Whatever you think about NFL preseason football and how little it matters in terms of predicting what comes next, completing 93.3% of pass attempts against other players on an NFL field isn’t that bad.
Baker Mayfield at very least justified the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ decision to make him their starting quarterback to start the season. He finished a good, albeit brief, preseason with another good performance in Saturday night’s 26-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Mayfield completed all six of his passes in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens, including a pretty 11-yard touchdown over the middle to Chris Godwin.
Maybe it will turn out well for Tampa Bay and Mayfield. Mayfield appeared in two preseason games and completed 14-of-15 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a 135.4 passer rating.
Mayfield is on a modest one-year, $4 million deal. To put that in perspective, Taylor Heinicke got $7 million a year on a two-year deal from the Atlanta Falcons and Jarrett Stidham got $5 million over two years from the Denver Broncos. Mayfield, the former first overall pick, is already in the phase of his career in which he’s just trying to prove he’s still an NFL starter. The Bucs, who had little salary cap room after Tom Brady retired, had a starting spot available. Mayfield was named the team’s starter after a good first preseason game, and he followed that up with another sharp outing against Baltimore.
It’s absolutely fair to be skeptical. The Ravens didn’t use starters on Saturday night, and nobody should be blown away by Mayfield carving up backups. Mayfield struggled badly enough at the end of his run with the Cleveland Browns that they paid most of his salary just to trade him to the Carolina Panthers, and he played so poorly with the Panthers that they benched him. It’s not like 15 good pass attempts against backups in the preseason should convince anyone he’s back.
Still, the Buccaneers have to be happy with what they saw. There are still good players on the roster like Godwin and Mike Evans. whose fantasy football value won’t tank if Mayfield is adequate or better. The NFC South is probably the weakest division in the NFL. If Mayfield isn’t bad, maybe the Buccaneers can be in playoff contention this season. They’d take that in what was supposed to be a transition season after Brady.
Mayfield has an important season ahead of him. If he fails as the Buccaneers’ starter, there likely won’t be another opportunity for him as a QB1. If he has a big season — Mayfield did play pretty well as a rookie in 2018 and again in 2020 — then he’ll be a free agent that could be in some demand. He’s going into the season with some momentum.
The Bills looked like a team that played poorly in the second preseason game last week and heard all about it from the coaches.
Buffalo trailed 14-0 against the Pittsburgh Steelers after one quarter last week and didn’t look good. They looked a lot better on Saturday against the Chicago Bears, a game the Bills won 24-21. The defense, facing the Bears’ starters, forced two straight three-and-outs with some good coverage and strong tackling. The Bears got a drive going after that, with a nice 40-yard catch and run by receiver D.J. Moore highlighting it, but the Bills held Chicago to a field goal inside the red zone after Justin Fields was taken out.
Offensively, the Bills drove right down for a touchdown on Josh Allen’s only drive. Allen had a great throw on a slant route to Stefon Diggs and made a highlight play rolling right and throwing back across to Gabriel Davis in the middle of the field for a first down.
There shouldn’t have been any concern over the Bills’ starters having one bad quarter in the preseason. But they know they’re ready for the regular season after a good outing on Saturday.
Standout player: Packers QB Jordan Love
The Packers’ broadcast pointed out that in all three of the team’s preseason games, Jordan Love’s last pass of the day was a touchdown.
Love struggled to begin Saturday’s preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, which the Packers won 19-15. Love threw incomplete on all three of his passes on the first drive, including a couple into tight coverage. Perhaps wanting to see something positive out of the first-team offense before its final preseason game was done, Packers coach Matt LaFleur kept the starters on the field for a third drive. That turned out to be a good idea.
Love went 7 of 10 for 60 yards on the final drive. The Packers went up-tempo, perhaps to simulate a two-minute drill, and Love got into a rhythm. He finished the drive with a nice back-shoulder touchdown pass to Christian Watson.
It wasn’t Love’s best game of the preseason, but he bounced back strong after a slow start. Green Bay should be excited with what it has seen from Love this month.
Kansas City Chiefs 33, Cleveland Browns 32: Deshaun Watson didn’t have a clean start for the Browns, but he did some good things. There were two fumbled handoffs, and he started the day completing just 1 of 4 passes. But Watson also had a big 53-yard play to Amari Cooper on a busted coverage by the Chiefs and a nice throw to tight end David Njoku for a 10-yard touchdown. There has been a lot of chatter that Watson hasn’t had a great camp. Saturday’s finale was solid but unspectacular, outside of the Njoku touchdown pass. He finished 5 of 10 for 92 yards.
Arizona Cardinals 18, Minnesota Vikings 17: The Cardinals haven’t ruled out rookie fifth-round pick Clayton Tune starting at quarterback to begin the season, and he got the start Saturday. He went 9 of 12 for 85 yards. Colt McCoy sat, which could be an indication he is Arizona’s preferred starter for Week 1. Or perhaps it’s Joshua Dobbs, who the Cardinals just traded for but didn’t play either. Stay tuned.
Washington Commanders 21, Cincinnati Bengals 19: Both teams chose to sit their starters. Jacoby Brissett, Washington’s backup quarterback after they named Sam Howell the starter, played and had a nice touchdown pass after extending a play. He finished 10 of 15 for 96 yards.
New York Jets 32, New York Giants 24: The big news was obviously Aaron Rodgers taking his first preseason snaps with the Jets. It was also a debut for new Giants linebacker Isaiah Simmons, a former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals who was acquired for a seventh-round pick this week. Simmons, who was used exclusively as a pass rusher for his few snaps, got a good rush on Rodgers on the Jets’ first drive, causing an incompletion and a Jets punt.
Jacksonville Jaguars 31, Miami Dolphins 18: The Trevor Lawrence-to-Calvin Ridley connection is going to be fun. Ridley had three catches for 50 yards, including a fantastic back-shoulder catch that set up a touchdown. Ridley is back from a year-long suspension for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, and he could be a top 10 receiver this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26, Baltimore Ravens 20: Lamar Jackson lobbied to play in the preseason finale but Ravens coach John Harbaugh decided against it. Josh Johnson started and threw a touchdown to former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell.
Dallas Cowboys: 31, Las Vegas Raiders 16: This game had the fun wrinkle of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott calling plays. Prescott started with two runs off tackle but then opened it up a little on Dallas’ first drive. He called seven passes and four runs, though quarterback Will Grier took off scrambling on two of those pass calls. Prescott’s first drive as a play caller finished with a touchdown, as Grier ran a play-action bootleg to the right into the end zone for a two-yard score.
Denver Broncos 41, Los Angeles Rams 0: Jarrett Stidham started at quarterback for the Broncos, not Russell Wilson. Stidham came out strong, completing his first six passes for 71 yards on a touchdown drive to start the game. Stidham took a huge hit on a 50-yard pass to rookie Marvin Mims Jr. and was down for a while, but he popped up and ran to the sideline. Stidham came out of the game for one play but went back in. The Broncos’ starting offense didn’t have a great preseason. Wilson went 10 of 19 for 117 yards in two preseason games. We’ll see what it looks like when Sean Payton is putting together game plans for the regular season.
• James Cook was the clear No. 1 running back role for the Bills again on Saturday. However, Cook gave way to Damien Harris for a two-yard touchdown run. It isn’t great for Cook’s fantasy football outlook if he doesn’t have goal line work. There should still be plenty of work for Cook when the season starts.
• The Chiefs’ backup quarterback spot is up for grabs. Shane Buechele started but threw two interceptions, including a pick-six that caromed off his receiver. Blaine Gabbert had a pick-six as well, which was also off his receiver. Gabbert had the better day with 169 yards, two touchdowns and a 101.4 passer rating. Buechele had just 89 yards but a nice touchdown pass to Justyn Ross.
• Jaguars rookie running back Tank Bigsby got a lot of time with the first-team offense, splitting time with Travis Etienne Jr., and ran well. But he had a big mistake too, as he fumbled at the 2-yard line near the end of a long drive. Etienne got a goal-line carry later and converted for a touchdown. We’ll see if that fumble costs Bigsby some playing time early in the season.
• Tua Tagovailoa played for the Dolphins into the second quarter. He finished 4 of 6 for 67 yards. It was good for him to get some playing time coming off his concussion issues last season, and he looked sharp.
• You ready for some regular season football? If not, watch this touchdown run by Bills running back Darrynton Evans as he plowed through multiple Bears defenders on the way to the end zone.