The Carolina Panthers will be taking their recent successes on the road to face the Buccaneers on Thursday night. The Panthers have won their last two games handily. In Week 6, they beat the Vikings, 35-10, in Minnesota. They followed up with a win over the Rams, 30-15. The Buccaneers are simply looking to win their first game of the 2013 season.
Can Tampa Bay conjure up a win with rookie quarterback Mike Glennon? Will the absence of Doug Martin dig a deeper hole for the 0-6 Buccaneers? Can the Panthers walk away from Week 8 with a winning record for the first time this season? Regardless of the outcome, there are a lot of fantasy implications to consider. Let's take a look at what we can expect from Thursday's match up.
Cam Newton: Tampa Bay's defense hasn't been the consistent threat many expected it would be in 2013, but neither has Newton. That said, the Buccaneers have been effective at stopping their opponents on the ground. Cam will likely need to beat Tampa Bay over the top. He's avoided turning the ball over for the past two weeks. Hopefully he'll continue to avoid mistakes for fantasy owners. He's currently a borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback for the season, which is about where he should be ranked for Week 8.
Running backs: Just when DeAngelo Williams seemed to be embracing the workhorse role in Carolina, Mike Tolbert began eating Williams' end zone opportunities. Williams' value has been purely through yardage, as he hasn't scored a touchdown yet in 2013. He'll face a tough Buccaneers run defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. Because of the tough matchup and Tolbert's presence, Williams is more of a flex option that will need to continue seeing targets in the passing game to compensate for any limitations out of the backfield.
Wide receivers: Steve Smith will be a WR2 against a Tampa Bay secondary that just allowed 149 yards and a touchdown to Falcons receiver Harry Douglas in Week 7. Darrelle Revis isn't shutting receivers down like he was before his 2012 injury, and Smith is still leading all Carolina receivers in targets by a wide margin. If any other Carolina receiver is worth considering, it's Brandon LaFell, who has been an inconsistent option all season. He'll likely see several targets on Thursday, but Thursday is too early in the week for desperation plays. He's a WR4 at best.
Tight ends: Greg Olsen has been dealing with a lingering foot injury for several weeks now. It looks likely that he'll play, but he's a weak start on a short week. Olsen went from averaging nearly nine targets at the start of the season to averaging less than five over the past three weeks. Olsen won't always be at the bottom of the TE1 list, but he should be in Week 8.
Defense/ special teams: Carolina is now averaging the third-most fantasy points out of all defenses. Tampa Bay is allowing the eighth-most points to fantasy defenses. The Panthers should be a top-five start this week.
Mike Glennon: He's been putting up decent numbers over the past few weeks, but he hasn't faced a defense with a strong front seven like the Panthers. To make matters worse, Glennon is playing with an unproven Mike James in the backfield, which could possibly make Tampa Bay's offense a bit one-dimensional. Glennon is a risky start that should only be considered in two-quarterback leagues.
Running backs: Mike James will have a tough matchup against the Panthers, but Carolina has been allowing a decent amount of fantasy points to running backs. James will likely be the featured back, with Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey rotating in and out of the backfield. Because of his potential workload, James is a flex play. Considering how little we know of James, he's a risky start.
Wide receivers: Glennon has been leaning heavily on Vincent Jackson since taking over as the starting quarterback. Jackson was targeted an outrageous 22 times in Week 7. Even though Carolina will likely pressure Glennon throughout Thursday, Jackson will get plenty of looks and remains a WR1 option for the week. Mike Williams is dealing with a hamstring injury and could be a game-time decision. Because of his shaky status, he's not worth starting in the majority of formats.
Tight ends: Tim Wright has been emerging as a TE2 in most formats, but had a disappointing three targets in Week 7 after seeing a whopping nine targets the week before. He'll remain a TE2 against Carolina.
Defense/ special teams: Newton has avoided turning the ball over during the past few weeks, and the Panthers are scoring a lot. It isn't a terrible matchup, as the Buccaneers have played well at home overall, but there are simply much better matchups to take advantage of in Week 7.