Miles Sanders has enjoyed a clear leadership role in the Carolina Panthers backfield over his first two games in a Carolina uniform.
However, backup Chuba Hubbard is a talented and versatile young player in his own right that has starting experience, so which of the two Carolina backs should fantasy football managers roll with in Week 3 lineups?
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Miles Sanders Fantasy Outlook This Week
Contrary to some of his time in Philadelphia, Sanders has been given steady usage through his first two games in Carolina and is the team’s RB1. The offseason addition has logged 18 and 14 carries in his first two games.
Just as encouraging, he’s seen six and five targets in those contests, already putting him nearly halfway to the 26 he logged across a 17-game sample in 2022 with the Eagles. Sanders has played 42 and 34 snaps from scrimmage in the first two weeks, comfortably outpacing the 26 and 21 that Hubbard saw as his primary backup in those games.
Sanders arguably would have been involved more in the Week 2 loss to the Saints had the Panthers not fallen behind by a 20-9 score with just over three minutes remaining. That deficit brought Hubbard into the game as the two-minute back, although he still finished the game with just two carries, 12 fewer than Sanders.
Sanders was brought in this offseason to be the clear lead back, and nothing head coach Frank Reich has done in the first two games contradicts that notion. Additionally, with Andy Dalton taking over under center in Week 3, Reich will arguably have the luxury of running a more aggressive gameplan overall concerning the pass, given Dalton’s vast experience edge over injured first-overall pick Bryce Young.
Consequently, Sanders could see fewer eight-man fronts from the Seahawks than he otherwise would, especially if Dalton can click with his veteran pass-catching trio of Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, and Hayden Hurst early.
Chuba Hubbard Fantasy Outlook This Week
Hubbard’s outlook doesn’t figure to change much this week from what it’s been in the first two games.
As outlined above, Sanders has run ahead of Hubbard on early downs thus far, leaving no doubt as to who Reich envisions as the lead back.
Hubbard’s pass-catching prowess will certainly earn him time on third downs and as an occasional rotating piece on first and second downs. However, barring an injury to Sanders, Hubbard is likely to be capped at about 10 total touches.
Seattle’s projected advantage has grown from four to 5.5 points. That number does portend a potential boost in late-game work for Hubbard in pass-centric scenarios where Carolina may once again be looking to catch up.
Nevertheless, with Dalton at the helm, the Panthers could be a lot more competitive than expected, and trying to thread the fantasy needle by banking on hypothetical scenarios where Hubbard outsnaps Sanders due to the game script is too speculative.
Which of the Panthers’ Running Backs Should You Start?
Given the factors cited, Sanders remains the Panthers running back with exponentially more fantasy security between him and Hubbard heading into Week 3.
However, one caveat worth noting about the general outlook for Carolina’s ground game is that the Seahawks’ run defense already appears appreciably more effective than last season after allowing a miserly 2.9 yards per carry in the first two games.
The return of seven-time Pro Bowler/All-Pro Bobby Wagner to the linebackers corps after a season away with the Rams appears to be the biggest factor, with the veteran already having amassed a whopping 28 tackles through two weeks.
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