The preseason is incredibly critical in dynasty leagues. After all, this is the first glimpse most of us have in regard to seeing our prized current or future rookie draft picks. It’s also the first chance we have to view many veteran players battle it out for certain positions or even a valuable roster spot in fantasy or reality. With about half of the preseason games completed in week one, it’s time to spin around the league and note some of the important performances and their impact in dynasty leagues.
Bengals 30, Bears 27
The Bengals revamped their offense over the off-season and it showed. While it was just a preseason game, the 30 points is a number they only reached in three games last season when they had the last-ranked offense in the league. Starting quarterback Andy Dalton looked solid, playing the entire first-quarter and tossing a pair of touchdowns. The first went to starting running back Joe Mixon, who juked and spun away from the grips of a Bears defender before trotting into the end zone.
Cincinnati will use the pre-season to determine the best replacement for former starting receiver Brandon LaFell, who was released last week. Josh Malone (3 receptions, 41 yards) and Tyler Boyd (1/3, touchdown) made an impact, as did late-round rookie Auden Tate, who caught a 33-yard score in the second half. The favorite for the expanded role, John Ross, caught just one of five targets and was to blame for Dalton’s only interception after he fell down on his route.
Although they put up 27 points for the game, the Bears first-team offense, specifically quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, did not impress. Trusbisky and the majority of offensive starters sat out the Hall of Fame Game a week ago but played two series on Thursday. Those series resulted in negative yardage and frustration from fantasy owners with visions of the 2017 Rams amazing turnaround. It is worth noting that many of the top names still did not play, including Allen Robinson and Jordan Howard. Also noteworthy was the way the tight ends were used throughout the game for Chicago. Backups Daniel Brown and Adam Shaheen were two of the top three receivers in the game, totaling 143 yards on eight grabs. This bodes well for new starter and a favorite of mine Trey Burton’s outlook this season.
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Patriots 26, Redskins 17
The key story coming from this game matching the Redskins and the Patriots was the injury to Washington starting running back Derrius Guice. The former LSU star went down awkwardly on his sixth carry of the game, totaling 19 yards and immediately grabbed for his knee. There were mixed reports on the severity of the injury, as beat writers noted that Guice was standing on the sidelines chatting with teammates later in the game and Guice himself claimed “all is well” in the locker room following the game. We would later find out that all was not well as Guice was diagnosed with a torn ACL, ending his season before it begins. The Redskins will now turn to the disappointing duo of Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine, while also likely considering a free agent addition. Another Washington rookie, receiver Trey Quinn took a hard shot and was reportedly spitting up blood. Head coach Jay Gruden referred to the injury as “internal stuff.” This might not be good news for 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant.
Most of the first-teamers, including quarterbacks Alex Smith and Tom Brady, sat out the game but the Patriots backup running back battle is getting interesting. Veterans Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee, thought to be competing for one roster spot, each performed well, and undrafted free agent Ralph Webb finished off the game, scoring a pair of touchdowns and gaining 46 yards on 14 carries. Hill shined though, playing behind Gillislee, yet totaling 65 yards on 13 touches.
Panthers 28, Bills 23
The Josh Allen era began for the Bills and it wasn’t nearly as bad as many have predicted. Although Allen certainly looked raw, he also showed off arm strength as advertised. Allen played the majority of the second half, finishing with 116 passing yards and a touchdown to fellow rookie Ray-Ray McCloud. The three-man quarterback battle will continue throughout the pre-season, but Nathan Peterman drew the start in this game and connected with receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a nice 28-yard score.
The highlight for Panthers fans, and fantasy players was the long first-quarter scoring drive as quarterback Cam Newton shined and second-year back Christian McCaffrey finished off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. McCaffrey drew the bulk of the first-team work and longtime Panther Cameron Artis-Payne actually played ahead of former Bronco CJ Anderson, who scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Rookie receiver D.J. Moore led the Panthers with 75 yards on four receptions, while second-year receiver Curtis Samuel, virtually forgotten after a broken ankle a year ago, chipped in with a 4/43 stat line. Samuel missed the beginning of camp as continued his recovery from last season’s injury.
Saints 24, Jaguars 20
The game began well for the Jaguars as starting quarterback Blake Bortles led a scoring drive that he finished off himself with a bootleg for the score and his backup, former Brown Cody Kessler also looked solid, leading a touchdown drive of his own.
With starting quarterback Drew Brees sitting this one out, the Saints offense was all about the run game and veteran Mark Ingram saw plenty of work, including with the second team, when he scored a touchdown. He finished with seven rushes for 23 yards. The important battle to watch centers around which backup might replace Ingram during his four-game suspension to begin the season. Camp reports have suggested that Jonathan Williams, who was a dynasty favorite this time last year, has outplayed the field and that held true on Thursday as he gained 26 yards on just four carries to lead all running backs. Rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith also played well and led the team in receiving with a 4/48 line, which included a 25-yarder from backup quarterback Taysom Hill late in the fourth quarter.
Buccaneers 26, Dolphins 24
Although this was a relatively uneventful game, the positive takeaway for Miami fans was the return of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who missed the entire 2017, forcing the Dolphins to bring veteran Jay Cutler out of retirement. Tannehill played very little but looked fresh and crisp to open the game. Rookie Kalen Ballage led the team in rushing with 37 yards and also added 23 receiving yards, but awkwardly caused his own fumble on one play. Wideout Isaiah Ford, who has been drawing positive reviews at camp, caught the team’s lone receiving score.
Buccaneers starter Jameis Winston, who is suspended for the season’s first three games, played multiple series and played behind veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who drew the start. Veteran running back Peyton Barber also started and led the team with just 21 rushing yards. Rookie Ronald Jones managed only nine yards on eight carries, though he did convert a red zone carry for a score.
Browns 20, Giants 10
The marquee game of the night pitted the top two picks from the 2018 NFL Draft and both lived up to the hype, at least in a small sample size. Giants running back Saquon Barkley took his first professional carry for 39 yards as he easily ran by the first line of defense before being forced out of bounds. That was mostly the end of the good news for the G-Men as both backup quarterbacks Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta failed to impress.
On the other hand, the Browns, for one pre-season game, lived up to the hype and expectations of the off-season. Both quarterbacks, veteran Tyrod Taylor and top overall pick Baker Mayfield, played well and led scoring drives. The Browns, who haven’t really had a quarterback for 20 years, might suddenly have two of them. Mayfield finished with 212 passing yards, two touchdowns and even tied for the team lead in rushing. Second-year tight end David Njoku caught the Browns first two touchdowns and rookie receiver Antonio Callaway hauled in the other score, a 45-yarder in the second half.
Things weren’t all good for the Browns though as rookie running back averaged negative yardage, gaining just 11 yards on 15 carries.
Steelers 31, Eagles 14
Although the Steelers cruised to an easy win over their in-state rival, they did so without the Killer Bs as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown sat out, while running back Le’Veon Bell has yet to report to the team. Second-year wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t let limited playing time stop him as he caught his only target for a 71-yard score as he outjumped the defender and walked into the end zone for the first score of the game. The battle for backup running back, which is even more important, at least until Bell shows up, is being won by James Conner, who rushed for 25 yards on four carries and played with the first-team offense.
Most of the names you care about on the Eagles roster were on the sidelines for this game but the rookie tight end Dallas Goedert showed up. With starter Zach Ertz missing practice over the past few days, the team might need the rookie more than expected and he caught four passes for 66 yards and a score.
Ravens 33, Rams 7
After a somewhat disappointing opener a week ago, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson showed improvement in his second outing. Jackson threw for 119 yards and broke a pair of tackles on an impressive touchdown run. Jackson still must improve his accuracy though as he completed just seven of 18 attempts. Wideout Breshad Perriman also played much better than the Hall of Fame Game as he caught three of four targets, including a 32-yard touchdown.
There wasn’t much to take away from this one for the Rams as Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp all sat out but rookie running back John Kelly did flash with extended work, carrying 13 times for 77 yards and adding two receptions for 14 yards. He has a very real chance to steal the top backup job from veteran Malcolm Brown.
Colts 19, Seahawks 17
The star of this game was clearly Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck. After an injury that kept Luck out for well over a year, some were even doubting if he would be able to continue his career. We don’t want to base too much off of two possessions, but Luck looked like his old self, targeting T.Y. Hilton deep down the field and making use of his backs and tight ends on short routes.
The bad news of the night involves the Colts backfield as presumed starter Marlon Mack suffered a hamstring injury that forced him from the contest. If he misses serious time, the stock of the rookie duo of Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins would skyrocket. Wilkins would then be viewed as the starter with Hines retaining his pass-catching back role.
As discussed by head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks started running back Chris Carson and he played well with the first-team, leading the team in rushing with a 4/26 line. Rookie Rashaad Penny carried eight times for just 16 yards.
49ers 24, Cowboys 21
Perhaps the death of quarterback Dak Prescott has been greatly exaggerated. Despite losing his top two targets from his previous two seasons in Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, Prescott looked crisp in the opener, leading a drive that resulted in a 30-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Michael Gallup. Another rookie, running back Bo Scarbrough led the team in rushing with 33 yards in nine carries, including a touchdown.
Other than the last minute, come from behind win thanks to a touchdown grab from rookie receiver Richie James, there was no good news for the 49ers. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was disappointing and the team suffered multiple injuries to key contributors, including starting tight end George Kittle and backup running back Matt Breida. Kittle’s injury was later revealed to be minor and Breida should be back by week one. If he does miss time, we’d likely see more of Joe Williams.
Texans 17, Chiefs 10
Yet another quarterback returning from a season-ending injury in 2017 was Houston’s Deshaun Watson, who threw just one pass before exiting the game. Texans rookie tight end Jordan Akins, already 26 years old, caught a pair of touchdown passes, both from backup quarterback Brandon Weeden.
This game marked the starting debut of Chiefs second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who got off to a slow start. Mahomes has reportedly thrown more than his share of interceptions in camp, but connected on five of seven attempts, protecting the ball. New Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins played, but didn’t see a target from Mahomes while he hit tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill twice each.
Packers 31, Titans 17
The Packers wide receiving corps was the story of this game. Star Davante Adams caught both of his early targets for 57 yards, setting up the team’s first touchdown and then the youngsters took over. You’ve already heard about the three rookies the team drafted in the spring and they all put up nice numbers against the Titans backup defense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the way with 101 yards and a touchdown on five catches, while Equanimeous St. Brown (4/61) and J’Mon Moore (3/27) chipped in as well. Even free agent Jake Kumerow, who has had a nice camp, added a 3/76/1 line.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota started well for the Titans, leading a scoring drive, but the team did little after that. Rookie back Akrum Wadley totaled 38 yards on 12 touches in his vie to make the 53-man roster.
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