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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 PIT 40100024010 ***
Cam's 2014 fantasy debut was underwhelming, and he's unlikely to get much of a boost from a Steelers' defense that has allowed a total of 396 passing yards through two games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR PIT 800000000 ***
Williams sat out last week and we are awaiting news of his return to work. If he goes it's an extremely favorable matchup, so it's a situation worth monitoring.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR PIT 3002100000 ***
In a rare confluence of Stewart's good health, a DeAngelo Williams injury, and a favorable matchup with a Pittsburgh run D that's allowed 175 and 152 RB rushing yards the past two games... we have an honest to goodness opportunity to give Stewart a fantasy start. Of course, if Williams returns things could change but for now, revel in the possibilities.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR PIT 005800000 ***
The Steelers haven't surrendered much to opposing wideouts, and last week Cam threw as much to Jason Avant as he did Benjamin. Best wait for a more favorable opportunity to plug the rookie into your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR PIT 004400000 ***
Cam Newton got Cotchery involved last week, but there isn't much to go around and the Steelers will reduce that number even further. It adds up to Cotchery being a risky fantasy play at best this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR PIT 007801000 ***
Olsen remains the Panthers' most reliable pass-catcher, and against a Steelers defense that surrendered two TDs to the position last week and 90 yards to tight ends the week before he's as good a bet as any for fantasy help.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR PIT 1133 ***
The Steelers have allowed multiple field goal attempts in each game thus far this season; Gano has attempted multiple field goals in each game as well. It adds up to... well, multiple opportunities for Gano to be a fantasy helper this week.

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 MIN 0000031030 ***
The Vikings haven't given up much to opposing passing attacks thus far, but it's partly because they faced the Rams' backups and partly because the Patriots backed off when they rolled out to a big lead. Brees won't be as merciful.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Khiry Robinson, NO MIN 701000000 ****
With no Mark Ingram this week, Robinson should step into the bulk of the carries for the Saints' backfield. Though he may not get to the 25 carries Stevan Ridley had last week, something akin to the 101 and 1 Ridley dropped on the Vikings feels about right.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Pierre Thomas, NO MIN 3003200000 ***
Thomas could see an uptick in carries as well as his typical role in the passing game. Either alone would likely be enough to warrant starting against the Vikings; both makes Thomas an even better fantasy play.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO MIN 006901000 ***
If you can look past the goose egg Colston laid last week, he projects to be a solid fantasy play against the Vikings--especially if cornerback Xavier Rhodes is still nursing a groin injury.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brandin Cooks, NO MIN 2006701000 ***
Cooks' speed is bound to give the suddenly blitz-happy Vikings fits; as an added bonus he's been steadily targeted so there's little in the way of downside here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO MIN 003300000 ***
Just about every Saint should be in play fantasy-wise this week; the issue with Stills is that he hasn't staked out a consistent role in New Orleans' passing game so there's plenty of risk involved as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO MIN 0071001000 ***
The Vikings kept Rob Gronkowski out of the end zone last week--with a little (a lot of?) help from a limited snap count. Graham is unlikely to suffer the same fate, and Minnesota is equally as unlikely to be able to contain him.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO MIN 2244 ***
The Vikes have allowed multiple field goals in each game this season, and the Saints should give Graham plenty of opportunity to swing the leg this week. Even counting by ones he should be just fine fantasy-wise.

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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