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
WR Brandon Marshall 8-110,1
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 Drew Brees, NO PHI 0000032030 ***
Every quarterback but Eli Manning went for 22-plus points in the last four games against Philadelphia. The Eagles also lost cornerback Ronald Darby (knee) in Week 10, and twice this defense was embarrassed by quarterbacks in 2018 when Marcus Mariota and Ryan Fitzpatrick each with for more than 35 fantasy points. Depending on how the Saints choose to attack, Brees could be either average or elite.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO PHI 5014501000 ***
In the past five weeks, Philly has transformed from one of the eight-best defenses of fantasy backs to the fifth worst. Kamara should have a field day as a dual-threat weapon. Only two teams have yielded more catches per game and just one has provided a greater yardage figure in this five-week window. Just look at what Ezekiel Elliott did last week for a taste of recency evidence.
RB Mark Ingram II, NO PHI 7013200000 ***
Using seasonal data, Philly is stout vs. RBs, ranking 8th at limiting the position's fantasy points. Since Week 5, this is the fifth-best opponent to exploit in PPR. No team has allowed more fantasy points per touch, and it's a moderate matchup for rushing scores (15th-highest frequency).
WR Michael Thomas, NO PHI 00101202000 ***
His Twitter handle is @cantguardmike, and the Eagles will be the latest team to realize this on Thomas' path to what ultimately could be a career year for all of his remaining days. This defense has permitted a WR score per game in 2018, and only the Bucs and, incidentally, Saints have proved to be worse at guarding guys like Mike.
WR Keith Kirkwood, NO PHI 003400000 ***
Dez Bryant's injury gave Kirkwood an opening in Week 10, and he landed a 42-yarder from Drew Brees. Keep him away from fantasy lineups in all typical scenarios.
WR Tre'quan Smith, NO PHI 002400000 *
Smith could be a sneaky flier play in deeper leagues this week. Philly has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to wideouts in 2018, and with all of the attention paid to Michael Thomas, this injury-ravaged secondary could give up big plays to the talented rookie. This projection is conservative, and Smith is awfully risky.
TE Benjamin Watson, NO PHI 003400000 ***
Philadelphia has been consistently strong against tight ends in 2018. In the face of so many defensive-back injuries, it is logical for quarterbacks to attack with wideouts rather than take a lot of underneath gimmes. Watson isn't exactly a field-stretcher at his age, and he's merely a flier for a fluke TD grab.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Wil Lutz, NO PHI 1155 ***
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 Cam Newton, CAR @DET 40000025020 ***
It depends on which version of the Lions shows up and whether CB Darius Slay is ready to return to action, but this defense has been almost perfectly average over the course of 2018 vs. QBs. In recent weeks, it is a slightly positive matchup. Mitchell Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson each enjoyed strong days in the last five games facing this unit, so there's little reason to doubt Cam is capable of following in their footsteps.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR @DET 6015600000 ***
Detroit is one of five teams that has allowed more than 1,100 rushing yards this year, and this defense has surrendered a touchdown per game between rushing and receiving scores. McCaffrey faces the eighth-friendliest opponent for rushing TD efficiency over the past five weeks.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR @DET 004601000 **
Failing to find the end zone over the past three games, Funchess has struggled to receive targets with only 13 total in those games after 11 in Week 7 alone. Detroit has given up six WR touchdowns in the same three contests, including a pair of 120-plus-yard performances vs. Chicago last week without star CB Darius Slay in the lineup.
WR DJ Moore, CAR @DET 1004400000 ***
The rookie has flex appeal based on Detroit's recent string of poor performances. This defense has yielded the seventh-fewest catches per game and highest frequency of touchdowns since Week 5. The yardage against is neutral.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR @DET 1003400000 ***
Samuel is a flier play pretty much any week, but if you're going to chance it, this could be a wise time to try. The Lions have been atrocious at giving up touchdowns in the last five weeks, ranking as the most feeble defense in this area. Even still, due to limited involvement, Samuel is merely a flex.
WR Torrey Smith, CAR @DET 00000000 *
Smith is still trying to work his way back from injury and should be left out of lineups even if he returns.
TE Greg Olsen, CAR @DET 004501000 ***
Detroit has permitted 15 tight end catches since Week 5, allowing one to travel into the end zone. The Lions came out of their Week 6 bye with a renewed focus on the position, although the competition has been so-so. Olsen is a lineup fixture in any conventional format.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR @DET 2233 ***
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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