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*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
What if the Carolina Panthers are one of the top teams in the NFL? In the NFC, you have the future 19-0 Rams -- and who else better than Carolina? Not the Saints or Bucs in-division. Philly and Minnesota in the discussion for sure. The ‘any given Sunday’ Packers always dangerous.
Is Carolina in the NFC top 5? In the NFL top 10? 11-5 last season, 2-1 this season…13-6 in their last 19 games. Cam is a play-maker like none other. Luke Kuechly is one of the 10 most valuable players in the NFL. 11-5 last season and four of the 5 losses to playoff teams. They’ve had a ton of O-Line injuries this season already or we should get even more respectful of what they might do in 2018.
Despite all their O-Line injuries, Carolina is 4th in the NFL in yards per carry with their rushing attack. Middle of the pack in sacks allowed. Middle of the pack points and yards allowed on defense. One of five defenses with more picks than TD passes allowed. This is a very stable, dangerous team.
I want to give that respect to Carolina to use it for the following logic as well -- Cincinnati went back and forth with the Panthers, at Carolina, and were driving late down 28-21 and couldn’t tie it up. Two good teams went at it, answering each other’s scores and stops – Carolina eventually won. The better coaching staff won.
Cincinnati is now 2-1. They beat a tougher than we all realized Colts team at Indy in Week 1. Smacked the Ravens down in TNF Week 2. Played toe-to-toe at Carolina without A.J. Green (left early/played 51% of snaps) or Joe Mixon or their starting center or their starting linebacker. I think Cincy is a tougher team than given credit (and thus another Carolina quality win)…and that’s why The Computer has been nagging me all week that they’re going to upset the Falcons in Atlanta Week 4. We’ll see. The Bengals have the #6 scoring offense in the league (29.7 PPG)…a spot ahead of Pittsburgh (29.3), two ahead of the Chargers (27.3), three ahead of their Week 4 opponent Atlanta (26.7).
Cincy v. Carolina feels like a game easy to look past from last week but might be two of the better teams in the league at work.
Fantasy Player Notes:
-- With A.J. Green (5-58-0/8) hobbled, Tyler Boyd (6-132-1/7) stepped up with a nice performance. Two weeks in a row for Boyd with WR1-2 stats.
Watching this game back, I didn’t see Boyd exploding onto the scene and dominating the defense. He got open in the Carolina zone and made catches. Andy Dalton made good throws, Boyd used his reliable hands. It worked. If Cincy has a top 10 offense, then Boyd is going to succeed as the ‘not A.J. Green’ option. In past years, the not-AJG, Marvin Jones or Mohammed Sanu, WRs have been more WR3s over time with WR1 spikes for 2-3-4 weeks and then M.I.A. for 2-3-4 weeks at a clip.
I like Boyd but be a little wary. Selling ‘high’ on him this week isn’t a bad thing.
-- One reason to like Boyd for production…and potentially the reason the Bengals lost this game – John Ross (3-16-0/7) isn’t cutting it as an NFL WR. He’s just really fast…but borderline terrible at his craft. He is hesitant, runs poor routes, and has unreliable hands.
I thought he could be the Ted Ginn of the Bengals – big plays here and there, 50+ yards scores, key drops but enough other stuff for WR3/flex fantasy usefulness. So far, not at all.
As the Bengals drove late in this game, Dalton threw one deep to Ross who then was revealed lollygagging his route deep because he must not have thought he’d get the ball. Once Ross realized it was coming his way he tried to kick into gear, but it was too late. Easy pick for the defender.
I hated Ross last season. I got suckered in by his play-making this preseason. I’m out, again. My bad.
-- Quick note…rookie Mark Walton (no stats) got in for a carry and had a nice, energized 7-yard cut back and juking run (called back by penalty). I said Cincy would not use him much with Mixon-Carson out. It was true, but he did look ready for more touches based on all of one run I saw here. I don’t think he’ll get them for a while. In the end, he’s Gio-ish…nothing more.
-- Andy Dalton (29-46 for 352 yards, 2 TDs/4 INTs) has thrown for 2 or more TDs in every game this season – 8 TD passes/2.7 per game.
Since Bill Lazor took over as O-C (Week 3 last season), Dalton has thrown for 33 TD passes in 17 games. 33 TDs/13 TDs.
-- Christian McCaffrey (28-184-0, 2-10-0/2) touches (carries + catches) in games this season: 16-24-30…23.3 per game. Ron Rivera said 25+ a game…
McCaffrey has yet to score a TD this season, however. Otherwise awesome start to 2018.
-- D.J. Moore (1-3-0/2)…again, I say…”I don’t see it.” He just doesn’t look comfortable or confident at work. Incredibly athletic, but empty otherwise so far.
Will Curtis Samuel (inactive) matter come Week 5? Samuel’s 2018 outlook has a lot to do with Week 5. Either, with two weeks until their next game, Samuel jumps right in to serious snaps in Week 5 – and then we know Carolina likes what they saw this preseason. OR he gets no touches/is inactive Week 5…and then we have problems/worries with his health, etc.
-- Donte Jackson (7 tackles, 2 PDs) got a couple of picks but they were semi-charity ones, but picks nonetheless.
The past two weeks for Jackson: 7.0 tackles, 1.5 PDs, 1.5 INTs per game.
He’s starting and producing.
-- Bengals rookie SAF Jessie Bates (8 tackles) is averaging 6.7 tackles per game so far this season and has a pick. He’s the unplanned starter now, accounting for himself well.
-- Tyler Eifert (6-74-0/8) started looking like his old self in this game…back into the flow of the offense, and he played the most snaps at TE this week – he’s essentially splitting with C.J. Uzomah (2-19-1/2).
I’ve pushed Eifert as the low man in the rankings among Njoku-Goedert-McDonald-Eifert types because of Uzomah seeming more important through three weeks, but this game was a step forward for Eifert. I’ve also said you could flip that ranking (above) of TE options. It’s very close. Pros and cons for any of them. Njoku the one with the clear path to ‘starter’ and ‘snaps’ right now but the other three all more talented.
-- DE/OLB Efe Obada (1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 QB hits…one Defensive Player of the Week award). Obada made the Panthers roster despite being a long shot. He made his debut this week and it was pretty good in limited snaps.
I couldn’t do his story justice, so if you’re interested in his incredible story and the video highlights of his Week 3, I included the link below.
He definitely jumped off the tape as an athletic pass rusher. Actually, he jumped off to me when I saw his physique…I was like, “Who was that?” after watching his sack live Sunday and then the camera panned a close up.
Snap Counts of Interest:
42 = Eifert
35 = Uzomah
21 = Kroft
52 = Funchess
44 = Torrey Smith
33= D.J. Moore
26 = Jar Wright
57 = Gio
07 = Walton
48 = Jordan Willis
20 = Carl Lawson
19 = Ede Obada