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Best Bucs, Panthers players to play on TNF

The NFC South is on display in Week 2 Thursday Night Football. We break down all the questions you might have for preparing your fantasy football options on the Panthers and Bucs rosters.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton passes the ball during a preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers on August 22, 2019, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Week 2’s Thursday night game kicks off in Carolina as the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The road team can be at a disadvantage on Thursday given the short week, but each team is coming off a home game in Week 1 and the travel distance from Tampa to Carolina isn’t great.

Last season, both the Panthers and Buccaneers allowed more fantasy points than average to wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks, with Tampa Bay allowing the third most fantasy points to QBs. Each team has made an effort to beef up their defense this season, with new Bucs’ head coach Bruce Arians hiring defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to change Tampa Bay’s scheme and the Panthers bringing in defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Bruce Irvin — although Irvin will not play in Thursday’s game due to injury.

Start/sit decisions should primarily be viewed within the context of an individual fantasy roster, but with that said, here is a look at some players that fantasy owners can consider starting or sitting in their season long fantasy football leagues for Thursday Night Football (aside from the obvious starts, such as RB Christian McCaffrey):

Start: QB Cam Newton

Newton is coming off shoulder surgery, and his shoulder injury appeared to limit his downfield passing in 2018, seeing a steep decline in longest completed air distance, as well as a decline in average air yards per pass attempt. Newton continued to attempt short passes in Week 1, attempting just one pass with an air distance beyond 20 yards while averaging just 6.3 air yards per passing attempt, one of the lower marks among Week 1 QBs. That said, Newton draws a strong matchup against a Bucs’ secondary that is expected to be poor this season and allowed a ton of fantasy points to QBs last season. Newton is in a good bounce back spot at home after recording under 10 fantasy points in Week 1.

Sit: QB Jameis Winston

There was some optimism for Winston in 2019 under new coach Bruce Arians, who has a good reputation as an offensive coach, but Winston played poorly in Week 1. Winston underperformed his expected completion percentage based on throw difficulty by one of the worst marks among Week 1 QBs and finished with the worst passer rating among Week 1 QBs. If Winston is going to improve under Arians, it may take some time for him to get comfortable in the new scheme.

Start: WR Mike Evans

A top 25 pick by ADP, Evans should be an obvious start but had a very poor Week 1 as he battled through an illness that appeared to bother him on the field. Evans’ status came down to game-time, and he ended up playing, but reportedly checked himself out of the game multiple times and finished with just two catches on five targets. The illness is the issue here, and the good news is that Evans appears to be over it, as he is not listed on the Buccaneers’ Week 2 injury report.

Sit: Buccaneers’ running backs

RB Ronald Jones II looked much improved in Week 1 under the new coaching staff, rushing for 75 yards on 13 carries and out-touching RB Peyton Barber 13-to-8. That said, there is still a timeshare here, with Barber getting 25 snaps to Jones’ 22, and Carolina’s tough front seven is a difficult spot. Despite being hit hard on the ground by a strong Rams running attack in Week 1, Carolina was one of the better teams at preventing fantasy points to RBs in 2018.

Start: TE Greg Olsen

Olsen is officially listed as questionable on the injury report, but fully practiced on Wednesday and is expected to play. Olsen’s nine targets in Week 1 were tied for third most among tight ends, and Carolina’s passing game has a good matchup against a Tampa Bay secondary that is expected to be poor. With Newton apparently still reluctant to stretch the field with downfield passing, Olsen could continue to see a plus amount of targets in the mid-range game.