The Thursday Night Football tilt between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers is loaded with fantasy studs, and I've got some last-minute advice for your fantasy football team.
We know that Hakeem Nicks won't be playing in the game, according to the Giants:
WR Hakeem Nicks has been downgraded to out and will not play vs. the Panthers. Nicks did not make the trip— New York Giants (@Giants) September 19, 2012
This opens the door for the rest of the Giants receivers to step up in his absence, and using this injury as a springboard, I'll delve into which players are must-starts and which players to sit for both teams in tonight's contest.
Cam Newton and Eli Manning
Neither team's defense is stellar against the pass (Panthers ranked 13th and Giants ranked 22nd), and both of these quarterbacks are set to have big games.
If you happen to somehow have both of these quarterbacks on your team, sit Manning and start Newton. The Giants secondary is particularly awful, and Newton's cannon for an arm will be attacking deep downfield to Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell all game long.
The real kicker for Newton is and always will be his ability to make plays with his legs. I expect him to have plenty of opportunities to run wild this week.
Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Victor Cruz
With Nicks out, Cruz should have a huge game. He'll be the focal point of the Giants offense, and we know from last year that he is capable of producing big fantasy numbers in situations like this.
Smith and LaFell will be too hot for the porous secondary of the Giants to handle. I like Smith, in particular, to put up huge point totals. His speed, combined with Newton's arm, will make for some gaudy yardage totals and at least one touchdown.
Manning and Bennett are starting to click, and with Nicks out of the lineup, Bennett will be the No. 2 option for Manning in the passing game. Bennett has caught one touchdown in both games so far this year, and I expect that trend to continue in Week 3.
Any Running Back on Both Teams
One of the hottest players this week in fantasy circles has been Andre Brown, due to the fact that Ahmad Bradshaw isn't healthy enough to play. Brown has been good for the Giants, but he's not going to be heavily featured in this game.
The Giants run the ball less than most teams, and through two games, this team has only had 44 rushing attempts (t-25th in the NFL).
For the Panthers, Newton is the team's No. 1 option as a runner, with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams taking a back seat once again this year, just like in 2011.
Barden will be starting in place of the injured Nicks, but anyone expecting him to put up NIcks-like numbers is crazy.
In his four-year career with the Giants, Barden has only caught 16 passes for 198 yards with zero touchdowns. He's a big target at 6'6" and 224 pounds, but Barden isn't as fast as Nicks or as athletic. He may have a few catches, but he won't bust out like Kevin Ogletree did in Week 1.
Olsen isn't an explosive player, and he's only caught seven passes for 69 yards with zero touchdowns thus far in 2012. Until he starts becoming a bigger part of the Panthers offense, he's a must-sit player every week.
You probably don't have either defense on your fantasy team, but if you do, dump it for another one not playing in this game. I predict an offensive shootout, and that's not good for fantasy defenses.
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