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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Bye Week

Prediction: CAR 20, TB 16

Update: As expected, D.J. Hackett did not practice this week and will not be playing. Dwayne Jarrett will be taking his place and is worth watching since there is speculation that he will take the starting role away from Hackett for good.

Brian Griese has not been practicing this week because of his elbow and is expected to be replaced by Jeff Garcia. I will replace him and of course Joey Galloway is out again this week.

The Panthers come into this game alone atop the NFC South division with a 4-1 record while the Buccaneers are nipping at their heels with a 3-2 mark. A win by the Panthers goes a long way to winning the division but a Buccaneers win ties it all up. These divisional foes traded road wins last year. The Panthers won 31-23 in Tampa Bay in the last game of the year while the Buccaneers won 20-7 in Carolina during week four.

Carolina Panthers (4-1)
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @SD 26-24 +9 42
2 CHI 20-17 -3 37
3 @MIN 10-20 +3.5 37
4 ATL 24-9 -7 39.5
5 KC 34-0 -9.5 38.5
6 @TB - +1.5 36.5
7 NO - - -
8 ARZ - - -
9 BYE - - -
10 @OAK - - -
11 DET - - -
12 @ATL - - -
13 @GB - - -
14 TB - - -
15 DEN - - -
16 @NYG - - -
17 @NO - - -
CAR at TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme     250,2
RB Jonathan Stewart 40    
RB DeAngelo Williams 50 30,1  
TE Dante Rosario   20  
WR Steve Smith   80,1  
WR Muhsin Muhammad   60  
WR Dwayne Jarrett   30  
PK John Kasay 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: Nothing like a monster shutout over the Chiefs to make the team look good. This week is a critical one since a win gets some distance between the Panthers and the Bucs and after this game the Panthers have a wonderfully easy schedule. Right now the Panthers have offense and defense clicking and one of the more attractive schedules. That should be a recipe for the playoffs but the Bucs are standing in the way.

Quarterback: After three weeks into the season, fantasy owners were complaining that Jake Delhomme was having a down year and some even dumped or traded him. And of course, he responded with over 235 yards and two scores in each of the last two games. He's only thrown two interceptions this year but is back on the road again where he has yet to be as effective this year. No matter - Steve Smith is in gear and the rushing game has demanded all new respect.

Delhomme was already out in both meetings with the Buccaneers last year and his replacements never had more than 174 passing yards and two scores.

Running Backs: All the talk about the rookie Jonathan Stewart took a backseat last week when DeAngelo Williams ran all over the visiting Chiefs. He gained 123 yards on 20 carries and scored a total of three touchdowns. In a fantasy sense, it was like combining all the fantasy value of his first four games when he had not yet scored. He actually split carries with Stewart but was more productive for the first time.

Jonathan Stewart still gained 72 yards on 19 carries on Sunday but was overshadowed by Williams. Stewart still leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. The tandem will continue to share duties and the home game against the Chiefs was fun but much more of an exception than a rule.

At home against the Bucs last year, Williams had only two carries for five yards while Deshaun Foster gained 64 yards on 15 runs and neither scored. In Tampa Bay, Foster only had 46 yards but Williams rushed for 121 yards on 20 carries and scored twice.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith had mirror games at home recently with 12 passes and six catches for 96 yards in each (he scored against the Falcons). He has yet to gain less than 70 yards this year. Muhsin Muhammad has also really stepped up in these last two easy home games with a score in each and 218 yards but he's been far less productive on the road where he has no touchdowns and has topped out with 56 yards.

One change is that D.J. Hackett injured his knee on the opening kickoff last week and did not play. He was replaced by Mark Jones for just one catch but if Hackett cannot play this week, Dwayne Jarrett will get the start as the #3 wideout who will be worth tracking since he has yet to deliver on his promise and potential since being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL draft.

Smith never had more than 48 yards against the Bucs last season and never scored.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value here.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers have been outstanding against the rush and no runner has gained more than 89 yards or even rushed in a score this year. But where there has been some success is the runner as a receiver and that benefits Williams on this team. Look for lower rushing yards from both runners but the addition of receiving yards makes Williams a marginal fantasy start this week. The Bucs may be without MLB Barrett Ruud which will help.

Delhomme will need to win this game since the rushing attack should be marginal. He goes against a secondary that has allowed more than one score in most games this year. He should have at least two passing scores in this one with good yardage since the run will eventually be abandoned.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 20 14 17 16 11 18
Preventing Fantasy Points    TB 23 12 24 6 18 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2)
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NO 20-24 +3.5


2 ATL 24-9 -8 38.5
3 @CHI 27-24 +3 35.5
4 GB 30-21 -1.5 43
5 @DEN 13-16 +3 48
6 CAR - -1.5 36.5
7 SEA - - -
8 @DAL - - -
9 @KC - - -
10 BYE - - -
11 MIN - - -
12 @DET - - -
13 NO - - -
14 @CAR - - -
15 @ATL - - -
16 SD - - -
17 OAK - - -
TB vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Brian Griese 210,1
QB Jeff Garcia     200,1
RB Earnest Graham 60 20  
RB Warrick Dunn 40 30  
TE Alex Smith   20,1  
WR Michael Clayton   20  
WR Ike Hilliard   50  
WR Antonio Bryant   50  
PK Matt Bryant 3 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers are back at home after a close loss in Denver and now at 3-2 they trail these Panthers by one game. A loss here makes winning the division tough yet possible but a win would knot it all up and allow the Buccaneers to reach their bye week with as good as a 6-3 record. But the quarterback position is still in question, the running game has dropped since last year and the defense alone as been responsible for more wins.

Quarterback: Brian Griese suffered a strained shoulder and a bruised right elbow last week and could not finish the game. Jeff Garcia finished the game and had a scoring drive but the Bucs still lost. Now HC Jon Gruden is being noncommittal about who the starting quarterback would be. Griese had his one big revenge game in Chicago but otherwise has done little. Gruden could make a switch here even if Griese is healthy to play.

I am projecting for Griese to play this week but will update on Friday depending on what the best information is. It is unlikely either quarterback would have a big game here anyway.

Jeff Garcia only passed for 176 yards in Carolina last year but in the meaningless final game of the year, Luke McCown threw for 236 yards and two scores.

Running Backs: The two-headed attack here is done well enough that neither Earnest Graham nor Warrick Dunn are an attractive start unless the Bucs are at home. In that case, Graham has been effective with 100+ yard rushing games and a score in each. On the road, Dunn is actually the more productive player. With the passing game of minor consequence so far, it is all about how many carries these runners get each week.

Graham never rushed for more than 48 yards against the Panthers last season.

Wide Receivers: Outside of the one Chicago game, there is just no reliable fantasy value in this unit other than Ike Hilliard who oddly enough always scores in road games and never at home. He has the only three touchdowns thrown to a wideout this year but has never had more than 57 yards in a game. Antonio Bryant has been a minor factor as well and had 58 yards last week. This passing attack just has never made much use of the wideouts other than Hilliard who is more akin to a tight end anyway.

Galloway only played in one game against the Panthers last year and had just one catch for seven yards. Hilliard managed seven receptions for 114 yards in the first meeting but was out in the final game.

Tight Ends: While Jerramy Stevens has the second best showing for any Buccaneers receiver this year (5-61, 1 TD) he has also gone two weeks now without a catch. Both he and Alex Smith can catch scores but are rarely called upon to fill that role.

Match Against the Defense: The Panthers rush defense has been great this year and not allowed any runner to top 100 rushing yards and just once gave up a score to a running back. This will be the toughest rush defense the Buccaneers has faced this year so expect only moderate yardage by Graham and Dunn and likely no score.

Griese (or Garcia) goes against a very good secondary as well and since the passing has been only moderate at best, look for no more than one passing score. There are no decent fantasy starts here since the Bucs so far have not thrown that well this year and Galloway remains out. I will credit a score to Smith but it could go anywhere including a running back.

Gaining Fantasy Points TB 17 15 22 6 10 4
Preventing Fantasy Points    CAR 4 4 4 19 6 9

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