Last week saw a ton of great matchups that made for some good early football action. It was a nice plunge into what we’re going to be watching this season. Now, let’s dive into this week’s exciting matchups and players to keep your eye on.
Player to Watch
Former Alabama Heisman winning running back Derrick Henry has been relatively tame in his first two seasons with the Tennessee Titans. But that could be about to change in a big way. The Titans moved on from the previous Mike Mularkey Exotic Smashmouth scheme and are now operating with more freedom under Matt Lefleur’s system. Lefleur worked his magic in Los Angeles last season with the Rams and is a huge reason why last week’s Player to Watch, Todd Gurley, had such good numbers.
If Lefleur can create the same type of magic in Nashville, then Derrick Henry will be vital to that success. He’ll be getting help from free agent signee, Dion Lewis, who is going to provide a much-needed passing threat out of the backfield. Henry isn’t a weak receiver, but he lacks the shiftiness to throw off defenders in tight quarters.
On paper, the duo appears to be one of the best in the league. With his size and speed, expect Henry to be one of the league leaders in yards after contact.
Games of the Week
Patriots vs. Panthers
The Patriots are a team we covered Week 1. They are the perennial AFC favorites and that fact doesn’t appear to change this season. We mentioned a player from Georgia that was going to be eyeing a starting role this season, Isaiah Wynn. Unfortunately, he injured his Achilles and is out for the season. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots fill his void on the offensive line going forward.
Cam Newton is the heart and soul of the Panther squad. He’s had an up and down career and has pretty much settled into a mediocre passer who relies on his athleticism and big-play ability to march his team down the field. He’s got some weapons to play with this year. A big year from sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey could be all Newton needs to take Carolina to the playoffs. A defensive player you should know is first-year defensive back out of Tennessee, Rashaan Gaulden. Most fans probably remember him as the guy flipping off Alabama fans in the Knoxville end zone last season. That sort of stunt hurt his draft stock but make no mistake the Panthers have found themselves a solid defender. He projects well at either safety or nickel. The injury to veteran Da’Norris Searcy, however, has opened up an opportunity for the rookie at safety.
Fri 8/24 – 7:30 pm ET
Final Score 31-27 Patriots
Lions vs. Buccaneers
Matthew Stafford and the Lions are looking to take all their young talent to the playoffs this season. The former Georgia Bulldog has been a consistent producer at quarterback during his tenure in Detroit. He is always a solid fantasy choice for those who need a value pick. Second-year linebacker out of Tennessee, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, has been impressive so far after bulking up in the offseason. He appears to have solidly locked down a starting spot alongside Florida alum Jarrad Davis.
Former Aggie, Mike Evans is hoping for a bounce-back this season after a rough 2017 campaign. He’s still a top-five receiver in the league though. Former Alabama tight end OJ Howard is looking to make an impact in year two. He was primarily a first-round draft pick because of one breakout game at Alabama. He undoubtedly has the skill set to become a dominant tight end in the league. His stats last season are a visible sign of his ability. If the offense gets back on track this year, expect Howard to have a prominent role in the success.
Fri 8/24 – 8:00 pm ET- CBS
Texans vs. Rams
I’m convinced Jadeveon Clowney isn’t a human being. The defensive end out of South Carolina has been on a steady incline after being selected number one overall in 2014 and is poised for a breakout year. His main goal should be to stay healthy. Being paired up with a healthy JJ Watt would make anyone’s life easy but it could make Clowney unstoppable. Another Gamecock who is on the up is wide receiver, Bruce Ellington. He is leading the chase for the starting slot position and has been building a nice chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Todd Gurley was our player to watch last week. He is the motor that makes that offense go. He has the starter spot locked down, but the backup position is wide open, for now. Rookie running back out of Tennessee, John Kelly, has impressed early. So far in the preseason, he’s the team’s leading rusher with 133 yards on 31 carries. If Los Angeles can figure out a way to engineer him some touches alongside Gurley, I could see Kelly being one of the top rookie rushers at the end of the season.
Sat 8/25 – 4:00 pm ET
49ers vs. Colts
The latest sensation at quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo. He’ll be looking to prove he’s worth the $137 million that San Francisco just gave him. Alabama linebacker Rueben Foster has been in the headlines all offseason. With all that behind him, the 49ers are just hoping he can keep being the dynamic player that he is. Another defensive player to keep an eye on is rookie defensive back, Emmanuel Moseley. The Tennessee product has been making plays all preseason and will be vying for a roster spot. His diving interception in week two certainly won’t hurt his chances of securing that spot.
Another quarterback looking to prove himself is Andrew Luck. He is finally playing after a what seems like an eternity. If he can stay healthy and shake off the rust, then he should be able to have a good season. Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins has come out of nowhere as a candidate for starter at running back. He was a dynamic player during his time at Oxford, but due to a loaded draft class, he wasn’t selected until the 5th round. He’s a player to remember once the season starts.
Sat 8/25 – 4:30 pm ET
Cardinals vs. Cowboys
We’ve already covered the Cowboys and their roster this preseason. They look like a strong contender but are sorely lacking in receiver depth. Dak Prescott and the offense will need some magic from Ezekiel Elliot and the ground game if they want to make a playoff run. Bo Scarborough had a rough game last week after an impressive performance in week one. He will try and prove he can be a consistent weapon against the Cardinals defense in week three.
The Cardinals are trying to rebuild and move on from the Carson Palmer/Bruce Arians era. They drafted UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in the first round to speed along the transition. They also nabbed Aggie receiver Christian Kirk in the first round. He’s the all-time leading receiver at Texas A&M, and he should be a steady producer in the NFL. He had a standout performance last week against the Saints. He finished with four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. On defense, LSU product Patrick Peterson will be looking to shut down the Cowboys offense. Peterson is the rare player who is so good that nobody appreciates how good he actually is. I’m looking at you Lebron haters.
Sunday 8/26 – 8:00 pm ET- NBC
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