Aug 17, 2018
Friday's Preseason Essentials
N.Y. Giants at Detroit (-3/40), 7 p.m. ET: If this were a playoff game, Giants rookie RB Saquon Barkley feels like he’d play through a hamstring tweak. Since it’s obviously not, you won’t see him out there playing at Ford Field. After participating in practices against the Lions all week, it will be interesting to see if Odell Beckham, Jr. makes his preseason debut despite his contract situation remaining in limbo. Pat Shurmur says he has a plan that won’t be revealed until Friday night. He’s been matched up with Lions All-Pro corner Darius Slay and more than held his own despite not playing a game in more than 10 months. The Giants have some depth issues they’re looking to address in the secondary with safeties Darian Thompson and Curtis Riley dealing with hamstring issues. QB Eli Manning will start but backup Davis Webb is likely to get the bulk of the snaps under center. Rookie Kyle Lauletta, who impressed in the home loss to Cleveland last week, should join Alex Tanney in playing the second half.
After sitting out last weekend’s road loss in Oakland, QB Matthew Stafford may debut. That decision has yet to be made, but Matt Patricia is making his home debut as Detroit’s head coach and would love to pull out a victory. DE Ziggy Ansah is also questionable with a pulled hamstring after taking part in drills for the first time this week. Detroit has some decisions to make along its offensive line and will be looking for more from running backs Ameer Abdullah and rookie Kerryon Johnson, an Auburn product who amassed 67 yards as last Friday’s bright spot. Whether Stafford plays or not, backups Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel will continue to vie for the No. 2 role since the Lions may not keep three quarterbacks. That makes this game huge for both given New York’s issues in the secondary.
Kansas City at Atlanta (PK/39.5), 7 p.m. ET: Patrick Mahomes’ debut didn’t go as well as the Chiefs hoped in part because he didn’t get much protection up front, so we’ll see how he fares since he and the starters are expected to play the entire first half against the Falcons. Andy Reid has lost more preseason games (41) than any current head coach and has his lowest winning percentage in Week 2 (7-11, 38.9%), so we’ll see if he can reverse that trend. The goal for Mahomes is to get him comfortable operating at a faster pace, but accomplishing that on the road won’t be easy. The starting offensive line isn’t intact since right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is in concussion protocol. Running backs Damien Williams (shoulder), Charcandrick West (concussion) and Spencer Ware (knee) are out, so look for plenty of Kareem Hunt before he gives way to Kerwynn Williams and rookie Darrel Williams. Chad Henne should lead the backups out for the third quarter, while Matt McGloin is expected to finish things out.
Atlanta’s first points in this contest will be their first in the preseason since they were unable to get on the board against the Jets last Friday night. Matt Ryan participated but didn’t have big guns Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, both of whom were healthy scratches. It remains to be seen whether Dan Quinn will throw them out there for this one but all indications are that they won’t be out there for too long. Rookie Calvin Ridley will look to make an impact and is also expected to factor in on kickoffs and punts, things he didn’t do at Alabama. The first-team defense is also expected to participate more than they did at Met Life Stadium, so we’ll see if the Falcons can snap a five-game exhibition losing streak as a result. If the game comes down to a late field goal, backup kicker David Marvin may get the nod against since veteran Matt Bryant has been nursing an injury.
Miami at Carolina (-3/43), 7:30 p.m. ET: The Dolphins are hoping Ryan Tannehill can take another step forward after tearing his ACL and MCL before last year’s first preseason game and watched him complete four straight passes on his only drive, which ended with a missed 53-yard field goal. He’ll be out there much longer in this second contest but won’t have projected starting receivers DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills in the lineup due to injury, which means newcomer Albert Wilson and third-year man Jakeem Grant are in line for more reps. Danny Amendola, who got in nine snaps with his new team in last week’s loss to the Bucs, should also see extensive action. David Fales, Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty are vying to impress at QB in a crowded race, while Frank Gore may participate after being impressive in camp so far despite sitting out last week’s loss. With Kenyan Drake, an improved Senorise Perry and rookie Kalen Ballage all looking for backfield touches, it will be fun to see if the Dolphins can establish their desired faster tempo on the road against a sound defensive team like the Panthers.
Cam Newton played two first-quarter drives, the second of which resulted in a Christian McCaffrey 2-yard TD run and included three completions of at least 15 yards. He should play into the second quarter here before giving way to Garrett Gilbert and eventually, Taylor Heinicke, who threw for a game-high 121 yards on just seven completions against Buffalo last week, creating the team’s fourth-quarter separation. Carolina rushed for only 53 yards on 26 carries and is still figuring things out up front with a number of new bodies vying for spots on the offensive line. There are issues in the secondary to contend with as well, but Ron Rivera likes the healthy competition he’s seen to date. CB Ross Cockrell was lost for the season early in camp while backup LaDarius Gunter remains in concussion protocol. Safety Damian Parms was placed IR with a pectoral injury last week. Former Miami Hurricane Corn Elder could play a large role against Dolphins receivers as a result.
Buffalo at Cleveland (-3.5, 40.5), 7:30 p.m. ET, NFLN: Bills QB Nathan Peterman got the start against Carolina last week and completed all seven of his passes on a first drive that reached the end zone on a 28-yard score to Kelvin Benjamin, but he was working with the third-team offense a few times this week. A.J. McCarron may get his opportunity to play with the 1s if you read the tea leaves, but head coach Sean McDermott hasn’t decided who will start out under center when the team takes the field in Cleveland. Rookie Josh Allen is also in the mix and seems likely to take play extensively once again. The cannon-armed No. 7 pick completed only nine of 19 passes against the Panthers, but did throw a touchdown and showed off his excellent athleticism with a few eye-opening scrambles. Benjamin has been dealing with a knee issue that has require heavy icing over the past few days, so it would be surprising to see him out there. That should create more opportunities for former Browns first-rounder Corey Coleman, who didn’t play immediately after being acquired. Tight end Charles Clay has been banged up, while RB LeSean McCoy is reportedly in great shape but wasn’t on the field in Week 1.
Baker Mayfield might play the entire second half if Hue Jackson opts to move veteran Drew Stanton up to No. 2 behind starting QB Tyrod Taylor, who will be fun to watch against his former team and is expected to play at least three drives. The Browns picked up a win in their opener as Mayfield connected for a pair of TD passes, finding tight end David Njoku and rookie WR Antonio Callaway, who are both undeniably talented. Josh Gordon remains away from the team and Dez Bryant visited but hasn’t signed, so Cleveland’s lack of receiver depth could be a factor since Callaway won’t play every snap like he did after being punished for a run-in with the law in the opener. We should see more from new No. 1 Jarvis Landry, whose influence in the receivers’ room has been felt immediately. Thunderstorms could be an issue for this contest, so be aware of that since neither team will want to expose key players to a wet field.
Arizona at New Orleans (-3.5/41), 8 p.m. ET: Steve Wilks’ first training camp as Cardinals’ head coach came to an end on Wednesday and produced a number of highlights. The return of RB David Johnson and arrival of QB Sam Bradford are the big stories for Arizona, who held off the Chargers 24-17 with a late red-zone stop last Saturday. Johnson broke off a pair of 14-yard runs while Bradford completed a six-yard pass to Ricky Seals-Jones before calling it a night. Rookie QB Josh Rosen and RB Chase Edmonds each put a few highlights on tape and look impressive. WR Brice Butler isn’t expected to participate tonight. Look for Johnson and Bradford to play about a quarter before calling it a night, but the bigger mystery will be whether Wilks leaves more of his regulars out there to make life easier on Rosen, who wasn’t afforded the luxury of playing alongside Larry Fitzgerald in his debut. Rookie center Mason Cole impressed in his first action as a starter but will now get to snap and block in a road atmosphere that should be quite festive considering it’s the Superdome and all. Defensively, LBs Deone Bucannon and Josh Bynes remain out, which has led to the Cards playing a lot of nickel in practices, increasing the reps for talented second-year safety Budda Baker, whose name you should hear often here.
Despite giving Drew Brees the night off, the Saints rallied past Jacksonville with a pair of fourth-quarter scores as the versatile Taysom Hill improved his chances of remaining on the final 53-man roster. Jayrone Elliott helped changed the game with 2.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, so he’ll be one to watch when this game is decided in the second half. The Saints defense wasn’t pleased with their first-half effort in allowing the Jaguars move the ball at will, so we’ll whether they can get a handle on Arizona in the early going. DE Alex Okafor suffered a bone bruise and ankle sprain in practice this week and won’t play. We will likely see Brees, Alvin Kamara and the first-team offense for a spell here, but head coach Sean Payton has historically not put too much emphasis on preseason games with the exception of the third dress-rehearsal. He’s 9-3 in those games and 15-24 in all others, including a 6-6 mark in the second contest.
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