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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

Prediction: CAR 20, SD 25 (Line: SD by 3 )

Players to Watch: Cam Newton, Ryan Mathews

The 4-9 Panthers come off their game of the year when they beat the Falcons but are only 2-4 in road games. The 5-8 Chargers are fresh from their own upset winning in Pittsburgh last week and are only 2-4 at home. Neither team is as good as they played last week but that makes this game more of a coin toss. This week will depend on how well the Chargers can run and how well the Panthers can pass.

Carolina Panthers
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
Grass
  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 30-20
6 BYE ----- 15 @SD -----
7 DAL 14-19 16 OAK -----
8 @CHI 22-23 17 @NO -----
9 @WAS 21-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
CAR @ SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 60,1 230,1
RB Jonathan Stewart
TE Greg Olsen 4-50,1
PK Graham Gano 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: You cannot say that Cam Newton is not earning his money lately. Once again he provided almost all the offense needed to win a game and after struggling in the first half of the season, he's come on well for the last three weeks and is ending the season on a higher note.

Newton's previous big games came at the expense of inferior teams but winning against the Falcons was impressive, trap game or not. He matches well with them since he posted two passing scores and a rushing touchdown in both meetings with the Falcons. He also comes off a season best 116 rush yards on nine runs and has done more to add the run back into his repertoire in recent weeks. Of course facing the Eagles and Chiefs hardly pitted him against elite teams. This week is back against a weaker team though it will be on the road. With only the Raiders and the Saints left on the schedule, Newton is bound to finish strongly.

Jonathan Stewart remains out with a high ankle sprain but DeAngelo Williams has been nothing special despite getting a heavier load. He comes off a season high 17 carries for 56 yards and scored on his two catches for 56 yards. But his 53-yard catch for a touchdown was an exception to the extreme. Williams only totaled 48 receiving yards in his entire season up until that one catch. Even at home against soft opponents, Williams has never rushed for more than 69 yards this year and ran in a score just once in the last nine games.

Brandon LaFell remains out with a chipped bone in his foot and turf toe though he should be back soon. Steve Smith posted seven catches for 109 yards versus Atlanta which makes it two consecutive games over the 100 yard mark. Louis Murphy fills in for LaFell but offers little. Greg Olsen scored against the Falcons which now makes two of his games with a touchdown going against the Falcons. He also scored last week in Kansas City but it was on his only catch in that game.

This should be another decent game for Newton against a defense that has not faced a running quarterback all year. This is less likely a big game for Smith since only one receiver broke 100 yards as a visitor and no wideout scored there in the last three games. Olsen is a better bet given that three of the last four visitors to San Diego scored via a pass to their primary tight end.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 6 29 22 10 32 12
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 18 14 18 7 3 25

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Cam Newton, CAR TB 50100027020 ***
Cam left you high and dry last week, throwing for 120 yards and three TDs less against the Falcons than he did just two weeks previous. Using the same math he'll be good for four yards and negative-one TD in this rematch with the Bucs. He should outperform that as Carolina needs a win to hang on to home field advantage and the Bucs have served up QB multiple scores in nine of the last dozen games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR TB 6001100000 ***
Artis-Payne is sharing touches with Fozzy Whittaker, and there's a chance Jonathan Stewart returns to action as well. Mix in a Bucs defense that hasn't allowed a rusher to top 88 yards since Week 3--and only three RB rushing scores since then--and there's not nearly a big enough pie to feed any Panther back this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Devin Funchess, CAR TB 004601000 ***
Funchess totaled eight grabs for 87 yards in the past month before being shut out last week. Tough to trust him with a fantasy start here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Philly Brown, CAR TB 003500000 ***
Brown is the only non-Ted Ginn Panthers receiver with a fantasy helper in the past month, but it's debatable as to whether there will be enough passing game production to float more than one WR boat in Carolina this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR TB 007801000 ***
Carolina's top target was held to 2-28 by the Bucs in the earlier meeting. After giving up big games to Jordan Reed (11-72-2) and Jacob Tamme (10-103-1) in Weeks 7 and 8, the Bucs haven't surrendered a TE TD. Find a little upside in Olsen's typical volume and the fact that a tight end has topped 60 yards in three straight against the Bucs.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR TB 2244 ***
Four field goals allowed
in three of the last five games
Go Gano vs. Bucs

San Diego Chargers
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @OAK 22-14 10 @TB 24-34
2 TEN 38-10 11 @DEN 23-30
3 ATL 3-27 12 BAL 13-16
4 @KC 37-20 13 CIN 13-20
5 @NO 24-31 14 @PIT 34-24
6 DEN 24-35 15 CAR -----
7 BYE ----- 16 @NYJ -----
8 @CLE 6-7 17 OAK -----
9 KC 31-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SD vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 230,1
RB Danny Woodhead 10 5-30
WR Malcom Floyd 4-60,1
WR Stevie Johnson 6-80,1
TE Jeff Cumberland 5-50
TE Antonio Gates 4-40

Pregame Notes: The win in Pittsburgh ended a four game losing streak but that's not nearly enough to save Norv Turner's job the moment the offseason starts. Last week was an exception to just about everything the Chargers are about this year. With two home games against the Panthers and Raiders left to play, the winning is not over and the Chargers can find a little redemption in ending strongly before the team is torn apart and put back together in the spring.

Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns in Pittsburgh to add to the general twilight zone quality of the game but he only managed 200 passing yards and continues to struggle to find receivers besides Danario Alexander. Even with the big win, RIvers was only 21 of 41 in passing completions. The entire season, he has never been any better than the defense allows anyone to be until last week and even then it was more about key defenders being out for the Steelers.

Ryan Mathews comes off a season high 25 carries for 65 yards and finally had the sort of workload that the offense needs. For whatever reason, Norv Turner waited until the 13th game of the season and in the very worst of all spots to play but at least Mathews gutted out not having decent blocking and both did not fumble and remained healthy. Facing one of the worst defenses this week should be far more profitable assuming the Chargers don't suddenly decide they need to throw more or use Ronnie Brown instead. That's highly unlikely but given the history of this year just because something seems reasonable does not mean it will be followed. Brown's role has been shrinking in recent weeks and he's been given six or fewer touches for the last five games. He had just three last week and no longer warrants projecting.

Antonio Gates is done. He only managed three catches for 31 yards in Pittsburgh and has been without fantasy merit for the last four games now. He's no longer reliable for more than a few carries and mediocre yardage with no scores.

Danario Alexander continues to amaze. He comes off an 88-yard effort on seven catches with two touchdowns and has yet to turn in less than 74 yards in any of the last five games while scoring five times over that span. Compared to all other receivers for the Chargers, that's astronomic and exactly what River's had been missing all year. Vincent Brown is not going to play this year so Alexander is as good as it will ever get. And that's pretty good.

Michael Spurlock caught seven passes for 64 yards as the replacement slot receiver last week since Eddie Royal remains out but that was his first game of the year and is not the start of anything significant.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 22 17 27 16 21 6
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 11 27 5 21 32 17

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Philip Rivers, SD @DEN 0000024001 ***
Rivers' quest for the passing title takes a hit against the league's top pass defense. The Broncos limited him to 202 yards in the earlier meeting, and he hasn't thrown for 300 yards against Denver since January of 2011. Don't expect much here with the Broncos still playing for playoff positioning.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Danny Woodhead, SD @DEN 1005600000 ***
Game script suggests plenty of throwing, and the Broncos' pass rush suggests plenty of checkdowns to Woodhead. That's the extend of the upside in San Diego's backfield this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Travis Benjamin, SD @DEN 003500000 *
The Steelers have allowed two receivers to score or top 60 yards in three straight so you have to believe there's at least one fantasy helper here. And Benjamin is the best bet among Cleveland's thinning receiving corps.

Update: Benjamin was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable due to an ankle injury. You may need to check his status pre-game if you're planning to use him in your Week 17 fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Dontrelle Inman, SD @DEN 004400000 ***
Inman proved to be Philip Rivers' go-to guy last week, and the Broncos have been much more lenient of late in giving up five WR TDs over the past three games. But seeing as how Chargers wideouts combined for four catches and 60 yards against Denver just a month ago, expectations should be limited.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Javontee Herndon, SD @DEN 005300000 ***
Herndon's top NFL outing is 5-47, and he's still looking for his first pro TD. Unlikely to come against a top pass defense on a team going nowhere... at least until the offseason.

Update: Herndon is listed as questionable with a chest injury, but after limited practice sessions early in the week he was available for the full session on Friday so he should be good to go this weekend.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Malcom Floyd, SD @DEN 003300000 ***
Banged up, facing an elite pass defense, with nothing to play for... tough to get excited about Floyd's fantasy prospects here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Antonio Gates, SD @DEN 006500000 ***
The Broncos haven't given up a TE TD in a month, with Gates' 6-50 the top TE game against them in that span. He's topped five catches and 50 yards each of the past three meetings with Denver, with three TDs in those three games, so there's at least a little upside to him here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Josh Lambo, SD @DEN 1100 ***
Three points in home game
vs. DEN; even altitude
won't be enough help

WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

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