It's said that this week is seen as a dress rehearsal for the regular season as the third preseason game is where teams usually play their projected starters for the longest period. Coaches are really ironing out their strategies and seeing how things are shaping up on both sides of the ball. Week 3 of the preseason continues all weekend long and you can catch Bears vs. Seahawks Friday night and Buccaneers vs Bills on Saturday live on NFL Network.
You could compare the third week of the preseason to a mock draft. There's no better dress rehersal for your draft day than testing things out in a mock to get a feel for how things will play out. Below you'll find what to watch for in each game this weekend, as well as some players to target in fantasy drafts, because it's about to get real.
What to watch: The committee saga continues in Tampa Bay with Bobby Rainey leading the pack (or what was a pack before rookie Charles Sims suffered an injury) behind Doug Martin. If there is going to be any kind of rotation here, we should get a look at it Saturday which will give us a good idea of Martin's value for the year.
Titans at Falcons
What to watch: This could be rookie running back Bishop Sankey's last shot to prove that he can be a workhorse type back for Tennessee. Either way Shonn Greene should still get the majority of early down work at least to start the season, and Dexter McCluster may factor in on passing downs. Sankey fumbled in both of the Titans preseason games, so we'll be watching to see if he can hold on to the ball when he gets his chances.
It's Devonta Freeman's time to shine for Atlanta as the rookie runner has shown some flashes so far this preseason but has struggled on blocking assignments. He's still low on the depth chart but another strong performance Saturday could change that before the Falcon's preseason finale next week.
Cowboys at Dolphins
Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno is expected to suit up for the first time this preseason against the Cowboys on Saturday. Still, Lamar Miller is the favorite to get first team reps as he's been working with the starters all summer while Moreno rehabs from knee surgery in late May. We'll be watching to see how Miami gets Moreno involved in this one if at all. It'd be hard to believe he's in as good of shape as some of his teammates so the team would be wise to limit his reps.
Redskins at Ravens
What to watch: Keep a close eye on Robert Griffin III to see if he can rebound from a shaky performance on Monday night against the Browns. RGIII's stat line looked ok with six completions for 112 yards, but he took a lot of unnecessary hits and a lot was made of his ability (or inability) to slide before defenders reached him. Hopefully he learned from the ugly outing against Cleveland and can bounce back on Saturday.
Reports earlier this week stated that Torrey Smith will play a more versatile roll this season in the new-look Ravens offense under Gary Kubiak. We'll see if Joe Flacco has really improved his timing and if Steve Smith will be breaking any sporks. One more thing to watch is Ray Rice. He left last week's game early wish a shoulder injury but was able to return to practice this week. Baltimore may limit his reps as they prepare Bernard Peirce to be their starter for the first two weeks of the season.
Rams at Browns
What to watch: In St. Louis, the question of the preseason is: Who will catch the ball? The Rams have Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, and Brian Quick leading the depth chart but none of them have stood out so far. We don't suggest taking a chance on any of them until later rounds, and even if you do draft them keep these players on your bench until we see more proven production during the season.
Johnny Manzi … wait, forget about him for fantasy. And Hoyer too. We're focusing on Ben Tate and Terrance West once again. It seemed like Tate separated himself in this backfield battle last week with 10 carries for 51 yards, one of which was a 19-yard rip. If it's truly a dress rehearsal, fantasy enthusiasts should be looking to see what kind of volume Cleveland gives to Tate as he seems like more of a bell-cow than earlier projections had him pegged.
Saints at Colts
What to watch:Drew Brees is expected to play an entire half on Saturday. This is great news for fantasy owners as well as every other player on the Saints. Brees has missed some time with an oblique injury, but New Orleans has been very delicate with him and he's slowly eased his way back into action. Let's see how he connects with rookie breakout candidate Brandin Cooks for the first time in a game situation.
The Colts GM recently said that Trent Richardson needs to "answer the bell" this season and play to the best of his ability. We'll be watching him in this game to see if he can produce a couple of runs that give us a bit more hope for his potential fantasy value this season. Yes he's the No. 1 back in Indy, but that doesn't make him close to an RB1 or even an RB2 for fantasy rosters until he proves he can put up consistent numbers. Richardson is on thin ice and Ahmad Bradshaw is lurking behind him.
Vikings at Chiefs
What to watch:Norv Turner is known for helping tight ends succeed in the NFL. It's been pretty clear so far this preseason that Kyle Rudolph is going to play a major role in the Vikings offense, and if he shows up again on Saturday, it will solidify even more that he's a ridiculous bargain at his current Round 11 ADP.
In Kansas City, Travis Kelce has shocked the fantasy world with his explosive plays and eye-popping speed. He may still be behind Anthony Fasano on the depth chart but if he continues his stellar play and gets some more reps in with the first-team offense against the Vikings, his fantasy stock will continue to rise.
Texans at Broncos
What to watch: There is a chance that both Arian Foster and Andre Johnson see some playing time on Saturday against the Broncos which should give fantasy owners some encouragement. Hopefully they're over the hamstring issues from earlier in camp and won't have any cause for concern come Week 1 of the regular season, but seeing them on the field will definitely be reassuring.
Denver looked great against the 49ers last weekend but after a Monday practice session with the Texans, Peyton Manning said he thought his offense "stunk". We'll see if the Broncos can use Manning's words as motivation to perform better on Saturday against what's shaping up to be a tough Houston defense. If the Texans can limit Denver's offensive production they'll make their case as a sneaky steal in late rounds of fantasy drafts.
Chargers at 49ers
What to watch: The Chargers backfield rotation is what we'll have our eye on in this one. With three capable backs all worthy of their share of carries, we should have a great look at how the committee backfield will play out during the regular season. Ryan Mathews is the favorite for early down and goal-line work (if he can hold on to the ball), while Danny Woodhead will likely see third down passing play work and Donald Brown, well we're not quite sure yet what his role will be.
The 49ers are looking to bounce back after a poor outing against Denver on Sunday. Colin Kaepernick admitted this week that he played through a foot injury last season which hampered his production early in the season but says he's healthy now. His current ADP is in Round 8 and when you combine his talented receiving corps with his ability to run the ball and score rushing touchdowns, there's no reason Kaep can't put up great fantasy numbers this season.
Bengals at Cardinals
What to watch: Since Marvin Jones went down a few weeks ago, fantasy enthusiasts have turned their eyes to Mohamed Sanu as Andy Dalton's No. 2 option in the passing game. Sanu had two catches for 56 yards against the Jets last week, one of which went for 43 yards. Sanu is poised as a fantasy sleeper especially when you consider all of the attention A.J. Green draws from defenses. We'll see if Sanu can keep it up on Sunday.
Andre Ellington is shaping up to be Arizona's bell cow and with no real competition behind him, he could be a steal at his current Round 4 ADP. If this is truly a dress rehearsal, we should see if the Cardinals leave him in on all three downs and how often they use him as a pass-catcher -- something that could be a major boost to his value in PPR leagues.