BENGALS WR: Chris Henry caught another touchdown pass, but head coach Marvin Lewis remained non-plussed, stating in post-game interviews that there's more to being a wide receiver than catching the ball. He's still behind Chad Johnson and Laveranues Coles for the starting jobs.
BRONCOS RB: It's been two weeks since Knowshon Moreno has practiced, and it's looking more and more like Correll Buckhalter will be the starter in the regular-season opener. Peyton Hillis should contribute as well, especially with LaMont Jordan missing time this summer as well. Moreno will probably still be the top fantasy running back in Denver this year, but he won't be amassing too many fantasy points in September.
BRONCOS WR: The suspension of Brandon Marshall for the rest of the preseason means that Eddie Royal has cemented the No. 1 job. Marshall should be back in the regular season, but he's obviously not happy. Who else will step up? Not Jabar Gaffney, who fractured a thumb at Friday's practice. It looks like Brandon Stokley and Brandon Lloyd will each move up a notch during Gaffney's absence.
BROWNS QB: Brady Quinn got the start in the key third preseason game, perhaps indicating that he has the inside track to the job. He outplayed Derek Anderson too, but this one is still too close to call. They may each play as much as half of the final preseason game, with the regular-season starting job riding in the balance.
BROWNS RB: James Davis has fresher legs than Jamal Lewis, which could mean he'll spell Lewis at times this year, Davis seems to have already passed Jerome Harrison on the depth chart, and he's heir to the Cleveland rushing throne.
BROWNS WR: Mohamed Massaquoi is now playing with the first-team offense, but any of Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, or Mike Furrey could win the job opposite Braylon Edwards. None of the quartet has produced any separation from the others yet, which means this one could go down to who has the best rapport with whoever become the Browns' starting quarterback.
BUCCANEERS QB: Although Byron Leftwich officially won the starting job, he didn't exactly set the world on fire during camp - all he had to do was outplay Luke McCown, which proved to be an easy task. It really doesn't matter much, as rookie Josh Freeman will eventually overtake both of them, perhaps as early as this season.
BUCCANEERS RB: Tampa Bay is talking about employing a three-headed monster at running back this year, much like the Giants did last year. That's not a surprise, since Derrick Ward is part of both teams. We expect Earnest Graham to be first in the pecking order this season, but Ward and Cadillac Williams will get just enough playing time that you probably won't be able to count on any of them week-in and week-out.
CARDINALS QB: Brian St. Pierre had his shot to unseat Matt Leinart, but Friday's game put any doubts to rest. While St. Pierre sat with a sore back, Leinart eviscerated the Packers to the tune of 360 yards. Yes, it was mostly against backups, but Leinart at least proved he belongs in the league. He'll back up the fragile Kurt Warner this year, with visions of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin dancing in his head.
CARDINALS RB: The Cardinals finally took the handcuffs off of Chris Wells against the Packers and Beanie delivered two touchdowns. We're not ready to give this one to Wells yet, especially with Tim Hightower continuing his strong preseason, but the gap between the incumbent Hightower and the challenger Wells definitely narrowed on Friday.
CHIEFS QB: Only a few days ago, the Chiefs were talking about trading Tyler Thigpen, but with Matt Cassel expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained MCL, Thigpen may be the Opening Day starter for Kansas City. Brodie Croyle has probably outplayed Thigpen during the preseason, so he could get the nod as well - if Cassel isn't ready himself that is. It's possible that the Chiefs will acquire Kevin O'Connell, who was waived by the Patriots over the weekend, but he wouldn't be in line to start anytime soon. No matter who is behind center on September 13, the stingy Baltimore defense will be waiting.
CHIEFS WR: As if the Chiefs won't have enough challenges in the opener, there are also reports that expected starter Devard Darling tore his ACL. Mark Bradley, Amani Toomer, Terrance Copper, and Ashley Lelie will all be in the running - with no clear favorite at this time - for a starting spot if Darling is unable to play. The only sure thing in the Kansas City offense right now is No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe.
COLTS RB: Although Joseph Addai is playing almost exclusively with the first-team offense, Donald Brown replaced him in the red zone Saturday and scored on a two-yard run. They'll probably split carries about 65/35 this year, but if Brown is getting the goal-line carries, he could be just as valuable as Addai.
DOLPHINS WR: Things are starting to sort of fall into place in Miami, with Ted Ginn starting and Brian Hartline ahead of Davone Bess at No. 2. Hartline started the last two games, and with Bess and Greg Camarillo not showing a whole lot during the preseason, the job appears to be Hartline's to lose.
GIANTS WR: Right now it looks like Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon are the frontrunners, with Mario Manningham third. However, Hakeem Nicks had a big game (six catches for 144 yards and a score) Saturday and may have played himself into a starting job. Sinorice Moss and Ramses Barden are still kicking around as well, but they'd have to be considered long shots to start in September.
JAGUARS WR: Troy Williamson is the only healthy contender for the No. 2 job, so it looks like it's his for now. Mike Sims-Walker (ankle) and Mike Thomas (hamstring) should both return for the preseason finale Thursday, so if either of them impresses coach Jack Del Rio, there may still be time to overtake Williamson.
JETS QB: Rookie Mark Sanchez won the starting job despite a shaky preseason, and things won't get much easier with a tough early schedule. Kellen Clemens will back him up.
JETS WR: If Sanchez is going to be a success, it might be because of Chansi Stuckey, who is catching everything in sight and appears to have locked up a starting job opposite Jerrico Cotchery. David Clowney, who was once the favorite for the No. 2, drops to No. 3.
LIONS QB: Although Daunte Culpepper started the last game, he needed eight stitches in his toe from a minor cut and sat out practice Monday. Third stringer Drew Stanton (knee) was also out, meaning rookie Matthew Stafford took all of the snaps at practice and could have a great opportunity to win the job outright this week.
PACKERS TE: Donald Lee wasn't a bad tight end last year, but he doesn't look like he's going to be able to hold off the fast-charging Jermichael Finley this summer, who has been nothing less than spectacular. Finley scored two touchdowns Friday and looks like a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. If you want to throw a dart at a tight end, Finley's got nice upside.
PANTHERS RB: Jonathan Stewart continues to miss practice, and Mike Goodson continues to do well in his place. Goodson had 78 yards from scrimmage in the Saturday's game, and although Stewart is the future at running back in Carolina, Goodson is ready to step in right now. Of course, DeAngelo Williams will probably steal all of Goodson's playing time once the games start counting for real.
PATRIOTS RB: Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor are about even, but Maroney's new-found catching ability may give him the edge in this battle. Taylor got the start in the last game for what it's worth.
RAIDERS RB: Darren McFadden is still the starter and might even be a workhorse this year, but he's had problems holding onto the ball. Fumbleitis is a sure-fire way to lose your job. Michael Bush, who started Saturday's game, waits in the wings.
RAIDERS WR: Javon Walker is now back, but he's not ready to start yet. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey started Saturday, and although Murphy had 84 yards receiving, he also dropped two passes and fumbled another. He doesn't look like the answer, but the Raiders may not have a choice.
RAVENS RB: Ray Rice and Willis McGahee are each getting goal-line carries, but the edge in this one may go to Rice, thanks to eight receptions Saturday. Rice played most of the first half while McGahee watched. The Ravens may trust McGahee close to the goal-line, but the future is now for Rice.
REDSKINS WR: Santana Moss will be the go-to receiver, and Antwaan Randle El will man the slot, but the Redskins need another starting receiver. The Redskins drafted two wide receivers in the second round in 2008, and at this point Malcolm Kelly looks to be ahead of Devin Thomas. Neither should do much in the Washington offense, but at least the winner of this duel will be able to tell his mother he's an NFL starter.
SAINTS RB: The Saints are talking about using a three-back system, but we're not buying it. Pierre Thomas, who is a little banged up right now, should be ready to be the primary ball carrier on day one. Reggie Bush will be used in passing downs and will carry the ball as well. Mike Bell might be a goal-line guy, but then again he might not. At this point, you'd have to be in a very deep league to consider Bell, even with Thomas' injury.
SAINTS WR: With Lance Moore back in action and Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson both playing well, the Saints have an interesting problem. Marques Colston will clearly be a starter, but who else will get to benefit from coach Sean Payton's explosive offense this year? Moore and Meachem appear to be a little ahead of Henderson right now. Moore is a steady performer, while Meachem could be more boom-or-bust this year. What kind of fantasy owner are you?
SEAHAWKS RB: Seattle picked up Edgerrin James a week ago and unceremoniously dumped T.J. Duckett. Julius Jones is still officially the top back, but James wasn't brought up to the Emerald City to sit on the bench.
STEELERS RB: We get a lot of questions about the Pittsburgh running back situation, and with starter Willie Parker sitting out Saturday's start with a sore hamstring, the questions continue. Will Rashard Mendenhall be the goal-line back? Can he win the job from Parker outright? Do the Steelers and Parker mean it this time when they say he'll be catching passes out of the backfield? The answers to the latter two look like "no" right now, but the first one could be "yes," meaning Mendenhall won't be an afterthought this year.
TITANS WR: Nate Washington could miss "several" games to start the season, thanks to a hamstring injury. The Titans don't exactly have a ton of receivers in their stables, so they'll turn to rookie Kenny Britt to fill the void. Britt has had a good preseason and he isn't a bad sleeper. A couple of good games for Britt to start the season might prevent Washington from getting into the starting lineup even when he's healthy.
Article first appeared 9/1/09