The NFL put a bow on the 2021 preseason this weekend and now all roads lead to the regular season. In the final slate of exhibitions games, it was curious to see how a number of teams handled their contests. Some clubs elected to use it as a traditional Week 3 of the preseason and gave the Week 1 starters some extended playing time similar to when there were four games each summer. Meanwhile, other teams opted to rest their top-tier players, treating it more as Week 4 of the preseason like we've seen in years past.
While it was a mixed bag in terms of which teams were playing their starters, there were still plenty of nuggets to take away from this slate of games. Below, you'll find a handful of winners and losers from the final week of the preseason for 2021.
Denver is trending in the right direction as it marches towards the regular season. Not only has the club decided that it'll be Teddy Bridgewater who'll be the Week 1 starter, but he'll also have some reinforcements ready to roll when he officially takes the field in the opener. Against the Rams, Denver saw the return of wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who had been recovering from a torn ACL. He hauled in two of his three targets on the night for 23 yards, including an eight-yard score from Bridgewater. With Sutton -- who totaled 1,112 yards in 2019 -- back healthy, Bridgewater's weapons just got that much more dynamic. Meanwhile, the Broncos defense also saw the long-awaited return of Von Miller, who missed all of last with an ankle injury. He finished with three tackles on the night.
Loser: J.K. Dobbins
It's been a rough preseason for young running backs. The latest to join that group is the Ravens' J.K. Dobbins, who will now miss the entire 2021 season after suffering a torn ACL in Week 3. Dobbins was expected to have a second-year leap in the Baltimore backfield, serving as the club's featured back. In his absence, Gus Edwards is currently slotted as the top running back on the Ravens' depth chart.
Winner: Trevor Lawrence
In the aftermath of the Jaguars trading Gardner Minshew to the Eagles, No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence turned in a near-perfect preseason performance. In his final tune-up before the start of his rookie season, Lawrence looked every bit the part of the generational quarterback that he was billed as leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. He completed 11 of his 12 passes on the day against Dallas for 139 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a 154.5 passer rating. Lawrence was able to make a number of jaw-dropping sideline throws, including two on each side of the end zone that were able to put points on the board. If he can carry that play into the regular season, he'll be in for a pretty special rookie campaign.
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Loser: Ja'Marr Chase
Ja'Marr Chase is probably thrilled that this preseason is over. It was a dreadful few weeks for the Bengals' top pick as he battled with a serious case of the drops. Of his five targets this summer, he hauled in one pass for 16 yards. The other four throws were dropped. His last drop of the preseason came in Cincinnati's final preseason game against the Dolphins, where he inexplicably couldn't bring in a bubble screen pass from Joe Burrow. The fact that Chase even struggled when his former LSU teammate in Burrow was throwing him the football is quite concerning heading into the regular season.
Winner: Josh Allen
Josh Allen looked like he was on the doorstep of an MVP season during his final outing of the preseason against the Packers on Saturday. The Bills QB completed 10 of his first 11 pass attempts, which included a 31-yard laser to Gabriel Davis for a touchdown. He finished by completing 20 of his 26 throws on the day for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Allen was surgical and seemed to be picking right up from where he was during his breakout campaign in 2020.
Loser: Andrew Thomas
Daniel Jones saw the field for the first time this preseason on Sunday and was immediately running for his life. The Giants quarterback was constantly under siege by Patriots pass rushers as New York's offensive line -- particularly left tackle Andrew Thomas -- struggled to give him time in the pocket. Thomas was routinely beat and gave up two sacks and a pressure in this game while also being called for a holding penalty.
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Winner: Kyle Shanahan's QB platoon
Kyle Shanahan looked like a mad scientist in Sunday's preseason finale against the Raiders with how he was using his quarterbacks. The 49ers head coach opened the game with a platoon attack under center with both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance rotating in and out throughout the first two drives. And it worked. In this game against Las Vegas, Garoppolo got the start, but Lance almost instantly came in as the two alternated the quarterback position as the offense moved down the field. Each quarterback also finished with a rushing touchdown. While it remains to be seen how Shanahan will use this in the regular season, he just showed everyone in the NFL that San Francisco can roll out a fascinating wrinkle to its offense, if it so chooses.
Loser: T.Y. Hilton
It's been a summer filled with injuries for the Indianapolis Colts. Now, it's veteran receiver T.Y. Hilton, who is expected to miss multiple weeks after suffering a reported back, neck injury. Head coach Frank Reich characterized it as a "disc issue" and added that the team is hopeful this injury is not season-ending. Still, this is a blow to a Colts passing game that is still hoping to get quarterback Carson Wentz back in the fold in time for the Week 1 opener.
Winner: Tyler Huntley
It was a good weekend for backup quarterbacks, but no one saw more success than Ravens backup Tyler Huntley. After Lamar Jackson departed for the night, Huntley took the reins under center and dominated against Washington. The second-year quarterback completed 24 of his 33 passes on the day for 285 yards and four passing touchdowns. He also assed 14 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground en-route to Baltimore's NFL-record 20th preseason win.
Loser: Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton didn't play in Week 3 of the preseason, but the Bears quarterback does seem to be on the doorstep of losing his job. At every turn, rookie Justin Fields continues to show that he's ready to ascend to starting status on Chicago's depth chart, despite the coaching staff already pegging Dalton as the man for Week 1. Against the Titans, Fields was once again impressive, completing seven of his 10 throws on the night for 54 yards and a touchdown. That lone score was his best throw on the night, rolling out right and threading the needle on an end-zone throw to Jesper Horsted while on the run. Those plays that should have Dalton seriously looking over his shoulder right out of the gate in 2021.