Thursday Night Football Fantasy rankings: Panthers offense ready to take off?
Are we set for another snoozer on Thursday night? From the Fantasy perspective, Chris Towers sure thinks so.
We've actually had a pretty nice run of predictable games on Thursday night in recent weeks.
In Week 8, the Titans dominated the Jaguars as we expected. In Week 9, the Falcons and Buccaneers lit up the scoreboard with their high-flying passing offenses. In Week 10, the Ravens and Browns got through a snoozer with little for Fantasy owners to get excited about.
Let's hope the trend of predictability continues in Week 11, because this matchup between the Saints and Panthers could provide plenty of Fantasy fireworks. The last time these two teams met up, they combined for 79 points, and they feature some of the biggest names in Fantasy, so there should be plenty of opportunities for the stars to shine tonight. Let's hope it works out.
Even if there weren't concerns about his playing time, it would be pretty hard to trust Mark Ingram against this defense, which ranks seventh in the league in FootballOutsiders.com's DVOA against the run this season. Ingram hasn't been particularly good this season, and is still splitting carries with Tim Hightower, which makes this a pretty big headache for Fantasy players.
Ingram did edge out Hightower in carries last week, and should continue to pull away from him as we move on, but there's no reason to think Hightower is going to be out of the picture entirely. Ingram played just 43 percent of the team's offensive snaps last week. Against a better matchup, Ingram is startable, but this isn't one of them.
As long as his role remains in doubt, Ingram is just a borderline starting-caliber Fantasy option.
Greg Olsen is in a bit of a slump. Since the Panthers' Week 7 bye, he has totaled just 102 yards and one score over the last three games. He still remains on pace for the best season of his career, with a per-game receiving yard pace that would push him over 1,200 for the first time, but that pace has certainly slowed of late.
If you're worried about him, don't be, because Olsen should have no trouble getting going this week, against a Saints team he has torched in the past. He had 94 yards on six catches against them earlier this season, and he has averaged 12.4 Fantasy points per game against them over the past three seasons. You never even contemplate sitting Olsen, regardless of matchup, but he is one of the most obvious starts around in Week 11.
Lineup Hail Marys
It's more than fair to chalk Coby Fleener up as a bust this season. The Saints' offense has featured elite play from the tight end position for years, and we thought Fleener would fit in perfectly, but he and Drew Brees just haven't been able to get on the same page, and he has really struggled to make an impact as a result. He has had some great games for Fantasy, but for the most part has been a pretty typical tight end, depending heavily on touchdowns for value.
However, he did have arguably his best game against this very Panthers' defense earlier in the season, racking up 74 yards and a pair of scores, including on one the ground. A rushing touchdown for Fleener is just about the flukiest outcome possible, but if he gets 70-plus yards and a score again, you'll be pretty pleased.
The Panthers do have very good coverage linebackers in Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, but they nonetheless have allowed the third-most Fantasy points to tight eneds this season, so this could be a chance to get Fleener in your lineup.
Given the Saints' defensive struggles this season, we expect Cam Newton to have a very solid game tonight, and it's pretty clear Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin will be worth starting in all Fantasy formats as a result. However, it's probably fair to assume they won't be the only options in the passing game who can play well, but it's hard to figure out who it might be.
With his big-play ability, Ted Ginn always has a chance to hit for Fantasy players. He's starting to get more involved in the offense of late, with six-plus targets in the past four games, and five catches in each game to boot. That actually makes a pretty interesting option this week, even if it might be hard to bring yourself to trust him. Ginn hasn't found the end zone this season after scoring 10 times a year ago, but if he is ever going to, this would be a good opportunity. If you're really desperate, Ginn is actually an intriguing play.
Devin Funchess remains a limited contributor for Fantasy purposes, but he has become a bigger part of the Panthers' passing game of late, receiving four or more targets in each of the past four games. He has turned that into just 37.5 yards per game, so you shouldn't be excited about the prospect of starting Funchess. However, he has a role in the offense, in what should be a high-scoring game with plenty of opportunities for him to contribute. In a deeper league, Funchess isn't the worst roll of the dice possible.
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