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 II 40,1
WR Dez Bryant 5-80,1
TE Benjamin Watson 2-20

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 Teddy Bridgewater, NO CAR 0000012010 *
Look for Bridgewater to see most of the work, if not all, since Drew Brees is not going to be needed in this one. The Saints can't travel either direction in the seeding. Sean Payton probably wants to get a good look at what he has in Bridgewater, as well. At any rate, the matchup is favorable, so consider him a QB2 in dual-start formats and a "what the heck" kind of play in DFS. Don't put too much at stake, though.
QB Drew Brees, NO CAR 0000010000 *
Brees probably starts but plays for virtually no time at all. Stay away in all formats.
RB Dwayne Washington, NO CAR 7013200000 *
Washington could see a large role with the Saints expected to sit the studs. Gamers would need to be in a dire situation or be brave enough to risk a huge letdown in DFS, but he should be extremely cheap and has a great matchup.
RB Mark Ingram II, NO CAR 300000000 *
New Orleans is expected to sit all of its primary weapons, so Ingram shouldn't be in any lineup this week.
WR Ted Ginn Jr., NO CAR 003501000 *
Ginn was activated last week after last playing in Week 4, and he was pretty good (12.4 PPR points). The Saints have nothing at stake, so look for Ginn to see more work as they try to get him back into game shape. He scored last year in two of the three games vs. Carolina and could be a worthwhile flier in DFS.
WR Keith Kirkwood, NO CAR 005500000 *
Kirkwood should see an expanded role as New Orleans is likely to sit most of the key players. He landed only two passes for 40 yards in the Week 15 meeting but faces a defense that has fallen on hard times and into the placement of being the fourth-softest defense against WRs over the course of the year. He's too volatile of a play, though.
WR Tre'quan Smith, NO CAR 002300000 *
The rookie has run into the proverbial wall after his breakout Week 11 game. Smith has only three catches for 26 yards in the four games afterward, and even with an expanded role in Week 17, the rookie is far too risky to trust with anything important on the line.
WR Michael Thomas, NO CAR 001100000 *
Thomas probably will see only a series or two, if he plays at all, in a meaningless game for the No. 1 seed. Look for other options, and if your league plays its championship in Week 17, utilize this as an example of why the commish needs to change it up for next year.
TE Benjamin Watson, NO CAR 002200000 *
With four single-catch games in the last five weeks, and no TDs in that time, Watson is unplayable in all formats. The Panthers held him to 28 yards on his lone grab two weeks ago.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Wil Lutz, NO CAR 2222 *
No writeup available

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
WR Torrey Smith 3-60
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 Kyle Allen, CAR @NO 30000018011 *
Kyle Allen is expected to get the start with Cam Newton still ailing and Taylor Heinicke down for the count. There is zero reason, even if New Orleans indeed rests everyone of note, to chance it with Allen in any format.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR @NO 6003200000 *
CAP is poised to see an expanded role as Christian McCaffrey is expected to be rested, according to Ron Rivera. The Saints are one of the worst matchups for running backs but have nothing to play for this week. There isn't much upside here, but he could be utilized in the right setting.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR @NO 5003200000 *
McCaffrey is expected to be rested in this one, or at least see a drastic reduction in work. The matchup is awful, and it's really not much better if the Saints indeed rest everyone of note.
WR DJ Moore, CAR @NO 2004500000 *
Two weeks ago, Moore went for just 12 yards on two catches vs. the Saints. While the overall matchup is favorable, Carolina is on its third-string quarterback -- an undrafted fellow making his first NFL appearance. Avoid all Carolina receivers.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR @NO 3003200000 *
QB Taylor Heinicke was put on IR this week, meaning undrafted rookie will get the start. Samuel could rack up some points in PPR because of his versatility and short-area passing skills, but he is still a risky play in any situation. The Saints held him to a season-low 3.5 points two weeks ago.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR @NO 002300000 *
Funchess has four catches in his last four games, including consecutive goose eggs, and only 33 yards to his credit. One of those grabs went into the end zone, but he hasn't posted nine or more PPR points since Week 7. New Orleans was one of the teams to shut him out. Kyle Allen will get the start this week after backup Taylor Heinicke was placed on IR.
TE Ian Thomas, CAR @NO 003301000 *
Two weeks ago, Thomas saw four balls come his way, landing two for 14 yards. He rebounded adequately in Week 16 (4-48-1) but still has just one game on the year with more than 48 yards and has scored the lone TD.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Chandler Catanzaro, CAR @NO 3311 ***
No writeup available

* 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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