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Starting Week 3 off with a bang
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The NFL just set a record for the most points scored through the first two weeks of a season - 1,556. And both of Thursday's night's teams have played a big role in the continuing scoring explosion as the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers combined for 76 points last Sunday.

The Super Bowl champion Giants will play their second prime time game in three weeks when they travel to Carolina to face the Panthers.

It's part of the price a defending champion pays the following season. The Thursday game will likely cost the Giants their starting running back, Ahmad Bradshaw. He left Sunday's game in the second quarter with a neck injury and did not return.

If the Giants had until Sunday, Bradshaw might play. But with the short work week, the team will likely start Andre Brown in his place with rookie David Wilson as his backup. Brown did a workman-like job in his replacement role against Tampa Bay, rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and catching a couple of balls for another 19 yards. He's not as talented as the rookie, but Wilson is still in coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse for a Week 1 fumble.

Start Brown against the 28th-ranked run defense of the Panthers.

Obviously, all fantasy owners will want to start quarterback Eli Manning and wideouts Hakeem Nick (if he plays) and Victor Cruz off their "monster" performances. The trio was just the second in NFL history to produce a 500-yard passer and two 150-yard receivers in the same game (the first team was the 1951 Los Angeles Rams with Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch and Tom Fears).

You also should add tight end Martellus Bennett to fantasy starting lineups. With the absence of a good third receiver like Mario Manningham, the Giants are using Bennett as their third option.

Bennett has been targeted 16 times in the first two games, tied for fifth-best among tight ends, with nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

The Giants defense is certainly not yet in championship form. Through two games they have given up 58 points and 740 yards. Only seven teams have yielded more points. Which means there is an opportunity for Carolina to move the ball against New York.

The Panthers' second-year quarterback, Cam Newton, didn't throw for 400 yards in his first two games, like he did when he was a rookie, but he is still producing solid fantasy points. He threw for 303 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the opener and 253 yards and a touchdown in a win over New Orleans. He also ran for 71 yards and a score against the Saints, which means he posted more fantasy points in Game 2. He's currently ranked fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring and should be started in all leagues as he faces the Giants' 22nd-ranked pass defense (259 ypg).

The Carolina running back situation is almost as impossible to figure out as the Washington Redskins'. The Panthers backfield has three quality running backs, who if they were by themselves would be fantasy-worthy. But in a three- way shared situation, you can't start DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart or Mike Tolbert.

You can start both Panthers' starting wide receivers - Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. When healthy, Smith (10-210-2) is a "must-start" every week. He's not 100 percent, as he's dealing with a knee problem, but he practiced on Tuesday and is a go for Thursday.

This is LaFell's first opportunity to make an impact in fantasy leagues and he's started out well with two double-digit performances. The lack of any quality receiving depth behind LaFell should allow him to continue to produce for fantasy owners.

Neither the Giants nor the Panthers defense has looked fantasy-worthy over the first two weeks. You might be tempted to start New York, with it's great pass- rushers, but Newton's ability to run should convince you otherwise.

This Thursday game should have plenty of offensive fireworks and fantasy owners will want to be involved to get their week off with a bang.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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