Thursday Night Fantasy Starters: Drew Brees, Cam Newton And Jimmy Graham

By Steve Silverman

The NFC South has become a battle of attrition.

It seems that no team wants to step forward and claim the division as their own. Through the first eight weeks of the season, not one team in the division has a winning record.

The Falcons and the Bucs are the dregs of the NFC South, having won three games between them. But when the Saints (3-4) and the Panthers (3-4-1) conclude their night of action in Charlotte, one of those teams will be at .500 (unless the Panthers play their second tie game of the season).

The Saints are coming off their best game of the year after hammering Green Bay 44-23. However, they have not won a road game this year. The Panthers are hoping to continue that trend, and they will be bringing back a familiar face in running back DeAngelo Williams in an effort to pin the fifth road defeat of the season on New Orleans.

Saints players

QB Drew Brees – The veteran quarterback is not having his best year, but he is still completing 69.5 percent of his passes. He has thrown 14 TD passes and seven interceptions. The problem for the Saints is that several of those picks have come at the crucial point in road games. Brees should be quite confident after his sensational 27-of-32, 311-yard, 3-TD performance vs. the Packers. The feeling here is that Brees will break his road jinx and have a strong game against the Panthers. PLAY HIM.

RB Mark Ingram – The Saints always expect Brees to be on his game based on his consistency, but they had to be pleasantly shocked by Ingram’s performance against Green Bay. He ran for 172 yards on 24 carries and also scored a touchdown. While Ingram looked like a boss with his power and determination, it’s hard to trust that he will repeat that performance. He had rushed for 159 yards prior to that game and he more than doubled his season total. BENCH HIM.

TE Jimmy Graham – Here’s a fantasy football theory for you to consider: When Graham has a good game, play Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots the next week. When Gronkowski has a good game, play Graham the next week. These are the two most explosive tight ends in the NFL, and each player knows what the other is doing. Gronkowski had a three-TD game in Week Eight vs. Chicago, so look for Graham to pick it up with a huge game here. PLAY HIM.

Panthers players

QB Cam Newton – The Panthers quarterback is capable of having a dynamic performance as both a runner and a passer. Newton should be licking his chops for a chance to get at the Saints’ defense, and he is also the kind of player who enjoys knowing the whole world is watching this nationally televised game. Look for Newton to throw two TD passes and run for one as well. PLAY HIM.

RB DeAngelo Williams – Williams has missed four straight games because of an ankle injury, but he has recovered and head coach Ron Rivera says he is going to start Williams in this game. Look for Williams to explode out of the gate in this game and dominate. We know it’s a gamble, but we love Williams in this spot. PLAY HIM.

WR Kelvin Benjamin – The rookie wideout has the kind of talent to become a star in the NFL, but he is too inconsistent at this point to trust. If he runs good routes, his hands will let you down. He may make one spectacular catch, and then he’ll do a poor job of carrying out his assignments. BENCH HIM.

***

Steve Silverman has been writing, talking about and playing fantasy football since the early 1990s. He co-hosted Fantasy Football Weekly, the first Fantasy Football television program, in 1994 and ’95. Follow Steve on Twitter @profootballboy.

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