Week 3 lineup picks for Panthers-Texans

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Nothing says Thursday Night Football like a rookie making his first start on a short week … with one legitimate receiver … against a good defense.

Davis Mills and the Houston Texans host the Carolina Panthers, a true Week 3 treat that may be the “Grand Opening” and “Grand Closing” of the Davis Mills era. Fun fact about rookie quarterbacks starting for Houston: They are 3-1 in their debuts.

It is vital to remember that single-game slates are not simply a “max salary, play as many big names as possible, and submit” format, especially in larger tournament fields. We need to identify players who can be pieces in their offense’s success, whether in the lead or trailing, as well as the players who could be focal points in a neutral game script. The ability to then take those players and identify which will succeed in the single-game format will put us in a better position to succeed as daily fantasy players.

Vegas Total and Spread

The Carolina Panthers are eight-point road favorites with an Over/Under of 43 points. Carolina has an implied team total of 25.5 points, while Houston’s implied team total is 17.5 points.

Potential Game Flow Scenarios

The Texans have a lot of concerns offensively after two positive outings to open 2021. QB Tyrod Taylor and WR Nico Collins are on IR, forcing rookie Davis Mills ($20) to start. He has Brandin Cooks ($21) to help him push the ball down the field, and that is about it. Chris Conley ($10) is fine as a depth receiver and Anthony Miller ($10) is expected to make his Texans debut after being a healthy inactive the first two weeks. The Panthers’ defense ($15) can shut down the Texans passing attack by removing Cooks as an option for the rookie QB. The Panthers have allowed just two receivers to top 50 yards receiving with neither of them happening in Week 2.

It has not been better on the ground against the Panthers. Alvin Kamara finished Week 2 with five yards rushing.

This should be the first week where the Texans pass more than their expected rate based on the likelihood the Panthers play from ahead. Assuming the Texans’ offensive line can give Mills some breathing room, targeting the tight end position should be on his shortlist. The Panthers have allowed three tight ends to finish with 20-plus receiving yards. It is not much, but it is something. David Johnson ($13) also figures to have a prominent role in the passing game. The Panthers have allowed more running backs with double-digit receiving yards (3) than with double-digit rushing yards (2).

Houston Texans running back David Johnson (31)

David Johnson could see his number called a lot in Week 3. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Christian McCaffrey ($41) is the king of High-Value Touches (HVT) or carries and touches inside the 10-yard line. He averages just under 11 per game and will finish with the most total touches for either team on TNF. DJ Moore ($20) and Robby Anderson ($16) have flipped their average depth of targets (aDOT) from 2020 which has led to Moore producing more consistently through two weeks. Anderson is seeing targets in the red zone so his spike week(s) are not far off.

None of this will matter if the Texans defense ($16) continues to apply pressure on the quarterback. Through two weeks Houston has a 4:4 TD/INT ratio and only allowed Trevor Lawrence to top 300 yards passing because of a blowout situation. The Texans were gashed on the ground by Cleveland Week 2, another sign that McCaffrey is as safe a target in DFS as there is. Houston cannot sell out to stop CMC because the Panthers have as good of receiver depth as the Jaguars, who moved with ease once the game was out of hand.

Sam Darnold ($25) has played as well as could be expected in Carolina. The Panthers played fairly close games to start the season and that has allowed Darnold to fire 35 and 38 pass attempts while passing well under their expected rate.

Close, low-scoring game DFS options

Close, high-scoring game DFS options

  • Sam Darnold

  • Christian McCaffrey

  • DJ Moore, Robby Anderson

  • Davis Mills

  • Mark Ingram

  • Brandin Cooks

Blowout for home team DFS options

Blowout for away team DFS options

Cheap/Unique Stacking Option

Traditional stacks such as QB/WR1 or WR2, QB/TE, and RB/DEF are stacks seen used in winning lineups. The obvious choice is not always the winning choice. Below is a cheap stack with at least one unique quality that could break the slate.

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Dan Arnold ($11) and Pharaoh Brown ($11)

Both defenses have shown the ability to be tough on opposing wide receivers. Arnold put together a strong Week 2 but will still be overlooked with the dearth of talent on the Panthers. I mentioned earlier that the Panthers have allowed three tight ends to top 20 yards. In a game where few Texans’ options look appealing on paper, Brown sticks out. He did not practice until Friday before his Week 2 goose egg after picking up 8.7 half-PPR points in Week 1. Recency bias will also play a factor in his rostership.

Low-Salaried Volatile Plays

Anthony Miller ($10)

Miller has two playing modes: Excellent hands-on-the-ball receiver, and goober. After being humbled in Chicago and traded for spare parts, Week 3 is Miller’s first opportunity with his new club to show why he was a second-round pick.

Brandon Zylstra ($10)

Zylstra has been cycling with rookie Terrace Marshall ($14) for slot snaps and finished Week 2 with more yards than Marshall, as well as a touchdown.

Terrace Marshall ($14)

Talent and draft capital matter with players getting playing time (whether front offices want to admit it). Marshall is also a winner of recency bias with Zylstra outproducing him last week. Marshall has six more targets and three more receptions than Zylstra through two weeks.

Chris Conley ($10)

If Davis Mills does not aim for Anthony Miller in the slot, Conley is the only other trustworthy receiver not named Brandin Cooks.

Superstar Picks

Christian McCaffrey ($41)

CMC will be the highest rostered and player slotted in the Superstar slot.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey

Hard to go wrong with Christian McCaffrey. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Robby Anderson ($16)

Moore has been the better Panthers wideout, but if I want to roster a receiver in the Superstar slot I want to be somewhat different. Anderson has a cheaper salary and has yet to produce a high-yardage game that many DFS players expected after he reunited with Sam Darnold.

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DJ Moore ($20)

That does not mean that Moore is not an excellent option as a Superstar. He was one target and receiving yard away from averaging 10 targets and 80 yards each of the first two weeks. We want players with volume and among players not nicknamed CMC, Moore has seen the most volume.

Brandin Cooks ($21)

Playing for a mediocre team has not stopped Cooks from balling out. Davis Mills will be looking his way as the first read on the majority of plays. Double-digit targets, solid yardage, and a touchdown put Cooks into the Superstar realm when all is said and done.

This article originally appeared in its full form on

Jeff has played fantasy sports since 2001. He has covered fantasy and traditional sports at the pro, semi-pro, and amateur level for the better part of a decade. Born in Illinois and currently living where James Robinson made a name for himself in college, Jeff enjoys running (establish it), followed by doing absolutely nothing.

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