Entering the 2011 season, the most likely scenario for Carolina's offense was that they would rely heavily on their rushing attack to ease the NFL transition for their rookie signal-caller.
After all, the team had two 1,000-yard rushers in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in 2009 before the entire Panthers offense struggled woefully in 2010.
Through two games, however, that is not even remotely close to what is actually happening.
Neither Williams nor Stewart leads the team in rushing. It's rookie quarterback Cam Newton, who has rushed 71 yards. In fact, Newton has only three yards less than what Williams (43) and Stewart (31) have combined.
While I expect that the Panthers get their ground game going at some point, perhaps this week, there is one thing that has become clear: Newton is worthy of being a starting fantasy quarterback in Week 3.
Players to Start in Week 3
QB - Cam Newton, Panthers (vs. JAX): After throwing for a second straight 400-yard game, it would be unreasonable (right?) to expect a third 400-yard game. While I certainly don't expect 400-plus yards, I do expect another strong passing game against the team that allowed the fifth-most passing yards in the NFL last year. In addition, Newton leads all quarterbacks in rushing attempts (18) and has rushed for a touchdown in each of his two games.
RB - Ben Tate, Texans (at NO): Like Newton, Tate has had nothing but success in his first two NFL games. Tate, who leads the NFL in rushing attempts (47), has back-to-back 100-yard games and he currently ranks third in the NFL in rushing. With a hamstring injury slowing down Arian Foster, last year's rushing champion, Tate is expected to get his first-ever start this weekend.
RB - Brandon Jacobs, Giants (at PHI): Although the Rams have allowed a league-high 177.5 rushing yards per game, no team has allowed more rushing yards to opposing running backs than the Eagles. With Mario Manningham out with a concussion, I expect both Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs to get a heavy workload this week. In fact, Jacobs got the edge in workload by getting 16 carries to Bradshaw's 15 last week.
WR - Deion Branch, Patriots (at BUF): When it comes to wide receivers, only Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace has more receptions than Branch, who ranks sixth among receivers in yards (222). While both Wes Welker and Deion Branch are fantasy starts, Chad Ochocinco is the odd-man out.
WR - Robert Meachem, Saints (vs NO): In back-to-back games, Devery Henderson has finished with 100-plus yards and a score and he leads the team in receiving yards (203). That said, Henderson has been inconsistent for much of his career and I wouldn't count on a third-straight 100-yard game. Meanwhile, Marques Coltson is still out with a broken collarbone and Lance Moore returned from injury to haul in one reception for six yards in Week 2. If I had to go with a Saints receiver in Week 3, I'd go with Meachem, who has scored a touchdown in both of the Saints' first two games.
WR - A.J. Green, Bengals (vs SF): While Jerome Simpson, who has three 100-yard performances in his past four games, has not been arrested (yet), authorities seized 8.5 pounds of marijuana from his home this week. Therefore, Simpson is "questionable" on the injury report (despite not having a physical injury). Especially if Simpson does not play, Green, the top receiver selected in this year's draft, should be in line for even more targets after he finished with his first-ever game with double-digit receptions and 100-plus yards in Week 2.
TE - Fred Davis, Redskins (at DAL): Through two games, Davis is tied with Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin for 13th in receiving (191 yards) and is second behind Carolina's Steve Smith in 20-yard plays (six). Out of tight ends, only Jason Witten has more receiving yards than Davis.
Players to Sit in Week 3
QB - Eli Manning, Giants (at PHI): Nnamdi Asomugha. Asante Samuel. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Mario Manningham. What do those four names share in common? They all contribute to what should be a down week for Manning, who has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions in two games. The first three form part of what is arguably the league's best secondary and, as mentioned above, Manningham will be out Sunday due to a concussion.
RB - Reggie Bush, Dolphins (at CLE): The experiment of using Bush as a featured back seems to be over. Last week, rookie Daniel Thomas got 18 rushing attempts and reached the century mark in his first-ever regular-season game. Meanwhile, Bush had only six carries and one reception against Houston. I can see eight carries and six targets as a reasonable workload for Bush in Week 3, which means he should be on your bench.
RB - Arian Foster, Texans (at NO): Foster, who has been dealing with hamstring issues since the start of camp, is questionable and a game-time decision for Sunday's game. Even if he plays, coach Gary Kubiak has said that Tate will get a larger share of the workload. Since hamstring issues tend to linger (as we've seen with Foster), Tate will likely be favored over Foster for the next several weeks or more.
RB - Steven Jackson, Rams (vs. BAL): Jackson got off to a great start to the 2011 season by rushing for a 47-yard touchdown on his first carry of the season. Then his second attempt, which was a solid run, was his only other carry through two games. Jackson's status for this week's game is unclear, but if he does play, he faces a tough Ravens run defense. You're likely to have better (and safer) options on your roster than Jackson.
WR - Chad Ochocinco, Patriots (at BUF): Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has thrown for 940 yards through two games, yet Ochocinco has only three receptions and 59 receiving yards. Four other Patriots have at least 165 receiving yards: Welker (241), Branch (222), Rob Gronkowski (172) and Aaron Hernandez (165). While I wouldn't be surprised if Ochocinco had a random strong game, I want to see at least one before I start rolling with him.
WR - Denarius Moore, Raiders (vs NYJ): Moore, who was on my free-agent pickups list this week, had a great game (146 yards and a score) against the Bills. This week, however, it won't be so easy as the Raiders face Darrelle Revis, the league's best cornerback, and Antonio Cromartie, last week's AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
TE - Dallas Clark, Colts (vs PIT): Clark, who did not practice on Friday due to a foot injury, may or may not play this week. With the Colts playing in the second-to-last game of the week, I wouldn't roll the dice with Clark and potentially get stuck without a replacement. Plus, the Colts don't have a great matchup against the Steelers this week.
For players not listed here, check out our fantasy rankings by position for Week 3.
Good luck in your Week 3 matchup(s)!