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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
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.

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 GB 0000031021 ****
Ever since Frankie... uh, Aaron say "relax", the Packers defense has joined in the refrain; they've given up multiple TD passes or the rushing equivalent to four straight opposing QBs. Brees has multiple touchdown tosses in five straight, 340-plus yards in three straight... yeah, he's ready for a shootout.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO GB 4013200000 **
It's a reasonably favorable matchup--five of the six RB TDs the Pack have allowed have come on the road--but you may as well put all the Saints' RBs' names in a hat with all the rhyme and/or lack of reason they're employed on a weekly basis. Ingram was ineffective in his return last week, but with no Pierre Thomas does he get more work? Does he handle goal line duties? Do Khiry Robinson and/or Travaris Cadet steal his thunder? Do the Saints go to the freakin' fullback again? Too many questions for this to be anything other than a desperation fantasy play.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Travaris Cadet, NO GB 2005400000 ***
In theory Cadet should be a great fantasy play in PPR leagues as he replaces the injured Pierre Thomas. But just when you think you have the Saints' backfield mix figured out Sean Patyon shakes it like a Polaroid picture. So Cadet has upside, but factor in the inherent risk of owning any shares of the Saints' backfield.
Update: No Pierre Thomas, no Khiry Robinson... Sean Payton is running out of ways to stick it to fantasy owners of Saints backs. It's a prime opportunity for Cadet... so expect fullback Austin Johnson to score twice. Just sayin'.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Khiry Robinson, NO GB 00000000 *****
Robinson disappointed when given earlier opportunities, and now with Pierre Thomas sidelined and Mark Ingram yet to regain his effectiveness... well, Travaris Cadet is the hot pickup if that tells you anything. Sure, there's upside but the Saints' backfield is a fantasy clusterboink that's driven veteran fantasy footballers to the brink of insanity and is best used only as a desperation measure.
Update: Robinson has been ruled out of this week's tilt. Travaris Cadet projects to get his touches, but you know Sean Payton likes to keep fantasy owners guessing.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO GB 005601000 **
The Packers have allowed multiple WR TDs in three of their last four, so in the jumbled mess that is the Saints' fantasy receiving corps Colston likely holds his value. That's about as ringing an endorsement as we can deliver here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO GB 002301000 **
Drew Brees' favorite receiver is "whomever is open". Last week that, apparently, was Stills; he posted 5-103-1 after just one catch the previous week. If there's a perceived pecking order it's likely Colston, then Cooks, then Stills, but the good news is this is a favorable matchup against a team that's allowed multiple WR TDs on a regular basis so a dart thrown at Stills isn't entirely misdirected.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brandin Cooks, NO GB 008700000 ****
Green Bay has given up multiple WR TDs in three of the last four--but will it be Cooks, who was merely an observer last week after a team high 11 targets and nine catches the previous week? It's a favorable enough matchup he's worth starting, but don't pull your hair out if Kenny Stills swipes his touchdown.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO GB 004500000 *
Gotta hope Graham shook off the rust with last week's two target, zero catch performance because this is an extremely favorable matchup with a Green Bay defense that's allowed two 100-yard receiving games to tight ends over the past month. If Graham gets some practice work in this week you should be able to slot him into your fantasy lineup with confidence, but it wouldn't hurt to have a backup plan on a Sunday night or Monday night roster just in case.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO GB 2233 ****
Graham has come around with a couple of double-digit games, but the Packers haven't allowed more than six points to an opposing kicker since Week 1 so keep your expectations in check.

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
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.

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 SEA 30100024020 ***
Seattle has allowed multiple passing scores in five straight games. While they don't appear to offer Cam much room to run, he should account for enough via the air to be on the fantasy radar.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR SEA 4003200000 ****
Well, the Seahawks HAVE allowed RB TDs in back to back weeks and 85-plus yards to Tre Mason and DeMarco Murray, so... nope, can't say it with a straight face. Ol' Iron Horse Stewart is a reach at best this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR SEA 005501000 **
Only once all year have two wideouts scored in the same game against Seattle, and no tandem has topped double-digit fantasy points against the Seahawks this season. Cotchery isn't about to buck that trend.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR SEA 003400000 ****
Benjamin will get the looks--from both Cam Newton and Richard Sherman. The latter makes it difficult to bank on Benjamin as a fantasy helper this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR SEA 008901000 ****
The Seahawks' defensive Achilles' heel also happens to be the Panthers' strength. Expect Olsen to add his name to the list of eight TE TDs Seattle has given up already this season.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR SEA 2233 ***
Gano has kicked multiple field goals just once in the past four games, and Seattle's defense isn't likely to suddenly afford him bountiful opportunities.

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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