Yes, Ramses Barden is one appealing fantasy football option.
On Wednesday the depleted Giants flew to Carolina without running back Ahmad Bradshaw, receiver Domenik Hixon, right tackle David Diehl and, in a bit of a shocker, without receiver Hakeem Nicks. They all will miss the game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night.
That's quite a bit of talent Big Blue is missing against the Carolina Panthers.
The flip side, however, brings us a great opportunity for Barden and his fantasy football implications. After all, Eli Manning does present the ability to make any group of receivers better and it's not like the Panthers field the most dominant of defenses.
Just last week Drew Brees torches the Cats for 325 yards and we know Manning has similar capabilities after the comeback win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Keep in mind, however, that Barden is not on Nicks' level of playmaking.
Nevertheless, Big Blue will need him to significantly contribute and here's what we can expect.
Before we delve into that potential production of Barden on Thursday night, we have to imagine how the Giants offense will approach Carolina's defense.
The depletion of New York obviously puts more pressure on Manning and Victor Cruz as well as the new guys to step up. That said, early on the Giants have to slow the pace and control the game. The Panthers field one explosive offense and after Week 2, Big Blue's defense is rather vulnerable to a faster pace.
In addition, because of Manning's turnover-prone first half the Giants need to get back to the basics. Fortunately, running back Andre Brown is coming off a solid performance so his confidence will help in establishing a ground game.
Carolina has an improved defense but has yet to consistently stop the run. Through two weeks the Panthers have allowed 293 rushing yards and an average of 4.7 yards per carry. So, anticipate the Giants exposing that early on which also keeps Cam Newton off the field.
As the game progresses, New York then begins to air it out with the passing game set up.
The most obvious here is any single coverage against Barden with Carolina safety Charles Godfrey rolled down the opposite side.
This is solely because Godfrey is a playmaker and has a nose for being around the ball. Against the Saints he was the difference with a pick-six of Brees and he led Carolina with 11 tackles. With New York trying to run the ball, expect him rolling down into the box through much of the first half.
So, provided that Barden lines up on the opposite side of the formation he won't have to deal with Godfrey when running routes. Plus whenever passing, Cruz will likely see the majority of double coverage leading to the possibility of Barden getting an increase in targets.
Another major advantage for Barden is his size.
Standing at 6'6" and weighing 224 pounds he's like a small tight end playing receiver. Because of this size frame, though, inside the red zone is where Barden gives New York a distinct advantage.
In short, he's a fade route threat to out-jump any Panthers' defender and he won't be isolated one-on-one. We can also anticipate a few opportunities for Barden downfield, as his size is great for run-blocking on the edge which will simply extend the running lanes.
Well, this makes the Panthers susceptible to play-action. Barden can then act like he's blocking, run a double-move and get man coverage against the safety. Any time an offense has a receiver of his size regardless of experience, giving him playmaking opportunities must happen.
Everything here comes down to how effective the Giants are at running the rock.
With guys like Godfrey and Chris Gamble in the secondary Carolina is quite capable of limiting New York's aerial assault. Include the Cats' front seven that features Jon Beason, Luke Kuechly and Charles Johnson and this defense is nearly a completed unit.
Nonetheless, it's imperative for Big Blue to move on the ground and control the tempo. Newton and Carolina's offense will score, so minimizing that damage by limiting possessions early on is vital to winning.
As for Barden, this game can go one of three ways:
1. Slow start (because of the ground game) and a strong second half,
2. Giants defense gives up points and it quickly becomes a pass-happy shootout, or
3. Lack of contributing experience results in hardly any production.
Playing Barden is certainly a tough decision this week, and especially because it's a short week for New York. To that end, playing Barden simply comes down to your depth at receiver.
He's not a No. 1 and only a No. 2 if it's one of your weaker positions. If you're in a league that starts three receivers and/or a flex, that's where Barden fits best since that spot isn't too much of a risk.
Predicted Stats: 10 targets, seven receptions, 80 yards, one touchdown.
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