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Preseason Weeks Two and Three Analysis: The Dress Rehearsal

Photo Credit: John Seb Barber

Weeks two and three of the NFL preseason are often referred to as a “dress rehearsal” of sorts, and for a good reason. NFL teams are required to make cuts and have their rosters down to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1. Thus, NFL teams play their starters in games two and three and play backups and those on the roster bubble in the fourth preseason games on Thursday, August 30. This means preseason weeks two and three are the key ones to review.

We have seen the last of NFL stars until the real-deal in week one of the NFL season when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s right, its finally here folks, the NFL season is upon us.

So, let’s put the preseason talk to rest, here’s your week two and three preseason analysis for each NFL team.

Preseason Weeks Two and Three Analysis

Arizona Cardinals

We saw more from the Cardinals in game two then we did in game three, so let’s focus on that.

Both Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen looked great in game three, with Sam Bradford completing all his passes and Josh Rosen completing 60 percent of his. Rosen was held out of game three with an injury, and Bradford threw only four passes.

David Johnson also played in game two, running for 21 yards and a touchdown. Johnson is the focal point in this offense, and he looks great after his injury in 2017.

Another Cardinal who caught my eye was Christian Kirk. Kirk caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Kirk has a legitimate chance to become a number two receiver in this offense behind Larry Fitzgerald.


Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan played in both games and looked like his usual self. He looked best in game two, completing five of his seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.

The other Falcon that shined was rookie Calvin Ridley. Ridley caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in game two and caught one pass for 12 yards in game three.

We didn’t see Devonta Freeman in either game, but we did see Tevin Coleman in both, he ran for a combined 73 yards on 12 carries.


Baltimore Ravens

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Joe Flacco played in game two and looked good. Flacco completed seven of his nine passes for 72 yards and a touchdown. Flacco has been quietly putting together a strong preseason and training camp. He shouldn’t be drafted, but he could be a serviceable bye week fill in.

Lamar Jackson struggled in week two but shined in week three. He completed 70 percent of his passes for 98 yards and a touchdown.

The Ravens running back situation is confusing, but we got a little clarity over these two games. Alex Collins is the starter, Javorius Allen will handle the passing down duties, and Kenneth Dixon will mix in on early downs.

For the receivers, John Brown has caught my eye recently as a nice late round addition. Flacco likes to throw the ball deep and that is Brown’s specialty. He also caught a pass in the red zone for a touchdown in week two.


Buffalo Bills

Simply put, this team is a mess. The quarterback situation is a three-headed monster, and none of them should be owned in fantasy.

LeSean McCoy has always been fantasy gold, but the offensive line issues in Buffalo give me concerns about the running room McCoy will have.

Kelvin Benjamin has looked pretty good in the preseason and could be a nice late round grab, but this offense doesn’t look to be that productive.


Carolina Panthers

Christian. McCaffrey. There’s been buzz around him all preseason and we’ve seen why the past few games. In weeks two and three combined, McCaffrey touched the ball 23 times in limited action, including 14 times in week three.

McCaffrey also scored on a 71-yard touchdown in week two. He’s been hyped up all preseason. If he continues being fed the ball like he is, perhaps we aren’t drafting him high enough.

Cam Newton has impressed me as well and with an improved running game, he should have increased room to throw the ball downfield.


Chicago Bears

The starters for the Bears really haven’t played this preseason other than in week two.

The only real observation I grabbed from the two games is that Trey Burton will figure into this offense heavily. In limited action, Burton grabbed four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown in week two.

We haven’t been given clarity on the backfield breakdown between Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

Another name to keep in mind if you’re looking for a late round flyer: Kevin White. He’s a former first round pick, and he finally looks healthy. In an offense semi-short on weapons, White could figure in heavily.


Cincinnati Bengals

Nothing stood out in week two, and in week three only one play was impressive. John Ross caught a 57-yard touchdown in which he juked two Buffalo Bills defenders to get into the end zone. It was impressive, and possibly a glimpse of what’s ahead for the former first round pick.

Only a few Bengals players have the chance to be fantasy relevant this season: A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, and maybe Ross.


Cleveland Browns

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The Browns are such an interesting team. They have so many players with potential to produce in fantasy, but we just don’t know.

Tyrod Taylor is a consistent fantasy quarterback, and he looked the part of that in weeks two and three. Taylor can use his arm and his legs to produce points, making him an interesting option.

Rookie running back Nick Chubb has been impressive. He ran for 99 yards combined in weeks two and three. Carlos Hyde has been impressive as well running for a combined 109 yards. Hyde is the starter and should be drafted as such, but I think Chubb and Duke Johnson will also touch the ball.

David Njoku also continued a strong offseason, specifically in game three where he caught four passes for 25 yards. That’s not a ton of yardage nor catches, but Njoku has looked strong and is a late round sleeper at tight end.


Dallas Cowboys

For the amount of hate he’s received this off-season, Dak Prescott looked pretty strong in week two. Prescott completed 10 of his 15 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown to Terrance Williams.

Sure, the receiving core isn’t great, but Prescott can still produce, and he can use his legs to produce fantasy points as well.

We didn’t see Ezekiel Elliott in games two and three, but he’s a top tier fantasy option and we really don’t need the preseason to confirm that.


Denver Broncos

Case Keenum quietly looked solid in weeks two and three. He shouldn’t necessarily be drafted, but he’s in a situation like Flacco where he can be a bye week fill in.

Rookie running back Royce Freeman continued his strong preseason in games two and three, and he looks to be the starting running back for the Broncos. Could he be this year’s Kareem Hunt?

At receiver, Emmanuel Sanders looked the strongest in preseason weeks two and three, catching seven passes for 88 yards combined.


Detroit Lions

The only thing that needs to be talked about with the Lions is the running back usage, and we got some clarity over the last two weeks.

LeGarrette Blount looks like the starter. He was signed to have that role, and he has taken it over. The number two running back is rookie Kerryon Johnson. Assume the third down/pass catching back is incumbent Theo Riddick.

That leaves us with Ameer Abdullah, who will likely be cut or traded.


Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers looked exceptional as usual, even while throwing only four passes total in game two. Rodgers didn’t play in game three.

The Packers didn’t play their starters for very long in either game, so there isn’t much to note.


Houston Texans

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Deshaun Watson looked great in week two but was a slight letdown in week three, completing just three of his six passes for only 15 yards. One of his incompletions was also an interception. Watson should still be considered a top tier fantasy quarterback.

None of the other Texans starters played for an extended period of time. Lamar Miller ran only seven times between the two games, and DeAndre Hopkins only caught one pass.


Indianapolis Colts

Luck started off this two-game stretch looking rough, completing under 50 percent of his passes and throwing an interception. He redeemed himself in week 3, completing 80 percent of his passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.

Newly acquired tight end Eric Ebron was a big beneficiary of Luck in week three, catching 5 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

The running back situation became cloudy for the Colts when Marlon Mack went down with an injury, but rookie Jordan Wilkins has received the most carries since Mack went out. Wilkins carried the ball 21 times between the two games. He also caught four passes for 50 yards.


Jacksonville Jaguars

The big news for the Jaguars over the past few weeks was the injury to receiver Marqise Lee. Lee is having knee surgery and the Jaguars are placing him on injured reserve, ending his season.

In his absence, the Jaguars are left with Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief. Of the three, Moncrief has impressed the most, especially in week three when he caught three passes for 62 yards.


Kansas City Chiefs

If you haven’t seen Patrick Mahomes 69-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill from week two, do yourself a favor and watch it. Hill has been nothing short of incredible this season, catching four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown in week two, and eight passes for 88 yards in week three.

The guy throwing the ball to Hill, Mahomes, has been excellent as well. Mahomes has passed for just under 200 yards in both week two and in week three.


Los Angeles Chargers

Nothing stands out from the Chargers preseason weeks two and three games, other than Mike Williams. Williams caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in week two in which he appeared to reach over the defender to come down with the ball.

Williams displayed exactly why the Chargers used a first round pick on him, and he figures to have a big role in this offense.


Los Angeles Rams

None of the Rams starters or players to note played in weeks two or three. Move along, nothing to see here.


Miami Dolphins

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Ryan Tannehill played well in both weeks two and three. Tannehill completed a combined 25 of his 33 passes with one touchdown.

However, quarterback isn’t the position to watch with this team, it’s the running backs. Frank Gore has carried the ball once this preseason so it’s hard to figure out how he figures into this offense. Kenyan Drake has had the most carries of any Dolphins running back.

Gore figures to take touches as they didn’t sign him for nothing, but Drake is the more dynamic and explosive player. We probably won’t know how the situation will shake out until week 1, but it’s likely a timeshare between the two.


Minnesota Vikings

The major news from the Vikings is the return of Dalvin Cook, who tore his ACL last year.

Cook played in week three, and even though he only ran the ball two times it is still encouraging to have him back in time for the season.


New England Patriots

After week one of the preseason, I was talking highly of Jeremy Hill in my analysis. That trend is going to continue after weeks two and three because Hill continues to look the part of a starting running back.

James White also looked fantastic for the Patriots especially as a pass catcher. White caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in week two and caught two passes for 17 yards in week three.

Another Patriot to keep an eye on is Cordarrelle Patterson who caught nine passes over the past two weeks. The Patriots are low on receivers and Patterson could help that problem.


New Orleans Saints

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Drew Brees played in game two, completing seven of nine passes for 59 passes and an interception.

Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram and Michael Thomas all played as well, but none played significant snaps nor did anything of note.

The Saints did make big news this week however by acquiring Teddy Bridgewater from the New York Jets. Bridgewater looks like the heir apparent to Brees.


New York Giants

We really haven’t seen a ton from the Giants starters this preseason. Saquon Barkley has been nursing an injury and hasn’t played since week one. We haven’t seen much from Eli Manning nor Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham did make news this week however, inking an extension with the Giants that makes him the highest paid receiver in the league.

In week three, Sterling Shepard shined for the Giants catching seven passes for 78 yards. Second year tight end Evan Engram also played, catching three passes for 23 yards.


New York Jets

The biggest news that came from the Jets in the past few weeks is that rookie Sam Darnold will start at quarterback in week one of the regular season.

Darnold has looked the part of a franchise quarterback, and he will have a chance to prove it this season.

It is also worth noting that the Jets seem to be treating Isaiah Crowell as the starter in their offense. Crowell hasn’t been seen much this preseason and is likely being rested for the season. He will likely split carries with Bilal Powell to start, but Crowell is the running back to own.


Oakland Raiders

We saw Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders in week three after being rested in week two. Carr threw just three passes, completing two of them for 68 yards.

One of Carr’s completions went to Amari Cooper who took the pass 49 yards. Cooper looks to be back to his old self and primed for a bounce back season.


Philadelphia Eagles

The biggest takeaway for the Eagles is how awful Nick Foles has looked in the preseason. Specifically, in week three against the Browns, Foles threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was tackled in the end zone for a safety.

The Eagles haven’t said publicly who will start for them at quarterback when the NFL kicks off on Sept. 6 but expect it to be Carson Wentz sooner rather than later.


Pittsburgh Steelers

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James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster have continued to shine for the Steelers at receiver. Washington has impressed me the most, catching five passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns in week two.

While the Steelers have a lot of options at receiver, especially after trading for Ryan Switzer this week, I think most of the work will fall on Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster. Washington will enter the picture at times, but this is mostly preseason buzz.

Elsewhere for the Steelers, James Conner has looked impressive while Le’Veon Bell has been absent. Conner ran a combined 15 times for 75 yards and a touchdown. Conner also added six catches for 52 yards in week three alone.

Bell is still the workhorse back for the Steelers, but Conner should be watched carefully, especially in dynasty and keeper leagues.


San Francisco 49ers

Nothing really caught my eye for the 49ers other than how well Jimmy Garoppolo has looked, especially when targeting Marquise Goodwin.

Garoppolo shined in week two specifically completing 10 of his 12 passes for 136 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Goodwin caught three of those passes for 61 yards.


Seattle Seahawks

Chris Carson looks like the clear starter at running back for the Seahawks after weeks two and three. Carson got all the work with the first team offense and ran effectively in his short stint.

Rashaad Penny should be back in the first few weeks of the regular season and he will have a role, but this is Carson’s job to lose.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s a shame that Jameis Winston is suspended for the first three games of the season because he has looked exceptional in the preseason. Winston completed 13 of his 18 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in week two.

Receiver Chris Godwin has also been impressive in the preseason and he caught a touchdown in weeks two and three.

Peyton Barber is the starting running back if the preseason is any indication, and he could be a nice value with Ronald Jones being drafted ahead of him in many drafts.


Tennessee Titans

Taywan Taylor was the only impressive thing for the Titans over the past few weeks. In week two Taylor caught four passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was 47 yards.


Washington Redskins

Adrian Peterson signed with the Redskins after the string of injuries in the Redskins backfield. Peterson surprisingly looked competent for the Redskins running 11 times for 56 yards in week three.

He will likely share carries with Chris Thompson, and only see the field on early downs as that is where Thompson excels. Peterson shouldn’t be reached for in drafts, but feel free to take a late round flyer on him.


Do you smell that? It’s the smell of the regular season, right around the corner. I said this after my week one column, but it is important to note this again: this is just observations from the preseason and any observation should be taken with a grain of salt. Good luck this season!


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