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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) *IND at CHI *PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN *PIT at DEN *WAS at NO
*BUF at NYJ *MIA at HOU *SEA at ARI *CIN at BAL (MON)
*UPDATED *CAR at TB *NE at TEN SF at GB *SD at OAK (MON)

Prediction: CAR 31, TB 23 (Line CAR by 2.5)

Players Updated: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith

Players to Watch: Brandon LaFell, Doug Martin, Dallas Clark, Greg Olsen

These divisional rivals traded spots last year when the Panthers were far better than anyone guessed while the once-promising Buccaneers dropped into the cellar with a ten game losing streak to end the year. Granted, even the Panthers were only 6-10 but provided fantasy fans with a major treat in Cam Newton. The Buccaneers swept the Panthers in 2010 but they swept Tampa Bay last year, winning 38-19 on the road and later 48-16 at home.

Carolina Panthers
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TB ----- 10 DEN -----
2 NO ----- 11 TB -----
3 NYG ----- 12 @PHI -----
4 @ATL ----- 13 @KC -----
5 SEA ----- 14 ATL -----
6 BYE ----- 15 @SD -----
7 DAL ----- 16 OAK -----
8 @CHI ----- 17 @NO -----
9 @WAS ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: While it rarely translated into wins, there is no denying that the Panthers offense became much more potent and fantasy relevant with the addition of Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton. He not only played well, he set numerous records along the way not the least of which were passing for 4051 yards and rushing in 14 touchdowns. He also threw for 432 yards in a game and is one of only seven players to ever pass for over 400 yards in two consecutive games. He was a total package.

What we need to see this year is if he will follow all other quarterbacks who rushed in more than 10 scores in a season since they all took a deep plunge the following year. None had more than five and most only had one or two. Newton also slowed down in his passing yardage later in the year when his final six games only produced one week with more than 210 passing yards.

Newton's rushing yards and score mostly came in addition to what Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams were producing. Both runners still had decent seasons in 2011 with Williams (155-836-7) the better runner than Stewart (142-761-4) but then Stewart (47-413-1) was a better receiver than Williams (16-135). Put their numbers together and you have a Super Back. But split them in two and you have marginal fantasy players. Nothing has changed here.

Nothing has changed in the receivers as well which is a mild surprise. Steve Smith rejuvenated his career with 1394 yards and seven touchdowns but his final eight games were far less than the first half of the season. That mirrored the drop in Newton's passing stats. Brandon LaFell is the one to watch in this offense as he enters his third season and was connecting better with Newton later last season. With Steve Smith already 33 years old, someone else needs to be there to take over in the next few seasons. Louis Murphy has been added to be the #3 but there's no fantasy value there.

With less than spectacular receivers at hand, Greg Olsen could be poised for a big year and has the confidence from his coaches that he can be an elite tight end on par with the Gronks and Grahams of the world. That remains to be seen and he only had 45 catches for 540 yards and five scores in his first year in Carolina. it is possible for a sixth year tight end to break out but it would be a major step up for a player who rarely had more than 50 yards in any game last year. To his advantage, the Panthers parted ways with Jeremy Shockey so there are theoretically 455 yards and four scores to distribute to other tight ends now.

On the road, this should still be a win for the Panthers who had no problems handling the Buccaneers last season. Worst stat of them all - Tampa Bay was ranked 32nd against running backs last year and only 28th against quarterbacks. Now they face both in Cam Newton.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 4 16 22 6 19 23
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 28 32 16 11 24 29

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Cam Newton, CAR GB 60100019020 ***
Green Bay allowed DeShone Kizer to throw three TDs last week and has given up the fourth-most fantasy points per game since Week 9. Cam draws a top-six opponent for yards, TD efficiency and points per play, in addition to fantasy points.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR GB 1001000000 ***
J-Stew turned back the clock a decade in Week 14. The Packers should have something to say about it this week, though, as they are the second-worst matchup for rushing TDs over the past five weeks. It's only the 15th-best opponent for rushing yards (96.2). This matchup favors Christian McCaffrey more, barring some weird twist, and Stewart's projection is on the hopeful side. Just one of the last 115 carries by an RB has made it into the end zone.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR GB 4004401000 ***
Green Bay is a great place to look for receiving success by RBs. This is the top matchup for receptions (8) and yards (62) a game. The Pack has been tough when it comes to permitting scores, though, with only one in 115 rushing and one in 40 receiving finding it in to the end zone since Week 9.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Devin Funchess, CAR GB 005801000 ***
Green Bay has limited receivers' catches to just 11.2 a game (22nd), though this defense has permitted touchdowns with the second-highest frequency. In the last five weeks, this secondary has allowed seven TDs, or one every eight catches by the position. Funchess (shoulder) was limited Wednesday but should be fine.

Update: He followed the limited session Wednesday with a full go of it Thursday and a day of rest Friday. Expect him to play through a questionable tag.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Russell Shepard, CAR GB 003300000 ***
Devin Funchess is the only Panthers receiver with fantasy utility, despite the positive matchup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR GB 002200000 ***
One in seven catches by tight ends over the past five weeks has scored against Green Bay. Olsen is still getting his game legs back and was a full participant Wednesday, which is a great sign after he played in more than 90 percent of the offensive snaps last week. The matchup is above average and warrants a fantasy start in deeper leagues.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR GB 1144 ***
Kickers have made 19 of the 20 attempts (10-for-11 XPAs) against the Packers, though this is just the 13th-best matchup of Week 15.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 CAR ----- 10 SD -----
2 @NYG ----- 11 @CAR -----
3 @DAL ----- 12 ATL -----
4 WAS ----- 13 @DEN -----
5 BYE ----- 14 PHI -----
6 KC ----- 15 @NO -----
7 NO ----- 16 STL -----
8 @MIN ----- 17 @ATL -----
9 @OAK ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: The Bucs entered 2011 full of hope after a promising 2010 but it all fell apart almost in indescribable ways. What once worked no longer did and Josh Freeman went from passing for 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions to only scoring 16 times via the pass and yet throwing 22 interceptions. A new offense and coaching staff seeks to change that this season with Eli Manning's old coach now calling plays. Freeman seemed poised for a big breakout that never happened in 2011. He seeks to resume his progress of 2010.

This time around he'll have better receivers. Mike Williams is back after following Freeman's lead and taking a very encouraging rookie season (65-964-11) and then falling back to only 65-771-3 for 2011. He'll be across from Vincent Jackson who signed a five-year deal worth $55 million to become the stud wideout that Williams was unable to become. Both wideouts have big production in their past and need to mesh with Freeman to bring that back. Preston Parker remains the #3 that has no fantasy significance. The success of the passing effort revolves around Jackson and Williams.

Kellen Winslow left so that he could be cut by the Seahawks and he is replaced by Dallas Clark. He's been healthy all summer unlike any given month for the last two years and the coaching staff is excited that he looks like he is back to the form that made him an elite tight end once upon a time in Indianapolis. Even last year Kellen Winslow ended with 75 catches for 763 yards and two scores in Tampa Bay. Clark is worth watching to see if he can once again become a TE1 at a very cheap price to you.

The Buccaneers also gave up on Legarrette Blount at the end of last year and drafted Doug Martin who has easily won the primary back duty. Martin has been impressive in camp and preseason games and should bring a more complete back to the Bucs than Blount who had no role in the passing game as a receiver or blocker. Rookie backs have a spotty history in recent years but Martin is in a very good situation with a nice schedule.

The Buccaneers should be improved this year but in week one it is a bit much to expect it all to come together instantly. They will put up a better fight than in 2011 and may even challenge the Panthers in week 11 but expect a lower effort while the packaging and duct tape is taken off all the new parts of the offense and defense.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points TB 14 27 21 15 23 20
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 24 31 11 22 25 15

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Jameis Winston, TB ATL 10000027021 ***
Famous Jameis tossed seven TDs in two games in 2016 against Atlanta. Since Week 9, the Falcons have managed to allow a pair of ground scores to inflate the matchup a hair. Remove those scores and we're looking at the 19th-hardest opponent. Winston should be a productive fantasy start but comes with a hint of risk.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Peyton Barber, TB ATL 6002100000 **
Barber authored one of the crazier stat lines of 2017 in the Week 12 trip to Atlanta. He carried it five times for seven yards but salvaged some worth with a pair of rushing scores. He should see double-digit touches with Doug Martin's struggles. The Falcons have given up just those two scores on the ground over the past five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Doug Martin, TB ATL 4001100000 ***
Martin is a hot mess in fantasy and doesn't deserve anyone's trust at this point. The divisional matchup isn't kind, either. Only two rushing TDs have come against Atlanta since Week 9 (both to Peyton Barber), and this is the fifth-worst matchup for yardage on the ground.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Mike Evans, TB ATL 005701000 **
Evans was a TD machine in 2016 but has managed just four this year and none since Week 7. He tied a season-high 12 targets in the Week 12 trip to the ATL but converted 50 percent of the looks for a mundane 78 yards. The Falcons have permitted the second-fewest fantasy points per play to receivers, giving up a healthy 13.4 receptions (7th) but only a TD every 22.3 grabs (26th) since Week 9.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR DeSean Jackson, TB ATL 005700000 ***
D-Jax was good for a season-best 11 targets in the Week 12 game, though he managed just 60 yards on his eight receptions for a season-low 7.5 yards per catch. Atlanta has permitted a decent amount of receptions (7th) but little in the way of yardage (21st) and TD ease (26th) over the last five games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Adam Humphries, TB ATL 003300000 ***
Humphries has seen four-plus targets in four of the past five games but doesn't have a TD on the year and hasn't managed to generate more than 51 yards since Week 4. He posted a 4-38-0 line in the Week 12 meeting with Atlanta.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE O.J. Howard, TB ATL 004501000 *
Howard was held to three catches for 52 yards a few weeks ago vs. the Falcons. This defense has given up more than five catches a game since Week 9, which ranks sixth, but nothing else is a positive takeaway from this matchup rating.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Cameron Brate, TB ATL 002200000 *
Aside from a big game two weeks ago, Brate has been a fantasy anchor in the second half of 2017. Trusting him is ill-advised. He caught one ball for six yards in the Week 12 meeting with Atlanta.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Patrick Murray, TB ATL 2222 ***
Murray faces a bottom-nine matchup in all major categories for his position. The Falcons have allowed only 3.4 total kicking chances per contest.

WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) IND at CHI PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN PIT at DEN WAS at NO
BUF at NYJ MIA at HOU SEA at ARI CIN at BAL (MON)
  CAR at TB NE at TEN SF at GB SD at OAK (MON)

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