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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 14
2012
DEN at OAK (THU) *CHI at MIN MIA at SF SD at PIT
*ARI at SEA *DAL at CIN *NO at NYG *STL at BUF
*ATL at CAR *DET at GB NYJ at JAC *TEN at IND
*Updated BAL at WAS KC at CLE PHI at TB HOU at NE (MON)

Prediction: HOU 31, NE 27 (Line: NE by 4)

Players to Watch: Arian Foster, Tom Brady

Now this is a good Monday Night Football game. The 11-1 Texans have already clinched a playoff berth and are two games ahead of New England, Baltimore and Denver for the #1 seed in the AFC. So far, the Texans are a perfect 6-0 on the road and are on a six game winning streak. The 9-3 Patriots are 4-1 at home and also on a six game winning streak. Here is another wonderful angle - this pits the #1 against the #2 scoring team. And the Texans secondary has been hard hit by injuries to make this even more fun.

Houston Texans
Homefield: Reliant Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 MIA 30-10 10 @CHI 13-6
2 @JAC 27-7 11 JAC 43-37
3 @DEN 31-25 12 @DET 34-31
4 TEN 38-14 13 @TEN 24-10
5 @NYJ 23-17 14 @NE -----
6 GB 24-42 15 IND -----
7 BAL 43-13 16 MIN -----
8 BYE ----- 17 @IND -----
9 BUF 21-9 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
HOU @ NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 10 180,1
RB Arian Foster 90,1 5-30
WR Andre Johnson 6-100,1
TE Garrett Graham 2-20

Pregame Notes: This is an all important game for the Texans and could well be the precursor to the AFC Championship game. With two home games to follow against the Colts and Vikings, the Texans could make that season finale' against in Indianapolis a moot point by remaining two games ahead of the AFC pack. While this may be a particularly bad time to be missing a couple of cornerbacks, the Texans have risen up and got the job done before and tend to play up or down to whatever their opponent is like.

If this moves entirely to the air later in the game, Matt Schaub can hang with that having thrown for multiple scores in half his games and scorching the Jaguars for 527 yards and five scores in week 11 followed by 315 yards and a score in Detroit. This will not be a game decided purely by the Texans running offense and Schaub can mix it up when needed.

Arian Foster scored his fifteenth touchdown on the year in Tennessee last Sunday but was limited to only 14 carries partly to rest him up for this week. Foster has shouldered a heavy load this year and even added three to five receptions per week as well. Ben Tate remains the #3 thanks to Justin Forsett's recent three game streak of over 60 yards per game. Those came against weaker defenses to be sure and his role is likely to be scaled back in a tough game like this with such important consequences at play. The Patriots rank well against running backs and yet have not faced many of the top backs. And Foster is the top back.

Owen Daniels already has six touchdowns this year and now will face the weakest secondary against tight ends. He was turning in 60+ yard efforts every week until recently when the opponents became easier to beat. He's sure to play a big role this week and Garrett Graham may be out this week which would call up James Casey into play and further the importance of Daniels.

The Patriots secondary is better but still allows big yardage and scores to primary receivers like Andre Johnson. He's no hidden weapon to be sure but did just post 9-188 and 14-273 in two of the last three games. No doubt he'll come into heavy play again this week. Foster could do better in New England than they expect and if so, that could lower the passing production from both sides.

I like a defensive score in this game.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 17 1 27 2 4 8
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 30 13 28 32 3 1

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ryan Mallett, HOU CIN 0000023011 **
Mallett wasn't bad out of the gate with a two-TD effort in his first NFL start. He had two weeks to prep for that game, however; now he has just a week and gets a Cincy D that just held Drew Brees in check at home. Tough to like his chances of a repeat.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Alfred Blue, HOU CIN 6012100000 **
If Arian Foster's getting his, odds are Blue isn't getting his. Use Blue only if Foster isn't ready to return from his injury. You even have to be wary of Houston's coach speak, as the last time they said Foster would be eased back into the mix he handled 25 touches to Blue's five.
Update: Foster is officially listed as questionable after sitting out practice both Thursday and Friday. Looks like you'll have to sweat this decision out right up through pre-game deactivations.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Arian Foster, HOU CIN 5002100000 *
If healthy, Foster's an every-week starter--and a Cincy D that's given up 384 yards from scrimmage and three TDs to opposing running backs in just the past two games should make him feel extremely comfortable.
Update: Foster's only practice session this week was a limited go on Wednesday, and he's officially listed as questionable. Might have to watch this one right up to kickoff to determine if he'll play--and if he plays, it's a favorable enough matchup that he belongs in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU CIN 005801000 ***
Hopkins and Andre Johnson are essentially splitting the passing game looks, with the key difference being Hopkins has four times as many touchdowns as AJ. Both are viable, but Hopkins a bit more reliable of a fantasy option.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andre Johnson, HOU CIN 006700000 ***
Johnson tends to get similar targets to DeAndre Hopkins, and his yardage is usually solid; it's his lack of end zone visits that makes him a shaky fantasy option.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Garrett Graham, HOU CIN 002200000 ***
It's been a month since the Bengals allowed a TE TD; just because Graham found the end zone last week doesn't mean he's a safe bet to return here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Randy Bullock, HOU CIN 3322 ****
Bullock's been hot of late, with three three-FG games in the past month. He's also been much more active on the road, as four of his five games with double-digit points have come away from home. Split the difference with Bullock as a good-not-great fantasy option this week.

New England Patriots
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TEN 34-13 10 BUF 37-31
2 ARI 18-20 11 IND 59-24
3 @BAL 30-31 12 @NYJ 49-19
4 @BUF 52-28 13 @MIA 23-16
5 DEN 31-21 14 HOU -----
6 @SEA 23-24 15 SF -----
7 NYJ 29-26 16 @JAC -----
8 @STL 45-7 17 MIA -----
9 BYE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NE vs HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 290,3
RB Stevan Ridley 70 2-10
RB Shane Vereen 30 2-10
WR Danny Amendola
WR Brandon LaFell 1-10
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: Not unlike the Texans, this is a big game for the Patriots and as soon as this is over, the 49ers show up next week for two games against likely the two toughest defenses they will face this year. The final weeks in Jacksonville and hosting the Fins are sort of "gimmees" but these next two weeks will go far in defining what the Patriots are going to do in the playoffs and where they will fall in the seeding. With a current three-way tie for the #2 seed, any loss is going to be hard to compensate.

Tom Brady comes off his worst game of the year when he only managed 238 pass yards and one score in Miami that included only his fourth interception of the year. He was also sacked a season-high four times. But Brady has been golden almost every week this year with seven efforts over 300 yards and multiple scores in the previous six games. Catching the Texans with a banged up secondary only makes it better.

The Patriots placed Julian Edelman on injured reserve from his broken foot which leaves them thin enough at wideout to call back Donte Stallworth. With Rob Gronkowski still out, the passing game has shrunk to mostly Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Brandon Lloyd has just gone cold despite the need for help and last week comes off a single catch in Miami of his only pass target in the game. Edelman was starting to take hold on a role in the offense but now his workload is likely just absorbed by Welker and Hernandez.

Brandon Bolden has concluded his four-game suspension but the Pats rushing effort has been more than solid and combined ranks #2 in fantasy points. Stevan Ridley is currently on a five game scoring streak and gets help from Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead already. No real place for Bolden currently. This week they all face the best rushing defense in the league so their stats are bound to take a dip. In the end, this will be mostly about Brady exploiting the banged up Texans secondary and Houston trying to run Foster as much as they can to delay the inevitable aerial war that will break out.


RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 3 2 15 1 2 2
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 15 1 20 24 7 5

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Tom Brady, NE DET 0000026020 ***
The vaunted Detroit defense has given up multiple passing scores in each of its last two road games and three of four overall. Brady, meanwhile, has multiple scoring strikes in six straight and has no reason to fear the former top-ranked defense.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Shane Vereen, NE DET 3004401000 ***
The Lions play right into Vereen's strengths, ranking in the top five in RB receptions, RB receiving yards, and RB receiving touchdowns. Now let's hope Bill Belichick sees it the same way.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonas Gray, NE DET 501000000 **
Tough to see Gray approaching last week's monster game; the Lions have allowed only four RB rushing scores all year, and only one back has topped 60 yards on the season. Dial back the expectations and you'll be just fine.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brandon LaFell, NE DET 005800000 ***
LaFell is the closest thing the Patriots have to a reliably productive fantasy wideout, and even he is no guarantee. On the bright side, his last two homes games have seen 24 targets, 17 catches, and two TDs so maybe that tilts the field in his favor.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Julian Edelman, NE DET 004500000 ***
Edelman remains a volume guy, with eight targets in seven of the past eight games--though he still hasn't posted a 100-yard game this season and has just one TD in the past two months. So there's some risk with his reward.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Danny Amendola, NE DET 002300000 ***
Amendola's an afterthought in this passing game, having topped 20 yards just once all season with only one score to his credit. You could hope for a return TD, but until that week when Bill Belichick decides it's "Bring Danny Amendola to Work" Day he's a fantasy afterthought.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Rob Gronkowski, NE DET 007801000 ****
At this point you could say that all 11 defenders will build a wall around Gronk and he'd still be one of the best fantasy plays at his position. Since such a strategy is highly unlikely, go with Gronk again this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Timothy Wright, NE DET 001200000 ***
Wright's a contributor, just too inconsistent a contributor to be banked on for fantasy help.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Stephen Gostkowski, NE DET 3333 ***
Gotskowski's run of five straight games with multiple field goals was snapped last week, but six PATs provided a soft landing. He's had at least nine points in every home game this year, so expect him to get back on track this week.

WEEK 14
2012
DEN at OAK (THU) *CHI at MIN MIA at SF SD at PIT
*ARI at SEA *DAL at CIN *NO at NYG *STL at BUF
*ATL at CAR *DET at GB NYJ at JAC *TEN at IND
*Updated BAL at WAS KC at CLE PHI at TB HOU at NE (MON)

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