Carolina Panthers (4-5, 4-5 ATS) at Arizona Cardinals (8-1, 7-2), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends
The Panthers are 7-2 toward unders this season.
Carolina is 1-5 ATS in its last six games.
The Panthers are 5-1 toward unders in their last six road games.
Christian McCaffrey made it through a full game for just the fourth time in 25 tries under Matt Rhule. He once again showed just how special he is when he’s actually on the field, easily totaling 106 scrimmage yards on 18 touches on just a 49% snap share. CMC went right back to leading the Panthers in rushing yards (52), carries (14), catches (4), and receiving yards (54) despite playing just half of the snaps. His playing time should grow in the upcoming weeks, but the Panthers are likely to take a slightly more cautious approach with his injuries mounting over the last two seasons. Aaron Jones posted 15/59/1 rushing and 7/51 receiving in this matchup two weeks ago.
P.J. Walker will likely be the starter this week with Sam Darnold dealing with a fractured shoulder. The Panthers signed the former face of the franchise, Cam Newton, to a one-year contract with $4.5 million guaranteed so he’ll be the starter once he gets caught up to speed. Darnold hadn’t thrown for a touchdown in three straight games and he had just two TD passes in his last five games. Walker will step in behind an offensive line that’s crumbling in front of him with C Matt Paradis tearing his ACL and LT Cam Erving landing on the IR with a calf injury. Walker posted 258/1 passing with negative rushing production in his lone start against the Lions for the Panthers last season. The Cardinals are giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (16.2) to QBs.
D.J. Moore managed a season-low 3/32 receiving on a team-best seven targets (21% share) against the Patriots in Week 9, which gives him fewer than 10 FP and 60 receiving yards in three of his last five games. Moore opened the year with 6+ catches and 75+ receiving yards in each of his first four games. Moore will take any kind of quarterback change at this point, and he posted 7/127 receiving on 11 targets against the lowly Lions in Walker’s lone start last season.
Brolley’s Cardinals Stats and Trends
The Cardinals are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games.
Arizona has played under the total in its last four games as a favorite.
The Cardinals are 4-1 toward unders in their last five home games.
The Cardinals lost Chase Edmonds to a high-ankle injury in Week 9, but James Conner stepped up and had the game of his life with 21/96/2 rushing and 5/77/1 receiving. He already leads the NFL with 10 rushing TDs and now he should pick up most of Edmond’s passing game work — Eno Benjamin will also factor into this backfield. Conner averaged 3.4 catches and 26.8 receiving yards per game from 2018-2020 with the Steelers. Patriots RBs combined for 33/146/1 rushing and 5/74 receiving against the Panthers last week.
Kyler Murray (ankle) has a much better chance of being active this week, but a final decision will likely be coming over the weekend. Murray had his worst fantasy performance (11.1 FP) of the season the last time we saw him against the Packers — he picked up his ankle injury on the final drive of the game. If Murray is healthy enough to play, HC Kliff Kingsbury could cut down on the design run for his quarterback, who has just 26/38 rushing (1.5 YPC) in the last four weeks anyway. The Panthers have allowed only 3-of-9 passers to reach 200+ passing yards, and Carolina (198.2) and Buffalo (189.1) are the only teams allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game.
DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) is in a similar situation to Kyler this week with a final decision on his status likely coming this weekend. He’s averaging 4.4/60.8/.9 receiving on 6.1 targets per game through eight games. The Panthers are giving up the fourth-fewest receptions per game (11.2) to WRs this season.
A.J. Green is likely to return after missing with COVID last week. With Hopkins ailing in Week 8, Green posted a season-high eight targets that he turned into 5/50 receiving, which gave him 50+ yards in five of his last six games. The Panthers are giving up the fifth-fewest receiving yards per game (131.8) and just 11.8 YPR to WRs.
Christian Kirk turned into the #1 WR with Nuk and Green out of the lineup last week, and he played a season-high 96% of the snaps and he caught all six of his targets for 91 yards for Colt McCoy. Kirk has 4+ catches in five straight games and in 7-of-9 contests. The Panthers are facing the second-fewest targets per game (16.4) from WRs.
Rondale Moore played a season-high 81% of the snaps last week with both Hopkins and Green out of the lineup. It translated into just 5/25 receiving, which is his sixth game under eight FP in his last seven contests. There’s a chance he could be used a bit to replace Edmonds receiving production out of the backfield, but he’s had avenues for more involvement recently and they haven’t materialized.
Zach Ertz posted his best snap share (80%) last week since joining the Cardinals in Week 7, but he turned in his worst fantasy performance with just 3/27 receiving on five targets. His playing time will likely dip if both Nuk and Green return to the lineup this week. The Panthers have kept Hunter Henry (2/19/1 receiving) and Kyle Pitts (2/13) in check the last two weeks.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.6 (22nd)
Plays per game: 71.4 (4th)
Pass: 59.5% (20th) | Run: 40.5% (13th)
Pace: 27.3 (9th)
Plays per game: 68.3 (12th)
Pass: 53.7% (30th) | Run: 46.3% (3rd)
With Kyler Murray looking likely to miss his second-straight game, we have the Battle of Backups on tap here. Colt McCoy acquitted himself very well last week as the Cardinals shockingly dominated the 49ers. Arizona’s path to their surprise blowout was due in large part to an incredibly run-heavy plan as HC Kliff Kingsbury went 57% run on early-downs. After James Conner ran so well last week, I have to imagine we’ll see a repeat of their Week 9 plan here against a Panthers run defense that was just cracked by Patriots RBs.
The transition from PJ Walker (and eventually back to Cam Newton) will end up being a blessing in disguise for the Panthers strictly from a fantasy perspective. Sam Darnold falling apart absolutely nuked what could have been a monster season from DJ Moore and looked like it could have possibly hurt CMC even. Over their last five games, the Panthers offensive collapse culminated in them scoring a pitiful four total touchdowns on their 62 possessions (6.5%) while punting or having their drive end on downs a whopping 48.3% of the time. It can’t possibly get any worse. At the very least, Walker getting a full week of first-team practice reps should have him more prepared than his relief performances this season.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Going out on a limb here. I’ve made it crystal clear just how poorly Robby Anderson has played this season. No, Anderson did nothing in Week 9 to change my mind. He rode a cool 1/2/0 line toward 1.2 FPs during their 24-6 defeat. But Sam Darnold fractured his right shoulder blade and will miss significant time. In his place, P.J. Walker will direct the offense. Do I believe that Walker will perform miracles for Carolina? By no means. But I actually think the typical Cardinals’ coverage shell could mean Anderson makes a big play here.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
It’s beyond obvious at this point that Sam Darnold stinks, though it obviously sucks to see him get hurt (he’s out four to six weeks with a shoulder injury, per Matt Rhule). That means PJ Walker will start … for now.
Source: The #Panthers are giving QB Cam Newton a 1-year deal worth up to $10M for the rest of year...includes $4.5M fully guaranteed and $1.5M roster bonus.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 11, 2021
That’s starter money for Cam Newton, and my take is Cam will start as soon as he’s up to speed — potentially next week against Washington … and Ron Rivera. You can’t write this stuff.
David Tepper is current paying Cam’s replacement, the replacement for Cam’s replacement, and Cam to replace the replacement for his own replacement.— Dion Beary (@hashtagdion) November 11, 2021
Walker is the starter this week, though, and he’s just 3/15 passing this year and has completed under 50% of his throws in his NFL career. But in Walker’s lone start last year, he threw 34 passes and directed 11 of them at Moore, who posted 7/127 receiving. But that game was against the Lions, and Moore has failed to clear 10 FP in a PPR in three of his last five games after a hot start. He’s a WR3 this week.
“Prior to injury, Christian McCaffrey had either led all RBs or finished 2nd-best in fantasy points scored in 9 of last 19 games (47%). And he ranked top-6 in 16 of 19 games (84%), or top-8 in 18 of 19 games (95%).
For perspective, Alvin Kamara has finished top-2 in just 16% of his last 19 games. Austin Ekeler has finished top-6 in just 26% of his last 19 games. And Derrick Henry has finished top-8 in just 47% of his last 19 games.
McCaffrey was injured on the first drive of the second quarter in Week 3, and scored just 6.0 fantasy points, but was on pace for 20.0. In Week 9, his first game back from injury, McCaffrey played on only 49% of the team’s snaps, but earned 18 touches and totaled 106 YFS.
And that’s just about all I need to see from him to go back to ranking him confidently as, not just the overall-RB1 in fantasy, but the most valuable player in fantasy.
McCaffrey has played in just 7 of a potential 25 games over the past two seasons. So, the injury risk is still there. And that’s a warranted concern, but he’s also unrivaled in terms of upside, floor, and median projection when he’s actually out there active and on the field. But, of course, that injury-risk may also be something HC Matt Rhule has in the back of his mind. So, perhaps there’s a concern he continues to cap McCaffrey’s usage moving forward (in an effort to keep him healthy), but, then again, McCaffrey still has a long way to fall from “best usage of any player in fantasy” to “second-best usage of any player in fantasy”. (Prior to injury, McCaffrey was — for the third-straight season — leading all players in XFP per game, with 26.6.) And, realistically, 18 touches on 29 snaps in his first game back from injury doesn't seem to hint at a reduction in workload.”
Yeah, you’re starting him.
The Cardinals could have the luxury of sitting Kyler Murray (ankle) and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) again this week, after how well Colt McCoy played in relief in a win over the 49ers. But that doesn’t change that they’re banged up — both Murray and Hopkins are again game-time decisions.
Obviously, RB Chase Edmonds is expected to miss time with a high-ankle sprain. But rookie WR Rondale Moore, who played a season-high 81% of the snaps in Week 9, is dealing with a concussion. So it could be a big week for Christian Kirk and TE Zach Ertz again.
“In Week 9, Chase Edmonds suffered an injury on Arizona’s first play of the game, and Conner, in his absence, proceeded to break the slate. He turned a 20.0-point expectation (3rd-most) into 40.0 fantasy points, totaling 173 YFS and three touchdowns. He earned 21 of 31 carries and 5 of 5 targets out of the backfield, but, shockingly, just 1 of 1 opportunity inside of the 10-yard-line.
So, he’s now an all-time touchdown regression candidate. He’s scored 11 touchdowns this year (most), but on an XTD of just 5.4 (11th-most). His positive differential of 5.6 leads all RBs by 2.2 touchdowns. He's handled just 14 of the team's 30 rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line (46%), but he's scored on 8 of them (57%). His 57% conversion rate inside the 10-yard-line is best in the NFL, and well above the league average rate (31%), and his 46% share of the rushing attempts inside the 10-yard-line ranks only 18th-best. (For perspective, Najee Harris and Joe Mixon are both above 80%.)
Conner now ranks 43rd in XFP per game (20.2), 32nd in YFS per game (62.8), and 21st in FPG (14.7). If he were perfectly average in touchdown efficiency (or, really, “touchdown luck”) he’d rank 34th in FPG (11.0).
Anyway, with Chase Edmonds out for the next 4-6 weeks, it’s hard not to like Conner as a fringe-RB1 this week. Yes, he’s due for a heavy regression to the mean, but he’s also locked into the lion’s share of the work on an Arizona offense that ranks 7th in team RB FPG (27.3).
In the only game Kenyan Drake missed last year, Chase Edmonds earned 96% of the team's snaps and 93% of the RB touches (28 of 30). Last week, Conner earned 82% of the backfield XFP after Edmonds went down, and he played on 94% of the first-half snaps in a game that was never really close.
During his Week 9 post-game press conference, HC Kliff Kingsbury was effusive in praise for Eno Benjamin who had 9 carries (0 targets), and has just 11 carries (0 targets) in his career. But I’d be shocked if Conner doesn’t handle at least 75% of the work this week. So, if you take Arizona’s average (remember, 27.3 FPG), and ignore the tough matchup, that would imply a minimum of 20.5 fantasy points for Conner this week.”