The Carolina Panthers started the season 1-3. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers famously started 0-8. Since those awful starts, neither team has lost, with Carolina now sitting at 8-3, and the Bucs having won three in a row to get to 3-8 and pull out of last place in the NFC South. Someone's streak is ending Sunday as the Panthers host Tampa Bay in a 1 p.m. ET game. Somehow, it's the 3-8 team that likely has more fantasy relevance than the 8-3:
Start in every league: Vincent Jackson
Start if you're desperate: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, Tim Wright, Defense/special teams
Bench: Brian Leonard, Tiquan Underwood, Rian Lindell
Over the course of his career, Jackson has been a weird kind of matchup-proof -- he's absolutely going to have huge games and awful games, with few in between, but there has traditionally been minimal connection between the success of his games and the quality of his opponents.That hasn't actually been the case so much this season, but still, if you have Jackson, you know bad games are part of his resume. You just run him out there and hope.
Glennon has been a pleasant surprise as a rookie quarterback, and in the right matchup, he'd be a pretty solid start. However, while he scored 15 against Carolina in their Week 8 matchup, this is a team that allows less than 10 points per game against opposing quarterbacks, and you don't want to start a rookie there unless you have to. ... After his huge Week 11, with 34 fantasy points, Rainey fell off completely in Week 12, with only 35 rushing yards and 3 fantasy points. He's still the starter and getting far and away the most touches, so accumulation might do it for him on its own, but he really should only start for those that have no choice. ... In his last seven games, Wright has had three games of 7 or more fantasy points, and three of exactly 1. He's unreliable, but has upside. ... The Buccaneers' defense has scored double-digit points in each of its last two games, though Carolina's offense is among the better teams against opposing defenses. Tampa Bay's unit is ninth in the NFL. It could go both ways.
If it wasn't clear after Rainey's huge Week 11, last week made it sure that Leonard isn't likely to get enough touches to be relevant. ... Last week was huge for Underwood, but he entered the game with 20 fantasy points all season. ... Lindell ranks only 29th among fantasy kickers.
Start in every league: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Defense/special teams
Start if you're desperate: Graham Gano
Bench: DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr.
Boy, it must be nice to be a quarterback with wheels. Even last week, when he threw for only 174 passing yards and one touchdown, Newton managed 19 fantasy points by virtue of his 51 rushing yards and a score. He has five rushing touchdowns this season. It all makes him an every-week must-start. ... In recent weeks, Olsen has been Newton's most reliable target, scoring a touchdown in four of his last five games. He's the No. 8 fantasy tight end, and it's warranted. ... For the season, the Panthers' defense is the No. 2 unit behind the Kansas City Chiefs, but their recent production has been far better. They don't get benched against anyone except maybe Denver.
He's only 17th among kickers, but Gano has had several big games this season. He wouldn't be a bad start.
It's kind of amazing that, on an 8-3 team, there aren't any running backs or wide receivers worth much in fantasy. But Williams, Tolbert, and Stewart all steal touches from one another, killing the value of all three. ... Smith is a big name, sure, but he hasn't topped 69 yards in a game all season, hasn't scored since Week 7, has only scored double-digit fantasy points twice. It's all reputation right now. ... LaFell and Ginn are even lower on the totem pole than Smith.