Last updated: September 18th at 10:08pm ET.
Team Totals: Panthers 24.5, Cardinals 22
1-9 in their last ten and winless in 2019 despite opening with consecutive home games, the Panthers visit the desert in desperation mode on a long week following last Thursday night’s gross loss in Tampa Bay. As Cam Newton (foot) appears to be in danger of missing multiple weeks, second-year UDFA Kyle Allen is next man up against an Arizona defense that was creamed for Weeks 1-2 fantasy results of QB4 (Matthew Stafford) and QB2 (Lamar Jackson), badly missing starting CBs Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (broken leg). A former five-star high school recruit, Allen shined in a spot start last Week 17, going 16-of-27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns with an additional 5/19/1 rushing line against the Saints. He’s a two-QB-league starter in this plus draw. … Even as Christian McCaffrey was up in Week 1 (209 yards) and down in Week 2 (53 yards), he remains an elite RB1 play at Arizona, which has allowed the NFL’s fourth-most rushing yards (298). Playing 100% of Carolina’s snaps, McCaffrey maintains 30-plus-touch upside as the locked-in centerpiece of the Panthers’ post-Cam offense.
Allen’s 2018 target distribution: D.J. Moore and Ian Thomas 6; Curtis Samuel and Jarius Wright 5; McCaffrey 3. … Moore parlayed his team-high six targets from Allen into 72 yards and maintains WR2 value even without Newton, who was playing poorly before reinjuring his foot. As Cam completed just 56.2% of his Weeks 1-2 attempts with a miserable 34% un-catch-able pass rate, it’s not unreasonable to think Allen could be an upgrade for Carolina’s pass catchers based solely on his superior ball location. Although Moore has yet to rip any truly big plays, he ranks third in the NFL in targets (24) and fifth in catches (16) playing the voluminous Michael Irvin role under ex-Cowboys OC Norv Turner. Without both starting cornerbacks, Arizona has let up productive stat lines to Danny Amendola (7/104/1), Marquise Brown (8/86/0), Marvin Jones (4/56/0), and Kenny Golladay (4/42/1). Just a 69% player as a rookie, Moore is up to 94% in year two. … Greg Olsen was sidelined with a foot injury during Allen’s Week 17 spot start, giving way to heavily-targeted Thomas. 34-year-old Olsen never feels like a sexy play, but his usage is TE1 caliber. He ranks No. 3 among tight ends in Air Yards (176), No. 4 in targets, and plays 88% of Carolina’s snaps. The Cardinals have been rocked by rookie T.J. Hockenson (6/131/1) and Ravens TE Mark Andrews (8/112/1). … Even as Samuel’s consistency has lacked, his 259 Air Yards and 15.2-yard aDOT easily lead the team. In the Alvin Harper role under Turner, Samuel will lack consistency but mix in spiked weeks. Based on matchup and to-date usage, this game sets up for a Week 3 Samuel explosion. Samuel parlayed his five Allen targets into three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown last season and just so happens to be atop Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards Buy Low Model. Giddy. Up.
The Cardinals return to the desert with fantasy results of QB13 (vs. Lions) and QB18 (@ Ravens) under Kyler Murray’s belt to face a dangerous Panthers defense that held Jared Goff and Jameis Winston to QB28 and QB21 fantasy finishes in Weeks 1-2. There are reasons to believe this could be Murray’s breakout game, however. Murray is the first quarterback since Cam Newton to begin his career with consecutive 300-yard passing games and is due for positive-touchdown regression after managing a 2.1% TD Rate in Weeks 1-2. Murray has shredded zone coverage (Sports Info Solutions) to the tune of 12.3 yards per attempt versus just 4.5 YPA versus man; Ron Rivera’s defense plays 82% zone. This game also pits against each other offenses that presently rank No. 1 (Arizona) and No. 2 (Carolina) in pace, which projects to enhanced opportunity. … Despite impressive up-front personnel in Dontari Poe, Gerald McCoy, and Kawaan Short, the Panthers’ run defense was touched up for 53/239/3 (4.51 YPC) rushing by Rams and Bucs backs in the first two weeks. Although David Johnson was a Week 2 fantasy bust due to an in-game wrist injury, he wound up returning, practiced fully this week, and is an RB1 play worthy of team-stack inclusion in a Cardinals offense that has eruption potential versus the Panthers. From a sports-betting standpoint, I love the over on this game and Arizona as a side.
Kyler’s Weeks 1-2 target distribution: Larry Fitzgerald 24; Christian Kirk 20; Damiere Byrd 14; KeeSean Johnson 12; David Johnson 8; Chase Edmonds, Charles Clay, and Michael Crabtree 3; Maxx Williams 2. … Fitzgerald is a legitimate top-ten WR1 play with the NFL’s third-most targets and sixth-most Air Yards (273) facing a Panthers defense that submitted 7/46/0 to fellow slot WR Cooper Kupp in Week 1 and 8/121/1 to Bucs slot WR Chris Godwin in Week 2. Fitzgerald opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard games and showed his ageless explosiveness on gains of 40 and 54 in last week’s loss at Baltimore. … Kirk is not far behind Fitzgerald in either usage category and gets an even better Week 3 draw as Arizona’s team leader in target share versus zone coverage (27%). … This is a “revenge game” for ex-Panthers preseason star Byrd, who continues to operate as the Cardinals’ top perimeter receiver at a 90% playing-time rate. KeeSean took the biggest Week 2 hit from Crabtree’s activation, his snaps diving to 32%. The Panthers have more stingily covered outside wideouts than inside ones, notably checking Mike Evans (4/61/0), Brandin Cooks (2/39/0), and Breshad Perriman (0/0 on 4 targets) in Weeks 1-2.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 28, Panthers 24