Thursday Night DFS Breakdown: Buccaneers vs. Panthers
Thursday Night DFS Breakdown: Buccaneers vs. Panthers

This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.

Let's get it out of the way early that Christian McCaffrey will be the highest-owned player in the game, and the most popular captain/MVP choice despite being the most expensive player on DraftKings ($12,400 or $18,600 captain) and FanDuel ($16,500). His -220 odds to score at least one touchdown on FanDuel Sportsbook are by far the best in the game, and his rushing prop of 79.5 and receiving prop of 54.5 would be very solid returns. He's coming off a fantastic Week 1 when he rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns while also catching 10 of 11 targets for 81 receiving yards, and while the Buccaneers actually did a decent defensive job against the 49ers last week, San Francisco doesn't have anyone nearly as good as McCaffrey. His popularity should make him a reasonable GPP fade, especially since it opens up some additional salary, but even a decent game from McCaffrey could outscore most other players, even with a 1.5x multiple.

The 49.5-point total is decently high, even after the Bucs put up a dud at home last week against San Francisco and the Panthers lost at home by allowing 30 points to the Rams. The expectation for points should at least open the player pool for those looking to fade McCaffrey, with those likely relying on the team's respective passing games to get there.

Quarterbacks

It's still unclear how much Cam Newton's ($11,000 DK, $15,000 FD) injured foot is affecting him, though it's easy to point to the fact that last week's game was the first in his career with negative rushing yards. While he's certainly a capable passer, Newton's upside comes from what he can do on the ground, and if he's not running the ball that much then his upside is capped, especially if he stays in the pocket near the end zone. Jameis Winston ($10,400 DK, $14,000 FD) is probably the more upside play with the expectation the Panthers will be ahead (they are seven-point favorites, after all) and most of Tampa's offensive attack is through the air, but he's also turnover-prone and always susceptible to a poor performance (you have to go all the way back to....this past Sunday for the latest example). It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to pay up for McCaffrey and Newton, but there's probably more cash-game safety there even with Winston's expected volume.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

We may as well jump into the main pass catchers, with each team offering two top wideouts and then deeper options who could certainly help in GPPs. McCaffrey led the Panthers in targets and receptions last week, but D.J. Moore ($8,000 DK, $12,000 FD) led the team with 106 air yards on his 10 targets, catching seven for 76 yards. He did have a costly fumble, but there's little reason to think that will change his target projection this week. Fantasy players were much more interested in the cheaper Curtis Samuel ($7,000 DK, $10,000 FD) against the Rams, but he basically proved why his salary was lower, catching only three passes for 32 yards, with his 34 air yards the third-most on the team. Both players should be considered as part of a stack with Newton, though GPP players could take a flier on Jarius Wright ($4,400 DK, $5,000 FD) even though he was only targeted once last week, finishing with 13 yards. Going even deeper, Chris Hogan ($2,000 DK, $5,000 FD) played five offensive snaps and was targeted once, though his three air yards don't exactly scream for attention. Tight end Greg Olsen ($6,200 DK, $9,000 FD) is still around to suck up possible usage, catching four of nine targets for 36 yards on 59 air yards, though he's questionable to play because of a back injury (he practiced fully Wednesday). Olsen will always represent touchdown upside (his +195 odds to score would be better than all but one player from the Bucs), but his upside is limited from a yardage perspective. Meanwhile, backup Ian Thomas ($3,800 DK, $5,000 FD) was targeted once last week and didn't catch the pass that was thrown two yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The Buccaneers' pass catchers feel a bit more exciting, with Mike Evans ($9,600 DK, $13,000 FD) naturally leading the way. No. 2 wideout Chris Godwin ($8,600 DK, $12,500 FD) was a popular option last week because he was so much cheaper than Evans, and he finished with more targets (six to five), receptions (three to two), yards (53 to 28) and touchdowns (one to zero). However, 22 of his 53 yards came after the catch, and Evans' 122 air yards tied him for 15th among all players in Week 1. The salary difference on DraftKings isn't as big as it was last week against the 49ers, so we may see their respective ownership rates come closer. Additionally, third wideout Breshad Perriman ($4,600 DK, $6,000 FD) actually had more air yards than Godwin (61 to 60), and he had the same number of targets and receptions as Evans, making him a viable correlation play with Winston. Tight end O.J. Howard ($6,600 DK, $11,000 FD) seems a bit overpriced since he's so close to the wide receivers, and while he's expected to have a big role this season, there are probably going to be just as many good games as bad. Carolina did give up a tight end touchdown last week, but it's silly to rely on such a small sample size there. Cameron Brate ($4,000 DK, $7,000 FD) had two touchdowns called back last week because of holding penalties, and it wouldn't be surprising to see people gravitate toward him instead of Howard.

Running Backs

Enough has been said about McCaffrey, who played every snap last week, and there can't be much expectation for any of his backups. The better conversation is on the Tampa Bay side of the ball, with Ronald Jones ($5,400 DK, $10,500 FD) and Peyton Barber ($5,400 DK, $8,000 FD) playing fewer snaps than pass-catcher Dare Ogunbowale ($2,400 DK, $6,500 FD) last week. Jones led the team with 13 carries for 75 yards while Barber added eight for 33, but it was Ogunbowale who led the group in targets (five), catches (four), receiving yards (33) and air yards (23). The Bucs' offense is fully expected to move through the air, making it tough to justify paying nearly double (at least on DraftKings) for Jones or Barber when Ogunbowale is factoring into the passing game. That being said, Jones and Barber surely make sense in GPPs, though getting a big game from one of them seems just as likely as the other doing it.

Kickers

While the game has a decently high total, we can't ignore the kickers, who are significantly more affordable on DraftKings than they are on FanDuel. Carolina's Joey Slye ($3,400 DK, $9,500 FD) missed a 53-yarder last week but was otherwise good on his two other field-goal attempts and three PATs, while Tampa Bay's Matt Gay ($3,200 DK, $8,500 FD) only got one field-goal opportunity and two PATs, nailing all three kicks. Consideration for kickers is usually reserved for cash games because they just don't have the upside of players who can score touchdowns, which makes it really hard to justify paying $9,500 for Slye on FanDuel when Samuel is only $500 more or Barber $1,500 less.

Defense/Special Teams

Given Winston's turnover issues, the Panthers' defense ($4,200 DK) seems to be a pretty viable option in cash games, and possibly even GPPs after we saw the 49ers' defense score two touchdowns last week against Tampa Bay. The Panthers are better at holding onto the ball, and with so much of their offensive action going through McCaffrey, it's tough to see a high volume of deep passing attempts that could conceivably become interceptions. The upside favors them because of possible pick sixes or kick returns for touchdowns, but paying $3,600 for the Bucs' defense seems like a lot when both kickers are cheaper.

Looking for more help with showdowns/single-games? Check out our podcast from Scott Jenstad and Andrew Laird breaking down strategies for lineup building and captain selections.

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The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Andrew M. Laird plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: FanDuel: kingmorland, DraftKings: andrewmlaird, Yahoo: Lairdinho.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andrew M. Laird
Andrew M. Laird, the 2017 and 2018 FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's Head of DFS Content and Senior Soccer Editor. He is a seven-time FSWA award finalist, including twice for the Football Writer of the Year Award.
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