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NFC winners and losers: Dak Prescott goes wild (again)

After two weeks of preseason action, most position battles have been won. (Just don't remind Chip Kelly.) Coaches want their starters to play heading into a third preseason week that acts as a test run for the real thing.

With that in mind, we have winners and losers this week for all 32 teams. The NFC is below, in alphabetical order.


Winners: The return to practice for receiver John Brown after missing three weeks for a concussion is a big relief. First-round pick Robert Nkemdiche (ankle) is also expected to make his preseason debut on the defensive line this week. Safety Tyrann Mathieu won't play in a game just yet, but his return to practice is a huge boost.

Losers: There's no need to be concerned about the Cardinals' offensive preseason woes. This roster is loaded with players who have proven what they can do. With that said, quarterback Carson Palmer and coach Bruce Arians both sound motivated to produce numbers this week before questions mount.


Winners: The Falcons keep insisting on mixing and matching running back Tevin Coleman with the starting unit along with Devonta Freeman, removing Freeman for parts of the team's first drive against Cleveland. Coleman is a winner because of the faith the staff has in him. Freeman has proven he's a top-10 running back, but the coaches seems determined to make Coleman happen.

Losers: Second-year head coach Dan Quinn hasn't been able to unveil his plan to play Vic Beasley at strong-side linebacker before moving him to defensive end on passing downs because Beasley's shoulder was hurt again the last two weeks. He is expected to suit up Thursday in Miami. ESPN's Vaughn McClure notes that the Falconswant to rush Beasley, Derrick Shelby, Adrian Clayborn and Dwight Freeney on passing downs. That sounds better than last year. We think.


Winners: The Panthers have potential breakout players at every level of the defense: end Kony Ealy, linebacker Shaq Thompson and safety Tre Boston. We love watching Boston fly around the football. The Panthers' secret sauce remains the ability to coach up defensive backs.

Losers: Receiver Kelvin Benjamin played eight snaps in his return to preseason action, as the Panthers play it safe with his conditioning. It is not a mistake that coach Ron Rivera publicly set the bar low for Benjamin's Week 1 snap count at 30 to 35. If Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this about running back Eddie Lacy, hot takesmen around the country would be weighing in. The story is strangely under the radar outside of Carolina.


Winners:Jeremy Langford has a lot to prove as a primary running back, but he is clearly getting the majority of work with the Bears' first-team offense. That's the good news. The bad news is that he has a sore foot and was one of 20 (!) Bears to miss practice Sunday.

Losers: It's early, but receiver and second-year pro Kevin White hasn't shown much in the preseason yet. That comes on the heels of a quiet training camp.


Winners: While the pass rush remains an open question, a lot of other Cowboys questions have been answered this month. Running back Alfred Morris' excellent play has earned him a big role and could make Darren McFadden expendable. Cornerback Morris Claiborne is entering his fifth season with more positive momentum than ever before. And rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has given the Cowboys a young quarterback-of-the-future to groom, even if he wasn't their first choice.

Losers: It's hard to find a "loser" in Dallas during the same week the team moved into its fancy new practice facilities. Despite the return to health of key players at other positions (Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, Lance Dunbar), we are no closer to knowing who will start Week 1 at defensive end. The best current guess: Ryan Russell and David Irving, who has been hurt. This is an issue without a Dak-like magic solution.


Winners: Through two weeks, few quarterbacks have made more difficult throws this preseason than Matthew Stafford. Optimists can see that as a continuation of his Jim Bob Cooter-boosted finish to last season. This team is going to play at a fast pace. Running back Ameer Abdullah and linebacker DeAndre Levy, two of the biggest keys to this Lions season, practiced in team drills with no restrictions for the first time in camp Sunday.

Losers: It's early, but there are some reasons to be concerned about first-round tackle Taylor Decker's ability to hold up as a starter. Meanwhile, former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is going to have a tough time making this roster. (UPDATE: The Lions released Ridley on Thursday.)


Winners: After an offseason of conjecture, Davante Adams is settling into the Packers' No. 3 receiver role. Two nice grabs against Oakland helped his case. On defense, the Packers' young secondary trio of high picks -- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins -- is playing well. All under age 25, these guys have a chance to grow up together.

Losers: It has been a bummer to see backup quarterback Brett Hundley struggle with injuries so much after lighting up the preseason last year. He's missed valuable development time.


Winners: Veteran quarterback Case Keenum has helped make rookie Jared Goff's struggles easier to swallow by leading the Rams to three touchdowns in his four preseason drives. The Rams' running game -- from the offensive line to backups Benny Cunningham and Malcolm Brown -- has also shown well. Former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson is mauling opponents.

Losers: Goff has shown why he was drafted No. 1 for spurts of each preseason game. But the mistakes on handoffs, delay of games and excessive holding of the football show he's not ready to start yet. With Pharoh Cooper all but locking down the No. 3 receiver job, it's worth wondering if Brian Quick will make the team.


Winners: Injuries to cornerbacks Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes have given 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes snaps as a starter in practice and in the preseason. This is his chance to push for more playing time, because he could still be stuck as a No. 4 cornerback.

Losers: First-round receiver Laquon Treadwell's inability to separate was hard to miss in Minnesota's second preseason game. It's wild that Adam Thielen is a better bet for early-season snaps than Treadwell.


Winners:Surprisingly normal headline around New Orleans these days: "Jairus Byrd shines in defense-dominated practice." Whether in practice or the preseason, the Saints' defense has impressed since late July despite losing key players. Second-year cornerback P.J. Williams and veteran defensive tackle Nick Fairley, both now starters, are two players who impressed against Houston.

Losers: The flip side: Saints fans are concerned with the team's offensive line. Coach Sean Payton, meanwhile, is concerned with second-year wideout Brandon Coleman, who makes too many mistakes. "I thought he was just OK," Payton said of Coleman. "And honestly, it's been kind of pedestrian throughout the camp."


Winners: Journeyman linebacker Jonathan Casillas has played well in the preseason and is headed for a starting role. Second-year defensive lineman Owa Odighizuwa has also looked good and could give the team enviable depth up front. In second-year man Landon Collins and rookie Darian Thompson, the Giants' seemingly cursed safety spot has hope again.

Losers: The next 10 days could determine Victor Cruz's football future. The receiver needs to show something before final roster cuts. The Giants' depth at the position has been tested quickly. Guys like Tavarres King and Roger Lewis were targeted on back-to-back plays by Eli Manning last week. The offensive line continues to spring leaks. There is a risk of asking Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. to carry the offense far too much.


Winners:Nolan Carroll has settled into the starting cornerback job opposite Leodis McKelvin, surprising his own front office for the second straight year.

Losers: The arrival of linebacker Stephen Tulloch spells bad news for one of the starting linebackers. For now, Tulloch will compete with Jordan Hicks in the middle. Hicks could be moved outside to replace Mychal Kendricks, who has reportedly struggled to fit into new coordinator Jim Schwartz's scheme. Moving to the other side of the ball ... A warning to fantasy leaguers trying to guess how the wide receiver spot will shake out after Jordan Matthews: Don't bother. Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner and Rueben Randle are all in the mix.


Winners: With Colin Kaepernick on track to play this week, 49ers coach Chip Kelly refuses to name Blaine Gabbert the starting quarterback. The team has given away its intentions at other positions, though. 2014 first-round cornerback Jimmie Ward will be an every-down player for the first time. Recently unretired offensive lineman Anthony Davis isn't going to take over at right tackle, instead trying to start at guard. Here's another note for you fantasy fiends: Despite numerous questions out wide, it appears the 49ers have found their tight end in Vance McDonald.

Losers: One week after opening eyes with a boffo preseason performance, 49ers running back Mike Davis gave back all his momentum with two fumbles.


Winners: Coach Pete Carroll continues to indicate running back Thomas Rawls is on pace to play Week 1 against Miami. With Christine Michael showing off his turbo button each week, it's hard to imagine Rawls getting workhorse carries early in the season. After some spotty draft classes lately, the Seahawks are on track to have Week 1 starters in guard Germain Ifedi and defensive tackle Jarran Reed.

Losers: We're going to list Seahawks fans as losers because of the lack of reporting allowed at their practices this time of year. Excellent papers like The Seattle Times have to resort to gleaning takeaways from a photo gallery on the team's website for information. Here's a common-sense deduction: The Seahawks' excellent cornerback depth behind Richard Sherman (DeShawn Shead, Tharold Simon and Jeremy Lane) means that Brandon Browner is not a lock to make the roster.


Winners:Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a winner this week despite playing with backups on Saturday. He made a few chunk plays for Mike Glennon, reminding his coaching staff that he's still the most explosive tight end on the roster. Seferian-Jenkins is splitting first-team snaps with Cameron Brate once again.

Losers: Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo has already missed three short kicks in two games. In response, he's already spoken to former NFL kicker Ryan Longwell, former Bucs special teams coordinator Billy Miller and a mental coach to deal with the problems, according to Roy Cummings of WDAE Tampa. This does not inspire confidence.


Winners:Vernon Davis is on track to make the Redskins and possibly have a decent role in the offense. Considering the recent trajectory of the tight end's career, that was far from a given.

Losers:Matt Jones has the skills to be a true No. 1 back but faces questions about his fumbling problems and durability. Both showed up Friday night against the Jets. Jones should be ready for Week 1. For now, Rob Kelley and Keith Marshall will battle for early-down work. Kelley is in front. Don't be surprised if general manager Scot McCloughan adds a veteran eventually. Another week passed without first-round pick Josh Doctson (Achilles) hitting the field. This is 11 weeks after one reporter said the Redskins were being "ultra-cautious" just by keeping him off the field in OTAs.

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