The Carolina Panthers improved to 3-0 on Thursday Night, but they couldn’t celebrate the way they would have liked to. For the first time since the 2015 season where they went to the Super Bowl, the Panthers have won their first 3 games of the season. You would think this would be a joyous night of celebration in Carolina, but the big story was the loss of Christian McCaffrey early in the 2nd quarter with a hamstring injury. McCaffrey spent a lot of time in the medical tent and was ruled out almost immediately after coming up hobbled after his 7th carry of the night. Further evaluation on McCaffrey’s hamstring will determine the length of time he will miss, but I expect him to be out for several weeks. Fantasy managers looking to donate CMC a hamstring can send hammys to: Carolina Panthers, Attn: Christian McCaffrey, 800 South Mint Street, Charlotte, NC, 28202.
Sam Darnold led the Panthers to a win even without their star running back. Darnold played well, completing 23 of 34 passes for 304 passing yards on the game. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but he did contribute 2 touchdowns on the ground on his 8 rushes. He also showed off his legs on a 32-yard scramble in the 3rd quarter, but it was called back on a holding penalty. Darnold showed poise and confidence last night on his way to scoring 25 fantasy points for anyone who had the stones to put him in their starting lineup.
Most of Darnold’s completions went to DJ Moore once again, who caught 8 passes for 126 yards. They nearly connected in the 4th quarter for a big play, but the pass just went off Moore’s fingertips. Moore showed his savvy route running, finding holes in the defense, and constantly finding the open spot on the field for Darnold to hit him. Fantasy managers would have loved to see a touchdown, but they still had to be encouraged with the usage. Moore showed us he is clearly the top dog in Carolina with his 12 targets and scored over 20 fantasy points even without a touchdown.
On the Houston side, rookie quarterback Davis Mills didn’t look bad in his first NFL start. His offensive line didn’t help him much as Mills was sacked 4 times and had a total of 9 quarterback hits. When he wasn’t getting hit, he did look pretty good. He felt pressure well, stepped up in the pocket nicely a few times, and established a connection with his top receiver Brandin Cooks. It was encouraging to see that even with the pressure the Panthers defense was getting, Mills protected the football and had zero turnovers. If the offensive line can protect the rookie, the Texans may have something here.
Brandin Cooks looks to be quarterback-proof. He is a PPR machine and is proving to any fantasy manager who wasn’t afraid of the Houston quarterback situation that they made the right choice in drafting him. Cooks got 11 targets and caught 9 passes for 112 yards in this game. Even in a game where the Texans only mustered 9 points, fantasy managers who played Cooks still got over 20 fantasy points from him.
Chuba Hubbard is going to be the big waiver wire pickup this week with McCaffrey’s injury. If McCaffrey misses several weeks, which I expect to happen with a hamstring injury, Hubbard looks to be the next man up. He did share touches with Royce Freeman, but Hubbard was the one who led the team in carries after CMC exited the game. Hopefully, any McCaffrey managers had Hubbard on their bench as a handcuff, but if not, they’ll be spending a nice chunk of their FAAB budget this week to get him. Hubbard had 11 carries for 52 yards and added 3 catches for another 27 yards as well. Hubbard would slide in as a low-end RB2 option while McCaffrey is on the shelf.
Robby Anderson continued his early-season disappearing act only catching 1 pass for 8 yards on 2 targets. It was the rookie Terrace Marshall Jr who was second on the Panthers in targets with 5. Marshall turned those targets into 4 catches for 48 yards and is a guy who you should probably look to grab and stash in next week’s waiver run.
On the Houston side, outside of Cooks we didn’t expect much from the receiving corps that was down Nico Collins and Danny Amendola. Chris Conley only got 1 target and it was Anthony Miller, who was active for the first time as a Texan, who caught 4 passes for 20 yards on 6 targets. Miller was the one who scored the lone Texans touchdown as I took a victory lap on Twitter for calling that dart throw earlier in the day.
Not much to talk about out of the Houston backfield. Mark Ingram had 6 carries for 21 yards, Phillip Lindsay had 7 carries for 5 yards and David Johnson had 2 carries for 11 yards. Rex Burkhead even got in the box score with 1 catch for 5 yards. This backfield is still gross and can be avoided in fantasy.
Jordan Akins went 4 for 32 on 5 targets while Pharoah Brown was not targeted at all. Akins looks to be the TE1 there if you’re desperate.
Tommy Tremble, the Panthers rookie TE, got involved with a 30-yard catch down the sideline and ran in a 7-yard touchdown run on a sweep. He’s more of a blocking TE and I wouldn’t run to pick him up on your fantasy team expecting regular gimmick touchdowns.
Dan Arnold only caught 2 passes for 23 yards on 4 targets. He is still the tight end to have in Carolina but is a guy who is a better real-life player than a fantasy player.
The Carolina defense sacked Davis Mills 4 times and held Houston to only 9 points, but they didn’t force any turnovers. They also lost rookie 1st round pick Jaycee Horn to a broken foot and that will surely have an effect on the secondary moving forward.
That will do it for the week 3 Thursday Night Football Wrap Up. Make sure you head over to Razzball.com and check out Rudy Gamble’s Pigskinator as you get ready to set the rest of your week 3 lineup. You are always invited to follow me on Twitter @FantasyCoachJB and ask me any questions you may have. Good luck in your upcoming matchups!