Welcome back once again to Fantasy Friday here at Buffalo Rumblings. This week's opponent is the Carolina Panthers and their formidable running game. The Bills are coming off a hard fought, mistake filled overtime victory over the even more mistake prone New York Jets. It was an ugly game no matter how you slice it, unless penalties, turnovers, injuries, punts, missed field goals and poor quarterback plays suits your fancy. This week's game looks like it could have many of the same factors as the Bills head down to Charlotte to face the 2-3 Panthers and their mistake-lovin' quarterback.
We're in the heart of the fantasy season where each week could make or break a team's playoff hopes. If your team has struggled so far this season, there's a good chance you need to win this week to stay in contention. There will be some individual fantasy players of note in this week's game, so head on in after the jump to take a look at my recommendations for Bills vs Panthers:
Ryan Fitzpatrick - Ick, I feel dirty even writing about him in this space, but such is life. Fitzpatrick played a very uneven game in relief of the concussed Trent Edwards last week, finishing an abysmal 10 of 25 for 116 yards, one touchdown and one poorly thrown interception in overtime. The touchdown was a good throw to Lee Evans and tied up the game late in the third quarter. Other than that throw, Fitzpatrick left a lot of plays on the field and would have had a JaMarcus Russell type final line. Imagine if that TD had been a 37 yard touchdown rush instead? Fitzpatrick would have put up a painful looking 79 yards and 3.3 yards per attempts. As it was, he finished with a very bad 4.6 ypa. With a full week of practice and snaps with the first team offense, he should be a little more comfortable this week, but don't expect a huge uptick in production. The Panthers have done a good job defending the pass so far this season, allowing just 156.8 yards per game, good for 2nd in the NFL. There is a glimmer of hope as they're allowing a quarterback rating of 92.8. I don't think Fitzpatrick will be nearly as bad as he was last week, but I also don't think he'll be all that good either. I'm sure the team will be happy if he has an average performance. I know I will be. Just don't consider him a fantasy option. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Jake Delhomme - Delhomme is still reeling from his six turnover fiasco in last season's divisional playoffs against the Cardinals. It's carried over to this season as Delhomme has again struggled with turnovers (10 INT's, 2 fumbles lost) and inconsistent play. He's thrown just four touchdowns, is averaging less than 170 yards per game and 6.4 yards per attempt, and has been sacked 11 times. If Carolina had a good backup option (and less money invested in old Jake), he'd probably be on the bench right now. The Bills pass defense has really clamped down of late. They're down to 170.7 yards per game allowed after a rough start, have been on the receiving end of 10 interceptions (3rd in the NFL), and are allowing a QB rating of just 58.5 (2nd in the NFL). The 5.5 yards per attempt they've allowed is tops in the NFL. Don't expect Carolina to rely on Delhomme much this week. The reasons are pretty outlined above. Verdict: Sit'Em
Marshawn Lynch - This is going to be a game that is won or lost on the ground. Going into this game, the Panthers are allowing 149.2 rushing yards per game (4th worst in the NFL), and a whopping 5.0 yards per carry (2nd worst). Expect the Bills to take the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hands and really rely on their running game. Lynch will have plenty of opportunities and should be in good position to have a productive game. If the Bills can finally get inside the 10 yard line again, he may even get to visit the end zone for the first time this season. Look for him to get another 15-20 touches and approach 100 total yards. Because of the timeshare situation, it's hard to recommend Lynch as a RB2, but this week looks like a good week for that, especially with six teams on bye. I'll go ahead and say he's worth a start in all format unless you have two obvious options ahead of him. Verdict: Start 'Em
Fred Jackson - Jackson contines to see a bulk of the carries (28 to Lynch's 36 the past two weeks) and remains a valuable flex option. I wouldn't be surprised to see the screen pass brought back this week to help Fitzpatrick out and get the most out of our running backs. With Jackson likely to handle all kick and punt returns, as well, he looks like he'll be a very good flex play this week. When all is said and done, he should see about 20 touches. I like his potential for this week. Verdict: Start 'Em as a flex
DeAngelo Williams - The Bills are dead last in the NFL, allowing a cringe inducing 181.8 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Williams is coming off a game in which he ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns against the Buccaneers. The Bills are coming off a game in which they allowed over 300 yards on the ground. For fantasy purposes, this is a match-up made in heaven. Unfortunately, the real life aspect of it is painful to imagine. Williams is probably the number one RB option this week, so unless you are crazy, you need to roll with him even if it is against our beloved Bills. Verdict: Start 'Em
Jonathan Stewart - Stewart is also coming off a very good game, running for 110 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Expect him to have similar success against the Bills' sieve of a defense. The yardage total might not be as high, but he has another great shot at reaching paydirt. He'll probably get another 12-15 carries for in the neighborhood of 80-90 yards. It's hard to suggest starting him as a RB2 since he is the Panthers' #2 after all, but he's a great flex play this week. Verdict: Start 'Em as a flex
Lee Evans - Evans was the only beneficiary of Fitzpatrick's last week, catching a 37-yard touchdown. However, he had just two total catches after Edwards went down, so it's not like his success jumped up as a result. I expect another downer of a game from him, though he'll probably finish as the Bills top receiver again this week. With Fitzpatrick at QB, it's hard to recommend anybody in the Bills' passing game. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Terrell Owens - Owens continues to be a non-factor for the Bills. He was targeted 8 times against the Jets, but finished with a paltry 3 receptions for 13 yards. With his proclivity for dropping passes in full effect, Owens should remain planted on your bench until he proves he is capable of doing something in this offense. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Steve Smith - Smith's production and fantasy performance has really dipped this season, mostly due to the issues Jake Delhomme is having. He's still one of the better receivers in the NFL, but the Panthers just can't get him the ball. As frustrated as Evans and Owens probably are, Smith might be even more frustrated playing for the same offense and with the same quarterback in which he's had major success before. He's always a threat to turn a shorter gainer into a huge play, but this week's match-up really doesn't favor him. Expect the Panthers to keep the ball on the ground, thus, Smith should remain on your bench if possible. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Muhsin Muhammed - Muhammed actually leads the Panthers in receptions with 22, but has produced just 205 yards and no touchdowns. Don't bother. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Derek Fine - Fine has just 2 receptions for 13 yards since his five reception performance against New Orleans in week 3. Move along. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Shawn Nelson - Nelson flashed his potential last week making a gorgeous adjustment on a perfectly executed underthrow from Fitzpatrick. He's starting to get Bills' fans hope up (again), but he is also facing the prospects of missing this week due to injury (again). He joined Trent Edwards in the concussion club against the Jets and is questionable for this week. As always, don't bother considering him as an option, but keep an eye on him for the future. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Jeff King/Dante Rosario - They've combined for the only four touchdowns the Panthers have scored through the air this season. They've also combined for just 17 receptions. If it was King Rosario, which would be a sweet name by the way, instead of King/Rosario, this might be a good option. Instead, they should remain right where they are: on your league's waiver wire. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Rian Lindell - Lindell had 3 field goals against the Jets last week, including the game winner. I think the Bills will be able to move the ball on the ground this week, while struggling to move it through the air, which leads me to believe we'll see a bunch of field goal attempts again. I'll go ahead and get crazy....Verdict: Start 'Em
John Kasay - I'm sure this is a well-known fact, but did you know that John Kasay has been in the NFL since 1991 and is the only remaining "original Panther"? He's been a steady presence on the Panthers and in fantasy football for a long time now. The Panthers haven't given him too many opportunities thus far this season, but expect that to change this week. Expect Carolina to move it on the ground all afternoon, but struggle through the air (just like the Bills!). Kasay makes for a good option this week, as well. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Bills D/ST - Coming off an excellent six interception, two sack performance, the Bills D/ST look to continue their fantasy "success". It's tough to imagine a similar result, however. They are going to struggle to shut down the Panthers' running game, and it's unlikely Delhomme will be given much leeway. I expect them to play well against the pass again, but I don't believe they'll have much fantasy production this week. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Panthers D/ST - They must be licking their chops going against Ryan Fitzpatrick this week. If they can force Fitzpatrick to make plays, the Panthers defense may be in line for a solid fantasy day. They had four sacks and forced two turnovers last week. They could see a similar result this week. This unit hasn't been very productive for the season, however, so I would keep them on the waiver wire. Verdict: Sit 'Em
Since both teams are likely to go with a run-heavy gameplan, it's hard to envision any true sleepers this week. Because of that, I would say both D/ST's have a good chance to surprise us all. If either defense can force the opposing offense into 2nd and 3rd and longs, the likelihood of quarterback mistakes skyrockets. I wouldn't be surprised by a pick six by either unit this week, so prepare yourselves!
Expect this to be a somewhat lower scoring battle of running games. If you have a running back from either team, you should feel pretty good about their chances for success this week. If you plan to start anyone else from this game, have fun with that! As always, good luck and enjoy the games!