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Training Camp Preview: NFC North

Fri Jul 26 9:16am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Rodgers played hurt last year


This is the sixth preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Packers

The Packers have a new coaching staff for the first time in a long time. This means the team has to learn a new offense and defense for the coming year. This will be the big theme of training camp for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has a new offense to learn for the first time in his entire career, so there could be a learning curve for him. Keep an eye on the team’s progress during camp. There could be some bumps along the way.

Position battle: The big position battle in Packers camp is for the right to start opposite Davante Adams. The two most likely candidates are Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers have a lot of young receiver vying for playing time but these two players stand out above the rest. Many think Valdes-Scantling is the most likely to earn the job but don’t discount Allison, who has produced with past chances. The winner of this job will have some fantasy value for the coming year in the Packers pass-first offense. 

Injury watch: Aaron Rodgers played the entire season last year, but was hurt much of the year. He played at less than 100 percent because of a tibial plateau fracture and a sprained medial collateral ligament. It is pretty amazing he was able to play with these injuries. He is recovered from the injuries but his health is really a key to the Packers season. He played hurt last year and was limited to just seven games the previous year. Injuries have been a factor for him in recent years.

Vikings

There were high hopes for the Vikings last year with Kirk Cousins now on board as their franchise quarterback, but things didn’t go quite as planned. Cousins had an up and down season and the team followed his lead with inconsistent play. Minnesota will look to right the ship this training camp. Much of the year might depend on Cousins. He will need to play more consistent football if the Vikings hope to return to the playoffs. Cousins has a new offense to learn but could be a better fit for the system, which bodes well for him. We will get our first look at Cousins and the new offense, starting in camp. 

Position battle: The Vikings surprised some by using a second-round pick on tight end Irv Smith in this year’s draft. Smith is a pretty complete tight end that does well as a blocker and receiver. He will look to push Kyle Rudolph for the starting job this year. Rudolph has produced for the Vikings in recent year but probably hasn’t been the player the team hoped. He could lose out on playing time to the rookie this year.

Injury watch: Running back Dalvin Cook has played 15 games in two seasons. He missed time again last year after missing nearly all of his rookie year. Cook has really struggled to stay on the field to start his career. He seems to be over his hamstring injury from last year, though, and should be 100 percent for the start of the camp. The trick for Cook is now staying healthy for the entire season. We’ll see if he is able to do that. 

Lions

Detroit had a season to forget last year, finishing 6-10. The team is in a bit of rebuild mode after trading and letting some key players from past teams go. Some younger players will get their chance to shine this year, though, so much of this camp should focus on the progress of those young players. Can guys like Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay take their games to new levels this year? The Lions sure hope that is the case, giving them a chance to shine this year. 

Position battle: The Lions made some changes at tight end this offseason, signing Jesse James and drafting T.J. Hockenson. Both these guys will challenge for the right to start. James might have the edge because of his experience, but Hockenson is the future of the position for the Lions. He should be given every opportunity to start because he provides the most potential for big things. James can be a bigger asset as a blocker. 

Injury watch: Quarterback Matthew Stafford played every game last season but played with a back injury much of the year. He reportedly played with broken bones in his back, which could explain his down play. Stafford didn’t play at his usual level, struggling with accuracy and consistency. He should be over his back injury for the start of this year but keep an eye on him in camp to make sure he looks back to old form. Stafford could be a sneaky late pick for fantasy teams this year if he is healthy and back to his old self. 

Bears

The Bears had a great season last year, going 12-4. Expectations are going to be very high for this team and with good reason. It is a pretty complete squad. The big thing to watch this training camp could be the progression of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, though. He played well last year but had some consistency issues. If the Bears truly hope to be a special team, they will need Trubisky to play at a high level all season. 

Position battle: The Bears will have a battle on their hands for the starting running back job. The team signed Mike Davis this offseason and drafted David Montgomery. These guys will battle it out for the right to start. Davis had a breakout season last year with the Seahawks, showing he could start and produce at a high level in the league. Montgomery is a three-down back that can carry the load. He probably has the edge to start but don’t discount Davis. He just made plays when given the chance last season. 

Injury watch: Tight end Trey Burton had hernia surgery this offseason. He should be ready for the start of camp but nothing is 100 percent certain right now. Keep an eye on his progress to make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks. Burton can play a big role in the offense, an offense that likes to look for the tight end. He didn’t have quite the season as expected last year but could turn things around this year in year two with the Bears.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
New England Patriots Sep 18 12:20am ET

The New England Patriots Defense have allowed only three points all season and now will go up against third-string quarterback Luke Falk and the Jets in Week 3. The Patriots have been suffocating through the first two games and picked up two defensive pick-6 touchdowns against the Dolphins. With the offense humming and perhaps their most talented defensive secondary in the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots are to a great start. The defense suddenly is a must-own in all fantasy formats and will be a top play against the Jets in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Brown Sep 18 12:10am ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown's first game with the Patriots was a rousing success, catching four passes for 56 yards and one touchdown in Week 2. Brown sat out the first offensive play but then immediately got in on the action and his quick chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady was evident. This week the Patriots will take on a banged up Jets team and Brown's snaps should increase. The All-Pro receiver still is learning the offense but has the kind of elite talent that can shine in any system. He may not be fully up to speed but Brown should still deliver solid fantasy numbers in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Josh Gordon Sep 17 11:20pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon will try and rebound after catching only two passes for 19 yards in Week 2. Gordon has plenty of talent but the acquisition of Antonio Brown certainly is cutting into his chances. He will go up against a Jets Defense that was gashed by Odell Beckham Jr. and the Browns last Monday. The Patriots offense is so explosive that keeping everyone happy will be tough. Gordon may be the one to suffer for now and will be no higher than a WR3/4 heading into Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Minnesota Vikings Sep 17 11:20pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings Defense got off to a rough start, allowing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers to jump out to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter. They righted the ship after that, though, holding the Packers scoreless for the rest of the contest. They also notched two sacks, recovered two fumbles, and allowed just 191 passing yards in what was an impressive bounce-back effort. Though this wasn't a productive day from a fantasy standpoint, it wasn't exactly expected to be - on the road against the Packers is not the greatest spot to be in. Slot the Vikings defense in as a top-10 play at home against the bottom-tier Oakland Raiders offense.

From RotoBaller

Rex Burkhead Sep 17 11:10pm ET

New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead has been a fantastic role player for an explosive offense through the first two games of the season. Burkhead has carried the ball 13 times for 5.0 yards per carry and has added seven catches for 88 yards. He clearly is the backup behind teammate Sony Michel but has outplayed veteran James White in the first month of the season. Burkhead is not worth a start in most fantasy formats but has produced when called upon in the Patriots offense. Barring injury, however, Burkhead carries little fantasy value heading into Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Sep 17 11:10pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen had a decent fantasy outing in Week 2, catching five of eight targets for 75 yards in Sunday's 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Though quarterbackKirk Cousins attempted 32 passes, he only completed 14 of them and had an awful day finding his receivers downfield. The inconsistency from Cousins is impacting Thielen's production, but the team's willingness to completely abandon the pass is of even more concern. Head coach Mike Zimmer will undoubtedly look to again feature the run in Week 3's contest against the Oakland Raiders, though Thielen still has to be started as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 thanks to the juicy matchup.

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Sep 17 11:10pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will face a Jets Defense in Week 3 that has allowed the 12th most fantasy points to receivers through two games. Edelman has been a rock for a dynamic Patriots offense, picking up first down after first down. The veteran is still looking for his first touchdown of the season but heads into Week 3's action with 10 catches for 134 yards. The Jets come into the contest undermanned on both sides of the football and the Patriots are expected to dominate. Edelman carries WR3 value, perhaps even higher in PPR leagues, heading into this Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Sony Michel Sep 17 11:00pm ET

New England Patriots running back Sony Michel will try and build off of his 85-yard, one-touchdown performance last week when the team takes on the Jets this Sunday. After a disappointing game to start the season, the second-year running back bounced back nicely. Michel ran hard as the Patriots racked up a sizeable lead. The Patriots backfield consists of Rex Burkhead, James White and Damien Harris but Michel led the way last week with 21 carries. The Jets are down to their third-string quarterback and the Patriots could lean heavily on the running game in Week 3. Michel has RB2 value with a high ceiling this week.

From RotoBaller

James White Sep 17 11:00pm ET

New England Patriots running back James White is off to a slow start through the first two games of the season. With so many weapons on offense, there are a lot of mouths to feed for quarterback Tom Brady. White has seen only seven carries through the first two weeks and has eight catches for 75 yards. The veteran will face a Jets Defense that has allowed 12 receptions to running backs but the Patriots game plan could lean towards relying on the running game. White is better suited in the passing game and his production could continue to suffer.

From RotoBaller

Eddy Pineiro Sep 17 10:40pm ET

Chicago Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro played the hero in Week 2 and will now travel to Washington take on the Redskins in Week 3. Pineiro hit all three of his field goals last week, including a dramatic 53-yard boot to win the game with a second left. Pineiro is a perfect 4-for-4 on the season but is still largely unproven. He'll carry some value with a Bears offense that has scored only one touchdown through the first two games, but he doesn't come with much upside.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Sep 17 10:30pm ET

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is off to a sparkling start, passing for 605 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions through his first two games. The Patriots offense is loaded with weapons all over the field and Brady has made it look easy. Now in Week 3 he'll go up against a Jets team that is down to their third-string quarterback. On the defensive side, the Jets have allowed 579 passing yards to the first two quarterbacks they have faced. The Patriots are, once again, all lined up to dominate the competition. Brady should be considered an elite QB1 option for Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Adam Vinatieri Sep 17 10:20pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts worked out free-agent kickers Elliott Fry, Cody Parkey, Younghoe Koo, Greg Joseph, Cole Hedlund and Chase McLaughlin on Tuesday in the wake of Adam Vinatieri's struggles through two weeks. The 46-year-old veteran has made just one of his three field-goal attempts and two of his five extra points in 2019, and there were reports speculating that he might retire after Week 2. The Colts may have talked him out of it at least for another week, but he'll need to pick it up unless the team might go in another direction. Fantasy owners should stay away for now.

From RotoBaller

Pittsburgh Steelers Sep 17 10:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will play the free safety spot with his new team to help replace Sean Davis (shoulder), who was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. The Steelers traded a first-round pick to Miami for Fitzpatrick on Monday night, and he'll make his debut in Week 3 on the road against the 49ers. The 2018 first-rounder was being used all over the place in Miami, so he should be more comfortable at safety with his new club. Pittsburgh hasn't been able to stop much of anything on defense through two weeks, so hopefully Fitzpatrick's addition can help shore up their secondary. The Steelers Defense/special teams should be avoided against San Francisco this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Adam Humphries Sep 17 10:10pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Adam Humphries said his chemistry with quarterback Marcus Mariota is a work in progress. Humphries is working on being a better option for Mariota, especially on third down. The first-year Titan has just three catches for four yards after two weeks and is sixth on the team in targets with four, tied with Tajae Sharpe. There's obviously room to improve from here on out, but Humphries shouldn't be owned anywhere except the deepest of leagues. Tennessee just doesn't throw the ball nearly enough to support more than one or two pass-catchers in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Chicago Bears Sep 17 10:10pm ET

The Chicago Bears Defense will travel to Washington to take on the Redskins in Week 3 for Monday night football. The elite unit played well last week against Denver but tired down the stretch in the high altitude. They did, however, pick up their first turnover of the season and the unit appears to be among the fastest in the league. They will face a Redskins offense that has allowed only two sacks all season but have not played against anyone the likes of Khalil Mack. Expect a low scoring affair on MNF, making the Bears defense a top choice in fantasy for Week 3.

From RotoBaller

DeAndre Hopkins Sep 17 10:10pm ET

The Los Angeles Chargers signed free-agent tight end Lance Kendricks on Tuesday and placed safety Adrian Phillips (arm) on Injured Reserve in a corresponding move. Kendricks has caught 241 passes for 2,505 yards and 19 touchdowns in 125 career games. He caught 19 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown last year with Green Bay, but he's merely tight end depth until Hunter Henry (knee) can return. Los Angeles is unlikely to utilize the position much with Henry out. Phillips' injury, coupled with Derwin James being out, leaves the Bolts secondary pretty vulnerable. Texans receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller could go off this Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Keith Kirkwood Sep 17 10:10pm ET

The New Orleans Saints placed wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (hamstring) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after he injured his hamstring in pregame warmups on Sunday. He caught 13 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns in eight games (one start) in 2018. Kirkwood was buried on the team's receiver depth chart and didn't put up any numbers in Week 1. Rookie Deonte Harris and Austin Carr will battle for the No. 4 job behind Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Tre'Quan Smith.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Sep 17 10:00pm ET

Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said that he needs to put quarterback Baker Mayfield in better position to succeed and get the ball out of his hand quicker because he's taking too many hits after two weeks. It hasn't helped that Cleveland's offensive line isn't giving Mayfield much time to throw, but Mayfield also needs to do a better job of reading the defense's coverage schemes. The Browns could have their hands full next Monday night against the Rams defensive front, making Mayfield more of a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 for that matchup. A shift to more of a short passing game could benefit Jarvis Landry as well.

From RotoBaller

Taylor Gabriel Sep 17 10:00pm ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel will try and kick-start his season in Week 3 against a very vulnerable Redskins secondary. Gabriel has caught only three passes through the first two games but the entire Bears passing game has struggled. He will go up against a Redskins Defense that currently is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season. Gabriel has the speed to put a big play on the board but quarterback Mitch Trubisky's long game has been non-existent. The veteran receiver will be no more than a WR5 dart-throw on Monday Night Football.

From RotoBaller

Anthony Miller Sep 17 10:00pm ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller will try and get his season going when the team takes on the Redskins in Week 3 for Monday Night Football. The second-year receiver was expected to take a leap this season but has only one reception for two yards to show for it. Miller also appears to be on a limited snap-count, whether for health or the coaching staff is opting to trust other players. Miller was drafted in a handful of leagues but has been completely non-existent. The talented receiver will, however, face a Redskins Defense that has already allowed five touchdown catches to opposing receivers through the first two games.

From RotoBaller