Its been one heck of a fantasy week so far. Unfortunately there has been an insane amount of injuries to major fantasy stars including Le'Veon Bell, Steve Smith, Keenan Allen and Matt Forte among others. But the fantasy week isn't over just yet, as we still have one more game left to play. Hopefully, we can get through it wihtout anymore major injuries. Anyway, here's a look at what you can expect in the Monday night showdown between the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers. Get ready for some more football!
Indianapolis Colts at Carolina Panthers, 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN (Monday)
We're seven weeks into the NFL season, and we're still waiting on the all-world Andrew Luck foretold to show up. Yes, Luck posted 28 and 24 fantasy points in his last two games, but both were in come-from-behind efforts in his own building, and against less than stellar secondaries. When the Colts travel to Carolina, he'll do battle with a defense that features both the September and October Defensive Player of the Month in Kawann Short and Josh Norman. The Panthers secondary is a hellacious opponent for opposing quarterbacks, allowing .31 points per pass attempt, second-best in the NFL. You can start Andrew Luck in this game, but severely temper your expectations.
Carolina's run defense ranks 19th in running backs points allowed per touch, and gives up a reasonable 4.17 yards per carry. This part of their defense is not nearly as shut-down level as their secondary. However, much of that came before Thomas Davis found his groove, and when Luke Kuechly and Star Lotulelei were out with injuries. The Panthers rankings should improve with more of the full unit in tow. Frank Gore is a low-end RB2 start.
The stat line shows a blowup game for Hilton last week, but he caught less than 30 percent of his 15 targets. He made big plays when Saints corner Delvin Breaux fell down in coverage. Norman intimated he's excited to face off with Hilton this week, but wouldn't cop to any plans of him shadowing the Colts receiver. The Norman treatment has brought death to DeAndre Hopkins and other star receivers in fantasy this season. If you have Hilton, you're probably playing him. But much like with Andrew Luck, expectations are to be severely tempered.
The other Colts starting receiver averages just under 55 yards per game, but finds the end zone every time he and Luck see the field together. Moncrief converted three of his four targets inside the 10-yard line into touchdowns through the first seven weeks. He trails only Larry Fitzgerald and Allen Hurns in touchdown percentage among wide receivers with 40-plus targets. With that conversion rate, he's impossible to bench.
Despite their high pedigree, neither of these players should find their way into your starting lineup. In only one game did Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen have more than four catches (Fleener in Week 4) and that came with Matt Hasselbeck.
Newton's own inconsistencies and lack of a strong supporting cast are starting to catch up to him. After dynamic performances in Weeks 2 and 3, Newton has a 2-5 touchdown to interception ratio in the last two games coming off the bye. His rushing yards and attempts are also down, though he popped in two short touchdowns. From a fantasy perspective, his floor is still secure, scoring 19.8 and 13.9 points in those two lackluster games. The Colts secondary isn't much of a road block, and Newton should provide owners with solid QB1 numbers.
After two back-to-back strong outings with over 20 carries, Stewart is back in our circle of trust. After a slow start to the season, Stewart is running hard and punishing defenders who meet him in open lanes. The Colts rank 24th in fantasy points allowed per running back touch, and give up a touchdown on 4.5 percent of the carries against them. Stewart is an RB2 in this game, and going forward.
Still the only Carolina receiver worth rostering in fantasy, Ginn makes for an interesting spot start. Ginn's four usable fantasy games this season came in positive matchups, including last week's five for 59 and 43 rushing yards performance. Vontae Davis is the Colts' best defensive player, but Ginn doesn't pose enough of a threat to have him shadowed by the Pro Bowl corner. The Panthers' receiver could get free for a few big receptions in a game where Carolina will need to put up points.
At season's end, his final 2015 stats will cause us to look back at Olsen as one of the steadier tight ends. However, we've already seen his production is volatile on a week-to-week basis because of this offense. Olsen has only finished as a TE1 three weeks this season, and in the top-10 at the position only once. Just a small reminder to look at a player's weekly output in deciding their fantasy worth, not their season-long finish. This week's matchup is overall a natural one, with the Colts ranking 18th in fantasy points per tight end target (1.034). He's a fine start, as long as you accept the floor.