This week my co-worker, Jeff Krisko, suggested that starting Tarik Cohen is the smart fantasy football play. It is hard to fault his logic. I’m a Bears fan, and I can tell you that there is a lot to like about the human joystick. Cohen is the 13th ranked running back in standard leagues and the 10th ranked running back in PPR leagues. However, if you want a running back to play based on match ups, you should start Carolina Panthers running backs. That’s right, not just Jonathan Stewart, who I recommended in week one. Not just Christian McCaffrey, who I suggested was the smart play in week three. You should start ALL the Carolina Panthers running backs.
There are some issues with Cohen’s match up that week that make me nervous. First off, he is playing the Green Bay Packers on the road in a Thursday Night Football game. Thursday night games tend to lend themselves to very sloppy football. While this could mean he has a Gurley like week three performance, he could also just put up a goose egg. I think there is a lot of potential for boom or bust with this match.
Moreover, while the Green Bay Packers have given up the 8th most fantasy points to running backs this season, most of those numbers have come on the ground. The Packers have given up the 7th fewest receptions and the 12th fewest yards to running backs this season. To me, that means the guy you should be starting is Jordan Howard, who you already know I love.
While there is a lot to like about Tarik Cohen this week, there are also reason to be concerned. There is a much better match up if you start Carolina Panthers running backs.
This week, the Carolina Panthers will be playing the New England Patriots. To date, the Patriots have given up the most fantasy points to the running back position. And they are equally bad on the ground and in the air for running backs. The Patriots have given up the 2nd most fantasy receiving yards points and 9th most catches to running backs this season. They’ve also given up the 6th most fantasy points for rushing yards this season. So whether you are looking at starting Christian McCaffrey or Jonathan Stewart, there is a lot to like about the match up.
Most important of all, the Carolina Panthers don’t have anyone else to turn to. Greg Olsen? Dead! Kelvin Benjamin? Dead! Neidermeyer? DEAD! The Panthers game plan is going to rely heavily on the run just out of pure necessity.
So if you want to risk the unpredictability of Thursday Night Football, go ahead and start Tarik Cohen. But if you want to play the best possible match up, start Carolina Panthers running backs.