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Wild Card Saturday Preview: Cardinals at Panthers

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Source: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images North America

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
January 3, 2015. 4:20 p.m. EST, ESPN

Our first game of this year’s NFL playoffs is certainly not the most fantasy friendly matchup. However, it may be one of the more intriguing games of the wild card round. Arizona has found ways to win all season, yet nobody believes in them. As a matter of fact, they are 100-to-1 in Vegas to win the Super Bowl, by far the worst odds of any playoff team. This is because nobody believes you can win a Super Bowl with Ryan Lindley under center and Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams in the backfield. That is more than likely a fair assessment. Nonetheless, not too many believe in the 7-8-1 NFC South champs either. Still, the seven win team with the QB with two cracks in his back will be favored over the eleven win team. This should be a good one. Cam Newton against the Cardinal defense will likely be the key matchup. This may become a battle of field position, field goals and turnovers.

Arizona Cardinals: What to look for

Quarterbacks
After Logan Thomas was benched after just three days of practice, it is very likely we won’t see him unless injury strikes Lindley. There is an outside chance we see Drew Stanton return, but that seems like a longshot after a procedure on an infection last week almost landed him on IR. However, word is if Stanton can get a practice in, he may play. No matter which way you slice it, a Cardinals QB is a bad play, even against a Panthers defense that can be had. If Stanton does somehow get on the field, he does cost only $5,000 on DraftKings.com and could have some upside. There is a serious injury risk though. Lindley should be avoided at all costs.

Running Backs
This backfield is really hard to get a good read on. Williams is clearly the better runner but gets benched at times for Taylor who is much better in pass protection. If you’re not on the field, you can’t score fantasy points. These RBs are probably better off just being avoided all together. They both will come cheap (Williams $3,700, Taylor $3,000) and could both have some upside. It would not be at all shocking to see the Cardinals decide to take the ball out of their QBs hands and lean on the run. They are very risky but very cheap.

Wide Receivers
There is a ton of talent at the WR position in Arizona, unfortunately, that has not exactly translated into a ton of production this season. This is much in part due to the QB play. Larry Fitzgerald is also less than 100-percent with a knee injury and Michael Floyd has been one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of the season. Rookie John Brown has been a pleasant surprise based on expectations but clearly can’t be trusted. Floyd is coming off a monster game against the 49ers but Fitz has been there before. If you have to trust one of these guys, trust Fitz. It doesn’t hurt that he also comes $500 cheaper than Floyd on DraftKings.

Tight Ends
These guys are all pretty terrible. If you want a starting TE for the minimum price, Darren Fells may be your man, though. He has emerged as the TE1 in Arizona, but a lot of his snap increase is due to blocking. You probably want to stay away from all these guys but Fells is definitely your best bet if you insist on picking one up for cheap.

Carolina Panthers: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Newton appears to be healthy after he suffered a few cracks in his back after his scary car accident a few weeks back. The Cardinals defense has been very good this season and is more than capable of slowing down Newton and forcing turnovers. Newton has looked much better in the Panthers offense as of late, but like usual this season he’s a high risk/high reward QB. The Cardinals have given up a ton of passing yards at times this season and Newton has put up a fantasy points in bunches. While we do like his upside, his $7,600 price tags is behind only Andrew Luck. That may be a bit too steep for our liking.

Running Backs
Just when Jonathan Stewart was becoming a somewhat reliable source of fantasy points, the backfield is becoming crowded as usual. DeAngelo Williams is returning from a hand injury and Mike Tolbert is back to vulture TDs from everybody as well. Even Fozzy Whitaker is getting in to the mix. With all that being said, Stewart is the only reasonable option in Carolina. At only $200 cheaper than Joique Bell, it’s hard to justify starting Stewart this week. Especially against one of the toughest run defenses in the league.

Wide Receivers
This is Kelvin Benjamin or bust for Carolina. He is one of my personal favorite plays this week. Patrick Peterson will be on him, but he’s a bit overrated when it comes to shutting down WRs. He’s more of a big play threat. Benjamin should bounce back from his awful end to the season with a nice showing in the wild card round. With many of the top WRs banged up, roll with KB.

Tight Ends
Greg Olsen is the best TE this week but he’s also the most expensive. The Cardinals struggle against TEs and we love his talent, nevertheless, there may be much cheaper options that could be a much better value. For example Olsen cost $1,600 more than Heath Miller. Get a grasp of your lineup and then decide how much cap room you have left for a TE. Olsen is a great pick but value matters in DFS.

Predictions
Final Score
Arizona: 16
Carolina: 20

Best Play
Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin

Sleeper
Kerwynn Williams

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