Kickoff: Sunday, December 13th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Betting Odds: CAR -4, 47.5 total via Oddsshark
Drew Lock (Sit)
The Carolina Panthers have slowly rounded into a middle-of-the-road defense this season but have been either very good or very bad against opposing QBs. In the five games in which they allow more than one passing TD, they allow an average of more than 30 fantasy points to QBs. In the team’s other eight games in which they’ve allowed one or fewer passing TDs they’ve surrendered an average of less than 16 fantasy points to QBs. Drew Lock has thrown for two or more TDs just three times this season and has thrown at least one INT in seven consecutive games. Lock is the best the Broncos have at the position right now but fantasy managers can do better in Week 14 and should not start Lock.
Melvin Gordon (Sit, Deep Flex), Phillip Lindsay (Sit)
Melvin Gordon had his best yardage day of the season last week against Kansas City as he rushed for 131 yards but failed to find the end zone, finishing with a solid but unspectacular day for fantasy managers. Gordon has seen the majority of the touches out of Denver’s backfield this season but is garnering no more than 12-15 touches a game, limiting his upside. Carolina was susceptible to giving up big games to RBs earlier this season but has been markedly improved the last five weeks allowing just Ronald Jones to finish as an RB1 on the back of a 98-yard TD run. Gordon’s limited touches make him a relatively unappealing option for fantasy managers but could sneak into Flex consideration in larger leagues.
After back-to-back seasons with at least 1,000 rushing yards seven TDs, Phillip Lindsay is in the midst of a poor season. Injuries have contributed to his low numbers, but the presence of Gordon has had a much bigger impact. Lindsay has been tabbed the “starter” each of the last three games but has been out-snapped by Gordon in every contest. Lindsay has somewhat surprisingly also been a virtual non-factor in Denver’s passing game. Lindsay has just one 100-yard game this season and has just two TDs, both in the same game. Lindsay is not seeing enough work to be trusted by fantasy managers right now and should remain on benches in Week 14.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jerry Jeudy (Sit), Tim Patrick (Start, WR3/Flex), KJ Hamler (Sit), Noah Fant (Start, TE2)
When Courtland Sutton was lost to a season-ending injury in the opening week of the season, it was assumed Jerry Jeudy would step into the #1 WR role but Tim Patrick had other ideas. Patrick has emerged as a viable option for Lock and has rewarded fantasy managers with 3-plus receptions in every game except Week 12 and leads the team in receiving yards and receiving TDs despite being third in targets. Carolina has surrendered double-digit fantasy points to two or more opposing WRs in the same game three times in the last four weeks. The inefficiencies of Lock make Patrick a tough guy to trust for fantasy managers but the ceiling is there for Patrick to finish as a solid WR2. I think Patrick is a viable Flex option with WR2 upside in Week 14.
Moving on to Jeudy, the talented rookie has been heavily involved in the offense but doesn’t have a lot of production to show for it. Jeudy leads the team in targets with 82 but has turned those opportunities into just 38 receptions for 594 yards and two TDs. As I mentioned above, Lock has struggled this season at times and can’t regularly support multiple fantasy-relevant receiving options in most weeks. Jeudy has been almost nonexistent the last two weeks, managing one reception for five yards on five targets. I can’t recommend Jeudy as a viable option this week and fantasy managers should look elsewhere for fantasy production in Week 14.
KJ Hamler is the third WR for Denver but is at best the fourth option in the passing game and just doesn’t see enough targets to register on the fantasy radar. He’s an easy sit this week.
Carolina is a sneaky-good matchup for TEs as the Panthers have allowed double-digit fantasy points to the position in each of their last seven games and Noah Fant is highly involved in Denver’s passing game. Fant is second on the team with 67 targets and has recorded a reception in every game he’s played this season. Fant has been held out of the end zone since Week 2 but should provide a floor at a position that has a dearth of viable options past the top two or three. Fant has TE1 upside but is best viewed as a TE2 option for fantasy managers this week.
Teddy Bridgewater (Sit)
Coming out of the BYE, Teddy Bridgewater gets an unenviable task of facing a top-ten defense against the pass and the possibility of two top receiving weapons missing the game because of COVID concerns. Bridgewater has been mostly underwhelming during Carolina’s six-game losing skid, averaging just 226 passing yards during that span with eight TDs and five INTs. Denver is allowing just 218 passing yards per game and has held opposing QBs to less than 25 fantasy points in eight of their 12 matchups. The presumed return of Christian McCaffrey will help open up the passing game, but Bridgewater is still a poor option for fantasy managers in Week 14.
Christian McCaffrey (Start, RB1), Mike Davis (Sit)
If you drafted him, you’re starting him. It’s as simple as that when it comes to Christian “CMC” McCaffrey. McCaffrey has played in just three games this season but still has 374 combined yards and six TDs. He’s already heavily involved in the passing game and might be asked to do even more depending on how the COVID outbreak affects the depth of the WR position this Sunday. McCaffrey might be slightly limited coming off a shoulder injury, but fantasy managers simply can’t bench him this week. The big caveat, however, is McCaffrey reportedly is dealing with a thigh injury that limited him in practice yesterday. As of this writing, we don’t have more information on the severity but it definitely is a situation worth monitoring closely over the next few days.
It was a nice run for the fantasy managers who were able to snatch Mike Davis either in the draft or off waivers when McCaffrey went down earlier this season but it looks like his time as a consistent fantasy producer is coming to a close. When McCaffrey returned in Week 9, the Panthers indicated Davis would still be a part of their offensive gameplan and he promptly saw one carry even though he did pick up six targets. Now, if skill position players are ruled out for Carolina, Davis might become a viable option but if the top of the depth chart at WR is unchanged, Davis can be sent back to fantasy benches in Week 14. Of course, if McCaffrey is limited or is unable to play, then Davis again becomes a viable RB1 for fantasy managers.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
DJ Moore (Sit – Pending), Curtis Samuel (Start, WR3/Flex), Robby Anderson (Start, WR2), Ian Thomas (Sit)
As of Wednesday afternoon, DJ Moore is on the reserve/COVID-19 list and it has been reported it is as a result of a positive test. Moore is very questionable to play this weekend unless he has multiple negative tests between now and Sunday. The recommendations below are based on the belief Moore will be unable to play this week. If Moore is cleared, he should be considered a WR3 or flex play with WR2 upside.
I’m going to assume Moore will miss this game, making Robby Anderson the #1 WR for Week 14. Anderson has been a solid option for fantasy managers in PPR leagues as Carolina has utilized him less on downfield routes and more on short or intermediate passes to take advantage of his route running and explosiveness. Anderson has seen his average depth of target drop precipitously from his first two seasons to 10 yards – a drop of more than four yards from 2019. Denver has been stingy to opposing WRs this season which is the only reason he’s in the WR2 tier this week. McCaffrey’s return should open up the passing game some and Anderson looks like a solid option for fantasy managers this week.
Curtis Samuel has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers this season as he’s already reached his career-high in receptions for a season and has contributed more as a runner than in any season previously. Samuel has the speed and athleticism to take short passes the distance and may see an increase in playing time if Moore is absent. Unfortunately for Samuel, Denver’s defense is among the league’s best and will look to stymie his production. If Moore is ruled out, Samuel could creep into the low-end WR2 tier because of his big-play ability but fantasy managers would be better served to view Samuel as a WR3 or flex play this week.
The TE position is almost a forgotten position in Carolina as all the players that play it combined have just 20 receptions for 156 yards and two TDs. Ian Thomas is the starter for the Panthers but should not be anywhere near your starting lineup even with the COVID concerns on the team.
Snap counts courtesy of Fantasy Data.
-Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN on Twitter)