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Fantasy Football, Betting Lessons from Thursday’s 12 Preseason Games: Baker Mayfield Shines in Debut

Football is back! For future preseason player projections and daily fantasy analysis, see the FantasyLabs Models as well as our evergreen and slate-specific DFS content.

Ian Hartitz, Justin Bailey, Ryan Collinsworth and Geoff Schwartz take a look at key takeaways for each team that played Thursday.


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Chicago Bears 27, Cincinnati Bengals 30

  • Closing Spread: PK
  • Closing Over/Under: 36

Chicago Bears

Tight end Trey Burton got the start, but second-year second-rounder Adam Shaheen played great with the second team, catching all three of his targets for 53 yards. At 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds, Shaheen is an aspiring Rob Gronkowski with his 77th-percentile SPARQ score. He could limit Burton’s snaps as a true in-line tight end.

Cincinnati Bengals

Running back Joe Mixon lined up as a wide receiver and broke multiple tackles on his 24-yard touchdown reception. The hype is real for the second-year back, who is the RB13 in The Action Network RB Rankings. Meanwhile, 2017 No. 9 overall pick John Ross recorded just one catch for 20 yards on five targets, one of which resulted in a pick-six after Ross slipped on his route.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Miami Dolphins 24

  • Closing Spread: Dolphins -3
  • Closing Over/Under: 34.5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running back Peyton Barber drew the start and racked up a strong 4-21-1 rushing line in two drives of action. Second-round rookie Ronald Jones faces concerns in his pass blocking and receiving, and he failed to gain any ground on Barber with an underwhelming 8-9-1 line and zero receptions.

Miami Dolphins

Second-round tight end Mike Gesicki nearly broke the combine this past March, and the former Nittany Lion eased concerns about his inline blocking against the Buccaneers. Gesicki didn’t record a catch, but he came within inches of skyrocketing his average draft position.


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Carolina Panthers 28, Buffalo Bills 23

  • Closing Spread: Bills -3
  • Closing Over/Under: 35

Carolina Panthers

Young wide receivers D.J. Moore (4-75-0) and Curtis Samuel (4-43-0) made the most of their opportunities against the Bills. Despite having four different quarterbacks throw passes to him, Moore earned Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors at Maryland in 2017 before his first-round selection. Samuel did little as a second-round rookie last year, but he has a dual-threat skill set as a runner and receiver with an electric 4.31-second 40-yard dash.

Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks Nathan Peterman and A.J. McCarron threw for 119 and 116 yards on 10 attempts each while No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen displayed both his upside (116 pass yards, 29 rush yards, one touchdown) and inaccuracy (47% completion rate). Out of Peterman and McCarron, one of them might be good enough to keep Allen on the bench to start the season.


Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Philadelphia Eagles 14

  • Closing Spread: Eagles -3
  • Closing Over/Under: 34.5

Pittsburgh Steelers

Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster turned his only target into an electric 71-yard touchdown. He has a realistic chance this year to join Randy Moss, Mike Evans, Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins as the only receivers with multiple 900-yard seasons before the age of 23. Smith-Schuster is the WR22 in The Action Network WR Rankings.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Dallas Goedert era is here. Tight end Zach Ertz’s new backup converted five targets into a sterling 4-66-1 line, demonstrating Trey Burton-esque upside to be exploited if Ertz misses any time time this season.


Cleveland Browns 20, New York Giants 10

  • Closing Spread: PK
  • Closing Over/Under: 35.5

Cleveland Browns

No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield (212 yards, two touchdowns) and 2017 first-round tight end David Njoku (two touchdowns) both had big nights. Mayfield may open the season on the bench with Tyrod Taylor penciled in as the starter, but in his debut he looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback. As for the 22-year-old Njoku, he and his 81st-percentile SPARQ score could be a problem for defenses this year.

New York Giants

No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley demonstrated his big-play ability by taking his first carry for 39 yards. He ran for just four yards on his next four carries, but his performance suggests that he should provide plenty of DFS value this season as one of the league’s few every-down feature backs.


New Orleans Saints 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

  • Closing Spread: Jaguars -2
  • Closing Over/Under: 35

New Orleans Saints

Third-round wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith worked with the first-team unit in the absence of Cam Meredith (knee), who didn’t suit up. Following the release of slot receiver Brandon Coleman, his 651 snaps from last year are available to whichever receiver wins the No. 3 wideout job.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback Cody Kessler had an efficient night, completing 14-of-17 passes for 139 yards and one touchdown. As a rookie with the 2016 Browns, Kessler averaged the eighth-most adjusted yards per attempt since 1970 among quarterbacks with at least eight starts. If starter Blake Bortles has prolonged struggles this season, Kessler eventually might find himself managing the first-team offense.


Washington Redskins 17, New England Patriots 26

  • Closing Spread: Patriots -2.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 37.5

Washington Redskins

Electric second-round rookie Derrius Guice was forced out of the game early with a left knee injury, the extent of which is not known as of writing. If Guice misses significant time, the Redskins will be back to their 2017 committee of grinders Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley and space back Chris Thompson.

New England Patriots

Rex Burkhead’s fantasy-friendly role as the goal-line back could be in jeopardy if first-rounder Sony Michel (knee) is unable to play to open the season. With both Burkhead and Michel sidelined, Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill combined for a 25-94-1 rushing line, and either of them could serve as the short-yardage option if kept on the roster.


Los Angeles Rams 7, Baltimore Ravens 33

  • Closing Spread: Ravens -3.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 36.5

Los Angeles Rams

While 2017 Coach of the Year Sean McVay is praised for masterminding last year’s No. 1 offense, perhaps quarterback Jared Goff deserves more credit for finishing as the league’s No. 5 quarterback in yards per attempt (min. 100 passes). In Goff’s place, backup quarterback Sean Mannion barely had more yards (16) than pass attempts (13), and the Rams failed to find the end zone until the fourth quarter.

Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback Joe Flacco quietly led the Ravens to a league-high 31.8 points per game over the final five weeks of the season, and he continued to play well Thursday with an opening-drive touchdown pass. Lamar Jackson played before Robert Griffin III and demonstrated improved passing ability (119 yards on 18 attempts) to go along with his patented electric ability as a runner.


Tennessee Titans 17, Green Bay Packers 31

  • Closing Spread: Packers -2
  • Closing Over/Under: 35

Tennessee Titans

The first-team offense covered 71 yards in nine plays on quarterback Marcus Mariota’s only drive. As expected, running back Dion Lewis played in nearly all third-down scenarios while Derrick Henry made his presence felt on the ground in early-down situations. Mariota was an efficient 2-of-3 for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Green Bay Packers

Running back Jamaal Williams converted his six touches into 24 total yards, including an athletic receiving score on a designed play inside the 10-yard line. Williams offers early-season lead back potential during Aaron Jones’ two-game suspension. In Weeks 10-17 last year, Williams was the RB8 in point-per-reception scoring.


Houston Texans 17, Kansas City Chiefs 10

  • Closing Spread: Chiefs -2.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 35.5

Houston Texans

Lamar Miller’s status as fantasy’s cheapest featured back hinges on the continued absence of D’Onta Foreman (Achilles, PUP), but Miller at least helped his cause on Thursday by displaying improved burst to pick up 29 yards on just four carries.

Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was efficient in his short stint, which isn’t a surprise given that he plays for Andy Reid. Mahomes demonstrated his rocket arm with some money throws to tight end Travis Kelce in the middle of the field. After talk of throwing many camp interceptions (which aren’t always bad), Mahomes did well not to force the ball. Instead, he checked down to his backs and took a sack when routes didn’t open up.


Indianapolis Colts 19, Seattle Seahawks 17

  • Closing Spread: Seahawks -2
  • Closing Over/Under: 38.5

Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback Andrew Luck completed 6-of-9 passes for 64 yards without re-injuring his shoulder, which is the best news Indianapolis could have hoped for. The bad news is that potential lead back Marlon Mack left the game with a hamstring injury and rookie running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins struggled, combining for a 9-28-0 rushing line.

Seattle Seahawks

2017 seventh-rounder Chris Carson got the start over 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny. Carson finished with more yards (26 vs. 12) on fewer rushes (4 vs. 6), but a committee looms if neither back emerges over the next three games.


Dallas Cowboys 21, San Francisco 49ers 24

  • Closing Spread: 49ers -3.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 36

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys started Allen Hurns and Terrance Williams at wide receiver, but it was third-round rookie Michael Gallup who stole the show with a 30-yard touchdown against veteran cornerback Jimmie Ward on the first drive. Gallup appears to have as good of a shot as anyone to land the team’s No. 1 receiver job.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers lost tight end George Kittle and backup running back Matt Breida with shoulder injuries expected to keep them out for at least a week, time they can’t afford to miss. The high-upside late-round second-year tight end is looking to steal regular-season snaps from starter Garrett Celek, while Breida hopes to becoming HC Kyle Shanahan’s next Tevin Coleman in a committee with free-agent addition Jerick McKinnon.

Credit:

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Baker Mayfield

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