Now that the preseason is complete its time for a quick fantasy update for Panther players and their fantasy prospects. Given the Panthers lack luster offensive showing in the preseason (and I'm being kind) Panther owners have to be concerned. So let's revisit the CBS Sports season predictions (in parentheses) and also look at the week 1 match-ups. I'll do my best to keep it real so let's take it from the top:
RB DeAngelo Williams (216 car, 1,277 yds, 9 TDs; 200 yds rec, TD) - In spite of the lack of TD's by the offense Williams remains a solid play every week, except maybe the opener against the Giants. If you have a better match-up with a lesser RB you might want to consider leaving Williams on the bench for week 1. The Giants have a solid defensive front that should be motivated from the Panthers whooping they put on the Giants to close out Giants Stadium. They won't want to open their new stadium is similar fashion. Williams will get about 70 yds and be held out of the end zone as the defense keys on him in the 1st half. For the season Williams should easily pass the 1,200 yd barrier and exceed 9 TD's in my view. I think he will get more passes out of the backfield too as the Panthers try to slow down an expected fierce pass rush week to week. Let's not forget this guy is only 2 seasons removed from 20 TD's.
WR Steve Smith (1,113 yds, 7 TDs) - In spite of having Matt Moore at QB and coming off of a twice broken arm Smith is solid play every week, including week 1. Smith will be motivated to get on the field; so as long as Moore has time to get the ball in Smitty's vicinity he will catch it. I expect 85 yds and a score against the Giants. I also think 1,250 yards and 8 TD's remains very realistic for him.
RB Jonathan Stewart (1,002 yds, 9 TD's, 140 yds rec) - Stewart torched the Giants for 200 yds in week 16 last season so again, they have heavy motivation to stop. I'm thinking he gets significant carries in the 2nd half and breaks one or two for big yards and a score. Let's say he gets 80 yds plus two scores as he gets the goal line work. For the season Stewart will remain a solid start depending on the match-up as he should see 10 to 15 touches a game. I'm thinking the 9 TD's predicted for the season remains low.
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Panthers DST (31 sacks, 37 TOs, 1 DTD, 308 pts against) - This is the one performance that I'm predicting a big leap as a result of the preseason. Though many expect a drop off from this defense, in particular the number of sacks, I'm no longer seeing it. The Panthers will sport a top 10 defense yet again if not closer to number five. I'm predicting 42 sacks on top of the 37 TOs and a much lower point total, around 270. The Panthers have good match-ups in weeks 2 (Bucs), 5 (Bears), 8 (@Rams), 10 (@Bucs), 12 (@Browns), 13(@Seahawks),14 (Falcons) & 15 (Cards). That's seven good plays out of 16 games making them a good situational play and back-up defense.
QB Matt Moore (2,995 yds, 17 TDs, 12 INTs) - Though I have little to base this on considering how poor the preseason went for the offense I still think Moore will improve upon the these predictions, certainly with less INTs at least. If the defense is as good as I think and if the offensive line can get Otah back then 3,200 yds, 20 TDs and 8 INTs is more likely. If you are looking for a bye week replacement Moore has favorable match-ups weeks 5 (Bears), 8 (@Rams) and 10 (@Bucs).
Beyond these five plays the Panthers have little to offer unless someone emerges. The problem with a surprise break out is the Panther offense isn't more run-oriented and not expected to provide a lot of targets to other receivers. Yet if I'm going to play a Homer at this point there is a chance either TE Jeff King or TE Dante Rosario get a bigger role in the offense:
TE Jeff King (220 yds, 2 TDs) - King could get more targets in the Panthers offense with Matt Moore at the helm. Yet even then more than 3 catches a game is the max. He could get 350 yds and 4 TDs on the season but it will still be hard to predict if and when he has a big day.
TE Dante Rosario ( 300 yds, 2 TDs) - Rosario is the best receiver in the Panthers TE stable by far. Panther fans have been waiting for him to get a bigger role, which was dependant on improved blocking to support the run game. If I have to pick a receiver to have a break out year for the Panthers it would Rosario, to the tune of 400 yds and 6 TD's.
WR Dwayne Jarrett (370 yds, 2 TDs) - I have no reason to think Jarrett will exceed these numbers. He yet he again showed flashes in camp of his great hands but when the preseason games rolled around all he could catch was short passes in 5 to 8 yd range. Jarrett will need a couple good games with 80+ yards before I even think of calling him fantasy viable.
WR Brandon LaFell (406 yds,3 TDs) - Though many Panther fans expect LaFell to start and be the #2 WR across from Steve Smith he will still need more than that to fantasy viable. He has shown a propensity for dropping easy passes and making difficult ones. I'm thinking it takes a season before LaFell becomes a real threat.
Other Back-ups: WR Armanti Edwards, RB Mike Goodson, TE Gary Barnidge and QB Jimmy Clausen. Goodson, Barnidge and Clausen would need injuries in front of them before seeing the field but in that scenario they could be a key pick-up.