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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 17
2012
ARI at SF CLE at PIT JAC at TEN OAK at SD
BAL at CIN DAL at WAS KC at DEN PHI at NYG
CAR at NO GB at MIN MIA at NE STL at SEA
  CHI at DET HOU at IND NYJ at BUF TB at ATL

Prediction: CAR 23, NO 30 (Line: NO by 5)

Players to Watch: Steve Smith, Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles

The 6-9 Panthers are on a three game winning streak and already beat the Saints 35-27 back in week two. The Panthers are just 3-4 on the road this year though. The 7-8 Saints have a chance to break even and avoid a losing season with a win here and are 4-3 at home with a two game winning streak going. This is a playing for pride" game for both sides but the Saints are much better now than they were back in week two and they play at home.

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 31-7
7 DAL 14-19 16 OAK 17-6
8 @CHI 22-23 17 @NO -----
9 @WAS 21-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
CAR @ NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 50,1 260,1
RB Jonathan Stewart 30 2-20
RB DeAngelo Williams 60 1-10
WR Jason Avant 4-60
TE Greg Olsen 6-70
PK Graham Gano 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Panthers had only that one Saints win to open the season and was 1-6 by week eight. At 5-3 the rest of the way, the Panthers have something to build upon for next year. The defense improved over the course of the season which was one main reason for the improved win-loss record and the offense that stumbled badly in the first half of the year finally turned around for the rest of the way but just returning to the same sort of equation as last year. Let Cam Newton throw to Steve Smith and failing that, just take off on a run. That pretty much explains the entirety of offensive success this year.

Newton has scored in each of the last eight games. He only managed to throw for six touchdowns over his first eight games and turned that up to 13 scores in just the last seven. He's also been more likely to run and scored eight times as a rusher this year. The was on a hot streak at the end of the year but cooled off a bit against the Raiders last week. He threw for 253 yards and one score in the first meeting with the Saints and ran for 71 yards with a touchdown on the ground as well.

The rushing effort here has been lackluster all year. The running backs combined for eight scores - the same as Newton - and never once had any runner top 100 yards in any game. Jonathan Stewart was finally given the starting job, did nothing with it and then has been out since week 12 with a high ankle sprain. Stewart only scored once all year and never ran for more than 51 yards in any game and never was allowed more than 17 runs. DeAngelo Williams is likely done in Carolina and had three touchdowns this year on the ground plus two as a receiver. Michael Tolbert existed only to steal the occasional touchdown himself.

Stewart almost played last week when he was only questionable and got some practice time on Friday. I'll assume he mixes in this week to ensure no runner matters here.

Greg Olsen enjoyed a career year with five scores and nine games over 50 yards but has mostly been marginal as a fantasy starter along with most every other tight end in the league. Olsen has been on a nice streak to end the year though with around 50 yards in each of the last eight games. He's clearly the best receiver behind Steve Smith though he only managed one catch for 13 yards in the last Saints game. Brandon Lafell had 90 yards on six catches in that game while Steve Smith accounted for 104 yards on just three catches.

No different ending here. Newton and Smith are must starts and the rest are risky bets that are even less likely to do well in a road game.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 4 25 23 10 32 18
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 32 29 32 25 22 13

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Cam Newton, CAR DET 10000023021 ***
After tapping out in Week 1, Cam makes his 2014 debut against a Lions defense that just stymied Eli Manning. Okay, so that's not overly impressive. But they do have guys up front who won't be shy about hammering Cam's ribs so this may have to be an air show rather than a run fest. That's a matchup Cam can win as well, making him eminently startable here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR DET 6003200000 ***
It's a three-way job share against a defense that held the Giants to 55 RB rushing yards; none of that smacks of fantasy potential.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR DET 00000000 *
In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and in the land of Carolina backs Williams at present is getting the most carries. Doesn't mean he warrants a fantasy start, however.
Update: Williams did not practice all week due to a thigh injury. He's listed as questionable and doesn't offer enough upside in his role in Carolina to offset the risk of not playing here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR DET 005801000 ***
Hard to get a read on the Lions' secondary, as they were barely tested by the Giants in Week 1. But Benjamin has clearly vaulted to the top of the Panthers' receiver depth chart; now he needs to get on the same page with Cam Newton and magic is sure to ensue.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR DET 003400000 ***
You may not have noticed but the Panthers line up some other guys at wide receiver besides Kelvin Benjamin. Cam Newton hasn't noticed much beyond one go-to guy in the past, no reason to think that will change here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR DET 007801000 ****
The Lions made Larry Donnell look like a Pro Bowler last week; does that mean an actual talented tight end like Olsen will look like a Hall of Famer against them? Quite possibly, yes.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR DET 3322 ***
The Giants couldn't get close enough to attempt a field goal last week against Detroit, but the Panthers shouldn't have a similar dilemma so go ahead and go with Gano.

New Orleans Saints
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 WAS 32-40 10 ATL 31-27
2 @CAR 27-35 11 @OAK 38-17
3 KC 24-27 12 SF 21-31
4 @GB 27-28 13 @ATL 13-23
5 SD 31-24 14 @NYG 27-52
6 BYE ----- 15 TB 41-0
7 @TB 35-28 16 @DAL 34-31
8 @DEN 14-34 17 CAR -----
9 PHI 28-13 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NO vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 320,2
RB Mark Ingram 70,1
WR Marques Colston 4-50
TE Jimmy Graham 5-70,1
TE Benjamin Watson 3-30
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Saints have a chance at a .500 season which is remarkable considering that they were 1-5. The problem all along has not been with the offense which is just as good as it has ever been and is actually more balanced now. The effects of BountyGate was devastating to a defense that wasn't that great to start with and it really showed with seven opponents scoring 28 points or more. That's been good business for fantasy teams owning Saints players and Drew Brees has been a gold mine again this year.

Brees already threw 39 touchdowns this year and crossed 300 yards nine times including the last four weeks and two efforts over 400 yards. His 446 yards and three scores last week came at the perfect time in fantasy championships. Brees was held to only one passing score by the Panthers last time but threw for 315 yards and ran in one touchdown as well.

What happens with the Panthers is that they have good cornerbacks and their one strength is against wide receivers. They are below average against running backs and tight ends. In week two, Darren Sproles had 13 catches for 128 yards in Carolina as a season best. Mark Ingram ran for 53 yards and one score and has scored in three of the last four games. Pierre Thomas rushed for 110 yards on just nine carries in Carolina but has been marginal as a runner in almost all other games.

Jimmy Graham reeled in seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting but has been hampered by his wrist for most of the last two months. He has not scored for the last five weeks but still ends up around 60 yards in games. He has the current lead in the NFL with 13 drops this season thanks to the bad wrist.

The Panthers play the corners very well so that makes relying on Lance Moore or Marques Colston harder to do this week. But Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles should both benefit from facing the weakest part of the defense. Even Pierre Thomas could show up with something significant again as he did in the first meeting.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 1 3 8 2 23 21
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 8 22 3 21 27 16

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Drew Brees, NO @CLE 0000033020 ***
Joe Haden can't be everywhere, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger's 365 yards against the Browns last weekend. Brees is familiar with that neighborhood, topping that number five times last year, and he should at least be in the vicinity this week as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO @CLE 601000000 ***
The goal line back against a defense that allowed two RB rushing scores--including one to a goal line back--last week; seems like another solid opportunity for Ingram to carve out fantasy value.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Pierre Thomas, NO @CLE 3005400000 ***
The pass-catching back against a Cleveland defense that surrendered the second-most RB receiving yards in Week 1--to a Steelers team not exactly known for throwing to its backs, no less. Yep, Thomas's role in the New Orleans offense should once again yield fantasy help.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Khiry Robinson, NO @CLE 300000000 ***
At this juncture Robinson feels like the most volatile member of the New Orleans backfield triumvirate, with a role less clearly defined than that of either Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas. As such he's the riskiest fantasy play as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brandin Cooks, NO @CLE 006901000 ***
Plenty to like about Cooks' 7-77-1 NFL debut last week. With Joe Haden likely on Marques Colston or maybe even Jimmy Graham, that leaves Cooks with fellow rookie Justin Gilbert or maybe Buster Skrine. The ROY campaign continues...
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO @CLE 005700000 ***
Colston is technically the Saints' WR1, but that's no guarantee he'll draw full-time Joe Haden this week--plus, we saw last week via Antonio Brown that Haden isn't necessarily a death sentence for fantasy stats. Brees is slinging, Cleveland has corner concerns everywhere Haden isn't, and Colston has something to prove after fumbling away last week's game; it adds up to a solid fantasy start this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO @CLE 006801000 ***
All that's missing now is the dunks. No reason to think the Browns have a solution other NFL defenses don't.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO @CLE 2233 ****
It's good to be back tacking on points for an offensive juggernaut like the Saints, especially against a Browns' defense that's allowed multiple field goal attempts in three straight games and seven of the last eight.

WEEK 17
2012
ARI at SF CLE at PIT JAC at TEN OAK at SD
BAL at CIN DAL at WAS KC at DEN PHI at NYG
CAR at NO GB at MIN MIA at NE STL at SEA
  CHI at DET HOU at IND NYJ at BUF TB at ATL

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