The Carolina Panthers rolled to a 23-3 lead through three quarters before tightening up and holding on to a 23-20 victory over NFC South rival New Orleans on Thursday night. The divisional foes both move to 4-6 on the season and each suffered unfortunate losses during an injury-plagued contest.
Carolina managed to squeeze out a win on Thursday night, but was far from successful offensively, accounting for just 223 total yards. Cam Newton chipped in with just 192 passing yards on a rough 14/33 passing, while running back Jonathan Stewart was unable to get moving, rumbling for 31 yards on 18 carries. Stewart did punch in a goal line score in the second quarter, but was largely ineffective as he was held under 50 rushing yards for the third-straight week while dropping to 2.4 yards per carry since Week 8.
Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin left the game briefly with a shoulder issue, but returned and finished with a team-high 56 yards on three catches. Benjamin has failed to score a touchdown since Week 4 and has topped 100 receiving yards only once in 2016. Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen led Carolina in targets with seven, but neither player was able to create much fantasy production on a slow night for the Panthers offense. The losses of C Ryan Kalil (shoulder), LB Luke Kuechly (concussion), and DE Mario Addison (foot) took a toll on Carolina, as the Panthers were outscored 17-0 in the game’s final period before hanging on for the win.
New Orleans suffered injury challenges of its own, as running back Mark Ingram left the game in the third quarter with concussion issues. Ingram tallied 75 total yards on 10 touches, including 47 receiving yards before the injury. Tim Hightower was productive throughout the game, producing 69 rushing yards and boosting PPR stat lines with 57 receiving yards on eight catches. Stay tuned for more information on Ingram’s concussion, but fantasy owners can fully expect the Saints to continue to use both Ingram and Hightower on a weekly basis.
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Saints at Panthers Quick Slants
Coby Fleener caught a late score and finished with 17 yards on three catches. Despite a promising offseason outlook, Fleener has averaged just 33.4 receiving yards per game in his last five outings and is nothing more than a touchdown dependent weekly gamble. … Ted Ginn made a fantastic touchdown catch to go with 46 yards on three catches and was the most productive of Carolina’s receivers. Ginn is still too volatile to trust on a weekly basis in most fantasy leagues. … Saints wide receivers Brandin Cooks (7 rec, 42 yards) and Michael Thomas (5 rec, 68 yards) both turned in mediocre fantasy performances after torching Carolina for a combined 251 receiving yards in Week 6. … The Panthers D/ST sacked Drew Brees three times on the night and is averaging 4.5 sacks per game since a Week 7 bye.
In Other News
Rob Gronkowski (lung) missed practice on Thursday and CBS’ Jason La Canfora reports that the beastly tight end is expected to miss Week 11 when the Patriots travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers. Gronk suffered the injury on a violent hit from Seattle safety Earl Thomas on Sunday, and will attempt to return to game action in Week 12 against the New York Jets. In order to fill the enormous void left by Gronkowski, the Patriots will look to Martellus Bennett, who immediately deserves consideration in the TE1 conversation for Week 11. Bennett snagged seven passes for 102 yards against Seattle in Week 10 and should pump out serious fantasy production while the Patriots dismantle the 49ers.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen offered his thoughts on the Seattle backfield on Thursday, as the Seahawks look to move on with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise in their backfield after cutting Christine Michael. Mortensen expects Rawls (fibula) to be “eased back into action,” while Prosise handles the starting role “for the immediate future.” Rawls will be a risky play in Week 11 as he sees game action for the first time since Week 2, making Prosise an excellent fantasy option as he continues to show off dynamic running and receiving ability. Both Seattle running backs should be viable fantasy options down the stretch as the Seattle offense continues to emerge from a clunky start to the 2016 season.
Two injured veteran running backs are aiming for late-season returns as Adrian Peterson (knee) has resumed “light running,” while Jamaal Charles (knee) is hopeful to see the field again in 2016 after a knee operation on Monday. The odds of either of these running backs returning this season in a significant role remain remote, and fantasy owners would be wise to use valuable roster spots on more productive assets as the fantasy playoffs approach.
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Jimmy Graham (knee) missed practice on Wednesday but was back on Thursday, making the big tight end a top-tier fantasy option in Week 11. … Jordan Howard (Achilles’) is practicing this week after suffering an Achilles’ injury on Sunday. Despite cryptic comments from coach John Fox earlier in the week, Howard should be safe to start in Week 11. … Larry Fitzgerald (knee) missed practice on Wednesday but was back in the mix on Thursday and should be ready to roll at Minnesota. … Theo Riddick (ankle) was limited at practice on Thursday but should be able to play in Week 11 against Jacksonville. Riddick has averaged 97.0 total yards per game over his last three contests. … Jeremy Maclin (groin) hasn’t caught a pass since Week 8 and won’t get a chance to end the drought in Week 11 after missing practice again on Thursday. … DeSean Jackson (shoulder) has practiced this week but remains a likely game-time decision candidate as Sunday approaches. Jackson hasn’t seen the field since Week 8. … Ladarius Green (knee) practiced in full on Thursday and should see his usage increase on Sunday in his second game of the season. … Akeem Hunt ran for 52 yards on eight carries in Week 10 and will reportedly be “part of the game plan” in Week 11, according to coach Bill O’Brien. Hunt should be scooped up in deeper redraft and dynasty leagues.