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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
September 18, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at TBB NE at CAR Sun 4 PM MIA at NYJ Mon 9 PM
JAC at IND* PIT at HOU* STL at ARI *Update Times ET

Prediction: New England 24, Carolina 19

The Panthers open with three home games in their first four weeks but so far it has hardly been a treat. The Patriots are well rested after playing on opening Thursday and the Panthers get to come off an emotional loss by playing the reigning World Champs. The Patriots cannot overlook this week, but if they did they would see a road trip to Pittsburgh looming in week three.

New England Patriots (1-0)
1 30-20 OAK 11 Nov 13 @MIA
2 Sep 18 @CAR 12 Nov 20 NOR
3 Sep 25 @PIT 13 Nov 27 @KCC
4 Oct 2 SDC 14 Dec 4 NYJ
5 Oct 9 @ATL 15 Dec 11 @BUF
6 Oct 16 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
NEP Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 240,2
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 10 0
RB Kevin Faulk 20 20 0
TE Ben Watson 0 40,1 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR David Givens 0 40 0
WR Deion Branch 0 70 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30,1 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Patriots had a surprising amount of difficulty putting the Raiders away all things considered (like being the #1 team vs. the #27 team from 2004). Played in New England, the outcome was considered certain but it took a big game from Brady to make it happen. It's not like the Patriots should be unfamiliar with teams motivated to play against them.

Quarterback: Tom Brady enjoyed that Raider defense to the tune of 306 yards and two scores with no turnovers. Same song, fourth verse with the quarterback who used eight different receivers in the game. Either the Patriot rushing offense has declined or the Raiders defense has improved, but Brady better be ready to throw this season regardless.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon surprisingly struggled against Oakland last week. He did score two touchdowns but gained only 63 yards on 22 carries against a defense that would allow those sort of yards per quarter to opposing running backs. Kevin Faulk (5-11) offered relief when needed and resumed his third down role with three catches for 18 yards.

Wide Receivers: In the great melting pot that is the Patriot wideouts, Deion Branch stood tallest with 99 yards on seven catches for one touchdown and Troy Brown had six grabs for 51 yards - a much higher use than last season. We'll throw in David Givens (2-31) and even Tim Dwight (1-5, 1 TD) and the secondary is kept guessing according to plan.

The big start by Branch hopefully signals that the talented wideout is due for a breakout season. He spawned the same hope last year before being injured much of the season. It would be nice for fantasy owners if at least one Patriot receiver would offer some consistency.

Tight Ends: New England cannot even use just one tight end. Daniel Graham (1-17) and Ben Watson (2-55) combined for some nice production with Watson the definite one to watch - if they will use him often enough. Watson is the freakishly fast tight end that could emerge as a true play maker.

Match Against the Defense: The possible bad news here is that the Panthers rush defense held McAllister to almost the exact same numbers as Dillon had. But the Panther defense is much better than the Raiders so Dillon should be in for another sub-100 yard game that could offer a touchdown to make it respectable. The loss of DT Kris Jenkins should help the running game.

The Panther pass defense is also a big step up from what is expected of Oakland usually and Brady will have to face a secondary that held Aaron Brooks to only 192 yards. In his favor is the fact that Brooks really only uses two or three receivers while Brady has six or eight so look for a decent game from Brady but to which receiver is always a guess - it is supposed to be.

Carolina Panthers (0-1)
1 20-23 NOR 10 Nov 13 NYJ
2 Sep 18 NE 11 Nov 20 @CHI
3 Sep 25 @MIA 12 Nov 27 @BUF
4 Oct 3 GBP 13 Dec 4 ATL
5 Oct 9 @ARI 14 Dec 11 TBB
6 Oct 16 @DET 15 Dec 18 @NOR
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 DAL
8 Oct 30 MIN 17 Jan 1 @ATL
9 Nov 6 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 230,1
RB DeShaun Foster 30 20 0
RB Stephen Davis 60 0 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 10 0
WR Steve Smith 0 110,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 50 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 30 0
PK John Kasay 4 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Panthers were unable to catch up to the Saints last week and lost a close one, 23-20. Now they are home again and the visitors are only getting worse. It's like Halloween in the projects when word gets out you are giving away full-size Snickers bars.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme threw for 212 yards and one score last week, and he did immediately re-establish Steve Smith as the "go to" guy, but his two interceptions and one lost fumble proved costly. He'll need to rein back the errors to have a chance this week.

Running Backs: Stephen "what surgery?" Davis was surprisingly effective last week, rushing for 81 yards on 13 carries and scoring one touchdown. De'Shaun Foster only had nine carries for 41 yards by comparison. Together they offer a formidable rushing attack and separately they offer marginal fantasy value.

Put them together and really you just have the backfield most likely to get wiped out by injury in a single weekend. The clocks ticking on the oft-injured duo.

Wide Receivers: Muhsin who? Steve Smith caught eight passes for 138 yards and one score and could have easily scored at least one more with a little more luck and less offensive penalties. Smith had 14 passes thrown to him, more than all other receivers combined. Keary Colbert only managed 11 yards on two catches.

One dimensional pass offenses don't usually fly against good defenses. Colbert needs to step up or Rod Gardner will be getting some playing time.

Tight Ends: Kris Mangum had the standard 20 yards and no score last week. Get used to it.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots were good against the run last week and should hold the Panthers to no more than the sort of numbers of last week and without the touchdown this time. The passing game is where this will have to happen and the Patriots allowed over 200 yards to the Raider wideouts last week. Since everyone knew Moss was getting the ball and he still had 130 yards and one score, expect a good game here from Steve Smith who will get "Moss-esque" attention and a volume of passes.

Carolina looked oddly "out of sorts" offensively and largely with the passing game from Delhomme to anyone not named Smith. The other wideouts will have to get involved here to compensate for the likely lower rushing numbers.