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

Prediction: CAR 27, ATL 16

Update: Jason Elam has been limited in practice this week but he was last week as well and played so expect him to kick with no real problems this week. Most notable is that Roddy White was held out of practice until Friday when he had a full day. He is also expected to play and not be limited from the sore back. Jerious Norwood is listed as questionable but was in all practices this week and his ribs should not have an impact on this game. There are a number of players here dinged up and you should always check game day inactives but there doesn't appear to be any material injuries in this game for the Falcons.

Here's a great matchup for the NFC South with the 8-2 Panthers facing the 6-4 Falcons while the 7-3 Buccaneers get a free pass this week in Detroit. Both the Panthers losses came in road games while the Falcons are 4-1 at home. A Panthers win here makes them very hard to catch and gives them the inside track to a playoff bye week. But a Falcons win throws the division into a nail biter the rest of the way.

The Panthers won 24-9 when these teams played in Carolina during week four of this year.

Carolina Panthers (8-2)
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 3-27 +1.5 36.5
7 NO 30-7 -3 44
8 ARZ 27-23 -4.5 43.5
9 BYE - - -
10 @OAK 17-6 -9 38
11 DET 31-22 -14 39.5
12 @ATL - +1 42.5
13 @GB - - -
14 TB - - -
15 DEN - - -
16 @NYG - - -
17 @NO - - -
CAR @ ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme     270,2
RB Jonathan Stewart 60    
RB DeAngelo Williams 60,1 20  
TE Dante Rosario   20  
WR Steve Smith   100,1  
WR Muhsin Muhammad   80,1  
WR D.J. Hackett   30  
PK John Kasay 2 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Panthers are 8-2 and have won their last four games but against NO, ARZ, OAK and DET? Was that really all that hard? Consider too that they only beat the Raiders 17-6 in Oakland and lost their two previous road games including being waxed in Tampa Bay. The rushing offense has been racking up big numbers on those soft defenses but the rest of the season will be much harder and have four of six games on the road. The Panthers are sitting pretty but this week they need to show they have not already peaked.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme was enjoying a nice stretch of games with two scores in each but he inexplicably lost it in week ten against the Raiders when he only completed seven of 27 passes for 72 yards and one score with four interceptions. Last week against the Lions, the rushing game produced 250 yards and a couple of scores to win the game but that meant a second straight game of minimal production for Delhomme.

It is unlikely that the same thing happens three weeks in a row since he passed for 294 yards and two scores when the Falcons visited this year.

Running Backs: DeAngelo Williams has really feasted on the soft schedule of late and has three straight games with over 100 rushing yards and at least one touchdown in each. Toss in the Kansas City game and Williams has been huge whenever the Panthers play a bad defense. And in all other games, not much yardage and no scores. Not a lot of middle ground with Williams. There is a chance that he suddenly "got it" in the last month and now is a stud. Or it could have to do with Stewart being injured while the Panthers played NO, ARI, OAK and DET. Probably more the latter than the former.

Jonathan Stewart finally was not on the injury report last week and rolled up a season high 130 yards on 15 carries and scored once. That was his first time over 100 rushing yards. These next two games should be better proof what the respective roles and outlook should be for Williams and Stewart.

Both Williams and Stewart had 15 carries for around 55 yards each when the Falcons visited in week four and Stewart scored one rushing touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith has been largely unproductive in these low passing games of the last two weeks but had been on a big streak of 90+ yard games. The Panthers will not be able to rely on the rushing game exclusively any more this season so the numbers will be up here from now on. For the record, Dwayne Jarrett's bid to matter in the offense has taken another hit. He was inactive this past week and D.J. Hackett resumed his starting role.

Muhammad caught eight passes for 147 yards and one score while Smith reeled in six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown as well.

Tight Ends: Jeff King caught a touchdown last week for the first time since Dante Rosario had one in the season opener. No fantasy value here and almost never more than 20 yards.

Rosario only had two catches for 18 yards against the visiting Falcons this season.

Match Against the Defense: The split between Williams and Stewart takes what should be a decent overall game here and divides it into two barely moderate games with what should be one rushing score. I'll credit that to Williams as the primary but it could end up with Stewart.

Delhomme cannot afford to have a bad game here and win. Won't happen. He already had a big game in the last meeting and that should replicate itself on the road where the Falcons should be better at stopping the run. Look for two passing scores that will end up with Steve Smith for sure and likely Muhammad more than the others.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 28 7 17 25 12 15
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 22 20 18 27 3 2

Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DET 34-21 +3 41
2 @TB 9-24 +8 38.5
3 KC 38-14 -5 36
4 @CAR 9-24 +7 39.5
5 @GB 27-24 +3 41
6 CHI 22-20 +2.5 43.5
7 BYE - - -
8 @PHI 14-27 +8.5 46.5
9 @OAK 24-0 -3 41
10 NO 34-20 PK 50
11 DEN 20-24 -5.5 51
12 CAR - -1 42.5
13 @SD - - -
14 @NO - - -
15 TB - - -
16 @MIN - - -
17 STL - - -
ATL vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan     210,1
RB Michael Turner 80    
TE Ben Hartsock   10  
WR Michael Jenkins   60,1  
WR Roddy White   90  
WR Harry Douglas   30  
PK Jason Elam 3 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The loss to the Broncos last week tumbled the Falcons down from contending for the division title and a loss here completes the job. The Falcons have made incredible strides this year but the defense remains the liability with over 20 points allowed to six of the last seven opponents. There's nothing on the offense that needs immediate attention in the offseason so the Falcons can explore the defensive offerings in free agency and the NFL draft.

After this week comes three road trips in the next four games before the season finale against the visiting Rams (cha-ching!). It is still possible for the Falcons to remain with a winning record but the easy part of the schedule is over.

Quarterback: The consensus rookie of the year so far was unable to throw a touchdown last week for the first time in six games but he still had 250 passing yards against the Broncos and remains a major success for the franchise. Matt Ryan has been over 220 yards in each of the last five games and still has 11 touchdowns against only six interceptions this year. This week will be a nice measuring stick of sorts since Ryan passed for 158 yards and no score in Carolina during week four.

Running Backs: Michael Turner is only 29 yards short of his first 1000 yard season and comes off his third game with more than one touchdown scored. The softer defenses of the Saints and Broncos served up a total of three touchdowns and 177 rushing yards for him but this week will be a major test since one of his worst games of the year was when he only gained 56 yards on 18 carries against the Panthers earlier this year. Turner always runs better at home but the question is how many carries that he'll get.

Wide Receivers: Roddy White comes off his fifth 100 yard game of the year and his 903 yards ranks as third best in the NFL. The only time that White has dipped below 90 yards in a game is when the Falcons are having a big game rushing and he gets less than his typical 12 throws a week. Michael Jenkins remains consistent every week with around 60 yards regardless of who they are playing or what the game situation is.

White had seven receptions for 90 yards against the Panthers this year but no other receiver had more than 32 yards in the game.

Tight Ends: Among the least used in the entire NFL.

Match Against the Defense: The Panthers have a formidable rushing defense that has only allowed four runners to score this year and only two players to top 100 rushing yards. The Falcons will feature Turner enough that by volume he should have at least a decent showing here and could creep up into a good game category if he can score.

Ryan is much better than he was eight weeks ago when he only passed for 158 yards but the Panthers defense is one of the top ones against the pass. Look for Ryan to pass for one touchdown here and decent yardage but it won't come easy and mostly will come late.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 22 5 8 30 6 22
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 3 9 5 21 6 6

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