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Fantasy Game of the Week: Week 5

With or without Cam Newton, who is currently in the NFL's concussion protocol, the Panthers should be able to put up points on Monday night.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Hey folks! Sorry for the delay, but better late than never, right? Unfortunately I don’t have time for pleasantries and introductions today, real life problems, you know? So let’s just get straight into the Week 5’s fantasy game of the week!

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers - Monday, October 10 at 8:30 p.m., Over/Under: 44.5

The Bucs

Tampa Bay hasn’t been consistently good on offense so far this season, ranking just 21st in total offense through the first four weeks, but they have shown the ability to have big games. After scoring 31 points in a Week 1 win against Atlanta, the Bucs went to Arizona at only put up 7 points. Then they had 32 points in a loss to the Rams, followed by another 7 point showing against the Broncos. If we’re to believe in the trend of them having a good game every other week, then it’s time for them to have another big game! Now, you normally wouldn’t think playing against the Panthers’ defense would be a good thing, but as we saw last week against the Falcons, Carolina’s pass defense is not the same as it was last year with Josh Norman.

QB Jameis Winston has been the leader of the Buccaneers’ inconsistencies on offense, putting up 34 fantasy points each in Weeks 1 and 3 and only 11 and 12 in Week 2 and 4, respectively. He’s thrown 8 TDs and 8 INTs and is currently sitting as the #10 QB in fantasy. Again, going up against the Panthers in this match-up wouldn’t have inspired confidence after last season, but life without Josh Norman has not been kind to Carolina’s secondary. After finishing last season as the 11th ranked pass defense and 6th overall defensively in 2015, the Panthers have fallen to 15th against the pass and plummeted to 28th in overall defense. Dropping from 11th to 15th may not seem like a big deal, but if you saw last week’s game when Matt Ryan shredded them for 500 yards passing, you truly understand what type of coverage issues Carolina currently has. I mean, those really are some video game numbers. They’re also giving up the 8th most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, another good sign for Winston. I know he is hardly a trustworthy option right now, but I would have no issue starting him as a Top-10 QB this week.

Speaking of video game numbers, Julio Jones accounted for 300 of those yards Matt Ryan had all by his lonesome. Mike Evans has to be foaming at the mouth going into this match-up and unlike his QB, he’s been slightly more consistent for fantasy owners, putting up at least 13 fantasy points in 3-of-4 games so far and leading the league in targets through the first quarter of the season with 50. He’s currently the #6 WR in fantasy and I don’t see much of a reason for him to slow down, as he’s by far the #1 option in Tampa Bay’s passing game. He should be one of the safest guys to start in the league based solely on his target volume and he could feast against the Panthers’ young defensive backs. I’m not sure that there’s another WR you want to start in this offense, but TE Cameron Brate has some appeal. With the release Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been released due to off-field issues, Brate has been getting almost all of the targets at TE and Winston is known to favor his TEs in the passing game. He’s had 10 and 8 targets in the past two games respectively, leading to 16 and 6 points fantasy point performances, the second of which was against the vaunted Broncos’ defense and Carolina has been a sieve against TEs so far, allowing the 4th most fantasy points per game to the position. Brate is almost in must-start territory, especially at a position where there are almost no reliable, every week starters.

Since Doug Martin went down with a hamstring injury, the Buccaneers running game has been pretty non-existent and Charles Sims has been a disappointment to fantasy owners who thought he could step into a bigger role and be productive, as he’s averaged 2.7 yards per carry (YPC) or less in 3-of-4 games this season. Now Sims is also on the injury report and Martin looks unlikely to return, at least this week. There have also been whispers of getting Jacquizz Rodgers more involved, but Rodgers has never been a very productive guy on the ground either (he has a career average of 3.7 YPC) and has been mostly a receiving back. In other words, he and Sims occupy the same role and have a similar skill-set. All things considered, I’d prefer not to start either guy if you can, as the Panthers currently have the 10th ranked rush defense in the league and are in the bottom half in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs. This should be the only position you’re staying away from in this match-up.

The Panthers

The relatively low Over/Under here is likely due to the injury status of QB Cam Newton heading into this game, as he suffered a concussion last week against Atlanta. Newton is the reigning NFL MVP and led the Panthers’ to the Super Bowl last season, but he doesn’t have to be in the lineup on Monday night against the Bucs for Carolina to have some enticing fantasy options. If he clears the concussion protocol and is able to play, you’re obviously starting him, but 2nd-string QB Derek Anderson should serve as a very solid backup plan if Newton isn’t able to go. You’d obviously be expecting more out of Newton than you would Anderson, but Anderson has been very good any time he has had to fill in for Cam, including throwing for 2 TDs last week against the Falcons when Newton went down. Whichever QB plays here will get to go up against a Tampa Bay defense that has allowed 128 points through 4 games, second only to the Saints. That’s an average of 32 points allowed per game! Like I was saying, if you have Newton, stash Anderson and just start whoever plays in this game. That way you don’t have to live with sitting Cam for someone playing on Sunday and then watching him go off on your bench. If Anderson starts, I think he has the ability to be a Top-12 QB this week.

Guess who the #1 fantasy tight-end is through four weeks? That’d be Greg Olsen, who has at least 8 targets and 5 catches in each game and has put up fantasy point totals of 7, 18, 6 and 15 so far. Olsen doesn’t have the same flash or flair as someone like Rob Gronkowski and doesn’t come close to him in TD numbers, but he’s been the most consistent guy at a very inconsistent position over the past several years, especially when you consider that he never misses a game. Olsen caught both his TD and 2-point conversion from Anderson after he entered the game last week and he’s an every week starter regardless of who’s at QB or the match-up, which I mention because the Buccaneers are currently allowing the 5th least fantasy points per game to TEs. He’s still a Top-3 guy at the position. So what about Kelvin Benjamin, the other main receiving option in Carolina? Well, Anderson actually has a history of feeding him the ball. In 2014, Benjamin’s rookie season, Anderson started two games that Newton sat out with injuries, both of which also happened to be against the Bucs. Here were Benjamin’s stats in those games: 6 catches for 92 yards and a TD in Week 1 and 8 catches for 104 yards in Week 15. Those were two of the only five games that Benjamin had over 90 yards receiving as a rookie. The reason I’m giving you all of these stats about Anderson and these guys is to put your mind at ease. Don’t be afraid to start your studs if Cam is out, Anderson can get them the ball just fine. Oh, and the fact that Tampa Bay is currently giving up the most fantasy points per game to opposing WRs doesn’t hurt Benjamin’s case either.

Like Tampa Bay, Carolina is also missing their regular primary ball-carrier due to a hamstring injury, as Jonathan Stewart went out in Week 2 against San Francisco. Fozzy Whittaker has had a nice impact as a receiver out of the backfield and did a great job filling in for Stewart when he left the game in Week 2 against the 49ers, putting up 100 rushing yards on just 16 carries. Whittaker is averaging 5.2 YPC on the season to go along with 18 receptions and has a solid role in the offense regardless of whether or not Stewart is healthy. The other guy splitting touches while Stewart is out is Cameron Artis-Payne, who is only averaging 3.3 YPC and doesn’t really catch the ball. The Bucs are currently the 12th ranked defense against the run and are only allowing 3.3 YPC, but they’re giving up the 9th most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. So what gives? Well, although they’ve played the run well, the defense has had the 3rd most rushes attempted against them, but also, they’ve allowed the 8th most receiving yards to RBs. Who did I say catches the ball out of the backfield for Carolina again? That’s right, that Whittaker guy. I’d use him as a flex this week and leave Artis-Payne on the bench.

That’s it for this week! If you have any questions or comments, you can find me on Twitter @GarrettHobgood, as usual. Good luck to everyone in Week 5 and to those of you in the path of Hurricane Matthew: stay safe.