NFC South Review: Week 9
After the division became a little more unclear last week, as the Panthers really put some separation between themselves and the rest of the pack. They were the only team to win, and remained one of 3 undefeated teams in the NFL. Meanwhile, the rest of the division looked as bad as the preseason projections.
Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers: 29-37
The Panthers have finished the most difficult part of their schedule, and remain unbeaten. Frankly, I am surprised they were able to make it through the Seahawks in Seattle, the Eagles, the Colts, and the Packers without losing. They have proven to be a legit team, and have to be considered Super Bowl contenders at this point. Cam had a spectacular game, and strengthened his bid for the MVP. I’m not sure he’ll earn the reward, but he deserves credit for carrying this offense. How bad would they be without him?
The Panthers started out great in the first half, completing several big plays. Cam made several long passes and had his share of big runs as well. Their defense did the job as well, at least until the 4th quarter. Similar to last week, the Panthers dominated every aspect until late in the game. They were up by 23 points, before Rodgers and the Packers led a thrilling near comeback. The Packers ended up down by 8, and on Carolina’s 4-yard line. However, on 4th down Rodgers felt the pressure from Kawann Short, who’s having a monster season by the way, and threw an interception to Thomas Davis. Rodgers was pressured all game, and although the defense buckled late, partly because Cam threw a late interception, they came up big when they were needed.
Fantasy Implications – Cam was a beast in this game, throwing for 297 yards, 3 TD’s, rushing for 57 yards and another TD. Start Cam every week. He surprised me by dominating a defense, I probably gave too much credit to. He’s nearly the entire offense. That’s exactly the kind of fantasy player you want to have. Jonathan Stewart had a pedestrian game., rushing for 66 yards on 20 carries and 0 TD’s. Interestingly enough, the Panthers didn’t have a wide receiver with more than 3 catches, and Greg Olsen had only 4. This is because so many plays went for huge chunks of grass. Cotchery had a nice game as the merry-go-round continues.
However, a potentially important development was the slight emergence of Devin Funchess. He had 3 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. He caught a beautiful pass on a deep ball for 52 yards, and fought his way into the endzone. He looked like the dynamic wideout the Panthers have been missing. I’d definitely pick him up, but would be hesitant to use him right away. Funchess still had only 3 receptions and 4 targets. Olsen was excellent again. No other player is worth much consideration. I guess we’re not going to see much of Cameron Artis-Payne this year, barring an injury.
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons: 17-16
The Falcons continue their slide, and some are now questioning whether they will be able to make the playoffs. I think that’s a bit of an overreaction, but they did just lose to one of the worst teams in the NFL, and are 1-3 in their last 4 games. Surprisingly, the defense isn’t holding them back. They can’t score in the red zone, and don’t have enough options for Ryan.
The Falcons weren’t able to generate a strong enough pass rush, failing to sack Gabbert the entire game. They also failed to get anything going on the ground. Devonta Freeman rushed 12 times for 12 yards. The 49ers put up all their points in the 2nd quarter, and the Falcons couldn’t catch up the rest of the game. They had a couple of chances in the 4th quarter, but opted not to go for it on 4th and 1. Quinn thought they’d get the ball back, and have 2 minutes to get in field goal range. Instead, Gabbert and the 49ers were able to run the clock out. The Falcons need to figure things out. They’ve played sloppily, not generating the offense they’re known for. They lack another strong option behind Julio Jones, and don’t have a dynamic defense. The defense is good enough, but not if their offense can’t make big plays.
Fantasy Implications – Julio Jones has played well, but seems to not be able to get open in the end zone. He’ll still be a strong wide receiver going forward. Matt Ryan seemed to bounce back as well, but again had trouble finishing drives. Jacob Tamme continued his good work, collecting 6 passes for 61 yards. Devonta Freeman had his worst game as the starter. I’ll treat it as an anomaly for now. But if you can I’d pick up Tevin Coleman as a strong handcuff. I can see them using Coleman more to rush, and Freeman as a pass catcher. He’s been strong in that area, and still had 8 receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. In deep leagues, or if you have an open roster spot, it might be worth considering picking up rookie Justin Hardy as well. He was active for the 2nd straight game, and had 4 catches for 17 yards. They need someone to step up as the no.2, and he could be that guy.
Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints: 34-28
After the Saints worked so hard to get back to .500, they blew a game against the rebuilding Titans. Drew Brees had another good game, throwing for 387 yards, three touchdowns, and sneaking another in. This is good news, despite the loss, because they need Brees to play big, if they have a shot at the playoffs. Unfortunately, their defense needs to play better. They failed to sack Mariota, and gave up 371 passing yards. That’s a recipe for failure.
The Saints gained an early lead 21-10 lead over the Titans, but made a lot of key mistakes. They had a sure interception bounce out of 2 DB’s hands directly to Delanie Walker who ran into the end zone for a 61 yard play. Brees threw an interception in the end zone, which could’ve put the game away, but again they let the Titans hang around. This is a game they should have won, but they lost the turnover battle, and made too many mistakes. Instead, the Titans kept fighting back, winning in overtime. If the Saints want to stay in this race, they need to clean up their play. They have an offense that can compensate for some of their defense, but only if they play clean games. The horrendous defense limits their margin of error, and they’re going to have a hard time winning games unless they make smarter plays.
Fantasy Implications – Brees continued his hot play from last week. He’s a must-start again. Brandin Cooks also seems to have emerged from his early season slump. He had 4 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Willie Snead also had a good game after disappearing for a few weeks. This is how it’s going to be for Saints wide receivers, since Brees spreads the ball around. I’d probably rather have Cooks, but wouldn’t feel confident starting him as more than a flex, until he strings together a bunch of games like this. Ben Watson had a decent game. He’s a solid starting option, with potential for some big games. Mark Ingram had a disappointing game, but should be back to his usual solid attack next week. Khiry Robinson is done, and C.J. Spiller hasn’t done anything all year. I’d probably drop him at this point.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 32-18
Tampa Bay had a decent game, particularly Winston, although his stat line won’t show it. He didn’t turn the ball over, completed 19 of 36 passes for 247 yards. His completion percentage was much worse than it should’ve been though. Mike Evans had a big day, but a rough one as well. He had 152 yards on 8 catches, but also had 6 drops. Imagine how big of a day he could’ve had. Regardless, Winston and Evan seem to be developing nicely, and can make for a dangerous threat down the line.
The Giants did a good job of holding the Bucs in check, only giving up 3 field goals in the first half. That’s pretty good for the last ranked defense. Getting Jason Pierre-Paul back should help, even if he is minus a few fingers. Meanwhile, the Bucs were actually in this game until the end. The Giants had a nice five-minute drive to leave the Bucs with practically no time, and a nearly insurmountable lead. Falling to 3-5, the Bucs are definitely showing improvement. They aren’t really contenders for the playoffs this year, but could be next year with some savvy moves, and continued improvement from their rookies.
Fantasy Implications – I’ve been really impressed with Jameis Winston. Again, he isn’t putting up big numbers from a fantasy standpoint, but isn’t turning the ball over, which is huge. Meanwhile, Mike Evans is clearly getting most of Winston’s looks. He should continue to be good, despite the drops. It’s likely that the drops this game were somewhat of a fluke. Doug Martin had a rough game, while backup Charles Sims dominated. He’s more than a handcuff at this point. Martin’s had a good season, but struggled the previous 2 years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sims get more looks if Martin struggles even a little bit. He had 78 yards on 8 carries. He’s a great option for your bench.