We’re in the midst of the second full week of preseason football. With three weeks remaining before the regular-season opener, expect more starters and names you know to be playing this week.
On Friday, the meeting between the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals was a college reunion, with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes taking on his college coach at Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury. But neither Mahomes nor Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray showed much in a quarter of work, and Mahomes was intercepted on his final pass.
Saturday saw the bulk of the action with 10 games scheduled. The day started with an afternoon showdown between the Buffalo Bills and Chicago Bears, followed by rookie QB Zach Wilson and the New York Jets facing the Green Bay Packers. The night slate featured a Texas-sized battle between the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys in “Jerry World” and the Las Vegas Raiders (arguably the most popular team in Los Angeles) taking on the Los Angeles Rams (who want that title).
The Odell Beckham Jr. bowl between the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns is one of two contests on Sunday, while Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars visit the New Orleans Saints on Monday.
Standout performer: Bills QB Mitchell Trubisky, 220 yards, TD
Going into Saturday’s game, one could have argued the Bills’ defensive line was their most improved group this offseason. After their blowout win over the Bears, however, that honor might go to the quarterback room. Mitchell Trubisky torched his former team, leading four straight touchdown drives to start the game while completing 20 of 28 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown in the first half. If Josh Allen should ever miss time this season, the Bills’ offense appears to be in good hands. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: vs. Packers (1 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
There is no reason to overreact in the preseason, but veteran Andy Dalton failed to silence fans screaming for Chicago to start rookie quarterback Justin Fields when the regular season opens. After the offense went three-and-out in both of Dalton’s series last week, the offense looked even worse on Saturday against Buffalo until Dalton connected with Rodney Adams for a 73-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Dalton’s numbers were OK (11-of-17 for 146 yards, one touchdown, one interception), but outside of that one exciting TD pass, the Bears’ offense was unproductive and out of sorts virtually the entire first half. Dalton’s interception at the end of the second quarter — when the intended target clearly slipped on his route — further infuriated a fan base already calling for Fields to take over. With starters unlikely to play in the preseason finale, the Bears’ offense will open the regular season without having accomplished much of anything during preseason games. — Jeff Dickerson
Next game: at Titans (7 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Jets QB Zach Wilson, 128 passing yards, 2 TD
Rookie QB Zach Wilson took another positive step in his growth process, playing a near-flawless game against the Packers. His stats were good (9-for-11, 128 yards, 2 TDs), but it’s the way he played that was impressive. He played well on third down, delivered an outstanding off-platform throw to Corey Davis for 27 yards and looked off the safety on an 18-yard scoring pass to Tyler Kroft. In six preseason series, Wilson has no three-and-out possessions — impressive for a rookie. The only concern: Wilson has yet to face a starting defense in the preseason, so it’s important to keep things in perspective. In reality, he may not face a starting defense until Week 1 at the Carolina Panthers. — Rich Cimini
Next game: vs Bills (1 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Kurt Benkert‘s effective showing in Saturday’s loss to the Jets wasn’t enough to supplant Jordan Love as the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback. As it turns out, Benkert’s productivity could not have changed that. As soon as Love is healthy, he’s Aaron Rodgers‘ primary backup, according to coach Matt LaFleur. Love wasn’t cleared to return from his shoulder strain, so Benkert got the start. He led two touchdown drives, including a 19-play, 10-minute drive in which Benkert actually tripped over right guard Royce Newman‘s foot and fell down on two straight plays. As Benkert put it, “That drive could’ve went to crap but didn’t.” At this point, the questions are: a) whether Love will be cleared in time for next week’s preseason finale at Buffalo and b) if they keep a third QB (Benkert) on the roster. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: at Eagles (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Dolphins LB Sam Eguavoen, 11 tackles, four sacks, four quarterback hurries, four tackles for loss
The Dolphins played a lot of starters in the first half Saturday night against the Falcons. The good? Miami looked strong. The not-as-good? The Dolphins did it mostly against Atlanta’s second unit. Still, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa looked sharp throughout his performance, completing 16 of 23 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. He hit receivers in stride and followed up what he did in joint practices, working with Mike Gesicki, Jaylen Waddle and Jakeem Grant Sr.
The Dolphins escaped a major problem as Waddle got hurt in the first half, but returned a series later. Miami also wasn’t great against Atlanta’s defensive pressure — which came from all angles despite the preseason nature of the game. Considering who was on the field for each team, that’s something the Dolphins will have to work on.–Michael Rothstein
Next game: at Bengals (4 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
Considering the Atlanta Falcons sat the majority of their expected starters, hanging in there with the majority of Miami’s top-line players was a potential positive sign for Atlanta’s questionable depth. Defensive pressure continued to come — Jonathan Bullard had a sack, and there was often pressure on Miami starter Tua Tagovailoa — mirroring what was shown in joint practices during the week.
As for what any of this means? Tough to say, although Atlanta could end up having to figure out the quarterback depth chart on the fly if current backup quarterback A.J. McCarron ‘s right knee injury is bad. The Falcons would either rely on undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks or someone not yet on the roster. Atlanta would be in trouble no matter what if starting quarterback Matt Ryan were unable to play, but this just accentuates the situation. –Michael Rothstein
Next game: vs Browns (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
Standout performer: Ravens QB Tyler Huntley, 187 yards passing, 23 yards rushing
Tyler Huntley strengthened his grip on the Ravens’ backup quarterback job with an efficient effort. After starting 0-for-4 with one interception, Huntley completed 24 of his next 30 passes for 187 yards. He also showed Lamar Jackson-like mobility with 23 yards rushing. Huntley’s numbers would’ve been more impressive if his nicely thrown 26-yard pass wasn’t dropped by Tylan Wallace. Huntley played all but the final two minutes of the game because Trace McSorley is out for the rest of the preseason with a back injury. The Ravens have now won 19 straight preseason games. That ties Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, who won 19 in a row from 1959 to 1962. –Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Washington (7 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Whether quarterback Sam Darnold turns his career around remains to be seen. He played one series in his preseason debut, a 20-3 loss to the Ravens, and went 1-for-2 for 16 yards. What remains evident is the Panthers have not solved their red-zone issues. They failed to score after having a first down at the Baltimore 6 on the opening drive by Darnold. They missed a field goal on Will Grier‘s only trip inside the 20, earning a talk from head coach Matt Rhule. That left them 1-for-7 in the preseason on touchdowns in the red zone after finishing 28th in the NFL in that category last season. On a positive note, Grier seemed to close the gap on PJ Walker for the backup job, going 11-for-14 for 144 yards. –Todd Archer
Next game: vs Steelers (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
Standout performer: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 137 yards, 2 TD
Ben Roethlisberger had a vintage performance in his preseason debut, completing 8 of 10 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns en route to a perfect passer rating. He aired the ball out at times, completing a 43-yard pass with a pass that traveled over 38 yards in the air — his longest pass in terms of air yards since Week 13 of the 2018 season, per Next Gen Stats. The ball was still a little underthrown, but he largely proved that his arm strength is closer to normal after a 2020 season marked by short throws. Saturday was Roethlisberger’s first opportunity to work with OC Matt Canada in a game setting, and though a small sample size, it seems the pair work well together — something that bodes well for the regular season. –Brooke Pryor
Next game: at Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
The Detroit Lions were short-handed without QB Jared Goff, Pro Bowl TE T.J. Hockenson plus RBs D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams — and it showed early on. By the end of the first quarter, the Lions were in a 14-0 hole. It wasn’t until the fourth that the team was able to get on the board, but showed some fight, with a strong 7-yard rushing touchdown by Godwin Igwebuike, followed by a 10-yard TD pass from David Blough to Javon McKinley. Detroit outscored the Steelers 20-3 in the final period. Blough completed 12-of-17 passing attempts for 143 yards. The Lions are 0-2 so far in preseason action. –Eric Woodyard
Next game: vs Colts (7 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
Standout performer: Texans RB Mark Ingram, 24 yards, 7 carries, 1 TD
One of the first things new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith emphasized to his unit at the start of the team’s offseason program was the need to take the ball away. Last season, Houston ranked last in the NFL with nine total takeaways. In Saturday night’s 20-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, the Texans forced four more turnovers, bringing their total to seven in two preseason games. Safety Lonnie Johnson intercepted a pass from Cowboys fourth-string quarterback Ben DiNucci in the third quarter and ran 53 yards for a touchdown.
The defense’s ability to create takeaways might be even more important this season because of the way the offense has struggled at times during training camp and in the first two preseason games. Yes, it’s just the preseason, but Houston was 0-for-10 on third downs on Saturday against Dallas. –Sarah Barshop
Next game: vs Buccaneers (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
The Dallas Cowboys know Dak Prescott is their starter, but they might have some questions about his backup. After Garrett Gilbert struggled in two series Saturday vs. Houston, he was replaced by Cooper Rush, who threw two first-half touchdown passes and completed 10 of 12 passes for 97 yards. Gilbert has taken all of the starter’s reps in Prescott’s absence in practice, but he tripped coming off the line of scrimmage on the second play and was sacked then lost a fumble on the third. Rush served as Prescott’s primary backup in 2017-19 but has thrown just three passes in his career. At the very least he has put himself in contention to take the job from Gilbert, who started one game a year ago. –Todd Archer
Next game: at Jaguars (4 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
Standout performer: Colts WR Dezmon Patmon, 4 receptions, 60 yards
Colts quarterback Jacob Eason waited until the final two series of Saturday’s game against Minnesota to potentially move back into the driver’s seat to be the starter if Carson Wentz isn’t ready for the start of the regular season. Eason shook off a horrible start when he entered the game midway through the second quarter to lead the Colts on a 12-play, 69-yard drive that ended with the game-winning field goal. The Colts needed to see that from Eason because neither he or Sam Ehlinger looked like they were wanting to seize control of the biggest competition on the roster.
Ehlinger, the sixth-round rookie out of Texas, started against the Vikings after coming off the bench against Carolina. He failed to take advantage of having all of the offensive skill position players available minus receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle and running back Jonathan Taylor. Ehlinger led the Colts into Minnesota territory twice for six points, but he also threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown by Vikings linebacker Troy Dye.
Colts coach Frank Reich said he would like to have a better idea who their starter will be in Week 1 heading into the preseason finale. Right now the leader appears to be Eason unless Wentz makes some substantial steps in his recovery from foot surgery. –Mike Wells
Next game: at Lions (7 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
The Vikings offense hasn’t scored a touchdown in eight quarters of preseason action. Kirk Cousins went 5-for-7 for 23 yards in three series that featured checkdowns, running back screens and a handful of passes to backup tight end Brandon Dillon. It wasn’t until the two-minute drive in the first half that Jake Browning — whose dismal preseason performances seemed to leave the door open for Kellen Mond to enter the QB2 race — connected with a wide receiver. Browning struggled and was replaced in the second half by Mond, whose night was also forgettable.
Beyond this preseason loss to Indianapolis, which could be Cousins’ only action before Week 1, the offense has had a rough go in recent weeks. Cousins didn’t look like he saw the field very clearly and has been up and down throughout practices. –Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Chiefs (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
Standout performer: Titans DB Elijah Molden 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended
The Titans finally got to see their young defensive backs Elijah Molden and Caleb Farley in game action. Molden was one of the most active players on the defense, especially from the nickel position. Tennessee sent him on blitzes and he made it pay off by finding his way to the quarterback. In one series, Molden registered two plays for negataive yardage, including a sack on Kyle Trask.
Molden seems to be tailor-made for the nickel position and should get plenty of action next week against the Chicago Bears. On the other hand, Dillon Radunz really struggled at tackle against Tampa Bay pass rusher Joe Tryon. Keep an eye on where the Titans use Radunz next week. –Turron Davenport
Next game: vs. Bears (7 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
After two days of extensive work against the Titans, Bruce Arians rested nearly every starter with the exception of tight end O.J. Howard and right guard Alex Cappa, who are both working their way back from season-ending injuries. The ball bounced out of Howard’s hands three times and he was beaten in pass protection on a sack of quarterback Ryan Griffin. In extended playing time, rookie quarterback Kyle Trask went 13-of-26 for 131 passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, although he connected with Cyril Grayson on a beautiful 35-yard pass play. They’re in no rush to move Trask along, but he hasn’t shown enough yet to close the door on Griffin to move into the third quarterback spot.
On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman and core special teamer Pat O’Connor had a big night, with a sack, two tackles for a loss and a QB hit. Mr. Irrelevant Grant Stuard also redeemed himself from some struggles last week, finishing with a team-leading six tackles, a sack, three tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit. –Jenna Laine
Next game: at Houston (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Teddy Bridgewater, 105 yards passing, 1 TD
In a preseason when the Broncos’ defense still has not surrendered a touchdown in two games, all eyes are still going to be on the quarterbacks.
At least until coach Vic Fangio makes the call on a starter for the regular season. In Saturday night’s 30-3 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Teddy Bridgewater flourished with the starters as Drew Lock had done the week before. Bridgewater led two touchdown drives in his two possessions, was 9-of-11 passing for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Lock didn’t fare as well with the Broncos backups against the Seahawks — he led three field goal drives in five possessions.
When asked about a decision, Fangio said “it won’t be (Sunday), the earliest it could be would be early next week. –Jeff Legwold
Next game: vs Rams (9:05 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Don’t hold your breath on a reunion with K.J. Wright, even though the Seahawks suffered another injury at linebacker. The issue there has been and continues to be with their depth. It took another hit when Ben Burr-Kirven was carted off the field after hurting his knee on the opening kickoff, a bad start to a night that had little in the way of positives for Seattle. Bobby Wagner (who didn’t play Saturday), Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor remain healthy, so there still isn’t a spot for Wright in their starting lineup. And if there isn’t a starting spot for him, the Seahawks probably aren’t going to pay him starter money to come back. Given everything he’s accomplished and how well he’s played the past two seasons, it’s hard to imagine Wright signing a cheap deal just to be a backup. The return of one of the best players in franchise history would give Seahawks fans the warm and fuzzies, but it may not be realistic unless one of their starters goes down. –Brady Henderson
Next game: vs Chargers (10 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Nate Hobbs, 4 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 INT
Rookie Nate Hobbs has all but solidified the starting gig at slot corner after a pair of strong preseason games, including Saturday night in the Raiders’ 17-16 win at the Rams. Hobbs was figured to start the first two games with Nevin Lawson serving a two-game suspension to start the season, but he may hold on to the starting role once Lawson returns. The rookie’s impressive outing included a deep interception, diagnosing a pass in the flat to stick J.J. Koski for a 4-yard loss on 3rd and 11 from the Rams’ 7-yard line and finishing with four tackles. Hobbs also came close to blocking a field goal. The fifth-rounder was all over the field. –Paul Gutierrez
Next game: at 49ers (4 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
A week after Rams coach Sean McVay described the run game as “sloppy” in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Rams young running backs made some positive progress. Rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk rushed for 56 yards on seven carries, while second-year pro and undrafted free agent Xavier Jones rushed for 29 yards on seven carries. Funk and Jones’ development is critical as the Rams work to build depth in their backfield following the loss of rising star Cam Akers to a torn Achilles before the season. Funk and Jones are competing to backup now starter Darrell Henderson, who is not playing in the preseason. The duo will have one more opportunity to prove they can rise to the challenge or for the Rams’ front office to determine if they must shop the free agent market. –Lindsey Thiry
Next game: at Broncos (9:05 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Chiefs receiver Bryon Pringle: 4 receptions, 63 yards
Chris Jones continues to look like he’s primed for a big season. Jones had a sack against the Cardinals, giving him two in roughly three quarters of preseason play, and also deflected a pass and forced a fumble. The Chiefs need not worry about his position change to defensive end, particularly because his replacement at defensive tackle, Jarran Reed, also had a sack. — Adam Teicher
Next game: vs. Vikings (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
It’s easy to say “it’s the preseason, it doesn’t count,” but there were a couple of specific plays Friday night that could be of some concern for the Cardinals. In the first half, there was some sort of miscommunication between quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver Rondale Moore on one play and A.J. Green on another. Maybe it was just a kink that needs to be ironed out, but to be experiencing those types of mistakes this close to the regular season isn’t something to dismiss. The Cardinals’ first-team offense struggled. Murray completed just 1 of 4 passes for 2 yards and had one run for 8 yards. It might not matter, but it wasn’t pretty. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: at Saints (8 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Washington RB Jaret Patterson: 16 carries, 71 yards, TD
Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase will chalk the past 72 hours up as a learning experience. Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie got the better of the 2021 fifth overall pick during Wednesday’s practice. On Friday night against Washington, Chase dropped three targets — with all of them coming on third downs. Chase has struggled with drops throughout training camp. However, in his breakout 2019 season at LSU, he had a mere six drops on just 124 targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Chase’s struggles could be attributed to getting back into football rhythm after opting out of 2020 or just a rough couple of days. Either way, it’ll be something Chase will be looking to correct before the start of the regular season. — Ben Baby
Next game: vs. Dolphins (4 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
Washington’s offense should be better this season, but it did not have a consistent showing against the Bengals. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 96 yards but completed only 7 of 13 passes. The passing game lacked rhythm, though he did make a nice throw to Dyami Brown for 29 yards. The run game was inconsistent with Antonio Gibson; He’s a big back but is still learning to run using all of his power to be more effective in short-yardage situations. The back who stood out: undrafted rookie Jaret Patterson. He got some work with starters and also returned one kickoff for 37 yards. If Washington keeps four running backs, he’ll have to show he can help on special teams. But he continues to show he can run with patience and also some power, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. They might have found a gem. — John Keim
Next game: at Ravens (6 p.m. ET, Aug. 28)
Standout performer: Patriots QB Cam Newton: 8-of-9 passing for 103 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Cam Newton made his most decisive statement yet that he isn’t giving up the starting quarterback job, finishing 8-of-9 for 103 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions over three drives. Newton looked as comfortable as he’s been as a Patriot, albeit against the Eagles’ second-string defense, with his 28-yard TD to receiver Jakobi Meyers coming after Meyers gave him a hand signal before the snap to declare his intentions. That reflects a QB and WR operating at peak efficiency from a pre-snap communication standpoint. Meanwhile, Mac Jones had some notable highlights in relief, with his first drive covering 91 yards in 17 plays and chewing up 9:04 of the clock. Jones finished 13-of-19 for 146 yards over four drives. — Mike Reiss
Next game: at Giants (6 p.m. ET, Aug. 29)
Rookie receiver DeVonta Smith made his preseason debut and finished with two catches for 19 yards on four targets in one half of work. Much more important than the stat line was the fact that Smith moved well and didn’t appear to be held back by the left MCL sprain that kept him out of practice for two weeks. On his second catch of the night, he started inside, hit the brakes, and cut back out to beat cornerback Michael Jackson for a 10-yard reception, showing shades of his Heisman Trophy-winning form. It took some time to knock the rust off, as Smith’s night started with a couple drops on a pair of imperfect passes from Joe Flacco (who started for an ill Jalen Hurts) but Smith smoothed out as the game progressed and sprang open pretty consistently. All in all, it was a successful warm-up for the regular-season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 12. — Tim McManus
Next game: at Jets (7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 27)
New York Giants at Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network
San Francisco at Los Angeles Chargers, 7:30 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Jacksonville at New Orleans, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN