Targets, Touches and TDs: Preseason Week 2

Ken Pomponio, @kenpomp

A countdown of the fantasy numbers of note following the second round of the exhibition season.

177 – Passing yards and two TDs on 16 completions in 20 attempts for Vikings’ rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who rallied the Purple to a 30-28 win over the Cardinals on Saturday night. That gives the former Louisville standout a gaudy 106.38 passer rating (22-of-33, 226 yards, 2 TDs, no picks) in two outings, but the problem is veteran Matt Cassel has been just as impressive (17-of-22, 215 yards, TD, 122.35 rating) – and arguably even more so – considering he’s been putting up his numbers against No. 1 defenses.

86 – Receiving yards for Philly second-year TE Zach Ertz, which ranks fourth in the league among all TEs halfway through the exhibition slate. Ertz has reeled in six of the seven passes directed his way and has scored once, making him an intriguing option from what’s again expected to be one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. Make that “extra-intriguing” given the uncertainty of the team’s WR situation with the offseason departure of DeSean Jackson and the current nagging injuries hampering starters Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin.

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57 – Points allowed in two games by the 49ers, following Sunday afternoon’s 34-0 beat-down at the hands of the visiting Broncos. Not only did the rout put a damper on the opening ceremonies at sparkling new Levi’s Stadium, but it raises some serious questions about the D/ST currently owning the second-highest ADP in fantasy. A week after surrendering 237 rushing yards to the Ravens, the Niners were shredded for 270 aerial yards and a trio of TDs by three Denver QBs – two of them not named Peyton Manning – who were a combined 30-of-38 with nary a sack. Going forward, things don’t look a whole lot rosier, either, as San Fran will head into the season without its top tackler (recovering LB NaVorro Bowman), leading sacker (soon-to-be suspended LB Aldon Smith) and three new starters in the secondary. Is this truly the stuff of an elite fantasy defense?

39.58 – Passer rating after three games for the Giants’ Eli Manning, who’s compiled exactly zero – as in none – fantasy points with his 7-of-16, 49-yard showing so far. Manning has yet to connect with top wideout Victor Cruz (0 receptions on 2 targets), making many wonder if new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has the right elixir following Manning’s dismal 2013 performance.

23.1 – Week 2 league-leading fantasy points for Titans’ WR Justin Hunter, who hauled in 4- and 64-yard scoring passes as part of an eye-catching 4-118 night in New Orleans on Friday. Hunter flashed some big-play ability as a rookie (4 TDs, 19.7 yards per catch on 18 grabs), and offers a bushel of upside as the 45th WR currently being drafted.

11 – Total tackles, including nine defensive solo stops and a pair of special-teams takedowns, for Steelers’ rookie LB Ryan Shazier, who made his pro debut in Pittsburgh’s 19-16 win over the visiting Bills on Saturday. Even more impressive was the first-round pick’s athletic interception of an EJ Manuel pass intended for TE Scott Chandler and his subsequent 27-yard return. All told, it’s perfectly clear why the former Ohio State standout has been sitting atop the Steelers’ depth chart at LILB since camp began.

4 – Positions on the Chiefs’ offensive line which feature new starters. Center Rodney Hudson is the only member of 2013’s quintet back in same spot, while second-year tackle Eric Fisher makes the most important move, switching from the right side to the left. It’s also the youngest offensive front in the league, and one that Huddle compatriot John Tuvey ranked as the third-worst in the league entering camp. Some not-so-pretty stats have borne out those concerns so far with K.C. giving up nine sacks, 10 QB hits and 11 tackles-for-a-loss in their two contests. Only the Rams (11) and Browns (10) have surrendered more sacks so far this preseason. In short, it’s not the best of situations for the rest of the offense, QB Alex Smith and RB Jamaal Charles in particular.

1.3 – Difference in fantasy points so far this preseason between Seahawks’ reserve RBs Robert Turbin (15.4) and Christine Michael (14.1). In two games, Turbin has rushed 16 times for 86 yards and a TD, while Michael has carried 15 times for 61 yards and a score. Turbin also has two catches for eight yards, while Michael has four grabs for 20. As the numbers indicate, both have more than held their own in the absence of starter Marshawn Lynch, but therein also lies the conundrum: Who’s Lynch’s true handcuff? Going by current ADPs, it’s not even close with the second-year Michael ranking as the 35th RB off the board, on average, while Turbin is way down there at 87. Yet, it’s been Turbin, the third-year vet, who’s started both the Hawks’ preseason tilts so far, indicating we’d likely be looking at a straight-up timeshare if Lynch were to miss any games this regular season.

1 – Fumble credited to Patriots’ RB Stevan Ridley in Friday night’s 42-35 win over the Eagles. It didn’t go down as a fumble lost, however, as the Pats recovered the ball, but Ridley also didn’t see any more touches after that, either, serving as a stark reminder that New England’s projected starting RB is also the back who carries the most fantasy risk after nine fumbles – and six lost – over the last two seasons.

0 – Targets in two games for new Broncos’ WR Emmanuel Sanders, who’s been hampered much of camp by a quad strain. Sanders did play a few series but didn’t have a pass directed his way in the Broncos’ preseason opener against the Seahawks on Aug. 7, and then was held out of Sunday’s game entirely in San Fran, raising legitimate questions about where his timing is with Manning. It’s a detail-oriented, same-page-dependent passing attack to be sure in the Mile High City, and the former Steelers’ lack of live-game timing with the veteran QB so far makes a strong – or even solid – fantasy start to the regular season less and less likely with each successive preseason no-show.

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