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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 2
2012
* CHI at GB (THU) * DAL at SEA * MIN at IND * TB at NYG
ARI at NE * DET at SF * NO at CAR * TEN at SD
* BAL at PHI * HOU at JAC * NYJ at PIT * WAS at STL
* Updated CLE at CIN KC at BUF * OAK at MIA DEN at ATL (MON)

Prediction: NO 31, CAR 24 (Line: NO by 2)

Players to watch: Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, all Carolina Rushers

Updated Players: Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart

The Saints lost their home opener to the Redskins in a game that just seemed destined to get away from them. The Panthers also come off a loss when their offense could do almost nothing in Tampa Bay where no defense was previously known to exist. The Saints swept the Panthers in 2011, winning 30-27 in Carolina and later 45-17 in New Orleans. The Saints look a little shakier than expected but should be plenty for the Panthers to handle.

New Orleans Saints
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 WAS 32-40 10 ATL -----
2 @CAR ----- 11 @OAK -----
3 KC ----- 12 SF -----
4 @GB ----- 13 @ATL -----
5 SD ----- 14 @NYG -----
6 BYE ----- 15 TB -----
7 @TB ----- 16 @DAL -----
8 @DEN ----- 17 CAR -----
9 PHI ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NO @ CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 350,3
RB Mark Ingram 40,1
WR Marques Colston 5-80,1
WR Robert Meachem 3-30
TE Jimmy Graham 7-80,1
TE Benjamin Watson 2-20
PK Shayne Graham 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: You knew it was going to be one of those games when Marques Colston lost a fumble that rolled out the back of the endzone for a touchback. Always close and never close enough against the Redskins who deserved some credit for bringing a whole team to the party. What was most troubling was a defense that already had plenty of distractions and defections thanks to Bountygate, and just could never stop the Redskins in any facet of their offense.

Drew Brees has his standard monster fantasy game but his passing alone is not enough to win. Troublesome too was the rushing effort that only gamed 32 yards on ten carries in a home game. Granted - the scoreboard forced the Saints to abandon the run sooner than later but there was little to no run support. Mark Ingram only gained 15 yards on six runs as the primary rusher. Darren Sproles salvaged what was nearly a disastrous game when he caught a touchdown late and ended with five catches for 35 yards. He had no rushing attempts and typically always had his best games at home last year. Hard to imagine that he only had five touches when Brees threw 52 passes in the game.

What is nicer about the passing offense - at least in fantasy terms - is that Brees has only relied on three receivers. Lance Moore (6-120, TD), Marques Colston (4-71) and Jimmy Graham (6-85, TD) accounted for all but eight completions and did all the damage to the Skins. That at least makes forecasting more straight forward than when Brees spreads the passes among all receivers equally. Colston almost scored last week too and the trio provides the core of this offense.

The Saints need to get a win to shake off that loss to the Skins and the Panthers should be just the ticket since their offense is struggling, The Panthers are already familiar and return the same players and offense from last year making it easier to prepare for them. If the Saints lose this one - every bad thing possible from Bountygate is starting to happen.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 17 11 4 24 31
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 4 21 2 2 20 18

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Drew Brees, NO @TB 0000030021 ***
Lovie Smith's defense has been significantly better since giving up 372 and 2 to Brees earlier this year. In fact, they've held six of the past seven quarterbacks they've faced to just one TD toss--good quarterbacks, too, including Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and RG3. Brees hasn't exactly been tearing it up like usual anyway; he's thrown single scoring strikes in three straight and four of five against NFC South foes, so keep a lid on expectations here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO @TB 7012100000 ***
Whether they're using him up before letting him hit free agency or they've just decided to give him the ball, the Saints are loading up Ingram with carries--30 the past two weeks, versus eight for the rest of the New Orleans backfield. Like earlier in the year when all the other Saints RBs were injured, Ingram has responded--not necessarily with big yardage, but with touchdowns in each of those two games. He missed the earlier date with Tampa Bay while Khiry Robinson rushed for 89 yards and a TD and Pierre Thomas chipped in 112 combo yards and a couple scores. Look for Ingram to consolidate the rushing numbers and provide one more fantasy helper in a Saints uniform.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO @TB 005701000 ***
The Bucs have surrendered four 100-yard WR games the past three weeks, and while Colston isn't a pure WR1 he's the closest thing the Saints have and thus the most likely to take advantage here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO @TB 0051000000 ***
Brandon Cooks paced the Saints with 11 targets the last time they faced Tampa Bay. Stills has ascended to Cooks' role as WR2 in New Orleans; with Drew Brees struggling it isn't a guaranteed fantasy producer, but after watching the Bucs give up four 100-yard games and three WR TDs over the past three weeks it definitely gets Stills on the fantasy radar.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO @TB 005701000 **
The Bucs have been stout against tight ends, giving up just one TE TD in the past 11 games and just one game north of 61 yards in that span as well. That stretch included a disappointing 2-36 by Graham in which he was only the third-most productive Saints tight end. He's been a bigger factor of late and you can't sit him, but you can start him with a bit of trepidation.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO @TB 1133 ***
Graham hasn't had multiple field goals in more than a month, but here come the Bucs to the rescue: they've allowed eight in the last three games and served up three to Graham earlier this year.

Carolina Panthers
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TB 10-16 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
CAR vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 30,1 250,2
RB Jonathan Stewart 30 4-30
RB DeAngelo Williams 40 2-20
TE Ed Dickson 20
TE Greg Olsen 4-50,1

Pregame Notes: Last week was troubling on a number of fronts for the Panthers who wanted to take a step forward this year - not backwards. They had produced 183 rushing yards and four touchdowns in Tampa Bay last year and now come off a game where they only managed ten total rushing yards and no scores. That's more than a little drop-off and of more than a little concern.

Jonathan Stewart was unable to play but may suit up this week if his ankle heals enough. Updates as warranted on Stewart but err to the side of caution for now. DeAngelo Williams had the rare chance to run without any interference from Stewart and his six carries actually netted one less yard than Stewart gained sitting on the sideline. This was a very bad game and what was once the premier rushing team suddenly had no chance to advance the ball on the ground.

Cam Newton threw for 303 yards and a score but also had two interceptions. He never had a big game against the Saints in 2011 with never more than 224 passing yards and two scores. This will be a big test because DeAngelo Williams and Stewart combined for 135 rushing yards on just 15 carries against the visiting Saints last year and WIlliams scored once. Even Newton had a running touchdown though he gained just 27 yards as a rusher.

The good news - if there is any from a game with just ten points scored - is that the passing game looks a bit more diverse than "Where is Steve?". Sure, Smith ended with 106 yards on seven carries but Brandon LaFell caught the lone touchdown on his three receptions for 65 yards. Louis Murphy is the new #3 there and also caught three passes and gained 63 yards. It is encouraging that the wide receivers are all getting involved. But losing the entire rushing attack doesn't make this any great compensation.

Greg Olsen was the second most frequently used target last week when he caught six of his seven passes for 56 yards and he does look like he is taking the next step. He is worth monitoring to see if he really can deliver top ten tight end production with any consistency.

The Panthers picked a bad week to face the Saints who are smarting from last week. And scoring ten points will never work against a team like the Saints so the Carolina offense has to figure out what is wrong while the car is still doing 70 mph down the road. The defense is unlikely to stop the Saints but the more important part of this likely loss is what the offense does. If it struggles again like week one, then the Panthers may well be one of those two or three teams each season that just become inexplicably bad.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 20 31 8 18 29 28
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 31 25 27 11 31 17

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Cam Newton, CAR @ATL 40000026021 ***
Cam has multiple touchdowns in his last six against Atlanta, as well as multiple touchdowns in his last two sandwiched around his car crash. Most importantly, he's had a dozen rushes in each of those games, with 83 and 63 yards and a TD in each. And if he mixes in some passing stats against an Atlanta secondary that's allowed three straight 300 yard games--and 290-plus in eight straight--that's more than enough to be a significant fantasy helper this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR @ATL 8001100000 ***
Stewart has had three straight games of 20-plus carries, topping 120 rushing yards in two of them. He was the junior partner to DeAngelo Williams in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, but now he should be the primary ball-carrier against a defense that's allowed nine RB TDs in the past five games. And that, in turn, should yield fantasy production.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR @ATL 0081102000 ***
Benjamin is the most heavily targeted Panther, with seven games of double-digit looks including four of the last five. And that stretch includes 9-109-1 against the Falcons, who don't seem any more able to shut him down than they did a month ago.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR @ATL 004400000 ***
Being the number 2 to Kelvin Benjamin is like being Andrew Ridgley in Wham. Go ahead, Google it.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Philly Brown, CAR @ATL 002200000 ***
Only two secondary receivers have scored in the same game in which that team's WR1 also scored--and Brown is one of them. That said, his standard three targets per game make him an extreme fantasy risk.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR @ATL 007800000 ***
Olsen's 5-61 in the earlier meeting with Atlanta was the first time in six meetings with the Falcons in which he failed to find the end zone. He remains an every-week starter, but last week he didn't get his usual double-digit targets and the Falcons have allowed only three TE TDs all year so the matchup isn't doing him any favors.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR @ATL 2222 ***
Gano has multiple field goal attempts in five straight, and even converted multiple field goals in three of those five. He mustered just five points in the earlier meeting with the Falcons, however, so keep those expectations in check.

WEEK 2
2012
* CHI at GB (THU) * DAL at SEA * MIN at IND * TB at NYG
ARI at NE * DET at SF * NO at CAR * TEN at SD
* BAL at PHI * HOU at JAC * NYJ at PIT * WAS at STL
* Updated CLE at CIN KC at BUF * OAK at MIA DEN at ATL (MON)

 
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