It’s the most important week of the preseason (if there really is such a thing) as teams typically treat this weekend as a dress rehearsal of sorts. For dynasty enthusiasts, this promises us our most extended look at our shiny new rookies and veterans who have changed places in the off-season. As always, we’ll be updating the action each day and giving you our takeaways to keep you as informed as humanly possible. Friday night featured the first three games of week three and there were quite a few performances of note.
New England at Carolina
Tom Brady had a rough night for the Pats as he finished just 7-of-13 passing for 84 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Panthers. This line really means nothing as we all know what Brady can (and will) do – it’s just a matter of when we’ll see him again. Jimmy Garoppolo was solid in relief as he completed 13-of-17 passes for 126 yards and a score. Reggie Wayne made his debut with the Pats and didn’t post a catch but did play the entire time with the starting unit – that’s notable. Jonas Gray started the game at running back over LeGarrette Blount (and the other 78 or so New England running backs who may have a chance to start in any given week) and gained 11 yards on five carries. If you think you know how any carries, receptions or playing time is going to be divided amongst the running back corps of the Patriots, you’re either a genius or have some kind of blackmail against Bill Belichick. The RBBC situation in New England just continues to remind us anyone can shine in that backfield on any given Sunday and knowing which one will do it is next to impossible. If every team employed New England’s running back philosophy, fantasy football would actually be dead and I’d be running some type of Star Wars site instead.
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For the Panthers, Cam Newton and Greg Olsen did all they could to keep the Panthers in the game as Newton threw for 160 yards (17-of-28 passing) and tossed a two-yard touchdown, while Olsen piled up 51 yards on six catches. There’s no doubt Rob Gronkowski is the TE1 in dynasty (and re-draft) leagues this season, but Olsen is likely to have himself a career year. Speaking of those poised to have a career season, Jonathan Stewart rushed for 12 yards on seven carries. Cameron Artis-Payne gained only 15 yards on six carries, so he put no pressure on Stewart’s stranglehold of the featured back job – now we just need to see if Stewart can stay healthy. Joe Webb mopped up at quarterback and finished 0-for-6 as he reminded many of us he’s somehow still in the league.
Detroit at Jacksonville
If Calvin Johnson (more on him tomorrow) returns to form, Golden Tate will have a hard time repeating his numbers from last year. However, he showed us yet again just how talented he is as he caught a perfectly thrown Matt Stafford football for a 62-yard touchdown in the first half. He finished the night with three catches and 91 receiving yards in just around one half of action. Ameer Abdullah was quiet in the running game as he finished the night with just eight yards on three carries (though he did catch a nice 21-yard pass where he showed off his speed). Zach Zenner is going to make the decisions of the Lions’ coaching staff tough because he again looked like an NFL talent as he finished the game with 85 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, including a nice 41-yard scamper.
For the Jags, Blake Bortles had a very good showing and had to give the fans of Jacksonville some hope going into the year. Bortles went 20-for-29 for 245 and threw one touchdown pass with no interceptions – he even added 38 rushing yards. T.J. Yeldon made his preseason debut and rushed eight times for ten yards and a touchdown, but also caught one pass for 12 yards. Yeldon looked the part even though the stats are nothing to write home about. With limited talent behind him, he really will have a chance to make an impact this season. Allen Robinson only caught two passes for 14 yards, but you won’t see how he was peppered in the red zone when he was in the game. Bortles and Robinson seem to have a nice bit of chemistry – perfect for future dynasty league garbage time. Allen Hurns continues to distance himself from the seemingly always hurt Marqise Lee as he posted 42 yards on four catches. Keep an eye on Rashad Greene (three catches for 25 yards), who also looks like he’s starting to catch on. Literally.
Tennessee at Kansas City
This was going to be our best look at Marcus Mariota in the preseason and the results were a bit mixed. After a very slow start, Mariota finished the night going 7-of-11 for 99 yards passing with no touchdowns or interceptions and also ran the ball for 22 additional yards. What strikes me about Mariota is his poise. For a rookie, he just doesn’t seem to panic and has a calm demeanor that should prove to be contagious with teammates. I expect him to make mistakes, but I don’t see him dwelling on them and having his confidence shattered – a very good sign for a young signal caller. Add in the fact Zach Mettenberger really struggled (3-for-11 for 38 yards) and Mariota is entrenched as a rookie starter without someone breathing down his neck. As far as the running game goes, Bishop Sankey missed a prime opportunity to distance himself from the ailing David Cobb by posting just 17 yards on six carries and even had a touchdown stolen by Antonio Andrews, who scored on a two-yard plunge. Hakeem Nicks exited the game with a lower leg injury – no word yet on if he suddenly just realized his legs no longer work.
For the Chiefs, quarterback Alex Smith completed 16-of-18 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. This game featured vintage Smith as he made solid decisions with the football, but he also unleashed a 29-yard bomb (yes, it’s a bomb for Smith) to Jeremy Maclin for a score. Maclin finished the night with seven catches for 65 and that touchdown on the night. He has certainly developed a quick chemistry with Smith and his prospects for the year may not quite be as dismal as they were once thought to be. While Smith won’t typically take chances, it clearly looks like Maclin is option 1A in this passing offense, even ahead of potential uber-stud tight end Travis Kelce, who had two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Make sure you check back in all weekend long as we break down each and every important week three contest.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK
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