Wed Sep 11 2:13pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, left, and outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (54) tackle Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (18) during the first half an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22) tackles Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton (72) lifts running back Christian McCaffrey (22) following McCaffrey's touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) drives against San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (57) hits Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) during the first half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) tries to keep a loose ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) breaks out of the pocket against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) runs while Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton (58) tackles during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy won't allow himself to get overhyped when he lines up Thursday night against his former team, the Buccaneers - even though he has plenty of motivation.
After nine full seasons in the NFL, McCoy said he knows better.
''I've been on teams where guys are playing their former team and the night before the game they're losing their minds; day of the game they're losing their minds,'' McCoy said. ''It's like, `Bro, relax. Just go play the game.'''
He said a lot of those players didn't play well because of their emotions clouded their ability to focus on making plays.
Still, McCoy admits he's eager to play the Buccaneers, a team that cut him in May after a nine-year stint where he was selected to six Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro and became the face of the franchise.
McCoy's departure from Tampa Bay did not come without some bad feelings.
There are still people at Buccaneers headquarters McCoy doesn't like, adding that they ''know who they are.''
It all started when new Bucs coach Bruce Arians said during the offseason McCoy was ''not as disruptive as he was four years ago.'' Arians ultimately released McCoy and, a few days later, signed free agent Ndamukong Suh to replace him - and promptly gave him McCoy's No. 93.
''At first, it bothered me, I can admit that,'' said McCoy, who now wears No. 93 in Carolina.
McCoy let it be known publically he was disappointed over that decision, which drew the ire of former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Sapp has been someone McCoy initially considered a mentor, and later ''family.''
''You get measured by playoff wins,'' Sapp told the Tampa Bay Times in August. How many playoffs did you win? He never was in a playoff game. We were in nine. We won championships. ... You deserve something like this? Bad call, young fella.''
When asked this week if Sapp's comments hurt, McCoy simply shrugged his shoulders.
The 31-year-old McCoy still plans to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Buccaneers when he calls it quits. He said that has been prearranged with Bucs ownership.
As for how he views his legacy in Tampa Bay, McCoy said ''I don't know ... ask Warren Sapp.''
Yep, let the game begin.
Tampa Bay is bracing for a big dose of Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also had 10 receptions for 81 yards in the Panthers' opener.
Arians called McCaffrey the best dual back threat in the NFL.
''I used to think it was David Johnson, but Christian's passed him up,'' Arians said. ''As a receiver, he's a hell of a matchup problem, and as a runner, he's a great runner.''
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles agreed, saying ''I don't think you can stop him with one guy. ... They are very talented across the board. We've just got to play disciplined football.''
Bucs QB Jameis Winston became Tampa Bay's career passing leader last week. He also tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 loss to San Francisco. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich expects the fifth-year pro, who threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 victory over the Panthers late last season, to respond with a sharper performance Thursday night.
''That's what this league's all about. You can't have any hangovers, no carry-overs, so he's just got to stay locked in,'' Leftwich said. ''The good thing is we had to (begin preparation) the next day and get to rolling with this game being so quick.''
COMING ON STRONG
Arians believes one of the best things the Bucs can do to help Winston cut down on turnovers and realize his potential as the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft is run the ball more effectively.
With second-year pro Ronald Jones II leading the way, Tampa Bay rushed for 121 yards in last week's loss. Jones, coming off a disappointing rookie season, ran for 75 yards against the 49ers, finally showing signs of why he was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.
He was impressive, but apparently not good enough to crack the starting lineup. Peyton Barber, an undrafted free agent who led the team in rushing the past two years, will line up first against the Panthers.
''If Peyton gets a little tired, he will get (Jones) in there,'' Arians said. ''And if he has the hot hand, he stays in there until he gets tired.''
Panthers coordinator Norv Turner said he wanted to cut down on McCaffrey's reps, but not his touches this season. Well, McCaffrey not only got 29 touches in a Week 1 loss to the Rams but also played all 67 offensive plays. Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers will need to think about limiting his reps moving forward, but quickly added ''When he's playing the way he is, you want to keep the rhythm going.''
THE 3-4 DEFENSE
Both the Panthers and Buccaneers have moved to a 3-4 defense this season, which should make for an interesting matchup. Neither unit looked particularly invincible in the season opener with the Bucs giving up 31 points and the Panthers 30.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said that he wants to keep running back Aaron Jones fresh throughout the season and wants to "even up" touches between Jones and Jamaal Williams. LaFleur thinks the balance will change week to week. It's something to keep an eye on, but it shouldn't deter you from starting Jones this week at home against the Broncos, where he'll be a low-end RB1/high-end RB2. Jones had a career-high 23 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown in Week 2, while Williams ran the ball nine times. Jones had six targets in the passing game (four catches) while Williams had four (three catches). Williams is a necessary handcuff for Jones owners.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (knee) won't practice on Wednesday, while the plan is for running back LeSean McCoy (ankle) to get in some limited work. Both running backs should be considered questionable to play in Week 3 against the Ravens right now. If one or both sit out this Sunday, rookie Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams would be thrust into larger roles. As of now, both Williams and McCoy should be seen as risky RB3/flex plays in KC's home opener.
Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher (abdomen) will undergo core muscle surgery and will not play in Week 3 against the Ravens. Cam Erving will start in Fisher's place on Sunday. It's a notable downgrade against a good defense in Baltimore, but quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains an elite QB1 for fantasy owners. It remains to be seen how long Fisher will be out, but he should be expected to miss multiple weeks at the very least.
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense is not a particularly exciting option in a Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Eagles defense came into the season with a lot of hype but have been mostly disappointing through the first two weeks. With two of the Eagles' top offensive playmakers likely to miss the game, the defense may end up tasked with a bit more work than usual. They're likely to end up as a middling option, so they're certainly not a unit to avoid, but they aren't one to get excited about this week either.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the team planned to use running back Jeffery Wilson in the red zone in Week 2. "I wouldn't say he's our designated red-zone back, but that was how we planned going into the game... We tried to do that when we got down there," Shanahan said. Of San Francisco's six rushing attempts inside the red zone in Week 2, Wilson had five of them and scored twice. All three of Wilson, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert had double-digit carries, but the team was also up big on Cincinnati for most of the game. It looks like the Niners will employ this three-man committee with Tevin Coleman out, making it difficult to trust any one player in fantasy. Wilson will be a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex against the Steelers.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is set for what could potentially be an enormous Week 3 performance. Ertz saw 16 targets from quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 2 and could be in line for a similar number or perhaps even more against Detroit in Week 3. With top receiving options DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf) trending toward sitting out on Sunday, Ertz will be the clear top target in the passing game. He's a threat to score every week, and is almost always a top-three tight end option. This week, he has the highest floor of any tight end and one of the highest ceilings.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is looking like a strong option in a Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions. Elliott is always a solid and consistent option, but with the Eagles expected to be missing two of their top playmakers on Sunday, Elliott may see a few more field goal attempts as the passing game stalls out. He's a top-eight kicking option nearly every week, but looking like a top-five option in Week 3.
New York Giants wide receiver Cody Latimer (concussion) is not practicing on Wednesday. Latimer suffered a concussion in Week 2 and is looking very questionable to play in Week 3 against the Buccaneers. With Sterling Shepard also still in the concussion protocol, rookie quarterback Daniel Jones might be looking at a receiving corps of Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard and T.J. Jones in his NFL debut this Sunday. Unless Sterling Shepard plays this weekend, expect the Giants to hand the ball off frequently to running back Saquon Barkley. Latimer wouldn't be a recommended play, even in deeper leagues, if he gets cleared.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor will likely be thrust into an every-down role in Week 3. With top wide receivers DeSean Jackson (groin) and Alshon Jeffery (calf) unlikely to suit up, Agholor will be wide receiver atop the depth chart. He spent the second half in Week 2 in the role, and despite some decent stats (107 yards and a touchdown), he also showed why he's so far behind Jackson and Jeffery when everyone is healthy. Agholor made some totally inexcusable drops when wide open in the second half. Still, he'll likely be peppered with targets from Carson Wentz and even if he drops half of them, he could still end up with seven or eight catches. Agholor is a solid WR3 option with touchdown upside this week.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins will likely see an increased offensive role in a Week 3 contest against the Detroit Lions. With top wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson both expected to miss at least one game, Hollins will be needed on offense. He's been mostly working on special teams, but he saw plenty of work on offense in the second half last week after Jeffery and Jackson were forced to leave the game. Hollins has flashed his talent in small bursts before, but it will be his first chance to show it throughout a whole game. He has some upside in a strong Eagles offense, but can't be trusted as more than a WR4/5 in most formats.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase said that wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) will not practice on Wednesday. Thomas had just one catch in his debut with the team on Monday night before suffering an injury. He doesn't have a good chance to play in Week 3 against the Patriots, especially since DT hasn't even had a single practice yet with his new team. He's currently off the fantasy radar. Josh Bellamy and Braxton Berrios will fight for the No. 3 duties behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder if Thomas misses this weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is suddenly looking at a starting role in Week 3. A preseason hero, Arcega-Whiteside was far behind on the wide receiver depth chart until both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson got hurt in Week 2. Both were forced to leave the game and Arcega-Whiteside was on the field for almost every offensive snap in the second half. He still only ended up with one catch for four yards, but now with a week of practice under his belt, he should be ready for his expanded role. With only drop-machine Nelson Agholor and special teamer Mack Hollins left in the wide receiver hierarchy, Arcega-Whiteside could be a significant threat in the passing game this week. He's a very risky start, but has some legitimate WR2/3 upside if things go well. At the very least, he should be rostered in most formats by now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans has been very quiet the first two games of the season. In two starts, he's caught only six passes for 89 yards. This is a bit of an anomaly compared to his first five seasons, including last year's first two games, where he compiled 17 receptions for 230 yards. His slow start is not all on him, though. Jameis Winston has struggled and he had a difficult matchup against Carolina Panthers defensive back James Bradberry in his last game and was also battling illness before his first. This all points to a much more positive outing Sunday in Tampa against the struggling New York Giants, who have been gashed every which way so far and should give Evans a serious bounce-back opportunity. He's a locked-in WR1 again regardless of his last two outings. Wipe your memory of the past two weeks and start him with confidence in all formats.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (calf) remains out of practice on Wednesday. Wilson aggravated his calf injury in the season opener and sat out of the Week 2 blowout to the Patriots. He's not off on the right foot for Week 3 against the Cowboys. Wilson had some sleeper appeal in PPR leagues coming into the season, but his injury and a putrid Dolphins offense has made him unattractive in most leagues. Even if Wilson returns to the lineup this Sunday, he shouldn't be a starting consideration in most leagues.
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said that he'd love to give running back Nick Chubb more touches, which would include using him more on third downs in passing situations. Through two games, the second-year back has 35 rushing attempts and has caught seven of his eight targets in the passing game. It's pretty good volume already, but if he gets even more it'll just make him an even stronger RB1 for fantasy owners. Chubb and the Browns face the Rams in Week 3 on Sunday night, where he'll be a strong RB1 yet again.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) will not practice on Wednesday. Singletary's injury isn't believed to be serious, but his status for Week 3 against the Bengals is in question. If you own Singletary or are hurting at running back, you need to pick Frank Gore up off the waiver wire if he's available. The veteran hasn't looked that great so far in two games, but he'd be the lead back for Buffalo if Singletary was inactive and would have RB3/flex appeal. T.J. Yeldon would also see his role increase as the backup to Gore.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles is not a recommended fantasy option in any format in Week 3. After a somewhat surprisingly productive Week 1, Sproles took an expected step back in Week 2 and recorded just two catches for five yards. He did not record a single carry in Week 2. Sproles is a punt returner and a very occasional pass catcher out of the backfield. He may have some decent fantasy weeks here or there when he happens to find the end zone, but he'll be way too unpredictable to ever be a smart fantasy starter.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) will practice in full for the first time on Wednesday since breaking his foot in May. Kroft hasn't played yet in 2019, but it looks like he'll make his season debut in Week 3 against his former team in the Bengals. Until we see what kind of role Kroft will have in this offense, it's best to leave him out of starting lineups in fantasy. Rookies Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney will take a back seat if Kroft returns.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement is not a fantasy option in any format for Week 3. Clement has settled into a special teams role and has seen almost no offensive snaps so far this season. An injury to another running back could potentially thrust Clement into a more significant offensive role, but for now he's almost exclusively a special teams player and one that does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins (knee) returned to limited practice on Wednesday. Higgins' knee injury prevented him from playing in his team's Week 2 win over the New York Jets. The receiver's ability to return on Wednesday, even on a limited basis, bodes well for his availability for Cleveland's Week 3 showdown against the Los Angeles Rams. Look for Higgins to slot back into his role as the team's No. 3 wide receiver.