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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 8
October 26, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ARI at DAL JAC at STL* WAS at NYG* TB at SF* BUF at NE
CHI at DET* MIA at NO* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CLE at HOU MIN at CAR* KC at SD* IND, NYJ BAL at PIT*
GB at CIN OAK at TEN* PHI at DEN ATL, SEA *Updated

Prediction: Minnesota 20, Carolina 24

What to believe? The Vikings enter the game with an actual win behind them in a game that they showed poise and character as they battled back to defeat the Packers. This game flies in the face of virtually every other one the Vikings have played but perhaps they have turned the corner. The Panthers come off their bye week and are only one game behind the Buccaneers in the NFC South and therein could lie a problem. The Vikings are still not scaring anyone and the Panthers are certainly aware that next week in Tampa Bay is their biggest game of the year. That could play into this week as they look ahead.

Update: Keary Colbert is listed as questionable to play but has practiced and is expected to suit up on Sunday with no signigicant limitation from his ankle sprain. I am swapping the touchdown over to Rod Gardner though since there is no question as to his health and he has been increasing his number of snaps. Foster has also practiced and is expected to play.

Minnesota Vikings (2-4)
1 13-24 TBB 10 Nov 13 @NYG
2 8-37 @CIN 11 Nov 21 @GBP
3 33-16 NOR 12 Nov 27 CLE
4 10-30 @ATL 13 Dec 4 @DET
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 STL
6 3-28 @CHI 15 Dec 18 PIT
7 23-20 GBP 16 Dec 25 @BAL
8 Oct 30 @CAR 17 Jan 1 CHI
9 Nov 6 DET . . MON
MIN at CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Daunte Culpepper 20 0 260,2
RB Mewelde Moore 40 40 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 50,1 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 10 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 50 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 40 0
WR Troy Williamson 0 50,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 20 0
PK Paul Edinger 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Just when you figure the animal is dead, it jumps back to life and kicks a 56-yard field goal to win the game. The Vikings received a major injection of confidence last week when they fell behind 17-0 against the Packers but battled back for a 23-20 win. Never mind that Ahman Green and Robert Ferguson had left the game, the Vikings stayed on track and took the game back. In the process - honestly here - Daunte Culpepper became the highest scoring fantasy quarterback last week. Honest. Just like last year. And the year before. And the...

Quarterback: Perhaps Daunte Culpepper is on the three week plan. After starting the first two games of the year with horrible results, he came to life and threw for 300 yards and three scores against the Saints. Back to mediocrity for two weeks and then back to life against the Packers when he had 280 yards and 2 touchdowns with 41 rushing yards added. In short, he took the team on his back and made the win happen last week. In the two wins this year, he had five touchdowns and no interceptions. In the four losses, he passed for only one score and 12 interceptions. Just to make the Culpepper owners wince one more time - both wins came at home.

Running Backs: Mewelde Moore has settled into the starting position this season and for the last four games has topped 100 total yards. He also scored his first touchdown last week on a reception. What has been encouraging is that while his best yardage has come during the wins, Moore has become a big target in the passing scheme and has caught at least three passes for 52 yards in each of the last three games.

Wide Receivers: Nate Burleson has returned to the lineup but he still is not 100% and only ended with three catches for 37 yards last week against the Packers. Culpepper had good passing yardage but it has not favored any one receiver lately. Marcus Robinson led this crew against the Packers when he had three caches for 60 yards and one score but most of that came on the one touchdown reception. Otherwise, there was little separating Burleson, Robinson, Travis Taylor or Troy Williamson. Even Koren Robinson has been getting a catch or two lately. If Culpepper can keep up his level of play away from Minnesota, there is no clear favored receiver here though Burleson has only been back for one game and still is not completely healed from his sprained left knee.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins is becoming the most consistent part of the passing offense. He has not scored this year but has three games with six or more catches in the last four games. He had 56 or more yards in those games but only one was on the road.

Match Against the Defense: The Panther rush defense at home has been good this season and only twice has an opposing runner topped a mere 36 rushing yards in a game and both were the only players to run in scores against the Panthers (McAllister and Ronnie Brown). Look for Moore to continue to have nice yardage and his role in the passing game will keep him as a viable fantasy start this week.

Culpepper goes against a secondary that he could have shredded back in the good old Moss days. The Panthers have already given up three games over 270 passing yards including the 394 yards by McCown. It all depends on which Culpepper we see this week. The good one has not yet been witnessed on the road. Culpepper should throw for at least one score and over 200 yards, but however higher he goes will need to be him showing progress, not playing as he has.

There has been no primary wideout lately so there in no particular matchup to exploit - the Vikings are rotating wideouts in and out anyway. Where there should be some predictability is with Jermaine Wiggins. He's been the preferred target for Culpepper and the Panthers have already allowed four scores to tight ends plus the 105 yard game by Marcus Pollard.

Carolina Panthers (4-2)
1 20-23 NOR 10 Nov 13 NYJ
2 27-17 NE 11 Nov 20 @CHI
3 24-27 @MIA 12 Nov 27 @BUF
4 32-29 GBP 13 Dec 4 ATL
5 24-20 @ARI 14 Dec 11 TBB
6 21-20 @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 vs MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 250,2
RB DeShaun Foster 50 10 0
RB Stephen Davis 40,1 0 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 10 0
WR Steve Smith 0 120,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 50 0
WR Rod Gardner 0 40,1 0
PK John Kasay 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Panthers have played tough this season and been in every game so far. While the outcome is often a coin flip, the Panthers have only one win against the Patriots that came by a large margin - 10 points. Otherwise, the other five games have all been decided by four points or less. Fun games to watch, but do not expect to leave early. The Panthers are on a three game winning streak and come off their bye week.

Quarterback: The Panthers had a scare back in week six when Jake Delhomme was absolutely flattened as he was entering a slide. Delhomme claims he was not unconscious and that he did not suffer a concussion but he laid motionless for several moments after the hit and sat out the rest of the game. Delhomme will be back this week and claims he has no residual effects from the hit. That's great news for fantasy owners who have seen Delhomme throw for at least two scores in each of the last four games. They are almost as happy as every Steve Smith owner that can now breathe a sigh of relief that the newest stud wideout still has the same quarterback - and will be facing the Vikings this week as well.

Running Backs: DeShaun Foster missed the last game with a sprained knee which left the hobbled Stephen Davis to start with some help from Nick Goings and Jamal Robertson. Davis is only averaging 3.1 yards per carry and the Panthers intend on using Foster more if he can take the work without getting injured again. Foster has been running well when healthy this season - always a caveat for him every season.

This may be the last week for good rushing numbers from the Panthers for the next month. After playing against the Vikings, they'll have to play @TB, NYJ, @CHI. @BUF, ATL and TB. That'll be a much bigger challenge to rack up rushing yards though it could end up boosting passing yardage instead.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith is averaging six catches for 99 yards and one touchdown per game - clearly the star of this offense and more than a few fantasy teams this year. Smith drew a tough matchup with CB Dre Bly who shut him down for the entire game except for that one little 80 yard catch for a touchdown. Smith now has four 100+ yard efforts in his first six games.

Keary Colbert showed up once again in the game against the Lions when he had three catches for 53 yards and one lost fumble. That now evens up the number of games that Colbert has actually caught a pass and the 53 yards is a season high. Perhaps more important are the four catches for 32 yards and one touchdown that Rod Gardner had in the Lions game. It was the first time he had more targets than Colbert (5 versus 3) and it likely will not be the last time that happens. With the schedule getting much tougher after this week, the Panthers will need more out of their offense than just Steven Smith catching passes and Stephen Davis scoring from the one yard line. Colbert and Gardner will need to step up.

Tight Ends: Though tight ends have scored twice for the Panthers, they finally hit the lowest point possible when they had no catches in week six against the Lions.

Match Against the Defense: There has been nothing magic about the Vikings rushing defense though they have held most teams below 100 yards this season. That is mainly because opponents just score via the pass and the Vikings have not been scoring themselves until recently. Stephen Davis should manage at least one short touchdown in this game and assuming that Foster plays, the sharing will keep either from racking up major yardage.

Where this matchup gets really interesting is in the passing attack since the Vikings have always allowed two or more scores to teams that will throw at least as well as an average team (exclusion - Atlanta). Away from home against a rested Panther team, expect Steve Smith to turn in his standard 100+ yards and a score and even Colbert or Gardner should notch six points against the corners of Minnesota. Unless the rushing game really works well or the Vikings offense falls completely flat, there is no reason why Delhomme won't throw for at least 250 yards in this game. If the Panthers are caught looking forward to the Tampa Bay game next week, this could turn into a nice yardage and points game.