Another week, another Thursday night snoozer. What’s the deal with this? I suppose the schedule-makers had no idea that Cam Newton was going to be a disappointment through the first half of the season or that Doug Martin was going to go down with a torn labrum in his shoulder or that Josh Freeman was going to stink it up so badly that even Tampa Bay didn’t want him, but man, these games have not been kind to the casual fan watching and they certainly haven’t been kind to the fantasy football world either. In fact, I’ve had people emailing me in search of a suggested replacement for their guy who does play in a Thursday night game. It’s apparently gotten that bad.
But alas, the show must go on and there are many of you out there who are still looking to move forward with your Panthers and Buccaneers. The match-up this week pits a pair of NFC South rivals against each other, one of whom, Carolina, still has a shot at the playoffs. But we’ll let all the Panthers fans worry about that. We just want to know the fantasy take, so here we go…
Cam Newton, CAR – As stated above, Newton has been a relative disappointment this season, posting just three (well, really 2 ½) decent games worthy of some sort of fantasy excellence label. The rest of his starts, well, let’s just say that they’re certainly not worthy of where he was drafted in most leagues. The biggest issue is the lack of running from him. Through seven games this season, he’s rushed for no more than 45 yards in any week with just two rushing touchdowns all year, and it doesn’t look like it will get any easier for him as the Bucs defense gives up an average of just 88.8 rushing yards per game and have allowed just one rushing touchdown this whole season. As for the passing attack, we all know the dangers of Revis Island and the Bucs secondary and that has helped them limit opposing quarterbacks to an average of 252 yards with just 11 touchdowns through the air. For Newton to be successful, he is going to have to employ a solid, short-passing game and hope his receivers can pick up the extra yardage after the catch. A tall order, indeed.
Mike Glennon, TB – The rookie out of NC State has actually been pretty darn good since taking over in Week 4. Well, that first game wasn’t the greatest, but then he had the bye week to help sort some stuff out. In the two games since, he’s thrown for 529 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception. But he’s got his work cut out for him in this one as the Panthers have given up the third fewest yards through the air this season (218 YPG) and have allowed just five passing touchdowns in total. It could be rough pumpkins for him out there with an unproven ground game trying to lend support and a very limited number of legitimate passing targets.
DeAngelo Williams, CAR – Williams has had some favorable match-ups on which he’s failed to capitalize and in the end, it’s starting to cost him reps. He carried the ball nearly 21 times per game over the first three games of the season and is now averaging just under 15 carries per over his last three. He’s going to need to start improving soon as Jonathan Stewart is due back soon but against a Bucs defense that gives up, again, just 88.8 yards per game, it could be another subpar day.
Mike Tolbert, CAR – In the simplest terms, he’s a touchdown vulture. That’s it. Last week’s 36 yards on 13 carries was a season-best for him but he’s got three touchdowns over his last four games. Again, running room against the Bucs will be tough to come by, but if they get down there inside the five-yard line, you can bet Tolbert will be the guy to punch it home.
Mike James, TB – Welcome to the Show, Mr. James. Your table is right this way. With Martin out for what could be the entire season, James and his 17 NFL carries of experience take center stage against a run defense that gives up an average of just 84.5 rushing yards per game. There is a very faint silver lining though as the Panthers rank just 28th in the league at defending against the running back screen and allow an average of 51 yards to the position. If James can take a few dump-offs to the outside, he just might be able to pick up some much-needed yardage.
Brian Leonard, TB – He’ll work as a complementary back, but doesn’t hold any real fantasy value right now.
Steve Smith, CAR – He’s definitely lost a step, has fewer yards after the catch and doesn’t put up the numbers he once did. But he’s still Newton’s top guy out there and while Darrelle Revis will be paying him some extra attention in this one, Smith is fine to run a short slant and make the catch before the secondary has time to come in. He’s also a solid red zone target (18 red zone targets this year which makes up 47.6% of the team’s total targets) so look for him to find the endzone this week. The Bucs are holding No. 1 receivers to 42.1 yards per game, but that’s low yardage and a TD grab has been Smith’s M.O. this season anyway.
Brandon LaFell, CAR – He’s got three touchdowns and one 100-yard game this season and while he’s never been the guy you can count on, he’s actually got a pretty good match-up in this one. Believe it or not, the Bucs actually rank 31st in the league against No. 2 receivers, giving up an average of 63.9 yards per game. If you’re struggling for a third receiver or possibly even a flex play, LaFell might just be the answer.
Vincent Jackson, TB – He saw 22 targets last week which is actually the most any receiver has seen in any game this season. He may have only caught 10, but hey…those are 10 receptions that he turned into 138 yards and two touchdowns. Tack on some extra points if you’re in a PPR league. He’s now got 252 yards and four touchdowns over his last two games which is huge for fantasy owners. A bit of a tough match-up for him in this one as the Panthers rank eighth in the league against No. 1 wideouts and hold them to 51.3 yards per game. But tough match-up aside, if Glennon is throwing him that many passes, he’s going to register some points. For me, he’s a must-start with that kind of attention, regardless of match-up.
Mike Williams, TB – He’s listed as questionable with a hamstring issue, but he put in a full practice Monday, a limited one Tuesday and then a full practice on Wednesday leaving little doubt as to whether or not he will play. He will. How effective he’ll be is a different story as the Panthers rank third in the league against No. 2’s, holding them to a ridiculous 26.3 yards per game. The important thing is that he’ll play which will help draw coverage away from Jackson, making him [Jackson] a stronger play.
Greg Olsen, CAR – Recently bothered by a foot injury, Olsen put in back-to-back practices Tuesday and Wednesday and is now listed as probable for the game. He’s always been a favorite target for Newton and with the need for a short-passing game to negate the corners, Olsen fits the bill perfectly. The Bucs do rank eighth against the tight end, but they also give up 60.1 yards per game to the position. It looks like Olsen should see plenty of targets, but maybe not much inside the red zone.
Timothy Wright, TB – Seriously, would you have been able to even name the Tampa tight end had it not been here right in front of you? Wright actually had a solid 91-yard game back in Week 6, but aside from that, he’s done squadoosh. However, he does happen to have a nice little match-up here should Glennon need an additional outlet which, it sounds like he may. The Panthers rank 19th in the league against the tight end position, allowing 51.1 yards per game.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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