Pittsburgh and Philly kicked off the all-important Week 3 of the preseason last night, with plenty happening for fantasy owners to chew on. Jeremy Maclin got hurt, then returned to action and looked good in leading the Eagles with 43 receiving yards. LeSean McCoy caught a touchdown pass, then went off for X-rays on his thumb; they were negative, which is positive. And of course Cheech and Chong, aka Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, were in attendance one day after their arrest on marijuana possession (and in Bell’s case, DUI). Rather than bench either back, the Steelers opted to play both of them the entirety of the game; either that, or they are so wafer-thin at running back they have nothing else. Sadly, it’s tough to determine which is closer to the truth.
Five preseason games kick off the weekend, starting with a cat fight pitting the Jaguars against the Lions. Calvin Johnson makes his 2014 debut, and even he has indicated he’s curious to see how new Lions OC Joe Lombardi uses him. Jacksonville will give Blake Bortles some first team reps as he continues to make the Jags’ decision to roll with Chad Henne as their starter increasingly difficult. And a kicker note: given that the Lions put up points and play indoors, their fantasy kicker battle between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio is one to watch. It’s still a toss-up; maybe Week 3 will provide some clarity.
- Be sure to check out this week’s “Updated Sleepers and Value Plays.”
Both backfields will be the centers of attention when the Panthers visit the Patriots. Can Jonathan Stewart, who scored twice last week, stay healthy and usurp feature-back duties from DeAngelo Williams? On the other side, can Stevan Ridley hold onto the ball—and his job? James White has yet to dazzle in a game, but another Ridley fumble could provide the opportunity.
The Jets are apparently disappointed that Michael Vick has accepted being a backup; what, now they want a quarterback controversy? If either of them had played well this preseason maybe they’d have an answer; this game could provide one last chance for either to stake a claim. Same for the running backs, where Chris Ivory is healthy (for now) and looking to carve out his role in a backfield that already includes Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell. The Giants would just like to see their first-team offense generate a scoring drive, or even string together a couple first downs; thus far this preseason the switch to Ben McAdoo’s short game has not been a pretty one for Eli Manning and company.
Another offense that has struggled this August is the Raiders, who will once again try to give Matt Schaub time to throw and Maurice Jones-Drew room to run. Derek Carr will be held out of this contest, but if backup Matt McGloin continues to outperform Schaub it could get messy in Oakland. The Packers have significantly fewer issues to worry about; for fantasy owners the biggest might be finding a tight end who can stay healthy and provide even a portion of what Jermichael Finley gave them. Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers should go head-to-head in that battle on Friday night.
Finally, the Bears and Seahawks close out the Friday portion of the Week 3 preseason slate. It’s a great opportunity to gauge if the Chicago offense is legit, as in theory with bigger receivers and quicker throws they should be well-equipped to handle the suffocating Seattle secondary. It will also be interesting to see if the NFL refs continue to wave the yellow flag and call copious illegal contact penalties—not that the Seahawks don’t earn them, of course. Marshawn Lynch will get his first touches of the new season as well; we can see if an offseason of Skittles and sitting out has hastened the end of his high-mileage career, necessitating an earlier move on Christine Michael and/or Robert Turbin on fantasy draft day.