Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found the end zone twice despite sitting out a series Friday night against the Panthers.
Brady worked the first two drives before head coach Bill Belichick pulled him out of the game in favor of Ryan Mallett with 5:33 remaining in the first quarter. The move was part of an experiment for Belichick, who wanted his backups to be prepared for emergency situations throughout the season.
Through two series he compiled 24 yards through the air while completing 4 of 6 passes. Mallett worked only one series with the first unit. Brady returned and found Shane Vereen on a wheel route for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He hooked up again with Vereen for a 6-yard strike early in the third.
Brady played into the third quarter and finished with 204 yards through the air while completing 17 of 21 passes. He added two touchdowns and no interceptions, registering a 138.9 passer rating.
Giants receiver Rueben Randle made only two grabs but one of them counted for six during Friday’s preseason game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Randle came down with a 15-yard grab in the end zone with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. He worked with the first unit for the first two quarters before sitting out the rest of the game. He was targeted four times and finished with two catches for 41 yards.
Rashad Jennings racks up 67 yards in preseason tuneup
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Giants running back Rashad Jennings got nearly all of the snaps with the first-team offense Friday night against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Jennings looked sharp and broke free for a 23-yard run in the second quarter, his longest gain of the night. He got 13 first-half touches compared to zero for Andre Williams. The first unit only played the first two quarters, and Jennings finished with 13 carries for 67 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt. He caught one of his three targets for 7 yards.
Jets tight end Jace Amaro came down with a touchdown Friday night against the Giants in preseason action.
Amaro broke free for a 1-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, his first pro touchdown. He saw work with the first unit and worked into the third quarter with the backups. He finished with four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown, averaging 9.3 yards per grab.
Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory in midseason form vs. Giants
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Jets running backs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory both looked sharp Friday night against the Giants in exhibition play.
Johnson ripped a 17-yards run in the opening quarter and turned a pair of short passes into long plays. He played into the first series of the third quarter with the backups and racked up 77 yards of total offense. He took nine handoffs for 42 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per attempt. He caught both of his targets for 35 yards.
Ivory returned to action and made his presence felt as well. He ripped an 18-yard run and finished the game with a team-high 50 yards on six carries while being limited to one half of work. He caught one pass for 23 yards.
Eric Decker scores second-half TD in preseason debut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Jets wide receiver Eric Decker made his preseason debut Friday night against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
Decker made broke free and made a 27-yard reception in the first quarter, however, he was unable to hang on to a pass in the end zone just a few plays later. He played into the third quarter with the backups and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick. He was targeted five times and finished with three catches for 34 yards and a touchdown, averaging 11.3 yards er grab.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith appeared in full control of the offense Friday night against the Giants in exhibition play.
Smith hooked up with one of his new weapons, Eric Decker, for a 27-yard connection in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Smith found an open Jace Amaro on a playaction play for a 1-yard touchdown. He compiled 137 yards through the air while completing 9 of 14 passes. He added a touchdown and no interceptions, registering a 120.2 passer rating.
Smith is expected to be the Week 1 starter for the Jets, barring any injuries.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning showed slight signs of life in his fourth preseason outing Friday night against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Manning hooked up with Rueben Randle for a 15-yard touchdown strike with just 11 seconds remaining in the first half, his last play of the game. The first-team sat out the final two quarters and Manning complied 139 yards through the air while completing 12 of 21 passes. He added a touchdown, no interceptions, finishing with a 93.2 passer rating. He was sacked twice.
Manning has completed 19 of 37 passes for 188 yards through four preseason games.
Markus Kuhn leaves preseason game with lower leg injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Giants defensive lineman Markus Kuhnwas forced out of Friday's preseason game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium with a lower leg injury, per the New York Daily News. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Nick Roach, Tarell Brown suffer head injuries vs. Packers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
Raiders linebacker Nick Roach and cornerback Tarell Brown both left Friday's preseason game against the Packers with head injuries, the team announced. Both players were ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Team naming continues to be the bedrock of Fantasy Football tradition. We've had blog posts this offseason detailing the most popular monikers -- everything from immature puns to Game of Thrones references. But as the mantra goes in creative writing classes "avoid cliches."
In an effort to break out of the ordinary, we asked the viewers of Fantasy Football Today to get creative and tweet us some music-themed team names. We cam up with "Kaepernickelback," "Gerhart of Gold" and "Fly like a Gio6." But all of you certainly outdid us. Here are a few of our favorites:
Most of the time when I draft, I have my way. Picks fall into my lap I am at least "okay" with taking. Sometimes I get steals that really put my roster in a position to dominate.
In our recent 12-team standard league mock draft, I felt like I was drafing with sharks. It became tough to land players I liked, particularly running backs, at spots I wanted them at. I didn't break Rule No. 1 and only took players I really liked, but I came close to taking some players I really just don't like a lot. I also nearly chucked my computer through a window about five times when players in my queue were taken right before I picked!
I thought I could take a look back and see what else I could have done. I had the 10th pick out of 12 teams.
Round 1: Alfred Morris, RB, WAS Once my Top 7 running backs and Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham were off the board, I was left with two decisions: Go WR-WR to begin the draft and settle for whatever was left at running back in Rounds 3 and 4, or take the best available rusher and then grab an elite receiver in Round 2. I chose the latter because I knew there would be a stud wideout waiting for me in Round 2 whereas I feared what would have been left at running back in Rounds 3 and 4. Morris still stands out to me as a trustworthy No. 1 Fantasy running back with 1,300-yard, 10-TD potential. I could have also taken:Demaryius Thomas, Giovani Bernard
Round 2: Julio Jones, WR, ATL No-brainer. Top 4 Fantasy receiver, a candidate for 100 catches and 1,500 yards and 10-plus touchdowns. I knew I'd get someone like this at 15th overall. I could have also taken:Le'Veon Bell, Peyton Manning
Round 3: Ryan Mathews, RB, SD This is the first of several picks I struggled with. Literally, my queue had four names in it and they went consecutively before my pick. My thought process switched to taking a player from the position closest to falling off a tier. Besides Mathews, the best RBs left were Bishop Sankey and Shane Vereen. At receiver there was Michael Crabtree, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Andre Johnson, Pierre Garcon and Keenan Allen. There were more receivers I was OK with taking in Round 4 than running backs, plus the owner at Pick 12 went with two receivers with his first two picks, so I figured one of those first three receivers I listed would make it back to me. That made the decision easy to go with a running back. I bit the bullet and took Mathews. I could have also taken: See above
Round 4: Michael Crabtree, WR, SF Just like Jones in Round 2, I was pumped to get Crabtree in early Round 4. He's in my Top 12 receivers (11th!) and I have him penciled in for a big year. He's the perfect No. 2 receiver to get in Fantasy since he has potential to play better than expectations with Colin Kaepernick. Shane Vereen was tempting -- I'm really warming up to him -- but I wanted to lock up another wideout from one of my first three tiers. I could have also taken: Shane Vereen
Round 5: Ben Tate, RB, CLE As much as I didn't like taking Mathews in Round 3, this one was even more of a struggle. Two players in my queue -- Ray Rice and Emmanuel Sanders -- went within four picks before mine. Rashad Jennings would have been someone I wouldn't have been upset about taking but he went before Rice and Sanders! For whatever reason I couldn't bring myself to taking Vernon Davis in Round 5 and the best receiver left was Torrey Smith. To put Tate in as my flex to begin the season isn't so bad. It's hoping I can count on him to stay there for 16 games that I don't like. I also had to start praying to the Fantasy Gods that Terrance West would make it back to me in Round 7 (I wasn't going to reach for West in Round 6), which was highly unlikely. I could have also taken: Vernon Davis, Torrey Smith, Lamar Miller, Matt Ryan
Round 6: Vernon Davis, TE, SF Don't ask me to explain the logic of passing on Davis in Round 5 but taking him five picks later in Round 6 and feeling good about it. Maybe I just felt like I needed more value from him. Or maybe I knew Tate wasn't going to make it back to me in Round 6 but Davis would. Yeah, that's it. I originally intended to go with Lamar Miller here and bulk up at running back but with my roster in need of a potential difference maker, I couldn't pass up Davis. I could have also taken: Lamar Miller, Colin Kaepernick
Round 7: Fred Jackson, RB, BUF Jackson is a back I've come around on, especially after watching his role develop in Buffalo over last season and this preseason. They use him in dedicated spots including the two-minute offense and at the goal line. Normally I might shoot for him in Round 8, but I knew that I would have one quarterback from Nick Foles, Tom Brady and Tony Romo fall to me in the following round. So I earmarked Round 8 for one of those passers and took the best available running back on my board. I could have also taken:Devonta Freeman
Round 8: Tom Brady, QB, NE I was surprised to see two quarterbacks get picked between my last pick and this pick, but that didn't compare to the feeling of elation of having Brady fall into my lap. This is what I mean by letting a quarterback fall to you in drafts. There was no other direction I would have gone with this pick. I could have also taken:Sammy Watkins, Zach Ertz
Round 9: Reggie Wayne, WR, IND I realized I needed a third receiver. I went to my draft board. Wayne was there. End of thought process. I could have also taken:Justin Hunter, DeAngelo Williams
Round 10: Josh Gordon, WR, CLE I recognized Danny Woodhead as a player who had some "fun" and Christine Michael as a player with some "serious upside." I consider Gordon, at least at the stage of not knowing how long he'll be suspended for, as a potentially fun player with serious upside we've actually seen. The double-digit rounds are for gambles and handcuffs. I could have also taken: Christine Michael, Danny Woodhead
Round 11: Danny Woodhead, RB, SD If there's a player you were going to take and he makes it 15-plus picks back to you the next round, take him. I could have also taken:Robert Turbin
Round 12: Dexter McCluster, RB, TEN Yep, not a PPR league and I still went with Dex. Not a panic pick, just looked for a running back with some upside. If Shonn Greene is hurt and Bishop Sankey doesn't get the promotion we're all counting on, then guess who's leading the running game for the Titans. I could have also taken:Carson Palmer, Tre Mason, Riley Cooper
Round 13: Bobby Rainey, RB, TB Just another lotto ticket. I could have also taken:Jordan Matthews, Roy Helu, Steelers DST
Rounds 14 and 15: Broncos DST and Shayne Graham Broncos DST actually fell to me. Nice!
Final roster: QB: Tom Brady (Round 8) RB: Alfred Morris (1) RB: Ryan Mathews (3) WR: Julio Jones (2) WR: Michael Crabtree (4) FLEX: Ben Tate (5) TE: Vernon Davis (6) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Broncos (14) BENCH: Fred Jackson (7) Reggie Wayne (9) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Dexter McCluster (12) Bobby Rainey (13)
Had I started WR-WR, my team could have been ...
QB: Tom Brady (8) RB: Ryan Mathews (3) RB: Shane Vereen (4) WR: Demaryius Thomas (1) WR: Julio Jones (2) FLEX: Ben Tate (5) TE: Greg Olsen (9) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Steelers (13) BENCH: Lamar Miller (6) Fred Jackson (7) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Dexter McCluster (12) Bobby Rainey (14)
And if I had started RB-RB, my team could have been ...
QB: Matt Ryan (5) RB: Alfred Morris (1) RB: Le'Veon Bell (2) WR: Michael Crabtree (3) WR: Andre Johnson (4) FLEX: Lamar Miller (6) TE: Zach Ertz (8) K: Shayne Graham (15) DST: Steelers (13) BENCH: Fred Jackson (7) Reggie Wayne (9) Josh Gordon (10) Danny Woodhead (11) Riley Cooper (12) Roy Helu (14)
Which team do you think is/would have been the best? Answer below in the comment section.
Maybe the biggest complaint we've received this summer is that our mock drafts, while informative, are not realistic. Take one look at our Draft Averages and you'll see three quarterbacks going within the first 13 picks and nine in the Top 60 overall. That, some of you say, is more realistic.
This past weekend I was in Pittsburgh as part of a Fantasy Football event with 93.7 The Fan, the town's best sports talk station. As part of the event, we held a 12-team three-WR standard draft with 12 people who don't write about Fantasy sports for a living. I found the draft results interesting and thought I'd share them with you guys (and please forgive the handwriting, it's not mine ... not that mine is any good).
Some takeaways from this draft:
- Two quarterbacks in the first two rounds -- one in Round 1, one in Round 2. Again, is this realistic? Maybe it is, maybe it's not. You know your league better than me.
But what about eight quarterbacks through the first five rounds? That seems more realistic to "normal" drafts, not like ours where the majority of passers slip into Round 6 and beyond.
- Matt Forte, Doug Martin and Reggie Bush slide, Chris Johnson, Joique Bell and Rashad Jennings rise. Can I explain it? No. That's part of the fun variables of a draft with your pals -- they'll take who they like for the reasons they believe in.
- Doug Baldwin in Round 5. I can't ... I just can't.
- Ben Roethlisberger before Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. Le'Veon Bell before Montee Ball and DeMarco Murray. Markus Wheaton ahead of Kendall Wright and Emmanuel Sanders. Heath Miller before Zach Ertz. Steelers DST in Round 12. Can ya tell this draft was done with mostly Steelers fans in Pittsburgh?!
Remember that location counts for your drafts.
- Teams taking two DSTs. I'd rather spend one of those roster spots on a sleeper.
- But most of all, owners tend to gravitate toward players they know already and not necessarily the new names, or at least names that don't have as much buzz. Those who are prepared and recognize some sleepers will benefit.
Any other thoughts on this draft? Post them below.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was pressured -- sacked, hit or hurried -- an NFL-high 290 times last year. No other quarterback was pressured even 250 times.
Most expected Atlanta's offensive line to be much better this year. The Falcons signed guard Jon Asamoah, drafted Jake Matthews at No. 6 overall to play right tackle, replaced center Peter Konz with Joe Hawley, and reinstalled Sam Baker at left tackle following his knee surgery.
While Baker is nothing more than serviceable, the moves enabled Atlanta to bench Lamar Holmes. Now Baker is out for the year with a torn patella tendon. The Falcons reacted this week by moving Matthews to left tackle and reinserting Holmes at right tackle.
How bad is Holmes? The numbers are staggering. Playing 13 games at left tackle and three at right tackle last year, he allowed 76 combined hurries, hits and sacks, second-most in the league. He committed 12 penalties, tied for second-most. Pro Football Focus rated him 75th among 76 offensive tackles. Only Arizona's Bradley Sowell was worse.
Before Baker's injury, Holmes was "somewhat on the [roster] bubble," per ESPN.com. Perhaps new offensive line coach Mike Tice can rebuild Holmes' confidence.
Training camp is over and we're a couple weeks into the preseason. Some rookies have looked great while others have left a lot to be desired. With that in mind, here's an updated Top 55 rank list for dynasty league owners ... with this important caveat: Need is an important factor in dynasty drafts -- please adjust these rankings based on what you need for your roster over the next 2-3 years.
Sankey should end up being the Titans' top running back this year and feasibly for the next five or six seasons. It's hard to not put Watkins second on the list but Cooks' quarterback is better and the short-term return on Cooks should be greater than that of Watkins. Sammy needs a better passer. Hyde might end up stealing some good work away from Frank Gore this year and take over as the main back next year, making him a potential stud by 2015. Evans and Benjamin are good consolation prizes as capable receivers in the early part of Round 1.
West should eventually settle in as the better back for the Browns but it won't happen so soon. Furthermore he doesn't quite have the long-term security as Hyde seems to have. But he's still a great first-round pick. I'm sold on Bortles and believe he'll eventually be a Fantasy legend once the Jaguars surround him with healthy receivers and an even better offensive line. Matthews also has a bright career trajectory so long as Chip Kelly stays with the Eagles. Ebron could take a while -- maybe a year -- to become a great Fantasy tight end. Freeman could end up fending off other running backs from a dominant workload in Atlanta. And Bridgewater should be a solid quarterback for the Vikings eventually.
13. Odell Beckham, WR, Giants 14. Andre Williams, RB, Giants 15. Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars 16. Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals 17. James White, RB, Patriots
These four should contribute at some point this season, making them not just short-term helpers but long-term value plays. I really like Beckham's long-term future and Williams' short-term outlook. The problem for Hill is whether or not he'll eventually be "the guy" for the Bengals. White could end up having the same issue in New England but at least one of the guys blocking him (Stevan Ridley) is set to hit free agency in 2015.
I've been outspoken about my fears for Cam Newton this season: New receiving corps he hasn't meshed with, coming off of ankle surgery, offensive line issues and a track record of declining rushing numbers for Fantasy. But the addition of Kelvin Benjamin is forcing me to re-evaluate Newton.
In the Panthers' preseason game vs. the Chiefs, Benjamin was routinely blowing past defensive backs and getting open deep. Newton targeted him on one such deep pass but overthrew him -- proof positive that their rhythm is a work in progress. He body-caught another target for a 24-yard gain that eventually led to a Panthers touchdown, but again he got open. It's his size-speed combination that had the Panthers drooling during the draft process and Benjamin has put it on display in the preseason.
Newton, on the other hand, was clunky when (successfully) avoiding pressure in the pocket. Just didn't look healthy. As of now, Newton's ADP is at 84.49, the end of Round 7 in a 12-team league. I still wouldn't take him that high but I am warming up to the idea of pairing Newton with another quarterback you're not totally sold on and aiming for one of them to be your guy for most of the year. It's because of Benjamin, who looks the part of a deep threat receiver that opposing defenses have to account for. I have no problem taking Benjamin with a pick at his current ADP of 120.68 (Round 10 in a 12-team league).
Sunday's two preseason games were definitely interesting, but for varying degrees. We had four playoff teams with Denver at San Francisco and Kansas City at Carolina.
The Broncos spoiled the NFL debut of the 49ers new stadium with a 34-0 victory. And Cam Newton came back from his offseason ankle surgery to knock off the rust against the Chiefs in a 28-16 win.
Here's what matters to you ...
Peyton Manning is ready to go. He was 12 of 14 passing for 102 yards and a touchdown, which was a 17-yard pass to Julius Thomas. Manning is the No. 1 quarterback on Draft Day, but let him fall to the end of Round 1 at the earliest. His Average Draft Position at No. 5 overall in standard leagues is too high.
The running backs were of interest for Fantasy owners, and Ronnie Hillman started again with Montee Ball (appendectomy) out. Hillman had four carries for 19 yards and one catch for 6 yards on two targets. He's a late-round flier in all leagues, even when Ball is healthy.
C.J. Anderson got some work with the starting group, but he was second behind Hillman. Anderson had nine carries for 29 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 11 yards on two targets. Anderson would only be worth drafting if Ball remains out and Hillman gets hurt.
The good news for all Fantasy owners is Ball could return to practice this week. He's worth drafting in Round 1 in all formats.
Rookie receiver Cody Latimer won't make much of an impact this season barring an injury to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker or Emmanuel Sanders, but he showed off his big-play ability with a 33-yard touchdown catch from Brock Osweiler.
For the 49ers, it was a long day, and this was not how they hoped to open Levi's Stadium. Good thing it was just the preseason.
Colin Kaepernick was just 5-of-9 passing for 39 yards but don't be concerned. He's still a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback this year worth drafting with a mid-round pick.
Michael Crabtree made his preseason debut after sitting out with a hamstring injury in the preseason opener against Baltimore. He had no catches on just one target, but he remains a low-end No. 1 receiver worth drafting in Round 4.
Frank Gore also made his preseason debut, and he had two carries for 12 yards. Gore remains a No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 5, but make sure you handcuff him with Carlos Hyde, who is a sleeper on his own.
Hyde came in after Gore and had four carries for 11 yards and one catch for 9 yards. Hyde is worth drafting in Round 9.
There were three things to take away from the Chiefs, who were without Jamaal Charles (foot). Charles is expected to be fine, so don't panic.
1) If Charles were to miss time, Knile Davis would flirt with Top 10 running back status. He'd get plenty of work, and in Andy Reid's offense he'd shine. Davis had nine carries for 30 yards and three catches for 26 yards. He's an easy choice with a late-round pick, especially if you draft Charles.
2) Travis Kelce better be on your radar. He had his second touchdown in as many games, and he finished with four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown, which was a 43-yard play from backup Aaron Murray. Kelce is still technically behind Anthony Fasano on the depth chart, but consider Kelce with a late-round pick in all leagues. He's definitely on the rise.
3) Dwayne Bowe was a favorite target for Alex Smith. He had five catches for 62 yards on six targets. Bowe will miss the season opener after being suspended, but he could still be in line for a rebound season. He's worth a late-round pick as a No. 4 or 5 receiver in all leagues.
The Panthers got Newton back, and he looked shaky at times, as did his offensive line. He finished 4-of-9 passing for 65 yards and was sacked twice. He also missed Kelvin Benjamin on a wide-open throw down the left side, which might have resulted in a touchdown.
The best news is Newton came out of the game without any issues, and he remains a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 quarterback in all leagues. He's worth drafting with a pick after Round 9, but don't consider him the same guy as last year with the changes at offensive line and receiver.
Benjamin did nothing to hurt his stock. He only had two catches for 41 yards, but he led the Panthers in targets with four. Greg Olsen (calf) was out, but Benjamin could be Newton's best weapon this year.
DeAngelo Williams started at running back and finished with three carries for 9 yards and one catch for 5 yards. He's a low-upside reserve running back with a mid-round pick.
But Jonathan Stewart showed what he's capable of when healthy, which is always a risk. Playing behind Williams, Stewart had four carries for 26 yards and two touchdowns. His first run was 17 yards, and both touchdowns came from inside the 3-yard line.
The Panthers will use Williams, Stewart and Mike Tolbert, which hurts all three, but Stewart is worth drafting with a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Let's hope the Steelers keep calling LeGarrette Blount a "co-starter." We can't hear Mike Tomlin talk enough about both running backs "getting their share" and each bringing a "lead dog mentality."
Le'Veon Bell's ADP is starting to fall. It's at 18 on Sunday. Thanks to Tomlin, it should drop into the late second round this week -- terrific news for Bell's value.
Pittsburgh is going to the no-huddle, shotgun offense this year. A lot. The Steelers scored out of the no-huddle on their first two drives Saturday night against the Bills. Those drives took 11 snaps; Bell played the first eight.
The second-year back blends smoothly into this offense. He’s slimmed down and looks quicker. He’s a natural receiver (45 catches in just 13 games last year). Blount, on the other hand, is a 250-pound hammer who can’t catch. He has three receptions the past two seasons. In two years at high-flying Oregon, he caught four passes.
When Pittsburgh gets a big lead and needs to kill the clock, Blount is the obvious choice. At the goal line, you can make a case for either (more on that later). But in the no-huddle, Bell fits and Blount is a mismatch.
Here's what we saw Saturday: Bell darting for a 6-yard run. Bell taking a 3rd-and-2 draw out of the shotgun for a first down. Bell splitting out wide and the defense following him.
Pittsburgh tried Blount as a receiver too; his pass route turned into an ugly incompletion. He ran three times for zero yards.
The Steelers handed Bell the starting job as a rookie -- he had no legitimate competition. This year they're trying to motivate him by constantly talking up Blount. In terms of touches, this split will be closer to 70-30 Bell than 50-50.
While even Bell expects Blount to get the nod in goal-line situations, Blount is not a superior short-yardage runner. Blount has gotten 19 carries inside the 5-yard line in his career and has scored seven times. Bell produced the exact same numbers last year: seven touchdowns on 19 carries inside the 5. Look for an even split at the goal line.
The Steelers turned around their 2013 season by going to an up-tempo, wide open offense. They're not going back to a plodding style. Count on 50-plus catches, 220-plus carries and great value from Bell at the back end of Round 2.
If you've targeted Sammy Watkins on Draft Day (or if you've already drafted him), hold your breath and cross your fingers.
Watkins, the rookie receiver the Bills traded a 2015 first-round pick to move up in the draft for, took a shot to the ribs from Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (photographic evidence here) on the opening drive of the game and walked off the field. After getting checked on the sideline, Watkins walked to the locker room flanked by trainers and was done for the night.
Head coach Doug Marrone said after the game that Watkins had a rib contusion and didn't know if he had X-rays taken or not. More tests are in the rookie's future. NFL Network reported that Watkins will be "fine."
If so, the Bills dodged a real bullet because without him the offense is in trouble. To put it nicely, Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel was spotty against the Steelers as he completed 17 of 27 passes but averaged a meek 5.48 yards per pass attempt. Surely a player like Watkins would have pushed those numbers higher. Robert Woods replaced Watkins and led the team in receiving in the first half thanks to a nifty 30-yard catch-and-run.
Buffalo's run game wasn't much better. C.J. Spiller actually opened the game with a kick return and didn't get the first handful of snaps. Those went to Fred Jackson, who had 27 yards on six first-half carries. Spiller also had six carries but managed just 16 yards. Spiller didn't have any catches while Jackson had seven receptions for 28 yards. And for whatever it's worth, Spiller didn't play any more than three plays consecutively while Jackson had a few more snaps including those in the two-minute drill and inside the Steelers 10-yard line. One could assume their roles haven't changed from last season.
No one, in good conscience, can call Spiller a reliable pick in the third round of a Fantasy draft. There's just too much Jackson in the Bills game plan -- and justifiably so.
The story's way different on the other sideline as Ben Roethlisberger guided the Steelers on two straight scoring drives before stalling on a third. Roethlisberger and the team's no-huddle approach stole the show.
"I thought it was good," Roethlisberger said of the no-huddle offense. " ... It's about communicating with [offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley]. He's in my ear telling me different thoughts. That's how this thing should work. I thought we did a good job."
Roethlisberger checked out of a play on his second pass attempt, hitting Antonio Brown on a slant across the field. No Bills defender could wrap Brown up and he sped off 76 yards for a touchdown. The second drive lasted longer and ended with a 16-yard pass to Markus Wheaton in tight coverage in the back left corner of the end zone. Wheaton made a nice catch and kept his feet in bounds before falling to ensure the score. On the night Roethlisberger completed 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards (76 on the Brown play) for two scores. He wasn't sacked once.
Recognizing that Roethlisberger not only ran the no-huddle offense well last season but is also on top of it this season, it's probably not a mistake to call Big Ben a capable Fantasy starter who can be had with a late pick. If you draft any quarterback you have some concern over (Colin Kaepernick? Nick Foles? Tony Romo? Robert Griffin III? Jay Cutler?), Roethlisberger is a phenomenal choice as a backup. You could even get gutsy and take him as your starter with someone like Carson Palmer or Russell Wilson as a backup.
Antonio Brown remains a Top 10 Fantasy receiver. Markus Wheaton solidified his status as a late-round sleeper.
Additional note: Ryan Shazier is the real deal Holyfield. He had 11 total tackles and an interception for the Steelers, starting in the middle of their defense. He's the reason why the Steelers DST has a real shot to be very good this season (their early-season schedule is another reason).
Call it an off night for the Steelers run game Saturday against the Bills. Le'Veon Bell started and played the first eight snaps over two series for the Steelers but had just 11 yards on four carries and no catches. After getting three straight handoffs in the second series, Bell was replaced by LeGarrette Blount who played on eight straight snaps over two series himself but he actually did worse than Bell, totaling zero yards on three runs which included snaps with the second-team offense.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin insists their respective workloads haven't been determined yet and that Saturday's action was just a step in the process.
"We're trying to work both guys, but at the same time we want to get them enough extended action that we know them as fatigue sets in. Playing consecutive plays is a big part of that," Tomlin said. "Both guys are going to get their share but I want both guys to have the lead dog mentality, and in order to have that and do that you gotta see them for spurts of extended period of time. But don't read too much into it, we're just still growing and developing in terms of our division of labor. I like both guys, obviously, and both guys are going to be big components of why we're successful."
In a quick chat with CBSSports.com after the game, Bell said he's looking forward to learning from and sharing with Blount.
"He's going to keep me fresh, I'm going to keep him fresh," Bell said of Blount. "It's definitely important to stay fresh. Last year there were some runs I wasn't as fresh as I could have been. I could have maybe got more yards. LeGarrette, Dri [Archer], those guys are definitely going to help me out and I'm going to help them out as best as I can."
So does that mean Bell would be upset if the coaches gave Blount goal-line snaps?
"They probably will do that, that's probably what will happen," Bell said. "He's a big, strong guy, so when they put him in, he's in. We hopefully get that touchdown and I'm glad. I don't care."
Bell's comment is interesting because Blount isn't known for being the short-yardage/goal-line type. That doesn't mean he can't fit the role, of course. Blount's the bigger back of the two. Bell's versatility should put him ahead of Blount in terms of playing time, however. He's still rock solid as the kind of Fantasy running back you can confidently draft in Round 2, though pairing him with Blount and forming the Steelers backfield on your own roster is advised.