For as much as most NFL players and teams despise having to suit up on Thursday nights, it’d be understandable if both Cam Newton ($11,000) and Jameis Winston ($10,400) felt differently this week. It’s hard to sit for seven days after a tough loss, but it’s even more difficult when much of that defeat can be pinned on your own poor play. Considering the two QBs combined for four interceptions last Sunday – all with costly ramifications – I wouldn’t be surprised if both men were chomping at the bit to have their mulligan this evening on national TV.
It’s the Buccaneers. It’s the Panthers. Let’s break down everything you need to know from a Showdown perspective.
Note: All salaries will be Flex prices unless noted as Captain’s Pick prices.
FIVE BETTING TRENDS
— The Buccaneers have lost each of their last seven road games
— The Buccaneers have failed to cover the spread in each of their last five Thursday night games
— Cam Newton has scored a touchdown in six of the last eight Thursday night games for the Panthers
— Christian McCaffrey has scored two touchdowns in each of the last two games with the Panthers being home favorites
— Mike Evans has scored a touchdown in each of the last Week 2 games for the Buccaneers
Stats provided by DraftKings Sportsbook
Carolina PanthersI don’t believe I’ve ever started one of these articles by talking about a team’s defense right off the hop; yet Winston’s presence proceeds him in fantasy circles and utilizing Panthers DST ($4,200) will likely be one of the more popular salary saving methods on this slate. So, is it justified? In a word: Yes. At this point, it’s impossible to ignore the numbers that have been produced with Winston under center. Not only did the QB throw a pair of pick-sixes last week in a matchup where San Francisco’s defense posted 29.0 DKFP, but he’s also been responsible for Tampa Bay leading the NFC in turnovers per drive each of the past two seasons. Winston might truly be the most generous man in the NFL. He’d give you the shirt off his back, but those things are hard to get off over his shoulder pads, so he’ll just give you the football instead.
Another reason to like Panthers DST is the obvious game-script correlation the unit has with Christian McCaffrey ($12,400). Stacking a team’s running back with their defense – especially in a home contest – is a tale as old as time in DFS. Plus, McCaffrey simply has to be owned. While it’s sometimes appropriate to fade the person who is clearly going to have the highest ownership percentage on the slate, McCaffrey is a special case. The Stanford product happens to simultaneously possess the most elevated floor, the largest upside and the most consistency of any player taking the field this evening. That’s a rare combination. McCaffrey was on the field for all 64 of Carolina’s offensive snaps in Week 1’s loss to Los Angeles – making him the only RB in football with a 100% snap share on Sunday. That alone makes McCaffrey a unique fantasy asset, however, we’re not just talking about volume when it comes to the back, as his efficiency is equally impressive. Due in large part to his position-high 11 targets against the Rams, McCaffrey was able to average a whopping 1.48 PPR points per touch. This isn’t a new facet of his skill set, either. In 2018, at 1.17 points, no running back who rushed for over 1,000 yards averaged more fantasy points per opportunity than the 23-year-old. Lock him in.
The same level of confidence can not be attributed to Newton. While its unfair to make assumptions about the veteran’s final two games of 2018 without acknowledging his injury, Newton has now gone 129 pass attempts without throwing a touchdown. That’s not exactly ideal, especially with how reluctant the former No. 1 overall pick looked to run the ball this past weekend. Its only a single game, but nothing about Newton’s performance-inspired much confidence in the QB for the immediate future. The 30-year-old averaged a paltry 5.1 adjusted yards per attempt; his aDOT of a microscopic 7.0 yards ranked in the lower-third of the league, and only Mitchell Trubisky put up fewer fantasy points per drop back than Newton’s underwhelming output of 0.19. By no means am I saying these trends are irreversible, but I do believe they make Newton an easy fade when we’re all in the process of trying to afford his teammate McCaffrey, anyway.
As for the Panthers receiving options, though Newton’s deficiencies do affect the group, there’s still some value to be found. With 10 targets in Week 1, D.J. Moore ($8,000) established himself as the de facto No. 1 amongst Carolina’s WRs and that might be a welcome sight considering his specific abilities. If Newton’s going to refuse to throw the ball more than 10 yards, yards gained after the catch become crucial – an area where Moore has few peers. In fact, Moore averaged an eye-popping 7.9 YAC in 2018, a rate that was a full-yard more than any other wideout who played at least 50% of his team’s snaps. Jarius Wright ($4,400) could also be in store for a big showing in Week 2. M.J. Stewart, the Buccaneers’ primary slot CB, has been burned like few other defenders going back to the beginning of 2018. In that span, among corners who have covered at least 200 routes, Stewart’s surrendered a massive 2.53 yards per route, the highest mark within that player grouping. Additionally, I doubt Greg Olsen ($6,200) out-targets Wright at a 9:1 clip for a second consecutive contest. Still, Olsen did run a route on 93% of Newton’s dropbacks, the highest rate of any TE on Sunday, so he does remain a high-floor fantasy option.
Tampa Bay BuccaneersAs underdogs by a full touchdown on the road, you’d have to assume that Winston will have the ball in his hands for a majority of this matchup. Now, while that can obviously be a bad thing and something that inflates the value of opposing defenses, it’s not as if the Florida State product hasn’t shown he can light up a scoreboard, too. Again, the volume is going to be there. Winston attempted in excess of 35 passes in seven of his nine starts last season, averaging just a tick under 25.0 DKFP in those high-usage occasions. This is a quarterback playing in a Bruce Arians system. This is a quarterback who finished 2018 with as many 300-yard passing games as Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson in half the opportunities. This is a quarterback who is most certainly not afraid to take chances down the field. Really, its simply a matter of figuring out who’s going to be his primary weapon.
Mike Evans ($9,600) had a disastrous Week 1. Despite being considered questionable throughout the lead-up to the team’s game with the 49ers due to an illness, Evans still managed to play 86% of the Buccaneers offensive snaps. Unfortunately, he was limited to only two receptions and 4.8 DKFP. Moving forward, Evans is healthy heading into Thursday, but I can assure you he’s sick and tired of seeing Panthers’ corner James Bradberry line up across from him. According to Ian Hartitz of Rotoworld, , Bradberry’s shadowed Evans in each of their past four meetings and he hasn’t allowed the hulking wideout to find the end zone in that stretch of time. Bradberry’s also limited Evans to a mere 57.8 receiving yards per game. In addition to all the history, Bradberry is coming off a Week 1 performance where he was presented with Pro Football Focus’ highest coverage grade at CB. Interpret that information through a small sample lens if you must; but, considering Chris Godwin ($8,600) garnered more targets than Evans last weekend and is $1K cheaper on this slate, I’ll be more engaged with Tampa Bay’s third-year wideout. The fact that Godwin gets a juicy matchup with Javien Elliott – who surrendered a 99.1 QBR in the slot last season – doesn’t hurt, either. I’d anticipate O.J. Howard ($6,600) to be equally involved in the passing attack if Bradberry continues to funnel targets away from Evans.
That funnel effect likely won’t trickle its way down to the running back position, though. Not only do the Bucs employ a tandem of RBs not exactly renowned for their catching abilities, but Carolina appears to get great pride in eliminating opposing backfields from the passing game. Only 3% of Jared Goff’s attempts were aimed at his running backs in Week 1 and that single data point from 2019 is backed up by a full year’s worth of statistics from 2018. No NFC squad allowed fewer receiving yards per contest to RBs than the Panthers at just 27.7 yards. In fact, just three times last season did an opposing running back muster over 30 receiving yards, with Saquon Barkley representing the lone man to surpass 40. Really, the only scenario it’s possible we see anyone have an impact in this regard is if Dare Ogunbowale ($2,400) reprises his late-game role from Week 1 if Tampa Bay find themselves trailing. Outside of that, you’re choices are Peyton Barber ($5,400) and Ronald Jones ($5,000); a duo with fantasy values completely tied to the hot-hand approach and sporadic goal line touches. Its truly a headache of a situation, yet I’d side with Barber, as I’m confident his ownership will be far lower than Jones’ after the sophomore broke out on Sunday. With similar upside, let differentiation be the tie-breaker.
THE OUTCOMETo me, the challenge in tonight’s slate is finding enough value to get the highest level of exposure to Christian McCaffrey ($18,600 CP). Yes, his salary as a Captain’s Pick is hefty, but his involvement and presence in this contest is the thing I feel most confident about. The fact he’s averaged 38.0 DKFP in his past five home games doesn’t help dilute my assuredness, either. Chris Godwin ($12,900 CP) and Panthers DST ($6,300) make for decent plays at 1.5x value if you want to take a more conservative route to lineup construction, but I’ll be going all-in on Carolina’s RB.
Final Score: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 17
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