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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Wildcard Week
January, , 2005
Season Ticket
Washington at Tampa Bay
4:30 PM Saturday on ABC
Carolina at New York Giants
1:00 PM Sunday on FOX
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Jacksonville at New England
8:00 PM Saturday on ABC
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
4:30 PM Sunday on CBS

Prediction: Carolina 17, NY Giants 23

Here's a nice coin flip game between two teams that have looked like world beaters or vastly over-rated sometimes in the span of only two games. The Panthers are 6-2 on the road this year and have been scoring well during the final month of the season. The Giants are 7-1 at home this year with only the one loss to the Vikings - in a "Twilight Zone" sort of game. Both teams have played inconsistently this year but overall well. This game depends on which teams show up and the Giants at home have been almost impossible to beat. If there will be an upset this week by a road team, this would be the game.

Line: Giants by 2.5
Weather: Partly cloudy, temperate around 34 degrees

Carolina Panthers (11-5)
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 44-11 @ATL
9 34-14 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 240, 2
RB DeShaun Foster 70 10 0
RB Jamal Robertson 10 20 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 10 0
WR Steve Smith 0 120,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 30 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 40,1 0
PK John Kasay 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Panthers ended the season with four of their last five games against divisional opponents with only the Dallas game - a loss - sandwiched in between. Prior to that stretch the offense was struggling to score points on the road and the Panther rushing game has gone south whenever they play outside of their own division.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme has scored in all but two games this year but his high yardage feats of 2004 have rarely been repeated. He only has two games with more than 260 passing yards and he is averaging barely over one touchdown per game since the middle of the season. Delhomme will have to catch fire and post some points if the Panthers are to have a chance this week.

Running Backs: If only the Panthers could face the Falcons this week. De'Shaun Foster ran for 296 yards and had three scores against them this year. unfortunately, he has not scored against any other opponent and has never gained more than 77 rushing yards against any other team. With Stephen Davis on injured reserve, the Panthers have been using Jamal Robertson as a primary back-up but that was only last week. This running game has been problematic the entire season - other than when facing Atlanta.

Wide Receivers: Other than the "ever so rare" score to Ricky Proehl or Keary Colbert, this unit has always been about Steve Smith who, incidentally, had more yards (1563) and scores (13) than any other wideout in the NFL this year. Like many other hot wide receivers this year, he started out on a tear but unlike most, his drop was not very far and included three scores in the last five games with two 100+ yard efforts in the last four games. in over half of his games this year, Smith topped 100 yards and even exceeded 200 yards once. He can be covered, it just doesn't usually happen much.

Tight Ends: Minimal use of the position this year with four scores in total being split between Michael Gaines and Kris Mangum.

Match Against the Defense: The Giants at home have been a much better team this year and have shut down almost every running game that has visited this year (other than Denver and Kansas City). With Foster apparently only a phenomena when Atlanta is in the game, expect only moderate yardage here with almost no chance of scoring.

Delhomme will have to have a big game here but most visitors to the Big Apple have not left happy. Only one - Marc Bulger - managed to throw two scores while all other opposing quarterbacks had to settle for just one - if that. This is a big game and one that Delhomme will have to air it out a good bit. Expect good yardage here if only because he is going to be throwing a lot.

New York Giants (11-5)
1 42-19 ARI 10 21-24 MIN
2 27-10 @NOR 11 27-17 PHI
3 23-45 @SDC 12 21-24 @SEA
4 44-24 STL 13 17-10 DAL
5 Open Bye 14 26-23 @PHI
6 13-16 @DAL 15 27-17 KCC
7 24-23 DEN 16 20-35 @WAS
8 36-0 WAS 17 30-21 @OAK
9 24-6 @SFO . . SAT
NYG Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Eli Manning 0 0 200,1
RB Tiki Barber 110,1 20 0
TE Jeremy Shockey 0 50,1 0
WR Amani Toomer 0 70 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 50 0
WR Tim Carter 0 10 0
PK Jay Feeley 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Giants have struggled on the road this season but at home they have only lost one game because of one reason only - Tiki Barber. While Eli Manning has become more erratic and less effective as the season progresses, Barber just gets better. All bets are off when this team has to board a plane before the game, but at home - it's Tiki Time.

Quarterback: Like many players, Eli Manning started the year looking like the second coming of, well, his brother. Over the last five games, he's back to being "little bro" with some seasoning left to experience. Manning has not thrown for more than one score in the last five games against seven interceptions and one lost fumble. His production depends mostly on how well Barber is running and in New York this year, that has been rather well.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber certainly knows how to end the year with a bang. He turned in two 200+ yard games in the final three weeks and has only one game below 100 yards in the last seven efforts. Barber has scored 11 touchdowns this year and only two came on the road. In the only two home games without a score, he still had over 100 yards rushing in those games.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress finally showed up in week 17 when he had 128 yards and a score against the Raiders, but he had gone a month without a touchdown or more than 50 yards in a game. But he's been inconsistent this year, varying between 204 yards and as few as 34 yards with little heads-up as to what he will do each week. Amani Toomer has been far more consistent in the possession role and has scored seven times this year. He almost always has over 60 yards in a game though twice he had almost nothing in a week.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey was held out of the final regular season game with a gimpy ankle but is expected to be good enough to practice and play this week. Shockey ended up as third best for tight end yardage (891) and his seven touchdowns were bettered only by Antonio Gates. The key to Shockey's production has been about if he is on the road or not. In away games, he has three scores and four 100 yard games. In home games, he has four scores but never more than 64 yards.

Match Against the Defense: The Panthers rush defense has been sound this year with only a few runners turning in big games but Barber at home has been magic all year long. No reason to not expect a nice game here with at least one score.

The Panthers secondary has allowed more than one passing score only three times this year and never since week five. They have only allowed 15 passing scores all season and that included four by Brett Favre. Hard to expect more than one passing score in this game or more than moderate passing yardage.