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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 20, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
updated IND at HOU TEN at BUF CIN at DEN NYJ at MIA

Prediction: CAR 13, ATL 23

The Panthers are bottoming out now with four consecutive losses and a road game against the Falcons who already won 20-6 in the season opener in Carolina. The Panthers are 2-4 on the road this year while the Falcons are 7-7 on the season and still in contention for a wild card.

Update: Drew Carter is still questionable this week with a sprained ankle and has not practiced. I am removing him from the projections. Jake Delhomme and Kris Mangum also are likely to miss this game as expected. Jerious Norwood has been upgraded to probable this week and has returned to practice. He is expected to play this week.

Carolina Panthers (6-8)
1 6-20 ATL 10 24-10 TB
2 13-16 @MIN 11 15-0 STL
3 26-24 @TB 12 13-17 @WAS
4 21-18 NO 13 24-27 @PHI
5 20-12 CLE 14 13-27 NYG
6 23-21 @BAL 15 3-37 PIT
7 14-17 @CIN 16 --- @ATL
8 14-35 DAL 17 --- @NO
9 Open Bye - - MON
CAR at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Weinke 0 0 220,1
RB DeShaun Foster 60 10 0
RB DeAngelo Williams 20 30 0
TE Michael Gaines 0 40 0
WR Steve Smith 0 60 0
WR Drew Carter 0 40 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 70,1 0
PK John Kasay 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The once-vaunted Panthers defense has progressively declined as the season progressed and the injuries mounted. Now sack leader Mike Rucker has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The offense has sputtered for much of the year while HC John Fox has steadfastly stuck with DeShaun Foster as the starter despite plenty of reasons to switch to the rookie. With Delhomme out, the Panthers are actually worse and that seemed hard to do the way that Delhomme has played this year.

Quarterback: After one week as a starter, Chris Weinke opened some eyes with 423 passing yards and one score against the Giants. After last week, everyone is holding their nose after Weinke could only muster 170 passing yards and no scores against the Steelers onslaught last week. Jake Delhomme has ligament damage to the thumb on his throwing hand and as of Monday still had problems gripping the ball. I will project for Weinke again this week pending any information clearing Delhomme.

Delhomme only threw for 186 yards and no scores against the visiting Falcons this season. He had 163 yards and two scores in Atlanta last year.

Running Backs: Another week, another lackluster showing by DeShaun Foster who only gained 42 yards last week on seven carries. That made for the seventh straight week that Foster has failed to gain more than 63 yards in a game and he only has two scores on the season. DeAngelo Williams remains curiously under-used with only two carries in each of the last two games despite rushing for over 63 yards in his prior three games. When given the chance, Williams has consistently run better than Foster, the Panthers just won't give him a chance for reasons unknown.

Foster ran for 54 yards on 15 carries while Williams had no runs in the season opener against the Falcons. The only team that he ran well against last year was Atlanta and he had 165 yards and one touchdown. Then again, he also ran for 131 yards and a score when the Falcons visited in 2005 and he already broke that trend.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith scored in the last four games that he played with Delhomme but Weinke has yet to connect with him for more than 67 yards in a game and has never thrown him a touchdown pass this year. It has been a month since Smith had a truly big game and Weinke is not comfortable enough throwing into the constant double coverage to allow Smith a decent game. Weinke threw for 423 yards against the Giants but Smith only had five catches for 67 yards in that game - bad sign. The same is true for Keyshawn Johnson who has not turned in more than 51 yards with Weinke under center. Drew Carter had the monster 144 yard game in week 14 but he only had one catch last week and sprained his ankle. Pending reports, I am assuming that Carter can play this week but will update as needed.

Smith did not play in the season opener but Johnson caught four passes for 40 yards and Drew Carter led all receivers with five catches for 62 yards against the Falcons this year. Smith turned in 131 yards and one score in Atlanta in 2005.

Tight Ends: Weinke is reticent to throw to the primary wideouts but he has made more use of the tight ends. Michael Gaines had four catches for 54 yards last week and Kris Mangum turned in 45 yards in week 14. Mangum missed last week because of a hip injury.

Mangum caught three passes for 24 yards against the Falcons this year.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons rush defense is typically above average at home and the Panthers rushing attack is below average everywhere so expect yet another week of wondering why Foster is the starter. The speed of Williams could be beneficial on the fast turf of the Georgia Dome but the Panthers just have not given Williams much thought the last two weeks.

Weinke faces a secondary that is only average at best and there's a decent chance this game has some trash time to fill with yardage. The Falcons are soft against wideouts but that's usually the one not covered by DeAngelo Hall. No doubt Hall is pitted against Smith this week which should give Keyshawn Johnson better numbers. But Weinke has not thrown to the wideout that much (or that well) so far, so the passing numbers should be split out among several players.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 21 21 8 31 20 28
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 15 12 31 11 19 12


Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
1 20-6 @CAR 10 13-17 CLE
2 14-3 TB 11 10-24 @BAL
3 3-23 @NO 12 13-31 NO
4 32-10 ARZ 13 24-14 @WAS
5 Open Bye 14 17-6 @TB
6 14-27 NYG 15 28-38 DAL
7 41-38 PIT 16 --- CAR
8 29-27 @CIN 17 --- @PHI
9 14-30 @DET - MON SAT
ATL vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 60 0 190,2
RB Warrick Dunn 50 10 0
RB Jerious Norwood 30 10 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 70,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 20 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 40,1 0
WR Roddy White 0 30 0
PK Morten Andersen 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons really needed a win last week but even with the loss, they still are in strong contention for a wild card spot. Problem is that they need the Eagles to lose their last two games (possible with since they end in Dallas and at home against these Falcons), or for the Giants to lose at least once against either the Saints or Redskins (very possible as well). More than anything, this week is the final home game for the Falcons and a chance for Michael Vick to become the first quarterback to run for over 1000 yards. This is the last home game - the Falcons have to win here or they'll be hanging their heads for the entire off-season.

Quarterback: Michael Vick gained 56 yards on eight runs last week to give him 990 rushing yards this season - more than any other quarterback in NFL single-season history. He is ten yards short of another milestone - the first ever quarterback to rush for 1000 yards in a season. Vick pulled his groin last week but continued to play on it in the second half until finally giving way to Matt Schaub for the final drive. That was convenient - now Vick can run for 11 yards this week in the final home game and break the 1000 barrier before the home town fans. Plus it will not happen while the Falcons are losing a game they really could not afford to lose.

Vick also passed for 237 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys last week but that merely gave him four games with a total of 11 touchdowns and yet nine games with one or less passing scores. Vick's rushing yardage props up his fantasy value but he has been wildly inconsistent this year when passing.

Vick suffered what is described as a minor groin strain last week at the end of the game but early word is that he will start this week. If there is any guarantee here, it is that he will gain at least 11 rushing yards even if it means riding on the shoulders of a lineman. I will project considering that he has a slight limitation but nothing very significant.

Vick threw for 140 yards and two scores and ran seven times for 48 yards in Carolina. He was injured in Carolina last year and Matt Schaub played much of the game.

Running Backs: While Jerious Norwood was held out last week with a bum knee, Warrick Dunn was able to play but only gained 56 yards on 18 carries. That's been right around his average in every game since week six. Dunn rambled for 132 yards on 29 carries against the Panthers earlier this year. Norwood added 66 yards on ten carries. Since week two, Dunn has only had one good game when the Falcons hosted the Giants in week six.

Justin Griffith only had one carries for 15 yards against the Cowboys but he caught four passes for 34 yards and two scores.

Wide Receivers: Sure the Falcons lost last week but at least Roddy White turned in the only 100+ yard effort by a Falcons wideout this year. He caught three passes for 104 yards after only gaining 31 yards total in the two previous games. Michael Jenkins caught a score but so did Ashley Lelie which was the first time any wideout other than Jenkins had notched a touchdown. Lelie only had two catches for 17 yards in the game.

Jenkins caught three passes for 77 yards and a score against the Panthers but no other wideout had more than one catch for five yards in that game.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler has declined since week nine and only scored once in the last six weeks. He is fairly consistent with yardage around 40 or 50 yards but rarely more.

Crumpler turned in three catches for 27 yards and one score against the Panthers.

Match Against the Defense: Warrick Dunn was able to play last week but he wasn't that effective. The Panthers have lost Mike Rucker from the defensive line that already has allowed three opposing running backs on the road to top 100 rushing yards. Expect a mixture of Vick, Dunn and Griffith to produce nice numbers here but no one player with a big game - unless it is Vick. The Panthers are tough to score on usually via the run but likely less so with Rucker out.

Vick already threw for two scores back in week one in Carolina and the last three opponents for the Panthers on the road have thrown for at least that many. Expect two scores at least from Vick via the pass that have to favor Crumpler against the #31 team against tight ends.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 2 17 32 9 19 16
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 21 9 5 31 16 11