This Sunday the first place Giants host the undefeated Panthers, a team that seems to be underappreciated in reality because of its status in fantasy. Sure, most everyone has long appreciated Cam Newton for his dual threat potential, but he wasn’t drafted in my fantasy league until the ninth round -- as a backup to Aaron Rodgers. The rest of the Panthers’ skill position players were no one’s first choices at their respective positions.
I selected Jonathan Stewart with the ninth pick of the third round in a 12-team league: 33rd overall and the 17th running back off the board. The next Panthers player selected was Greg Olsen in the fifth round, followed by Ted Ginn Jr. in the 13th round, the same round as the Panthers defense.
If you’d told me I had to play a season with two Panther skill position players on my fantasy team, I would have prayed to the ghost of 2005 Steve Smith and stopped setting my league roster before the first bye weeks.
And if you’d told me that one of our league owners would be playing in the semifinals of my fantasy league this week -- thanks largely to Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Olsen -- I would have told you it was a helluva week to stop sniffing glue.
And yet here we are in Week 15, with an undefeated Panthers team loaded with valuable fantasy contributors, both on offense and defense, and that aforementioned fantasy team riding high on the backs of Ginn and Olsen (and, ya know, Tom Brady and Adrian Peterson).
Here’s what to look for and what not to look for in this pivotal late-season game between Carolina and the 6-7 Giants, who are tied with Philadelphia and Washington atop the NFC East.
Look for: the Giants to get Odell Beckham Jr. involved early in his matchup against the NFL’s top cornerback, Josh Norman.
Don’t look for: Beckham to have a better game than he did last week against the Dolphins.
Look for: the TV announcers to mention that the Giants have a history of taking down undefeated teams.
Don’t look for: the producers to cut to a smiling Rodney Harrison.
Look for: the Giants to once again ride with their four-man rotation of running backs.
Don’t look for: Andre Williams to average more than 1-yard per carry.
Look for: Carolina to add to its NFL-leading 33 forced turnovers.
Don’t look for: Orleans Darkwa to cough up the ball, as he won’t get enough opportunities to do anything at all.
Look for: Eli Manning to look for tight end Will Tye over the middle.
Don’t look for: Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly (four interceptions) to let many of those passes succeed.
Look for: Manning to get the ball out quickly to avoid Carolina’s impressive, multifaceted pass rush, featuring Kawann Short (9 sacks), Thomas Davis (5.5) Kony Ealy (5) and Mario Addison (5).
Don’t look for: Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to offset the rush by calling for a lot of screens to Shane Vereen, as that would make too much sense.
Look for: Carolina to possibly add to its four pick sixes.
Don’t look for: Jason Pierre-Paul to catch a pick six.
Look for: the Panthers to lean on a backfield trio of Fozzy Whitaker, Mike Tolbert and Cameron Artis-Payne with Stewart out with an ankle injury.
Don’t look for: me to know which one of them would be the best fantasy start; I got knocked out of the playoffs last week because Giants kicker Josh Brown couldn’t get me 50 points on Monday night.
Look for: Newton to score a touchdown and perform some preening dance that will annoy a large segment of the viewing public
Don’t look for: a similar look of annoyance on the face of the child who receives a touchdown ball from Newton.
Look for: the Giants to miss about 1,234 tackles.
Don’t look for: linebacker Devon Kennard to contribute to those failures, as he’s out with an injury again.
Look for: Rueben Randle to step up again as the Giants’ second-best option after Beckham.
Don’t look for: the Giants to run the ball with the same late success as they did against the woeful Dolphins.
Look for: the Giants to build on the confidence garnered from keeping and maintaining the lead against Miami in the fourth quarter of last week’s game.
Don’t look for: Carolina to be undefeated after this week.