FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 4 SF at STL (THU) CIN at CLE NYG at KC SEA at HOU
PIT at MIN (London) IND at JAC PHI at DEN WAS at OAK
CHI at DET NE at ATL BAL at BUF MIA at NO (MON)
*UPDATED ARI at TB DAL at SD NYJ at TEN On Bye: CAR, GB

Prediction: MIA 17, NO 27 (Line: NO by 6.5)

Players of Interest: Mike Wallace, Pierre Thomas

Update: Lance Moore has missed all practices because of his hand. I am removing him from the projections has he may not play on Monday night. Kenny Still should pick up any slack.

Little did we know when we read the schedule that this Monday night game is a battle of the unbeatens. The Dolphins have not always won by much, but they do win and taking down the Falcons and Colts are impressive. The Saints also beat the Falcons and are showing a defense that has been exponentially better than the 2012 version. Playing this one in New Orleans should favor the Saints to be sure, but the Fins have done nothing but surprise this year.

1 @CLE 23-10 10 @TB -
2 @IND 24-20 11 SD -
3 ATL 27-23 12 CAR -
4 @NO - 13 @NYJ -
5 BAL - 14 @PIT -
6 BYE WEEK 15 NE -
7 BUF - 16 @BUF -
8 @NE - 17 NYJ -
9 CIN - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
MIA @ NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Ryan Tannehill 250,1
RB Lamar Miller 50,1 1-10
RB Knowshon Moreno 60,1 2-20
WR Brandon Gibson 6-50
WR Brian Hartline 5-70
WR Mike Wallace 6-80,1
TE Charles Clay 5-40
PK Caleb Sturgis 1 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Dolphins have taken a big step up this season and not because one facet of the team is suddenly working better. The Fins have been better in almost every way. The defense has allowed just five offensive touchdowns over three games and has been at home only once. Ryan Tannehill is genuinely better for 2013 and not because he found one receiver he likes. The only decline so far has been in the rushing effort but a lack of yardage has been offset by a rushing touchdown in every game. The transition to respectability has been long in coming but seemingly happened quickly this year.

QUARTERBACKS: There is nothing wrong with Ryan Tannehill anymore. He has thrown at least one score in every game and averaged 276 yards. He's made use of his receivers well and his only shortcoming is being sacked at least four times every week and losing the ball at least once in each game. He is finally fitting the offense and taking a step up to being a borderline starting fantasy quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS: This continues to be a committee approach though Lamar Miller is being much more productive with his runs and gained over 60 rushing yards these last two weeks. Daniel Thomas has yet to run for more than 30 yards in any game and still gets six to ten touches. Thomas scored twice this year but his minimal yardage precludes him from any fantasy consideration. With Miller limited to no more than 16 touches, he's nothing more than a marginal flex play in most games. The offense gets to the goal line and then one of these guys scores. That is their only real fantasy value.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The receivers are more fantasy relevant this year than last. Brian Hartline scored twice already and usually ends up around the 60 yard mark with a nine catch, 114 yard effort in the season opener. Mike Wallace was the pricey addition but after getting nearly blanked by the Browns, he exploded with nine receptions for 115 yards and one score in Indianapolis. But he injured his groin and was limited to only 22 yards on two catches last week. His groin is all healed by now and his biggest weekly challenge is being the guy that the defense deems most important to cover. He either comes up big or ends up stretching the field for other receivers.

TIGHT ENDS: Fullback, H-Back and tight end Charles Clay is one of the most consistent players on the team. He remains good for around 50 yards or more and scored once against the Colts as a runner. Dion Sims caught a touchdown last week on his only catch of the year. Clay is good enough to merit holding for at least bye week coverage.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: This is where it gets bizarre. The Saints went from being one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2012 to only allowing four touchdowns over the first three weeks. Playing the Cardinals and Buccaneers helped to be sure but even Matt Ryan only managed two touchdowns on them in the opener. The rushing defense is not as good but has only given up one touchdown so far and the Saints M. O. has been to get a nice lead and prevent their opponent from rushing much anyway. The Fins are going to split up the load between Miller and Thomas and they are even less likely to shine on the road.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mike Wallace now has two flops and one good game. He has to be involved more in the game plan and in particular in a week like this where the Fins are likely to be playing from behind.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points MIA 22 4 6 31 7 19
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 4 11 5 4 2 18

 

1 ATL 23-17 10 DAL -
2 @TB 16-14 11 SF -
3 ARI 31-7 12 @ATL -
4 MIA - 13 @SEA -
5 @CHI - 14 CAR -
6 @NE - 15 @STL -
7 BYE WEEK 16 @CAR -
8 BUF - 17 TB -
9 @NYJ - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NO vs MIA Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 330,3
RB Pierre Thomas 50 5-40,1
WR Marques Colston 6-80
WR Kenny Stills 4-50
TE Jimmy Graham 10-110,2

Pregame Notes: This is a very different Saints team than we saw in 2012. The offense has contracted to little more than pitch and catch with Jimmy Graham who so far no one can stop. The defense that was doling out 300 yard games and scads of scores has turned around to only giving up only around 13 points per game. The shoot-outs are not happening but the 3-0 Saints are bringing a very balanced team each week. Starting this week, they'll be facing three straight teams that are currently unbeaten.

QUARTERBACKS: While the offense is less diverse, Drew Brees remains prolific in yardage with never fewer than 322 passing yards and he is averaging a healthy two passing scores each week. Brees has yet to play a full game without an interception but he remains one of the most consistently productive quarterbacks. He even ran in a score last week. He may be slightly less bountiful than 2012 but he's still one of the elite.

RUNNING BACKS: The perpetual commitment to the running game again this year seems just as destined for failure. Mark Ingram has been even more ineffective than in the past with only 31 yards on 17 carries and he remains out with a turf toe. There were rumors that the Saints wanted to trade him but they denied them and realistically, who would want him? He's been nothing but a bust since his first round selection.

Pierre Thomas is getting more work but still remains an iffy start with only 50 total yards or so on a good day. Darren Sproles provides the pass catching out of the backfield about a half dozen times each week but no one in his unit has scored this season. No runner has rushed past the vaunted 50-yard mark in a game as well.

WIDE RECEIVERS: After several years of being a solid #2 wideout for the Saints, Lance Moore has yet to catch more than two passes in any game and only has 44 yards on the entire season. He's more of a blocker and decoy than receiver. Marques Colston remains the consistently used wideout but even that has only been five times each week and never over 71 yards. If that isn't freaky enough, Robert Meachem caught a touchdown in the Cardinals game to tie with Colston for the scoring lead among wideouts.

TIGHT ENDS: Jimmy Graham is not only a beast, he is a beast in a contract year who is all but certain to catch the franchise tag since who could afford what he is worth? He currently has 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns - all of those high marks for NFL tight ends. He has more fantasy points than any receiver in the NFL so far. He's hardly a secret weapon and yet has 313 yards over just the last two games.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Fins are only average against the run but that is not much issue here. Where the fun will be is with Brees going against a secondary that gave up 289 yards to Brandon Weeden and 321 to Andrew Luck. Even better - three of the four touchdowns they allowed via the pass went to tight ends. Brees and Graham should have another big game here and even Colston can produce decent points against a team that has allowed 100+ yards to a wideout in their last games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The offense is contracted. It would be nice to see Pierre Thomas given more than ten carries at least at the end of games.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 7 29 1 3 23
Preventing Fantasy Points MIA 13 18 10 28 17 15

WEEK 4 SF at STL (THU) CIN at CLE NYG at KC SEA at HOU
PIT at MIN (London) IND at JAC PHI at DEN WAS at OAK
CHI at DET NE at ATL BAL at BUF MIA at NO (MON)
*UPDATED ARI at TB DAL at SD NYJ at TEN On Bye: CAR, GB


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