Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett passed on play calling duties to Klint Kubiak in week 11 against the Raiders, and that system will continue into week 12 at Carolina. The Denver Broncos have experienced a plethora of success with a Kubiak calling plays, but this is a different movie than what we’ve seen in the past. In fact, we’re beyond the sequel and on to the trilogy of a Kubiak relaying play calls through the headset.
The unfortunate reality is that the main characters in the first two movies, John Elway and Peyton Manning, aren’t around to play the lead. Mister unlimited, Russell Wilson, has found himself in the starring role this time around, but hasn’t lived up to the billing thus far. Will a change in his co-star boost his performance? Although it’s easy to dismiss the offense after the second half we saw last week, Wilson completed 77% of his passes for 247 yards and no touchdowns. While it’s foolish to expect a complete U-turn of what we’ve witnessed thus far, there could be something there.
The Carolina Panthers pass defense is in the middle of the pack, but their run defense can be exploited. They’re the sixth worst defense in terms of rushing yards per game and fantasy points to running backs, surrendering 137 and 23.1, respectively. Now that Melvin Gordon has taken his exit out of Broncos country and Chase Edmonds has landed on IR, the backfield is owned by Latavius Murray. Can he take advantage?
Let’s jump into the starts and sits to find out.
Sit Russell Wilson
Although I am optimistic that the passing game will improve as Wilson and Kubiak become more aligned, it’s something that we will need to see before we trot Russ out in our starting lineups. His 77% of passes completed was his best of the season and gives him something to build on, but he has yet to hit 300 yards passing in a game since week 1. He’s only thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game one time this season and has been held without a touchdown pass in three games. On top of that, his rushing boost has evaporated which makes it even tougher to trust him. Outside of Jaycee Horn, the Panthers struggle in the secondary. Their PFF coverage grade of 58 leaves them at 22nd in the NFL. Even better news is that their pass rush grade of 66 has them at 24th, so there are some things working in Wilson’s favor. Even so, he’s best left on the bench outside of two QB leagues.
Start Latavius Murray
Shortly after Melvin Gordon was waived by the Broncos, it was reported that Chase Edmonds would be placed on IR following a high ankle sprain. While that’s not ideal for Denver’s offense, it is for Latavius Murray’s fantasy football outlook. It’s been a rotation of two or three running backs since Javonte Williams was lost for the season, but now we know who the guy is. Combine that with the opportunity to play against the Panthers, whose run defense is softer than your favorite toilet paper, and we might be on to something. Murray hasn’t been overly efficient on the ground, which partially speaks to his play style and is partially due to the subpar offensive line. Impressively, he’s still managed to find the end zone in three of his five games with Denver. He’s also caught seven passes for 46 yards across the last two weeks, a trend that is likely to continue until Mike Boone returns from IR. Marlon Mack will likely operate as the backup, but I expect a heavy dose of Latavius Murray in Carolina. As such, he’s in the RB2/flex range.
Sit Courtland Sutton / Jerry Jeudy / Kendall Hinton
*If Jerry Jeudy is out, Courtland Sutton becomes a flex play.
As long as Russ remains a question mark, the pass catchers in this offense are not trustworthy either. Courtland Sutton would command a large target share in the event that Jeudy misses another week, which would put him in the flex range. Sutton’s 80 yards last week were his most since week 3, but he was held scoreless for the sixth consecutive game and has scored just one touchdown on the season. Jeudy was trending in the opposite direction prior to his injury, as he had cleared 50 yards in five straight games, scoring two touchdowns in that span and topping 15 fantasy points in three of the five games. If he plays, he would be an interesting target assuming that Jaycee Horn matches up against Sutton, but it’s also likely that he would be operating at less than 100%. Kendall Hinton and the rest of the wide receiver group should be not considered in lineups for many of the same reasons, and for the simple fact that they’re not nearly as talented as Sutton or Jeudy.
Sit Greg Dulcich
The Panthers are allowing the 11th fewest points to tight ends with 8.5 per game, and Dulcich hasn’t captured the explosive plays in the past few weeks. One element that has hindered Dulcich is KJ Hamlers absence. Many of his explosive plays were built off Hamler stretching the defense out, allowing Dulcich to operate in the middle of the field. Without that, the rookie tight end hasn’t been schemed open as often and is more of a second or third read in the offense. I still believe Dulcich is capable of being a starting fantasy tight end, but I’d like to see him win on his own more often before relying on him in lineups.
Start Broncos D/ST
Although the Broncos D/ST is coming off a negative point total against the Raiders, they make for a strong play against Carolina. Despite missing several players, they should be able to disrupt Sam Darnold, who is making his first start of the season. The Panthers offense is one of the worst in football, but they’ve been stout in pass protection. Per PFF, they grade out as the sixth best pass blocking unit with a grade of 73.7, so Denver will need to find ways to get hits on Sam Darnold and force him to see ghosts.
In addition to contributing as a writer for Mile High Report, Chad Workman is a contributor at FantasyPros and co-manages a fantasy football Patreon page, Filmalytics. Follow Chad @tweetsbychad and Filmalytics @filmalytics_ on twitter.