Like every game played on a Thursday, tonight’s football match will likely turn into one that’s only watched by degenerates who really need many fake numbers to climb.
So basically, you’ve come to the right place.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1. Will Mike Glennon continue with his Vincent Jackson fixation/infatuation?
If you’re a Vincent Jackson fantasy owner, Mike Glennon is your bestest friend. I’m sure he’s a pretty swell guy too, and that he usually brings over pizza and chips.
As the best receiver on his team and now the best offensive player too with Doug Martin out, Jackson gets targeted a whole lot. This is not new or game-changing material here, and he’s currently second in the league in that quarterback love metric with 77 targets overall, after finishing 10th last year with 147 targets.
But the Glennon-Jackson connection giddiness comes from how much those targets have increased with a rookie quarterback craving the sweet comfort of veteran hands. During Josh Freeman’s three starts Jackson was targeted 30 times, which was already a fine pace. How much has said pace increased with Glennon? Well, over the past three weeks he’s thrown a ball in Jackson’s direction 47 times, and 22 of those targets came in Week 7.
Really absorb that for a second. A receiver was targeted 22 times in a game, and even though Jackson caught less than half of those against the Falcons while finishing with 10 receptions, it didn’t matter. The value of that high volume can more than compensate for any sort of shut down defense, of the inaccuracies of a quarterback. Jackson also turned those targets into 138 yards and two touchdowns, meaning that over the past two weeks with Glennon he has four scores — his only touchdowns on the season — and 252 receiver yards. Oh, and he’s also now on pace for 205 targets.
Those targets will still be there for Jackson tonight, but sadly time in the pocket won’t be for Glennon as he contends with a frightening front four that has 10.5 sacks from the starters alone.
2. Can Cam Newton continue to own the Bucs?
There’s an obvious caveat here, and it’s tied to two names: Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis.
They weren’t around last year when Newton threw for 555 yards at a pretty fine pace of 9.0 per attempt against these Bucs, and he completed 69.7 percent of his passes in one of those games, which was considerably higher than his overall season percentage of 57.7.
But even with those two the Bucs’ pass defense hasn’t exactly been daunting, as opponents have landed on the novel concept of staying away from Revis. That happened last week when Harry Douglas spent a good chunk of his day lined up in the slot, as he often does, and the result was 149 yards on seven catches, a quite chunky pace of 21.3 yards per catch. Reminder: prior to last week Douglas had all of 219 receiving yards over five games.
That wasn’t a fluke either. Just two weeks ago Nick Foles — the quarterback who has made all of Philadelphia rub warming cream on their groins hoping that somehow a voodoo spell will heal Michael Vick — threw three touchdowns against this Bucs secondary while completing 71.0 percent of his passes, and two of those TDs went to DeSean Jackson, who was shadowed by Revis for much of the day.
3. Will Newton finally get some run support from, well, anyone?
It’s odd that the Panthers are so inept when trying to run the ball conventionally — you know, with a running back — despite employing about 19 players who are paid specifically for that task. Between Jonathan Stewart (who will return soon from an ankle injury), goal-line back Mike Tolbert, starter DeAngelo Williams, and rookie Kenjon Barner, the Panthers have fully stocked their running back cabinet. Yet they’re able to do little, and tonight’s output will once again surely reside somewhere between little and none.
Carolina’s high average rushing yards per game (130.2) has been inflated by both the presence of a mobile quarterback, and sheer rushing volume (they’ve attempted 201 runs, tied for seventh in the league). Of their 781 overall rushing yards, Williams is responsible for 434 of them (55.6 percent). That’s a mediocre percentage for a starting running back, and especially one who’s received over half the carries (106) and far more than Mike Tolbert (44). Worse, much of Williams’ rushing yardage (120 yards) came in Week 3 during a 38-0 roundhouse kick to the Giants.
Williams’ per carry average has also been below 4.0 in four of Carolina’s six games, and having a running game that opposing defenders need to think about just a little bit might have kept Newton upright more against the Bills (sacked six times), and Cardinals (sacked seven times).
Or course, running tonight isn’t something that will happen much, because defending the run is pretty much the only thing the Bucs still do well. Powered by the lateral speed of Lavonte David and Mason Foster, the Bucs are allowing only 88.8 rushing yards per game (fifth), and they’ve also given up just one rushing touchdown. That latter number brings more woe to Newton owners, as although he’s often giving way to Mike Tolbert around the goal-line, Newton has still scored two of the Panthers’ five rushing touchdowns.
Standard preamble/dire warning: in the end it’s all the same, but sit and start decisions on Thursday night just feel more pressing and possibly painful, because if you make a poor call one roster spot has already been burned long before Sunday. That sucks (#analysis).
No-brainers: Because of the aforementioned targets upon targets, there’s no way you’re sitting Jackson, though you weren’t doing that anyway. Then there’s Newton, and because of both the matchup and his own general wayward-ness, it’s difficult to know which Newton will show up. Tonight will we see the Newton who had only two incompletions last week, or the guy who threw three interceptions in Week 5 and gave you only seven fantasy points? I’ll go somewhere in the middle, which would be just fine, thanks.
Tweeners: You likely can’t bench Steve Smith, because six teams having their byes this week is horrible. But you can’t feel overly confident with him residing on Revis Island tonight. Yes, DeSean Jackson may have posted 64 yards with two touchdowns on Revis in Week 6. But although he’s still effective, Smith doesn’t nearly have Jackson’s burst at his advanced age. Also, all Doug Martin owners in leagues with even regular depth will likely have to start Mike James, but that won’t end well either. Anchored by Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have the league’s fourth-ranked run defense, and they’ve allowed only one 100-yard rusher, which includes holding Adrian Peterson to 62 yards, and Marshawn Lynch to 43 yards.
Sleepers/flex plays: With Smith shut down, this could be another booming night for Brandon LaFell, who’s a week removed from a similar explosion against the Vikings with 107 yards on four catches.
Stay away: Again, many lost souls likely can’t avoid DeAngelo Williams because of bye weeks and injuries, but do it if possible. Over two games against the Bucs last year Williams rushed for 17 yards, which was low-lighted by -1 yards on six carries in Week 1. Glennon also isn’t appealing because of that painful Panthers pass rush, and even if he’s healthy Mike Williams shouldn’t interest you much due to his quarterback’s fixation on Jackson.