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Thursday Night Game – Week 3
New York Giants @ Carolina Panthers – 7:20pm CT on NFL Network
Eli Manning – There was no doubt Eli would put up better numbers against the Buccaneers in Week 2 than he did versus the Cowboys, but I’m not so sure anyone would have called that 510-yard, 3-TD outburst. However, he wouldn’t have needed to go berserk like that had he not thrown three first half INTs and put the Giants in a 24-13 hole. This week he’ll face off against a stubborn Panthers defense that allowed just one TD to Drew Brees last Sunday while picking off two, but I don’t believe they’ll be able to go back-to-back weeks holding down Cruz, Barden and Randle after what they did to Marques Colston and Lance Moore.
Fantasy Call – With TE Martellus Bennett also coming into his own and starting RB Ahmad Bradshaw listed as OUT, look for Manning to toss it up 35-40 times en route to a low-end QB1/high-end QB2-type fantasy day. By the way, Eli had 35 or more passing attempts 10 times last season averaging 332.5 yards, 1.9 TDs and 1.3 INTs in those games.
Cam Newton – It would have been just his eighth-highest fantasy scoring output last season, but at least Cam looked back to normal last weekend against the Saints throwing for 253 yards and one TD while rushing in another. Granted, it WAS the Saints, who look like they may have one of the worst-five defenses in the game right now, but Newton and the Panthers still looked good. This week he’ll take on a Giants defense that hasn’t looked much better than the Saints thus far, but they could get CB Prince Amukamara back in their secondary which would give them at least a slight boost.
Fantasy Call – The emergence of WR Brandon LaFell should cause some headaches for the Giants secondary and give Newton enough firepower to come up with starting fantasy QB stats. In nine career home games, Cam has 19 TDs (14 passing, 5 rushing) while averaging 302 yards of total offense (252.4 passing, 49.6 rushing). He’s also played nine games on the road putting up another 19 TDs (9 passing, 10 rushing) while averaging 296.6 yards of total offense (259.4 passing, 37.2 rushing). Basically, being at home doesn’t matter all that much for the second-year QB just yet.
Ahmad Bradshaw – OUT - Bradshaw has been officially ruled OUT for the G-Men this week as he recovers from the neck injury he sustained against Tampa in the second quarter last Sunday.
Fantasy Call – Obviously keep him out of your lineup this week and if possible, pick up either Andre Brown, David Wilson or even both as this has the look of an injury that could last awhile for Bradshaw.
Andre Brown – When Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff turned to Andre Brown instead of their rookie first-round pick (David Wilson) last Sunday after Bradshaw went down, fantasy owners rightfully took mental note of it for their weekly waiver wire additions. Brown certainly looked good in his limited time on the field carrying the ball 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown while adding in two catches for 19 yards and a 2-point conversion, though not only does Tampa Bay have a pretty weak rush D, they were also concentrating more on Eli Manning’s arm at the time leaving Brown all sorts of room to run. That being said, the former fourth-round pick stands 6’0”, 227-pounds with a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, so he might be someone to reckon with if Bradshaw is out for an extended period of time.
Fantasy Call – The Panthers haven’t been able to stop the run for a couple of years now, so Brown could end up with some decent stats in this one. I don’t expect him to carry a full load, however, as the Giants will have to get David Wilson involved again soon before they shatter his confidence. 15-20 touches sounds about right.
David Wilson – Like I just said above, the Giants coaching staff better get Wilson involved with the offense again soon or risk ruining their first-rounder’s confidence for the foreseeable future.
Fantasy Call – I expect they will, though they probably won’t give him more than 10-12 touches. With his explosive skill-set, Wilson can do damage with little opportunity, but he probably shouldn’t be seen as more than a flex-play in 14- to 16-man leagues this week.
Jonathan Stewart – QUESTIONABLE - Stewart returned from his ankle injury last weekend to run for 51 yards on 11 carries as well as catching one pass for a 17-yard touchdown. He actually averaged 12 touches a game last season, so it doesn’t look like he’s being held back in games at all right now despite his being held out of practice on Tuesday.
Fantasy Call – Expect his normal workload in this one along with his normal flex-like fantasy numbers if he plays, but make sure to check the news on him right up until game-time as he still has a chance of sitting this one out with it being a short week.
DeAngelo Williams – DeAngelo had 12.9 fantasy points last week against the Saints while Stewart put up 12.8. Basically, trying to choose between these two backs is relatively futile, but with Jonathan Stewart being better in pass protection than Williams is and the Giants being monsters at getting to the QB, I’m not expecting D-Will to get as much playing time this week regardless of Stewart's injury.
Fantasy Call – He could probably still be used as a flex in larger-sized leagues, but unless he breaks off a long one, don’t look for a very impactful fantasy day.
Mike Tolbert – He’s always a threat to run in a short TD, or even catch one, but I’d be surprised if he gets more than five touches in the game.
Fantasy Call – Tolbert is no more than a flex shot-in-the-dark in the deepest of leagues.
Victor Cruz – The Meadowlands (MetLife) Magician did it again last week putting up over 150 yards for the fifth time in his short 18-game career (actually 21 games, but he didn’t see a single target in three 2010 games). Last season he became just the seventh receiver since the AFL-NFL merger to have four 150-yard games in a single season (Jerry Rice did it twice) and it looks like he wants more in 2012. This might not be the best chance to continue his ways, however, as the Panthers are one of the better teams at keeping wide receiver fantasy points to a minimum. Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Marques Colston and Lance Moore have COMBINED to catch just 11 passes for 138 yards and a TD in two games this season.
Fantasy Call – His upside is tremendous no matter who he plays, so keep him as a WR1 on your fantasy team this week, but temper back your expectations a tad.
Hakeem Nicks – OUT - In a surprise, late move on Wednesday, the Giants declared Nicks to be OUT for their early Week 3 game.
Fantasy Call – HUGE bummer as this could have been a decent fantasy week for Nicks. With Domenik Hixon also sidelined, Barden will likely get the call in his place while Rueben Randle sees time as the WR3.
Domenik Hixon – OUT - Hixon has been ruled OUT by the Giants.
Fantasy Call – Sit him if you happened to have him in a deeeeeeep league.
Rueben Randle – I’m still not expecting much from the rookie just yet as the Giants turned to Ramses Barden for WR3 duties when Hixon went out last week, but he’s got a ton of potential and could end up getting a lot of looks as the WR3 in this game with his big-play ability.
Fantasy Call – Carolina has a tendency to do much better against the opposing team’s WR1 than they do against the WR2 or WR3, so either Randle or Barden has a chance to do something…though I wouldn’t exactly COUNT on it.
Ramses Barden – Barden will likely get the call as the WR2 to start off the game, but would give way to Randle should he muck things up in any way.
Fantasy Call – Like I said above, Carolina has a tendency to do much better against the opposing team’s WR1 than they do against the WR2 or WR3, so either Barden or Randle has a chance to do something.
Steve Smith – PROBABLE - Like last season, Steve Smith has started with two straight 100-yard games though this year, he doesn’t have a touchdown just yet (had two last season). That could easily change in Week 3 as the Giants have already allowed FIVE TDs to opposing wide receivers, tied for the most in the NFL. New York wasn’t able to keep WRs off the fantasy board last year (fifth in FF points allowed) and haven’t changed their tune in 2012 allowing the second-most fantasy points to them through two weeks of action. With Brandon LaFell finally showing up in his third NFL season, Smitty will start to see a little more room out there in the secondary and has a chance to come up big in this one.
Fantasy Call – Smith had some soreness in his right knee after missing a bit of time in the second half of last week’s game, but he’s just fine and will be a full-go for the game. Against a porous secondary like the Giants’, Smitty has WR1 potential and should put up his best numbers of the year so far for fantasy owners.
Brandon LaFell – I’ve written an article completely debunking the whole “Third-Year Wide Receiver Breakout Rule”, but there were of course a few exceptions, and it looks like Brandon LaFell just might be one of them. Though two games, he already has nine receptions for 155 yards and a TD along with 13 targets so his production is obviously on the incline (from previous years) and looking better by the week.
Fantasy Call – The Giants secondary is pretty awful right now and won’t be able to guard Steve Smith one-on-one, so look for LaFell to capitalize on the opposite field double-team once again and have a nice WR2/3 fantasy day.
Louis Murphy – Murphy caught three passes for 63 yards in the first game, but was shutout in the second. Not quite what you would call “trustworthy” in the fantasy world.
Fantasy Call – Not even worth a flex play.
Martellus Bennett – The kid out of Texas A&M has both size and speed, but even better for the Giants is that he also has pass-catching skills which makes him yet another offensive force opposing defenses need to pay attention to. He’s already caught nine of his 16 targets for 112 yards and two TDs, so grab him if he’s still on the waiver wire and…
Fantasy Call – …Start him. The Panthers weren’t very good against opposing tight ends last season allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to them and probably won’t be much better against Bennett this week with Victor Cruz darting around out there.
Greg Olsen – Sometimes you pay attention to the hype and sometimes you just realize it for what it is…media-driven frenzy material. Being from Chicago, I know how good Greg Olsen can be and though he's a really nice talent, he's not nearly as good as the fantasy hype that was floating around about him before the season. I expect it to get better for him than the seven catches on 10 targets for 69 yards he has thus far, but the Giants force teams to leave their tight end in to block against that fearsome front four more often than not, so Olsen may not have many opportunities in this game.
Fantasy Call – The Giants actually weren’t that great against opposing tight ends last season (fifth-most fantasy points allowed), but they’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to them so far in 2012. Olsen COULD be a sneaky start, but last season, the Giants had to face almost every single one of those top-tier tight ends (Graham, Gronk, Hernandez, V. Davis, F. Davis, Finley, Witten 2x) which was why they ended up where they did in the rankings. I wouldn’t risk it with Olsen this week.
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