The big storyline heading into the Week 8 Thursday Night Football game is whether the Panthers will activate running back Christian McCaffrey, who hasn’t played since hurting his ankle in Week 2, from injured reserve. If McCaffrey can play, it’s assume he would get his normal workload of touches with Mike Davis returning to a limited backup role. Either way, fantasy football owners won’t have much of a start ’em, sit ’em decision, but there are plenty of other players on both the Panthers and Falcons who might be causing some to seek lineup advice.
Let’s break down who’s worth starting in tonight’s NFC South showdown.
Falcons: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Start: QB Matt Ryan
Ryan threw for 226 scoreless yards in the first meeting with an interception. When Julio Jones was hurting in Week 4 at Green Bay and missed Week 6 vs. Carolina, he was a different, bad QB. He’s been boom or bust with two four-TD games and four games with zero-to-1 TDs. The Panthers’ pass defense has a good young rush and secondary, but the Jones-Calvin Ridley combination is too much and can help Ryan have a solid QB1 night.
Start: RB Todd Gurley
The Panthers give up the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. Gurley rumbled for 140 yards from scrimmage and a score in the first meeting. He leads the league with seven combined TDs in seven games and is averaging 80 yards from scrimmage per game.
Start: WR Julio Jones
Since his return from injury, Jones has caught 16-of-19 targets the past two weeks for 234 yards and two TDs. He’s locked in and dominating again. He has a history of destroying the Panthers, too.
Start: WR Calvin Ridley
Without Jones, Ridley caught eight-of-10 targets for 136 yards in the first meeting. If you throw out that weird catch-less game against the Packers, Ridley’s average in six games is 103 yards and a TD. He finds a way to get his digits every wee, and is only helped by Jones.
Sit: TE Hayden Hurst
The Panthers have allowed three TDs to tight ends, but they are built to contain the position well. Hurst had had just catches for eight yards in the first game, so no.
Sit: WR Russell Gage
Gage has done a lot more again in the past two weeks with Jones back, catching 10-of-11 targets for 119 yards. You still should be able to better for your WR3 or flex.
Start: K Younghoe Koo
Koo was a major disappointment last week and didn’t get his sure shot at a late field-goal that would have won the game for the Falcons, thanks to Gurley scoring. But he is capable of monster games and banged home three field goals in the first meeting. Check the weather, with some wind and rain in the forecast, but his leg and accuracy make him a good weekly option.
Sit: Falcons defense/special teams
In a word, no.
Panthers: Who to start or sit in fantasy football on Thursday night
Start: RB Christian McCaffrey or Mike Davis
If McCaffrey (ankle) is back in there, you need to run with him because the Panthers wouldn’t play him on a short week if he was ready to contribute like he normally does. There’s a chance McCaffrey’s workload would be scaled back, but not to the point Davis can be used as even a flex. That said, if CMC doesn’t play, Davis remains locked in as a high-end RB2/borderline RB1. He abused the Falcons for 149 yards from scrimmage, nine catches, and a TD in the first meeting.
Start: QB Teddy Bridgewater
Like a bridge over trouble water, he will ease your mind if you’ve got injury issues or Kyler Murray or Deshaun Watson on a bye this week. He dropped 313 yards and two TDs on the Falcons in the first meeting.
Start: WR Robby Anderson
Anderson has had one disappointing game, a five-catch, 55-yard effort against the Chargers. He’s cooled a little again the past two weeks against the Bears and the Saints, but he roasted the Falcons for eight catches and 112 yards on 12 targets the first time.
Start: WR D.J. Moore
He was a little underwhelming in the first month with only one big game, but he’s made for it in October with exactly 93 receiving yards in each of the past three games, also scoring thrice in that span off 13 catches on 21 targets.
Sit: WR Curtis Samuel
Samuel found the end zone for the first time in 2020 on a five-yard rush against the Saints. He’s been a limited-use option in the passing game behind Anderson, Moore and either Davis or McCaffrey.
Sit: TE Ian Thomas
He’s talented, but he’s still an afterthought in the offense.
Start: K Joey Slye
He just missed a potential record-breaking 65-yard attempt against the Saints. He has a big leg and is accurate on a good offense, much like Koo. Assuming the weather is reasonable, he’s a strong play.
Sit: Panthers defense/special teams
In another word, no.
Falcons-Panthers DraftKings Showdown lineup for Thursday night
Captain: RB Todd Gurley $12,600
FLEX: WR Calvin Ridley $10,200
FLEX: WR Julio Jones $9,800
FLEX: WR D.J. Moore $8,200
FLEX: WR Curtis Samuel $5,400
FLEX: K Younghoe Koo $3,800
Full disclosure: This writer likes the Falcons to win in a upset because of Jones’ return having a big impact. It only makes sense to load up on Falcons here in a contrarian approach. Regardless of CMC playing or not, it’s hard to pay for him. So, here’s going with the Falcons’ big three, the Panthers’ big playmaker and for DFS purposes, a wild-card third receiver vs. Gage. Koo was whom could afford with the money we had left.