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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 28, , 2005
Season Ticket
Sat 4:30 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM SEA at GB*
DEN at SD* ARI at IND CHI at MIN* NO at TB WAS at PHI*
Sat 8 PM BAL at CLE CIN at KC Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Updated* CAR at ATL MIA at NE TEN at JAC* Times ET

Prediction: Carolina 23, Atlanta 17

The Falcons have now squandered their chances to advance to the playoffs and while they could play the spoiler here, the Panthers already won 24-6 in week 13 when the Falcons visited. The Panthers remain in the hunt for the NFC South title and cannot know if a win here secures it or not since the Buccaneers are playing the Saints at the same time.

Carolina Panthers (10-5)
1 20-23 NOR 10 30-3 NYJ
2 27-17 NE 11 3-13 @CHI
3 24-27 @MIA 12 13-9 @BUF
4 32-29 GBP 13 24-6 ATL
5 24-20 @ARI 14 10-20 TBB
6 21-20 @DET 15 27-10 @NOR
7 Open Bye 16 20-24 DAL
8 38-13 MIN 17 Jan 1 @ATL
9 34-14 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 210,2
RB DeShaun Foster 80 10 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 20 0
WR Steve Smith 0 90,2 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 20 0
WR Drew Carter 0 50 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 20 0
PK John Kasay 3 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Carolina's loss to the Cowboys last week makes this game become very important and possibly the difference between hosting in the first round or even missing the playoffs entirely depending on what else happens in the league. The Panthers have already dominated the Falcons once this season and while Atlanta is plenty steamed about being bounced from the post-season, they still could not beat the Buccaneers when it was for all the marbles last week.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme threw for 164 yards and two scores in the previous meeting with the Falcons in week 13 and that has been about his average in yardage with only one touchdown more common.

Running Backs: DeShaun Foster ran for 131 yards and one score in week 13 when the Falcons visited but he's not had nearly the same level of success in any successive game. His two scores (he caught a touchdown pass as well) in that week 13 game were his only scores on the year. Stephen Davis is now on injured reserve (for all eternity realistically) so Nick Goings will be the back-up that gets little duty. If the Panthers get close to the endzone, they could opt for Goings but have not so far.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith was held to just seven catches for 75 yards but scored once against the Falcons in week 13. He's done more than that in the two games since then with last week not counting when he touched a very sensitive referee who ejected him from the game. No other wideout has any fantasy relevance for the Panthers.

Tight Ends: Kris Mangum comes off his season best game of three catches for 35 yards but he did not have even one catch in week 13.

Match Against the Defense: Atlanta could come out and play the role of inspired spoiler here or they could just roll up like they did in week 13 when they still had motivation to win games. Safest bet here is that Foster will not have another monster game but will gain decent to good yardage while Delhomme will have to throw the ball more which will benefit Smith the most. Smith will want to atone for his gaffe last week that contributed in part to the loss.

Atlanta Falcons (8-7)
1 14-10 PHI 10 25-33 GBP
2 18-21 @SEA 11 27-30 TBB
3 24-16 @BUF 12 27-7 @DET
4 30-10 MIN 13 6-24 @CAR
5 28-31 NE 14 36-17 NOR
6 34-31 @NOR 15 3-16 @CHI
7 27-14 NYJ 16 24-27 @TBB
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 CAR
9 17-10 @MIA M THU SAT
ATL vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 40 0 180,1
RB Warrick Dunn 80 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 20,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 30 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 40,1 0
WR Roddy White 0 30 0
PK Todd Peterson 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons fell in overtime last week but even a win would not have necessarily meant they would advance to the playoffs. The Falcons have been repeating their offensive efforts in replay games this year and that does not bode well for a team that could only post six points against the Panthers four weeks ago. Back at home on the faster track, they'll gain a bit more advantage but likely not enough.

Quarterback: Michael Vick ran for 36 yards and threw for 171 yards without any scores four weeks ago against the Panthers. He also had two interceptions. That was Vick's worst game of the year other than week 15 in Chicago. The Panthers will have a tougher time keeping Vick corralled in Atlanta, but Vick has not ran for more than 38 yards more than once in the last four games.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn gained 80 yards on 16 carries in the previous meeting with the Panthers while T.J. Duckett only had four yards on four carries. Duckett has not been playing a very big role in the running game over the past month though he has scored on two short runs. Dunn has not scored since week ten and has been running less over the last month when he has not topped 80 yards in a game. The Panthers have been sound against the run this year until last week but nothing the Falcons are going to be doing will be new to their divisional rivals.

Wide Receivers: No wideout had more than 35 yards in the last match-up with the Panthers but Michael Jenkins has scored once just last week. Roddy White has now cooled down from his improved play and has been hanging around 30 yards in most games while Vick overthrows him on the deep routes.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler had three catches for 52 yards against the Panthers in week 13 but he has not scored in the last four games.

Match Against the Defense: This replay game should likely be similar to the week 13 match-up with the Falcons improving at home and the Panthers holding steady because this game is needed to win the NFC South. Little has changed in the three weeks since they last played and the Panthers defense has been able to defuse Vick as well as any team other than the Bears. I like the chance for Vick to throw one score here.