The 2015 NFL preseason truly gets going on Thursday Night Football, when the league has it’s first day of a slew of games. The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots headline the action, which could easily be a Super Bowl preview. We won’t see Tom Brady in this one, though, and we can expect a short stay from many of the main starters. There’s plenty of reason to tune in, though, while anyone and everyone can catch this one live on NFL Network at 7:30 pm ET.
Even better are the fantasy football implications we can track during preseason play, and this game has it in spades. You can either use some of these guys in the DFS preseason games over at Draft Kings or you can watch some of the players to get a better idea of what they might bring to the table in season long fantasy football leagues. Regardless, here are the key players or situations you’ll want to keep tabs on when the Packers and Patriots hit the field on Thursday night:
Baptism By Fire
For the moment Tom Brady is still suspended for the first four games of the season and Jimmy Garoppolo will be starting in his place. Naturally, the Pats are going to want to get his feet wet and he’ll play a ton in this game. Green Bay’s first team defense could give him problems, but he’s a strong preseason DFS play due to how much he should be on the field. This is also obviously a test to see how he might fare to begin the season. He’s got a fairly tasty home date on Thursday Night Football against the Steelers to start the year, so if he looks good here he’ll heat up as a nice spot-start option.
Scott Tolzien gets the same treatment, although to a far less extent. Aaron Rodgers has dealt with health woes in each of the past two years, so who is backing him up may matter. Hopefully not, but Tolzien has reportedly looked better this summer and how he fares will be fun to watch. Fans also get a look at major project Brett Hundley, who in-house draft expert Keet Bailey is a big fan of.
Green Bay’s Young Receivers
Jeff Janis is one name to track, as he impressed as a size/speed freak last summer and even sprung some nice plays during preseason action. The team has since soured on him due to drops and a shaky overall camp, so he may need to make some plays to keep his roster spot safe. Rookie Ty Montgomery has been more impressive and will be another guy to monitor for the green and gold, as he has the speed and athleticism to win in the return game and could possibly beat out Janis for the team’s #4 spot. Obviously these guys don’t matter yet, but in the event of an injury to Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, their fantasy value would see a dramatic spike.
New England’s Running Backs
LeGarrette Blount will start in 2015, but he’s hurt right now and is also suspended for week one, so the Patriots are going to get a good look at all of their guys tonight. James White, Jonas Gray, Travaris Cadet and Brandon Bolden should all get run, but just like the regular season, it will be next to impossible to guess who gets touches, when and where.
Richard Rodgers Starting
Rob Gronkowski has his tight end job locked down in New England and is the top guy in fantasy football at his position, but Richard Rodgers has a lot to prove. He’s tentatively regarded as Green Bay’s starting tight end and doesn’t have much competition for snaps, but we’ll still want to see him look good tonight.
Clay Matthews may not play much in this one, but he’s supposed to stick in the middle of Green Bay’s defense for the most part this year. How he fares and how the defense responds will be interesting, as well as what happens on the outside with the other linebackers. Green Bay’s defense is going to be very hit or miss this year depending on how their pass defense shakes out, and we also could get a good look at their rookie defensive backs. The same goes for New England, who lost their top two starting corners from a year ago.