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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 NO 30000025020 ***
The Saints have held Newton in relative check--single touchdown, sub-250 passing yards, sub-50 rushing yards check--the past three meetings, and Cam's coming off a subpar performance against the Seahawks last week. But New Orleans is a different animal outdoors, so we're putting a little more stock in a Newton bounceback effort here--especially considering the Saints have allowed multiple QB TDs in four straight games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR NO 5011100000 **
The last time both Williams and Jonathan Stewart played in the same game for the Panthers it was a 14-9 split on carries (and 14-12 on touches) in favor of Williams. He's also scored in four of the last five meetings with New Orleans where both he and Stewart have suited up. So odds are he's the lead dog here, though if his share of the workload is still in the 15-touch range it'll be tough to bank on him for much of a fantasy contribution.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR NO 3001100000 **
In the last five times both Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have suited up against the Saints--and you have to go back five years to come up with those five games--Williams has scored in four of them and Stewart in just one. The last time both were available this season Stewart was on the short end of a 14-12 split in touches. So if Williams truly is back this week, Stewart isn't likely to be much of a fantasy helper.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR NO 0051002000 ***
In the last three games alone the Saints have allowed five WR TDs and three 100-yard games. Since Benjamin is the Carolina WR most likely to (insert just about anything here), he's the best bet to take the helpful cut of those stats.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR NO 006601000 **
Olsen hasn't scored on the Saints since October of 2011 and has never topped 50 yards against them. Seattle, notoriously soft against tight ends, provided a blue print for covering him last week in holding him to one catch for 16 yards, and the Saints haven't allowed a TE TD since Week 1. He's still an every-week starter in TE-mandatory leagues based on his role in the Carolina offense, but there isn't much to like about this particular matchup.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR NO 22332 ***
Gano's been a solid point provider, averaging around eight points per game, and the Saints are surrendering around nine points per game. You could do worse for a kicking option 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 @CAR 0000032021 ***
In his career Brees has played a season's worth (16) of games against the Panthers, averaging 22 fantasy points per game in the process. He's also tossed multiple touchdowns in six straight this year and faces a reeling Carolina D that's allowed multiple TD tosses in six of eight. Enjoy the show.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO @CAR 12012100000 ****
With injuries still halving the number of backs in New Orleans' rotation Ingram should be in line for another heavy workload. That's good news, not only because of last week's standout performance but also because backs who get carries against the Panthers do well; to wit, the nine backs who received double-digit carries against Carolina have produced five touchdowns and three 100-yard games. Enjoy the run, Robinson and Thomas will be back eventually.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Travaris Cadet, NO @CAR 2004200000 ***
Cadet is an intriguing play against a Carolina defense that's given up 6- and 12-catch games to running backs as well as three RB receiving scores this season.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO @CAR 004601000 **
The Panthers have given up more than enough WR TDs to put every Saints wideout in play here, and with 57 yards or better in three of his last four Stills is a large enough part of the receiver rotation to warrant fantasy consideration.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO @CAR 006700000 ****
Colston has six touchdowns in his last five meetings with the Panthers, averaging 6-87-1 over that span. He's been the top target in three of four road games, among them a pair of 100-yard efforts. That's about as good as it gets for Colston, who's still just one of a bunch of guys Drew Brees could throw to.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brandin Cooks, NO @CAR 005700000 ***
Cooks is much more of a homebody than a road warrior; since his 7-77-1 NFL debut in Week 1 he's totaled 10-71 in three games away from the SuperDome. It's a favorable matchup, but if you're looking for ways to parse the Saints receivers history is not on Cooks' side.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO @CAR 008901000 ***
Graham has scored in five straight and six of seven against the Panthers, has either a TD or 100 yards in seven straight, and has double-digit fantasy points in each of those tilts. Carolina is traditionally strong against the tight end but allowed Luke Willson to beat them last week and has yet to find an answer for Graham. Oh, and Jimmy looked plenty healthy last week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO @CAR 1133 ***
Graham has three straight three-field goal games and faces a Carolina defense that's allowing an average of nine kicker points per game over the past month and a half. He's as good an option as you'll find this week.

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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