Any team's worst nightmare in the preseason is watching an important starter go down with a serious injury. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened with the Giants when starting corner Terrell Thomas tore his ACL in the second quarter. With Thomas out for the year and Prince Amukamara sidelined, Aaron Ross will be in the lineup. To quote forum member GiantsFanMike: "That means Aaron Ross is now a starter. Offensive coordinators all over the league have just blown their life supply of j**z."
If Thomas never would have gotten hurt, the big story would have been the continued struggles of New York's passing attack. Eli Manning went 8-of-16 for just 78 yards. Despite stating that he's as good as Tom Brady, Manning hasn't been very sharp this preseason. Of course, it would've helped if Mario Manningham didn't drop a possible 15-yard reception in the first quarter and Hakeem Nicks didn't step out of bounds prior to hauling in a 9-yard reception a few drives later.
Here were Manning's targets:
Ahmad Bradshaw: 2
Victor Cruz: 1
Hakeem Nicks: 5
Mario Manningham: 7
Mario Manningham led the Giants with seven targets in the preseason win against the Bears. He caught four balls for 39 yards, and would have expanded on those stats if he could have hauled in a catchable 15-yard pass in the first quarter. There's no doubt about it - with Steve Smith gone, Manningham is a legitimate fantasy WR2 with upside.
Hakeem Nicks saw five targets go his way, but caught only one ball for minus-1 yards. Nicks is an excellent receiver, so I wouldn't be concerned about this. He'll rebound.
While the passing game was stagnant, New York's ground attack looked great. Ahmad Bradshaw was solid (5-15), but the big story is Brandon Jacobs, who rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Jacobs looked as healthy as I can remember; he ran with good speed for his size while still maintaining his trademark power. He won't be the starter, but he'll have close to a 40-60 split with Ahmad Bradshaw. He'll also get all of the goal-line work.
Both left tackles were whistled for a false start in this contest. Bears fans expected as much from J'Marcus Webb, who was helpless against the Bills last week. The good news though is that Chicago's offensive front was much better than it was in the first game of the preseason. Jay Cutler couldn't even get off a pass versus Buffalo, but he was well protected for the most part Monday night. He wasn't even sacked in the first quarter, so Bears fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
In one half of action, Jay Cutler went 12-of-21 for 171 yards. He was actually much better than those numbers indicate; Roy Williams dropped a first down and Devin Hester let a ball go through his hands in the end zone.
Here were Cutler's targets:
Marion Barber: 1
Khalil Bell: 1
Earl Bennett: 5
Kellen Davis: 1
Matt Forte: 1
Devin Hester: 5 (1 end zone)
Dane Sanzenbacher: 2
Matt Spaeth: 1
Chester Taylor: 1
Roy Williams: 3
Earl Bennett tied for most targets from Jay Cutler in the preseason loss to the Giants. He caught three of those passes for 58 yards. Mike Martz promised that Bennett will see an expanded role this year, so it appears as though he's living up to his word.
Roy Williams played like crap in the exhibition loss to the Giants. He was thrown to three times, but couldn't come up with a single reception. He dropped a routine first-down conversion on the opening drive. It appears as though he wasn't kidding when he told everyone that he's out of shape.
***ALERT ALERT ALERT LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES ON ESPN2 ALERT ALERT ALERT***
Sorry. I was pretending to be ESPN for a second.
Seriously, ESPN needs to chill with the Little League World Series coverage. No one cares. The kids don't even like it. Their summer vacations are wasting away because their loser dads are forcing them to play. And ESPN isn't even focusing on any of the fights between the dads in the stands. That's the only appealing part of the Little League World Series.
Rams 17, Titans 16
I wrote this summer that I was looking forward to watching the Rams' preseason games to see whom Sam Bradford would target as his new favorite receiver. Well, we still have no definitive answer. Brandon Gibson opened up with an 83-yard touchdown on the first play of the game, but only saw one ball come his way after that. Danny Amendola, meanwhile, had four targets. He remains a very good PPR flex option.
Bradford went 8-of-15 for 138 yards, one touchdown and a pick that wasn't his fault because Mike Sims-Walker tipped a perfectly thrown ball into the arms of a Tennessee corner. Bradford's first attempt was an 83-yard bomb off play-action to a wide-open Brandon Gibson, but he struggled at times after that because of his receivers. Sims-Walker was responsible for another incompletion because he fell down coming out of a break. Bradford also took a couple of sacks as a result of his wideouts struggling to get open.
The Rams received quite a scare at the end of the first half when Titans defensive end William Hayes dived at Bradford's legs. It was similar to the hit Tom Brady endured from Bernard Pollard in the 2008 season opener that caused him to miss the entire year. Luckily, Bradford was OK. There was oddly no penalty on Hayes, however, to the chagrin of the furious Rams announcers. They seriously sounded like they wanted Hayes' head on a spike.
Here were Bradford's targets:
Danny Amendola: 4
Donnie Avery: 1
Brandon Gibson: 2
Steven Jackson: 2
Lance Kendricks: 1
Mike Sims-Walker: 3
Cadillac Williams: 1
Mike Sims-Walker had a miserable performance in the preseason win over Tennessee. He was responsible for Sam Bradford's sole interception, as he tipped a perfectly thrown ball into the air, which landed into the arms of Titans corner Alterraun Verner. Later, Sims-Walker fell down on a break. He finished with just one reception for 26 yards. I was going to give him a stock down, but the analysts on the Rams Broadcasting Network brought up a great point - Sims-Walker was still playing with a groin injury that hampered him in the exhibition opener. That could have been the reason he struggled coming out breaks (this happened on the pick as well). I'd still take a shot on him as Bradford's top wideout. All in all, Sims-Walker gets a stock up because he'll play better when he's healthy. The important thing is that Bradford threw to him more than any wideout excluding Danny Amendola.
You can drop Danario Alexander if you have him. I don't know why he's not seeing the field at all. It's really disappointing.
Steven Jackson rushed for only 10 yards on six carries in the preseason victory over the Titans. Despite those ugly numbers, it's impossible to say whether Jackson has lost it or not. He had absolutely no running room; Tennessee's defensive front pushed back St. Louis' offensive line on almost every play.
Like Sam Bradford, Matt Hasselbeck left the game in the second quarter after getting banged up. Hasselbeck bit his tongue while getting hit, a non-factor going forward, though I'm sure it was painful when it happened. Hasselbeck was a solid 7-of-9 for 74 yards despite missing Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson.
One player who really impressed in Tennessee's preseason loss at St. Louis was Jared Cook, who caught three balls for 54 yards, including a 29-yard diving grab near the right sideline. Cook is a solid TE2 with a competent quarterback under center.
Jake Locker had a solid exhibition debut, but really struggled at St. Louis. His first throw was awesome; he rolled out right and floated a perfectly thrown ball to Cook for 29 yards. However, he was nearly picked off in the end zone by Quintin Mikell a couple of plays after that. Early in the third quarter, he threw off his back foot while under pressure, which resulted in a terrible pass that was easily intercepted by Rams safety James Butler.
There was no Chris Johnson or Javon Ringer, but the Titans were still able to run the ball extremely well. Third-stringer Jamie Harper rumbled for 83 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, with Johnson perhaps losing some leverage in his quest to earn billions of dollars. I wouldn't say that Harper was overly impressive though; it was more Titans blocking and Rams sucking.
The St. Louis announcers would agree with that last part, by the way. The three guys in the booth, one of whom was Marshall Faulk, expressed concern that the Rams defense was gassed - and this was with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Umm... concern? How can players be gassed seven minutes into any game? You have to wonder about their conditioning because of the lockout. I mean, I myself get tired just walking up the stairs in my house, but these guys are paid to stay in tip-top physical shape. You can't be gassed halfway through the opening quarter.
Chargers 20, Cowboys 7
Last year at this time, I fell in love with Arian Foster and told you to pick him no matter what in your fantasy draft. I feel almost as strongly about Felix Jones. Jones looks awesome. He has a great combination of power, speed, elusiveness and quickness. He catches passes, breaks tackles and makes nice cuts. He's also good in pass protection and big enough for goal-line carries, so he'll always be on the field. Make sure you get Jones in your league. I took him late in the third round of my 2011 Fantasy Football Experts Draft (PPR), and that was before his seven-carry, 56-yard performance against the Chargers. I like him even more now.
Tony Romo played a quarter and a half, and was a solid 8-of-12 for 58 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Two of his incompletions were drops by Dez Bryant and Martellus Bennett.
Here were Romo's targets (Miles Austin-Jones did not play):
Martellus Bennett: 2
Dez Bryant: 3
Lonyae Miller: 1
Kevin Ogletree: 2
Jason Witten: 3 (1 end zone)
I'm really glad that Cris Collinsworth brought up running back Phillip Tanner in the Sunday night broadcast. Tanner caught my eye last week with some impressive runs against the Broncos, but I didn't mention him because I focused more on the fantasy implications and the Tim Tebow situation. As Collinsworth described, Tanner shows tremendous patience and hits the hole with a nice burst. Tanner rushed for 31 yards on just four carries, and at this point, it'll be an upset if he doesn't make the team. He could easily be Felix Jones' direct backup because DeMarco Murray is never healthy, and Jason Garrett loathes Tashard Choice.
Philip Rivers played three drives, but that's all he needed because he looked like he was in mid-season form. He went 8-of-11 for 92 yards and a touchdown, leading the first-string offense to 10 points.
Here were Rivers' targets:
Patrick Crayton: 2
Jacob Hester: 1
Vincent Jackson: 4
Randy McMichael: 3 (2 end zone)
Mike Tolbert: 1
I said it last week, and I'll say it again: Vincent Jackson, who caught three balls for 49 yards in the preseason win in Dallas, will be a beast this year. This will be Jackson's first NFL season without LaDainian Tomlinson, so he should be able to post a career-high touchdown total. He's also in great shape, unlike last season. Rivers has targeted him seven times in four drives this preseason, so I love Jackson as a late second-, early third-round selection in fantasy drafts.
Ignore Randy McMichael's targets. Those will be Antonio Gates' when the All-Pro tight end returns to the lineup.
Norv Turner wasn't lying about an even split between Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert. Once again, Mathews and Tolbert shared carries pretty evenly. Mathews was the better pure runner, but Tolbert was on the field on third-down situations. Mathews is going in the fifth round of fantasy drafts, but it's hard to like him because Tolbert will steal tons of touches this season.
Malcom Floyd suffered a concussion in this contest. It was weird because Floyd walked off the field with his hand on his lower back, but he wasn't responsive on the sidelines. One news source is reporting that he told coaches that he answered all questions correctly until he told everyone that he's Batman.
49ers 17, Raiders 3
First of all, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the shootings that occurred at this game. If you didn't hear, two fans were injured in shootings Saturday night at Candlestick. Look, I know people in that part of the country take the Battle of the Bay seriously, but there's no need to shoot anyone for rooting for a specific team. The next time this happens, I would like Al Davis to unleash some of his gargoyles, goblins and cyclopses to punish anyone committing this sort of violence.
Raider fans suffered a major scare late in the second quarter. Jason Campbell suffered some sort of a head injury or a concussion, and was down for about two minutes. Fortunately, he walked off on his own power, so he should be OK for the regular-season opener.
Campbell was pretty solid prior to the injury; he went 5-of-7 for 74 yards. He was replaced by Trent Edwards, who embarrassed his unborn grandchildren by going 3-of-6 for 36 yards and an interception.
Here were Campbell's targets (Jacoby Ford and Darren McFadden didn't play):
Michael Bush: 1
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 3
Denarius Moore: 3 (1 end zone)
Fifth-round rookie wideout Denarius Moore flashed for the second straight week, catching two of his three targets for 28 yards in the preseason loss at San Francisco. If you have room on your bench, stash Moore because he could really produce in the second half of the year. If not, remember him as a waiver-wire addition.
Alex Smith's stats were abysmal last week, but as I explained in the Week 1 recap page, he had no chance because the blitz protection schemes were screwed up or non-existent, as Saints safety Roman Harper ran unchallenged into the backfield on almost every play. San Francisco's coaching staff fixed this problem, allowing Smith to go 8-of-13 for 126 yards and an interception against Oakland. One incompletion was a Braylon Edwards drop, but the interception Smith's his fault because he didn't see a Raider defensive end dropping into coverage.
Here were Smith's targets:
Vernon Davis: 4
Braylon Edwards: 3
Ted Ginn: 1
Josh Morgan: 3
Konrad Reuland: 1
Delanie Walker: 1
Smith is entrenched as the starting quarterback for now, but I liked what I saw out of Colin Kaepernick. He was an efficient 6-of-8 for 52 yards. His best throw was a 13-yard connection with Kyle Williams which was a nice-looking touch pass.
Edwards had that aforementioned drop, but he made up for it with a great, one-handed diving catch along the left sideline in the second quarter for a 32-yard gain. The former Jet had two catches for 46 yards.
I saw a few tweets speculating that Frank Gore may have lost his job as the goal-line back because Anthony Dixon replaced him in short yardage. However, this was not the case, as Gore (4-21) was done for the night. Dixon ran well in relief, gaining 53 yards on 12 attempts.
The star of San Francisco's offense in the victory over Oakland was rookie running back Kendall Hunter. Totaling 105 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, Hunter impressively dragged defenders on several runs in the first half. He then showed off his blazing speed with a 53-yard scoring burst in the third quarter. Hunter's worth a late-round selection because Frank Gore is really injury-prone. If Gore goes down, Hunter could post big numbers.
I'd advise against watching the NFL Network replay of this game. Not that it was boring or anything; there was a weird sound that occurred between every single play in the 49ers broadcast. It sounded like some sort of an electrical zap or an annoying alarm clock. At one point, I thought there was a robot shooting lasers in my office. I guess that's what happens when you watch six full football games in a single day.
Jets 27, Bengals 7
The Bengals looked awful in the first quarter. They were so bad that I tweeted @walterfootball: "Another Andy Dalton pick for the #Bengals - may have to change the order of my 2012 NFL Mock Draft."
Andy Dalton was 1-of-7 for 7 yards, two interceptions and a fumble after three drives. One of the picks wasn't his fault - the ball bounced out of A.J. Green's hands - but he was sailing passes over and behind his receivers. Four of his first seven attempts either went over or behind his intended targets. It was a Keith Null-, Brian Brohm-type of ineptness. I was about to pencil Andrew Luck into the Bengals' slot at No. 1 overall...
...But Dalton inexplicably improved after that. Overall, he finished 8-of-19 for 86 yards and those two picks, which means he was 7-of-12 for 79 yards after those miserable three drives despite the fact that both Jerome Simpson and Green had drops, and the latter had a misfire go his way because of a miscommunication. Still though, 33 of those 79 yards came on a Brian Leonard screen, so it wasn't like Dalton was completely on fire. He was just average - which Cincinnati fans will take from a rookie quarterback after that abysmal first quarter.
Here were Dalton's targets:
Andre Caldwell: 3
Colin Cochart: 1
Andy Dalton: 1
A.J. Green: 5
Brian Leonard: 2
Bo Scaife: 1
Jordan Shipley: 4 (1 end zone)
Jerome Simpson: 3
A.J. Green was really disappointing in the preseason loss against the Jets. Though he was targeted a team-high five times by Andy Dalton, he caught only one ball for eight yards because he was guilty of three drops, one of which resulted in an interception. Green is a freak athlete and should post monstrous numbers with a good quarterback, but this lack of concentration has to be disheartening if you're a Bengals fan. Stay away from him this year.
Jordan Shipley saw four targets (one in the end zone) from Andy Dalton in the exhibition loss to the Jets. Dalton loves his slant passes, so Shipley could be a nice PPR flex option this year.
For those scouring the box score and wondering why LaDainian Tomlinson had nine carries for 16 yards, Shonn Greene was out with some sort of foot fungus. He would have played if this were a regular-season game.
Save for one throw on the first drive that was nearly picked off by Leon Hall, Mark Sanchez played pretty well, going 12-of-20 for 173 yards and two touchdowns in one half of action. One of Sanchez's scores was a beautiful lob to Plaxico Burress amid an all-out blitz at the end of the first half. The rainbow landed perfectly into Burress' arms for a 26-yard score.
Here were Sanchez's targets:
Plaxico Burress: 6 (2 end zone)
Santonio Holmes: 3
Dustin Keller: 5
Jeremy Kerley: 3
LaDainian Tomlinson: 2
Dustin Keller led the Jets with four receptions for 73 yards in the exhibition victory against Cincinnati. He had a nice game, but I still wouldn't draft him. He's just too damn inconsistent.
Plaxico Burress was targeted a team-high six times (twice in the end zone) in the preseason win over the Bengals, catching three balls for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Jets made an effort to get the ball to Burress early and often, so I wouldn't read too much into this. The takeaway, as many predicted, is that Burress will be a primary end-zone target for Mark Sanchez.
Another new Jet, Aaron Maybin, wrecked Dan LeFevour in the fourth quarter, sacking Cincinnati's third-string quarterback and forcing a fumble. Maybin is still a long shot to produce this year, but the Jets will take whatever they can get because their pass rush is still very questionable.
Want to hear something sad? The Cincinnati broadcast named punter Chris Huber the Bengals' player of the game. This is going to be a long season for Cincinnati.
Before I move on, I have to credit the Bengals for using the awesome Bubble Lead defense when Jets quarterback D.Willy was in the game. Of course, D.Willy could have moved the chains if he stopped moving in a figure-eight formation the entire time. No E-tanks needed.
Redskins 16, Colts 3
Once again, there's barely anything of note regarding the Colts. Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and of course, Peyton Manning were all out. Curtis "Finger" Painter played like he was blindfolded at times, going 5-of-10 for 40 yards. Dan Orlovsky (7-17, 67 yards, 1 INT) was only slightly better, but owner Jim Irsay clearly wasn't pleased because he tweeted Sunday that he was in Mississippi, presumably to talk to Brett Favre.
Two things before we move on to the Redskins:
1. Adam Vintatieri nailed a 55-yard field goal in the third quarter. This is notable because he hasn't hit a kick of 50-plus in the regular season since 2008.
2. Delone Carter looked really good in the second half of the preseason loss to Washington. He ran with power and had a nice stiff-arm on one carry. Carter gained 25 yards on four attempts and also caught two balls for seven receiving yards. Given Joseph Addai's injury history and Donald Brown's ineptness, Carter makes for a great late-round flier. He could be the starter in the second half of the year.
A month ago, I never would have imagined that John Beck would outplay any quarterback, but Beck was very econmical in this contest. He went 14-of-17 for 140 yards, showing great accuracy and solid decision-making. Beck didn't make any throws that wowed me, but he was smart and proved that he has a nice grasp of Mike Shanahan's offense.
The only errors Beck made occurred in the red zone, where he took two sacks. One wasn't his fault - Dwight Freeney manhandled Trent Williams - but he held on to the ball too long on the other. Also, he lobbed an inaccurate, short pass to Terrence Austin on a 3rd-and-4 near the 10-yard line in the second quarter. Instead of making a routine grab, Austin had to dive for the ball. He actually caught it, but the dive prevented the Redskins from picking up a first down.
Overall though, Washington fans have to be pleased. Beck did a good job in his first start under Shanahan.
Here were Beck's targets:
Anthony Armstrong: 1
Terrence Austin: 3
Fred Davis: 2
Jabar Gaffney: 1
Roy Helu: 2
Tim Hightower: 1
Santana Moss: 1
Logan Paulsen: 1
Mike Sellers: 1 (1 end zone)
Donte' Stallworth: 1
Darrel Young: 1
Second-year Terrence Austin led the Redskins' first-stringers in targets with three. He hauled in all three balls for 26 yards, just one week after catching two passes for 46 yards. Austin is an extreme long shot to contribute in fantasy football, but crazier things have happened. He could emerge as John Beck's favorite receiver. Stay tuned.
Get Tim Hightower onto your team. The former Cardinal generated 70 yards and a touchdown on just six carries in the preseason win at Indianapolis. Hightower isn't very talented, but he is a perfect fit for Mike Shanahan's scheme. He had a 58-yard run on the opening drive, which was mostly the result of excellent blocking. Hightower also received two goal-line carries later on the possession, converting his second try for a touchdown. Most telling is that Shanahan took Hightower out of the game after seven touches, perhaps preserving him for the regular season.
Roy Helu also looked good, though his stats were misleading. The Nebraska rookie tallied a whopping 101 yards on 14 carries (with a 9-yard attempt wiped out by holding), but a 51-yard burst of his was bogus. Helu gained four yards and looked like he was going out of bounds. Two Indianapolis defenders though the same, so they quit on the play. Helu took advantage of this and ran for 47 more yards. It was a smart and slick move, but he probably won't be able to pull that off in the regular season. Helu will be worth picking up if Hightower gets hurt, but Mike Shanahan still doesn't trust him in pass protection, so he won't play much unless there are injuries.
Broncos 24, Bills 10
The major storyline going into this game was that Tim Tebow was demoted to the third string, with Brady Quinn earning a promotion because of a strong preseason thus far. Quinn made the most of his opportunity, going 10-of-16 for 130 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He nearly had a second pick at the end of the first half, but made up for it with really nice deep throws to Eric Decker and Britt Davis in the third quarter.
Tebow, meanwhile, was greeted with a standing ovation when he took the field, but didn't get any sort of chance to prove himself; he was just 1-of-2 for 10 yards. His sole incompletion was a deep ball nearly hauled in by Donte Rosario.
As for Denver's starting offense, the team moved the ball extremely well. Kyle Orton and company played three drives and scored twice. The other possession concluded because of a penalty and a drop.
Kyle Orton posted some pretty stats in slightly less than a half of action against the Bills, going 10-of-13 for 135 yards and a touchdown. It's hard to believe, but Orton actually performed better than those numbers indicate. He had a 22-yard reception to Eddie Royal wiped out because of a tripping penalty. Royal also dropped a pass. Despite the departure of Josh McDaniels, Orton still looks like a legitimate fantasy QB2.
Here were Orton's targets:
Daniel Fells: 2
Brandon Lloyd: 5
Willis McGahee: 2
Knowshon Moreno: 2
Eddie Royal: 2
Julius Thomas: 1
Brandon Lloyd paced the Broncos with five targets in the preseason victory over Buffalo, finishing with four receptions for 55 yards. His sole incompletion was a great diving attempt deep along the left sideline in the second quarter. With Kyle Orton playing well, there's a chance Lloyd could match his 2010 numbers.
Knowshon Moreno started for Denver in its exhibition win against the Bills, rushing for 28 yards on six carries. Moreno will be a big part of the passing attack and should get a 2:1 attempt ratio over Willis McGahee in his favor, but he won't receive any goal-line attempts.
During Denver's preseason triumph over the Bills, Willis McGahee managed only six yards on five carries. However, his low YPC average can be attributed to the multiple short-yardage attempts he received. McGahee is Denver's goal-line back, and he'll get about a third of the rushes and some receptions. He's definitely worth owning in all leagues, as Moreno isn't the most durable running back in the NFL.
Super-athletic rookie tight end Julius Thomas caught the first pass of the game. That was promising, but Thomas wasn't targeted again until Quinn was on the field. Thomas could emerge as a solid fantasy tight end in 2012, but don't bother with him for now.
I guess you could call this game the No. 2 Overall Pick Bowl. Both Marcell Dareus and Von Miller were pretty impressive, recording a sack each.
Speaking of which, Ryan Fitzpatrick (6-of-16, 44 yards, INT) was constantly under pressure, so he wasn't as bad as those numbers indicate. The interception wasn't his fault either; it was the result of a tipped ball by Marcus Easley.
Here were Fitzpatrick's targets:
Scott Chandler: 3
Fred Jackson: 2
Steve Johnson: 4
Donald Jones: 3 (1 end zone)
Naaman Roosevelt: 2
C.J. Spiller: 2
While Steve Johnson led the Bills in targets with four, the most noteworthy Buffalo wideout was Donald Jones, who was drilled in the helmet by rookie safety Rahim Moore along the sideline despite being the fact that Jones was a defenseless receiver. Jones was down for minutes, and likely suffered a concussion. The hit was extremely dirty, and even the Denver announcers thought Moore should have been ejected.
Well, what do you know? C.J. Spiller could be the starting running back for the Bills. Spiller received the first three carries of Saturday's loss at Denver: a 5-yarder on the first play; a stuff on a 3rd-and-1 attempt; and a nice 14-yard burst after a nice cut. Spiller finished with 10 yards on six attempts, but that's a bit misleading because he had an 8-yard loss on a botched hand-off. Spiller also caught two balls for 11 receiving yards. With so many people down on Spiller after his abysmal rookie campaign, he makes for a nice, late-round sleeper this year.
Fred Jackson rushed for 34 yards on four carries in the loss to the Broncos, but the major news is that C.J. Spiller started and received the first three attempts. The Bills had Jackson playing well into the second quarter, perhaps an indication that Spiller will be the starter this season.
Before I forget, I must credit the Bills, who did a great job by running (and converting) a fake punt on the first drive of the game at their own 29. Way to fool John Fox and the rest of Denver's coaching staff.
Awesome Prediction: Denver's color announcer, some guy named Alfred, projected that the Chargers will win 12 games this year, and that the Broncos will have "double-digit wins, more than 10." Take note if you're into betting season win totals.
Lions 30, Browns 28
I was excited to watch Colt McCoy play against the Lions after last week's brilliant performance versus Green Bay (9-of-10, 135 yards, TD). He wasn't as good this time, going 10-of-18 for 96 yards and three touchdowns. However, there are three things to consider:
First, both Peyton Hillis and Ben Watson were out, so McCoy was missing his top two weapons. Second, two of McCoy's incompletions were dropped by Alex Smith and Owen Marecic on the first drive. Marecic paid for his mistake, as he was drilled by DeAndre Levy after failing to come up with the reception. And third, McCoy was pressured often. On one occasion, he took a hit to the knees that was a bit reminiscent of the nasty injury Tom Brady suffered in the 2008 opener at the hands of Bernard Pollard. Luckily, McCoy was OK.
Overall, I'm still impressed by McCoy. He's really smart and accurate for the most part, and he's lighting it up despite having a terrible supporting cast. He's just a fantasy QB2 because of his crappy receivers, but Cleveland fans have good reason to be optimistic.
Here were McCoy's targets (remember, Hillis and Watson were both out):
Brian Robiskie: 1
Brandon Jackson: 3
Joshua Cribbs: 5 (1 end zone)
Evan Moore: 3 (2 end zone)
Greg Little: 3 (1 end zone)
Owen Marecic: 2
Jordan Norwood: 2
Alex Smith: 2
Joshua Cribbs saw a team-high five targets from McCoy, but managed to haul in just two receptions for 10 yards. Though he did draw a long pass-interference penalty, Cribbs shouldn't be used in fantasy leagues because he's such an inefficient receiver. There's just no upside, outside of perhaps PPR formats.
Greg Little caught two of his three targets from Colt McCoy in the preseason loss to Detroit for 25 yards and a touchdown. Little is a beast; it's just a matter of him getting into playing shape after being out of football the past two years. With McCoy showing tremendous improvement, Little is worth a late-round flier as Cleveland's No. 1 receiver.
Evan Moore hauled in all three of his targets from Colt McCoy in the exhibition defeat to the Lions for 40 yards and two scores. I really like Moore, but it's hard to get too excited about this because Ben Watson didn't play. Watson is McCoy's primary tight end, as Moore is a poor blocker.
Matthew Stafford played just one quarter. He was a solid 6-of-10 for 85 yards and a touchdown, with two incompletions being thrown away. Speaking of which, it was discouraging to watch Stafford run for his life on multiple occasions. It was a reminder of how inept Detroit's offensive line is. I hope Stafford can stay healthy for all 16 games this year, but that's unlikely to happen.
Here were Stafford's targets (Calvin Johnson didn't play with a minor shoulder bruise):
Jahvid Best had just three touches in the preseason victory at Cleveland. He left the game after fumbling (great run-stuff by Phil Taylor) and suffering a head injury, and was treated for a concussion. Best didn't incur a concussion, but it's difficult not to think about how brittle Best is. He'll post great numbers when healthy, but he's a poor bet to play 16 games.
With Calvin Johnson out, Nate Burleson became Matthew Stafford's top target in the exhibition win against the Browns. Burleson was targeted three times in one quarter of action, grabbing two of those passes for 34 yards and a touchdown. I really like Burleson as a late-round flier; Stafford has thrown to Burleson more than anyone this preseason.
This stupid "challenge after every touchdown" rule has to go. Right now. Official Mike Carey was signaled by some moron upstairs to review McCoy's first touchdown to Moore. The Browns play-by-play guy was shocked. "I don't know what they're looking at," he said.
Me neither. Moore caught the ball in the end zone and took SIX steps - I counted - before walking out of bounds, and he never bobbled the ball. Minutes later, Carey announced that the play was confirmed.
Let's all thank some loser for asking Carey to review this when he just wanted a few extra minutes to whack off or drop a deuce. Here's an idea: How about we stop with the automatic reviews? Coaches have two red flags. If they want a touchdown reviewed, let them challenge.
Vikings 20, Seahawks 7
The NFL Network really sucked on Saturday night. It promised a double-header featuring the Saints at Texans and then Vikings at Seahawks. It planned to switch to the latter game at 11 despite the fact that it kicked off at 10. I figured the NFL Network would show the contest from the beginning, but it announced that it was going to jump into the game live at 11.
When 10 rolled around, the Seattle and Minnesota starters were on the field, yet the NFL Network continued to show Houston and New Orleans' third-stringers. This pissed me off, so I tweeted @walterfootball to NFL Network:
Hey @nflnetwork how about you switch over to #Vikings at #Seahawks now because the starters are actually playing? Ugh.
Fortunately, forum member The Kaiser was able to provide me with a link to a live feed of the game. I missed the first couple of minutes, but I was able to see the rest of the game. I wouldn't have been able to do a recap of this contest tonight without that link, so major thanks to The Kaiser for making this possible.
I really don't know what the hell Leslie Frazier was thinking. Donovan McNabb and the first-string offense played only two drives, one of which was a three-and-out. McNabb was solid on his second possession, finishing 6-of-8 for 81 yards. However, he's new to the team and is unfamiliar with the scheme and personnel. He needs reps. Taking him out after two drives was inexcusable.
Here were McNabb's targets:
Devin Aromashodu: 1
Michael Jenkins: 1
Jim Kleinsasser: 1
Adrian Peterson: 3
Kyle Rudolph: 2
The one fantasy takeaway regarding Minnesota in its preseason victory at Seattle was that Adrian Peterson remained in the game on third down. He actually had the most targets from Donovan McNabb (3), catching two passes for 11 yards. If he stays on the field for all three downs, there's a good chance he could finish as the top fantasy running back this year.
Christian Ponder went 6-of-12 for 63 yards. He was nearly intercepted on an ill-advised underhanded flip under pressure on the opening drive. He made up for it on the next play when he escaped pressure, rolled right and converted a first down to Juaquin Iglesias.
Ponder's other great throw was a nice touch pass to Devin Aromashodu for 21 yards in the third quarter. Other than that, Ponder didn't really do anything special. He ran around quite a bit, scrambling thrice for 15 yards.
Minnesota's former quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, posted some really ugly numbers in one half of action, going 11-of-21 for 75 yards and an interception. The pick wasn't his fault; a well-place throw to Golden Tate popped out of the receiver's hands and into the arms of Marcus Sherels, who took it back for six.
Jackson was guilty of some other mistakes, however. He overthrew Sidney Rice for a possible touchdown at the end of the first quarter. Immediately after that, Jackson was nearly intercepted in the end zone when he targeted Rice again. He had other receivers open, but forced the issue. Jackson also threw off his back foot on a couple of occasions, which is inexcusable for a quarterback with his level of NFL experience.
Here were Jackson's targets:
Doug Baldwin: 1
Justin Forsett: 2
Marshawn Lynch: 2
Anthony McCoy: 2
Zach Miller: 2
Sidney Rice: 5 (2 end zone)
Michael Robinson: 1
Golden Tate: 2
Mike Williams: 2
Sidney Rice saw five targets (two in the end zone) in the preseason loss to Minnesota, but thanks to Tarvaris Jackson's ineptness, he was able to haul in two passes for just 11 yards in one half of action. Rice is getting exactly what he asked for. I hope he's happy with his money because he's going to post miserable stats in Seattle.
On one of the weirdest sequences of plays I've ever seen, the Seahawks gave Justin Forsett goal-line carries on four consecutive plays in the first half. Forsett was predictably stuffed all four times. I really don't understand what Seattle was trying to accomplish by doing that. I guess Pete Carroll was too busy making cool tweets to realize what was going on.
Something Carroll noticed, however, was that Aaron Curry ripped off a Viking player's helmet and tossed it aside in the second quarter, drawing a 15-yard penalty. The camera panned to Carroll, who shook his head in disgust. He was either pissed about the penalty or frustrated that he lost a follower.
The Seahawks TV network was ridiculous regarding the amount of sideline interviews it conducted. It seemed like it interviewed everyone on Seattle's roster in the second half. I was half expecting play-by-play guy Curt Menefee to say, "Now, let's go down to the sideline and speak to the Seahawks' third-string fullback!"
Speaking of which, credit Marshawn Lynch for trying his best to get out of an interview. An exchange between Menefee and Lynch in the third quarter went sort of like this:
Menefee: Thanks for joining us, Marshawn!
Menefee: Can you hear me, Marshawn?
Menefee: Looks like we're having some audio issues.
Lynch: Yeah, I can't hear you.
Menefee: We'll have to talk to you later, Marshawn.
Lynch: OK, talk to you later.
Isn't it convenient that Lynch finally heard Menefee when he was able to get out of the interview? Unfortunately for Marshawn, Menefee and his sideline goons roped him back into giving an interview later in the second half - right after they talked to the third-string fullback, of course.
Texans 27, Saints 14
Texans fans had to be nervous after Monday's poor offensive showing against the Jets. Not anymore. With Arian Foster and Andre Johnson back in the lineup, Houston's scoring attack was firing on all cylinders.
Matt Schaub looked great, going 12-of-16 for 163 yards in slightly less than a half of action. One of his incompletions was an uncharacteristic drop by Andre Johnson.
Here were Schaub's targets:
James Casey: 2
Owen Daniels: 1
Arian Foster: 1
Andre Johnson: 7
Jacoby Jones: 2
Kevin Walter: 1
Welcome back, Andre Johnson! In slightly less than a half of action, Johnson hauled in four receptions for 100 yards. With so many running back risks, it might be a better idea to take Johnson if you have a mid-first-round pick.
So, Arian Foster is OK. With all the talk of Foster possibly slowing down because of a hamstring injury, the previous year's leading rusher totaled 47 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries in the preseason victory over New Orleans. He was breaking tackles and making defenders miss, showing no signs of being hurt. He's the No. 1 fantasy pick in all leagues.
If you own Arian Foster, make sure you pick up Ben Tate late in your draft. He's a stud. Thanks to his good vision, and ability to make sharp cuts and break tackles, Tate tallied 95 rushing yards and a score on just nine carries. It makes you wonder what would have happened if he didn't get hurt last year. Perhaps he would have led the NFL in rushing.
The Saints had pass-protection issues against the 49ers and had issues moving the chains. That was not a problem in Houston. While the Texans were able to pressure Brees on occasion - J.J. Watt was outstanding once again - New Orleans had success converting first downs. The first-string offense played three drives. One resulted in a touchdown, while another would have been some sort of a score, but Brees lost a fumble.
Brees went 7-of-14 for 109 despite missing Marques Colston. A few of his misfires were thrown away, so don't read too much into that completion percentage. He was in mid-season form.
Here were Brees' targets:
Jimmy Graham: 3
Devery Henderson: 2
Robert Meachem: 1
Lance Moore: 3 (1 end zone)
Darren Sproles: 3
Pierre Thomas: 2
Pierre Thomas started for the Saints in their preseason loss at Houston and took his initial carry for 13 yards. However, Mark Ingram entered the game on the third set of downs on the opening drive. He received an attempt on a 3rd-and-1 inside the red zone and was in the backfield on first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Though he didn't get a carry at that moment, he later converted a goal-line try in the second quarter. It looks like Thomas and Ingram are going to split carries somewhat evenly this year, but Ingram (7-25-TD) will be the one scoring the touchdowns.
As predicted by many, Darren Sproles is going to be a big part of New Orleans' passing attack, taking the spot of Reggie Bush. Sproles only had one reception for nine yards, but he tied for the first-string team lead in targets with three. He's a good bet to catch 55-60 passes this year.
With Marques Colston still sidelined by his troublesome knee, Lance Moore tied for the first-string team lead in targets with three (including one in the end zone) in the preseason loss at Houston. Colston probably won't be 100 percent all year, so Moore should catch a ton of passes. He's a nice PPR flex option.
Robert Meachem saw just one target in a quarter and a half of action from Drew Brees in the exhibition defeat to the Texans. It's disappointing that he hasn't done anything in two preseason games with Marques Colston sidelined.
No announcer screw-ups in this game, but NFL.com picked up the slack. Take a look at how awesome Drew Brees is:
According to this pretty picture, Brees fired a pass from his own 4-yard line, and the ball actually landed on the sun. What an arm!
Packers 28, Cardinals 20
I love watching preseason games, but it's no fun to see guys go down with injuries. That's what happened to second-round rookie Ryan Williams in the third quarter when he tore his patellar tendon. Williams, who was crying as he was carted off the field, is done for the year, and possibly won't see action until 2013.
Kevin Kolb went 6-of-11 for 80 yards in a quarter and a half of action at Green Bay. I was pretty disappointed. First of all, since Kolb is learning a new system, I thought he would see more playing time. And second, he made a few mistakes. He overthrew Larry Fitzgerald on the second drive, and took a sack soon after because he held on to the ball too long in the pocket. The sack, which occurred on a second down, would have put Arizona out of field-goal range had Fitzgerald not bailed his quarterback out with an impressive, one-handed diving catch on the following play.
In the second quarter, Kolb waited too long on an attempt for Fitzgerald, which allowed the safety to break up the play. Kolb later nearly tossed a pick to Nick Collins, who uncharacteristically dropped what should have been a routine interception.
It's hard to blame Kolb entirely for Arizona's offensive struggles in this game. The offensive line was shaky, as it was responsible for a multitude of pre-snap penalties (delay of games, false starts).
Here were Kolb's targets:
Early Doucet: 1
Larry Fitzgerald: 4
Rob Housler: 2
Andre Roberts: 2
Chris Wells: 1
Andre Roberts figures to be Kevin Kolb's third target behind Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap, who didn't play in the preseason loss at Green Bay. Roberts caught both of his targets in a quarter and a half for 31 yards, impressively breaking a Sam Shields tackle on one of his receptions. Roberts is a decent late-round flier.
Chris Wells deserves a stock-up arrow. Ryan Williams is out for the year with a torn patellar tendon, meaning Wells' job is completely secure. He'll also presumably see slightly more work in the passing attack. Wells ran with power in the exhibition loss at Green Bay, rushing for 44 yards on 11 carries. He also showed impressive speed on a 20-yard screen pass in the second quarter.
The Packers struggled to move the football in the first quarter and a half. Aaron Rodgers, who finished 9-of-12 for 97 yards and a touchdown, took three sacks - all for different reasons. One occurred because Derek Sherrod whiffed on a block against Calais Campbell. A second came from the right side. A third was Rodgers' fault because he held on to the ball too long.
However, Green Bay really picked things up when Rodgers went into the no-huddle offense. He was 5-of-5 for 62 yards on his final drive, which culminated with a 20-yard back-shoulder touchdown to Greg Jennings, who beat Patrick Peterson.
Here were Rodgers' targets (yes, he only threw to three people):
Donald Driver: 3
Jermichael Finley: 4
Greg Jennings: 5 (1 end zone)
Despite the return of Jermichael Finley to the lineup, Greg Jennings led the Packers with five targets in the preseason win against Arizona. Jennings caught two balls for 24 yards and an impressive 20-yard touchdown in which he beat Patrick Peterson. Don't expect Jennings' production to drop with Finley back; James Jones and Jordy Nelson will be the ones who suffer.
For the second week in a row, Jordy Nelson failed to receive a single target from Aaron Rodgers. Nelson was on the field, but Rodgers opted to throw to Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley instead. He's undraftable at the moment.
James Jones has seen only one target from Aaron Rodgers in two preseason tilts. Jones is a victim of an overcrowded receiving corps; with Jermichael Finley back in the lineup and Donald Driver healthy, Jones won't be much of a fantasy factor this year unless there are injuries.
James Starks didn't play for the Packers, so there's nothing to report as far as the ground attack is concerned. Grant just looked like his mediocre self. Starks will eventually emerge as the starter; it's just a matter of when because he's hurt right now.
The Packers have a really difficult decision to make regarding Matt Flynn. The former LSU signal-caller went 5-of-6 for 141 yards and a beautiful 98-yard touchdown bomb to Chastin West. Flynn will be a free agent at the end of this season, so Green Bay will get nothing outside of a compensatory pick if it lets him walk. Trading him now could net at least a second-round selection, but it would leave the team with no capable backup behind Rodgers. It's a tough choice, but with a gun to my head, I think I would attempt to trade Flynn because if Rodgers is lost for the upcoming playoffs, I can't see Flynn winning the Super Bowl this year with his limited starting experience.
Inept Announcer Alert! I like Rich Gannon as a color analyst, but he had a hilarious slip-up in the second quarter:
"The first thing I always did as a quarterback was look at the play c**k. I mean, play clock."
Play c***s, eh? I'm willing to bet that Gannon is now the consensus No. 1 color analyst in the lesbian community.
Dolphins 20, Panthers 10
Cam Newton will probably be the opening-day starter for the Panthers, but he did nothing in this game to prove that he deserves the job.
Newton went 7-of-14 for 66 yards. None of his throws were very impressive, while several attempts of his were ugly misfires. He showed abysmal poor footwork and was consequently inaccurate on a 15-yard pass to Brandon LaFell in the first quarter. Later, he was nearly intercepted by Kevin Burnett (who was all over the field). Several plays after that, he threw behind an open Legedu Naanee in the 2-minute drill.
Jimmy Clausen was only slightly better, going 9-of-15 for 69 yards, with a nice, deep, 35-yard pass to David Clowney that was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty.
Jeremy Shockey led the Panthers in targets from Cam Newton with four, catching three balls for 24 yards. Don't get too excited about his fantasy potential, however, because there is none. Shockey looked old and slow, and if Newton has to rely on him as one of his main weapons, the Panthers aren't going to win many games this year.
There is nothing to note about Carolina's ground attack. DeAngelo Williams saw just three carries for six yards. An injured Jonathan Stewart didn't suit up.
Chad Henne posted pretty stats in one half of work against the Panthers, going 15-of-24 for 194 yards. He wasn't as good as those numbers indicate, however. Most of his attempts were of the short and intermediate variety where his targets did all of the work.
Henne was guilty of overthrowing an open Brian Hartline on the second drive for what could have been a long touchdown connection. On the ensuing possession, he overthrew Brandon Marshall on a 4th-and-4. Henne had a couple of ugly misfires on the next drive, where he had yet another overthrow to a wide-open Edmond "Clyde" Gates by about five yards downfield. Soon after that, he was nearly picked off on a sideline throw to Daniel Thomas just prior to the 2-minute warning.
It wasn't all bad for Henne. His two best passes were a pair of impressive, 17-yard bullets to Davone Bess on 2nd-and-15 and 3rd-and-10 in the second quarter. More importantly, he didn't commit any turnovers. Of course, Henne is incredibly inconsistent, so he could easily toss a couple of picks in his next outing.
Here were Henne's targets:
Davone Bess: 5
Reggie Bush: 4
Charles Clay: 1
Daniel Thomas: 1
Anthony Fasano: 3
Edmond "Clyde" Gates: 1
Brian Hartline: 3
Lex Hilliard: 1
Brandon Marshall: 6
Brandon Marshall caught five of his six targets for 46 yards in the preseason victory over Carolina. Marshall looked good and figures to be a borderline WR1 option in PPR leagues again. Unfortunately, his potential is capped because of Henne's inconsistency and red-zone ineptness.
Reggie Bush has quickly become a fan favorite. He was incredible in the exhibition win against the Panthers, rushing for 48 yards on eight carries and catching two balls for 33 receiving yards. Bush broke tackles on his first carry, made multiple defenders miss on his initial reception, and showed off his trademark quickness throughout the first half. Bush is going late in drafts - even in PPR formats - so he makes for a great value pick.
Fantasy players love Daniel Thomas, but he's undraftable in the first nine rounds of any non-touchdown-only format. Reggie Bush is getting the majority of the workload, with Thomas serving only as a change-of-pace and goal-line runner. The thing is, there won't be many end-zone opportunities for the Dolphins this year, so Thomas' impact will be limited. Not that he's even any good in that aspect anyway; Thomas had four attempts on the goal line in the preseason victory over the Panthers, and managed to convert only one. Even worse, he lost a fumble on his first attempt, but was bailed out by a Carolina penalty.
Davone Bess finished second on the Dolphins in first-string targets with five. He caught all five for 51 yards. Bess is one of my favorite PPR flex players, as he's reliable for 8-12 points every single week.
Inept Announcer Time! Miami announcers Dick Stockton, Nat Moore and the senile Bob Griese are always good for funny material, and they certainly provided some in this contest. In the first quarter, Griese claimed he didn't know who Ryan Kalil was when Stockton mentioned the Panther center's contract extension. Even worse was this exchange between Stockton and Griese in the second quarter:
Dick Stockton: Get your tickets for the Dolphins-Texans game on Sept. 18!
Bob Griese: What'd you call them? The Texas?
Dick Stockton: The Texans.
Bob Griese: Those are the Dallas Texans?
Dick Stockton: No, those would be the Houston Texans.
Bob Griese: Ohhh...
Ravens 31, Chiefs 13
As if it weren't completely obvious, Matt Cassel is going to be a very different quarterback without Charlie Weis. Cassel wasn't terrible in the preseason loss to Baltimore, but he struggled quite a bit, going 6-of-14 for 73 yards. He should have been picked in the first quarter; a slant pass of his intended for Jerheme Urban sailed right into the hands of Ravens defensive back Cary Williams, who couldn't come up with the interception. Cassel is being way overdrafted in most fantasy leagues because on what he did last year. Don't bother with him; with Weis gone, Cassel is a very, very low-end QB2 at best.
Here were Cassel's targets:
Dwayne Bowe: 6
Steve Breaston: 1
Thomas Jones: 1
LeRon McClain: 1
Dexter McCluster: 1
Tony Moeaki: 1
Jerheme Urban: 2
Dwayne Bowe hauled in a whopping six targets in a quarter and a half of action. Bowe, who came up with three of those balls for 43 yards, looks like the same guy who caught 15 touchdowns in 2010. Unfortunately, he's not going to come close to matching that figure this year because Charlie Weis is gone and Matt Cassel will struggle as a consequence.
Branden Albert suffered an injury in the second quarter. His head collided with a defender and he was down for quite a while. It looked like he was being tested for a concussion, so it could have been worse.
Jamaal Charles didn't get the first carry of the game. Shocking, I know. That honor belonged to Le'Ron McClain. Charles did have four rushes for only 12 yards, as his offensive line couldn't open things up against Baltimore's stout defense.
Joe Flacco really misses Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. He just looked really uncomfortable in the preseason victory over the Chiefs, going 12-of-24 for just 124 yards in slightly more than a half of action. Flacco was completely out of sync, overthrowing Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith twice each. He also threw behind Ed Dickson on one attempt. With his two favorite targets gone, it's reasonable to expect a decline from Flacco.
Here were Flacco's targets:
Anquan Boldin: 5 (1 end zone)
Ed Dickson: 3
Lee Evans: 3
Vonta Leach: 1
Dennis Pitta: 1
Ray Rice: 1
Torrey Smith: 3
Ricky Williams: 2
Kris Wilson: 1
While Joe Flacco overthrew Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith on multiple occasions in the exhibition victory over Kansas City, the guy he looked comfortable with was Lee Evans; the former Bill caught all three of his targets for 68 yards, including a beautiful touch pass thrown along the left sideline. I'm curious to see if Flacco and Evans continue to show good rapport next week. If so, the latter will definitely be worth drafting as a possible WR3.
Ray Rice rushed for 44 yards on seven carries in the preseason victory over the Chiefs. The important thing to note is that he received the opportunity to convert a 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter. Rice made the most of it and moved the chains. Perhaps this will help convince John Harbaugh that Rice should be the man on the goal line.
Two rookies who shined in this game: Baltimore defensive lineman Pernell McPhee was in Kansas City's backfield for most of the game, as the Chiefs had no answer for him. Meanwhile, Kansas City's Justin Houston had two sacks.
Ravens fans have a sense of humor - or they're just really behind in the times. When new tight end Jonathan Stupar, donning Todd Heap's old No. 86 jersey, was targeted on what was an incompletion in the second half, you could hear a faint "Heeeeeaaaaaap" coming from the stands.
I have to mention that Cam Cameron did a great job of pulling a Bill Belichick. Up 24-13 with a minute remaining in regulation, Cameron had third-string Hunter Cantwell fire the ball downfield. The insignificant pass was completed inside the 5-yard line, and the camera panned to a displeased Todd Haley, who looked like he had some serious sand in his vag when he yelled at John Harbaugh during the post-game handshake. It was glorious.
Jaguars 15, Falcons 13
The Falcons tend to struggle in road outdoor games - even in the preseason. The offense as a whole looked sluggish and lacked rhythm, as left tackle Sam Baker had major issues keeping Jeremy Mincey out of the backfield.
Matt Ryan went 7-of-15 for 116 yards and a touchdown. The yardage looks good, but 76 of the 116 came on one intermediate pass to Harry Douglas where the Atlanta slot receiver did all of the work. Ryan was pressured often and seemed to forget that Roddy White existed, save for one drive. Perhaps he was trying his best to get the other targets involved in a meaningless game. If not, this has to be somewhat discouraging.
Here were Ryan's targets:
Harry Douglas: 4
Tony Gonzalez: 1
Julio Jones: 1
Deji Karim: 1
Ovie Mughelli: 1
Jason Snelling: 2
Michael Turner: 1
Roddy White: 2
The Julio Jones hype train won't be at full speed this week. Jones saw one target and caught no passes from Matt Ryan in the preseason loss at Jacksonville. I was glad to see this to temper my expectations after last week's impressive debut. Don't get me wrong, I still like Jones, but he shouldn't be ranked so high in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings.
If there was any doubt last week, Harry Douglas is completely healthy. Seeing a team-high four targets (for first-stringers), Douglas caught two balls for 87 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown. With Tony Gonzalez breaking down, Douglas should be a viable backup in PPR leagues.
Tony Gonzalez is finished. He saw one target and caught it for five yards. As he was running, it looked like he needed a cane. Avoid this guy in all leagues, save for perhaps touchdown-only formats.
Michael Turner rushed for 14 yards on just seven carries. He showed a nice burst on his first attempt (a 9-yard gain), but was bottled up well by Jacksonville's defense after that.
The Falcons nearly suffered a huge scare. Defensive linemen John Abraham and Peria Jerry both left the game with what seemed like serious injuries at the time. Fortunately, both were able to return to the game.
One of David Garrard's issues is inconsistency. That was evident in this game, as Garrard made some really outstanding throws, but was guilty of more negatives that outweighed the positives.
Garrard's lone interception was terrible. He overthrew Mike Thomas by a mile, allowing Brent Grimes to secure an easy interception. This was just a few plays after Garrard was nearly picked by Grimes on another deep pass.
Garrard had nearly another pick in the red zone in the second quarter when looking toward Marcedes Lewis. A couple of plays later, Garrard missed a wide-open Lewis for a possible first down or touchdown on third-and-short inside the 10-yard line.
Here were Garrard's targets:
Jason Hill: 2
Marcedes Lewis: 3 (1 end zone)
Cecil "Salute Your" Shorts: 2
Mike Thomas: 4 (1 end zone)
I thought Mike Thomas looked pretty solid in Jacksonville's preseason victory against the Falcons. Thomas saw four targets, including one in the end zone. He ended up with two receptions for 31 yards. He's a very good PPR flex option, but his potential will be limited by Jacksonville's quarterback situation. David Garrard isn't very good and could be replaced any week.
Nothing to note out of the Jacksonville rushing attack. Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) and Rashad Jennings (concussion) didn't play.
Blaine Gabbert went 11-of-23 for just 96 yards. There were some nice throws, but he didn't fare particularly well in this game. He underthrew Mike Thomas on his first drive and struggled with pocket awareness throughout. It seemed like he never felt the pressure when it was there, and he panicked under phantom pressure when no one was around him. On a positive note, his best pass was a nice, deep, 28-yard completion to someone named Dontrelle Inman on a seam route in the third quarter.
#Jaguars just went for 2 up 15-13. Spread on this game is Jax -3. Someone from Vegas phone that one in?
Luke McCown had an open receiver for a score during that conversion attempt but completely missed his target, allowing Atlanta to cover the spread. Hey, Vegas or mobsters: Next time, don't make it so obvious. I was in a food coma, yet I still recognized it.
Inept Announcer Alert! This time it's FOX's Tony Siragusa, who had this to say when Matt Ryan threw away a pass on third down to avoid a sack:
"That's a great play by Matt Ryan! There was nothing there, so avoid the turnover and punt the ball away."
Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it is, except for the fact that the Falcons were on the freaking Jacksonville 21-yard line. So, if they punted the ball and it went into the end zone, that would have been a net of a whopping one yard.
Atlanta eschewed Goose's advice, opting instead for a Matt Bryant 40-yard field goal. The attempt was good.
Patriots 31, Buccaneers 14
The Patriots are going to be sick this year. I know this was a preseason game, but I'm more confident in my 15-1 prediction for this team in my 2011 NFL Season Preview. To complement their top-ranked offense, they now have an elite defense capable of putting immense pressure on the quarterback.
I'm not going to downgrade Josh Freeman in my 2011 Fantasy Football Rankings despite the fact that he went just 5-of-10 for 33 yards. Freeman was under siege every single play. It was ridiculous; there were Patriot defenders in the backfield milliseconds after the snap. In fact, Freeman was pressured on nine of his 12 dropbacks. Newly acquired Andre Carter was a beast, manhandling James Lee with ease. Blitzing linebacker Jerod Mayo had two sacks - in the first quarter alone. It just seemed like the Buccaneers were completely unprepared for this game. Then again, New England is going to make many of its opponents look this way throughout the year.
For the record, here were Freeman's targets:
Dezmon Briscoe: 1
Earnest Graham: 3
Erik Lorig: 1
Sammie Stroughter: 1
Mike Williams: 2
Earnest Graham paced the Buccaneers in targets with three in their preseason loss to the Patriots. This is significant because he was on the field on third downs, limiting LeGarrette Blount's maximum potential. Blount played exclusively on first and second downs, but couldn't do anything against a fierce New England front. He had just one yard on four carries.
Tampa's secondary had no answer for Tom Brady in New England's preseason victory. Brady went 11-of-19 for 118 yards and two touchdowns in one half of action. He led the Patriots to three touchdown drives in the first quarter. Brady could have posted better numbers, but Bill Belichick decided to run the ball most of the time in the second quarter. Brady is going way too low in most fantasy drafts. He's my No. 2 fantasy quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers.
Here were Brady's targets:
Deion Branch: 1
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 1
Rob Gronkowski: 1
Chad Ochocinco: 5 (1 end zone)
Aaron Hernandez: 3 (1 end zone)
Wes Welker: 7
Danny Woodhead: 2
Will Yeatman: 1
Chad Ochocinco saw five targets from Tom Brady in New England's exhibition victory over the Buccaneers. He caught two balls for 14 yards and a touchdown. Ochocinco nearly hauled in another reception of 15 yards, but the ball jarred loose when rookie linebacker Mason Foster nailed him in the helmet, drawing a personal foul penalty. Ochocinco looks like he's going to be a big part of this offense.
Deion Branch failed to haul in a reception in the Patriots' win over the Buccaneers. He was only targeted once, and while it's only a small sample size, it seems like he's being phased out of New England's offense. Someone's production had to decrease in the wake of the Chad Ochocinco trade, and it looks like Branch is the unfortunate victim.
Aaron Hernandez caught all three targets thrown to him in New England's preseason victory over Tampa Bay, collecting 42 yards and a touchdown in the process. While Deion Branch has become a forgotten man in New England's offense, both Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski should continue to produce.
As for the running backs:
Danny Woodhead saw New England's first carry and ultimately rushed for 63 yards on only five attempts in the win over Tampa. He was also targeted twice. Despite the selections of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, Woodhead remains a solid flex option in PPR leagues.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis totaled 51 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the victory of the Buccaneers. He also caught a pass for six yards. Green-Ellis apparently will continue to serve as the team's starting running back and goal-line option. Rookie Stevan Ridley looks great, but he fumbled in the third quarter. Belichick may not be willing to trust an inexperienced player like Ridley this season when he has such reliable options like Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead in the backfield.
Stevan Ridley is easily the most talented, healthy runner on the Patriots. He was very impressive in the preseason win over the Bucs, rushing for 84 yards on 14 attempts. However, he did all of this in the second half, and he also fumbled on a 4th-and-1 attempt in the third quarter that he failed to convert. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis slated as the starting running back for now, Ridley is just a late-round flier. Stash him on your bench if you have the room. If not, definitely pick him up if either Green-Ellis or Danny Woodhead gets hurt.
Ryan Mallett went 9-of-14 for 71 yards and an interception. The pick was pretty bad; he just carelessly floated it, and Elbert Mack took it back for a touchdown. However, Mallett bounced back well and led the team to a field goal. His best pass was a 19-yard completion to Matt Slater in which Mallett eluded pressure, stepped up in the pocket and fired a dart toward his receiver.
Inept Announcer Alert! The Patriots Television Network featured color analyst Randy Cross, who said this gem in the third quarter:
"New England is one of those cities where they expect great things from their teams."
New England is a city, eh? I'm looking at my U.S. map, and I can't find the city of New England anywhere. Damn it, Randy, where is it? WHERE IS IT!?!?!?!?
Steelers 24, Eagles 14
The alarm clock is ringing, the dream has come to an end and reality is setting in.
I wonder if Matthew Berry still thinks Philadelphia's quarterback should be the No. 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts. Playing against a blitz-happy, talented Pittsburgh defense, Philadelphia's quarterback predictably melted down, going 5-of-12 for 47 yards and three interceptions in one full half of action. He wasn't even as good as those miserable numbers indicate; he showed no awareness in the pocket, and all of the picks were legitimate. There could have been two more interceptions, as Troy Polamalu came within inches if hauling in his other throws. Opposing defenses figured out how to confuse QB Eagles No. 7 at the end of the 2010 season, and it appears as though that'll continue into 2011.
If you didn't see the game, QB Eagles No. 7's first interception came on a horrible underthrow to Riley Cooper. The second was irresponsibly thrown into triple coverage. The third was a desperate heave under pressure in the two-minute drill.
Here were Eagles QB No. 7's targets:
Jason Avant: 1
Brent Celek: 1
Riley Cooper: 3
Chad Hall: 2
DeSean Jackson: 3
LeSean McCoy: 1
The Eagles barely had the ball in the first half, and when they did, their quarterback was tossing picks, so there isn't much to say about any of the skill-possession players. DeSean Jackson saw three targets, one of which was an incomplete deep bomb on the first offensive play of the game. He caught the other two for nine yards.
For the one person out there who thinks the Eagles are going to run a two-running back system with LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, the latter didn't receive a single touch in the first half in the preseason loss at Pittsburgh. McCoy had four carries 25 yards and a 12-yard reception.
Though he was constantly pressured throughout the first half, Ben Roethlisberger torched Philadelphia's vaunted secondary, going 8-of-12 for 125 yards and two touchdowns in one-and-a-half quarters of action. As always, Big Ben evaded pressure and brushed off pass-rushers to find his receivers downfield. After the top six quarterbacks, Roethlisberger is arguably the No. 7 fantasy signal-caller.
Roethlisberger spread his passes around. Here were his targets:
Arnaz Battle: 1
Antonio Brown: 1 (1 end zone)
David Johnson: 1
Rashard Mendenhall: 2
Heath Miller: 1
Mewelde Moore: 1
Isaac Redman: 1
Mike Wallace: 1
Hines Ward: 1 (1 end zone)
Even though Roethlisberger excels at eluding defenders in the pocket, the offensive line continues to have major issues. In addition to blocking poorly, it suffered two injuries to the starting and second-string left tackles, Jonathan Scott and Marcus Gilbert.
Rashard Mendenhall surprisingly led the Steelers in targets with two in their preseason victory over Philadelphia. While he ran well - 28 yards on six carries - don't get too excited. One pass was on a screen, while the second came on a broken play. Mendenhall is not going to be featured much in the passing game, though he's still poised for a great 2011 campaign.
Jerricho Cotchery didn't receive any targets from Ben Roethlisberger, as he played exclusively with the second team. However, he looked really good, catching two balls for 49 yards and a touchdown. He's not much of a fantasy option, but he'll help Pittsburgh win actual games.
This FOX show Terra Nova looks awesome, and I plan on watching it until they cancel it. But I have to wonder - why the hell is FOX advertising a show it'll be airing on Mondays during its football telecast? The viewers who watched this game will be tuned into Monday Night Football on Mondays. Why not air Terra Nova on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and reserve Monday for those God-awful, brain-draining reality TV shows the networks are inexplicably infatuated with?
As the NFL Draft approaches, I will be making weekly adjustments up until the 27th of April. Rest of the writeups will be coming later this week. Any questions/comments/criticisms can be voiced in the comments. I will respond to all.