TNF Fantasy Preview: Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans

TNF Fantasy Preview: Carolina Panthers vs. Houston Texans

by September 23, 2021 1 comment

Tonight, Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season kicks off with a matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans. While everyone loves Thursday Night Football, fantasy owners struggle with which players they should put in their starting lineups. To help them decide which players they should start and which they should sit, let’s dive into this week’s Thursday Night Fantasy Preview.

All stats are base on four-point per passing touchdown and PPR scoring.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback – Sam Darnold

During his first two games as a member of the Panthers, Darnold has played some of the best football of his career. Darnold has thrown for an average of 292 yards, 1.5 touchdowns, and 19 fantasy points per game. Over the first two weeks, Darnold is the QB14, finishing ahead of quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Dak Prescott. Meanwhile, the Texans have given up an average of 272.5 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and 18.3 fantasy points per game over the first two weeks of the season. Darnold has plenty of weapons around him, including an elite running back and wide receiver. He should finish tonight’s game with at least 19 fantasy points, making him a high-end QB2.

Running Back – Christian McCaffrey

What needs to be said about CMC? He is the best running back in the NFL and fantasy football. This season, McCaffrey has scored at least 24.5 fantasy points in both games despite scoring only one touchdown. Furthermore, McCaffrey is averaging 22.5 rushing attempts and seven catches per game this season. Since the start of the 2019 season, McCaffrey has finished with 135 or more scrimmage yards in 71.4 percent of his games. Meanwhile, the Texans have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, giving up 29.2 per game, including two rushing touchdowns and 42.2 fantasy points last week. McCaffrey has finished as a top-three running back both weeks this season. He should have another top-three finish this week.

Wide Receiver – D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson

Despite a down 2020 season, Moore has been near unstoppable this year. Moore is the WR15 so far this season, averaging 18.7 fantasy points per game, scoring at least 15.4 fantasy points in each contest. He has 14 catches on 19 targets for 159 receiving yards and a touchdown. More importantly, Moore has taken over as the Panthers’ No. 1 wide receiver. Meanwhile, opposite of him is Anderson. After averaging 14 fantasy points per game last season, Anderson has a total of 19.5 fantasy points this season. More importantly, Anderson averaged 8.5 targets per game last season. Yet, this season, Anderson is averaging only 4.5 targets per game, in part because of Terrace Marshall Jr.

The rookie receiver has played 52.1 percent of the snaps this season. Marshall has as many targets as Anderson (nine) this season despite playing 25 percent fewer snaps. Moreover, Moore has more targets than Anderson and Marshall combined this season. Meanwhile, the Texans have given up 20 catches for 269 receiving yards and two touchdowns to wide receivers this season. Despite not facing Odell Beckham Jr. last week and Jarvis Landry playing only two snaps, the Texans have given up almost 29 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Moore is a plug-and-play WR2, while Anderson is a risky WR4 with some upside.

Tight End – Dan Arnold

So far this season, Arnold has failed to reach the end zone or score double-digit fantasy points in either game. However, Arnold has caught five of his seven targets for 61 yards this season. Tonight, he has an appealing matchup against the Texans. Over the first two games of the season, the Texans have struggled against tight ends. In Week 1, Jacksonville Jaguars’ James O’Shaughnessy and Chris Manhertz combined for 20 fantasy points against the Texans. Then on Sunday, the Texans gave up 21.7 fantasy points to the Cleveland Browns’ tight ends, including 11 catches for over 100 receiving yards. Arnold is a reliable streaming option and should finish the week as a high-end TE2 if he reaches the end zone.

Defense/Special Teams

Over the first two weeks of the season, the Panthers D/ST has been on fire. In Week 1, they scored 11 fantasy points against the New York Jets, finishing with six sacks and an interception. Then, the Panthers D/ST scored 14 fantasy points last week against the New Orleans Saints, finishing with four sacks and two interceptions. Meanwhile, the Browns D/ST scored five fantasy points against the Texans last week, finishing the game with two turnovers. With Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve, the rookie Davis Mills will get his first career start tonight. On a short week, the Panthers D/ST is an excellent option this week against Mills and the Texans.

Houston Texans

Quarterback – Davis Mills

With Taylor on injured reserve, Mills will make his first career start tonight. In mop-up duty last week, Mills threw for 102 yards, a touchdown, and scored six fantasy points. However, Mills completed only 44.4 percent of his passes and threw an interception. Meanwhile, the Panthers have held quarterbacks to the eighth-fewest fantasy points this season, giving up only 14.1 per game. Furthermore, the Panthers held Jameis Winston to only 111 passing yards and 9.9 fantasy points last week. Mills has a limited supporting cast and is taking on one of the better defenses this season. Fantasy owners should avoid starting Mills at all costs.

Running Back – Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay

Welcome to running back Hell, as the Texans have used all three running backs this season. While Ingram leads the way in snaps played, Johnson and Lindsay have both earned touches. All three running backs are averaging between 9.8 and nine fantasy points per game. Ingram leads the way as the RB34, averaging 9.8 fantasy points per game, while Lindsay brings up the rear as the RB39, averaging nine fantasy points per game. All three running backs have scored at least once this season, with Lindsay scoring twice. However, this backfield is a messy one for fantasy players.

Ingram has earned the early downs role. He has 40 rushing attempts compared to 22 for Johnson and Lindsay combined. Meanwhile, Johnson is the pass-catching back. He has caught five of six targets, while Ingram and Lindsay have combined to snag two of their five targets. Meanwhile, the Panthers have held running backs to only 16.7 fantasy points this season, the fewest in the NFL. In deeper non PPR leagues, Ingram is a flex option as he is most likely to fall into the end zone. In deeper PPR leagues, Johnson is a flex option. Mills could target Johnson often tonight if the Texans are in negative game script and are chasing points. However, in standard size 12 team leagues, fantasy players should avoid all three running backs if possible.

Wide Receiver – Brandin Cooks, Anthony Miller

During the offseason, the Texans let Will Fuller sign with the Miami Dolphins. To replace him, they added several wide receivers, including Nico Collins and Danny Amendola. However, both will miss tonight’s game with injuries. This season, Cooks has caught 14 of his 21 targets for 210 receiving yards. Furthermore, Cooks has finished with 78 or more receiving yards in both games. He also had his lone touchdown of the season last week from Mills. Despite the Deshaun Watson fiasco, Cooks has been one of the best fantasy wide receivers this season. He is the WR11 over the first two weeks of the season, averaging 20.5 fantasy points per game. Until we see him struggle with Mills, Cooks is a plug-and-play WR2 or better.

While the Texans will be without Collins and Amendola tonight, they are getting back Miller. He is coming off a preseason shoulder injury, but head coach David Culley said Miller will be active tonight. Fantasy players don’t need to run to add Miller off the waiver wire, but he is a name to keep an eye on. With Cooks as the only proven threat in the passing game, Miller could quickly earn Mills’ trust as the slot receiver. Meanwhile, the Panthers have held wide receivers to 27.5 fantasy points per game this season, the fifth-fewest in the NFL. Miller is a dart throw option in DFS tonight but shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup in season-long leagues.

Tight End – Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown

In Week 1, Brown caught four of his five targets for 67 receiving yards and scored 10.7 fantasy points, while Akins scored zero fantasy points on two targets. Then, Akins scored 2.7 fantasy points on two targets last week while Brown had one target and finished with zero fantasy points. Meanwhile, the Panthers have held tight ends to only 7.1 fantasy points per game this season, giving up a total of 71 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. In short, no Texan tight end belongs on your fantasy team, especially this week against the Panthers.

Defense/Special Teams

The Texans have the D/ST14 this season, but they are averaging only five fantasy points per game. They scored six fantasy points in Week 1 against Jacksonville and only four against Cleveland in Week 2. This season, the Texans have forced five turnovers, three coming from Trevor Lawrence in the opening week. However, they have given up an average of 26 points per game so far this season. Meanwhile, D/STs have averaged only 3.5 fantasy points per game this season against the Panthers. The Texans D/ST is mid D/ST2 and a streaming option for fantasy players in bigger leagues, as their best hope is Darnold gets sloppy with the ball and have a couple of turnovers tonight.


Darnold: High-End QB2

McCaffrey: Overall RB1

Moore: Mid WR2

Anderson: Risky WR4

Arnold: High-End TE2

Panthers D/ST: Top-Three D/ST

Mills: Avoid

Ingram: Avoid

Johnson: Avoid

Lindsay: Avoid

Cooks: Mid WR2

Miller: Avoid

Akins: Avoid

Brown: Avoid

Texans D/ST: Mid D/ST2

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Mike Fanelli is the Editor in Chief and fantasy football expert for Prime Time Sports Talk since 2018. He is a featured writer for FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter @Mike_NFL2 and reach out anytime with any fantasy football questions.

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