Week Fifteen Analysis:
Steve Smith is undeniably on the downswing of his career, but he could have one last hurrah in him against the Jets this week, who rank 30th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. New York has surrendered 185 yards and well over a touchdown per game to opposing receiver units this season. His numbers aren't where they used to be, but the opportunities are still there for Smith. He ranks top-10 among all receivers in target percentage and team red zone target percentage, and he should find some space in a favorable matchup that's also a must-win for Carolina. New York is fantastic against the run, so plenty of passing can be expected.
Week Eleven Analysis: Updated Nov 17th
Steve Smith has yet to hit the 100-yard mark in nine games this season, something he's done just once in his career. You have to think he'll get it going at some point, but this week against the Patriots might not be his best bet. Cornerback Aqib Talib should make his return after missing the last three games, and he was sorely missed by New England. They have allowed nine touchdowns to receivers this season, but six have come without Talib in the lineup. Talib likely won't shadow Smith, who has garnered over 39% of Carolina's red zone looks, the second-highest ratio in the league. So there's some hope for production, especially with starting strong safety Steve Gregory out with a broken thumb.
Week Nine Analysis:
Atlanta's secondary has been a sieve this season, and Steve Smith has to be licking his chops heading into this mouth-watering matchup. The Falcons rank bottom-10 in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus, and they've allowed six touchdowns to receivers in their last four games. Smith should expect to see a lot of cornerback Asante Samuel, who is having a good season, but has been bottom-15 in yards allowed at the position over the last two weeks. Smith has also topped 100 yards in two of his last three tilts with Atlanta and has the fifth-most red zone targets among receivers this season.
Week Eight Analysis:
There were a few scuffles in Carolina last week, and an ejection, and of course Steve Smith was in the center of them all. Drama aside, Smith scored a touchdown for the second straight game and had a season-high in receiving yards. Carolina's next opponent, Tampa Bay, has allowed two touchdowns per game to receivers over the last three weeks. That's the highest clip in the league during that span, and it's evident the cover skills of Darrelle Revis are being wasted in Tampa's zone coverage scheme. Smith has also seen over 47% of his team's red zone targets, which is the highest ratio this season among all skill position players.
Week Seven Analysis:
Steve Smith has yet to top 60 yards this season, but he has scored twice and his eight red zone targets are the fourth-most among receivers. The Panthers return home this week to face the Rams, who are allowing 180 yards and over a touchdown per game to receivers. St. Louis also allows an average stat line of seven catches, 92 yards, and one touchdown to opposing No. 1 receivers. Smith should tangle with cornerback Janoris Jenkins for most of the day, as Cortland Finnegan is overall ranked dead last at corner by Pro Football Focus. But Jenkins is a gambler who is prone to mistakes and tackles poorly.
Week Six Analysis:
Steve Smith is struggling this season but has been Carolina's most-targeted wideout by far. And even though they're healthier coming out of the bye, Minnesota remains a must-start matchup. The Vikings have allowed more than 200 yards per game to receivers this season and the second-most receptions per game, a whopping 17 to the position. And over their last three games, the average line of opposing No. 1 receivers is nine receptions and 115 yards. Smith has seen the Vikings six times in his career, and in those games, he's totaled four touchdowns and averaged more than 104 receiving yards. Greg Olsen might miss this game with a foot injury, which would only add to Smith's workload.
Week Five Analysis:
Cam Newton got off to a slow start last season and his receivers subsequently suffered, but if Newton can get it going in Arizona, Steve Smith should certainly stand to benefit. He scored in Week 1 against Seattle, and last season 75% of his touchdowns came on the road. AFC Defensive Player of the Week, Patrick Peterson is always a threat, but he's allowed three touchdowns in coverage already, according to Pro Football Focus. Cardinals' safety Rashad Johnson is said to have an infection in his decapitated finger and is in danger of losing even more of that digit, so he's not going to be on the field.
Week Three Analysis:
Like last year, the New York Giants are getting annihilated through the air, and Steve Smith stands next in line to happily face their struggling secondary. Smith has scored twice in his last three games against the Giants and recorded a respectable 86 receiving yards their last time out. The Panthers' offense hasn't been as prolific as some had hoped, but Smith has gotten 43% of their targets in the red zone. He should see a few more opportunities there against New York, who has allowed the most points and completions in the league.
Week Two Analysis:
We saw some vintage Steve Smith last Sunday at home against the Seahawks. He caught a four-yard touchdown in traffic across the middle and later on looked like he wanted to fight his teammate. Vintage Steve Smith! Nevertheless, Smith escaped a suffocating Seattle secondary with six catches, 51 yards, and the score. And this week's matchup with Buffalo is certainly more favorable. The Bills allowed over 430 yards of total offense to New England last week and are still without top corner Stephen Gilmore. All-Pro safety Jairus Byrd is also dealing with plantar fasciitis and might remain inactive another week.
A decade ago, a young receiver named Steve Smith recorded his first 1,000-yard season. He's accomplished that feat six more times since then, including each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately for Smith, it's become a lot more difficult to be a fantasy stud with Cam Newton at the helm. Last season, Smith did not score a touchdown until Week 9, and only recorded four total touchdowns on the year. At age 34, Smith is still the top wideout in Carolina, but with Newton completing a paltry 280 passes last season (less than Ryan Fitzpatrick, Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden!), the opportunities aren't presenting themselves nearly as often.