It’s Week 2 of the NFL preseason, which is about 100 percent more important than Week 1 but probably around 36 percent less important than Week 3 (my numbers are a little fuzzy on this). In any case, even though the games don’t mean anything in the standings, they mean everything in terms of roster-building, both in real life and in the fantasy football realm with peak draft period quickly approaching. So here’s a brief look at each game Saturday.
Point spreads via VegasInsider.com, for those of you who put the “degenerate” in “degenerate gambler.” All times EDT.
Titans (-3.5) vs. Panthers
Time, TV: 3 p.m., NFL Network.
Cam Newton won’t be playing for the Panthers, one day after having his surgically repaired shoulder reevaluated. Coach Ron Rivera said Newton looked “rusty” in practice Thursday, so Derek Anderson will get first-team reps for Carolina. This could be a recurring theme this month: Rivera has said it would be perfectly fine if Newton doesn’t play at all in the preseason. … The Titans’ vaunted offensive line gave up eight sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets, though quarterback Marcus Mariota and his formerly broken right fibula only took one of them (he bounced right up from it). Running back DeMarco Murray, the AFC’s leading rusher last season, was a very late scratch Saturday afternoon after sitting out the first two weeks of training camp with an ailing hamstring.
Bengals (+2.5) vs. Chiefs
Time: 7 p.m.
Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon looked good in Cincinnati’s preseason opener, a victory over the Bucs. He had six carries for 31 yards and one catch for 11 yards, with some of his snaps coming against Tampa Bay’s first-team defense. The Bengals have said that Mixon will receive more snaps as the preseason moves forward. It remains to be seen if incumbent running back Gio Bernard sees his first preseason game action on his surgically repaired knee. … Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was the subject of trade buzz this week, though Kansas City reportedly will hold on to the veteran. Smith will play the entire first half Saturday, with quarterback-of-the-future Patrick Mahomes taking the third quarter.
Cowboys (-5.5) vs. Colts
Time, TV: 7 p.m., NFL Network.
Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant are expected to play two to three series for the Cowboys, while Ezekiel Elliott probably won’t be making his preseason debut until next Saturday against the Raiders. Linebacker Jaylon Smith, Dallas’s second-round pick in 2016 who has yet to play in an NFL game after suffering a severe knee injury during his Notre Dame finale, also will finally see the field after sitting out all of last season. … The Colts have had a dismal training camp, with Andrew Luck still a question mark because of his bum shoulder and center Ryan Kelly suffering a foot injury that will keep him out for the start of the season, at the very least. Three wideouts and one tight end also have been battling injuries in camp, and quarterback Scott Tolzien (Luck’s replacement) hasn’t looked good.
Lions (-5.5) vs. Jets
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Like the Colts, the Lions have been banged-up in training camp, so third-round draft pick Kenny Golladay’s two-touchdown performance in the preseason opener was cause for excitement. He should see some snaps with the first team Saturday night. Detroit’s starters are expected to play the first quarter, and running back Ameer Abdullah should get more than the two carries he had in the preseason opener. … Quarterback Christian Hackenberg played eight series in the Jets’ preseason opener, and though his coaches didn’t give him the most ambitious plays to run, he did okay. Expect the same workload Saturday night, with Hackenberg eventually replacing journeyman starter Josh McCown at some point.
Redskins (-3) vs. Packers
Time, TV: 7:30 p.m., WRC-4/Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (in D.C. area only).
The Redskins’ offensive starters played just six snaps against the Ravens last week and did next to nothing. The second- and third-stringers weren’t any better, so Saturday’s game could indicated whether the power outage was simply a case of the preseason blahs or a problem that could linger. Read more about the Redskins here. … It’ll be something of a surprise if quarterback Aaron Rodgers takes the field for the Packers, as Coach Mike McCarthy seems to prefer giving his veteran a light preseason workload for a second straight season. Running back Ty Montgomery also is expected to sit with a leg injury, so expect to see rookie Jamaal Williams get a good amount of snaps.
Texans (-1.5) vs. Patriots
Time: 8 p.m.
The Texans will be without their top three wide receivers, as DeAndre Hopkins (foot), Braxton Miller (ankle) and Will Fuller (collarbone) all are nursing some sort of injury. So don’t expect too many fireworks from Houston’s offense, whether it’s Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Keep close eye on which gets more run from Coach Bill O’Brien. … Patriots offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks will likely get his first preseason game action at wide receiver after sitting out last week, and he’s reportedly had a strong training camp. Whether he and fellow newcomer Dwayne Allen get a chance to develop an in-game rapport with Tom Brady is up in the air: Bill Belichick wouldn’t say whether the star veteran will play in the Patriots’ first game back in Houston since their Super Bowl comeback.
49ers (-2.5) vs. Broncos
Time, TV: 10 p.m., NFL Network.
Brian Hoyer and San Francisco’s first-team offense should get about 20 snaps Saturday night. Wideout Marquise Goodwin, a former Olympic track and field athlete who came over to the 49ers from the Bills, has shown well in training camp and could be slotted into Kyle Shanahan’s offense the way Taylor Gabriel was in Atlanta, to good results. … Denver could be getting some sort of clarity on its quarterback situation after Saturday’s game, namely whether Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch will be its Week 1 starter. Lynch reportedly looked better this week in camp. Keep tabs later in the game on rookie running back De’Angelo Henderson, who had a 41-yard touchdown run in the Broncos’ preseason opener to distinguish himself among what’s become a very crowded Denver backfield.
Raiders (-3) vs. Rams
Time: 10 p.m.
Quarterback Derek Carr and 10 other Raiders starters will see their first preseason game snaps Saturday after sitting out the opener. Coach Jack Del Rio didn’t say how long Carr, Marshawn Lynch and the rest would play, but seemed to suggest all of the first quarter in remarks to reporters this week. The recently un-retired Lynch hasn’t seen an NFL field since a January 2016 playoff game for the Seahawks. … Wideout Sammy Watkins should get his first preseason action with the Rams after he was traded from the Bills. Don’t expect a whole lot as he continues to digest his new offense.
Cardinals (-3) vs. Bears
Time: 10 p.m.
Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians has been vocal in his disappointment in his team’s wideouts not named Larry Fitzgerald, and it looks as if Jaron Brown has replaced John Brown as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver. Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson will get more than the paltry number of snaps they received in the opener, perhaps staying on the field into the second quarter. … Bears quarterback Sean Glennon was dreadful in Chicago’s preseason opener, completing only 2 of 8 passes for 20 yards with an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Rookie Mitch Trubisky, meanwhile, completed 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown while also compiling three runs of at least 10 yards. Nevertheless, Trubisky is scheduled to see the field third after Glennon and Mark Sanchez.
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