Browns vs. Panthers start/sit advice: Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon, Cam Newton, Greg Olsen
Only one of these teams is still really alive for the playoffs, and it’s the one with the losing record.
The Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns both used new starters at quarterback a week ago. Things went well for the Panthers — they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to (briefly) take over first place in the NFC South. Things could scarcely have gone worse for Cleveland, getting shut out by the Cincinnati Bengals. Sunday, the two play one another.
Cleveland wide receiver Andrew Hawkins missed some practice time this week with an illness, though it isn’t expected to be a factor for Sunday, and the team is otherwise healthy from a fantasy perspective. As for the Panthers, both running back DeAngelo Williams and quarterback Cam Newton are expected to return from injuries and play Sunday.
The Panthers, needing every win possible to stay alive for the playoffs, will play host Sunday, with the game scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. Here’s a look at the fantasy considerations:
Start ‘em?: If you’re pressing, you might still be able to use Isaiah Crowell, who is less dependent on his quarterback than the rest of the team.
Sit ‘em: As bad as Johnny Manziel looked last week, it hurts everyone’s value. Manziel is unusable unless/until he shows something. … Terrance West is behind Crowell in the pecking order, and this isn’t an offense that can support two running backs. … Personally, I’m fully avoiding all Cleveland pass-catchers until we see a competent passer there, and that includes Andrew Hawkins, Jordan Cameron and, yes, Josh Gordon. … Garrett Hartley is the new Cleveland kicker, and you can’t possibly use him. … The Browns’ defense is also a victim of the offense, and would be really hard to trust.
Start ‘em: The top two pass-catchers in Carolina — Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen — are able to succeed no matter who is playing quarterback for the team. … The Panthers’ defense has struggled this year, but you like any defense going against Manziel.
Start ‘em?: It’s been a good stretch for Jonathan Stewart. The return of DeAngelo Williams could hurt his production a little, but ultimately he still looks like a low-end RB2/high-end flex. … Graham Gano has steadily gotten better the last three games, but that’s after three bad games before that.
Sit ‘em: It’s great that Cam Newton isn’t as bad off as he could have been after his car accident, but I can’t imagine putting him out there in the fantasy finals a week after that injury. … It’s great that he scored last week, but you aren’t using Jerricho Cotchery. There’s not much there.
Start in every league: Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, Carolina defense
Start if you’re desperate: Isaiah Crowell, Jonathan Stewart, Graham Gano
Bench: Johnny Manziel, Terrance West, Andrew Hawkins, Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon, Garrett Hartley, Cleveland defense, Cam Newton, Jerricho Cotchery