We are onto Week 2 of the NFL preseason. Remember, there are only three weeks in the preseason this year, so this is the second-to-last tune-up before the start of the regular season.
The action gets underway with the Patriots vs. the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.
It will be interesting to see how most teams choose to approach their game this week. The second-to-last preseason game used to be the “dress rehearsal” for the starters, meaning they would play upwards of three quarters. However, with one fewer preseason game to evaluate the players at the bottom of the roster, it remains to be seen if that is still the case.
Let’s dive into Thursday’s matchup to try and identify some DFS value.
New England Patriots
The Patriots have three quarterbacks on their roster, and all three players are expected to play vs. the Eagles. All three players saw time in their first preseason contest, but Mac Jones was the clear winner in terms of snaps. He played 33 snaps, while Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer each played 14 or fewer.
I would expect Newton to see a few additional snaps vs. the Eagles, but Jones remains the favorite to lead the position group in playing time. Newton and Hoyer are both long-established veterans, while Jones is a rookie first-rounder. He is expected to take over at the quarterback position at some point in New England, so getting him as many reps as possible during the preseason makes sense.
The running back snaps were distributed fairly evenly in Week 1. Damien Harris and James White saw minimal playing time as the starters, while Sony Michel, Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor each saw between 13 and 16 snaps.
Stevenson stole the show with his massive performance – he racked up 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries – and the rookie fourth-rounder has an interesting skill set. He’s a big, physical runner who averaged 7.3 yards per carry at Oklahoma, and the Patriots’ running back coach has compared him to LeGarrette Blount.
Stevenson reportedly ripped off a 20-yard touchdown during Monday’s practice vs. the Eagles, so expect him to get another long look. He’ll garner the majority of the ownership at the position, so Michel and Taylor are viable pivots.
N’Keal Harry has reportedly shined during training camp, and he dominated the snaps at receiver for the Patriots in their first preseason game. He saw 36 snaps, and only one other player saw more than 17. Unfortunately, he didn’t turn that playing time into production, finishing with just one catch for four yards on one target.
Still, that level of playing time makes him an appealing bounce-back target vs. the Eagles.
Kristian Wilkerson was the other Pats’ receiver who saw big playing time in the preseason opener, and he led the team with six catches for 39 yards. However, he also had a drop in that contest, which has been an issue for Wilkerson all offseason. He easily leads the team in that department, so it’s possible he loses some playing time moving forward.
Tight end is normally a position to avoid in the single-game format during the preseason, but the Patriots could be an exception. Hunter Henry is out for an extended period with a shoulder injury, while Jonnu Smith and Matt LaCosse both missed Tuesday’s practice. If those two players are unable to suit up, it would leave only Devin Asiasi at the position. The Patriots’ tight ends combined for 56 snaps in Week 1, so Asiasi could provide some value if he plays most of them.
The Patriots D/ST and kicker Quinn Nordin are also solidly in play. Kickers and defenses provide big value during the preseason, where the games are lower-scoring and the quarterbacks more turnover-prone. Nick Folk has missed eight consecutive practices, so Nordin should handle all of the kicking duties vs. the Eagles.
The Eagles also played three quarterbacks in their first preseason game. Jalen Hurts started and played 10 snaps, Joe Flacco relieved him and played 23 snaps, and Nick Mullens played 13 snaps to finish the game. Flacco made the most of his playing time, racking up 178 passing yards and a touchdown.
Expect all three quarterbacks to get some playing time again on Thursday, but Hurts should play more vs. the Patriots. His stat line in his first game wasn’t great – 3-7 with 54 passing yards – but two of his incompletions were drops. He also didn’t provide much with his legs, which is an outlier. He’s one of the best rushing quarterbacks in the league, so expect some additional production in that department on Thursday.
Overall, Hurts stands out as the clear top QB target for the Eagles and one of the strongest options on the slate.
The Eagles barely ran the ball in their first preseason game. They finished with just 11 carries, and one of them was from Hurts. Miles Sanders didn’t suit up in that contest, while Boston Scott and Jordan Howard combined for just 10 snaps and two carries.
That left Kenneth Gainwell and Jason Huntley to split most of the small pie. Kerryon Johnson also factored into the equation in their last game, but he was recently cut from the roster. Gainwell is a fifth-round rookie, and he possesses a solid combination of college production and athleticism. He averaged 7.0 yards per carry in his first game, and I would peg him as their top option vs. the Patriots.
At receiver, first-round pick Devonta Smith returned to practice on Tuesday. He missed the first preseason game, but his status for this week’s matchup vs. the Patriots is unknown. It’s possible he could sit for a second-straight game, but head coach Nick Sirianni did stress the importance of players suiting up in the preseason recently.
I would bet on Smith playing on a limited basis, but be sure to monitor for updates.
Quez Watkins was one of the best producers at the position in Week 1 thanks to a 79-yard touchdown from Flacco. That said, his stat line was a little fluky. He was actually sixth on the team in snaps last week, trailing Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Andre Patton. Add Smith back into the equation and it’s going to be tough for Watkins to repeat.
I would expect the starters’ playing time to increase as Hurts plays more, making guys like Reagor, Ward and Fulgham more appealing.
Tight end is interesting for the Eagles. Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz should both see more playing time after combining for just 12 snaps in Week 1, but I’m not sure it’s enough to make either player viable. That said, they have reportedly been Hurts’ favorite targets during training camp, and the Eagles’ offense does heavily feature the tight end.
Tyree Jackson finished with a team-high five targets on just 20 snaps last week, and he’s now out for a minimum of eight weeks with a back injury.
Richard Rodgers could be the preferred target. He’s the most logical candidate to play a few additional snaps in place of Jackson, which could lead to a decent target share. You definitely don’t need to play an Eagles’ TE – tight ends score the fewest fantasy points on average during the preseason – but Rodgers is probably the guy if you must.
The Eagles D/ST and kicker Jake Elliott are also worth heavy consideration.
Pictured above: Joe Flacco (left) and Jalen Hurts
Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images