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 MIN 0000031030 ***
The Vikings haven't given up much to opposing passing attacks thus far, but it's partly because they faced the Rams' backups and partly because the Patriots backed off when they rolled out to a big lead. Brees won't be as merciful.
RB Khiry Robinson, NO MIN 701000000 ****
With no Mark Ingram this week, Robinson should step into the bulk of the carries for the Saints' backfield. Though he may not get to the 25 carries Stevan Ridley had last week, something akin to the 101 and 1 Ridley dropped on the Vikings feels about right.
RB Pierre Thomas, NO MIN 3003200000 ***
Thomas could see an uptick in carries as well as his typical role in the passing game. Either alone would likely be enough to warrant starting against the Vikings; both makes Thomas an even better fantasy play.
WR Marques Colston, NO MIN 006901000 ***
If you can look past the goose egg Colston laid last week, he projects to be a solid fantasy play against the Vikings--especially if cornerback Xavier Rhodes is still nursing a groin injury.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO MIN 2006701000 ***
Cooks' speed is bound to give the suddenly blitz-happy Vikings fits; as an added bonus he's been steadily targeted so there's little in the way of downside here.
WR Kenny Stills, NO MIN 003300000 ***
Just about every Saint should be in play fantasy-wise this week; the issue with Stills is that he hasn't staked out a consistent role in New Orleans' passing game so there's plenty of risk involved as well.
TE Jimmy Graham, NO MIN 0071001000 ***
The Vikings kept Rob Gronkowski out of the end zone last week--with a little (a lot of?) help from a limited snap count. Graham is unlikely to suffer the same fate, and Minnesota is equally as unlikely to be able to contain him.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO MIN 2244 ***
The Vikes have allowed multiple field goals in each game this season, and the Saints should give Graham plenty of opportunity to swing the leg this week. Even counting by ones he should be just fine fantasy-wise.

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 PIT 40100024010 ***
Cam's 2014 fantasy debut was underwhelming, and he's unlikely to get much of a boost from a Steelers' defense that has allowed a total of 396 passing yards through two games.
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR PIT 800000000 ***
Williams sat out last week and we are awaiting news of his return to work. If he goes it's an extremely favorable matchup, so it's a situation worth monitoring.
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR PIT 3002100000 ***
In a rare confluence of Stewart's good health, a DeAngelo Williams injury, and a favorable matchup with a Pittsburgh run D that's allowed 175 and 152 RB rushing yards the past two games... we have an honest to goodness opportunity to give Stewart a fantasy start. Of course, if Williams returns things could change but for now, revel in the possibilities.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR PIT 005800000 ***
The Steelers haven't surrendered much to opposing wideouts, and last week Cam threw as much to Jason Avant as he did Benjamin. Best wait for a more favorable opportunity to plug the rookie into your fantasy lineup.
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR PIT 004400000 ***
Cam Newton got Cotchery involved last week, but there isn't much to go around and the Steelers will reduce that number even further. It adds up to Cotchery being a risky fantasy play at best this week.
Update: As an added bonus, Cotchery didn't practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. The risk side of the scale is almost touching bottom.
TE Greg Olsen, CAR PIT 007801000 ***
Olsen remains the Panthers' most reliable pass-catcher, and against a Steelers defense that surrendered two TDs to the position last week and 90 yards to tight ends the week before he's as good a bet as any for fantasy help.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR PIT 1133 ***
The Steelers have allowed multiple field goal attempts in each game thus far this season; Gano has attempted multiple field goals in each game as well. It adds up to... well, multiple opportunities for Gano to be a fantasy helper 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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