BOSTON (CBS) - 98.5 The Sports Hub's Mike Lockhart sits down with CBSBostonSports.com's Andrew Celani for a comprehensive fantasy football chat heading into Week 9 of the season.
Week 9 kicks off Thursday night when the Saints go marching in to Charlotte to take on the Panthers. The winner of this game will grab hold of the NFC South, the only division in the NFL without a team over .500.
We saw a healthy-looking Jimmy Graham last week, which helped Drew Brees and company put up 44 points in a win over the Packers. Are the Saints back? Fantasy-wise, Mike Lockhart is expecting big things from the Panthers tonight, not so much New Orleans.
"I do like Cam Newton tonight -- I'm not expecting a Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger-type performance from last week, but I think he ends up with two, maybe three touchdowns. I think he'll have a solid performance. I really like Kelvin Benjamin -- I think he's going to get in the end zone a couple times," Lockhart said of the rookie. "I really like the Carolina defense tonight too. They're divisional opponents, so they know each other. I just feel like it's gonna be one of those ugly Thursday Night Football games. I like Greg Olsen of course too. That Saints defense is pretty poor."
As far as the Panthers running backs, Lockhart advises to stay away from them. The only guy he really likes on New Orleans is Mark Ingram.
"Mark Ingram is the only guy I love for the Saints tonight. I think they're gonna feed him a lot. To tell you the truth, when they do the team is better off. Ingram is actually leading the NFL in yards per carry at 5.7. They play better when they feed him a lot. I like Mark Ingram tonight. If you own Jimmy Graham you gotta play him -- there's always that chance for the red zone throw or two."
Sticking with the NFC South, the conversation shifted gears and a discussion was had about the Buccaneers backfield.
The Bucs were trying, but failed to make a trade to ship Doug Martin out of Tampa. Martin was drafted by the previous regime, and it's clear that general manager Jason Licht is cleaning house.
Bobby Rainey hasn't exactly taken the job and run with it, so the name you keep hearing is Charles Sims, the rookie third-rounder recently taken off IR. The upside is there, just not this week according to Lockhart.
"I'm not in on him this week, but I do like him a lot. Sims is a great pass catcher. He has excellent hands. He caught a ton of passes in college. He's a solid runner also, but coming off this ankle injury I don't expect him to carry the load this week. Not even sure you'll see that much of him out there. He's been practicing this week, so he'll probably suit up. It's a weird situation. Doug Martin is just not getting it done, and they're going to the Browns who aren't great. I would play Bobby Rainey this week before I played Charles Sims -- I do like his long term value though."
Last year when the Patriots faced the Broncos in the regular season, New England's defense dared Denver to run. They showed Peyton Manning two-high safeties, which kept the ball out of his hands and into the gut of Knowshon Moreno, who ran all over the Patriots to the tune of 200+ yards.
Montee Ball is still banged up, so Ronnie Hillman is the guy now in that Bronco backfield.
Lockhart thinks the Patriots will employ that same strategy, so expect another big day from Hillman.
"Hillman's looked pretty good. I think he'll end up with some big yardage. Last year Hillman did nothing for me, but this year he just looks like more of a bigger, physical runner. I like him a lot. This week he's in my top five for running backs. I expect a huge week from Hillman. If you're the Patriots, you'll let Hillman beat you and grind that clock down before Peyton chews you through the air."
Robert Griffin III looks poised to start Sunday against Minnesota, a team that's actually done pretty well against opposing quarterbacks this season.
"No thanks. He sucked before and he's probably gonna suck now. He's rusty. He just doesn't look comfortable out there. I would still play DeSean Jackson, even though I don't remember him doing anything with Griffin in there. Jackson's been so good you have to play him. Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon are definitely gonna be lower ranked for me this week. I'm not starting Robert Griffin III -- I'm not even picking him up. I'm staying away from that situation. I'm more of an Alfred Morris guy this week than I am the Redskins passing game."
Sticking with that same game, some fantasy experts are getting the sense that Cordarrelle Patterson is ready to turn a corner for the Vikings.
Lockhart is not quite there yet.
"They definitely tried to get him involved last week, which it didn't seem like that was the case during the season. Early on? Yes. But I feel like they went away from it. He had 12 targets last week but only six catches, so that's not good -- only 50 percent. He had 86 yards receiving and a 10-yard run. It wasn't overwhelmingly great. I don't know. I'm still out on him. He just doesn't have the 'it' factor. He needs to have plays drawn up for him to be successful. He's terrible at running routes. I think that is his biggest downfall. I don't think he's gonna turn a corner, but I think he'll be more involved."
Giovani Bernard (hip) missed practice on Wednesday and again on Thursday. His chances of playing Sunday are getting less and less by the day.
Cincinnati is hosting the Jaguars on Sunday, so if Bernard can't go backup Jeremy Hill is a must-start.
"I love Jeremy Hill against the Jaguars this week. He's a big physical runner. He can catch passes too. If Bernard doesn't play, you have to start Jeremy Hill. He's a great RB2 -- I wouldn't even consider him a flex because I think he's better than that this week. If you can get him in your lineup I would definitely do it."
For Lockhart's full breakdown and positional rankings, visit fantasybuzz.net and listen below for the full discussion!
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