Few things are more frustrating for fantasy football owners than questionable designations and injuries. This frustration is multiplied the later in the week a player's game happens to fall. With that in mind, Monday Night's matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers might be the most frustrating game of the season so far.
As of the time of this article, Carolina's QB Cam Newton is expected to miss the game, WRs Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess were limited in the team's first two practices, while RB Mike Tolbert was also limited and RB Jonathan Stewart did not participate. Things are just as up in the air on the Buccaneers side of the ball with RBs Doug Martin and Charles Sims missing the first two practices of the week. Those are some serious holes in some fantasy lineups.
Sunday morning, fantasy owners will need to monitor these players closely and invest in some backups. It might be safer to play someone on Sunday who you know will make the field than wait around for Monday Night's inactive report and be disappointed if your starter is listed as out.
All About the SleepersIn fantasy football, there is another side to having a slew of injured stars: the emergence of sleepers that are sitting on the waiver wire and ripe for the picking. While these players generally come with pretty low floors in the fantasy game, there is always the chance that you hit the jackpot and find a player who lights up the scoreboard. Not only is that good for your fantasy team, but also gives you some enviable bragging points in your league.
For the Panthers, the sleeper designation would apply to QB Derek Anderson, RB Fozzy Whittaker and WR Corey Brown. There are likely safer fantasy options at quarterback this week, but the Buccaneers are a tempting matchup, having allowed games of 24, 24, 13 and 16 to opposing quarterbacks in the four games this season. Keep in mind also that the Buccaneers' rash of injuries extends to the defensive line, which may give Anderson more time to operate.
Jonathan Stewart hasn't played since Week One. Since then, Whittaker has been the Panthers main back, getting things done on the ground and in the passing game. Whittaker has 24 fantasy points in the last three weeks, and though he had just three carries against the Falcons (largely due to the score) he did have nine receptions for 86 yards.
At just 0.3% owned, Corey Brown is about as deep a sleeper as they come this week, but could be in line for some points if the Buccaneers pay extra attention to Kelvin Benjamin. Brown has 15 points over the last two weeks and found the end zone in Week Four against the Falcons.
Unlike the Panthers, the injury concerns for the Buccaneers are more prevalent on the defensive side of the ball, with one glaring exception: running back. Doug Martin, the NFL's second-leading rusher last season, has missed the last two games. The back who took over the majority of his reps and has built a solid PPR fantasy resume for himself, Charles Sims, has been held out of practice so far this week. Should both miss Monday night's game, RB Jacquizz Rodgers could handle most of the work from the backfield. Rodgers has 15 touches for 81 yards this year. The Bucs are looking for more balance in their offense and need to get things going on the ground to have some success in prime time.
And the Must-StartsFor the Panthers, the potential loss of Cam Newton could slightly damage the stock for WR Kelvin Benjamin, but he has solidified must-start status each week, with four touchdowns already. While the loss of Newton certainly doesn't benefit TE Greg Olsen, it doesn't necessarily hurt him. Backup QB Derek Anderson has worked with Olsen in the past and could rely heavily on him as an outlet. The Buccaneers are allowing just 2.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, but have yet to face any of Olsen's fantasy caliber. Olsen, of course, is an every-week starter, but this could be a strong performance from him, especially in PPR.
If you're a fantasy owner with a bye-week quarterback and a fan of patterns, Jameis Winston might be a quarterback you want to plug in this week. Winston had 25-point games in Weeks One and Three, so naturally he is in for another big game this odd week. (We kid.) Seriously though, this is a good matchup for Winston; the Panthers have allowed 20+ points to opposing QBs twice this season and Matt Ryan put up 35 on them last week throwing for 503 yards and four touchdowns. Winston is not a must-start this week, but if you are looking for a bye-week filler or an injury fill-in, you'll have a hard time finding a better option than him this week.
Even after allowing 52 points to opposing wide receivers (read: Julio Jones) last weekend, the Panthers are still allowing below average points per week to the position. Still, Mike Evans has proven to be a must-start every week, and his owners are expecting some big things against this shaken-up secondary.