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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 DET 10000023021 ***
After tapping out in Week 1, Cam makes his 2014 debut against a Lions defense that just stymied Eli Manning. Okay, so that's not overly impressive. But they do have guys up front who won't be shy about hammering Cam's ribs so this may have to be an air show rather than a run fest. That's a matchup Cam can win as well, making him eminently startable here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR DET 6003200000 ***
It's a three-way job share against a defense that held the Giants to 55 RB rushing yards; none of that smacks of fantasy potential.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR DET 00000000 *
In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and in the land of Carolina backs Williams at present is getting the most carries. Doesn't mean he warrants a fantasy start, however.
Update: Williams did not practice all week due to a thigh injury. He's listed as questionable and doesn't offer enough upside in his role in Carolina to offset the risk of not playing here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR DET 005801000 ***
Hard to get a read on the Lions' secondary, as they were barely tested by the Giants in Week 1. But Benjamin has clearly vaulted to the top of the Panthers' receiver depth chart; now he needs to get on the same page with Cam Newton and magic is sure to ensue.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR DET 003400000 ***
You may not have noticed but the Panthers line up some other guys at wide receiver besides Kelvin Benjamin. Cam Newton hasn't noticed much beyond one go-to guy in the past, no reason to think that will change here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR DET 007801000 ****
The Lions made Larry Donnell look like a Pro Bowler last week; does that mean an actual talented tight end like Olsen will look like a Hall of Famer against them? Quite possibly, yes.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR DET 3322 ***
The Giants couldn't get close enough to attempt a field goal last week against Detroit, but the Panthers shouldn't have a similar dilemma so go ahead and go with Gano.

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 Josh McCown, TB STL 20000022021 ***
McCown's Week 1 stat line looked a whole lot like what the Rams gave up to Matt Cassel--and neither was much fantasy help. While he did take this defense for 352 and 2 as a Bear last year, those numbers are too optimistic for his current offense.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Doug Martin, TB STL 5002100000 ***
Martin's Week 1 injury was deemed "minor", meaning he should be available for this tilt. He'll face a defense that held Adrian Peterson in check last week and limited the Martin-less Bucs to 37 RB rushing yards in a meeting late last season. In other words, there's little reason to be optimistic.
Update: All systems go for Martin, who returned to practice and is expected to resume his role as the lead dog in Tampa Bay's backfield committee.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Vincent Jackson, TB STL 005701000 ***
VJax went 5-98 against this defense with little help last year. Now he has to hope his improved supporting cast doesn't usurp his looks to the point of sapping his fantasy value.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Mike Evans, TB STL 004500000 ***
Evans saw as many targets as erstwhile WR1 Vincent Jackson last week, but this is still VJax's show and the matchup doesn't suggest enough in the way of passing game numbers to feed multiple mouths.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Chris Owusu, TB STL 002300000 ***
Owusu swiped a TD out from under Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans last week, but he can't be relied upon for anything resembling consistent fantasy help.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Brandon Myers, TB STL 003301000 ***
No writeup available
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB STL 00000000 *
Brandon Myers saw the vast majority of Tampa Bay's tight end targets last week, but ASJ's athleticism is not to be denied. Against a defense that let Kyle Rudolph find the end zone last week, he at least has a shot at a score.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Patrick Murray, TB STL 2222 ***
Murray wasn't given much in the way of opportunity last week; until that changes, you can find a more palatable fantasy kicking option.

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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