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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
WR Tiquan Underwood 2-30
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 @ATL 40100022010 ****
Newton threw for just 247 & 1 in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, but he mixed in a rushing score--a la E.J. Manuel, a la Colin Kaepernick last week. In fact, every quarterback but one that has faced the Falcons has recorded multiple touchdowns; why should a motivated Newton be any different?
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR @ATL 601000000 ****
The Falcons have given up 98 and 97 yards to feature backs the past two weeks, that on the heels of four 100-yard games in the two months prior. Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 85 yards in the earlier meeting with Atlanta; with Williams now housing al those carries, he's a solid fantasy play this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR @ATL 004501000 ****
Cotchery has scored a surprising amount of touchdowns, but he's most definitely the third wheel in this passing game and can't be banked on for fantasy production.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Tiquan Underwood, CAR @ATL 003300000 ***
Since his 108 & 2 against Detroit in Week 12, Underwood has a four-game total of 73 yards. He can't be banked on for fantasy help.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR @ATL 007801000 *****
Only two teams have allowed more TE TDs than the Falcons. Olsen scored on them in the earlier matchup and is set up for another solid fantasy outing here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR @ATL 1133 ****
No team has given up more points to kickers than the Falcons. Graham tallied 10 in the earlier meeting, and with Carolina still in the postseason hunt he'll get plenty of opportunity to swing the leg here.

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 TB 0000029030 ****
Ah, home sweet dome. It's been almost three full seasons since the last time Brees didn't throw for either 300-plus yards or multiple touchdowns at home. In fact, he has multiple TDs in 23 of his last 24 at home and 300-plus yards in nine straight and 18 of 24 at home. With the Saints needing a win to make the postseason, expect Brees to be firing on all cylinders.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Pierre Thomas, NO TB 4004300000 ***
The Saints haven't scored a running back touchdown in five games, with Thomas and Mark Ingram taking turns being the primary ball-carrier. Expect a little more than the 75 yards three New Orleans backs combined for in the earlier meeting between these teams, but it will be so fractured that a legit fantasy helper is unlikely.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO TB 300000000 ***
The Saints haven't scored a running back touchdown in five games, with Ingram and Pierre Thomas taking turns being the primary ball-carrier. Expect a little more than the 75 yards three New Orleans backs combined for in the earlier meeting between these teams, but it will be so fractured that a legit fantasy helper is unlikely.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO TB 004500000 ***
Colston paced Saints receivers in the earlier meeting, but that was pre-Darrelle Revis. This time around Colston might find the going tougher against a healthy Revis, but he's been an inconsistent fantasy play anyway. Weigh the home uptick the Saints' offense gets with the possibility of Revis blanking Colston and he's pretty much right back where he started--a good play but hardly a sure thing.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO TB 002400000 ***
Stills is the last non-Colston Saints wideout to score... and that was back in Week 10. This passing game runs through the tight end, with an assist from the running backs; even at home, where the Saints' numbers tend to climb, Stills is too far down the pecking order to be banked on for fantasy help.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO TB 0091102000 ***
The last time Graham saw the Bucs he went for 10-179-1--and that was on the road. If you only count his home games, Graham would still rank third among tight ends with nine touchdowns. So, yeah, he's a good play... again.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO TB 2233 ***
Graham tallied seven points in his Saints debut, more than half his team's points. Should be a significantly easier row to hoe this week--not to mention a home date in the SuperDome--so expect Graham to have ample opportunity to get his kicks 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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