This isn’t the most high-profile game to be broadcast on Thursday night. The Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a combined 3-9 (the three wins belong to the Panthers). The Bucs lost a close game to the Atlanta Falcons while the Panthers easily defeated the St. Louis Rams.
The Bucs have been in a state of change over the last couple of weeks. They have a new quarterback and rookie running back starting tonight. The Panthers, on the other hand, have the same core group of players. In addition, their defense is top-five in fantasy scoring. With not too many players starting for fantasy owners tonight, here are my projections in this NFC South matchup.
Cam Newton scored only 14 points last week, but is still ranked No. 12 among quarterbacks in ESPN leagues. He was very efficient, completing 15-of-17 passes with no turnovers. Even worse for fantasy owners who drafted Newton is that he isn’t running as much as last season. He has only 179 rushing yards in six games. He had almost 100 yards more at this point last season.
This week, Newton has a really good matchup. The Bucs defense have given up six touchdowns and no turnovers in the last two weeks. Despite working with a short week, he is a must-start.
Projections: 18-of-26, 252 passing yards, two TDs; 32 rushing yards (21 points)
Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has played decently over the last two weeks. He’s thrown for four touchdowns and one interception. He’s received a lot of help from veteran receiver Vincent Jackson. However, he won’t have much success this week. The Panthers give up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks per game, 8.8 to be exact.
To keep piling on the Bucs, having a rookie running back behind him will make matters worse for Glennon. He should continue to be a free agent in all leagues. If, for some reason, you do own Glennon, I’m sorry and bench him.
Projections: 24-of-42, 170 passing yards, one TD, one INT (eight points)
Many thought DeAngelo Williams would benefit from the absence of Jonathan Stewart. They would be partially correct. Williams averages almost 18 carries a game. The part where they would be wrong is his scoring opportunities. Williams has yet to score a touchdown this season, mostly because of Mike Tolbert. Tolbert has three touchdowns on just 44 carries.
However, I think tonight is the night Williams breaks through for a score. Despite the Bucs not allowing a rushing touchdown all season, he’s due. Tolbert will probably take one in, too.
Projections: Williams — 17 carries, 63 rushing yards, 12 receiving yards, one TD (13 points); Tolbert — eight carries, 16 yards, one TD (seven points)
Doug Martin tore his labrum in his shoulder and has been ruled out for this game. Enter Mike James. He took over for Martin last week and had 45 yards on 14 carries (3.2 yards per carry). Things won’t get better for James. The Panthers allow 13.8 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. However, the Bucs’ offensive line cannot provide that kind of blocking.
Martin only scored once in his five full games this season. James will not be worth adding unless he shows he can break free.
Projections: 12 carries, 58 rushing yards (five points)
Steve Smith is almost not worth owning in 10-team leagues. He has just two double-digit games and is on pace to finish with only 781 yards. Brandon LaFell had a big Week 3 and good game in Week 5, but is unreliable week-to-week.
However, both should be in line for about 10 points as the Bucs’ defense allows an average of 20.8 points per game to opposing wide receivers. With all of the teams on bye this week, Smith should be starting. LaFell should be in lineups for much deeper leagues.
Projections: Smith — five receptions, 43 yards, one TD (10 points); LaFell — four receptions, 33 yards, one TD (nine points)
As mentioned earlier, Glennon has been looking Jackson’s way a lot over the last two weeks. Jackson has 19 receptions for 252 yards and four touchdowns. As a result, Mike Williams has fell by the wayside a little bit, only 32 yards last week. Glennon will continue to look for Jackson as his security blanket, while Williams’ stock drastically drops. Considering Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury, he’s worth dropping in all formats.
Projections: Jackson — 10 receptions, 100 yards, one TD (16 points); Williams — four receptions, 40 yards (four points)