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Training Camp Hype ("TCH")
News, Notes & Quotes from Week 2

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hype 1 (hip) Slang
1. Exaggerated or extravagant claims made especially in advertising or promotional material
2. Something deliberately misleading; a deception.

TCH’s sole purpose is to provide you with news and notes from around the league for you to process into your own rankings. If any of this news catapults you to your league championship, call me….maybe.

Arizona Cardinals

The news: Two quarterbacks means you have no quarterbacks.

The spin: The Cardinals are not working from a point of strength here. They have an overpaid quarterback in Kevin Kolb who can’t stay healthy and who they saw knocked out the first series of the first game of the preseason. He didn’t create much offense in the games he played, throwing nine touchdowns against eight INTs. On top of that, the team went 3-7. John Skelton threw more INTs than touchdowns (14 to 11), but the team went 5-2 with him leading. (It is hard to type those stats when you are holding your nose with one hand.)

The takeaway: The team seems doomed this season from a professional and fantasy standpoint. Skelton went 3 for 3 with a touchdown pass Friday, and Kolb was 3 for 6. This position should have a “Hazardous Material” logo on it. Stay away.

The news: Beanie has competition.

The spin: Beanie Wells had the finest season of his career last year, reaching the 1000-yard mark and scoring 10 times. He thrived last year because rookie Ryan Williams tore his patellar tendon in training camp, ending his season and opening things up for Wells.

The takeaway: Williams took advantage of Wells (knee) missing the exhibition game Friday. Williams looked shifty and strong, as he rushed for 25 yards on five carries and scored a touchdown. With the issues at the quarterback position, the running backs will be the main beneficiaries, and it looks like the Cardinals have some firepower at the position.

The news: Is poor Larry Fitzgerald doomed again?

The spin: It is unfortunate that one of the premier wide receivers in the league has to deal with this foolishness. He did just fine last year, with over 1,400 yards and eight scores, but he has to feel like an all-pro center with point guards who don’t know how to get him the ball. Just throw it anywhere near him, he will catch it.

The takeaway: Similar numbers are not out of the question, but his ceiling has become pretty low. Not unlike the passer ratings of his quarterbacks.

Atlanta Falcons

The news: Michael Turner’s days as an elite running back over.

The spin: With the instillation of a new offensive system and Turner's having passed the dreaded 30th birthday milestone, the Falcons believe it is time to start limiting his carries. Jason Snelling has been the primary backup for Turner in years past, but the team clearly wants Jacquizz Rodgers to add an explosive option to the run game. Snelling sat against the Bengals on Friday night, but Rodgers had 24 yards on four carries and 11 yards on three catches. So it's clear the team is trying to give Rodgers a role in the offense.

The takeaway: Rodgers will eventually take the No. 2 position with third-down responsibilities and bristle at being called small. The offensive seems to be more pass happy this year, but Turner will still be a workhorse in an offensive set that allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to lead the league in carries last year. Turner will see the lion’s share of the duties, but his numbers will decline slightly.

The news: Matt Ryan is ready to make the leap to elite quarterback status.

The spin: After his performance against the Bengals, the team might be ready to open the usually plodding offense up a bit. Ryan completed 18 of 21 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. It looks as though the front office has realized its grind-it-out style of play gets you wins in the regular season but gets you thumped in the postseason. A third viewing of last year's playoff loss might be enough to make Falcons fans restless.

The takeaway: An optimistic take on this would be that the security of the jobs of the coaching staff hinges on the offense opening up and becoming more explosive. I think they would settle for just explosive. Ryan has ample tools to work with, but at the end the day, will anything really change? I find it hard to believe he posts numbers much different from anything in his past, and he won't leapfrog anybody ahead of him of the “elite” list. He remains outside of this group of quarterbacks and continues to look in. Not in a creepy way though, more peering than leering.

The news: Julio Jones is ready to justify the fantasy love.

The spin: After a rookie campaign which saw hamstring injuries take four games from him, he still finished with almost 1,000 yards and eight scores. Jones’ health is going to be the deciding factor. He looks the part thus far with nine catches for 150 yards and a score this preseason.

The takeaway: Roddy White creates an interesting situation. His presence as Ryan’s go-to receiver will prevent Jones from posting huge numbers, but he also draws each team’s top corner; so as coverage rolls to White’s side, Jones will be the main beneficiary of holes in the zone. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. Jones’ hamstrings in the end will decide how things play out, and, as always, I am voting for the tendons. Still, all signs point to a big year from Jones and my struggling to find “the tendons” on my ballot in November.

Baltimore Ravens

QB: With the media coverage of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford after Thursday’s preseason battle with the Ravens, it was as if there was only one team on the field. I urge you to find more than a subtle peep discussing Flacco averaging 83.5 yards and 66.7% completion rate per half. Don’t be shy of Flacco this year if you miss out on the top QBs; he has a good shot at the Top 10.

WR/TE: Anquan Boldin is one my favorite receivers. He only had two catches Thursday night, but he is tough as nails. At the end of a 20-yard catch you can see him shoving off defenders after the play is over, because he’s just that amped up after a big catch even in a pointless exhibition game.

RB: Not much news for the RB portion of the Ravens and they didn’t show much of their hand Thursday. Ray Rice said earlier this year that the AFC Championship game isn’t good enough anymore and that anything short of the Superbowl is a disappointment. To that end, draft him with gusto my friends! He seems highly motivated to carry this team to victory.

Buffalo Bills

QB: After getting a way too large contract extension in the offseason, Ryan Fitzpatrick is firmly entrenched as the starting QB for the Buffalo Bills. However, in what is the biggest competition no one is talking about, Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen are neck-and-neck for the #2 spot. Personally, I can’t see the Bills keeping Thigpen over VY, but smart football decisions aren’t always the top priority in The City of Good Neighbors.

WR/TE: The Bills have a hard time getting started and run the risk of being buried under an insurmountable lead every game. A two-WR tandem may be exactly what this offense needs to start things early. David Nelson was exciting last year, Steve Johnson is a great talent, and T.J. Graham had an excellent coming out party in Week 2, but unless they can get two WRs firing at the same time alongside the much beloved TE Scott Chandler, it is going to be a long fantasy year for the Bills offense.

RB: Though it has been quiet all preseason, the constant battle between Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller should be interesting as it heats up once again. According to David Nelson, Spiller is “running around and making guys look silly” on the practice field.

Carolina Panthers

The news: Cam Newton looks to improve on last year.

The spin: Is that possible? Over 4,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and a NFL record with 14 rushing touchdowns without the luxury of a true offseason. Steve Smith is back, along with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. After an unspectacular first game, Newton looked sharp Friday, going 8 for 11 for 119 yards and a score.

The takeaway: I don’t think you can have that kind of statistical season two years in a row. However, Newton will still electrify the league...though he'll lose some of those rushing scores. Newton’s success leads to Chudzinski's getting his own NFL head coaching job.

The news: It’s now a three-headed monster at running back.

The spin: Mike Tolbert joins an already (over) crowded backfield to help around the goal line. His presence will take away from Newton’s numbers and skew DeAngelo Williams' and Jonathan Stewart’s numbers as well. The camaraderie between Williams and Stewart has always created an infectious and fun vibe. I wonder if that carries over this year.

The takeaway: The rushing touchdown totals go up for the running backs, but they are even more diluted. On Friday, Williams ran four times for 25 yards, Tolbert carried it three times for 15 yards, and Stewart rushed five times for eight yards with a score but left with a calf injury. It should make for an interesting year with one potential takeaway: Tolbert on a cart after a “mysterious” accident involving a safe or piano falling on him.

Chicago Bears

The news: Jay Cutler is back and healthy.

The spin: The team was just starting to peak last season, winning six of seven games, before Cutler broke his thumb in Week 11. His talent has never been the question. He usually leads the league in bad body language, but he seemed to have put some of that behind him last year. He looked feisty against the Redskins, going 7 of 13 for 122 yards, showing some nice touch.

The takeaway: A more mature Cutler finally proves his critics wrong, limits his turnovers, shows leadership and takes the Bears to the playoffs. Or he melts down like a petulant child, undermines his coaches authority and selfishly augers the team into the ground. And you can tell that a guy is a real piece of work when he won’t even share the auger.

The news: Matt Forte is back and healthy.

The spin: The NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage last year after the first 13 weeks, Forte suffered a knee sprain and was shut down for the remainder of the season. After an unpleasant contract negotiation, he is back in the fold and on the field. For all the yards he racked up in 2011, he found the end zone only four times through 13 games. The addition of power back Michael Bush does little to make you think that he will see that much action around the goal line.

The takeaway: Expect Forte to be the workhorse and rack up over 1,700 total yards. Then watch Bush stroll into the game and punch it in from close range. Bush’s two scores against the Redskins only seem to confirm that.

The news:Brandon Marshall is there to finally shore up the receiving corps.

The spin: The talented and explosive (interpret that any way you want) Marshall reunited with Cutler and gives the Bears something they haven’t had in years, a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. He racked up 1,200 yards and six scores on a pretty crummy Miami team last year. The Bears also acquired the potential for Marshall to crack up at any given moment. Tick, tick, tick…

The takeaway: Marshall and Cutler showed what they have in store for the league in their game against Washington. On the first series the two connected twice for 61 yards. They will make an effort to bring out the best in each other, or ruin the team in the process.

The news: Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is turning heads in camp.

The spin: He was one of the few bright spots in the team’s preseason loss to Denver, according to Coach Lovie Smith. Against the Redskins he picked up where he left off by leading the team with 62 yards on three catches.

The takeaway: Nobody knows what to expect from the offense, but Jeffery is putting himself in a position to succeed. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice does like to throw it down the field, so Jeffrey might be someone to keep an eye on.

Cincinnati Bengals

QB: Andy Dalton’s deep passes in his second preseason game have started to turn heads around the NFL. reports, “Andy Dalton… showed a national television audience that the doubts about his arm strength might need to be shelved.” Dalton is a mild fantasy prospect himself this year, but this is really news regarding those receiving the ball.

WR/TE: Speak of the devil! The primary benefactor of any deep passes attempted by Dalton should be A.J. Green, who caught his first TD of the year to the tune of 50 yards. A.J. Green should be a major player in fantasy this year and he’s lucky he’s got a solid QB like Dalton to get him down the field. TE Jermaine Gresham left Thursday’s game with a knee injury, which is being described as “a sprain”. Expect him to miss 1-2 weeks. WR Jordan Shipley as been released.

RB: BJGE isn’t the greatest rusher of all time, but he is consistent and the best hope the Bengals have of a NFL-ready running back this year. He missed the second preseason game with a foot injury but is expected to play next week. Bernard Scott may have the chance to shine early on, but has never been able to cash in on similar opportunities. It appears to be BJGE or bust for the running game, and it may be bust anyway.

Cleveland Browns

QB: Hey, remember that time when Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy were coming out of college and they were going to absolutely light the league on fire? Turns out to the media hype is going to have to give you a raincheck on that one. However, the Browns are certain their new savior Brandon Weeden will bring them to prominence and the Bleacher Report agrees, stating, “Brandon Weeden will be a rookie of the year candidate.”

WR/TE: Similar to the Titans, the Browns really only have one wide receiver to speak of: Greg Little. Massaquoi has been touted as NFL-ready but has never shown up for any significant value. Draft Greg Little if you feel he’s the best WR talent available, but no news is bad news in fantasy and that’s exactly what the Browns have. Rookie Josh Gordon is strugging thusfar, running the wrong routes. "I talked to him before the game, during the game and after the game about certain things I see I think he can do," Weeden said after practice Friday. "I'm not a receivers coach, so I don't know how to tell him to run a route, but (I told him) what I'm thinking as far as when I'm going to pull the trigger. I think that's the main thing — the timing of that route. TE Ben Watson has returned to practice after missing the majority of camp.

RB: Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal tweeted, “HC Pat Shurmur said RB Trent Richardson has made good progress & might be ahead of schedule in rehab from left knee surgery.” To me, this means that Richardson is still draftable but always beware of drafting talented guys on awful teams: they don’t always get to showcase their stuff.

Dallas Cowboys

The news: Tony Romo runs for his life and the running game sputters in a victory over the Raiders. Is this what we can expect?

The spin: The team thinks the offensive line is just trying to get its sea legs, so it is too early to get excited right now. Or they might try, “Hey look it’s Bigfoot!” I think they would say anything to divert attention from a trouble area from last year that has already re-emerged.

The takeaway: Legitimate concerns abound in Big D if that troublesome line doesn’t shape up. Romo had more time in the pocket against the Chargers, got into a rhythm, and didn’t get sacked, which has to be seen as a victory. It will be hard to scapegoat Romo for all the Cowboys' problems if he is in traction. Although, it would spare us all the tiresome stories about what a great golfer he is.

The news: With the ruptured spleen suffered by tight end Jason Witten, what will happen to the passing game?

The spin: Witten plans to be ready for Week 1. He is expected to be out for eight to ten days. John Phillips looks to fill that void. He had 15 catches last year for one touchdown but is already nursing an ankle injury suffered early in camp. He didn’t play in the San Diego game.

The takeaway: Nobody on the team wants to see Witten standing on the sideline in street clothes during any games this season. That is true not only because he is Romo’s security blanket, but also because of his usual fashion faux pas. “Those shoes are so 2009…”

The news: Will DeMarco Murray become the man?

The spin: Murray showed flashes of greatness last year, rushing for almost 900 yards and a pair of scores before breaking his ankle in Week 14. But his offense has yet to click so far this preseason, and he was hoping to see more action against the Chargers. He was involved in five of the first six plays, three carries for 12 yards on the ground and 18 yards on a pair of catches. His potential is always there.

The takeaway: Murray's potential for injury is also always there. The previously noted issues on the offensive line doesn’t help his precarious value. Felix Jones will also see some carries, but the team would love to see Murray thrive. He is a potential game-breaker or leg-breaker. Your choice. Buyer beware.

Denver Broncos

QB: The ever-popular, Peyton Manning failed to deliver on Saturday, but you won’t hear about it in the media. The NFL’s most beloved son tossed 177 yards total, which is good, threw no touchdowns, which is bad, and threw two INTs, which is really bad. I’m not saying Manning wouldn’t have won the game had he played the full 60 minutes, but I was not entirely impressed by Saturday’s performance. His game was described as “so-so” and “a mixed bag” by USA Today.

WR/TE: Stokley, Decker, and Thomas each brought in 28-41 yards and split targets fairly evenly. I don’t believe that Stokley has the staying power to be a force all year long, which leaves Eric Decker and Bay-Bay Thomas as his primary receivers.

RB: Admittedly, I have never been a Willis McGahee fan. However, this is his job and he provided evidence for it staying that way on Saturday. He did exactly what he is expected to do, 3.X yards per carry and a one-yard touchdown when the opportunity presented itself. This would’ve been a passable fantasy day for McGahee, and he only carried in the first half. RB Ronnie Hillman (hamstring) missed the Broncos second preseason game and aggravated his injury during practice on Tuesday.

Detroit Lions

The news: Injuries at the running back position.

The spin: The inability of Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure to stay healthy has been troubling for many within the Lions organization. Best remains on the PUP list with lingering effects from a concussion that put him out for the final 10 games of last year. He has been a talent, posting over 1,000 combined yards his rookie season and six scores since he entered the league. However, his college career was also cut short by concussions, and this story doesn’t look like it’s going to have a happy ending. Leshoure was drafted in 2011 to provide a power-back option to the Lions offense. However, a torn ACL caused him to miss all of last year. Hamstring issues have kept him off the field thus far this year. More troubling were two marijuana-related arrests during the offseason, which still haven’t been cleared by the commissioner’s office. The surprise in camp has been Joique Bell.

The takeaway: Kevin Smith is the incumbent for the moment, but his injury history must keep the Lions brass up at night. Bell is taking advantage of his opportunity and looked great Friday with five carries for 35 and three catches for 44 yards. Sadly, both Best and Leshoure will probably miss time this year due to brain-related incidents. Only Best has a legitimate excuse.

The news: After Calvin Johnson, who will catch the share of Matthew Stafford’s passes?

The spin: If you take away the 100 or so passes Megatron will catch this year, you can speculate that Stafford will still complete roughly 200 additional passes. Nate Burleson and Titus Young will look to battle for the high-end table scraps. They offer two different styles. Burleson is more of the possession receiver, which will help in PPR leagues. Young is there to stretch the field. And let’s not forget Brandon Pettigrew, either, who was second on the team in catches last year with 83 and could easily increase his five touchdowns.

The takeaway: You don’t throw for 5,000 yards without the offense thinking about getting to 5,100. Young has looked good in camp and pulled down a 24-yard touchdown with his only catch on Friday. I think he will emerge as the big winner, followed by Pettigrew. Burleson will get his share, and will still manage to keep his feet inbounds and secure the first down in the process.

Green Bay Packers

The news: What running game?
The spin: If you had Aaron Rodgers, how much would you run? Last year the Packers' top two backs, Ryan Grant and James Starks, combined for 1,100 yards and three scores. With Grant let go, it looked like Starks’ job. However, the signing of Cedric Benson now makes owners wonder what sort of impact either back might have. Even Coach Mike McCarthy isn’t talking about Benson's role yet. He was held out of their game against the Browns Thursday, adding more mystery to the proceedings. Alex Green, recovering from an ACL tear from last year, has seen some action in the preseason and has yet to turn any heads.

The takeaway: It is hard to fault a potent offense, but this system isn’t going to produce a game changer out of the backfield. Against the Browns, the team rushed only 18 times, with quarterbacks accounting for five of those carries. A dozen rushing touchdowns will probably be the total, with Rodgers getting half of them. Benson, Starks and John Kuhn will fight it out to be window dressing and lead the team with five scores.

The news: Is there a chance Randall Cobb emerges as a fantasy star?

The spin: Greg Jennings might be No. 1 on the depth chart, but Jordy Nelson now seems like the man in Green Bay, with James Jones and Donald Driver following suit. Cobb is the name getting a great deal of fantasy buzz this offseason, but he has a long ladder to climb before he makes it into the rotation.

The takeaway: There is no shortage of talented weapons for Rodgers to play with. The list above doesn’t even include his tight ends, which magnifies the problem for Cobb. Plus, Cobb's fumble against the Browns does little to enhance his value. He will remain as a special teams contributor and a great tease, but barring injury or surprise cuts, owners should look elsewhere for their sleeper pick.

Houston Texans

QB: Matt Schaub has proven over weeks one and two that he is exactly as advertised - mediocre in game one and excellent in game two. A large portion of that has to do with having his favorite weapon and injury-table companion Andre Johnson back for week two. If these two could ever make it together for a full season, the Texans just might have a shot at the Superbowl.

WR/TE: When you are a super stud wide receiving talent and you have no competition with a top-rate QB, you ought to be a no-brainer first round draft pick right? Calvin Johnson says yes, Andre Johnson says no. As mentioned above, AJ cannot stay healthy and therefore cannot dominate up to his potential. However, the Houston Chronicle says, “he looked like the Andre of old and not an old Andre.” So maybe he’ll surprise us this year.

RB: There hasn’t been much news on the running back front from the Houston Texans. Arian Foster is the man and there isn’t much barring injury that could change that. For what it’s worth, Cantor Gaming did release this week that Arian Foster is the favorite to win the rushing title with 7:2 odds this year.

Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck’s stellar week one performance was not followed up by the same numbers in his second, but the yardage was comparable, the 2 INTs were both faults of the receivers, he drove them all the way to the one yard and ran in for the score on fourth down, and I would argue that he was even more impressive. Luck is the only rookie this year I don’t have questions about, in fact when he’s playing it doesn’t even seem like he’s a rookie. Don’t let this guy languish on the waiver wire.

WR/TE: In addition, against the much-touted Steelers D, Reggie Wayne was a TD catch away from one of his best fantasy days in a while with 6 catches for 74 yards. Even more impressive, he had 9 targets in the half. Reggie Wayne could end up being one of the steals of this year’s fantasy football season.

RB: Finally, Donald Brown did some of his best rushing against a tough defense with 30 yards and a TD on only 6 carries - 21 of those yards came on one rush, but Brown still stands to have his best fantasy season yet with ex-Pittsburgh O-Coordinator Bruce Aryans.

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: Blaine Gabbert looked more in control on Thursday as he threw two TDs in limited time. Gabbert’s biggest knock last year was that he was afraid to stand in the pocket and make throws with pressure in his face. At least in the preseason, he seems to have kicked that habit. DB Rashean Mathis on Blaine Gabbert, “It’s night and day from last year.”

WR/TE: It appears that if Gabbert can find his man, then Justin Blackmon could be a force to be reckoned with. Blackmon was an all-star in college and has great size and skill. If the team can perform as a unit, Blackmon can serve well as arguably the best wide receiver in the state of Florida. Gabbert added, “He’s going to play a huge role on this offense.”

RB: Rashad Jennings looked passable in the absence of MJD. 5.6 yards per carry is nothing to sneeze at even in the preseason against vanilla defenses. He is no superstar, but the touchdown potential should make him worthwhile as a late-round draft pick. RBs that miss training camp are always a high risk for hamstring and ankle injuries so watch for Jennings to get play time all year long as the MJD holds out continues.

Kansas City Chiefs

QB: There is one lynch pin to the success of the Kansas City Chiefs possibly explosive offense – Matt Cassel. In a very Joe Flacco-esque motif, Matt Cassel has thrown 209 yards and a TD with 75% accuracy in less than one full game’s time. As far as the offensive game goes, the Cassel-led Chiefs are actually far more capable than they receive credit for.

WR/TE: Dwayne Bowe signed his franchise tender offer but didn’t play in the game on Saturday night. He’ll need to get up to speed on Brian Daboll’s offense. If he can catch up, his yardage is virtually unchangeable regardless of QB. “We’re happy he’s back too. He looked good to me, even showed us his abs to prove he’d stayed in shape,” said fellow wide receiver Dexter McCluster. This should be a good season for Bowe if he can master the offense. Speaking of McCluster, he is getting virtually all offensive snaps from the slot at wide receiver.

RB: Jamaal Charles has averaged 5.7 yards per carry and a phenomenal 9 yards per catch, but with only 5 total touches. He looks like the Charles of old. If things go as projected, JC will come out to average about 20 touches per game and the rest will be taken care of by Peyton Hillis, ala JC and Thomas Jones. If they can keep it all balanced, the Chiefs seem primed for Cassel, Bowe, and J-Mail to have great seasons each.

Miami Dolphins

QB: Preseason darling Ryan Tannehill wasn’t quite as stellar as fans or prospective fantasy owners would have hoped, but he did throw a touchdown and eclipsed 100 yards in a half. If he could average 200 yards and 2 TD average per game this year, that would make him a fantasy star. Don’t count on it though, as the Miami Herald reports, “Miami Dolphins’ negatives outweigh Ryan Tannehill’s positives.”

WR/TE: Chad Johnson was cut from the Dolphins last week as he, “wasn’t a good fit.” I’m curious as to what didn’t fit more though, was it that Chad didn’t fit the Dolphins culture by headbutting his reality TV wife of 41 days? Or was it that he didn’t fit the receiving corps of no names as someone who used to be pretty good? Regardless, Brian Hartline is the best thing they’ve got talent wise and that is certainly damning with faint praise. Legedu Naanee and Davone Bess are number three possession-type receivers and have no chance to take over as number ones.

RB: The usually news-worthy Reggie Bush has been absolutely silent thus far this preseason. Even off the field, Reggie has totally dropped off the tabloids, not to mention the preseason hype of Daniel Thomas from a year ago has simply been erased from memory. Reggie said early this year that he wants to be the NFL’s leading rusher, which is nearly impossible, but don’t be surprised if he racks up another 1,000 yards. Especially with the passing game in the awful quagmire it’s in, look for the running game to provide some solid fantasy points this year.

Minnesota Vikings

The news: Adrian Peterson is back on the field.

The spin: One of the biggest fantasy stories of this preseason is what to expect from AP. After tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus during Week 12, he has already returned to practice. Coach Leslie Frazier has told his defensive players to not touch the running back during practices. Fortunately, the defense had plenty of practice not touching running backs during games last season.

The takeaway: Until Peterson is actually hit by another player, it is hard to gauge much of anything right now. However, he is still AP, and any owner worth his salt will be casually checking his status. If there is one player who could kill the most drafts this year, it might be Peterson.

The news: Christian Ponder is ready to prove his critics wrong.

The spin: After a rookie year in which he seemed to regress as the year went on, questions abound regarding Ponder. He was labeled as injury-prone during the draft process, and then he proceeded to get a concussion and a hip injury that ended his rookie season. Hard to convince anyone differently after that kind of season. The team wasn’t very good last year, Ponder didn’t have the luxury of OTAs and training camp, and he had to watch Donovan McNabb “quarterback” five games. Nobody wins in any of those scenarios. A full offseason to learn the playbook and a fortified offensive line with top pick Matt Kalil hopefully gives him some time to throw. What he does with the ball in his hand is up to him.

The takeaway: Ponder has looked good so far this preseason, Friday night he went 10 of 13 for 136 yards and a score and the Vikings kicked field goals on two of the three drives he directed. He might be ready to tell his critics they were wrong, but hopefully it won’t happen as he is being slid into a MRI tube.

The news: Tight end Kyle Rudolph has fantasy potential.

The spin: Rudolph has quickly become Ponder’s favorite target during preseason camp. Rudolph didn’t set the world on fire last year, however, with 26 catches for 249 yards and three scores. But the team is lacking weapons (Percy Harvin, a suspended Jerome Simpson, and..?), so the possibility for him to make some kind of impact isn’t far-fetched.

The takeaway: It isn’t near-fetched either. He had one catch for seven yards Friday. If Ponder continues his improvement, Randolph will ride his coattails, which hopefully have wheels of some kind on them.

New England Patriots

QB: A common thread among fantasy advice columns this year is that Tom Brady stands to be one of the top 3 if not the #1 QB this year. Of course, any QB throwing for that many yards and touchdowns must have some receivers catching them right? It appears that the New England coaching staff believes that those receivers are Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd, as a clandestine practice time was arranged on a separate field for just those three last week.

WR/TE: Specifically, the status of many Patriots pass catchers was in question last week. Gronkowski sat out Sunday through Tuesday while Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez sat out Monday and Tuesday. It is unclear on if this was routine rest or hinting at something more, but there were certainly no signs from the coaching staff that anything terrible is looming.

RB: Steven Ridley has looked good this preseason and Shane Vereen’s arrow has started to turn north. Both backs seem to have the talent and poise to help keep opposing defenses honest. Temper your hopes for more than that though, as Coach Bellichick had this to say about “bellcow” RBs: “Corey Dillon was good enough to do it. If the Corey Dillon of 2004 was on this roster, I’m sure he’d get it 300 times too. I haven’t seen Corey out there lately.” Encouraging, right?

New Orleans Saints

The news: There will be no offensive changes with the suspension of Coach Sean Payton.

The spin: When Payton broke his leg last year in Week 6, who knew it would turn out to help the team this year. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. took over play calling duties the next week and had the offense humming so well that when Payton returned, he didn’t take the play calling back. That bodes well for the upcoming season, which Payton will not be a part of.

The takeaway: Between having Drew Brees and Carmichael at the helm, the Saints will continue to hum offensively. At some point though, you hope that they will learn the lyrics.

The news: Adrian Arrington’s knee injury will open the door for someone.

The spin: Arrington’s torn meniscus means a roster spot for one of the No. 4 and No. 5 receivers. Rookie Nick Toon hasn’t been healthy with a foot issue. Courtney Roby has been a special teams contributor, but his role might change, as he has been very active in the preseason. Joe Morgan is also in the mix for that last spot.

The takeaway: It’s not a great position of value on the team, but the Saints do love to throw the ball, so any spot becomes a valuable spot. Morgan had a good night on Friday with two catches for 63 yards and a score.

New York Giants

The news: The drafting of rookie running back David Wilson should help give some depth and balance to the running corps.

The spin: Wilson was the leading rusher in the team’s first two games and had 26 yards on eight carries against the Jets. He has also caught two passes this preseason to increase his value.

The takeaway: After Ahmad Bradshaw left the game against the Jets with a wrist injury, Wilson seemed to become a little more valuable. Bradshaw’s injury isn’t serious, but Wilson might be able to make something out of this opportunity. He had fumbling issues at Virginia Tech, so if he puts the ball on the ground, Coach Coughlin will bury him. Fortunately I hear where he will be buried is rent controlled with a view of Central Park.

The news: After having broken his right foot in OTAs, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is finally cleared to play and comes off the PUP list.

The spin: Nicks and Victor Cruz provide a strong one-two punch, but where will the G-Men get help at the No. 3 receiver position?

The takeaway: It might be tight end Martellus Bennett, who has been a bright spot in camp thus far. Rookie wide receiver Ruben Randle made the most of his time in the Jets game with one catch for 49 yards. Domenik Hixon is another possibility. The team had the fifth-rated passing offense last year, so there is a distinct possibility that one of them will thrive.

New York Jets

QB: This one is simple for fantasy: Don’t even think about it. Your starter is Mark Sanchez, who attained a studly 0 points, a pick-six, and had a 0% third-down conversion rate on Saturday. On the other hand, Tim Tebow is getting sacked an average of 6 times per game this preseason and isn’t able to support his awful completion percentage with runs because of how horrid the O-line is. The Jets have never been world-beaters on offense, but it doesn’t matter how fantastic you are on D if you can’t muster a couple of touchdowns. At this point, I’d take the quarterback on just about any other team in the NFL before Sanchez or Tebow.

WR/TE: The main man in this pitiful wide receiving core is Santonio Holmes. He’s been hurt all preseason and thus, can’t be evaluated. However, as Antonio Cromartie astutely pointed out, DB’s on the team are good enough to be the #2 receivers, so there are really no other WRs on this roster worth mentioning. So the question becomes, will Holmes be worth the necessary pick once he comes back?

Especially without Holmes, and possibly even once he’s back, the Jets may have to take a tip from the Pats and utilize their tight ends. Dustin Keller has proven his skill before, he took 24 of 35 snaps on plays with a tight end on the field Saturday night, and could be a good earner for at least the early part of the season.

RB: Joe McKnight has been having a good preseason. He’s well beloved in New York, so a mini-Tebow Mania may begin when Shonn Greene inevitably isn’t that exciting. As the running game continues to struggle, Joe McKnight may show up more often on the field than we are accustomed to.

Oakland Raiders

QB: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Raiders fans would like to know what’s wrong with quarterback Carson Palmer,” but according to HC Dennis Allen, “Carson is still learning the offense.” Hopefully that’s true, because Palmer has been woefully bad this preseason.

WR/TE: The Raiders have three WRs that may or may not win your fantasy league this year - each one with his own high ceiling, high expectations, and high risk factor. This week, Jacoby Ford (sprained foot) and Denarius Moore (hamstring) are showcasing their high risk factors with injuries. Darrius Heyward-Bey showed his high expectations by dominating targets on the first string offense but only caught one. Ro Streater led the team Friday night with 7 catches for 43 yards.

RB: The battle for backing up Darren McFadden is still too close to call. Taiwan Jones (hamstring) has returned to practice after missing the first two preseason games. He’s currently behind Mike Goodson (neck/shoulder) who fumbled a couple of times in Friday night’s game against Arizona. Goodson has had a good camp however and has the current edge in this competition.

Philadelphia Eagles

The news: Injuries at the quarterback position.

The spin: Michael Vick has already given the team a scare after he banged his hand off one of his lineman’s helmets. Furthermore, Mike Kafka has broken his non-throwing hand. Vick will be ready for the season opener; Kafka is questionable.

The takeaway: The fortunes of the team certainly ride on the fragile Vick. Eagles fans will worry about him and fear for his safety the entire season. Their pessimism leads to their expecting the worst, but they still manage to be surprised and angry when Vick gets injured. So, status quo.

The news: Jeremy Maclin tweaks his hamstring during warm-ups and misses the first preseason game.

The spin: It is always too early for hamstring injuries, especially after Maclin missed time last year with the same issue. After his 2010 breakout season, with 10 touchdowns and almost 1,000 yards, he saw his scores fall in half last season after missing three games due to injury.

The takeaway: Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger. This might be the year for Jason Avant to step up and exceed his 52 catches from last year. Still too early to tell, but things aren’t shaping up well for Maclin. Not a good shape at all, really. Very gourd-like.

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: For the Steelers, there wasn’t much to gain from Roethlisberger’s play in the first half of Sunday night’s game - it was a mostly conservative approach. Roethlisberger played almost a full half but only threw 9 passes. Everyone knows what Big Ben has to offer, so there is no need to play it up for the preseason.

WR/TE: Antonio Brown is a little less proven, despite his big contract in the off-season, but he showed just why they paid him on Sunday: He. Is. Nasty. Have no doubts that Antonio Brown is doing his best to flourish with Mike Wallace holding out, and his best is quite good. If you didn’t catch his touchdown run, find the highlight on Youtube, it was one of the best this preseason.

RB: Jonathan Dwyer looked good in limited time (8 carries, 43 yards), and may be worth a pick-up especially if you plan on drafting Isaac Redman, who hasn’t proven he can take the full load of an NFL season. Rashard Mendenhall was activated from the PUP list this week but don’t; expect to see him in a game until October at the earliest. "Now whether he plays in those first six weeks we don't know, but, obviously, we feel there's a chance that could happen. Be it Week 5 or Week 6, that could be a difference," said general manager Kevin Colbert.

St. Louis Rams

The news: Sam Bradford needs help.

The spin: Bradford is dealing with an ankle injury that will linger all year, and we haven’t even hit the regular season. The offensive line needs to give him some protection or he won’t even make it through the year. Steven Jackson looks to improve on his NFL-leading seventh straight 1000-yard rushing season.

The takeaway: After a bad team effort against the Colts, Bradford looked good against the Chiefs. He went 6 of 9 for 102 yards and a pair of scores. If he doesn’t live up to the promise he showed a few years ago, you can’t lay it at his feet. If you do, let him know it’s don’t want him rolling up on it with those bad ankles and all.

The news: Who is going to catch the ball?

The spin: Danny Amendola looks like the top choice coming out of the slot position. He is hoping to bounce back after he was lost last season to an elbow injury. He was part of the scoring explosion against the Chiefs, with three catches for 58 yards and a score. Second-round pick Brian Quick was selected for his size, 6’3”, and in hopes of giving Bradford a big target. He had three catches for 20 yards in the Chiefs game. Tight end Lance Kendricks had a pair of catches for 31 yards and score.

The takeaway: They are hoping to play the Chiefs every week.

San Diego Chargers

QB: Philip Rivers’ fantasy relevance was downgraded last year, and his preseason has been off to a rocket start, but I believe that Rivers is in for a big year. When discussing Rivers’ interception woes last season, HC Norv Turner had this to say: “You miss some of the players you’ve been used to being with on a day-to-day basis, and all of a sudden you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got the make a play. We’ve got to get a touchdown. We can’t settle for a field goal.’ Then the worst happens, and you end up having a turnover.” If familiarity was the cause of last year’s issues, then the full training camp should hopefully have some positive influence.

WR/TE: The Chargers WR to watch is Robert Meachem. San Diego paid him far too much money for him to sit on the bench, and Meachem proved in New Orleans that he has the talent to succeed in the NFL. He has struggled thufar gaining chemistry with Rivers. We’ll see in Week 3 if the Rivers to Meachem connection has the potential that the Brees to Meachem had in New Orleans. Vincent Brown is scheduled to miss eight weeks with a broken ankle in Saturday’s preseason game. Right now it’s Meachem and Malcom Floyd on the outside with Eddie Royal holding down the slot position.

RB: The Lord of No Rings, A.J. Smith, had this to say about going out to find a backup running back, “We made a concerted effort to add quality, proven veteran players at many positions… We are about to see how well we did with our off-season running back choices.” Reading between the lines, this means Ronnie Brown has a chance to resurface as a fantasy star if he still has anything left in the tank. Mathews owners beware.

San Francisco 49ers

The news: The new weapons at wide receiver.

The spin: The signing of Mario Manningham was the big-ticket signing in the offseason, but Randy Moss is the player everyone talked about. Hypothetically, the addition of these players will give Alex Smith some other weapons outside of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree.

The takeaway: Moss got on the field for the first time against Houston and had three catches for 23 yards. He has been a model teammate so far, but most owners are curious about how much tread he has left on the tires. Manningham has been building some chemistry with Smith in camp and saw his first game action of the preseason but didn’t make a catch. Good work if you can get it.

The news: Frank Gore will get some help.

The spin: Gore managed to stay healthy last year, and for all of his hard work he now has Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James to lighten his workload. All he has to do is stay healthy and it all might work out for him. Jacobs sustained a serious-looking knee injury in the first quarter, which might cause him to miss some time, and James limped off the field in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury.

The takeaway: All Gore is saying to himself now is, “Stay healthy. Stay healthy. Stay healthy.” It is really weirding out his teammates.

Seattle Seahawks

The news: There is a new quarterback in town.

The spin: It looks like a two-man battle between Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson. After a slow start in camp, Flynn and Wilson came alive during the first exhibition game against the Titans. And it was Flynn getting the start in the second game against the Broncos, going 6 of 13 for 31 yards. Wilson went against the twos and threes and picked up where he left off, going 10 for 17 for 155 and two scores. He also ran for 33 yards and led the offense to another touchdown.

The takeaway: The team has a great deal invested financially in Flynn. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilson get some time with the first team at some point. It’s great to be invested, but the team wants to win. This has the look of a fight that will come down to the last days of camp.

The news: Braylon Edwards or T.O.?

The spin: That isn’t an easy question. Whether it’s who is the better player or the most annoying athlete, it's a tough one. Fortunately Pete Carroll is the one to make the call.

The takeaway: Edwards has the early jump with a solid performance in the first preseason game. He had a pair of catches for 51 yards and a score. He was a non-factor in the Broncos game, however, as he was targeted only once. The team seems curious about Owens, on the other hand. They targeted him five times in the second preseason game, but he came away with no catches and might have doomed himself by letting a sure 46-yard touchdown pass go through his hands. It seems only one will make the team, so it looks like another battle that will come down to the end of camp.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The news: LeGarrette Blount and Doug Martin will share carries.

The spin: With the drafting of Doug Martin in the first round, it is clear Blount has been put on notice. Rumors swirled last year about his being chronically late and sleeping in meetings, and the only sprinting and high stepping he did was out of the facility as soon as it was humanly possible. Everyone understands new coach/taskmaster Greg Schiano won’t cotton to anyone not giving maximum effort.

The takeaway: On the surface, it seems like Martin will be Schiano’s guy. It’s the new coach, new regime mentality. But Schiano also wants to win. In their exhibition game Friday, Martin ran it seven times for 23 yards. More importantly, Blount, who ran eight times for 11 yards, received a nasty-looking hit and limped off the field with what is being classified as a groin injury. Check back, as that injury will simplify any decision.

The news: Josh Freeman is primed for a bounce-back season.

The spin: After a year that saw him turn the ball over an amazing 27 times, Freeman is back to where he started as a rookie. He is almost an unproven commodity. Is he turnover prone, or is he still the player who was poised to build upon his 25 touchdown sophomore season? Schiano once again will find himself with a sore leg from having to kick someone’s rear end into gear. Freeman can’t be as bad as last year, even though his four rushing touchdowns did add a new wrinkle to his value. New targets like Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks give him weapons and stability.

The takeaway: Freeman went 4 of 10 for 21 yards on Friday night. I can imagine new maturity and leadership coming to Freeman, but with big brother standing over his shoulder, I think the offense will be as unique and diverse as a ream of typing paper.

The news: Vincent Jackson will be worth the money.

The spin: After signing for big money in the offseason, which player will the Bucs get: the big-yardage receiver who averaged 18.4 yards a catch last year, or the player who completely disappeared for certain games. Jackson's numbers are solid but not overwhelming—and that was with Phillip Rivers as his quarterback. The mix of an erratic Freeman and a conservative Schiano might lower his ceiling.

The takeaway: Plato said, “You are what you repeatedly do.” I find it hard to believe Jackson, who had one catch for eight yards Friday, will be any different than he has been in the past in this conservative offense. He will be consistent, but not spectacular. And I will limit my references to Greek philosophers to one per article.

Tennessee Titans

QB: There has been much debate this preseason on who should start at QB for the Titans. Matt Hasselbeck is a savvy veteran, but is long in the tooth and has never been a record breaking QB talent. Oppositely, Jake Locker was drafted with much acclaim but has not looked impressive at any point of his career. Finally, it was only Rusty Smith who was able to score last Thursday. Late reports have the Locker being anointed as the starter. Stay tuned…

WR/TE: In addition to the dearth of talent throwing the ball, there is also a resounding lack of talent receiving it. Kenny Britt is the only great talent, but he misses so much time between injuries and conduct issues that he is an unattractive fantasy pick. Not a single person worth mentioning was targeted Thursday night and I would not be surprised if the entire Titans receiving corps goes undrafted in a lot fantasy leagues this year.

RB: The one bright spot of this preseason for the Titans is that Chris Johnson appears to be back to form. Johnson rushed for 46 yards and two TDs on 10 carries in the Titans wins over the Bucs this week and may cash in a lot of value for those who decide to draft him in the first round.

Washington Redskins

The news: Robert Griffin III is ready to go.

The spin: In early showings, Griffin seems as though he is ready for NFL competition. No reason to get too excited or pessimistic as of yet. He is like any rookie where he will have good flashes, moving the offense in the Buffalo game, for instance, or bad games, like the one in Chicago, where he is constantly pressured and unable get any traction offensively.

The takeaway: Again, no reason to get too excited or pessimistic as of yet. On the plus side, he looked competent. Compared to John Beck, most quarterbacks would. Griffin's fumble against the Bears is a good reminder that he does have plenty to learn.

The news: What song will Coach Shanahan put on as he plays musical chairs at the running back position?

The spin: Who is going to be the lead back? Is it Evan Royster? He was listed as the starter in the first exhibition game. Is it Roy Helu? He will be sidelined due to tendinitis in his left Achilles tendon. How serious is that injury? Is the recovering Tim Hightower in the mix? Of course Alfred Morris got the start in the Bears game. This does little to clarify a murky running back battle in the nation’s capital. Morris ran it 10 times for 34 yards in the Chicago game, with Royster chipping in two rushes for 20 yards. Still two more games to keep everyone guessing.

The takeaway: Coach Mike Shanahan continues to stick to the plan of the past few years. He will keep running the zone blocking scheme, he will irritate fantasy owners, and then he will miss the playoffs.

The news: Pierre Garcon will become the main target for RGIII.

The spin: A rapport has developed between the two thus far in camp. It has carried over into game conditions and Garcon looks like the No. 1 target right now.

The takeaway: Washington has a tendency to attempt to create chemistry that in the end only looked good on paper. Take Albert Haynesworth and Paul Ryan as examples. However, RGIII will be looking for a safety blanket when the season begins, and this early chemistry bodes well for both Garcon and Griffin.