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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
DIVISIONAL
January 7, 2004
Playoff Ticket
Saturday
Sunday
4:30 PM, FOX at Edward Jones Dome
1:00 PM, CBS at Arrowhead Stadium
8:15 PM, CBS at Gillette Stadium
4:45 PM, FOX at Lincoln Financial Field
   
Carolina vs St. Louis  
  Carolina Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 230,1
RB Stephen Davis 90,1 10 0
TE Wiggins/Mangum 0 20 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 60 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 30 0
WR Steve Smith 0 80,1 0
  St. Louis Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger 0 0 250,2
RB Marshall Faulk 80,1 20 0
TE B. Manumaleuna 0 30 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 60,1 0
WR Torry Holt 0 100 0
WR Dane Looker 0 30,1 0

Game Prediction: CAR 23, STL 27

Line: Rams by 7

The most important fact in this game is that the Rams are at home where they are 8-0 this season. The Panthers come off a big 29-10 win over the Cowboys, reversing their previous loss in Dallas and showing that Carolina is ready for the step up while the Cowboys are not there yet.

Jake Delhomme threw for 273 yards and one score against the #1 defense, victimizing the rookie Terrence Newman with continual strikes to both Steve Smith (5-135) and Muhsin Muhammad (4-103). Stephen Davis added 104 yards on 26 carries and a score and the rout was on.

The Panther defense had no problems handling the Cowboy offense and for the fifth straight game they had an interception. They also recovered a Richie Anderson fumble to kill a redzone drive by Dallas.

Delhomme has been very good on the road this season, throwing for two scores in four of the last five road games and twice exceeding 300 yards. This matches against the Rams who have only allowed two passing scores in St. Louis only twice this season and none since week seven. Almost all opponents have been throwing around 200 to 240 yards as a visitor there.

Stephen Davis has to run well in order for the Panthers to win - no question. In St. Louis, runners have had decent games like Alexander (126, 1 TD) and Lewis (111, 1 TD) but most have not fared well and almost always as a function of the run being abandoned when the Rams take the lead.

The Rams come into this matchup with the home advantage but their last game was an embarrassing loss in Detroit which yielded championship homefield to the Eagles if that comes to pass. Marc Bulger plays at home where he has only one game with more than one touchdown though he has a score in every game at home this season. Armed with the league leader in yardage and receptions in Torry Holt and with a healthier Isaac Bruce, the pass has a good chance of succeeding against a defense that has allowed opponent quarterbacks to score in every away game this season and three of them (Brooks, Palmer and Carter) to throw for two scores. Most have not had big yardage though Manning (293) and Brad Johnson (339) had big games to start the year. No one has thrown for over 254 yards since week six.

The receivers that have most often scored against the Panthers have been on the right side against CB Terry Cousin. That would favor Bruce the most and many of the scoring receivers against Carolina have been #3 or #4 receivers which favors Looker or Furrey but Holt is constantly moved around anyway so the pass distribution is not something you can easily deduce which is how the Rams want it.

The Panthers rush defense has allowed three 100 yard rushers but none since week eight. No runner has scored more than once though five have had a touchdown while hosting the Panthers.

The Panthers had their big win last week and now are on the road where they will face a team that has not lost against any visitor. The Rams are rested and should be prepared to face a team with a good defense, sound rushing game and formidable passing attack if they can get Steve Smith into the game. Smith is the hinge, with him successful, all else opens up.

The Panthers will put up a fight but playing in St. Louis after a big emotional home win will give them more than they can handle. The Rams were rudely given a dose of reality against the Lions and are not going into this matchup with the idea that the game will be a given. The Panthers have never score more than 23 points on the road this season (except NYG which does not count). They have not score more than two touchdowns in those away games either. Their defense should prevent the Rams from rolling up any big score but St. Louis should manage an early lead which will throw Carolina out of their game plan and make them much more one-dimensional with only wideouts Muhammad and Smith as contributors.

The Rams have never scored less than 27 points at home this season and will be up for this game which could be their only homestand.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
CAR Scores
17
18
13
29
10
19
STL Allows
20
12
24
23
7
25
CAR AP
3
-6
9
-6
-3
6
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
STL Scores
12
14
4
28
1
4
CAR Allows
19
6
4
11
8
23
STL AP
7
-8
0
-17
7
19
Offensive ranks = #1 gains most points, Defensive ranks = #1 allows least points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
CAR
STL
2003 Game Averages
STL
CAR
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
226
217
Pass yards
247
165
1.2
1.3
Pass TDs
1.5
0.8
1.2
1.8
Interceptions
1.7
1.0
4
19
Rush yards
6
36
0.2
0.0
Rush TDs
0.2
0.3
---
---
RB's
---
---
94
111
Rush yards
109
77
0.5
0.7
Rush TDs
1.0
0.7
37
29
Receive yards
29
25
0.5
0.0
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
177
147
Receive yards
204
111
0.5
1.2
Receive TD's
1.2
0.7
---
---
TE's
---
---
12
40
Receive yards
13
29
0.2
0.2
Receive TD's
0.2
0.2
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.8
1.0
Field Goals
2.7
1.2
1.8
2.3
Extra Points
3.2
2.2
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.7
0.3
Fumbles
0.7
1.2
1.0
1.7
Interceptions
1.8
1.2
0.2
0.3
Touchdowns
0.5
0.5
2.5
2.3
Sacks
3.2
0.8
0.0
0.2
Safeties
0.0
0.0
Panthers (11-5)
Score Opp.
24-23 JAX
12-9 @TB
Week 3 BYE
23-3 ATL
19-13 NO
23-20 @IND
17-37 TEN
23-20 @NO
10-14 @HOU
27-24 TB
20-17 WAS
20-24 @DAL
16-25 PHI
14-20 @ATL
20-17 @ARZ
20-14 DET
37-24 @NYG
Rams (12-4)
Score Opp.
13-23 @NYG
27-24 SF
23-24 @SEA
37-13 ARZ
Week 5 BYE
36-0 ATL
34-24 GB
33-21 @PIT
10-30 @SF
33-22 BAL
23-21 @CHI
30-27 @ARZ
48-17 MIN
26-20 @CLE
27-22 SEA
27-10 CIN
20-30 @DET

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points