Although the focus of many was on the boxing world Saturday night, fantasy football diehards were likely to still have one eye on the all-important "dress rehearsal" weekend around the NFL. Saturday offered a solid nine-game slate that featured extended action for first-team units. As customary at this point in the summer, some job battles also gained greater clarity, while multiple stars made their first and only appearances of the exhibition slate. Without further ado, let's take a look at some notable highlights from the majority of Saturday's contests:
- The story of the game was Tyrod Taylor's concussion, which he sustained at the end of Buffalo's second possession on a sack by the Ravens' Matthew Judon. Taylor will remain in the league's mandated protocol until further notice. In his stead, both T.J. Yates (8-for-15 for 102 yards and one interception) and projected backup Nathan Peterman (11-for-23 for 93 yards) saw extended action.
- LeSean McCoy saw limited work (six rushes, seven yards and two receptions for minus-two yards), but key passing-game pieces Charles Clay (four receptions, 47 yards) and Zay Jones (three receptions, 28 yards) had encouraging outings.
- Andre Holmes, likely the third receiver to open the campaign, notched just one reception for nine yards.
- The Ravens' Joe Flacco continues to sit as he recovers from his back woes, which led to another Ryan Mallett start. He was serviceable while completing six of 10 passes for 58 yards, but rookie Josh Woodrum once again opened some eyes by leading a scoring drive that he capped off with a 15-yard scoring throw to Taquan Mizzell. While Woodrum doesn't figure to have chance at unseating Mallett for the top backup role just yet, he could well make Thad Lewis expendable.
- Terrence West (five carries for 17 yards and one catch for six yards) is entrenched as the top back, but Javorius Allen (12 carries for 25 yards and one reception for three yards) saw extended action Saturday with Danny Woodhead sitting due to a hamstring injury.
- It was a quiet night for the Ravens' receiving corps, with Chris Moore (two receptions, 16 yards) as the highest wideout on the depth chart to record more than one reception.
- While Bryce Petty walked into Saturday's contest as the Jets' projected third quarterback, he may have headed to the locker room with the No. 2 job in hand, pending the results of the knee injury he suffered. Petty was an outstanding 15-for-18 for 250 yards and fired three touchdowns, connecting twice with rookie ArDarius Stewart and notching a third on an 85-yard catch-and-run by Bilal Powell. If Petty's knee injury is significant, Christian Hackenberg (12-for-21 for 126 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and one rush for 13 yards) would presumably lock up the backup role behind Josh McCown to open the season.
- Powell and Matt Forte also provided plenty of reason for optimism with their respective performances. The former rushed seven times for 32 yards while also compiling a total of 110 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, and the latter looked like his old self on his way to 10 rushes for 43 yards and a pair of receptions. With the Jets likely to rely heavily on the run game this season, both Forte and Powell could make for sneaky fantasy options in quite a bit of formats.
- Stewart (five receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown) continues to impress as the preseason unfolds, and he could be in for an expanded role to start the regular season with projected No. 2 receiver Jalin Marshall suspended for the first four contests. Presumed No. 1 receiver Robby Anderson notably had a quiet night once again, bringing in only one of four targets for nine yards.
- The Giants racked up 29 of their 32 points in the first half, with Eli Manning (7-for-14 for 121 yards with one interception) nevertheless looking inconsistent. However, he did play without Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder).
- Paul Perkins looked primed to helm the Giants backfield while turning in a solid six carries for 33 yards, but 2017 fourth-rounder Wayne Gallman continued his productive preseason with 12 carries for 43 yards and one reception for 11 yards. Gallman still slots behind Orleans Darkwa for the third running back spot, but his solid preseason could potentially help him vault the latter by final cuts.
- Sterling Shepard (two receptions, 47 yards) and projected starting tight end Evan Engram (two receptions, 32 yards) seemed to benefit from the absences of Beckham and Marshall, while undrafted rookie Travis Rudolph made some noise in pacing the Giants receivers with three catches for 81 yards.
- Carson Palmer made good use of his relatively abbreviated playing time, firing a touchdown pass to John Brown and completing eight of 13 passes overall. The veteran has seen his last action of preseason and will look ahead to the opener against the Lions.
- While Chris Johnson put the ball on the ground twice, he doesn't appear to be in danger of losing his No. 2 running back spot behind David Johnson, who did play on the first series and notched one catch for eight yards.
- Brown was the story of the night, returning from a lingering quad injury to record two receptions for 49 yards, with both catches resulting in scores. The speedy receiver looked to be back to his explosive self, but his sickle-cell issues will keep fantasy owners nervous throughout the season and make backups Jaron Brown and J.J. Nelson pieces to keep an eye one.
- The Falcons' Matt Ryan (4-for-11 for 36 yards with one interception) turned in a forgettable dress rehearsal, and considering he's playing under a new offensive coordinator, it's perhaps prudent to not completely dismiss his struggles. Nevertheless, he's seen his last game action of the summer and will now gear up for the regular-season opener against the Bears.
- Tevin Coleman saw his most extensive action of preseason and looks fully recovered from his Super Bowl ankle injury. He carried three times for 19 yards while also adding a 14-yard reception and should see plenty of work alongside Devonta Freeman this coming season.
- Julio Jones also stepped onto the field for the first time this preseason and couldn't connect with Ryan on his one target, a deep pass over the middle. Given that Saturday's snaps will represent the extent of his game action this summer, it's fair to at least speculate that he may not be fully in rhythm with the new offense in Week 1.
- The battle for the Colts' No. 2 quarterback job, something typically ignored in fantasy circles given Andrew Luck's presence, has suddenly become one of the more intriguing to watch given the latter's uncertain health status heading into the regular season. Stephen Morris (12-for-16 for 143 yards and Scott Tolzien (7-for-10 for 123 yards with one interception) took their competition up another notch Saturday, with both doing some good things. The backup role is therefore likely to be decided in next week's exhibition finale, but that job could certainly equate to the starting one in the regular-season opener if Luck isn't ready.
- While the quarterback situation is the source of plenty of consternation, the Colts' backfield looks to be in good shape. Ageless veteran Frank Gore (five carries for 23 yards and a touchdown) and promising rookie Marlon Mack (seven carries for 18 yards and one reception for 17 yards) appear more than capable of helping take some pressure off whoever is behind center come Week 1.
- The receivers showed up to play Saturday as well, with Philip Dorsett (three receptions, 60 yards) and Donte Moncrief (one reception, 55 yards) particularly standing out.
- The Steelers saw the preseason debuts of both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, with the duo hooking up on two occasions for 28 yards. Big Ben looked solid overall save for a lost fumble, completing six of nine passes for 73 yards. Backup Landry Jones also hit the field for the first time this summer after dealing with an abdominal injury and threw for 163 yards in extended action.
- Le'Veon Bell is supposedly set to report Sept. 1, but the Steelers seem to have a couple of serviceable backup options should anything go awry. Promising rookie James Conner (four rushes, 26 yards) was solid again, albeit in less playing time than last week, while veteran Knile Davis (seven carries, 21 yards and three kickoff returns for 61 yards) seems to be making a solid case for a backfield role as well.
- Martavis Bryant was productive among the receivers as well with five catches for 23 yards, but Eli Rogers (five receptions, 58 yards) and rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (three receptions, 31 yards) lent credence to the belief that the team has improved its depth considerably at the position.
- Rookie DeShone Kizer may have the inside track to the Browns' starting quarterback job as per head coach Hue Jackson, but his 6-for-18, 93-yard, one-interception performance Saturday may at least give him reason to give another look to Cody Kessler or Brock Osweiler. Kessler did complete six of 10 passes for 48 yards and rushed once for five yards Saturday, and both he and Kizer could potentially see extended action in the exhibition finale against the Bears.
- Isaiah Crowell (11 carries, 40 yards) and Duke Johnson (three carries, 43 yards) look ready for the regular season, although the latter did have a key fumble that killed an 87-yard drive.
- Corey Coleman (four receptions for 66 yards) looks the part of the No. 1 receiver he's currently slotted as, while Kenny Britt (one reception, 13 yards) is likely to see plenty of volume in the coming season as well. Spotty quarterback play may be the only factor that puts somewhat of a crimp in the fantasy upside of two talented pass catchers.
- The Bucs had to take the field without Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on Saturday, but Jameis Winston still threw for 200 yards in just over a half of play. Winston has seen plenty of work this preseason, putting up 69 pass attempts overall. He'll sit next Thursday against the Redskins and prepare for a trip down to South Florida to tangle with the Dolphins in the regular-season opener.
- With Doug Martin getting set to say goodbye to the Bucs for three weeks following next Thursday's preseason finale, the team is starting to get Jacquizz Rodgers ready for the role of lead back. He paced the Tampa backfield with 10 carries Saturday, which he parlayed into 34 yards. He added one reception for 17 yards.
- Given the absence of the top two wideouts, promising rookies Chris Godwin (four receptions, 56 yards) and O.J. Howard (two receptions, 15 yards) took advantage, while Cameron Brate (two receptions, 22 yards) and Adam Humphries (two receptions, 24 yards) also were productive. However, the Bucs are holding their breath on the latter, as he had to exit the game early with a hip injury.
- Tom Savage has been anointed the Texans starter by head coach Bill O'Brien, but rookie DeShaun Watson's education continues. The promising first-rounder saw plenty of action and completed 11 of 21 passes for 116 yards with one interception and rushed twice for 10 yards. Watson will be holding a clipboard come Week 1, but his draft position and talent figure to push the issue at some point in the not-too-distant future.
- Lamar Miller's grasp on the starting running back role is unquestioned for now, and he rushed three times for 10 yards while working with the first unit Saturday.
- It was a quiet night on the receiving front, as the Saints stymied the Texans throughout the night and DeAndre Hopkins (hand) sat out again. Jaelen Strong, the projected No. 2 pass catcher who will miss the first game of the regular season due to suspension, notched one reception for eight yards. Bruce Ellington did continue his push for a roster spot, notching four receptions for 29 yards after an impressive performance last week.
- The Saints' Drew Brees made his first and presumably only appearance of preseason, completing 11 of 15 passes for 76 yards in a sharp effort. That should be it for the prolific passer until the regular-season opener, when he'll begin his quest for the fifth 5,000-yard season of his career.
- Brees wasn't the only future Hall of Famer in a Saints uniform hitting the field for the first time this summer, as Adrian Peterson logged a preseason carry for the first time since 2011. He rushed six times for 15 yards overall and lost a yard on his only reception. Peterson looked healthy and ready to roll, which was the important takeaway from the performance. He figures in a for a Tim Hightower-like role alongside Mark Ingram at a minimum in the coming season.
- With both Brees and backup Chase Daniel (108 yards passing) enjoying productive nights, the Saints' receiving corps had plenty to feel satisfied with. Brandon Coleman (two receptions, 44 yards), Michael Thomas (four catches, 27 yards) and Ted Ginn, Jr. (three catches for 26 yards, one rush for 24 yards and two punt returns for 16 yards), all projected for roles of varying importance in the coming season, enjoyed productive nights.
- Philip Rivers got his work in (6-for-6 for 85 yards and a 45-yard touchdown to Travis Benjamin) and got out of there for the Chargers, ceding the reins to Cardale Jones, who completed nine of 13 attempts for 74 yards with one interception.
- Melvin Gordon certainly wasn't shabby in his own right, proving he's ready for the regular season and recovered from last season's knee injury by gaining 36 yards and scoring a touchdown on eight rushes.
- The Chargers had to be enthused by the play of Keenan Allen, coming off his own devastating injury from last season. He paced San Diego wideouts with five receptions while matching Benjamin with 45 yards receiving. A full return to health and effectiveness by Allen would make a an already-lethal passing attack even better, particularly once rookie Mike Williams (back) also hits the field.
- The Rams' Jared Goff couldn't quite replicate last week's outstanding effort, completing a modest five of eight passes for 56 yards and throwing a pick before exiting. Goff couldn't connect with Sammy Watkins on the one target he sent his way and also played without promising rookie Cooper Kupp (groin).
- Todd Gurley took a seat Saturday, but Malcolm Brown continued to make a strong case for a backup job with nine rushes for 44 yards and a reception for 22 yards as well. With Lance Dunbar (knee) expected to start the season on the PUP list, the door could be open for Brown to carve out and maintain a role.
- A plethora of receiver hopefuls made strong cases Saturday, with Pharoah Cooper (five receptions, 70 yards) and Josh Reynolds (three receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown) particularly standing out.
- Dak Prescott gave Cowboys fans plenty to cheer about with his 11-for-14, 113-yard, one-touchdown performance. He and Jason Witten were in mid-season form, with Prescott completing all six targets he threw the future Hall of Famer's way for 74 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, Brandon Rush secured the second-string job with another impressive outing (12-for-13 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and one rush for 13 yards). He fired scoring passes of seven yards to Ronnie Hillman and 44 yards to Lance Lenoir.
- The biggest news of the night, however, was Ezekiel Elliott's cameo appearance, one in which he rushed six times for 18 yards and added two receptions for six yards. Elliott ran with his usual burst and decisiveness, and now faces his long-anticipated meeting with the league office to appeal his six-game suspension on Tuesday. The best-case scenario for Elliott appears to be a potential reduction of perhaps two games on his ban.
- On the subject of Elliott's impending absence, it was Alfred Morris who was showcased over Darren McFadden in terms of Elliott's veteran backups, and he responded with nine rushes for 56 yards. McFadden was solid in limited time with two rushes for 21 yards, while Ronnie Hillman didn't see a carry but notched four catches for 23 yards, including the aforementioned touchdown.
- In addition to Witten's stellar night, Brice Butler turned in two receptions for 28 yards as he looks to secure a backup receiver role once again, while Lenoir had two grabs for 49 yards and the aforementioned touchdown overall. The undrafted rookie has had his moments this summer and will look to make his final case for a roster spot in next Thursday's exhibition finale against the Texans.
- The Raiders are naturally in fine shape with Derek Carr at the helm, and he provided plenty of reason for optimism heading into the regular season with a crisp 13-for-17, 144-yard, two-touchdown effort. He connected with top target Amari Cooper for an impressive 48-yard catch-and-run score, which was preceded by a 17-yard strike to Cordarrelle Paterson.
- While clear-cut top back Marshawn Lynch made another brief appearance (two carries, six yards), DeAndre Washington was featured over Jalen Richard in the battle for the top backup job. Washington carried five times for 27 yards and added a reception, although he lost three yards on the play and also logged two yards on a punt return. Richard tallied just one rush for one yard, notched a reception for 13 more and returned one punt for 10 yards. No matter the final tallies for each in the preseason, however, it's also very possible they play close to an equal number of snaps once the regular campaign kicks off.
- Cooper's outstanding effort included a total of four catches for 78 yards and the aforementioned score, while Patterson enjoyed a solid night with four catches for 30 yards and his touchdown. The speedster also returned two kicks for 48 yards and appears set as the fourth wideout and primary kick returner. Michael Crabtree secured two of three targets for nine yards in a quiet performance.