Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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*ARI at SEA *DAL at CIN *NO at NYG *STL at BUF
*Updated BAL at WAS KC at CLE PHI at TB HOU at NE (MON)

Prediction: ATL 27, CAR 20 (Line:ATL by 3.5)

Players Updated: Brandon LaFell

Players to Watch: Matt Ryan, Cam Newton

The 11-1 Falcons have already clinched their division and go to Carolina to face the 3-9 Panthers. This is a replay of week four when the Falcons won 30-28 over the Panthers. The Falcons needed two late fourth quarter field goals to win that game including a 40-yarder as time expired. Hard to grasp how close that game was two months ago.

Atlanta Falcons
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  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 24-23
4 CAR 30-28 13 NO 23-13
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 @ CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 270,2
QB Matt Schaub 280,2
WR Julio Jones 6-80,1
TE Logan Paulsen 1-20
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Falcons have that winning attitude that translate into consistently playing opponents closely and yet always winning (-1). The remaining schedule is certainly no cakewalk but could end up with them winning out. The problem in the fantasy world is that the Falcons have a three game lead over all NFC teams. They could forfeit their final two games and still keep the #1 seed. That supposes they can beat these Panthers and the Giants next week. At 13-1, no other team could be better than 10-4 with two games left to play. That may spell major trouble in week 16 when so many fantasy leagues have championship games.

Matt Ryan passed for 369 yards and three scores in the previous meeting but he was chunking big yards and scores every week at the start of the season. Not so here lately when four of the last five games combined for only two touchdowns. The yardage has been decent enough with four straight games over 300 yards but then last week against the same Saints team he scorched with 411 yards and three scores in week 10, Ryan only passed for 165 yards and one touchdown. This week should help show if that was just one odd aberration or if there really is something to worry about.

One reason why Turner has been scoring less is that the rushing effort has been better in recent weeks. Michael Turner scored in four of the last five games though his yardage varies greatly. Turner ran for 103 yards on 13 carries in the previous meeting with the Panthers. Jacquizz Rodgers has been used more in recent weeks as well though he rarely produces more than 50 total yards and primarily acts as a third down back. Rodgers only ran for 18 yards versus the Panthers but added four catches for 40 yards in that game.

Tony Gonzalez is slowing down in what will be his final year. He scored last week and has seven touchdowns on the year but has really turned in lower games lately. Since week five, five of his games failed to reach 60 yards and and four different times he had no scoring and only around 30 yards. Gonzo posted five receptions for 51 yards in the last meeting with the Panthers.

Week four was the best game of the year for Roddy White who caught eight passes for 169 yards and two scores versus the Panthers. White has since only scored in one other game and comes off a season worst one catch for 20 yards against the Saints. Julio Jones only had one catch for 30 yards in week four but since been much better. Overall the wideouts for Atlanta started the season on hot streaks but have since really cooled off and thrown in several clunker games each. Jones typically has the big games on the road and White does it at home. This week will be a good test of that though the ease of rushing may encourage another run heavy attack like we saw last week against the Saints.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 6 17 8 4 3 19
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 10 26 6 17 32 19

QB Matt Ryan, ATL @NO 0000023012 ***
Ryan was terrible in the Week 14 game, tossing three picks against one TD and 221 yards gained. He has just three TD passes in his last four games and doesn't deserve consideration.
RB Devonta Freeman, ATL @NO 6013200000 ***
Freeman is coming off his best performance of the year and most well-rounded effort. The Falcons could be without Tevin Coleman again, so check back Friday. The Saints provided Freeman 91 yards on 24 carries in the Week 14 contest. He scored once and didn't add a reception. The Saints are a midrange defense stats-wise over the last five weeks.

Update: Coleman has been removed from the injury report.
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL @NO 3002200000 *
Coleman remains in the concussion protocol as of Wednesday's session. He last played in Week 14 against these Saints, finishing with 32 yards on nine carries before an early exit. They may not rush him back with the way Devontae Freeman played last week.

Update: Coleman has been removed from the injury report.
WR Justin Hardy, ATL @NO 002301000 ***
Hardy has two scores in the past five weeks (3 games), though gamers can look elsewhere for a deep flier.
WR Julio Jones, ATL @NO 004600000 ***
Jones (ankle) has just two scores (in one game) over the last eight contests, and his season total is somehow only three. The last time he played the Saints was just two short weeks ago, and the veteran saw 11 targets for five catches and 98 yards worth of gains. New Orleans has allowed big receptions (6th) and yardage (4th) figures over the last five games, though only one in 13.6 snares has found paydirt (17th).
WR Mohamed Sanu, ATL @NO 003400000 ***
Sanu (knee) is enjoying his best fantasy season to date, and his strongest PPR effort came two weeks again vs. New Orleans (6-83-1). The veteran sidekick gets another crack at exploiting a defense that will be trained on limiting Julio Jones. Wideouts have scored six times in the last five games vs. this defense.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL @NO 002300000 ***
Hooper has gone five straight games without a score, and his limited role makes the second-year tight end a fantasy anchor without finding the end zone. He caught a 2-23-0 line in Week 14 vs. the Saints.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Bryant, ATL @NO 2222 ***
Bryant has a midrange matchup, on paper, but anything can happen went two divisional talents face off. The Saints have given up two field goal attempts and 2.4 extra point tries per game, or the 13th-most for both on a weekly average.

Carolina Panthers
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TB 10-16 10 DEN 14-36
2 NO 35-27 11 TB 21-27
3 NYG 7-36 12 @PHI 30-22
4 @ATL 28-30 13 @KC 21-27
5 SEA 12-16 14 ATL -----
6 BYE ----- 15 @SD -----
7 DAL 14-19 16 OAK -----
8 @CHI 22-23 17 @NO -----
9 @WAS 21-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
CAR vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 60,1 240,1
WR Torrey Smith 5-90,1
WR Jarius Wright 3-50
TE Greg Olsen 6-70
PK Graham Gano 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Panthers come off a loss to the Chiefs which is something not many teams can say. The frustrating part all along has been that the Panthers are almost never blown out. Seven of their losses were by a touchdown or less. But they are consistently not quite good enough. The remaining home game against the Raiders offers a good shot at one more win but but there is no escaping that the Panthers are going to end up with a top ten draft pick if not top five.

Cam Newton started the season with a number of disappointing games but did manage to pass for 215 yards and two scores in Atlanta as well as rushing for a season high 86 yards and one score on nine runs. He's passed for multiple scores in three of the last four games while remaining above 230 yards in each. Considering his receiving crew has not been upgraded, the progress made has been all from Newton.

Back in week four, Jonathan Stewart (10-40) and DeAngelo Williams (11-49) combined for 89 rushing yards and one score by Williams. This meeting will be without Stewart who remains out with a bad ankle sprain that has not yet been given a timetable when he is expected to be back. Williams gets the start on his own but it only translated into 12 runs for 67 yards in Kansas City last week. This remains the #29 ranked running back attack regardless which backs are playing.

Greg Olsen figures to be a factor this week since he posted 89 yards and a score on six catches in the previous meeting with the Falcons. He remains good for at least 50 yards every week for over the last month as well. Brandon LaFell is likely out this week with a turf toe but had no catches in the last meeting. His absence could hurt since he had been improved in recent weeks with three touchdowns and three games over 70 yards.

That leaves Steve Smith even more alone and he only managed three receptions for 52 yards in week four. Smith comes off a season high 120 yards and a score in Kansas City but has languished with mostly 40 to 60 yard games and no scores in most weeks this year.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 8 29 23 13 32 9
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 6 25 3 22 10 9

QB Cam Newton, CAR TB 60100017010 ***
Cam was lousy in the Week 8 contest at Tampa. This go-around, he has thrown just one pick since that contest and has a pair of four-TD games mixed in with a pair of outings in which he failed to throw a scoring strike. Tampa Bay has permitted 271.8 yards (4th) per outing but also has the fifth-strongest defense for touchdown efficiency.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR TB 6015300000 ***
Tampa is not a great matchup on paper for receiving backs (30th in receptions), though it is the best place to find a rushing score. The rookie has a spot in all lineups this week, even though he was good for just 9.8 PPR points in the last match with Tampa. This time around, the Bucs are facing several key injuries on defense.
RB C.J. Anderson, CAR TB 701000000 **
Only the Colts have yielded more rushing yards a game than the Redskins in the past five weeks, and it is by the nose of the football ... maybe even an index card's width. Anderson gashed those very Colts last week and could shine again in the title round. This is the 19th-best matchup for a ground score, and Paxton Lynch figures to start, so there's a little bit of risk.

Update: It looks like Brock Osweiler will start instead of Lynch.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR TB 003501000 ***
Funchess (shoulder) is playing hurt but has remained productive-ish with two TDs in his last three games on only eight catches. In Week 8, he went for a 2-11-0 line on six looks vs. Tampa. The Buccaneers have given up 202.2 yards on 15 receptions per game (both No. 2 in the league) since Week 10, allowing a TD every 12.5 snags (14th).

Update: Funchess sat Wednesday and Thursday before returning to a limited session Friday. He probably will play, but gamers should check the inactives to be safe.
WR Torrey Smith, CAR TB 001200000 ***
Smith has not been enough of a factor to consider him as anything more than the wildest of flex gambles for deeeeeeep leagues.
TE Greg Olsen, CAR TB 005600000 ***
Olsen proved he was healthy in Week 14 by playing 92 percent of the offensive snaps, and he was no worse for wear during the week. In Week 15, he put it together for a 26.6-point PPR day. The veteran missed the earlier meeting and was good for 12 catches, 203 yards and no scores in two games last season. Furthermore, the Bucs are beaten up on defense right now.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR TB 1144 ***
This is a top-five matchup for extra point chances but only 15th for the more valuable three-point attempts. Kickers have averaged a moderate 7.6 fantasy points a game vs. the Bucs.

*ARI at SEA *DAL at CIN *NO at NYG *STL at BUF
*Updated BAL at WAS KC at CLE PHI at TB HOU at NE (MON)

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