Fantasy Football, Betting Lessons from Thursday’s 16 Preseason Games: Time for the Real Thing

Aug 31, 2018 8:41 AM EDT

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Ian Hartitz and Justin Bailey take a look at key Week 4 takeaways for each team.


Miami Dolphins 34, Atlanta Falcons 7

  • Closing Spread: Dolphins -2
  • Closing Over/Under: 36.5

Miami Dolphins

Fourth-rounder Kalen Ballage missed time during the preseason with a concussion, but he showed off theoretical three-down ability Thursday night with 4-25-1 rushing and 3-37-0 receiving lines in just one quarter of work. Kenyan Drake is the No. 1 back, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see Frank Gore and/or Ballage get a handful of touches per game.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons chose to rest wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman for the entire preseason, and they accordingly scored a total of 27 points. They’ve scored at least that many points in 12 of their last 18 home games (including the playoffs).


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Philadelphia Eagles 10, New York Jets 9

  • Closing Spread: Jets -1.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 34

Philadelphia Eagles

Christian Hackenberg threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a brutal #RevengeGame performance, while hyped rookie running back Josh Adams totaled a pedestrian 30 yards on 15 touches.

More importantly, head coach Doug Pederson declined to name a starter for the team’s season-opening Thursday night matchup against the Falcons. Still, beat writers throughout training camp have maintained that Carson Wentz (knee, probable) will start in Week 1.

New York Jets

HC Todd Bowles comically declined to name Sam Darnold the Week 1 starter after the game despite trading Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints on Wednesday.

Charcandrick West and Thomas Rawls received five carries apiece, potentially indicating that the team is comfortable moving forward with a backfield featuring just Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell.


New England Patriots 17, New York Giants 12

  • Closing Spread: Giants -2.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 38

New England Patriots

Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel and Brandon Bolden (special teams) are assured to make the final roster, and it seems unlikely that the Patriots will keep both of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee given their limited receiving and special teams value. Still, Hill and Gillislee were each inactive Thursday night, and both possess the ability to cash in as the goal-line back if given the opportunity.

New York Giants

The No. 3 receiving job remains up for grabs, although Travis Rudolph helped his case by catching all three of his targets for 30 yards against the Patriots. Ultimately, the offense will run through the well-compensated Odell Beckham Jr. and generational talent Saquon Barkley.


Cleveland Browns 35, Detroit Lions 17

  • Closing Spread: Browns -1.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 35.5

Cleveland Browns

No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield looked solid in his first “NFL” start, completing 9-of-16 passes for 138 yards (8.6 yards per attempt). While Mayfield didn’t throw any touchdowns, his first three drives produced two touchdowns and a field goal.

Second-rounder Nick Chubb scored a three-yard touchdown and finished the night with 30 yards on five carries, but he’s clearly behind Carlos Hyde in the backfield — for now.

Detroit Lions

Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock combined for a 51.4% completion rate and five yards per attempt on 35 passes Thursday night. It’s a good thing Matt Stafford hasn’t missed a start since 2010.


Indianapolis Colts 27, Cincinnati Bengals 26

  • Closing Spread: Bengals -2.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 34

Indianapolis Colts

Running back Christine Michael left the game to be evaluated for a concussion but was cleared to return. He finished with 41 yards on five carries. He could see an enhanced early-season role alongside rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines with Robert Turbin suspended for four games and Marlon Mack battling a hamstring injury.

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide receiver John Ross got some snaps in this game, although he didn’t catch his lone target on a deep ball. The Bengals likely just wanted to get Ross more snaps after the 2017 No. 9 overall pick appeared in just three games last season. The owner of the combine’s fastest 40-yard dash ever is expected to step in as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite A.J. Green.


Baltimore Ravens 30, Washington Redskins 20

  • Closing Spread: Ravens -5
  • Closing Over/Under: 35.5

Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson saved his finest preseason performance for last, completing 9-of-15 passes for 109 yards while adding another 25 yards and a touchdown on the ground. If Joe Flacco struggles this year, it won’t be long before fans start clamoring for the team’s electric first-round quarterback.

Washington Redskins

Running backs Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine showed some burst, averaging 4.2 yards per carry Thursday night, although Perine lost a fumble. Ultimately, both backs will likely ride the bench behind Adrian Peterson on early downs and Chris Thompson on pass downs.


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Jacksonville Jaguars 25, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

  • Closing Spread: Buccaneers -1
  • Closing Over/Under: 34

Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback Cody Kessler put together another solid performance for the Jaguars to finish the preseason with six scoring drives. The Jags might not be completely screwed if Blake Bortles is forced to miss time this season. As a rookie with the 2016 Browns, Kessler averaged the eighth-most adjusted yards per attempt since 1970 among rookie quarterbacks with at least eight starts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie running back Ronald Jones struggled yet again, finishing the night with four yards on 10 carries. Overall, Jones finished the preseason with just 22 yards on 28 carries. At this point, he might be behind Jacquizz Rodgers on the depth chart.


Pittsburgh Steelers 39, Carolina Panthers 24

  • Closing Spread: Steelers -2.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 36.5

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joshua Dobbs looked good in his final preseason outing, finishing with a 137.5 QB Rating. He made his presence felt throughout the preseason, completing 29-of-43 passes (67.4%) for 434 yards (10.1 Y/A) with a 4/1 TD/INT ratio. The dual-threat signal caller also added 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Dobbs is currently No. 3 on the depth chart behind Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph.

Carolina Panthers

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel was targeted three times, and he looked lively on his lone catch of the game. The second-rounder clocked an electric 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the 2017 combine and could be in for a Year 2 leap with a regular role in the offense.


Buffalo Bills 28, Chicago Bears 27

  • Closing Spread: Bears -3
  • Closing Over/Under: 37

Buffalo Bills

Quarterback AJ McCarron salvaged an otherwise brutal performance by engineering a comeback win, as the Bills scored 25 of their 28 points in the fourth quarter. Still, Andy Dalton’s former backup completed just 38.2% of his passes and averaged a dreadful 4.6 yards per attempt. It remains to be seen whether No. 7 overall pick Josh Allen or incumbent backup Nathan Peterman will start in Week 1 against the Ravens.

Chicago Bears

Tyler Bray had a letdown performance as the slate’s chalkiest DFS quarterback, completing 19-of-29 passes for 180 yards and one interception in four quarters of work. He’s presently third on the depth chart behind Chase Daniel, who has thrown 78 career passes and one touchdown since entering the league in 2009. An injury to Mitch Trubisky would leave the Bears in a less than ideal situation under center.


New Orleans Saints 28, Los Angeles Rams 0

  • Closing Spread: Saints -5.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 34

New Orleans Saints

Saints rookie running back Boston Scott and free-agent addition Jonathan Williams finished the preseason with comparable stat lines.

  • Scott: 25 rushes, 121 yards, 4.8 YPC, 1 TD
  • Williams: 31 rushes, 124 yards, 4 YPC, 2 TD

The two backs may ultimately split snaps during Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension while working behind the always-electric Alvin Kamara.

The good news for Saints fans: Cam Meredith (2-72-1 receiving) appears to be near full health.

Los Angeles Rams

HC Sean McVay didn’t play any of his key offensive starters in the first three preseason games, and last night was no different. The Saints throttled the Rams 28-0. On to Week 1!


Minnesota Vikings 13, Tennessee Titans 3

  • Closing Spread: Titans -1
  • Closing Over/Under: 36.5

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback Trevor Siemian is an above-average backup who shouldn’t grow too comfortable on the sideline with Kirk Cousins set to work behind the Vikings’ injury-riddled offensive line. The good news for Vikings fans: It’s Week 1, and running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Stefon Diggs are healthy.

Tennessee Titans

Hopefully quarterback Marcus Mariota isn’t forced to miss any time in 2018, as backup quarterbacks Luke Falk and Matt Cassel haven’t inspired much confidence this preseason. Overall, they combined to complete 55-of-96 passes (57.3%) for 456 yards (4.8 Y/A) with a 2/2 TD/INT ratio.


Houston Texans 14, Dallas Cowboys 6

  • Closing Spread: Texans -4.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 35

Houston Texans

Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden (35 years old in October) completed 3-of-9 passes for 22 yards, reminding everyone just how screwed the Texans will be if anything happens to Deshaun Watson.

Dallas Cowboys

Third-rounder Michael Gallup has earned some warranted fantasy hype on a wide receiver depth chart devoid of talent, but he appears to be stuck behind Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley based on his heavy usage Thursday night. The Cowboys passing game figures to feature a rotation of 5-6 receivers along with a plethora of tight ends to replace the 219 combined targets that went to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten last year.


Kansas City Chiefs 33, Green Bay Packers 21

  • Closing Spread: Chiefs -3
  • Closing Over/Under: 36.5

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs secondary is a liability. It allowed two more receptions of 30+ yards Thursday night to push the preseason total to five. Once again, this unit is one to target in fantasy. The Chiefs last season had a bottom-10 defense in DraftKings points per game allowed to quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Green Bay Packers

Running back Aaron Jones posted 9-34-1 rushing and 3-21-0 receiving lines in what will be his last action till Week 3, as the 2017 fifth-rounder will open the year with a two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Week 1 starter Jamaal Williams has a chance to run away with the starting job, but Jones is a talented back who ranked as the league’s RB8 in point-per-reception scoring in Weeks 4-7 last season — his only games all year with double-digit touches.


Oakland Raiders 30, Seattle Seahawks 13

  • Closing Spread: Seahawks -3.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 34.5

Oakland Raiders

EJ Manuel seemed to lock up the team’s backup quarterback job, completing 18-of-22 passes (81.8%) for 255 yards (11.6 Y/A) with a 3/1 TD/INT ratio. It remains to be seen if Derek Carr is the quarterback to lead the Raiders to the promised land (Las Vegas).

Seattle Seahawks

Assumed Week 1 starter Chris Carson surprisingly had three touches against the Raiders. First-round pick Rashaad Penny (finger) is questionable for the Week 1 matchup against the Broncos, but he could form an early-season committee with Carson if healthy. Talented pass-catching back C.J. Prosise also figures to be involved.

Ultimately, each back will run behind the league’s reigning 31st-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards.


Los Angeles Chargers 23, San Francisco 49ers 21

  • Closing Spread: 49ers -3.5
  • Closing Over/Under: 35

Los Angeles Chargers

Quarterback Geno Smith outplayed Cardale Jones throughout the preseason, averaging more yards per attempt (7.6 vs. 4.4) and completing passes at a higher rate (64.6% vs. 52%). Still, the last time someone other than Philip Rivers started a game under center for the Chargers was 2005.

San Francisco 49ers

Running back Alfred Morris saw just two carries before exiting, indicating that his 17-84-0 performance last week might have secured him a roster spot. The 49ers will assuredly give high-priced addition Jerick McKinnon plenty of touches, but the team’s exact timeshare in the backfield remains uncertain entering Week 1.


Denver Broncos 21, Arizona Cardinals 10

  • Closing Spread: Broncos -1
  • Closing Over/Under: 36

Denver Broncos

Quarterback Paxton Lynch completed 14-of-15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns in a last grasp effort to keep a roster spot. It remains to be seen if the Broncos are content with Chad ‘Swag’ Kelly as their No. 2 quarterback.

The good news: Case Keenum is the best quarterback the Broncos have had since Peyton Manning.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals held out rookies Chase Edmonds and Christian Kirk, indicating that each has earned the coaching staff’s trust through three weeks. Still, neither will carry much fantasy value with David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald dominating running back and slot reps.

Credit:

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Lamar Jackson

Follow Ian Hartitz on Twitter
@IHartitz

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