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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 16
2012
ATL at DET (SAT) CLE at DEN NO at DAL *SF at SEA
BUF at MIA *IND at KC *NYG at BAL STL at TB
CHI at ARI MIN at HOU OAK at CAR *TEN at GB
*Updated CIN at PIT *NE at JAC SD at NYJ WAS at PHI

Prediction: ATL 27, DET 20 (Line: ATL by 4)

Players to Watch: Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones

This is the Saturday game at 8:30 P.M. so you can wrap presents and watch Calvin Johnson. The 12-2 Falcons are 5-2 on the road and have actually lost two of their last three away games including beating the Buccaneers by one point for their only win. What should keep the Falcons honest this week is that they still have not clinched the #1 seed which can happen after this game. The Lions are on a six game losing streak and are only 2-4 at home. They are now nothing more than a vehicle to get Calvin Johnson the single season receiving yard record. But they have two games remaining and only 182 yards left to gain.

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 24-23
4 CAR 30-28 13 NO 23-13
5 @WAS 24-17 14 @CAR 20-30
6 OAK 23-20 15 NYG 34-0
7 BYE ----- 16 @DET -----
8 @PHI 30-17 17 TB -----
9 DAL 19-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL @ DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 300,2
RB Steven Jackson 70 5-30
RB Jacquizz Rodgers 20 2-30
WR Julio Jones 5-100,1
WR Roddy White 6-60
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: Just one more win - or a loss by the 49ers - should secure that #1 seed and a bye in the first round along with all-important homefield status throughout the playoffs. The Falcons crushed the Giants last week and completely reversed the thinking that maybe they weren't the cream of the NFC. The Falcons don't have to win this game but if they do they can take it easy in the final week, get a week off to rest and heal up and then play at home all the way.

The fortunate part this week is that Matt Ryan typically has the biggest games when on the road. Four of his last five road trips resulted in 340+ yards and multiple touchdowns. Just as important is that Michael Turner has been horrible on the road. He's scored in each of the last five games but his last three away games all resulted in fewer than 20 rushing yards. The score is nice but there is never any yardage attached to it. His ten touchdowns over then different games may be fine if you are in a touchdown-only league but he's fallen off the map when it comes to yardage.

Roddy White was able to play last week despite the sore knee that limited him in practices. He played well over half of the offensive snaps but only came away with two receptions for 16 yards that came on five targets. Julio Jones not only scored at home for the first time all year but did it twice and gained 74 yards on six catches with only one more target than White had. The expectation is that White will bounce back this week though he's been the under performer in road games this year.

The Lions defense has been getting worse as the season goes and allowed 32 points per opponent on average over the last six weeks. This would be a nice spot for the Falcons to give a productive effort in the passing game so they can take it easy next week but the rushing effort has never done much away from home all year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 6 15 8 4 3 20
Preventing Fantasy Points DET 15 11 17 24 26 30

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Matt Ryan, ATL @CIN 0000030021 ****
The Bengals allowed Joe Flacco to throw for 300 yards last week, while Ryan was throwing for 448. Also worth noting: Ryan has averaged 287 yards and two TDs over his last three seasons of games against the AFC, including 327 & 2 last year. So you have to like Matty Ice's chances of staying hot here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Steven Jackson, ATL @CIN 4001100000 ****
Jackson is still slated for the bulk of the workload, but four different backs handled the ball for Atlanta last weekend and Jackson may have been the least impressive of the quartet. Don't expect much against a pretty good Cincy run D.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL @CIN 3001100000 ***
Rodgers used a nifty spin move to get into the end zone last week; had the Falcons seen more of that the previous few seasons they might not have felt the need to draft Devonta Freeman. Throw Rodgers in the blender with three other Atlanta backs, none of whom project to find much fantasy success in Cincy.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Devonta Freeman, ATL @CIN 2002100000 ***
Eventually we'll be recommending Freeman as a fantasy starter and you'll be wondering what took so long. Right now, however, he's in a cluster behind Steven Jackson and even Jaquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith--both of whom managed to score last week. High risk and the reward just isn't there yet, especially against the Bengals.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Julio Jones, ATL @CIN 0061001000 ****
Outside of one long Steve Smith score the Bengals kept Baltimore's wideouts in check last week. Of course, Jones and Roddy White >>> Baltimore's Smiths and with Julio looking healthy he's an every-week starter regardless of foe.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Harry Douglas, ATL @CIN 002301000 **
Douglas and Devin Hester saw a somewhat surprising 13 targets in Week 1, and to their credit they parlayed those looks into 11 catches for 168 yards. Tough to bank on that production from the backup singers every week, however; wait for a more favorable matchup to work your way down the Falcons' receiver depth chart.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Roddy White, ATL @CIN 007800000 ***
White being the "other" receiver in Atlanta is like Duane Allman being the "other" guitar player in Derek and the Dominos. He also appears to be getting Tony Gonzalez's red zone looks, which only help his fantasy bottom line.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Levine Toilolo, ATL @CIN 005400000 ***
Don't look at what Dennis Pitta did to the Bengals last week and think Toilolo can replicate that productivity; Pitta saw almost a month's worth of Toilolo's targets in that game. And with Roddy White the more likely red zone recipient, Toilolo is a risky fantasy play at best.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Bryant, ATL @CIN 2222 ****
A 51-yarder to tie and a 52-yarder to win buys Bryant a lot of cache, both with the Falcons and with fantasy owners. With Atlanta's offense firing on all cylinders he belongs in a fantasy lineup on an every-week basis.

Detroit Lions
Homefield: Ford Field
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 STL 27-23 10 @MIN 24-34
2 @SF 19-27 11 GB 20-24
3 @TEN 41-44 12 HOU 31-34
4 MIN 13-20 13 IND 33-35
5 BYE ----- 14 @GB 20-27
6 @PHI 26-23 15 @ARI 10-38
7 @CHI 7-13 16 ATL -----
8 SEA 28-24 17 CHI -----
9 @JAC 31-14 ----- ----- -----
News | Stats | Roster
DET vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Matthew Stafford 270,1
RB Joique Bell 30 3-20
RB Reggie Bush 100,1 3-20
RB Montell Owens 50 1-10
WR Calvin Johnson 10-130,1
WR Golden Tate 3-50
TE Brandon Pettigrew

Pregame Notes: The Lions are on a six game slide and while it was bad with so many close losses - getting waxed by the Cardinals was almost unimaginable. The good part is that the final two games are at home but against teams with winning records. There's a chance that the Lions could catch the Falcons on a down week following their big home win over the Giants but the Detroit defense hasn't stopped anyone.

Matt Stafford went flat last week in Arizona but he's usually much less productive in away games. At home he's typically turned in 300+ yards and multiple touchdowns. Against the Texans he threw for 441 yards and two scores and 352 yards and three touchdowns on the Seahawks so it is not so much about the quality of the defense.

Mikel Leshoure is back at home where he scored in each of the last three games there but he rarely has more than 60 rush yards and has almost no role as a receiver. He plays like Michael Turner only with fewer touchdowns and marginally better yardage.

The only thing that matters anymore is getting the record for Calvin Johnson who currently needs just 182 yards to surpass Jerry Rice's 1,848 yards set back in 1995. Breaking 2,000 remains out of reach for a wideout but Johnson has to be a lock to reach the mark with only 92 yards per game needed. He's currently on a seven game streak of 100+ yard efforts and is getting upwards of 20 targets per game. It is the only gift the Lions can give their fans and it will happen in a home game.

On the road after a blowout win at home, have to assume the Falcons defense is not going to be nearly so dominating this week. But on this team all that means is throwing 20 times to Calvin Johnson and letting Leshoure score on a short run when Megatron gets tackled inside the 5-yard line.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DET 7 13 6 6 5 27
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 11 23 3 20 9 4

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Matthew Stafford, DET @CAR 0000025011 ***
Carolina allowed three 300-yard games all of last season and only two multiple-touchdown games, so this isn't a particularly favorable matchup for Stafford. So long as he has Calvin Johnson on his side he's always a threat, but dial back expectations significantly this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Reggie Bush, DET @CAR 2006501000 ***
The silver lining is that Carolina allowed an RB receiving score last week and Bush accounted for six of the Lions' seven RB receptions. That said, the rest of his matchup this week looks brutal.
Update: After early-week concern over his knee, Bush got in a full practice on Thursday and should be good to go for this weekend.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Joique Bell, DET @CAR 3001100000 ****
You have to hope that this week Bell is more fullback than halfback; last week Tampa Bay fullback Jovorskie Lane ripped off a 54-yard run while halfbacks Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey combined for 21 yards on 13 carries. If you have the RB depth, this is a good week to sit Bell and look elsewhere.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @CAR 005600000 ***
Tough matchup, but never bench Megatron. He'll get the targets, which Tampa Bay's NBA-worthy wideouts turned into 11-93-1 last week, and productivity is sure to follow.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Golden Tate, DET @CAR 006500000 ***
Megatron has dibs on the first bite; after that expect slim pickings as the Panthers didn't allow multiple receivers to score in the same game last year and only four times did two wideouts top 50 yards in the same game.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Nate Freese, DET @CAR 3311 ***
Last year multiple field goal games were frequent against the Panthers; in Week 1 of this season the Bucs didn't attempt a single trey. Detroit's offense is at least good enough to get close, which is great news if you're banking on fantasy points from Freese.

WEEK 16
2012
ATL at DET (SAT) CLE at DEN NO at DAL *SF at SEA
BUF at MIA *IND at KC *NYG at BAL STL at TB
CHI at ARI MIN at HOU OAK at CAR *TEN at GB
*Updated CIN at PIT *NE at JAC SD at NYJ WAS at PHI

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