Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Five: Fantasy Football Picks for the Buccaneers and the Panthers, Week 8

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Welcome back to another edition of the Fantasy Five, when we take a look at the best fantasy football players for every Tampa Bay Buccaneers game this season.

This week’s game is on Thursday night, which is notoriously bad for fantasy football players. But keeping that in mind, sometimes fantasy owners have no choice but to start a player who plays on Thursdays.

Here are my five best picks for this week’s game.

1. Carolina Panthers Defense and Special Teams

Sep 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy reacts to the crowd during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Bank of America Stadium. Seattle wins 12-7. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Does your league count sacks as a defensive statistic? If so, you have no choice but to considering the Carolina Panthers.

The Tampa Bay offensive line has been disappointing this season, especially at the interior positions of guard and center. The Carolina defensive line has been incredible this offseason, That spells a great day for fantasy points from sacks.

Pro Football Focus uses a statistic called “Pass Rush Efficiency” which measures how often a pass rusher gets pressure on the quarterback. This includes QB hits and QB hurries. The Panthers have two of the top five 4-3 defensive ends in this statistic. Defensive tackle Kawaan Short is among the top 10 among interior linemen.

In other words, watch out Mike Glennon.

Glennon has a slow drop back and a tendency to hold onto the football too long, which will lead to sacks. Plus, he hasn’t proven to be particularly great while under pressure, throwing accurate passes on only 44 percent of the plays he drops back to pass and experiences a pass rush (According to PFF). Only Thad Lewis is worse in that statistic.

So the Panthers will earn sacks, and likely hold the Bucs to a limited amount of yards and points. If they’re available on your waiver wire, you should pick them up and start them.

2. Cam Newton

The Tampa Bay Defense has started to show cracks in the foundation, and that’s because their safeties have not been containing plays and allowing receivers to get deep down the field for easy touchdowns in recent weeks. In addition, the Tampa Bay defense has become very predictable, and offenses have figured out how to defeat the talented group of Buccaneers.

Newton has been on a roll recently, and is historically pretty good against Tampa Bay. Combine that with a decent arsenal of weapons at his disposal against a talented but shaky defense, and Newton is a very safe play this week.

He may not have the best numbers of his career, but he’s sure to have an efficient day throwing the football similar to the ones enjoyed by Nick Foles and Matt Ryan.

3. Steve Smith

Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) reacts after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter. The Carolina Panthers defeated the St. Louis Rams 30-15 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Remember DeSean Jackson‘s big day against the Tampa Bay defense? We could see more of the same from Smith, but would love nothing more than to torch his long-time rivals from Tampa.

If I had any confidence that Darrelle Revis would shadow Smith for a good portion of the game, I’d say to steer clear of Smith. But since we all know Bill Sheridan is up at 5:20 every morning with a can of Coke over-thinking how he’s going to use the best cornerback in football, we know Smith will be able to get open against Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson.

4. Vincent Jackson

Mike Glennon certainly favors Jackson, who was the target 50 percent of the time against the Falcons. Expect more of the same from a quarterback who figures to be under fire from the Carolina defense.

Has Jackson been frustrating this year? Absolutely. He should not be dropping passes as often as he does. But he’s certainly not alone in the NFL, as there is a plethora of other wideouts with their fair share of drops so far. Jackson more than makes up for his inconsistent hands by hauling in tough catches and providing a deep target that  Mike Glennon struggles to miss. (Although lately, that’s a struggle Glennon has been able to overcome.)

5. Brandon LaFell

Let’s just say that Bill Sheridan and Greg Schiano deem Darrelle Revis ready to play cover man zero against Steve Smith on Thursday. It’s probably not going to happen, but let’s assume.

That leaves LaFell as the next best option at receiver for Carolina, and the player most likely to find open space against Tampa Bay on short to intermediate throws and help move the ball down the field.

LaFell is a better option than any of the Carolina running backs, who trade carries with each other and Cam Newton and are generally impossible to own in fantasy football.

He’s also a better option than any other offensive player for Tampa Bay, who figure to have a tough time negotiating the Carolina defense.

So pick up LaFell if he’s on the waiver wire, and add him to your lineup this week if you’re having bye week issues, or if you’re missing out on Reggie Wayne or Randall Cobb due to injury.

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