Preseason Week 2 is here, and if any week of the preseason counts, it's this one. The teams that do take the preseason seriously tend to use Week 2 as their real warm-up opportunity, with Week 3 more about deciding those end-of-roster battles.
So, if we're going to see teams look more or less like they will once the games matter, we're going to see it this week. And, just like we did last week, I've got a preview of every game on the schedule right here for you. I've tried to figure out, as best as I can, which teams will use their starters, and given at least one key thing to keep an eye out for in every game, starting tonight with the Browns and Eagles going head to head.
I suggest not doing your drafts until at least after this weekend's games, because we'll surely see at least a few injuries to Fantasy-relevant players – I'm just being realistic here – but if you are drafting, make sure you check out our Draft Prep page on CBSSports.com, where you can find the latest from the Fantasy Football Today team. That includes my latest rankings updates, Sleepers, Breakouts, and Busts from Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings, plus all of our mock drafts and a whole bunch more. We're ready for you to draft!
Now, let's get ready for Preseason Week 2:
What to Watch in Preseason Week 2
Browns at Eagles – Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
Starters playing? Dorian Thompson-Robinson is starting for the Browns at QB, so I'd expect we won't see many key names on that side. The Eagles talked about treating their joint practices with the Browns this week as a game, so I'd be surprised if we saw many starters out there this week.
What to watch: Which Eagles RBs play?
Last week, it was Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott on the sidelines, while newcomers D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny played early on. Was that just because Gainwell and Scott already know the offense, or was it a hint at the pecking order here? , and another week where Penny looks like a clear second-teamer will drop him way down in Fantasy drafts. I've gone from targeting him as a potential starter to only viewing him as a bench option (with upside, of course).
Starters playing? The Giants didn't play their starters in Week 1 while the Panthers did, and I haven't seen anything official to indicate things will be different this week. I'd like to see the Giants first-team offense at some point this preseason, given how little clarity we've gotten on their wide-open wide receiver competition so far.
What to watch: Can the Panthers protect Bryce Young?
The Panthers line was overwhelmed for much of the preseason opener against the Jets, and Young took a beating as a result, taking a sack and three hits on seven dropbacks – backup Matt Corral was also sacked four times. I expect this offense to go through some growing pains, but they'll need the offensive line to look more cohesive if there's going to be any value here. With Miles Sanders sidelined by a groin injury that may keep him out through the preseason – thus limiting our chances to see how much they'll use him in the passing game – the line is the key thing to watch here.
Starters playing? Joe Burrow is almost certainly going to skip the entire preseason with that calf injury, and I'd expect we don't see many other starters either. The Falcons will use their starters, including QB Desmond Ridder, this weekend after sitting them out in the opener.
What to watch: How does Desmond Ridder look?
The Falcons sat pretty much all of their starters in Week 1, which was a surprise given how much is riding on whether Ridder is ready to be the starter. Coach Arthur Smith has been pretty complimentary of Ridder, but until we see him in real competition, we can't really have a sense of how much Ridder has grown. If he's even competent, there's a lot of upside for both Drake London and Kyle Pitts in this offense; if he's not … well, you saw how Marcus Mariota held the passing game back last season.
Starters playing? Last week, Doug Pederson said, "I'm a big believer in the starters playing," so I'd guess we'll see them out there this week, with rest likely coming next week. I haven't seen anything on the Lions, but with Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown leaving practice Wednesday, I'd guess we won't see them, at least.
What to watch: How do the Lions use their running backs?
We saw a solid amount of Jahmyr Gibbs in his preseason debut last week, but with David Montgomery sitting out, we didn't really learn anything about how they plan to split reps here. I'd love to see at least a few drives with both backs being utilized, because I think there's room for both to be very good for Fantasy in this offense.
Starters playing? I'd bet on the Texans continuing to give rookie C.J. Stroud preseason reps this week, especially since they haven't officially named him the starter – they'll do so soon enough. As for the Dolphins? Given Tua Tagovailoa's injury history and the offensive line problems they've been having in camp, I'd be a little surprised if he played much if at all, this preseason.
What to watch: Does Tank Dell continue to ascend?
If Dell has another productive game this week, expect the hype to really start building. He scored (albeit with Mills in the game) in the preseason opener, and in drills against the Dolphins defense Wednesday had three more touchdowns, and clearly looks like he's emerging as one of the best options in this passing game. The Texans didn't play veterans Noah Brown or Robert Woods last week, a possible sign they are locked into significant roles, which means there might not be a ton of available snaps for Dell, Nico Collins, and John Metchie. Another big game might lock Dell into a primary role – and the late-round sleeper range in Fantasy drafts.
Starters playing? Josh Allen made his preseason debut in Week 2 last season, and I'd expect the same here. The Steelers figure to give Kenny Pickett a longer look this week after he played (quite well, it's worth noting!) just one series last week.
What to watch: How do the Bills use James Cook?
Cook played every snap with the "starters" in Week 1, carrying the ball four times with a touchdown on his six snaps. I've been skeptical of Cook's breakout hype, but if he's going to be the clear lead back here, there's certainly a path. If this is the Bills dress rehearsal and Cook plays most of the snaps with the starters, he might jump into the top-five rounds in ADP – he's been RB20 with an ADP of 66.2 over the past week in NFC drafts.
Starters playing? I'd bet on starters from both teams playing a decent amount this week. Justin Fields played two series last week, but attempted just three passes thanks to a couple of big, drive-ending plays.
What to watch: How do both quarterbacks look?
I tend to prefer looking at playing time trends in the preseason, but there aren't really many position battles of note here – whether Khalil Herbert remains the RB1 for the Bears is one notable exception we'll watch.
But for the most part, we just want to keep an eye on the progress of both QBs here. Fields and Anthony Richardson may have the most rushing upside of any QBs in the league, but they'll need to be competent passers to live up to their full Fantasy potential. We probably won't see many designed runs for either, so let's keep an eye on how both look as passers.
Buccaneers at Jets – Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Starters playing? Last week, Baker Mayfield got the start, with the expectation that Kyle Trask will start this week. The Jets have serious offensive line issues and Aaron Rodgers has had issues with both of his calves during the preseason, so I'd bet we don't see much from the starters here. Especially with Breece Hall still working his way back and Dalvin Cook not up to speed yet.
What to watch: Can someone emerge as the clear leader in TB's QB competition?
Mayfield is probably the leader in the competition for now, but it's not clear if that's because of his experience as a starter or because he's actually earned it. Anytime you're talking about a competition, especially at QB, you want to see someone active win the job, rather than be named the starter by default. It seems like the latter is where things are in Tampa right now.
Starters playing? Earlier this week, Packers coach Matt LaFleur made it sound like Jordan Love would play in either of the team's final two preseason games, and I'm betting it'll be this one. The Patriots haven't said whether Mac Jones and the starters will be playing this week, but he played in Week 2 last season, so I'm expecting similar usage this time around.
What to watch: Do the Patriots show their hand at RB?
Ezekiel Elliott made his debut at practice Wednesday, which doesn't leave much time for him to get fully up to speed in time for this game. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he didn't play, but I also wouldn't mind the Patriots throwing him and Rhamondre Stevenson out there for a few series just to get our first sense of how they might use them. Many Fantasy analysts aren't expecting Elliott to be much of a factor here, and I think that's probably reasonable, but not a guarantee; I think Elliott could play enough of a role to complicate Stevenson's path to RB1 upside, at least. I'd prefer to at least get a glimpse of the duo in action before most drafts happen.
Starters playing? The focus for the Titans should be on the backup QB battle yet again, with Malik Willis looking like he has the edge over rookie WIll Levis. I wouldn't expect to see many veteran starters on either side here – we also won't see Jordan Addison, who is in the concussion protocol as of Wednesday, though hopefully, his absence won't extend much longer than this week. One player we almost certainly won't see this weekend is Treylon Burks, who left practice on a cart after going down with an apparent knee injury. We don't have any more details than that, but it's obviously concerning.
What to watch: Does Ty Chandler run away with the backup RB job for Minnesota?
Alexander Mattison is locked into the starting role, but we've never seen him handle a starter's workload full time in the NFL, so the backup job here will matter. And, after Preseason Week 1, it sure looked like Chandler was the clear top option behind Mattison. Kene Nwangwu didn't play last week with an injury, so it's possible this is still an open competition, but at this point, it sure feels like Chandler's primary job right now is to convince the Vikings they don't need to add another veteran back to the mix.
Starters playing? The Cardinals have a few veterans who may not play at all in the preseason, but given their youth and the QB competition, I'd expect to see most of them out there this weekend. The Chiefs typically use Week 2 of the preseason as their warm up game, so we should see them out there.
What to watch: Which WRs play with Patrick Mahomes?
Mahomes played six snaps in the first preseason game, and only four wide receivers got on the field Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Syy Moore, Justin Watson, and Rashee Rice. Let's say those four are the current leaders in the playing time battle, with Richie James and Justyn Ross on the outside looking in for now. Does that change this week? If not, I think we can safely move Moore into the top 40 at wide receiver, while Rice will be a very viable late-round target. Of course, the looming return of Kadarius Toney, expected back from knee surgery by Week 1, does complicate things.
Starters playing? It's not clear if either side will play their starters, though I'd bet on seeing the Broncos out there; we do know Javonte Williams will play this week, and I'd guess he won't be with the backups. As for the 49ers, I'd bet on seeing Sam Darnold and Trey Lance play most of the QB snaps as they try to figure out who the backup to Brock Purdy is at this point.
What to watch: How does the Broncos offense look?
Again, I generally try to avoid these kinds of preseason observations because performance really doesn't matter very much in the preseason. But the Broncos are an offense that really has to earn back our trust after a miserable first season for Russell Wilson in Denver, and while dominating against the 49ers likely backups won't prove Sean Payton has turned things around, you'd rather see that than the alternative.
Starters playing? Matthew Stafford is actually healthy this year in camp, and the Rams will likely look to keep him that way by holding him out of games. Cooper Kupp won't play due to his hamstring injury, and I'd be surprised if Cam Akers did, but the Rams don't necessarily have anyone else I'd be shocked to see out there. It's not clear if the Raiders will get their starters out there yet, but I'd expect at least a series this week.
What to watch: Do any of the Rams skill players look ready to take advantage of an opportunity?
We know that Cooper Kupp is going to get around 30% of the targets in the passing game, while Cam Akers should get all of the carries he can handle. Beyond them, there is very little in the way of proven talent here. Kyren Williams has garnered some positive reviews in training camp as the potential passing downs back, while I'd like to see Puka Nacua continue his solid preseason and emerge as a viable alternative to Kupp. Nacua played with the backups last week while Kupp, Van Jefferson, and Tutu Atwell all had the night off, so he's still got some work, but he's probably my favorite sleeper in this offense if I have to pick one.
Starters playing? The Cowboys won't play their starters in the preseason, and I'd be surprised if we saw much from the Seahawks either – DK Metcalf played three snaps last preseason, and Tyler Lockett played 11.
What to watch: Is Deuce Vaughn a real factor?
Vaughn has been a big storyline since he had 56 yards on 11 touches with a touchdown in his preseason debut. The diminutive rookie back played mostly in the second half even with most of the starters getting the night off, so he's behind Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle on the RB depth chart right now. Was his performance last week enough to start to push his way into a real role? He's a dynamic playmaker, but he's also a 5-foot-5, 179-pound fifth-rounder, so he's got his work cut out for him to earn a gameday role. We know this Cowboys offense will likely use multiple backs, and Vaughn could have some value as a complementary piece next to Tony Pollard if he can earn that role.
Starters playing? The Saints starters played last week, and I'd expect to see them out there this week. The Chargers have not used their starters much in the preseason under Brandon Staley, that didn't change last week and likely won't change this week.
What to watch: How does Michael Thomas look?
With Kendre Miller likely sidelined by his knee injury (though hopefully only for this week), there aren't many important position battles to watch out for in this one. So I'll be keeping an eye on Michael Thomas, who surprisingly played all 12 snaps with Derek Carr in the preseason opener. He didn't do much in that time, but the fact that he's healthy right now at all is a major hurdle. Now, let's see if he can start to look like the target hog he used to be before all the injuries.
Side note: Here's a great feature from The Athletic Wednesday on everything Thomas went through to get back on the field yet again after last season's toe surgery. I'm rooting for him.
Ravens at Commanders – Monday, 8 p.m.
Starters playing? The Ravens starters probably won't play, while we'll likely see plenty of Sam Howell and the Commanders starters out there. Howell is the overwhelming favorite to lock up the starting job, but he started just one game as a rookie, so they obviously want to give him as many competitive reps as possible.
What to watch: How do the Commanders use their running backs?
It was pretty much an even split in Wee 1, with Brian Robinson playing 11 snaps to Antonio Gibson's 10, while both ran routes on seven pass plays. That was a surprising amount of usage for Robinson in the passing game, and it would make it awfully hard for Gibson to be a useful Fantasy option if he's not dominating passing snaps. Of course, it was the first game with a new offensive coordinator, so it could just be about getting as many reps in as possible for both backs in all facets of the game. Let's see if that trend continues in what is generally considered the dress rehearsal game, because it could make this an even tougher backfield to trust for Fantasy if there aren't clearly defined roles. For what it's worth, on Fantasy Football Today in 5 on Wednesday, Dave Richard named the Commanders as one of his backfields to avoid for Fantasy.