FBG says: Neutral matchup. Over three games back from injury, Drew Brees looks as sharp and precise as ever, though not quite himself. He's yet to uncork his downfield game much, posting just 6.4 yards per attempt over the past 2 weeks. Of course, it could well be that Brees hasn't been needed much in back-to-back blowouts, and that he's merely easing back into action. If anyone's earned that benefit of the doubt, it's Brees. He's still pinpoint when targeting Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, who make up one of football's best one-two punches. Since Brees' return, the pair has drawn 45% of his targets, catching an astounding 50 of those 56 looks. Thomas is a matchup-proof dominator who's simply too strong and physical for most secondaries to even slow down. He's on pace to catch 150 balls, and he's only landed below 89 yards once over 10 games. Kamara has caught 7, 8, and 10 passes of his own over this span, while tight end Jared Cook has sprung to life with touchdowns in three of his last four. There's not much value beyond those names, as this is no longer an offense that throws 45 times a game. But they're now even more valuable in fantasy terms, with an ultra-efficient offense that's concentrated around just three guys.
Overall, the Panthers have fielded a good pass defense. But the raw numbers haven't landed in their favor of late, with 3 of their past 5 opponents topping 300 yards. Jameis Winston and Ryan Tannehill did it mostly through game flow, but last week Matt Ryan racked up 311 too-easy yards on just 31 attempts. It was concerning to see Ryan connect so easily on deep balls against this unit, but it could be written off as a blip. The Panthers have been stout in matchups against Aaron Rodgers (233 yards, no touchdowns), Deshaun Watson (160 and 0), and Winston back in Week 2 (208 and 1). Where the Panthers can be attacked is inside, when safeties Eric Reid and Tre Boston are picked on down the field. Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Davante Adams, and a handful of others have been able to produce splash plays in this matchup. For what it's worth, though, Michael Thomas managed just 78 yards over 16 targets in 2 matchups against these cornerbacks last season. Still the concern remains that this defense is starting to slip to mediocrity.