Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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* 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
RB Pierre Thomas 20 3-20
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.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 17 11 4 24 31
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 4 21 2 2 20 18

QB Drew Brees, NO @CAR 0000032021 ***
In his career Brees has played a season's worth (16) of games against the Panthers, averaging 22 fantasy points per game in the process. He's also tossed multiple touchdowns in six straight this year and faces a reeling Carolina D that's allowed multiple TD tosses in six of eight. Enjoy the show.
RB Mark Ingram, NO @CAR 12012100000 ****
With injuries still halving the number of backs in New Orleans' rotation Ingram should be in line for another heavy workload. That's good news, not only because of last week's standout performance but also because backs who get carries against the Panthers do well; to wit, the nine backs who received double-digit carries against Carolina have produced five touchdowns and three 100-yard games. Enjoy the run, Robinson and Thomas will be back eventually.
RB Travaris Cadet, NO @CAR 2004200000 ***
Cadet is an intriguing play against a Carolina defense that's given up 6- and 12-catch games to running backs as well as three RB receiving scores this season.
WR Kenny Stills, NO @CAR 004601000 **
The Panthers have given up more than enough WR TDs to put every Saints wideout in play here, and with 57 yards or better in three of his last four Stills is a large enough part of the receiver rotation to warrant fantasy consideration.
WR Marques Colston, NO @CAR 006700000 ****
Colston has six touchdowns in his last five meetings with the Panthers, averaging 6-87-1 over that span. He's been the top target in three of four road games, among them a pair of 100-yard efforts. That's about as good as it gets for Colston, who's still just one of a bunch of guys Drew Brees could throw to.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO @CAR 005700000 ***
Cooks is much more of a homebody than a road warrior; since his 7-77-1 NFL debut in Week 1 he's totaled 10-71 in three games away from the SuperDome. It's a favorable matchup, but if you're looking for ways to parse the Saints receivers history is not on Cooks' side.
TE Jimmy Graham, NO @CAR 008901000 ***
Graham has scored in five straight and six of seven against the Panthers, has either a TD or 100 yards in seven straight, and has double-digit fantasy points in each of those tilts. Carolina is traditionally strong against the tight end but allowed Luke Willson to beat them last week and has yet to find an answer for Graham. Oh, and Jimmy looked plenty healthy last week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO @CAR 1133 ***
Graham has three straight three-field goal games and faces a Carolina defense that's allowing an average of nine kicker points per game over the past month and a half. He's as good an option as you'll find this week.

Carolina Panthers
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
  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
WR Jason Avant 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.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 20 31 8 18 29 28
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 31 25 27 11 31 17

QB Cam Newton, CAR NO 30000025020 ***
The Saints have held Newton in relative check--single touchdown, sub-250 passing yards, sub-50 rushing yards check--the past three meetings, and Cam's coming off a subpar performance against the Seahawks last week. But New Orleans is a different animal outdoors, so we're putting a little more stock in a Newton bounceback effort here--especially considering the Saints have allowed multiple QB TDs in four straight games.
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR NO 5011100000 **
The last time both Williams and Jonathan Stewart played in the same game for the Panthers it was a 14-9 split on carries (and 14-12 on touches) in favor of Williams. He's also scored in four of the last five meetings with New Orleans where both he and Stewart have suited up. So odds are he's the lead dog here, though if his share of the workload is still in the 15-touch range it'll be tough to bank on him for much of a fantasy contribution.
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR NO 3001100000 **
In the last five times both Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have suited up against the Saints--and you have to go back five years to come up with those five games--Williams has scored in four of them and Stewart in just one. The last time both were available this season Stewart was on the short end of a 14-12 split in touches. So if Williams truly is back this week, Stewart isn't likely to be much of a fantasy helper.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR NO 0051002000 ***
In the last three games alone the Saints have allowed five WR TDs and three 100-yard games. Since Benjamin is the Carolina WR most likely to (insert just about anything here), he's the best bet to take the helpful cut of those stats.
TE Greg Olsen, CAR NO 006601000 **
Olsen hasn't scored on the Saints since October of 2011 and has never topped 50 yards against them. Seattle, notoriously soft against tight ends, provided a blue print for covering him last week in holding him to one catch for 16 yards, and the Saints haven't allowed a TE TD since Week 1. He's still an every-week starter in TE-mandatory leagues based on his role in the Carolina offense, but there isn't much to like about this particular matchup.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR NO 22332 ***
Gano's been a solid point provider, averaging around eight points per game, and the Saints are surrendering around nine points per game. You could do worse for a kicking option this week.

* 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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