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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
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 Derek Anderson, CAR CLE 0000023011 ***
Anderson threw for 277 and 1 against the Bucs, a significantly inferior pass defense to the Browns. If he replaces Cam Newton again, no reason to think his numbers will be any better.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR CLE 8011100000 ***
You can run on the Brownies; see Cincy's 241 yards and three TDs last week. And with little to no DeAngelo Williams and quite likely no Cam Newton culturing, it'll be another 20-tote day for Stewart. He's produced 228 yards and a touchdown with his last two 20-carry outings; have to like him here as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB DeAngelo Williams, CAR CLE 200000000 ***
Williams hasn't played for two weeks and hasn't seen more than 14 carries in a year. All he's doing is harshing Jonathan Stewart's mellow.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR CLE 005600000 **
Joe Haden is not infallible. He also hasn't had a great deal of success with bigger receivers, especially tandems: Mike Evans went for 7-124-6 (or Vincent Jackson had 6-86, take your pick); DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson split 148 yards; and Julio Jones scored (with 68 yards to boot) while Roddy White tallied 96. Benjamin doesn't have nearly as high-profile a running mate, but he's still a solid bet to see his usual volume of targets and provide fantasy value.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jerricho Cotchery, CAR CLE 004500000 ***
You could play the "not covered by Joe Haden" card here, but Kelvin Benjamin's dramatic size advantage over Haden likely puts that matchup in favor of the receiver, negating the need to lean any more heavily on Cotchery than usual.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Greg Olsen, CAR CLE 007801000 **
Cleveland has been pretty good against tight ends--except for Jimmy Graham, whom they misguidedly tried to defend with the much smaller Joe Haden. Unlikely that the Browns sic Haden on Olsen, which should free him up to do his usual damage.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Graham Gano, CAR CLE 3322 ***
Gano is heating up at just the right time; with multiple treys in three straight and double-digit points in back-to-back tilts, it's fortuitous that he bumps into a Browns defense that has served up multiple field goals in three straight and double-digit kicker points in three of its last five.

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 ATL 0000027020 ***
The Falcons have held three of their last four foes to one or zero touchdowns, and they limited Brees to 333 & 1 back in the season opener. So don't look for gaudy numbers; settle for pretty good and you'll be just fine.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO ATL 11022100000 ***
You can run on the Falcons, as no team has given up more fantasy points to running backs. And while he no longer gets all the carries, Ingram gets enough to make a fantasy impact.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Pierre Thomas, NO ATL 1006400000 ***
Thomas faces a Falcons' defense that has served up the third-most running back receptions and third-most RB receiving yards. Since his primary function is as a receiver out of the backfield, expect him to capitalize on those stats with a solid fantasy helper here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO ATL 006901000 ***
Stills is handling Brandin Cooks' duties, so it's worth noting that the rookie went for 7-77-1 in the earlier meeting--numbers that could easily be replicated here in the rematch.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO ATL 005701000 ***
Colton went for 110 yards in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, but that's not rare against the Falcons. Five different wideouts have hit triple-digits in the past six games; expect Colton to return to their ranks this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO ATL 004500000 ***
Graham continues to rebuild his identity after posting a goose egg in Week 13; a Saints D that's allowed six TE TDs in the past seven games should help.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO ATL 2244 ***
Graham tallied double-digit points back in the season opener in Atlanta, but he hasn't been back above that mark since Week 8 and has just one multiple field goal outing in that span so keep those expectations in check.

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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