The preseason is less about results and more about how rookies look in their first glimpse of the NFL. So, consider Friday night’s slate of preseason games a doozy. 

After Thursday night gave us the return of Tom Brady, Week 2 of the NFL preseason continues on Friday with games that feature No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and the Browns facing No. 7 pick Josh Allen and the Bills, the Cardinals and No. 10 pick Josh Rosen going up against the vaunted Saints defense, and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (who sat out most of his entire rookie year) matching up against the Falcons’ budding defense. As an added bonus, we’ll be treated to two revenge storylines folded into one game as Tyrod Taylor takes on the Bills and Corey Coleman takes on the Browns.

There are five games in all. Below, you’ll find the complete schedule and list of results. Further down below, you’ll find our Friday night takeaways, which will be updated as the night progresses. OK, let’s get to it.

Scores, schedule

Thursday
Washington 15, N.Y. Jets 13 (box score)
New England 37, Philadelphia 20 (box score)
Green Bay 51, Pittsburgh 34 (box score)

Friday
Kansas City 28, Atlanta 14 (box score)
N.Y. Giants 30, Detroit 17 (box score)
Buffalo 19, Cleveland 17 (box score)
Carolina 27, Miami 20 (Box score)
Arizona 20, New Orleans 15 (Box score)

Saturday
Jacksonville at Minnesota, 1 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Oakland at L.A. Rams, 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Cincinnati at Dallas, 7 p.m. ET, NFL Network (GameTracker)
Tampa Bay at Tennessee, 7 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
San Francisco at Houston, 8 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Chicago at Denver, 9:05 p.m. ET (GameTracker)
Seattle at L.A. Chargers, 10 p.m. ET (GameTracker)

Monday
Baltimore at Indianapolis, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN (GameTracker)

Patrick Mahomes with a rollercoaster outing 

Patrick Mahomes’ outing in the Chiefs’ preseason opener can be best described as blah (5 of 7 for 33 yards). His performance in Week 2 was anything but blah. 

In one half of work, Mahomes went 8 of 12 for 138 yards (11.5 yards per attempt), one touchdown, one pick, and a 98.6 passer rating. Before Chad Henne took over after halftime, Mahomes demonstrated why the Chiefs moved on from Alex Smith this offseason and reminded us that he’s still pretty much a rookie after sitting out almost all of last year.

Let’s start with the good, because oh my god it was incredible. At the end of the first half, Mahomes showed off his tremendous arm talent with a 69-yard bomb to speedster Tyreek Hill. Smith was the league’s highest-rated deep ball passer a season ago, but he wasn’t doing stuff like this:

That right there is why the Chiefs made the switch from Smith and Mahomes. There are only a few quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers, to name one — who can make a throw like that. Mahomes can, which means his ceiling is substantially higher than Smith’s. 

But his floor is also considerably lower. Mahomes, because of his arm strength and athleticism, likes to take risks, which means he’s probably going to throw his fair share of interceptions in his first season as an NFL starter. That trait was also on full display. After nearly getting picked in the end zone before the Chiefs settled for a field goal on their second series, Mahomes finally got intercepted on their third series when he forced a pass downfield.

As you can see below, Mahomes didn’t appear to identify that the safety was helping the cornerback over the top, in essence just waiting for Mahomes to loft up an interceptable pass. And that’s exactly what Mahomes did. He threw it up right to the safety.

It’s a nice reminder that Mahomes is still pretty much a rookie. We can’t expect him to be perfect. He’s going to make a ton of mistakes, and he’s also going to make a ton of wow plays that only he is capable of making. The hope is that over time, he eliminates the mistakes while maintaining a high percentage of those wow plays. Considering Andy Reid is his coach, he’ll probably get to that point. It might just take some time.

At the very least, it’ll be a fun process to watch. Even when Mahomes is throwing bad interceptions, he’ll be making jaw-dropping plays. In other words, it’ll be the exact opposite of the Alex Smith experience.

Josh Allen should start because he’s the Bills’ best QB

During the draft season, Josh Allen was often regarded as a project quarterback with huge upside in that he and his rifle for an arm would benefit from a season on the bench as he learned the nuances of the NFL. After what happened Friday night, it’s getting easier to view Allen as a Week 1 starter instead of a long-term project.

Part of that can be attributed to the other two quarterbacks vying for the Bills’ starting job, AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman. Part of that can also be attributed to how Allen fared in his second preseason outing. 

Against the Browns, Allen took over for McCarron in the second quarter. At that point in time, the Bills had scored zero points and done next to nothing on offense. Allen proceeded to lead the Bills on a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that culminated with some nifty footwork within the pocket as Allen bought time for his receiver, Rod Streater, to gain separation in the back of the end zone. And then, Allen did what he does best.

He used his rifle:

That touchdown came after McCarron went 3 of 6 for 12 yards and a 56.3 passer rating, and departed the game with a shoulder injury. According to Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News, McCarron suffered a hairline fracture of the collarbone. But this is less about McCarron, who has gotten his fair share of hype as a starting-caliber quarterback even though he’s never really looked like a starting-caliber quarterback, and more about Allen. 

Allen would get pulled for Peterman midway through the third quarter. He finished 9 of 13 for 60 yards, one touchdown, no picks, and a 104.6 passer rating. That should be enough for Allen to earn the start in the all important third preseason game. 

The Bills traded up to draft Allen. He’s the future of their franchise. If he doesn’t develop into a franchise-saving quarterback, the Bills will likely remain a bad team. If he does develop into a franchise-saving quarterback, the Bills might time their ascent perfectly with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick seemingly nearing the end of their reign over the rest of the AFC East.

So, with Allen looking like the best quarterback in Buffalo — at the very least, he’s been just as good as McCarron and Peterman so far — he’s probably done enough to earn a spot atop the depth chart. There’s no point in delaying the beginning of the Allen era. Just start him now. Why wait?

Then again, this is the same coaching staff that once benched Tyrod Taylor for Peterman in the middle of a playoff race. So, we’ll have to wait and see how the Bills handle this development. 

Mayfield’s pocket presence remains impressive

After a sizzling debut a week ago, Mayfield’s final stat line from Friday night won’t wow anyone. But that’s OK. For Mayfield, Friday night was more about the traits he demonstrated and less about his final numbers. Specifically, Mayfield was impressive with his footwork within the pocket and his escapability. 

His escapability reminded me of Russel Wilson’s. His footwork within the pocket looked like footwork belonging to a seasoned veteran. Look at him maneuver within the confines of the pocket until his target frees up downfield:

The Browns have maintained all along that Tyrod Taylor is their starter and that Mayfield is battling for the backup job. But it’s getting difficult to understand how a team that’s never had a franchise-saving quarterback can leave the top-overall pick, who happens to look like an NFL-caliber quarterback right now, on the bench. 

That’s not a criticism of Taylor, who’s been a good quarterback during his career. It’s an acknowledgement that Mayfield doesn’t look like a quarterback who needs time to figure out the NFL from the sidelines. At the very least, the Browns should open up the competition.

In all, before handing the reigns over to Drew Stanton, Mayfield went 7 of 13 for 75 yards. He would’ve had two touchdowns, but both were reversed (one for pass interference and the other after an official review). 

It’s not too late for the Browns to reverse their stance that Taylor is their undisputed starter.

Josh Rosen flashes improvement in second outing

Coming off a lackluster preseason debut a week ago (6 of 13 for 41 yards), Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen improved substantially in his second outing. Against the Saints, Rosen completed 10 of 16 passes for 107 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a 102.9 passer rating. 

His touchdown came as a result of some incredible pass protection, but also perfect ball placement on Rosen’s part.

Rosen, however, appears to be firmly positioned behind Sam Bradford on the depth chart. Bradford was a perfect 6 of 6 for 61 yards. Barring an injury, he should be the team’s Week 1 starter.

But the Cardinals should be pleased that Rosen took a step forward in his development. Bradford is nothing more than a bridge to Rosen and given his injury history, it’s not wrong to assume that Rosen will see the field at some point during the upcoming season.

Falcons come out firing, Calvin Ridley breaks out

If the Falcons are going to make the leap from playoff team to Super Bowl team, they’ll need oft-maligned offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to figure out a way to get the most out of his insanely talented offense after a disappointing first season at the helm. Against the Chiefs on Friday night — without starting running back Devonta Freeman and WR1 Julio Jones —  Sarkisian provided a preview of how dominant the Falcons’ offense can be during the upcoming season.

On the team’s opening series — after rookie Calvin Ridley began the game with a 34-yard return — they went 65 yards on seven plays, polishing off the drive with a four-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper. Would you look at that: Sarkisian called a very smart, sensible play in the red zone leading to a very easy touchdown.

And so, it’s time to begin Hooper’s Fantasy football hype campaign. In addition to bringing in that touchdown, he also converted a third-and-11 with a 29-yard grab. On the play, Ryan escaped the pocket and bought extra time for Hooper, who stayed with his quarterback the entire time.

Hooper, who is coming off a career-best 526-yard sophomore season, could be ready to breakout in a much-improved Falcons offense that might finally be comfortable with Sarkisian calling the plays. If the Falcons do get everything figured out on offense, they’ll be a legitimate contender in the hyper-competitive NFC. 

Speaking of a breakout, rookie receiver Calvin Ridley torched the Chiefs. He began the game with that impressive return and then on the team’s second series, he broke free downfield and hauled in a 36-yard pass from Ryan. And quite frankly, if Ryan had hit Ridley in stride, it likely would’ve been a touchdown.

Ryan, by the way, finished 5 of 7 for 90 yards and a touchdown before getting pulled for Matt Schaub midway through the second quarter. He appears to be comfortable in Sarkisian’s offense. 

Ridley got his touchdown shortly after, squatting down at the goal line in between coverage to secure a 7-yard touchdown from Schaub. 

So to recap, Ridley:

  • Returned the opening kickoff 34 yards.
  • Caught a 36-yard pass that could’ve been a touchdown with a better throw.
  • Caught a 7-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.
  • Caught a first down just before his touchdown.

This Falcons offense is absolutely loaded with talent. Adding Ridley is almost unfair.

Don’t forget about Carlos Hyde in Cleveland

The Browns drafted Nick Chubb in the second round and gave Duke Johnson an extension, so it’s easy to understand why Carlos Hyde might be an overlooked running back heading into the season. But on Friday night, Hyde reminded us that he shouldn’t be overlooked.

Signed in free agency, Hyde unleashed a brutal stiff arm on the Browns’ opening series against the Bills.

He capped off that series with a four-yard touchdown, wisely deciding to bounce the run to the outside where space awaited him. 

Hyde wound up racking up 64 yards on nine carries (7.1 yards per carry), reminding us that the Browns didn’t sign him to sit behind Chubb and Johnson. The Browns will find a way to use Hyde, who averaged 1,219.5 yards from scrimmage with the 49ers over the past two seasons. And your Fantasy team could probably use him too.

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