Monday Morning Digest: The Good, the Bad and the Injured in Dress Rehearsals

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterAugust 28, 2017

Monday Morning Digest: The Good, the Bad and the Injured in Dress Rehearsals

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    This was the preseason weekend that mattered. Which means that the fields were full of players who mattered. Which means that there were a bunch of injuries that mattered.

    As such, this week's Monday Morning Digest breaks down the impact of Julian Edelman's ACL tear and other significant injuries around the NFL. We also trim the fat from the preseason stats (including all of the fourth-quarter tomfoolery) to determine the real Preseason Winners and Losers. Find out which potential contenders are lying in the grass and which Super Bowl hopefuls are wrapping up a preseason to forget.

    All this—plus Packers and Dolphins spotlights, more information on kicker competitions around the NFL than you could ever ask for and plenty of Jets jokes—is in this week's well-rehearsed, dressed-to-impress Digest.

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Injuries Mar Preseason Dress Rehearsals, as Usual.

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    As first-world problems go, the Patriots fretting over the loss of Julian Edelman (who tore his ACL on Friday night against the Lions) is up there with running out of vanilla almond milk at the free-trade organic coffee shop.

    Yes, Edelman is both important to the Patriots and electrifying to watch. And no one likes to see any player get hurt. But Edelman's absence drops the Patriots from overwhelming Super Bowl favorites to incrementally-less-overwhelming Super Bowl favorites.

    The misleading with-and-without Edelman stat splits making the rounds (the ones that make it look like Tom Brady turns into Brian Hoyer without Edelman) only exist to whip up some faux worrying among success-gorged Patriots fans. Brady still has Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and about 50 running backs to work with. He'll muddle through.

    Edelman may have been the best and most famous player to suffer a dress-rehearsal injury, but other teams suffered blows which could have a bigger impact on the 2017 standings. Here are some of the less publicized, but very significant, injuries from a typically costly preseason weekend:

    Spencer Ware, Running Back, Chiefs: Ware may be lost for the season after damaging multiple ligaments in his right knee, including a torn PCL. The Chiefs offense is built around both the running game and the receiving-out-of-the-backfield game. Rookie Kareem Hunt and Charcandrick West are a decent replacement, but the offense will lack depth and some of its much-needed deceptiveness without Ware.

    Cameron Meredith, Wide Receiver, Bears: The Bears fear that Meredith tore his ACL against the Titans on Sunday. This one is like a reverse-case Edelman in some ways: Losing him transforms the Bears from one of the 10 worst teams in the NFL into one of the eight or nine worst. But Meredith was also likely to be Mitchell Trubisky's go-to guy once the Bears stop fooling around with Mike Glennon. It's tough for a rebuilding team to lose a player who can help youngsters develop.

    Tyrod Taylor, Quarterback, Bills: When an embattled starter suffers an injury in the midst of an organizational veteran purge, you know how this story inevitably ends. Taylor's concussion ends his preseason on a sour note, though the Nathan Peterman bandwagon blew a tire when the rookie laid an egg against the Ravens starting defense (two near-turnovers, several three-and-outs, a pre-halftime "drive" that was mostly Ravens penalties). No quarterback will be able to move the ball for the Bills this year, but Taylor is still poised to bear the brunt of the hits—and the blame—when he returns.

    Anthony Hitchens, Linebacker, Cowboys: The team was in gloom-and-doom mode over their middle linebacker after Saturday's game, and the reports Sunday are that he will be out eight weeks with a tibial plateau fracture. The Cowboys defensive depth is razor-thin, so every loss to injury or suspension weakens their case as short-list Super Bowl contenders. Jaylon Smith should see increased playing time with Hitchens out, but don't let Smith's smattering of preseason highlights (shown on endless loops this weekend) mislead you. He's not physically or mentally ready to be a starter.

    Justin Tucker, Kicker, Ravens: The Ravens breathed a sigh of relief when Tucker cleared concussion protocol, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, after making a tackle against the Bills. Without their star kicker, the Ravens would score just 32 total points this season on two safeties per week. Tucker's activity this preseason (he ran downfield and recovered a fumble against the Dolphins in Week 2) and importance to the Ravens makes you wonder why the team doesn't invest in a camp kicker to do Tucker's preseason stunt work. Ladies and gentleman, we may have finally found the perfect job for Roberto Aguayo.

Preseason Winners Digest

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Preseason results are not as meaningless as you might think. They just need to be properly interpreted. Throw out everything that happens after halftime and in the fourth preseason game (which is why we are doing this now), and you get a snapshot of how ready each team's starters and key backups are to compete in the regular season.

    Here are the teams with the best halftime point differentials in their first three (or four) preseason games. Some of the results look like preseason flukes. Others may be a sign of things to come.

    Seattle Seahawks (Halftime score total: 64-33, plus-31): There is some fluff in the Seahawks' point total, thanks to Kellen Clemens operating a turnover dispensary in the preseason opener against the Chargers. And all of the usual Seahawks offensive line caveats apply. But the Legion of Boom is booming, Russell Wilson is as sharp as ever, and the preseason has been a showcase for both old and new offensive weapons.

    Denver Broncos (Halftime score total: 40-17, plus-23): Defensive turnovers—a pick-six against the Bears, an interception/strip sack/muffed punt trifecta against the 49ers—have covered for the fact that the Broncos offense is a station-to-station affair at best. In other words, the Broncos look like the Broncos.

    Arizona Cardinals (Halftime score total: 56-33, plus-23): The Cardinals starters looked great on Saturday against the Falcons and picked the Raiders apart two weeks ago. Those who participated in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys even looked sharp, giving the Cardinals three strong showings against playoff contenders. Their defense is swarming and forcing turnovers. The offense is at its bombs-away best, and Carson Palmer's pass protection looks sturdy. Don't sleep on the Cardinals.

    New York Giants (Halftime score total: 41-20, plus-21): Don't get carried away by this result. The Giants offense was a mess in two preseason games, and the Jets handed the Giants defense 16 free points Saturday night. (Keep reading the Monday Morning Digest for more details.)

    Chicago Bears (Halftime score total: 36-17, plus-19): Sunday's impressive first half full of long drives and blocked punts against the Titans vaulted the Bears onto this list. Some pre-halftime heroics against the Cardinals (including a field goal return touchdown) also helped. On the downside, Sunday's injury to Cameron Meredith may sap the Bears' already-depleted skill position corps. The Bears played higher-energy football than their opponents this preseason. John Fox may have them believing, but the try-hard routine will likely lose its impact when opponents start caring about the final score.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Halftime score total: 24-9, plus-15): Jameis Winston has thrown 69 preseason passes, a startlingly high total for an established starting quarterback. The Bucs defense has looked fine (against the Jaguars and Browns, mind you), but the starting offense has spent an awful lot of time on the field to come away with just 24 points. The Buccaneers are hard to get a read on right now.

    Baltimore Ravens (Halftime score total: 29-14, plus-15): The Ravens, meanwhile, are easy to read. Their defense is great. Their offense is like one of those endless commercial breaks when a superhero movie airs on basic cable. Like the Broncos, the Ravens look exactly like themselves.

Preseason Losers Digest

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    Fred Vuich/Associated Press

    Just as in the "Winners" section, the point differentials below are taken from the halftime scores of the first three preseason games. No 99-yard fourth-quarter touchdowns against future gym teachers are allowed.

    Several of the league's biggest doormats made this loser's list. But there are also some potentially revealing surprises.

    Tie: Oakland Raiders (Halftime score total: 30-44, minus-14) and Miami Dolphins (Halftime score: 41-55, minus-14): The offenses look great. The pass defenses look potentially disastrous.

    Minnesota Vikings (Halftime score total: 9-31, minus-22): The Vikings have zero first-half touchdowns through three games, even though Sam Bradford and other starters played the whole first quarter of the preseason opener. The defense has been better, but Sunday night's effort against the 49ers revealed some inexcusable lapses and communication errors for a unit full of veterans. Most distressing for the Vikings: an offensive line that looks no better than last year's, despite the acquisitions of tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers.

    Los Angeles Chargers (Halftime score total: 38-53, minus-15): The real Chargers looked great Saturday night (more on that later), in contrast to the turnover-happy, Kellen Clemens-led Chargers of the preseason opener. So there is no reason to panic just yet. Keep in mind, though, that the Chargers are so injury-plagued that they may end up relying on many of the guys who looked so bad in the opener.

    Washington Redskins (Halftime score total: 23-41, minus-18): Washington couldn't run the ball in its first two preseason games and couldn't protect Kirk Cousins on Sunday. The defense has given up long touchdown drives at the start of each of the last two games. If the Redskins are gearing up for a "take the next step" season, they have done a fine job hiding it. 

    Pittsburgh Steelers (Halftime score total: 19-35, minus-16): A misleading result. Rookie quarterback Joshua Dobbs started the first two preseason games, and Dobbs is like a young Ryan Fitzpatrick: A-plus intangibles and mobility, accuracy of a lawn sprinkler. Ben Roethlisberger and the starters could have been sharper Saturday, when the offense fumbled and sputtered while the defense gave up easy yards. But in fairness, the Steelers were just ironing things out, while the Colts were playing as if it were their Super Bowl.

    New York Jets (Halftime score total: 10-42, minus-32): I have never seen a team enter the regular season with less dignity than the 2017 New York Jets.

Notable Veteran Digest

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Many big-name veterans saw their most or only significant action of the preseason this weekend. Here's a roundup of what some of the big names did before they were re-boxed in packing peanuts until the start of the regular season.

    Keenan Allen caught five passes for 45 yards. He was consistently open on underneath crossing routes. Allen always did look a little like Anquan Boldin, so he should make a fine possession receiver/security blanket for Philip Rivers now that he is healthy again.

    Jamaal Charles looked healthy and quick on six touches for 42 yards for the Broncos. It's hard to imagine Charles elevating the Broncos' paint-by-numbers offense at this point in his career, but it's great to see him out there.

    Ezekiel Elliott had eight rugged touches for 24 yards and is ready to either play in the season opener, serve his six-game suspension or disappear into the NFL administrative wormhole indefinitely. He also got to watch Cowboys guard Zack Martin pick up Raiders defenders and throw them out of his holes like they were bags of stale bread into a supermarket dumpster. So even if Elliott is suspended or in limbo, Darren McFadden and others will have plenty of room to run.

    Tyreek Hill has seen action throughout the preseason, but he dropped a pair of catchable deep passes in an extended look against the Seahawks on Friday night. Maybe it was nothing. Or maybe the transition from screens-and-returns big-play machine to the focal point of the offense won't be as smooth as the Chiefs hoped it would be.

    Adrian Peterson had seven touches for 14 yards. His longest run was three yards. Counting Peterson out is dangerous, but you may want to play it safe and let your brother-in-law draft him in fantasy while you pick some younger guys.

    Jason Pierre-Paul recorded a sack, a safety and a tipped pass. JPP also intercepted a batted pass against the Browns on Monday night. Even adjusting for the level of competition, JPP is going to have a nasty year.

Dress Rehearsal Spotlight: Giants 32, Jets 31

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    What happened

    Human civilization has produced just a handful of comedy masterpieces in the last 3,000 years: the works of Juvenal, The Taming of the Shrew, Don Quixote, Blazing Saddles, Seasons 3 through 7 of The Simpsons…and now the Christian Hackenberg-led Jets offense.

    Hackenberg threw two pick-sixes and endured three sacks, Matt Forte got stuffed for a safety by Jason Pierre-Paul, and the Giants built a 29-3 halftime lead despite some offensive sloppiness of their own.

    Bryce Petty led an adorable comeback after Ben McAdoo began auditioning practice-squaders in the second half. Petty then suffered a knee injury, returning Hackenberg to the game late in the fourth quarter for a self-esteem salvage operation. The final score and statistics of this game may be the most misleading in NFL preseason history. When the real players (term used loosely for the Jets) were, it looked like a playoff team scrimmaging a college marching band.


    What it means

    • The Giants pass rush and secondary look ready to generate gobs of sacks and turnovers, even when they face real competition.

    • Paul Perkins had some nifty runs early in the game. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall out, rookies Travis Rudolph and tight end Evan Engram proved the Giants will have plenty of skill-position depth.

    • Right guard John Jerry filled in for left tackle Ereck Flowers as the lineman most likely to sabotage the Giants' Super Bowl dreams. Jerry got bull-rushed repeatedly, with one of his miscues leading to an Eli Manning interception.

    • Leonard Williams suffered a wrist injury. If the Jets start losing pieces off their defensive line, they will discover a fate worse than an 0-16 finish.

    • After years of suffering for the Jets, Bilal Powell (whose 85-yard catch-and-scamper was the Jets' lone true highlight) deserves to someday be the old running back the Patriots sign to run out the clock in fourth quarters.


    What happens next

    The Giants tune up for a big-time season opener in Big D by hoping that Beckham gets healthy and their offensive line miraculously gets decent.

    The Jets must make a decision about Hackenberg. There will be many superior quarterbacks on the waiver wire next week. Keeping him around simply because he was once a second-round pick is starting to look like not just a waste of reps, but also a strain on the organization's fragile credibility.

Dress Rehearsal Spotlight: Chargers 21, Rams 19

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    What happened

    Philip Rivers and the Chargers' starters returned to the lineup to restore order after a pair of messy games on the cozy little soccer pitch the Chargers call home. Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen moved the ball effortlessly on early drives, while Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram collaborated on a strip-six to remind everyone the Chargers expect to have a lethal pass rush to complement their Rivers-fueled offense.

    Meanwhile, Jared Goff started the game with a few impressive throws but backslid quickly after his Bosa-Ingram encounter. Goff threw a beachball of an interception on the next series, then handed off nine times in 11 plays (one called back for a penalty) in his final drive, which isn't exactly a vote of confidence from head coach Sean McVay.


    What it means

    • Because most Chargers news revolves around injuries and their downsized living arrangements, it's easy to overlook how much veteran talent is on the roster. With the Broncos in quarterback purgatory, the Raiders wondering where their secondary went and the Chiefs in a perpetual wild-card rut, the AFC West is up for grabs. The Chargers team that played the first half Saturday night could grab it.

    • That said, the Rams played without most of their starting defensive front seven, which is the team's only strength. The Chargers may not be as good as they looked, nor the Rams as bad.

    • McVay is not just rebuilding Goff, but an entire offense that fell into neglect in the late Jeff Fisher era. Goff's run-heavy final drive reflects the tough compromises McVay faces. Goff cannot develop until the Rams offensive line and skill-position corps establish themselves, but the development of the whole offense will be stymied if Goff keeps responding to his first mistake with two or three more of them.


    What happens next

    The Rams open against the Colts. The Chargers open with their traditional Monday late-late show, this year visiting the Broncos.

    The Chargers should snooze through Thursday's preseason finale at San Francisco. McVay faces a trickier choice against the Packers. Goff and the offense need the work, but another reversal of fortune for the young quarterback could cause (or worsen) a confidence crisis. McVay is the NFL's youngest head coach, but these Rams could turn his hair gray before Columbus Day.

Team Spotlight: Miami Dolphins

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Preseason story so far

    With the Jets applying for entry into the America East Conference and the Bills conducting a veteran sidewalk sale, the Dolphins are the only team that can even pretend to threaten the Patriots in the AFC East. Jay Cutler has settled in at quarterback and is ready to keep the Dolphins competitive. But how competitive is "competitive"?


    Storylines to watch

    Jay unleashed: Cutler whizzed long completions all over South Philly during joint practices against the Eagles all week, then did the same to the Eagles starting defense in the first half of Thursday night's dress rehearsal. Receivers Jarvis Landry (the subject of some late-weekend trade chatter), Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and running back Jay Ajayi may give Cutler the best skill-position weapons he has ever had. Cutler will put up big numbers as long as he maintains his health and motivation…two things which often abandon him by Halloween.

    Burke's law: Miscommunications marred the Dolphins defensive effort against the Eagles starters (see: Reshad Jones and Byron Maxwell having words after Torrey Smith's 50-yard touchdown), and only the futility of the Ravens offense made the Dolphins defense look strong the previous week. Something about Philly turns Maxwell into Toasty McToastable, but first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke must make sure the veterans in the secondary are on the same page. Linebacker is another potential trouble spot: An injury to rookie Raekwon McMillan will leave the Dolphins reliant on old-timers Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga. Mismatches in the passing game may ensue.

    The schedule factor: A Jets-Bills parallel swan dive could provide four easy wins and an inside track to a wild-card berth. But the Dolphins schedule is front-loaded with potential shootouts, including the Falcons, Saints, Titans, Buccaneers and Chargers. They don't face the Bills until Weeks 15 and 17, after two late-season Patriots games. It's a schedule built for streaks and slumps, which could spell trouble for a team that's also built for streaks and slumps.


    Bottom line

    From Cutler and Maxwell to Ndamukong Suh and an offensive line that mixed great performances with debacles last year, the Dolphins have cornered the market on consistently inconsistent talent. They should blow some opponents out and get into 38-35 shootouts with others, but one or two bad losses could propel the Dolphins into finger-pointing or golf-bag-grabbing mode.

    Miami will be a fun watch all year, but it will max out as a pastel version of the 2012-15 Bengals: loaded at the skill positions and exciting for stretches, but likely to wilt in the spotlight.

Team Spotlight: Green Bay Packers

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Preseason story so far

    If you are looking for a showy sense of offseason or preseason urgency, Green Bay is never the right place to look. Aaron Rodgers plays sparingly in August, even by the standards of franchise quarterbacks, and Mike McCarthy's game plans are vanilla even by preseason (and McCarthy) standards.

    Boring offseasons in Green Bay usually bloom into 10-to-12-win seasons, and this year should be no exception. But Packers fans wary of midseason slumps and playoff defeats have reason to worry that this will be another one of those successful-yet-ultimately-disappointing years.


    Storylines to watch

    Injury issues: Tackle Bryan Bulaga told reporters he was not "too worried" about the ankle injury that held him out of Saturday night's loss to the Broncos. But Kyle Murphy played poorly in relief of Bulaga. McCarthy doesn't like to use extra pass protectors, so any downgrade in tackle play could have a significant ripple effect. Edge-rusher Nick Perry, meanwhile, suffered an ankle injury against the Broncos. With Julius Peppers gone and Clay Matthews no longer who he was three years ago, the Packers could find themselves sorely lacking in pass-rush depth.

    Cleanup crews needed: Tackling has been a problem since the start of the preseason. Penalties (nine of them for 78 yards) were an issue against the Broncos. Again, this could be a mix of preseason listlessness and unprepared rookies at work. But a team with the Packers' pedigree should look a little crisper in late August.

    Weapons galore: Twenty-one different players have caught passes for the Packers this preseason, a staggering total by even exhibition standards. The best news in Green Bay is that all of Rodgers' weapons are healthy, Martellus Bennett (3-23-1 in the preseason) looks poised to make an impact at tight end, and Trevor Davis and newcomer Aaron Jones should diversify the offense and add juice to the return game. The Packers can overcome some penalties and missed tackles if Rodgers is completing 90 percent of his passes.


    Bottom line

    Rodgers will be great this year, and if his receiving corps is as deep as it now looks, it won't matter if McCarthy keeps calling the same five passing plays over and over again. The Packers will have no trouble contending for the playoffs. Check back in December to see if the Packers mount enough of a pass rush and can protect Rodgers without holding often enough to contend for the Super Bowl.

News Digest

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Le'Veon Bell announces that he will report to the Steelers on September 1: Try this for a fun experiment: Don't show up for work one Monday morning, and then announce on Tuesday afternoon that you will be arriving first thing on Thursday. Bet it doesn't work out as A-OK for you as it will for Le'Veon Bell.

    Patriots release Kony Ealy: Bill Belichick sometimes makes mistakes, like trading down in the draft for a defender who doesn't fit his system. But Belichick never compounds his mistakes by sticking with a player just to justify a trade. That's the difference between Belichick and the rest of us.

    Jaguars name Blake Bortles Week 1 starter: The Jaguars knew Bortles had the potential to be terrible entering the offseason, did nothing about it, gave Chad Henne a brief look against the Panthers, confirmed that he was slightly worse and decided not to compound months of bad decisions with one more dubious one. So…good thinking, Jags?

    Bills send Marcell Dareus home before Saturday's preseason game for violating team rules: With Rex Ryan gone, the Bills now have team rules.

    Bears sign left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to a four-year extension with $21.5 million guaranteed: It was this year's runner-up entry in the annual Decent-But-Obscure Lineman for Lousy Team Signs Boffo Contract Headline Award. (First place: Jaguars center Brandon Linder signs for five years and $24 million guaranteed).

    Donald Penn ends holdout, reports to Raiders: There's no truth to the rumor that they threatened to trade him to the Seahawks.

    Squirrel runs on field during Eagles-Dolphins game: The squirrel looked athletic for a while, then got bored and laid down, then just quit and ran off the field. Folks, we've finally met Jay Cutler's spirit animal!

    Rob Gronkowski appears in Katy Perry's video for "Swish Swish": He holds up a sign asking "When Does Football Season Start?" Not soon enough when you are trapped in a video for a song called "Swish Swish."

    Browns offensive line holds swimming competition (via Next week, they will all float in the pool sideways, hoping to fool Jimmy Haslam into flushing them down the toilet and out into Lake Erie…and FREEDOM.

Kicker Battle Digest

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Any old Monday wrap-up can update you on quarterback competitions. Only the Digest dares to dive deeply into kicker competitions!

    Let someone else in your fantasy league be the one who drafts a veteran kicker who ends up on the waiver wire come Labor Day.

    Here's a roundup of everything you need to know to be the smartest person in the war room.

    Carolina Panthers: Rookie Harrison Butker has been perfect on preseason field goals (including a 51-yarder) and solid on kickoffs. Graham Gano hit the upright on a 50-yarder in the preseason opener and costs the Panthers $4 million in cap space. Gano was on the field for both kicks Thursday, but even with free-spending Marty Hurney writing the checks, the Panthers could turn to the cost-effective solution.

    Chicago Bears: The Bears signed Roberto Aguayo to challenge Connor Barth. Or maybe to challenge John Fox's patience. Or our patience. On Sunday, Barth made both his kicks, while Aguayo made his lone attempt.

    Cincinnati Bengals: Randy Bullock had a solid training camp and has nailed 47-, 49-, 53- (on Sunday) and 54-yarders in the preseason. Fifth-round pick Jake Elliott has made some preseason field goals but gave observers Mike Nugent nightmares at times during training camp sessions, per Jason Marcum of Cincy Jungle. Bullock works cheap, so there is no cap reason to switch to the shaky rookie, who may get stashed on the practice squad.

    Cleveland Browns: Rookie Zane Gonzalez missed a 55-yarder on Saturday night but has been perfect on extra points and delivers reliable kickoff touchbacks. Journeyman Cody Parkey has been perfect on field goals, though he hasn't attempted any 50-plus ones in preseason games. The Browns offense has been so bad that neither kicker has gotten many opportunities, which tells you all you need to know about their fantasy prospects.

    Houston Texans: Nick Novak has handled all but one preseason extra-point attempt, while rookie Ka'imi Fairbairn has kicked short field goals but missed one 55-yarder. Neither kicker had an attempt in Saturday's shutout loss. Making sense of how the Texans handle their kicker competition—seriously, why is the veteran kicking the extra points?—is only slightly harder than making sense of how they handled their quarterback competition.

    Kansas City Chiefs: There is no competition, per se, but Cairo Santos is taking his time coming back from a groin injury. Rookie Sam Ficken missed a 56-yarder against the Seahawks but looks like an adequate replacement should Santos miss any regular-season time. If Ficken misses any meaningful kicks, his name sounds like something you would yell at the kicker anyway.

    Minnesota Vikings: Kai Forbath is reliable on short-to-mid-range field goals. Marshall Koehn, who the Star Tribune reported was working in an Iowa carpet factory when the Vikings called, is better on kickoffs and blasted a 58-yarder on Sunday. The Vikings may be open to keeping two kickers on the roster as long as neither of them is named Blair Walsh.

    New York Giants: Unknown tiny-program product Aldrick Rosas has nailed 47- and 52-yarders in preseason games. Mike Nugent, who was chased out of Cincinnati last year for turning extra points into nail-biters, has also been perfect in the preseason and banged out 50- and 54-yarders Saturday night. This one is too close to call, but look for the Giants to err on the side of Nugent's experience. They have enough to worry about on the offensive line without some novice kicker getting the yips in a Sunday night Dallas opener.

    New York Jets: Ross Martin is expected to beat Chandler Catanzaro for the job because: a) Martin is cheaper; b) Catanzaro has had an inconsistent offseason. Martin was impressive in Senior Bowl practices last year but didn't make the cut for the Jets in 2016. As Manish Mehta reported for the New York Daily News, Martin then went native New Yorker, complete with Manhattan apartment and tech-industry job. Hey, if the Jets bus breaks down on the way to the Meadowlands, Martin can let the team use his MetroCard! 


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