We've reached Week 3 of the preseason, commonly known as the regular season "dress rehearsal". It's been common in the past for teams to leave their starters in for upwards of two quarters in the third preseason game, but be careful not to overrate this dynamic. Certain coaches have already said they won't be playing their starters into the third quarter, and last year, Jonas Gray, Fozzy Whitaker, and Robert Turbin were the top running back scoring leaders, while Zach Mettenberger and Ryan Griffin topped the quarterback leaderboard.
New England at Carolina
If tonight's game truly is a dress rehearsal for the Patriots, they have an interesting choice to make at quarterback. The word is Tom Brady might see extended action tonight, but Jimmy Garoppolo, who leads all quarterbacks who have played two preseason games in both snaps and pass attempts, needs all the reps he can get in preparation for his (presumed) Week 1 start. If I had to choose between the two, I'd lean Garoppolo, who should see at least a half against Carolina's second and third stringers.
The problem with each of the Patriots' quarterbacks will be who they're passing the ball to. We know Bradon LaFell and Josh Boyce won't play. Brandon Gibson, who leads Patriots' wide receivers in snaps this preseason, was placed on IR earlier this week. The Patriots have held Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and Scott Chandler out of all their preseason games so far, and may do the same tonight. New England's offensive schemes are notoriously complex, making it fair to wonder how much we'll see new acquisition Reggie Wayne tonight. That leaves Danny Amendola, Christopher Harper, Jonathan Kreuse, and possibly Aaron Dobson, who returned to practice this week. If Dobson is healthy enough to go, I like his chances at a lot of playing time - keep an eye on the inactives. Amendola may see the field a lot out of necessity, and makes for a decent play given Draftkings' PPR scoring. If I had to play a New England receiver tonight, it would be Harper, who's been heavily involved in both Pats' preseason games, and scored a touchdown last week.
James White has been dominating snaps for New England this preseason, He hasn't run very well (2.1 YPA), but made up for it Week 1 by leading the team in receiving yards, and in Week 2 by scoring a touchdown. I like White ahead of Jonas Gray and LaGarrette Blount tonight, though Blount did receive 13 carries on his 18 snaps last week, and figures to log more playing time tonight.
There's not much to see for the Pats at tight end if Gronk and Chandler are out, unless you want to cross your fingers, close your eyes and pray for a Michael Hoomanawanui touchdown.
In the case of the Carolina Panthers, it seems there's no question the starters will play into the third quarter. Cam Newton can be started with confidence, as he looks to bounce back from a dismal start against the Dolphins last week.
Devin Funchess returned to practice this week, which suggests he should suit up tonight. Funchess led the team in receiving in the only preseason game he played, and it looks like he'll assume Kelvin Benjamin's role in the offense. Benjamin caught a touchdown from Newton in the first preseason game. Funchess is a good play tonight, just make sure to check the inactives prior to kickoff. With the exception of tight end Greg Olsen, I'm not touching any other Carolina receiver tonight, though Philly Brown is a worthy a GPP flier.
Jonathan Stewart is in play tonight as Carolina's feature back. Cameron Artis-Payne had a strong game last week, and should see plenty of work spelling Stewart and in the second half. However, there's enough running back value on tonight's slate, I'll probably pass on both Carolina runners.
We'll have to rapid fire through the other two games since I'm running short on time.
Tennessee at Kansas City
Zach Mettenberger - Mettenberger has looked awesome this preseason, completing 75% of his passes, on his way to 220 passing yards and two touchdowns through two games. Ken Whisenhunt has said with the short turnaround (the Titans played four nights ago), he doesn't plan on playing his starters into the third quarter. Look for Mettenberger to keep it up against KC's backups.
Antonio Andrews - David Cobb has been ruled out with a calf injury, leaving Bishop Sankey and Andrews to handle most of the carries for the Titans. While Sankey flashed in last week's game, Andrews was once again solid, and is still receiving praise from the coaching staff. With Cobb out, Andrews should see extended run against the Chiefs' scrub defenders late in the game.
Justin Hunter - Dorial Green-Beckham sprained his ankle and won't play tonight. Hunter leads the Titans' in preseason snaps, and is always a threat for a big play. Reserve him for GPPs.
Alex Smith - The Chiefs starters will play into the third quarter, and they are the offense to stack tonight, starting with Smith. Tennessee's defense is terrible to begin with, and now they're woefully thin in the secondary due to injuries to cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. Plus, they could be tired from playing on a short turnaround. Smith is my #1 QB play tonight.
Jeremy Maclin - Maclin caught a touchdown and tied for the team lead in targets last week. He's got to be part of any Chiefs stack.
Knile Davis - Jamaal Charles hasn't played this preseason, and even with this being a dress rehearsal for the Chiefs, I have to believe they'll want to keep the bubble wrap on their best player. Davis should see the majority of the work with the first team tonight. Tennessee's first string doesn't defend the run much better than it does the pass.
Travis Kelce - Kelce is so efficient, he doesn't need much playing time to be effective. If he's out there for three quarters, expect at least two big plays that will make him worth your while tonight, with upside for much more.
Kansas City Defense - Picking a preseason defense is tough, but KC is at home, against a weak opponent, who's playing on short rest.
Detroit at Jacksonville
Golden Tate - The Lions are expected to play their starters for at least a half, but Calvin Johnson isn't expected to play at all in the preseason. Any time Tate is on the field without Calvin, you want him in your lineup.
Zach Zenner - Zenner won you money last week, and with Joique Bell still not practicing, he should once again be carrying the load for the Lions in the second half. Ameer Abdullah will be high-owned, but he's expected to get more playing time this week, and is in play as well.
Allen Robinson - Robinson led the Jags in receiving last week on limited snaps. With added playing time, I like him for a big game in front of the home crowd tonight.