The penultimate weekend of preseason rolls on. Let's start with what did happen before what will happen.
Lions 40, Patriots 9
- Well, I suppose everyone is entitled to a night off every so often. I was curious to see what the Pats offense would do without the mystery-injured Danny Amendola, and this kind of a result probably would have ranked somewhere around No. 350 if I would have made a "likely final scores outcome" list. When was the last time a Tom Brady-led offense produced three points on nine drives, including four turnovers on each of their first four possessions? Not a good look for Adam Rank's boy Zach Sudfeld to have fumbled a ball deep inside the red zone on the first drive of the game when he wasn't even crunched very hard by NFL standards. Rob Gronkowski, wherefore art thou? The only bright spot in the passing game was rookie Kenbrell Thompkins -- 116 yards on eight catches. How does one say "major sleeper" in a thick Boston accent?
The running game was shockingly ineffective against a defense that no one confused with the '85 Bears. When LeGarrette Blount leads your team in yardage, it's usually not a good thing. It's even worse if the 26 yards for which he ran made him the runaway leader for that night's ground game. Nine yards on six carries for Stevan Ridley?
On the offensive side, Matt Stafford is still leaving me unimpressed. He left way too many points on the table in the first half after his defense gave him excellent field position a number of times, and 67 of his 166 passing yards came on a play where Reggie Bush did the majority of work to scamper for a 67-yard gain. In other words, this year's version of Matt Stafford will be pretty similar to the previous models we've seen. It's almost like watching a mobile phone carrier release a "new" model that really offers no substantial upgrades. Stafford presents a great fantasy bargain if you can take the bad that will inevitably come with the good.
Panthers 34, Ravens 27
- Interesting scoreline at first glance, but if you didn't watch the game, the result belies what really happened. As a matter of fact, Cam Newton was pretty distraught with the production from offense ... or lack thereof. Guess what -- he was 100 percent correct. Newton himself only produced a pretty lousy 10-for-19 for just 99 yards. Jimmy Clausen was even worse. Tauren Poole rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries, and Newton was the team's next leading rusher with 20. Really, nothing at all about this offense worked last night, and I'm wondering if that'll be a recurring theme in 2013. The Panthers have been so preoccupied with fixing their defense in recent drafts -- a project that is still under construction, by the way -- that there weren't any picks left over for them to use on desperately needed offensive playmakers.
And by the way, Luke Kuechly? My goodness. Anyone remember playing defense with Lawrence Taylor on Super Tecmo Bowl, and how he could single-handedly cover an entire offense since he was running at 3-4 times the speed of everyone else? That's what Kuechly looked like last night. You, sir, are a bad, bad man. And a great, great IDP option.
- Joe Flacco -- yikes. After captaining a strong opening drive, it pretty much went downhill from him. He tossed a pair of ugly picks, the first of which led to a very easy return for a TD. Brandon Stokley was underwhelming, and no one else seems capable of stepping up into a true WR1 role on this roster. Dallas Clark didn't register a single catch. Flacco has never been a great fantasy QB who posts crazy numbers each week, but 2013 may end up being his least productive season in some time. As Ray Rice goes, so will this Ravens offense in 2013.
Weekend viewing guide
Here are the most intriguing fantasy storylines from this weekend:
» Will the Packers first-team offense, like, score some points? They face the Seahawks at home, and after getting shut out by Arizona in their preseason opener, Aaron Rodgers led the Pack to just two field goals against the Rams. Sure, it's only preseason. But if you think Mike McCarthy would feel the same way if he watched his offense score four TDs each week than he has watching them not score at all, you're kidding yourself.
» Mario Williams barely played last week against the Vikings and didn't play at all against the Colts two weeks ago. He's set to make his healthy debut, so to speak, on Saturday against the Redskins. Williams had good numbers in 2012, but still arguably underproduced, if that makes sense. I'm curious to see whether he'll hit the ground running this year.
» Will the Giants patchwork offensive line be able to hold up well against a decent Jets front seven? The G-Men were forced to scramble and make some quick adjustments after experiencing some o-line injuries in the past few days. I want to see if Eli Manning has time to throw to ... well, anyone at this point.
» I don't know off the top of my head what the record is for the fewest total amount of points given up by a team in preseason, but after shutting out Green Bay and allowing only a fourth-quarter touchdown to the Cowboys in Week 2, the Cardinals have got to be flirting with it. It isn't just their starters who are playing intensely and aggressively -- the backups are going to provide this very underrated D/ST some strong depth as the season goes on.