Congratulations, everyone! We made it to the end of the 2018 preseason, which means the regular season is only a week away. It’s almost time for real football. 

But before we could officially move onto Week 1, there were 16 games to be played on Thursday night, as all 32 teams closed out the preseason. Per usual, the vast majority of starters did not play with the regular season a week away.

With that being said, that didn’t mean all important players didn’t play. In Detroit, we had No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield starting for the Browns. In Chicago, AJ McCarron got one final shot to insert his name into the Bills’ starting quarterback competition. In Denver, former first-round Paxton Lynch was given a half to prove that he belongs on the Broncos’ roster. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Christian Hackenberg played against the team that took him in the second round. 

Below, you’ll find all the updates you need from Thursday night.

Scores, schedule 

Browns 35, Lions 17 (box score)
Dolphins 34, Falcons 7 (box score) 
Eagles 10, Jets 9 (box score) 
Patriots 17, Giants 12 (box score) 
Colts 27, Bengals 26 (box score) 
Ravens 30, Redskins 20  (box score) 
Jaguars 25, Buccaneers 10 (box score) 
Steelers 39, Panthers 24 (box score) 
Saints 28, Rams 0 (box score) 
Bills 28, Bears 27 (box score) 
Vikings 13, Titans 3 (box score) 
Texans 14, Cowboys 6 (box score) 
Chiefs 33, Packers 21 (box score)
Broncos 21, Cardinals 10 (box score) 
Chargers 23, 49ers 21 (box score
Raiders 30, Seahawks 19 (box score) 

Baker Mayfield, Browns start fast

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, won’t start for the Browns when the season begins with Tyrod Taylor locked in as the starter, but he did get the chance to start against the Lions on Thursday. Playing with and against backups, Mayfield immediately proved that he doesn’t belong on the field with the type of players who start Week 4 preseason games.

On the team’s opening series, Mayfield went 3 of 4 for 55 yards. Here he is connecting with “Hard Knocks” star Devon Cajuste for a 41-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage.

Speaking of Cajuste, he caught two passes for 48 yards on the series. The drive, which went 80 yards on nine plays, ended with a three-yard run by rookie Nick Chubb, who rushed for 30 yards on five carries during the series.

The Browns’ offense, with two highly touted rookies, steamrolled the Lions’ defense. That’s not an unexpected outcome, but it’s still nice for the Browns to see as they try to make the leap from bad to competitive. 

Mayfield, who played the entire first half before getting yanked, finished 9 of 16 for 138 yards (8.6 YPA) and a 84.9 passer rating. He led the Browns to 17 points, with only two of his five drives ending without points.

Lamar Jackson’s success continues

After three lackluster preseason outings to begin his career, Jackson finally performed like a first-round pick on Saturday, going 7 of 10 for 98 yards, a touchdown, and a 134.6 passer rating. His success continued early on during Thursday’s game. 

Getting the start against the Redskins, Jackson led the Ravens on a 13-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. On that drive, Jackson went 4 of 4 for 33 yards. He capped off the series with a touchdown run from in close.

Drawing conclusions from anything that happens in the fourth week of the preseason is dangerous, but that touchdown is a perfect example of what Jackson brings to the Ravens offense. Obviously, Joe Flacco is a better quarterback right now, but once Jackson adapts to the NFL and learns how to become a better pocket passer, his athleticism is going to allow the Ravens to become much more exotic and interesting. 

Jackson would finish the first half 9 of 15 for 109 yards (7.3 YPA) and an 82.4 passer rating. Did he miss a couple throws? Yep. But did he show improved accuracy, anticipation, and timing? Yep. Consider the outing a success.

With Jackson showing signs of improvement, the Ravens might decide to trade away Robert Griffin III instead of keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has more:

AJ McCarron wins, but struggles 

When McCarron was signed by the Bills in free agency, he thought he was going to compete for the Bills’ starting quarterback job. He certainly got the chance to compete for the starting job, but he appears to have been passed by both Nathan Peterman and Josh Allen after two preseason outings that can be best described as “meh” and a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the team’s third preseason game.

McCarron returned to action on Thursday, starting against all of the Bears‘ backups, and he came out firing … to the wrong team.

On the off chance he still has a chance to win the starting job, that pick-six didn’t help. On the far more likely chance that the Bills are hoping to be able to trade McCarron, that pick-six also didn’t help. 

At halftime, McCarron was 5 of 13 for 39 yards (3.0 YPA), no touchdowns, one pick, and a 7.0 passer rating, and the Bills trailed 20-0. Entering the fourth quarter, the Bills trailed 27-3. And then, McCarron finally did something about the deficit. In the fourth quarter alone, McCarron threw three touchdowns and ran for another score, leading the Bills to an improbable come-from-behind 28-27 win.

And that’s how McCarron turned an awful outing into a comeback win. The thing is, it’s kinda revealing that McCarron needed a remarkable fourth quarter to beat a Bears team that played their backups. It wasn’t a great sign that McCarron played an entire game that is usually reserved for players trying to make the roster. And it really wasn’t a great sign that McCarron, who some think is a starting-caliber quarterback, was trailing those backups by multiple scores in the fourth quarter.

By the end of the game, even after his furious rally, McCarron improved his stat line only marginally. In all, he went 13 of 34 (38 percent) for 156 yards (4.6 YPA), three touchdowns, two picks, five sacks, and a 58.0 passer rating. Those aren’t starting quarterback numbers. Those are cuttable numbers.

Rather, those should be cuttable numbers. Instead, the Bills are considering giving McCarron the starting job.

Reminder: Sean McDermott once benched Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman in the middle of a playoff race.

Paxton Lynch might’ve saved his roster spot

2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch didn’t expect to be here: fighting for his roster spot before his third regular season in the NFL. But that’s where Paxton Lynch found himself on Thursday night in the Broncos’ final preseason game, stuck behind Chad Kelly on the depth chart, not taking snaps until the second half, needing a good outing to save his spot on the Broncos roster.

So far, so good. Lynch came out absolutely firing, completing his first nine passes.

He didn’t stop there. Through his first three series, Lynch led the Broncos to 18 points, and went 12 of 13 for 97 yards, two touchdowns, and a 137.3 passer rating. Against Cardinals backups trying to earn a spot on the roster, he showcased the raw attributes that made him a first-round pick two years ago.

These are positive signs, these are signs of life:

Kelly, who started the game and played the first half, completed 12 of 19 passes for 126 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, and a 60.4 passer rating, but he might still have a grip on the backup job behind Case Keenum due to his performances prior to Thursday night. But at the very least, Lynch might be making it interesting.  

He finished 14 of 15 for 128 yards (8.5 YPA), two touchdowns, no picks, and a 141.8 passer rating.

Cameron Meredith shows what he has to offer

The Saints stole Cameron Meredith from the Bears even though he’s coming back from an ugly knee injury because of what he did before that the injury robbed him of his 2017 season. The year prior, Meredith caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns, even though his quarterbacks for the majority of that season were Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. If he’s healthy, he can serve as a reliable possession receiver and a nice complement to Michael Thomas.

The thing is, it’s been a rough preseason for Meredith. Entering Thursday night, he’d caught a grand total of zero passes. 

Finally, on Thursday night, he showed what he’s capable of. In the first half, Meredith caught two passes for 72 yards, including this 56-yard bomb …

… and this touchdown.

If Meredith is healthy, he might just become one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. The fourth week of the preseason might not matter much, but it was step in the right direction for a player coming back from a devastating injury. 

Christian Hackenberg is still Christian Hackenberg

Now with the Eagles, the former second-round pick of the Jets made his annual preseason outing, but this time, he got an opportunity to face the Jets. This should come as no surprise, but Christian Hackenberg is still Christian Hackenberg. His new throwing mechanics didn’t fix his inability to hit open receivers. His move to Philadelphia didn’t revive his career. He’s still not an NFL-caliber quarterback.

There were interceptions (2), sacks (2), very few yards per attempt (4.3), a lost fumble, and no touchdowns. In all, Hackenberg went 7 of 16 for 69 yards and a 16.9 passer rating. He did, at least, run for 66 yards and complete some passes to the Jets, finally.

And now, we say goodbye to Hackenberg until next preseason.

Meet the Patriots‘ invisible quarterback

The Patriots took a flier on quarterback Danny Etling in the seventh round of this year’s draft. Now we know why. It turns out Etling has a special attribute that most draft experts weren’t aware of until Thursday night. Etling can make himself invisible. 

Against the Giants, Etling escaped for an 86-yard touchdown run that was most impressive because he didn’t need to make a single man miss on his way to the end zone. He just kept the ball and ran down the sideline completely untouched.

And that’s why the fourth week of the preseason can sometimes be cool.

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