Thursday Night Football heads to Florida tonight as the Panthers visit their NFC South rivals in Tampa. The Bucs are still looking for their first win of the season, but will face a tough task of limiting Cam Newton and the Panthers offense if they want to get their first W of the year tonight.
Hopefully, your fantasy team is off to a much better start than Tampa. If you have players in tonight’s game or are making lineup decisions, here’s how I think tonight will go down:
Carolina: Cam Newton is a roller coaster ride with all the thrills and spills of owning Tony Romo in a typical season. He had a huge game two weeks ago in Minnesota but didn’t do much last week even though he team won easily. He’s unpredictable which makes him a high-end QB2 this week. You can start him in 10-team leagues, but I do think there are ten better options ranking him about 12th overall for the week. Thursday night has just not been kind to fantasy offenses in general so proceed with caution.
Tampa Bay: Mike Glennon has put up back to back solid weeks throwing for over 250 yards an a pair of touchdowns against the Falcons and Eagles. This week against Carolina will be a much tougher task, though, since they allow the fewest points in the NFL to opposing QB’s. I’d stay away from Glennon unless you’re really squeezed by the bye week or desperate in a dual-QB league.
Carolina: The Panthers backfield hasn’t been very productive this season with DeAngelo Williams still looking for his first touchdown and Mike Tolbert vulturing TD’s but not much else. Either one can work as a deep league flex, but hopefully you have better options.
Tampa Bay: The Bucs backfield took a huge hit when Doug Martin went down. He may or may not be done for the season, but he won’t play this week. Mike James takes over, but it’s a tough matchup for the rookie from Miami. I’d avoid playing him if possible until he gets a little experience and more practice as the lead back. If I had to play a running back from tonight’s game, I’d play James since he’s the most sure to get carries and looked decent last week, but I would definitely not feel great about it.
Carolina: Each team has one WR that’s worth playing tonight. Steve Smith is a decent WR2 for Carolina against a Bucs defense that got beat up last week by Harry Douglas and Matt Ryan. Brandon LaFell is a deep-league flier who turns in enough big plays that he can be used as a Haily Mary play, but he’s always a roll of the dice since you’re counting on a deep pass being needed, throw, and completed.
Tampa Bay: For Tampa, the receiver to play tonight is definitely Vincent Jackson. He’s turned in back-to-back two-touchdown performances and was targeted a whopping 22 times last week by Glennon. The Panthers defense is actually pretty solid, so V-Jax isn’t quite an elite option this week although he’s definitely a top ten receiver. Mike Williams is a long shot play because of the matchup and the focus Glennon has had elsewhere. Williams may still be dealing with his hamstring injury from earlier this season as well, so I’d stay away if at all possible. He’s listed as questionable, so if you’re forced to play him check the inactives. As much as it pains me to say it, there are probably better options on the waiver wire to play this week than Williams.
Carolina: Tampa defends against the TE pretty well as they showed last week by shutting down Tony Gonzalez. If you own Greg Olsen, he’s still a TE1, but I don’t think he’ll go off tonight.
Tampa Bay: Two weeks ago, Timothy Wright had a big game against the Eagles going for 91 yards on seven catches. Last week, he came back to earth finishing with just two catches for 15 yards. There’s long-term potential there, but I don’t think Wright will do much tonight since the Panthers defense is so solid.
Carolina: Speaking of the Panthers defense, they’re probably the best play of the night. They’ve been great this year allowing more than 15 points just twice this season and putting up double-digit points in four weeks in a row (ESPN Standard Scoring). Tampa is in the top ten in most fantasy points allowed to opposing D/ST. If you’re looking for a more long-term solution at defense, Carolina has some nice matchups and are past their bye week while still being on the waiver wire in over half of ESPN leagues.
Tampa Bay: The Bucs D has shown flashes but is overall not playing well enough to start in a night where they could face “good Cam” and get lit up. They have a few playmakers, but just are too inconsistent to count on.
Sorry, Tampa, but I don’t see the Bucs pulling the upset tonight. I don’t think it will be a high-scoring game, and it should be a reasonably close game until Cam and company get a couple scores while their underrated defense gets a few pivotal stops.