Time flies. We are already at week 10 and you should have a good idea if your fantasy football team is championship material or a source of much frustration. Sunday's game between the 49ers and Panthers should be a great game to watch, but it could be a low scoring contest with few fantasy bright spots. Here are the players to keep an eye on and how they can help or hurt your fantasy team.
Only one rusher this season has gone over 100 yards rushing against the Carolina Panthers and that was C.J. Spiller back in week 2. The Panthers have kept both Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson under 65 rushing while only giving up 2 rushing TDS at the half way point in the season. The Niners will need to open up the playbook this week and I bet that is going to call for a few passes to the running back, an area where Carolina's defense has been vulnerable. Gore hasn't gotten much work as a receiver this year. He only has 8 receptions and no receiving touchdowns. It's a tough matchup for Gore, but I'd start him as a RB2 this week as the volume should be there. He should finish in the neighborhood of 60 yards and 1 TD.
Carolina has been one of the worst matchups for opposing fantasy QBs this season. However, Russell Wilson and EJ Manuel put up a combined 616 yards and 2 TDs in the first two weeks. Since then the Panthers haven't faced a top 10 fantasy QB outside of a weaponless Matt Ryan in week 9. Carolina's defense is good, but I'm not too worried about starting Kaepernick coming off a bye at home. Kap's running ability is becoming a bigger part of the offense and the Niners will need a diverse rushing attack to keep the defense guessing. The best asset Kap has is a nearly uncoverable Vernon Davis going up against a defense that has struggled to stop tight ends. It will be a tough test, but CK7 should finish just outside the top 10 for fantasy QBs and deliver a quality fantasy game.
Boldin is firmly lodged into the fantasy WR3 crowd. He's averaging about 4 receptions over the last few weeks and was kept out of the end zone for the entire month of October. Mario Manningham's return will probably do more to help than hinder Boldin's production, but I wouldn't count on that happening immediately. Carolina's secondary isn't extraordinary, but they've limited several notable wide outs. Perhaps, Ham and Davis will stretch the field enough to open things up underneath for Q. It's best to wait and see, so if you have another WR3 with a better matchup you might want to think twice before starting Boldin Sunday.
What do Tim Wright, Kyle Rudolph and Tony Gonzalez have in common? They all went for double digit fantasy points over the last 5 weeks against Carolina. What else do they have in common? None of them can match Davis' speed and athleticism. Carolina has struggled against tight ends and they face their toughest test yet. Start Vernon and make your fantasy opposition frown and shake their fists to the heavens. Should be a big day for #85
Mr. Newton has picked up his game this year en route becoming the 6th best fantasy points for QBs. We'll see how legit his maturation process has been on Sunday. The 49ers have been incredibly solid against the pass and while Newton is a phenomenal rusher, this is the same defense that sees Colin Kaepernick every day and Russell Wilson twice a year. It'll be a tough game for Cam, but he'll put up useful numbers and it's not like there are many QBs you can start ahead of him. Don't look for astronomical passing numbers, but 1 or 2 short TD runs are well within reach.
It has not been a great year for Steve Smith. The former elite fantasy wide receiver is on pace for WR3 numbers. However, he still gets plenty of targets as the most trusted passing option. If they can work Smith into some shorter routes he could turn 7-9 targets into decent WR2 numbers, but that would be a long shot. He's a better option than Boldin, but definitely not a must start against San Francisco.
It's hard to see Greg doing damage on Sunday. The Niners excel at stopping opposing TEs and Olsen is a touchdown dependent TE. Olsen should finish in the top 10, but the matchup isn't in his favor. Expect something similar to 4 receptions for 40 yards and perhaps a TD on Sunday.
Carolina Running Backs
Unfortunately, you can't use a team's entire rushing attack in fantasy football. Fortunately, I can cram all three backs into one segment. Williams, Stewart and Tolbert all have roles in the Panther's offense making it difficult to start any one of them with confidence. Even though the Niners are vulnerable to the run, none of the Carolina backs are RB2 material. If I had to rank them I'd go with Tolbert, Williams and then Stewart. Tolbert gets the fewest touches, but he has the highest potential for a TD and is active in the passing game. Williams should get the start, but that isn't a huge factor with Stewart's return. Jonathan Stewart is interesting, but difficult to trust going into his second game of the year.
You probably know by now that Mario Manningham is set to make his 2013 debut. He may not get a ton of work this week, but his return could open things up in the playbook. Manningham showed promise with Kaepernick under center in 2012 and once he is back into the flow of the game he could emerge as a decent WR3/Flex candidate for the final weeks of fantasy football. Don't expect much this week, but put him on your watch list and be prepared to pounce.