Panthers Start or Sit: Week 11

Thursday night, fantasy owners look for the Carolina Panthers to exploit a less than stellar defense without seeing a Carolina defensive struggle…

Coming off of a close loss at home, the Carolina Panthers turn their attention to divisional rival New Orleans for a pivotal Thursday Night prime time matchup.

With a short week to prepare for both teams, home field advantage will certainly play nicely for the Panthers, who do not have to worry about travel considerations. Defensively, not much has changed for New Orleans since Carolina played them in Week Six. The Saints rank fifth worse in total running yards allowed and are middle of the pack in passing yards allowed. In addition, the Saints have also allowed the third most points per game to opponents thus far.

In Week Six, the Carolina defense crumbled early and in all allowed 523 total yards in a 41-38 final. Expect that score to be similar on Thursday, although in the past three contests after the bye week, the Panthers haven’t allowed more than 340 yards to their opposition.

Oct 30, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) and outside linebacker Shaq Green-Thompson (54) against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On both sides, the injury report has cleared up in large part. Carolina expects to have veteran center Ryan Kalil back along with linebacker Shaq Thompson. For New Orleans, cornerback Delvin Breaux did not participate in Wednesday practice and is questionable with a fibula injury. Out for Carolina this week are safety Collin Jones, linebacker A.J. Klein, and tackle Michael Oher all suffering from concussions.

With a short time to prepare and an offensive shootout brewing, what Panthers should fantasy owners start to gain the early lead on their opponents?

START:

QB – Cam Newton- This week, Cam Newton is a QB1 on most fantasy boards and that is due to the instability of the Saints secondary. More importantly, the season for Newton following an MVP performance has been less than stellar and it has to turn around at some point. Newton’s rushing presence was felt again last week, as he rushed a season high 12 times for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Nov 13, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass as Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali (91) and defensive tackle Rakeem Nunez-Roches (99) and outside linebacker Dee Ford (55) pressure in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

One area of focus for Newton to improve is in completion percentage, which stands currently at just above 58 percent. If Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula can draw up quicker throws underneath that require less time for the offensive line to block, then Newton could see an increase in overall completions and fantasy output. As of yet, that hasn’t happened.

Still, Newton is a safe bet over most others in fantasy leagues this week.

WR – Kelvin Benjamin- For five weeks in a row, receiver Kelvin Benjamin has at or above 70 yards but hasn’t stepped foot in the end zone since Week 4. Still, in PPR formats (as well as standard) Benjamin is an above average WR2 to have on a starting lineup.

Benjamin flashed the gloves last week, snagging passes out of the air with ease on route to a seven catch performance for 84 yards. If Benjamin continues on this pace, he’ll be a 1,000 yard receiver again and a must play for fantasy owners weekly. Given the difficult time the Saints secondary has weekly, Benjamin is a solid play for Thursday.

SIT:

D/ST – Panthers Defense- It should come to no surprise that the Panthers defense should be avoided this week, but after three decent performances some fantasy owners may think the defense has gone back to winning ways.

While the defense has progressed immensely since the bye, the Saints offense is a powder keg that ignites and explodes every week. Even journeymen such as Tim Hightower excel in this offense.

Linebacker Thomas Davis spoke on their successes from the last time the two faced off stating, “Those guys just really had a day against our defense. For us, we take that personally,” Davis added, “We’ve got to do a much better job defensively than we did the last time we faced them.”

While some progress may occur, it still won’t be pretty or effective enough for fantasy owners to start. A nice replacement may be the Miami Dolphins, who face off against rookie Jared Goff in his first ever career start.

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