There’s a chance this could all be a mirage – Daniel Jones, after all, had a fantastic preseason run as a rookie – but Mac Jones has shown enough to warrant seeing action during his rookie campaign.

  • It doesn’t appear as though Cam Newton will start much longer. With Mac Jones thriving, Newton is one or two bad games away from ceding the starting job. This wasn’t a poor performance, but it was underwhelming. Newton went 2-of-5 for 10 yards and an interception, but the pick wasn’t his fault, as Giants linebacker Blake Martinez ripped the ball away from Jakobi Meyers.

    Here were Newton’s targets:

    Nelson Agholor: 2
    Jakobi Meyers: 3

  • Damien Harris didn’t see much work in the preseason finale, but he made his four touches count, gaining 29 yards in the process. Harris is a nice value pick in the fifth or sixth round.

  • With Sony Michel gone, Rhamondre Stevenson was the first running back off the bench once Michel rested. Stevenson was impressive once again, rushing for 23 yards and a touchdown on five carries. His score was a nice one, as he dragged defenders into the end zone. Stevenson also caught two passes for 17 receiving yards, with one of the catches featuring a crazy juke that caused the defender to fall down.

  • Moving on to the Giants, it was only two years ago when Daniel Jones dazzled with some amazing preseason performances. That seems like another lifetime. Jones continues to get worse, with his sole appearance this month being underwhelming.

    Jones’ stats don’t look that bad; he went 17-of-22 for 135 yards, one touchdown and an interception. However, most of his yardage and score came versus the Patriot backups. He struggled when battling the New England starters, with one of his drives concluding with a bone-headed interception where he fired a reckless pass late across his body. Jones was lucky he didn’t throw a second pick because a Patriot defender dropped one of his passes on the ensuing drive. There was also one instance in which Jones took a bad sack because he didn’t see an open receiver over the middle of the field.

    Jones made some nice throws in this game, but his issue thus far in his career has been committing terrible blunders, and it doesn’t appear as though that problem has been fixed.

    Here were Jones’ targets:

    C.J. Board: 1
    Devontae Booker: 2
    Gary Brightwell: 3
    Evan Engram: 4 (1 end zone)
    Dante Pettis: 2
    Sterling Shepard: 6 (1 end zone)
    Darius Slayton: 3
    Kaden Smith: 2 (1 end zone)

  • There’s more concern with another recent first-round pick than with Daniel Jones. The Giants had their choice of any tackle in the 2020 NFL Draft, and yet they selected Andrew Thomas over the likes of Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Jedrick Wills. Thomas struggled in his rookie campaign and was dreadful in this contest. He was easily beaten for two sacks and was flagged for a hold.

  • The Giants broadcasters made note that Sterling Shepard is the longest-tenured Giant, which seemed bizarre to me until I looked at the roster. Shepard was his usual, reliable self, catching five of his six targets for 42 yards. Shepard isn’t a bad option in PPR leagues, but doesn’t have much upside with the Giants’ offense bound to struggle.

  • Evan Engram, who caught three of his four targets for 22 yards, had to leave the game early with a calf injury. It’s unclear how serious this is, but he was able to walk into the locker room without assistance. The Giants signed Kyle Rudolph, so Engram’s absence wouldn’t be a huge deal.

  • Speaking of injured players, Saquon Barkley didn’t play in this game. Barkley might be ready for Week 1, but his backup, Devontae Booker, should not be picked up otherwise. Booker was very unimpressive, mustering just 14 yards on seven carries.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Giants’ play-by-play announcer read what he called “out-of-town scores,” citing the preseason Week 3 scores of the other teams around the league. This made me remember my childhood, back when you had to wait for the announcers to read what they also called “out-of-town scores” because there was no way of knowing what the other scores were, given that there was no Internet, and cell phones didn’t exist yet. I’m old.

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    49ers 34, Raiders 10

  • I was planning on writing about Trey Lance to begin this recap, but it’s impossible to talk about him without mentioning Jimmy Garoppolo. The veteran started this game, but Lance was mixed in on both of their opening drives. Garoppolo exited the first drive following three snaps, the returned after one play in which Lance handed off to Raheem Mostert. Following one snap where he was on the field, Garoppolo went to the sideline for three snaps, then reentered and scrambled for a touchdown.

    The same thing effectively happened on the next possession. Garoppolo threw two passes on three plays, then exited for one snap before reentering. He and Lance then rotated snaps in the red zone, with Lance capping off the drive with a touchdown.

    This was all chaotic, but it worked beautifully. The Raiders looked completely shell shocked by what the 49ers were doing. Granted, it was the second-string Raider defensive unit, but this offensive strategy looked like it would work masterfully. I can’t wait to watch it in real action.

    At any rate, Garoppolo finished 4-of-7 for 64 yards and a rushing touchdown. He can’t be used in fantasy leagues with Lance taking a significant number of snaps.

    Here were Garoppolo’s targets:

    George Kittle: 1
    Deebo Samuel: 3
    Mohamed Sanu: 1
    Trent Sherfield: 3

  • Trey Lance remained on the field for the rest of the first half and the initial drive of the third quarter once Garoppolo left the preseason finale for good. Lance looked good, despite what his passing stats say. Lance went 6-of-13 for 46 yards, but he endured three drops, one of which should’ve been a touchdown. Lance was firing bullets, but some of his receivers, namely Jalen Hurd, couldn’t secure the ball. Lance’s preseason was a positive, but if the 49ers plan on rotating Lance and Garoppolo like they did in this contest, Lance can’t be a viable fantasy quarterback unless Garoppolo is benched or gets hurt.

  • Raheem Mostert played one drive of the preseason finale, but he looked great. He was dominant on the possession, rushing for 53 yards on seven carries. Trey Sermon also had a positive performance – seven carries, 37 yards – but it’s clear that Mostert has the job secured at the moment because he didn’t see any action once Sermon stepped onto the field. Mostert has been pushed down fantasy mock drafts enough that he’s currently a great value.

  • Trent Sherfield tied for the team in lead in targets from Garoppolo, catching two of the three for 26 yards. Don’t read anything into this, as Sherfield was playing only because Brandon Aiyuk missed this game.

  • There’s not much to say about the Raiders, who didn’t play any starters. However, it was odd to see John Brown on the field during the preseason finale. The play-by-play announcer mentioned that Brown is “on the bubble” to make the Raiders’ roster, which was shocking to me.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The 49ers’ color analyst didn’t seem very happy about broadcasting this game. He called Jalen Hurd “Jalen Moore,” and he later refused to answer a question submitted by a viewer.

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    Dolphins 29, Bengals 26

  • Joe Burrow played his first game since tearing his ACL in November. The excited crowd chanted “Jo-ey! Jo-ey! Jo-ey!” when he entered the game. It was great to see him back in action.

    Unfortunately, there wasn’t much action. The Cincinnati broadcasters told the audience that Burrow would be on the field for just three plays, and they did not lie. Burrow handed the ball off on first and third down. His second-down throw was a short toss to Ja’Marr Chase, which was dropped. Burrow, finishing 0-of-1, was replaced by Brandon Allen on the next possession. Given the extremely brief action, it was impossible to determine anything from this appearance.

    Here were Burrow’s targets:

    Ja’Marr Chase: 1

  • As mentioned earlier, Ja’Marr Chase dropped Joe Burrow’s only pass in the exhibition finale. Chase’s brutal preseason comes to an end with a grand total of one reception and four drops. There’s been some chatter that he could lose reps to Auden Tate in the regular season. Burrow being unable to throw more than one pass in this contest doesn’t help matters.

  • There’s really nothing else worth mentioning. The Bengals played their backups the rest of the way, while the Dolphins started guys no one has ever heard of. Their starting backfield was comprised of guys named Sinnett and Doaks. They won’t be on the roster come Tuesday.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Bengals’ broadcast had trouble with the down-and-distance chyron. It was weird to see the Bengals punting on what the telecast told us was a third-and-18!

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    Jaguars 34, Cowboys 14

  • It was no surprise that Trevor Lawrence was the only starting quarterback to play in this game. Lawrence shredded Dallas’ defense mercilessly, misfiring on just one of his passes. That incompletion was a nice pass break-up by a cornerback, so it’s not like it was Lawrence’s fault.

    Lawrence made two terrific throws. One was a bomb to Phillip Dorsett for a 38-yard gain on the opening drive, while the second was a perfect touch pass to Laviska Shenault for the second touchdown of the afternoon. That was Lawrence’s final throw of the preseason.

    Lawrence finished 11-of-12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns. It’s fair to point out that he was battling Dallas’ backup defense, but he didn’t have D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones and his interior offensive line aiding him. In fact, Lawrence took a hit to the helmet at one point, prompting me to wonder what in the world he was doing on the field without his offensive line to shield him from eager practice squad scrubs looking to make a name for themselves.

    Here were Lawrence’s targets:

    Pharoh Cooper: 2
    Phillip Dorsett: 1
    Collin Johnson: 1
    Chris Manhertz: 1
    James O’Shaugnessy: 3
    James Robinson: 1
    Laviska Shenault: 3 (1 end zone)

  • Even more curiously, James Robinson started for the Jaguars in this meaningless affair. He rushed for 10 yards on three carries and caught a 2-yard pass. Considering what has happened to J.K. Dobbins and Travis Etienne this preseason, you’d think Urban Meyer would know that holding Robinson out of this game would have been the smart decision. Apparently not.

  • While Chark and Marvin Jones were sidelined, Shenault played and performed well. He caught all three of his targets for 33 yards and a touchdown. The Dallas announcers remarked that he runs like a running back when he has the ball in his hands.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I hate sideline interviews, especially during the preseason. The Cowboys’ telecast showed us the most pointless interview ever when the nerdy sideline reporter talked to Ezeiel Elliott. He asked Elliott what he thought about the offense this year, and Elliott said the offense was going to be good. How insightful!

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    Seahawks 27, Chargers 0

  • I’d love to conclude the Saturday night preseason slate with some detailed analysis of the Russell Wilson- and Justin Herbert-led offenses from this game, but neither quarterback played. Both the Seahawks and Chargers rested their starters.

  • There were a couple of rookies worth discussing. Larry Rountree, whom the Chargers have praised this summer, made some nice runs versus the Seahawks. He gained 27 yards on six carries, and he also caught a pair of passes for eight receiving yards. Rountree is a nice sleeper late in the draft because Austin Ekeler hasn’t proven that he can shoulder a full workload and remain healthy the entire season. Rountree has a good chance to be his direct backup. If so, he’ll have some good fantasy performances behind the Chargers’ vastly improved offensive line.

    The other prominent rookie, receiver Josh Palmer, hauled in three of his five targets for 26 yards. However, one of the incompletions was a drop, though one could argue that the pass was a bit high. Still, Palmer has a chance to be the Chargers’ No. 3 receiver this year. He’s not worth drafting in normal leagues, but he should be added if one of Keenan Allen or Mike Williams gets hurt.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I don’t know why, but the Seahawks had four announcers in this game. They weren’t even in the same booth together; they had two groups of two. Apparently, the Seahawks’ preseason finale is treated like the Super Bowl in Seattle.

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    Broncos 17, Rams 12

  • The Broncos named Teddy Bridgewater as their starting quarterback earlier this week, but it seemed as though Vic Fangio could’ve had regrets about doing so following Denver’s first two drives in this game. Bridgewater struggled mightily on those possessions, even missing Tim Patrick on a very easy third-and-2 throw in the flat. This occurred despite Bridgewater and the rest of the Denver starters battling the Rams’ backup defenders. Bridgewater, however, rebounded nicely on the next possession, going 5-of-5 for 58 yards and a touchdown.

    Bridgewater’s night was done after that, as he finished 6-of-11 for 62 yards and a touchdown. It was nice to see him play well at the end, but again, the Rams weren’t using any of their defensive starters.

    Here were Bridgewater’s targets:

    Andrew Beck: 1
    Albert Okwuegbunam: 3
    Tim Patrick: 2
    Eric Saubert: 1
    Courtland Sutton: 3 (1 end zone)

  • Courtland Sutton played his first game since tearing his ACL last year. He was able to plant his recovered knee and juke a defender on one play, and then went on to catch a touchdown. Sutton hauled in two passes for 27 yards and the score. He looked good, but there’s no telling if he’ll be able to remain healthy after struggling to practice throughout training camp.

  • Drew Lock played a few drives after Bridgewater left the game. He posted a better stat line than Bridgewater, going 5-of-7 for 67 yards and a touchdown, but fumbled on a strip-sack because he held the ball too long. The Denver announcers cited one player who said that Bridgewater throws to where a receiver is supposed to be, while Lock throws it to where a receiver happens to be. If that’s true, Fangio made the correct decision.

  • Let’s talk about Javonte Williams because I was worried about his fantasy outlook when he didn’t start. Melvin Gordon did and looked fresh while rushing for 35 yards on just five carries. Williams didn’t play with Teddy Bridgewater, so I assumed that the Denver coaching staff was resting him, which would obviously be bullish for his fantasy outlook. Then, the Broncos’ broadcasters said, “We’ll see Javonte Williams in the second half,” which would obviously be extremely bearish. They turned out to be wrong, as Williams never played a single down. I tried searching for a reason why he didn’t play, and nothing was mentioned. Thus, I’m inclined to believe that this is great news for Williams.

  • The Rams, meanwhile, sat all their starters once again. Bryce Perkins played the entire game and did well considering he was battling Von Miller and the rest of Denver’s defense for a quarter-and-a-half. Perkins finished 23-of-42 for 201 yards.

  • Some of Perkins’ incompletions were the result of drops by Tutu Atwell. The second-round rookie caught eight passes for 62 yards, but let the ball slip through his hands on a couple of occasions.

  • Xavier Jones was the primary back most of the game for the Rams. Considering that he battled Denver’s starting defensive unit without his first-string offensive line, he made out rather well. He rushed for 44 yards on 13 carries and caught three passes for 20 receiving yards. However, none of this is good news for Jones. Jake Funk, his primary competitor, didn’t play, so Jones could be the odd man out in the wake of the Sony Michel acquisition. I’ll like Jones as a late-round sleeper if he makes the team, but I have a feeling that he’ll be off the 53-man roster once final cuts are made.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Broncos’ announcers left their microphones on during commercial broadcasts. I was hoping for one of them to slip up and say something non-PC so that the pious blue-check brigade would lose their minds, but it was mostly professional exchanges like this: “I’m going to talk about the secondary.” “Do you want me to lead you there, or are you waiting for anything to happen?” “Yeah, you can lead me there.”

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    Buccaneers 23, Texans 16

  • The Texans broadcasters said that the starters would play into the third quarter, but Tom Brady and his receiving corps were on the field for a quarter-and-a-half. Brady endured a three-and-out on his opening drive because Antonio Brown apparently ran an incorrect route, prompting Brady to shout at him. Things were fixed after that, however, as Brady engineered two touchdown drives. Brady carved up Houston’s first-string defense by constantly targeting Desmond King, whom Brady correctly identified as a major liability. Brady finished 11-of-14 for 154 yards and a touchdown.

    Here were Brady’s targets:

    Giovani Bernard: 1
    Antonio Brown: 5
    Mike Evans: 3
    Leonard Fournette: 1
    Chris Godwin: 3
    O.J. Howard: 1

  • As mentioned earlier, Antonio Brown messed up an early route, but bounced back on the next two possessions. He caught four passes for 42 yards, trailing only Chris Godwin (3-84), who caught a 32-yard touchdown. Mike Evans contributed with two grabs for 20 yards.

  • All three Tampa Bay running backs were on the field when Brady was under center. Ronald Jones (4-27) scored a touchdown, while Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard each caught short passes. It’s a very crowded backfield, so try not to have any of these guys on your fantasy roster.

  • Second-round rookie quarterback Kyle Trask played most of the second half. He posted an impressive stat line, going 12-of-14 for 146 yards and a touchdown, but had a mixed performance overall. Trask did plenty of things well, like buying himself some time in the pocket to find an open receiver and then firing a score down the seam to his tight end. However, Trask was lucky to not throw a pick because his two incompletions were dropped interceptions. Trask also lost a fumble because he was strip-sacked as a result of holding the ball too long in the pocket.

  • Moving on to the Texans, Tyrod Taylor also played a quarter-and-a-half. He was obviously not as good as Brady. He completed 6-of-9 passes, but for only 31 yards. He missed an open Nico Collins on a third-down pass, and he lost a fumble on a strip-sack. It’s going to be a very long year for Houston’s offense.

    Here were Taylor’s targets:

    Jordan Akins: 1
    Pharoah Brown: 1
    Nico Collins: 2
    Brandin Cooks: 1
    Keke Coutee: 1
    Alex Erickson: 1
    David Johnson: 1 (1 end zone)
    Mark Ingram: 1

  • Houston’s backfield is a mess. Phillip Lindsay (6-17) started, but he didn’t see much action because Mark Ingram, David Johnson and even Rex Burkhead shared the snaps. Try not to roster any of these guys on your fantasy team unless one of Lindsay, Ingram or Johnson gets hurt.

  • Third-round rookie quarterback Davis Mills entered the game in the middle of the second quarter and played the rest of the way. Saying he struggled would be putting it nicely. He was fortunate that a potential interception of his was dropped by a defender, but he eventually tossed two picks prior to halftime. The first was a weak throw toward the sideline, while the second was an even weaker floater toward the other sideline. Mills rebounded in the second half, throwing two touchdowns, including one where he somehow fit the ball through a tight window to his receiver while on the run. However, the final drive was a total disaster. He had a potential interception dropped when he lobbed a pass into triple coverage. A defender dropped another potential pick after that, but Mills’ luck finally ran out when he fired his third interception of the evening on a telegraphed pass.

    Mills finished 10-of-27 for 106 yards, two touchdowns and the three picks. Mills does not look like an NFL quarterback to me. If the Texans weren’t enduring the Deshaun Watson situation, I doubt Mills would make the final 53-man roster.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The play-by-play announcer was very excited for this game: “We haven’t had a preseason game in NRG Stadium in two years, but this matchup has been worth the wait!” Yeah, I’m sure Brady had this circled on his calendar.

    Later, the color analyst had this to say: “Lovie Smith is one of the leaders in coordinating in the NFL.” Leaders in coordinating? What does that mean? How do you even quantify something like that?

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    Bears 27, Titans 24

  • None of the starters played in this game, so I’ll just discuss Justin Fields’ performance in his final preseason game. Fields played the entire first half in a mostly positive performance.

    Fields’ first significant throw was a third-and-6 conversion, which was a 7-yard pass to Rodney Adams with a quick strike. Fields then appeared to move the chains on fourth-and-8 with a 9-yard dart toward the sideline, but replay review showed that the receiver had just one foot inbounds.

    Fields’ final drive concluded with a touchdown. He scrambled out of the pocket and found tight end Jesper Horsted while on the run. It was an impressive throw, and that capped off the evening for Fields, who finished 7-of-10 for 54 yards and a touchdown. This was done against Tennessee’s backups, but it’s not like Fields had Allen Robinson or David Montgomery at his disposal.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I found nothing wrong with this broadcast, thanks in part to Charles Davis being the color analyst. Davis is one of the best in the business, though I enjoy making fun of his fictional interactions with Kevin Reilly on my picks page. I can’t believe Week 1 is nearly here!

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    Ravens 37, Redskins 3

  • As much as I like to complain about fantasy players not being on the field during the preseason, if I were an NFL head coach, I would not use any veteran starters in these meaningless games. The risk isn’t worth the reward, as the Ravens learned in this contest.

    After catching a pass out of the backfield during the opening drive of the preseason finale, J.K. Dobbins went down and grabbed his knee. He had to be helped off the field by two trainers, and he couldn’t put any pressure on his left leg. He was then carted into the locker room. Even if Dobbins isn’t out for the season, he’ll miss significant time. If you’re drafting before the severity of the injury is confirmed, do not spend a pick on Dobbins.

    Meanwhile, the injury to J.K. Dobbins obviously means great things for Gus Edwards’ fantasy outlook. Edwards has soared up my 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings. He’s now a viable RB2, given how much the Ravens run the ball. Edwards tallied 27 yards on his two carries in this game.

    Edwards isn’t the only Baltimore back who shot up the rankings in the wake of Dobbins’ injury. Now likely the No. 2 running back on the depth chart, Ty’Son Williams makes for an intriguing late-round fantasy sleeper. Williams has been incredibly impressive in the preseason. That includes this game. Williams rushed for 42 yards on just four carries. He also caught a pass, but lost a yard on the reception.

  • Lamar Jackson played one series in this game. Battling the Redskins’ backups, Jackson went 3-of-4 for 29 yards. The possession came to an end one play after Dobbins’ injury when Jackson was strip-sacked.

    Here were Jackson’s targets:

    Mark Andrews: 2
    J.K. Dobbins: 1
    Devin Duvernay: 1

  • As for the Redskins, there’s nothing worth mentioning. They sat all their starters and didn’t even use their No. 2 quarterback.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Joe Theismann, the color analyst in this game, called linebackers “lagbackers.” I’m not sure if this was intentional or not.

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    Bills 19, Packers 0

  • It wasn’t a surprise to see Josh Allen play in this game, but it was shocking he was on the field for the entire half, save for the final 30 seconds when Jake Fromm performed some kneel-downs. There didn’t seem to be any legitimate reason to expose Allen to injury, especially against defenders who won’t be on the final roster. The Packers sat their defensive starters, so there was nothing to learn from watching Allen battle them.

    That said, Allen moved the chains with ease, going 20-of-26 for 194 yards and two touchdowns without Stefon Diggs’ services. It was such a stark difference from Sam Darnold struggling to score versus Pittsburgh’s backup defense the previous night. It’s hard to believe that Darnold was selected four picks earlier than Allen in the 2018 NFL Draft.

    Here were Allen’s targets:

    Cole Beasley: 5
    Nate Becker: 1
    Matt Breida: 1
    Gabriel Davis: 5 (1 end zone)
    Dawson Knox: 1
    Zack Moss: 1 (1 end zone)
    Emmanuel Sanders: 8
    Devin Singletary: 2

  • There’s a debate between Emmanuel Sanders and Gabriel Davis as far as who will be Buffalo’s third receiver. Considering the Bills have very little talent at tight end, we’ll see those two on the field together, along with Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Sanders saw more targets than Davis, 8-5, but Davis was the bigger producer. Davis, who is way more talented than Sanders right now, caught all five of his targets for 75 yards and a touchdown. Excluding the touchdown, his best play was when he juked a defender to pick up a gain of 22 yards. Sanders, conversely, snatched just four of his eight targets for only 27 yards. Sanders struggled with Drew Brees last year, so he’s not a very appealing fantasy option, unlike Davis, who is very high in my 2021 Fantasy Football Sleepers page.

  • Devin Singletary started and saw two targets. He caught both of them for eight receiving yards. He didn’t log a single carry, as Buffalo passed on every single play of the opening drive. Zack Moss eventually rushed for 10 yards on four attempts, but the Bills were resting Singletary as this was happening. This is another sign that Singletary will be the lead back, though there will certainly be a shared workload.

  • While Allen played, Aaron Rodgers was nowhere to be seen. Jordan Love started and played two-and-a-half quarters after missing last week’s action with a minor injury. Love, battling Buffalo’s first-string defense on most of his drives, showed some remarkable potential, but also committed some very crucial mistakes.

    Love made a pair of terrific throws on his first drive, showing great touch on a 29-yard pass to Reggie Begelton and then firing a 14-yard dart to Malik Taylor, who was draped by Tre’Davious White. Love’s next possession saw him convert a fourth-and-1 by scrambling right off play-action and then making an accurate throw on the run. Love led the Packers into the red zone versus Buffalo’s starting unit, but that’s where he made his first horrible mistake. After stumbling in the pocket, Love threw the ball up for grabs into double coverage, and the pass was easily picked.

    Love appeared to rebound after that, making a ridiculous throw to Taylor along the sideline where he put the ball into a very tight window for a 25-yard gain. However, Love committed a blunder later on the drive when he threw very late across his body. A Buffalo defender dropped the potential pick.

    Love finished 12-of-18 for 149 yards and the interception. He also scrambled thrice for 16 rushing yards. Love showed some amazing potential while battling the likes of White, Matt Milano and the rest of Buffalo’s first-string defense, but the two glaring mistakes he made shows that he’s not quite ready to start yet.

  • Aaron Jones rested, allowing A.J. Dillon to start. Buffalo’s stout defense prevented him from doing anything, limiting him to 18 yards on seven carries. Third-string running back Kylin Hill did better with his seven attempts, gaining 37 yards.

  • Malik Taylor had another impressive performance, catching five passes for 69 yards. I mentioned last week that Taylor has been enjoying a spectacular preseason, and that continued in this contest. We’ll see if Taylor makes the team – it helps that Devin Funchess is out for the year – because if he does, I think he’ll make for a very intriguing final-round fantasy pick. Green Bay’s receiving corps is weak outside of Davante Adams, so Taylor could make a big move up the depth chart in the near future.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: The Bills’ color analyst has no idea what month it is. That was apparent when he said, “On a day like today in September…” Except, today is Aug. 28.

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    Chiefs 28, Vikings 25

  • It’s amazing to me that while Jalen Huts and Zach Wilson didn’t play on this day, both Patrick Mahomes and Kirk Cousins saw extensive action in the preseason finale. One was far better than the other, and you’ll never imagine which one it was.

    The superior quarterback was Mahomes! OK, fine, that was expected. Saying a quarterback is in mid-season form is often a cliche, but that perfectly describes Mahomes’ performance in this contest. The Vikings had no answer for Mahomes, who led his team on two touchdown drives in the opening quarter. One concluded with a 35-yard bomb to Tyreek Hill, while the other finished on a short toss to Blake Bell.

    Mahomes went 8-of-9 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. His lone incompletion was thrown away because of pressure. If this game is any indication, Mahomes is going to have another MVP season.

    Here were Mahomes’ targets:

    Blake Bell: 1
    Tyreek Hill: 1 (1 end zone)
    Travis Kelce: 2
    Jerick McKinnon: 1
    Demarcus Robinson: 2
    Darwin Thompson: 1

  • Both Hill and Travis Kelce looked good during their brief playing time. Hill, as mentioned, caught a 35-yard touchdown bomb, while Kelce snatched two passes for 35 yards, with one going for 28 yards.

  • Kansas City’s battle for the No. 2 receiving job continued in the preseason finale. Mecole Hardman started ahead of Demarcus Robinson in a two-receiver set, but didn’t see any targets. Robinson, conversely, caught both of his targets for 30 yards. Hardman will be pumped for the start, but as I’ve been saying, he’s not a good receiver. The Chiefs will soon admit this and use Robinson over him. Robinson is going later than Hardman in fantasy football mock drafts, yet he definitely seems like the better option.

  • While the Chiefs’ starting pass offense played, both Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams sat out this game. That’s a good sign for Williams if Edwards-Helaire misses time with an injury.

  • As for the Vikings, they didn’t have nearly as much success moving the chains. Their offensive line has been a huge liability during the preseason, and that continued to be the case in this game.

    Cousins went 5-of-7 for 57 yards. One of his incompletions was a drop. Cousins made some nice connections to Irv Smith Jr., but the lack of time he had in the pocket prevented longer throws.

    Here were Cousins’ targets:

    Ameer Abdullah: 2
    Jake Bargas: 1
    Chad Beebe: 1
    Whop Philyor: 1
    Irv Smith Jr.: 2

  • Kirk Cousins and Irv Smith Jr. developed a special connection in training camp, and that carried over into the preseason finale. Smith caught both of his targets for 39 yards. With Kyle Rudolph gone, Smith seems poised to have a strong 2021 campaign.

  • Rookie quarterback Kellen Mond hasn’t enjoyed the best preseason, but this was his best performance to date. He threw several impressive passes in the second half, leading the Vikings on a lengthy touchdown drive in the final quarter. This should have included a passing touchdown, but his intended receiver drew an interference flag in the end zone. Earlier, Mond displayed great touch on a two-point conversion. He finished 16-of-24 for 196 yards and an interception, which was a high throw toward a tight end who didn’t bother to jump for the ball.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: This is a pet peeve of mine:

    I hate it when people cite the winning score second. I have no idea why the Chiefs’ telecast did this, but it really pissed me off.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Eagles 31, Jets 31

  • Neither starting quarterback played in this game. I figured Jalen Hurts would see some action after missing last week’s game with a stomach bug. However, it was Joe Flacco versus Josh Johnson in this exhibition finale thriller.

    I don’t know what sort of steroids Flacco took before the game, but he looked better than he did during his Super Bowl-winning season in 2012. He was dropping dimes everywhere, all while displaying inexplicable mobility in the pocket. The Eagles announcers even called him “Patrick McFlacco” at one point. McFlacco went 13-of-16 for 188 yards and two touchdowns. I’d say I have no idea what to make of this, but McFlacco was battling a defense comprised of players who won’t be on the Jets’ roster at this time next week. Johnson, meanwhile, looked good as well (7-of-8, 73 yards, TD), but like McFlacco, he was up against scrub Philadelphia defenders.

  • While we learned nothing about either passing offense this game, we at least found some clarity regarding the Jets’ ground attack. Rookie Michael Carter has gotten lots of hype as the Jets’ potential starting running back this year, but he did not perform well in the preseason finale. He mustered just 12 yards on seven carries. Conversely, Ty Johnson looked much better, albeit versus Philadelphia backup defenders. Johnson gained 53 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts. He also caught two passes for 18 receiving yards.

  • The most relevant fantasy performer for the Eagles in their preseason finale was Kenneth Gainwell. The rookie running back was excellent, albeit against the Jets’ backup defense. He rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown on just five carries, and he caught all four of his targets for 27 receiving yards. Gainwell looked dynamic and appears to be the real deal. Unfortunately, Miles Sanders stands in his path. If Sanders gets hurt, Gainwell will be a must-add via the waiver wire.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: Patrick McFlacco wasn’t the only person taking a mysterious substance ahead of this game. The Eagles’ color analyst said, “The Eagles have drafted very well recently.” Yeah, sure, the team that spent early-round picks on Jalen Reagor and Jalen Hurts drafts very well.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Panthers 34, Steelers 9

  • The Panthers blew out the Steelers because they decided to play their starters against Pittsburgh’s backups for the entire first half. Every starter on Carolina’s offense was on the field, save for Christian McCaffrey. Chuba Hubbard started instead.

    Sam Darnold posted impressive stats – 19-of-25, 162 yards, two touchdowns – but the numbers are completely misleading. In fact, Darnold didn’t play well at all.

    Darnold spent most of the evening tossing checkdowns. The Panthers’ color analyst, Steve Smith, called him “Checkdown Charlie” at one point. As Darnold was doing this, he was failing to take advantage of potential deep connections. He didn’t see some receivers who were open for long gains down the field, settling for short tosses instead.

    Darnold had some other issues as well. He sometimes panicked in the pocket. He also overthrew Terrace Marshall on one instance and then misread the coverage on a pass to Robby Anderson. Darnold then nearly threw an interception while targeting Anderson because the pass was way behind his intended receiver. He was lucky the defensive back dropped the ball.

    These negatives may not seem like a huge deal when compared to the final numbers, but keep in mind that all of this was done against Pittsburgh’s second-string scrubs. It’s hard to feel optimistic about Darnold’s chances with the Panthers after watching this game, though it was obviously a small sample size.

    Here were Darnold’s targets:

    Robby Anderson: 4 (1 end zone)
    Dan Arnold: 3
    Chuba Hubbard: 2
    Terrace Marshall: 4
    D.J. Moore: 6
    Giovanni Ricci: 1
    Ian Thomas: 1

  • D.J. Moore picked up where he left off last year, catching all six of his targets for 48 yards. He’s the best receiver Darnold has ever played with in the NFL, so it’s not a surprise that the two have a strong connection already.

  • Rookie receiver Terrace Marshall secured three of his four targets for 43 yards and a touchdown. He could’ve posted a better stat line had Darnold not overthrown him on one of his incompletions. Marshall looks like he’ll be a solid receiver in the NFL, but it’s difficult to like him for fantasy this year because he’s the third receiver in an offense that heavily leans on Christian McCaffrey.

  • Speaking of McCaffrey, his primary backup, Hubbard, rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries. His best play was a 12-yard burst that featured a broken tackle. Hubbard also caught three passes for 15 receiving yards. However, he failed to convert some short-yardage opportunities.

  • Another Panther rookie, cornerback Jaycee Horn, made a nice play in the opening quarter when he broke up a pass intended for Chase Claypool. The second-year Steeler receiver saw plenty of action in the opening half without any of the other starters, yet all he could do was catch one pass for 18 yards. Dwayne Haskins simply didn’t have enough time in the pocket to locate Claypool, as his second-string offensive line had no chance against Brian Burns and the Carolina starting defensive front.

    Speaking of Haskins, his impressive season ended on a sour note, as he went 4-of-11 for 29 yards and an interception, which was an ugly pass tossed behind his fullback. Haskins had no chance in this game, given the circumstances.

  • For the first time this season, Najee Harris didn’t play. There was no reason to use him because he will be handling a heavy workload in Pittsburgh’s offense this year. Benny Snell (7-28) started this game.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: I mentioned that Steve Smith was the Panthers’ color analyst in this game. He made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of Curtis Samuel when he and his partner discussed the former Panther leaving for the Redskins: “Four or five catches per game. We won’t miss him.”

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    Colts 27, Lions 17

  • Neither of the starting quarterbacks played in this game, so the most interesting element regarding that position was the ongoing battle between Jacob Eason and Sam Ehlinger to be Carson Wentz’s backup.

    Eason started and performed well, albeit against Indianapolis’ backups. He showed nice zip on his passes, which isn’t a surprise, given his superior arm strength (more on that later.) He didn’t get the Colts into the red zone, however. Still, Eason went 10-of-14 for 74 yards. The Colts were conservative with him, despite his plus arm.

    Ehlinger, meanwhile, threw just three passes, and he completed all of them for 63 yards. Most of his yardage came on one throw, a 60-yarder in which Ehlinger spun out of pressure and lobbed a deep heave to his receiver. It was odd that Ehlinger didn’t play into the second half until it was revealed that he suffered a knee injury that could cost him the season.

  • There were no other Indianapolis offensive players of note, but the team’s first-round rookie, edge rusher Kwity Paye, registered a strip-sack of Tim Boyle in the opening quarter.

  • It’s pointless to diagnose an offense piloted by Boyle, but Amon-Ra St. Brown saw some action in this game. He saw three targets, catching two of them for four yards. One of his receptions was a 5-yard loss, as he was blown up in the backfield. St. Brown looked good in run blocking, so he’ll be on the field often despite being a rookie.

  • NFL Preseason Announcers: One of the Indianapolis announcers said this: “The Colts couldn’t go downfield last year because of Philip Rivers’ lack of arm strength. Jacob Eason has a big arm though, so I’d like to see the Colts take a shot.” OK. Except, Carson Wentz is the quarterback this season, so it probably doesn’t matter if the Colts have Eason fire deep passes in meaningless games.

    Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 Preseason Notes: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3
    2021 Fantasy Football Stock Pages: Preseason Stock Week 1 | Preseason Stock Week 2 | Preseason Stock Week 3

    More 2021 Fantasy Football Articles:
    Fantasy Football Rankings

    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings:
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks - 9/1 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers - 9/5 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends - 9/5 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers - 6/9 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defenses - 6/9 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings: Dynasty - 5/9 (Walt)

    2021 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts:
    2021 Fantasy Football Mock Drafts - 9/3 (Walt)

    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets:
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 PPR - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 Half-PPR - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 2-QB - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Top 250 Touchdown League - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Custom - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football: Dynasty Rankings - 9/8 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Spreadsheets - 9/8 (Walt)

    2021 Fantasy Football Articles:
    2021 Fantasy Football Stock Report: OTAs, Training Camp - 9/6 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Sleepers - 9/6 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Busts - 8/31 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Value Picks - 8/31 (Walt)
    2021 NFL Preseason Game Recaps - 8/30 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Stock Report: Preseason Games - 8/30 (Walt)
    2021 Fantasy Football Round-by-Round Strategy Guide - 8/12 (Walt)

    Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

    2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

    NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

    NFL Picks - Feb. 12