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 ATL 0000027020 ***
The Falcons have held three of their last four foes to one or zero touchdowns, and they limited Brees to 333 & 1 back in the season opener. So don't look for gaudy numbers; settle for pretty good and you'll be just fine.
RB Mark Ingram, NO ATL 11022100000 ***
You can run on the Falcons, as no team has given up more fantasy points to running backs. And while he no longer gets all the carries, Ingram gets enough to make a fantasy impact.
RB Pierre Thomas, NO ATL 1006400000 ***
Thomas faces a Falcons' defense that has served up the third-most running back receptions and third-most RB receiving yards. Since his primary function is as a receiver out of the backfield, expect him to capitalize on those stats with a solid fantasy helper here.
WR Kenny Stills, NO ATL 006901000 ***
Stills is handling Brandin Cooks' duties, so it's worth noting that the rookie went for 7-77-1 in the earlier meeting--numbers that could easily be replicated here in the rematch.
WR Marques Colston, NO ATL 005701000 ***
Colton went for 110 yards in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, but that's not rare against the Falcons. Five different wideouts have hit triple-digits in the past six games; expect Colton to return to their ranks this week.
TE Jimmy Graham, NO ATL 004500000 ***
The Saints haven't forgotten about the tight end position; they've scored four TE TDs in the past three games. They have, however, apparently forgotten about Graham, who has scored exactly zero of those touchdowns. He's scored in six of eight career meetings with Atlanta, and remains an every-week starter--though a gentle reminder to Sean Payton of his presence would be appreciated.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO ATL 2244 ***
Graham tallied double-digit points back in the season opener in Atlanta, but he hasn't been back above that mark since Week 8 and has just one multiple field goal outing in that span so keep those expectations in check.

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
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 CLE 10000025011 ***
Maybe Cam goes this week, but can you trust him to run--key to his fantasy value--with two busted bones in his back? Probably not, which leaves him to his throwing--not nearly enough to warrant a fantasy start in championship week.
Update: Cam is listed as probable and all indications are he'll start this week. Tough to see him running like usual, however, so he'll need to rely on his arm--and specifically on Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen--to carve out fantasy value against a pretty solid Browns secondary.
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR CLE 8011100000 ***
You can run on the Brownies; see Cincy's 241 yards and three TDs last week. And with little to no DeAngelo Williams and quite likely no Cam Newton culturing, it'll be another 20-tote day for Stewart. He's produced 228 yards and a touchdown with his last two 20-carry outings; have to like him here as well.
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR CLE 200000000 ***
Williams hasn't played for two weeks and hasn't seen more than 14 carries in a year. All he's doing is harshing Jonathan Stewart's mellow.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR CLE 005600000 **
Joe Haden is not infallible. He also hasn't had a great deal of success with bigger receivers, especially tandems: Mike Evans went for 7-124-6 (or Vincent Jackson had 6-86, take your pick); DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson split 148 yards; and Julio Jones scored (with 68 yards to boot) while Roddy White tallied 96. Benjamin doesn't have nearly as high-profile a running mate, but he's still a solid bet to see his usual volume of targets and provide fantasy value.
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR CLE 004500000 ***
You could play the "not covered by Joe Haden" card here, but Kelvin Benjamin's dramatic size advantage over Haden likely puts that matchup in favor of the receiver, negating the need to lean any more heavily on Cotchery than usual.
TE Greg Olsen, CAR CLE 007801000 **
Cleveland has been pretty good against tight ends--except for Jimmy Graham, whom they misguidedly tried to defend with the much smaller Joe Haden. Unlikely that the Browns sic Haden on Olsen, which should free him up to do his usual damage.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR CLE 3322 ***
Gano is heating up at just the right time; with multiple treys in three straight and double-digit points in back-to-back tilts, it's fortuitous that he bumps into a Browns defense that has served up multiple field goals in three straight and double-digit kicker points in three of its last five.

* 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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