Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston’s careers will forever be connected.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner as the No.1 pick in the 2015 draft, leaving the Oregon quarterback to go second to the Tennessee Titans.
It’s safe to say neither has set the NFL on fire since draft day, but this is the season both are expected to put up or shut up. In their opening week defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, Winston threw for 194 yards, was sacked three times and gave up two interceptions.
As the Buccs take on the Carolina Panthers on Friday at 01:20 am, both teams will look to banish week one defeats with a victory and we’re here to help you pick a team to be successful playing Paddy Power Fantasy.
Christian McCaffrey: Panthers
The stat line says it all. Despite defeat, the third-year back ran for 128 yards on 19 attempts and picked up two touchdowns. What helps McCaffrey stand out is his versatility and danger as a receiving threat. Catching 10 passes from Cam Newton for 81 yards.
He is a fantasy cheat code. Often running backs lose their value when their team goes behind, but No.22 just becomes a bigger part of the offence.
After going to the Super Bowl, the Rams still have one of the better defences in football and the running back picked up 209 scrimmage yards. Sorry Tampa.
Last term the 49ers only managed two interceptions throughout the entire season. In one game against the Buccs, they’ve already managed three. Let’s call it the Jameis factor. With 13 interceptions in 2018, the Panthers secondary must be rubbing their hands with excitement ahead of the game.
Cornerback James Bradberry already has one, and Donte Jackson is already showing improvement on his rookie performances. With pressure coming from Luke Kuechly, Gerald McCoy, rookie Brian Burns and Britain’s own Efe Obada, there will need to be a massive improvement from the Tamp O-Line if they want to avoid another tough day.
Chris Godwin: Buccaneers
Mike Evans struggled on Sunday, dealing with a stomach bug. He was still targeted five times, but only caught the ball once. After the preseason hype, it was the Buccs WR2, who picked up the load.
Godwin caught three passes for 53 yards, including their only touchdown of the game. Expect Evans to be more involved and hopefully feeling more like himself, but it shouldn’t take away from the potential upside from the former Penn State receiver.
McCaffrey led the Panthers options in yards, as Curtis Samuel and D.J Moore continue to fight it out for the position of WR1, making the Buccs wideout the smart choice on Thursday.
PLAYERS TO AVOID
Jamies Winston: Buccaneers
Playing under Bruce Arians guidance, this was supposed to be Winston’s year. On Sunday the quarterback went 20/36 for 194 yards and looked rattled by the 49ers defence.
The home crowd at Raymond James Stadium will expect a reaction and there will definitely be some level of improvement during the season, but not in week two, certainly not against this defence.
With higher expectations comes risk, and with risk comes turnovers.
Winston cannot be trusted.
Ronald Jones II: Buccaneers
Despite losing against the 49ers, one bright spot for the Buccs was the performance of Ronald Jones II. In 13 rush attempts his 75 yards was more than he managed in nine games last season.
The Buccs used a second-round pick to bring the 22-year-old from USC to the NFC South and he was always going to get more chances than Peyton Barber to shine.
We’ve yet to see the best from Jones, but it’s unlikely to show itself on Thursday. Once the Florida side goes behind, his running opportunities will be limited and then you are relying on him building on his 18 yards for one catch on Sunday.
He’s one to look at down the line, but don’t expect Jones to be significant enough to fire you up the leaderboard this week.