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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

Prediction: ATL 24, TB 27 (Line: ATL by 1)

Players Updated: Julio Jones

Players to Watch: Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, Doug Martin

This is the game that can make the Falcons the official NFC South "Next Big Thing". The 9-1 Falcons are 4-1 on the road and want to beat the 6-4 Buccaneers to maintain a very safe cushion in the division. Thing is - the Bucs are on a four game winning streak and are averaging 34 points over the last six weeks. This is an all new Buccaneers team from the one that won 16-13 when they hosted the Falcons in week three last year and later lost 24-45 in Atlanta. This should be a great game to watch with big fantasy and NFL implications.

Atlanta Falcons
Homefield: Georgia Dome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @KC 40-24 10 @NO 27-31
2 DEN 27-21 11 ARI 23-19
3 @SD 27-3 12 @TB -----
4 CAR 30-28 13 NO -----
5 @WAS 24-17 14 @CAR -----
6 OAK 23-20 15 NYG -----
7 BYE ----- 16 @DET -----
8 @PHI 30-17 17 TB -----
9 DAL 19-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL @ TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 310,3
RB Steven Jackson 60 1-10
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 20 5-50,1
WR Harry Douglas 5-50,1
WR Julio Jones 4-60
WR Roddy White 8-120,1
TE Tony Gonzalez 5-50,1
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Falcons remain two games ahead of all other NFC teams though the lost in New Orleans and then discovered the Cardinals were going to be more like a swarm of hornets than the normal obedient family dog. For being 9-1, the Falcons almost never win by more than a touchdown and now may be without Julio Jones this week. The rest of the schedule is not that daunting though and the Buccaneers high scoring ways have been against defenses not up to the Falcons.

Matt Ryan has been a top quarterback all year and currently stands at 20 passing touchdowns. He's thrown over 300 yards five times including each of the last three games though he did not score against the visiting Cowboys or Cardinals these last few weeks. His five interceptions last Sunday was an exception to be ignored and he's facing perhaps the weakest secondary in the NFL this week. Ryan passed for 330 yards and one score in Tampa Bay last year.

Michael Turner scores in most home games but rarely on the road and his yardage has really waned this season with only one 100-yard effort in the last six weeks. He's been a marginal play all year and Jacquizz Rodgers gets just enough work to make Turner worse and yet not enough to allow Rodgers real fantasy value. He typically only runs a few times per game but has been good for four or five receptions for the past month.

Tony Gonzalez has really fallen off in the last five games. After starting out with four touchdowns in the first five weeks, he's scored and totaled more than 45 yards only once. That was against the ultra-weak Saints. Then again - he goes against a soft secondary again this week.

The big question this week is if Julio Jones can play and what he will be like if he does. Jones twisted his ankle in the Saints game and did not practice but suited up for the Cardinals. He was mostly a decoy, catching only three passes for 33 yards and then limping off in the fourth quarter after re-aggravating the injury. Jones typically has not been a major factor in home games other than his presence alone changes the defense. I'll assume a very hobbled Jones plays and adjust as the week progresses and his status becomes more clear. Roddy White should enjoy a nice game this week that could end up really big against a weak secondary that may be missing a starting corner anyway. Harry Douglas steps up to fill in for Jones when needed though he's hardly a 1:1 replacement for the speedy star.

The good thing is that the Buccaneers defense is so bad that they encourage shootouts most weeks. Even without Jones, the Falcons still have the firepower to get into a shootout that we all want to see.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 4 15 6 3 3 14
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 30 18 32 19 9 9

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Matt Ryan, ATL CAR 0000028011 ***
Ryan threw for 219 & 1 in the earlier meeting with the Panthers, but that was in Carolina. Then again, venue hasn't mattered much to the Panthers, who have allowed only one multiple passing TD game all season. Ryan just took the 49ers for 348 & 2 in San Francisco so all is not lost, but with Carolina playing for a playoff spot it's tough to see Ryan having much success here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Steven Jackson, ATL CAR 5003200000 ***
Jackson has six touchdowns in his last four games--a little late for those looking to him as a fantasy RB1 or even RB2 back on draft day, but you take what you can get. However, He mustered just 57 yards (and no TDs) on 13 carries in the earlier meeting with Carolina and is unlikely to dent a Panthers defense that's given up one RB rushing TD in the past 11 games and four RB TDs all year.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Roddy White, ATL CAR 005600000 ***
White has seen double-digit targets in three of the last four games, resulting in some old-school Roddy White numbers: 12-141-1, 8-74, 10-143. He didn't play in the earlier meeting with Carolina, but he had 100-plus yards and a score in both ends of last season's series and has scored in three straight against the Panthers. While his prognosis is less optimistic against a Carolina defense that's allowed just three WR TDs in the past 13 games, at least there's a chance.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Drew Davis, ATL CAR 002300000 ***
Davis had a brief moment when both Julio Jones and Roddy White were out of the lineup and he was wingman to Harry Douglas. Jones is back, the matchup is tough, and Davis goes back in the bargain bin.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Harry Douglas, ATL CAR 003300000 ***
Douglas had 82 yards in the earlier matchup with Carolina--a pretty good WR game against the Panthers--but he's been relatively quiet the past month while Roddy White has returned to WR1 status in Atlanta so keep your expectations in check.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Tony Gonzalez, ATL CAR 0091201000 *****
Gonzo had 6-81-1 in the earlier matchup with Carolina; now he's scored in four straight and catches the Panthers having given up 239 yards and four TDs to the position in just the past three outings. Maybe the season didn't go quite as Gonzo had hoped, but he's certainly closing his Canton-worthy career with a flourish.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Bryant, ATL CAR 2211 ***
Bryant has one double-digit effort in the past three months and posted just four points in the earlier meeting with Carolina. The Panthers are playing for something, the Falcons are not; unlikely this ends well for Bryant.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 CAR 16-10 10 SD 34-24
2 @NYG 34-41 11 @CAR 27-21
3 @DAL 10-16 12 ATL -----
4 WAS 22-24 13 @DEN -----
5 BYE ----- 14 PHI -----
6 KC 38-10 15 @NO -----
7 NO 28-35 16 STL -----
8 @MIN 36-17 17 @ATL -----
9 @OAK 42-32 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
RB Doug Martin 100,1 4-40
WR Vincent Jackson 4-50,1
PK Connor Barth 2 FG 3 XP
PK Rian Lindell 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: This week provides a true measuring stick for the Bucs to see just how good they have become. So far this point explosion of the last six weeks have come against mostly below average defenses and teams with losing records. This is a respect sort of game and a confidence builder if they can win it. There are still some bumps left in the road before January - @DEN, @NO and @ATL and a loss this week could turn all the progress around for the rest of the year.

Freeman has been a nice surprise this year, picking up on all the promise of 2010 that fell flat last season. He's thrown for multiple scores in each of the last six games and currently has 21 passing touchdowns - one more than Ryan. His yardage tends to be lower thanks in part to a very good rushing effort by Doug Martin. The addition of Vincent Jackson seems to have been the one element needed to bring it all together.

The rookie Martin rushed for 138 yards in Carolina for his third 100+ yard effort in the last four weeks. He's totaled 100+ yards in each of the last six weeks and scored seven times in that timeframe. He's clearly taken the lead of all rookie running backs, even better than Trent Richardson in Cleveland. The offense started to come together after the first month of the season and can now provide a powerful and balanced attack thanks to Martin. He's the rare workhorse back who does not share his workload with anyone.

Dallas Clark is still rarely good for more than 30 yards in a game but scored in each of the last two games and comes off a season high seven catches for 58 yards in Carolina. That's roughly double what he did in literally every other game though.

Vincent Jackson may not do much until the fourth quarter but he usually has a decent game. Last week it was 94 yards and a score late in the Panthers tilt. That was his seventh touchdown of the season and his workload typically reflects how well the running game is going and how badly the Bucs need to pass. He's been a star in all recent home games except for the Chargers who apparently were not going to be beaten by their ex-wideout. Mike Williams remains a good #2 though a little quieter in recent weeks.

The Falcons secondary has been their defensive strength but less so stopping the run. That should keep Doug Martin busy trying to keep the Falcons offense off the field.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points TB 13 7 14 25 11 13
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 9 25 2 22 4 8

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Mike Glennon, TB @NO 0000016001 ***
Glennon has been shut out in his last two road games and hasn't seen the north side of 250 yards since Week 8. Josh Freeman mustered just 125 yards and a score in the earlier meeting with New Orleans; now Glennon travels to the SuperDome, where expectations should be kept in check.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Bobby Rainey, TB @NO 6002100000 ***
Doug Martin rolled the Saints for a season-high 144 yards back in Week 2; since then Mike James took Seattle for 158 and Bobby Rainey dropped 163 on Atlanta and 127 on the Bills. Both of Rainey's efforts came at home, however, so dial back your expectations for this trip to the SuperDome.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Vincent Jackson, TB @NO 005700000 **
Jackson posted 5-77 against the Saints earlier this season, but Kevin Ogletree swiped his touchdown. No worries; over the past six games V-Jax has dominated the Bucs' passing game stat sheet with 527 yards and three TDs. He's heavily targeted and worthy of fantasy consideration even when the matchup seems tough.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Timothy Wright, TB @NO 004400000 ***
Wright wasn't even on the radar when these teams met back in Week 2. Now he's scored in two of the last three and is one of the team's top secondary targets. Three of the five TE TDs the Saints have allowed have come in the past six games, so there's at least a chance Wright makes some fantasy noise here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Rian Lindell, TB @NO 3200 ***
Lindell's worst game of the season came at home against the Saints back in Week 2; don't expect things to get significantly better on the road against a Saints team playing for its playoff life.

WEEK 12
2012
HOU at DET (THU) *BAL at SD *MIN at CHI *SF at NO
NE at NYJ (THU) BUF at IND *OAK at CIN *STL at ARI
WAS at DAL (THU) DEN at KC PIT at CLE TEN at JAC
*UPDATED *ATL at TB GB at NYG SEA at MIA *CAR at PHI (MON)

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