The Carolina Panthers have the second-best point differential in the NFC, and if they win out they could find themselves with a first-round playoff bye. The Jets have the second-worst point differential in the AFC, despite a 6-7 record, yet somehow are not yet eliminated from the playoff race. Sunday, the two face off in a 4:05 p.m. ET game in Carolina. Here's a quick look at the fantasy players of note:
Start in every league: Nick Folk
Start if you're desperate: ...
Bench: Geno Smith, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, anyone who catches passes in a green & white, Defense/special teams
After three straight rough games, Folk bounced back to decent performance Sunday, with 16 fantasy points. He's still a top-10 fantasy kicker, and should start every week.
And that's about it. Smith against anyone? Ivory or Powell against a strong Carolina run defense? Any one of a dozen uber-mediocre Jets' pass catchers? Jeremy Kerley? Santonio Holmes? Kellen Winslow? Jeff Cumberland? There are a hundred rough options, none that get anyone excited.... And finally, the Jets' defense actually had a decent day Sunday, but totaled zero fantasy points over the six preceding weeks.
Start in every league: Cam Newton, Defense/special teams
Start if you're desperate: Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Graham Gano
Bench: DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert
The Jets' defense has struggled against opposing quarterbacks at an increasing rate recently/ While Newton has had the occasional bad game this year, he's still a top-tier quarterback who can't possible be benched.... Few units shape up to have a better matchup in any game all season than the Panthers' defense -- third in the NFL -- against the woeful Jets' offense.
14 weeks into the season, Smith has yet to exceed 69 receiving yards. He's had between three and six receptions in every game, and only three games of double-digit fantasy points. He's likely never going to be shut out in a fantasy matchup, but he doesn't have much of an upside.... Olsen is in the group of tight ends that fall between, say, seven and 12. He's a perfectly fine start. He's also a possible bench, if you have someone else in that group.... Just as Smith has held to a predictable-but-unspectacular routine, so has Gano. He has had at least seven fantasy points in seven of his last eight games, but has only exceeded 12 points once all season. He's a mid-level fantasy kicker.
With Stewart out, Williams and Tolbert could both see a rise. When Stewart was out early in the season, Williams was an RB2 and Tolbert a fine desperation flex play. But against a Jets' defense that is third-best against opposing running backs, fantasy owners ought to wait one more week before using them.