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By Kenny Bowers

NFL is finally here. My excitement comes not just from being able to have my TV back, but for having an opportunity to play DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports). DFS is basically season long fantasy packed into one day. The same point system applies with some minor differences between the two main sites, DraftKings and FanDuel. All players are given the same amount of money to draft players for the slate that day. Players are priced based on their skill. You draft a QB, two RB’s 3 WR’s, a TE, a Flex (any non-QB position player) and a team defense. Both of these sites offer games ranging from a quarter all to five figures per lineup entered. Both sites are offering contests that pay out $1,000,000 to first place, DraftKings contest is $20 while FanDuel’s is $15.

I figure the best way to introduce those of you not familiar with DFS is to use a team we are all familiar project how they will perform based on matchup, recent form, projected game flow, and most importantly, my gut. Some weeks I will recommend stacking the Panthers (playing the main pieces in the same lineup), some weeks I will recommend fading them (not playing them). This week we head into week 2 with a tough matchup in Atlanta.. There’s a lot here, let’s break this down!

Cam Newton ($6,600 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel):
What makes Cam a top QB in DFS is his running ability. Panther fans were expecting to see more of an emphasis on the passing game with Norv Turner running the offense, but you gotta let Cam be Cam, right? In fact, it looks like Cam is going to be running the ball more. This may scare me as a fan, but as a fantasy player, I love it. He’s more than a scrambling QB, he is their best goal-line option, which leads to more fantasy points. I do feel like Cam will struggle without his security blanket (Olsen), but I would expect him to run more often. Especially with the read-option, you can’t key in on Cam anymore with McCaffrey in play. Cam should easily break 50 yards rushing and get in the end zone at least once.

Projections: 175-200 yards passing, 2 TD, 1 INT; 50-70 yards rushing, 1 TD

Christian McCaffrey ($7,000 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel):
I was expecting more from McCaffrey week one, but the game flow more than anything is what hurt his numbers with them being ahead. CJ Anderson got into a good rhythm the second half, but make no mistake who leads the backfield. Coach Rivera emphasized he would like to get McCaffrey 30 touches a game, including 6-10 receptions. I stated before the season that he would get 100 receptions, and this game he faces a far less menacing defense then last to build towards that total. As I eluded to above, Cam is going to need to find another target to rely on now with Olsen out indefinitely. Funchess will get more targets, but I think the biggest bump in targets will go towards the backfield. Watch out for McCaffrey working in the slot, which will either force a corner or safety to cover him or the mismatch versus a linebacker. If we get a Panthers W, we need all of Christian we can get. I expect him to deliver.

Projections: 50-75 yards rushing; 7-10 receptions, 80-100 yards, 1 TD

Receiving core:
Of the receiving core, only Devin Funchess will receive any type of DFS ownership, and that will be small. While Funchess will certainly get a bump in production, I do look forward to seeing if Ian Thomas provides similar upside as the preseason. In fact, he reminds me of a young Greg Olsen with his size and speed. Atlanta could have a lot of problems if he has the hands, too. While Torrey Smith is our official #2 receiver, don’t be surprised if Jarius Wright becomes a favorite target of Cam. He comes over with Norv Turner from Minnesota, he is a good route runner, and has similar speed to Smith. Funchess is the one to target to complete a Panthers stack with Cam and McCaffrey. He will get plenty of targets up and down the field, and he should get more red zone looks without Olsen. As with most of these games, I do expect it to be close. We should be looking at a full game’s worth of production from these guys.

Projections: Funchess: 5-8 receptions, 60-80 yards, TD
Smith: 2-4 receptions, 30 yards
Wright: 3-6 receptions, 50-70 yards
Thomas: 3-5 receptions, 4-60 yards, TD

Defense: This is a mixed bag. While I fully expect the Panthers to dominate the line of scrimmage and stuff the running game, it’s those pesky 3rd and long situations that have me worried. The last 3 games in Atlanta, Matt Ryan has thrown for over 300 yards, and a lot of that comes from Julio having his way in the Panthers secondary. Now I fully expect the Panthers to get their share of sacks, and definitely a couple of turnovers, but it’s a matter of how many points we can hold them to. The only weakness in our D is the secondary, and we have seen our share of Ryan/Julio connections (see 2016). Even in a Panthers victory, I see our defense giving up our share of points.

Projections: 24-28 points, 5-7 sacks, 2-3 turnovers.

If you need more assistance, check out my site, DFSXperts.com There we provide casual and serious DFS players alike with the tools and people available to help you become profitable. We also have a Facebook room, DFS Xperts. Follow me on Twitter @RealDFSXperts I look forward to providing you with Panthers analysis from a DFS perspective all season long. Keep Pounding!

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