NFL fantasy football: Recapping Thursday's games

  • By Marcas Grant NFL.com
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With six preseason games played Thursday night, here's a recap of some of the highlights and the possible fantasy impacts.

Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills

» Robert Griffin III's preseason debut was everything anyone could have expected, going 4-of-6 for 70 yards and a touchdown. He looked comfortable in the pocket and even got the Bills to jump offsides via a hard count. So far in most fantasy football drafts, he's coming off the board in the 8th round. A couple more solid starts and he's sure to move up...

» Pierre Garcon was Griffin's primary target, having four balls thrown his way. He finished with three catches for 58 yards and a TD -- and very easily could have been credited with a fourth catch on a very close play along the sideline. Garcon looks to have the inside track to the Redskins No. 1 WR spot and could be a solid No. 2 fantasy football receiving option...

» Evan Royster got the starting nod and rushed for 21 yards on seven carries. Roy Helu was steady, if not spectacular, adding another 17 yards on four carries. Rookie Alfred Morris was the most productive 'Skins back, carrying 15 times for 54 yards. We've learned better than to try and predict what Mike Shanahan will do, but don't expect to see Morris in heavy rotation just yet...

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» Ryan Fitzpatrick was uneven in his two series at the helm for the Bills, completing 6-of-14 passes for 61 yards. He threw a touchdown pass to Steve Johnson that was called back on penalty. Buffalo did use several empty backfield, five-wide sets which could bode well for the Amish Rifle's prospects in 2012...

» Fred Jackson didn't play Thursday night and C.J. Spiller had just one catch for two yards. Not surprisingly, Buffalo's running game sputtered. Tashard Choice had a team-high nine carries (16 yards) and Vince Young was the Bills' leading rusher with 37 yards on five attempts. We'll reserve further judgment until we see some of Buffalo's regulars toting the rock...

Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons

» Joe Flacco played four series and while the offense was up-and-down, the QB finished with decent numbers, going 9-of-12 for 88 yards and a touchdown. That was the good news. The bad news is that he was under pressure most of the evening and took a number of hits. That's reason for concern in the NFL's new "Black and Blue" division -- even if Flacco's never missed a game in his career...

» That same struggling offensive line takes some of the blame for Ray Rice's underwhelming three rush, four yard output. Rice is still a top tier fantasy football back, but keep an eye on that offensive line. If the first unit struggles to open holes, it'll take some of the shine off of Rice's potential...

» Tight end Ed Dickson caught Flacco's touchdown throw, but injured his shoulder on the play. Coach John Harbaugh surmised that it's little more than a sprain, but Dickson will undergo an MRI just to make sure. If it's merely a sprain, he should only miss a couple of weeks. Anything more serious would be a blow. Last season, Dickson was one of Flacco's favorite targets, racking up 528 yards and five touchdowns. As long as he's healthy, he's a good second TE option...

» In Wednesday's Notebook, I wrote about Julio Jones saying he felt like a "10" this season compared to a "five or six" last year. If Thursday was any indication, he wasn't kidding. Jones caught six passes for 109 yards and a touchdown ... in one quarter. It was evident near the end of last year that Jones was ready to challenge Roddy White for Atlanta's No. 1 WR spot. We could soon be talking about him challenging for a spot in the top tier of fantasy football receivers...

» Jones' big night certainly made Matt Ryan look good. Matty Ice finished 9-of-13 for 155 yards and the one TD pass. He also threw an interception in the red zone, but considering how rarely that happens (just once all of last season), this one's easily shrugged off. Ryan projects as a high-end No. 2 fantasy football quarterback -- especially if Jones keeps playing this well...

» Keep an eye on Jacquizz Rodgers this season. Atlanta's mighty mite carried the ball nine times for 33 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. While he figures to make the biggest impact on special teams, he could see more work in the backfield as the season rolls along. Michael Turner hit the milestone age of 30 in the offseason and was a fantasy football enigma in 2011. The door could be slightly open for Rodgers to step in...

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots

» After a solid performance in his first preseason game, Drew Brees was shaky on Thursday, completing just one of four passes for four yards. Don't read too much into it. It's still preseason and he's still Drew Brees...

» The Saints defense might be a little harder to evaluate. They did some good things Thursday night, causing havoc and not allowing the Patriots offense to get into a rhythm. They even sacked Tom Brady once. The problem is that the sack came from Will Smith, who is suspended for the first four games of the regular season. New Orleans' defense was average last season, but without Smith and Jonathan Vilma, they're a far less attractive fantasy football option...

» Tom Brady had a very un-Brady Thursday with just 30 yards on 4-of-7 passing. While his numbers aren't a concern, the breakdowns in his protection are. Brady is still a top-tier QB, but if his offensive line can't keep him upright, it will affect his output...

» There could be a backfield battle brewing in New England. Shane Vereen looked good Thursday, gaining 64 yards on 11 carries. Not to be outdone, Stevan Ridley picked up 40 yards on eight carries. The Pats' RB situation was hard to figure in 2011. If this keeps up, it could be a do-over in 2012.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelpha Eagles

» No Rashard Mendenhall and no Mike Wallace meant no real excitement in the Steelers offense. Ben Roethlisberger finished 7-of-8 for 49 yards but never really looked down the field. His longest pass was a 17-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders (a pass that was thrown under duress -- perhaps a lingering problem from last year?). Big Ben and this new Todd Haley offense could look a little more dynamic when (if) they get all of their pieces back...

» While Isaac Redman is penciled in as the starter in Mendenhall's absence, rookie Chris Rainey made a play for a few more snaps. Rainey had four carries, but really made an impact as a receiver, catching a pair of passes for 65 yards -- including a 57-yard touchdown. Rainey has a similar skill set to fellow former Florida Gator Percy Harvin and could be a deep sleeper if he continues to play well...

» Breathe easy, it appears all is well with Michael Vick's left hand. The QB banged his throwing hand on the helmet of one of his offensive linemen. X-rays were negative, but it's a reminder of just how injury prone Vick has been in the past couple of years...

» Rookie QB Nick Foles might have earned himself a little more playing time after a solid performance working with the third team. Foles threw for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns and could make a climb up the depth chart. Considering Vick's recent injury history, the Eagles backup could see some significant playing time this year...

Green Bay Packers at San Diego Chargers

» The Packers ended last season in a hail of turnovers. They've begun this season the same way. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception and lost a fumble while connecting for just 16 yards. So far, there's little reason to think he shouldn't be the first QB drafted in most fantasy football leagues, but this recent turnover bug is disturbing...

Also like last season, the Pack is still in search of a running game. The trio of Marc Tyler, James Starks and Alex Green combined for 51 yards on 21 carries, with Tyler fumbling to end the game. Rodgers and the wide receivers are good, but eventually they'll need at least a whiff of a running game if they're going to keep defenses honest...

» Green Bay's defense forced three turnovers, but its secondary was still sliced up by rookie QB Jarrett Lee. Consider it another carryover from last season. The Packers were susceptible to giving up big yardage and quite a few scores, but were very opportunistic when it came to takeaways. They're big risk/reward option in 2012 and having LB Desmond Bishop leave the game with a knee injury Thursday doesn't inspire confidence...

» Death, taxes and Ryan Mathews getting hurt. The talented, yet perennially injured back will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle. Many hoped that this could be a breakout year for the former Fresno Stater and his fantasy football value was rising accordingly. But, as Michael Fabiano writes, that's currently on hold...

» Word 'round the campfire was that Antonio Gates was back. That certainly looked to be the case Thursday after a pair of catches for 29 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown. With so much fantasy hype surrounding Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Jimmy Graham, Gates could be a value pick in the middle rounds...

» For everyone wondering how Philip Rivers would fare without Vincent Jackson, the early reviews weren't encouraging. Rivers did throw a touchdown, but it was on a drive that began at the Packers' 26. Beyond that, he struggled to move the offense and finished with just 37 yards and an interception. In the past couple of years he's gone from an elite fantasy football QB to a big question mark. We're still waiting for this year's answer...

Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears

» Peyton Manning looked like ... Peyton Manning in his debut in with the Denver Broncos. The future Hall of Famer threw for 44 yards in his only series Thursday. It ended with an interception, but credit the defense for making a nice play. We'll certainly learn more in the next couple of week, but Manning looked like he's ready to get back to his old ways after sitting out last season...


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» If there's one thing we know about Manning, it's that he likes his tight ends. That's good news for Jacob Tamme, who made the move to Mile High along with his quarterback. Thursday night, he was targeted twice by Manning and made a nice catch on a deflection for a 12-yard gain. Tamme could have some deep sleeper value at the increasingly loaded tight end position...

» Eric Decker just keeps asserting himself as Denver's top receiver. He caught both balls thrown his way Thursday night and while I'm not ready to proclaim that he'll be the new Reggie Wayne, Decker could grade out as a good No. 2 WR option...

» The Bears played without Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall so it's hard to give a true evaluation of what fantasy impact Chicago's offense can really make. However rookie Alshon Jeffery had a nice night, catching four of the five balls thrown his way. We know Cutler can sling the rock. If Jeffery can get open consistently, he could have a nice year as a sleeper option...

» Conversely, Chicago's running game doesn't exist without Forte. Six players combined to rush for 36 yards. If you don't get Forte in your draft, there's not much reason to target anyone else on the roster...

Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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