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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WEEK 15
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Sunday
Monday
*updated

Prediction: DEN 20, CAR 34

Update: Selvin Young is considered probable and had full practices all week but until the Broncos use him I will not project for him and this would be a poor matchup in the best case. More important is that Champ Bailey will be a gametime decision and that will have a larger bearing on what to expect from the Panthers passing attack. Brandon Marshall was listed as probable with his sore hip but he has practiced fully all week and is a lock to play. Brandon Stokley will also go down to being a gametime decision after missing practice on Wednesday and then being limited the last two days. I am lowering his projections slightly and be aware that he may not play.

The Broncos haven't clinched yet but only need one more win or a loss by the Chargers which is a slam dunk anyway. The Broncos have been 4-2 on the road this year. The Panthers come off their big win over the Buccaneers on Monday night but remain at home where they are 7-0 this season.

Denver Broncos (8-5)
Homefield: Invesco Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @OAK 41-14 -3 41.5
2 SD 39-38 +1.5 45.5
3 NO 34-32 -5.5 51.5
4 @KC 19-33 -9.5 46.5
5 TB 16-13 -3 48
6 JAX 17-24 -3.5 48
7 @NE 7-41 +3 46.5
8 BYE - - -
9 MIA 17-26 -3 49
10 @CLE 34-30 +3 46
11 @ATL 24-20 +5.5 51
12 OAK 10-31 -9.5 42.5
13 @NYJ 34-17 +7.5 47.5
14 KC 24-17 -9 48
15 @CAR - +6.5 45
16 BUF - - -
17 @SD - - -

DEN @ CAR

Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler     250,2
RB Tatum Bell 50 20  
TE Tony Scheffler   50,1  
WR Eddie Royal   60,1  
WR Brandon Stokley   30  
WR Brandon Marshall   70  
PK Matt Prater 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Broncos let the Chiefs get a lead last week but managed to wrestle back the game and finally win one they were supposed to win after losing three times when favored. The Broncos also lost yet another running back with Peyton Hillis missing the rest of the year with a torn hamstring. This week tests the bizarre trend of the Broncos that see them winning road games outside the weak AFC West.

Quarterback: Win or lose, Jay Cutler has been solid in most games this year if not occasionally spectacular. He already has 23 passing touchdowns on the year and averages over 280 yards per game. Previous matchups with the Buccaneers and Falcons have only seen him with one score and around 230 yards so much of his success this year has come against weak defenses - not one of the better ones and not on the road no less.

Running Backs: Now that Peyton Hillis is gone, the assembly line moves down one and Tatum Bell is back to being the starting tailback for the Broncos again. He rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries against the Chiefs and already knows the system. He's probably already opened up all the bags he showed up with so Bell becomes the 5th Denver back to use this season.

Expect to see him rotate with P.J. Pope and Selvin Young if he can come back this week. Bell is a bit undersized near the goal line in the past and the Broncos are not likely to rely solely on him. I will project for Bell only but others may be involved in some measure. It is no safer to rely on a Denver back.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Marshall has scored twice this year in road games but Cleveland and Kansas City are hardly the caliber of the Panthers. He has never had more than 89 yards in a road game and saves most of his big games for AFC West opponents.

Eddie Royal remains the opposite with his five best games - including three 100 yard efforts - all happening on the road when Marshall is being held in check. But his best games also happen against the AFC West or Cleveland. He is still a better bet in road games than Marshall.

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler is a feast or famine player in road games since two of his last three trips away from Denver produced 90+ yards and the one time he did not (Atlanta) he had no catches. Scheffler is a much bigger factor in away games though and has only the one truly bad example.

Match Against the Defense: The Tatum Bell-2 era (and don't blink or you may miss it) starts out with a very bad matchup in Carolina where only three rushing touchdowns have been scored by opposing teams and most runners ring in with less than 50 rushing yards - and they were not newly appointed starters either. Do not expect much from Bell here. The Panthers are on a short week but they are not that "Tatum Bell is good" tired.

Cutler will be airing it out and the secondary is the weaker link in this offense as Antonio Bryant showed when he had 200 yards last week. But that was an uncharacteristic game in many ways and the Broncos bring in their own issues. Expect some nice passing yards here and a couple of scores that will favor Royal and Scheffler the most. There has only been three passing scores allowed to wideouts in Carolina so far.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 3 20 2 3 18 31
Preventing Fantasy Points    CAR 6 13 9 17 9 4


Carolina Panthers (10-3)
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
Grass
  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 28-45 +1 42.5
13 @GB 35-31 +3 43
14 TB 38-23 -3 40
15 DEN - -6.5 45
16 @NYG - - -
17 @NO - - -
CAR vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme     210,1
RB Jonathan Stewart 80,2 10  
RB DeAngelo Williams 120,1 30  
TE Dante Rosario   20  
WR Steve Smith   70,1  
WR Muhsin Muhammad   30  
WR D.J. Hackett   20  
PK John Kasay 2 FG 4 XP  

Pregame Notes: The win over the Buccaneers last week was a statement game. It said that the Panthers "can run all over anyone". Or at least so it seemed for one week. Facing one of the stingiest rushing defenses and score four times and 301 yards is invigorating for the fans. The win not only gives the Panthers ownership of the NFC South, but they are only one game behind the Giants that they play against next week for ownership of the #1 NFC seed. But the Panthers have to win here to make that matter.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme has been on a stretch of games of only one touchdowns and mediocre yardage and that repeated against the Buccaneers for the same reason - the Panthers are bulldozing every opponent with the run every week. DeAngelo Williams has been on fire for six weeks and the passing game has suffered outside of Steve Smith. This may be the final week of big time rushing being enough to win but there is no doubt that a home game is meant for handoffs, not passes.

Running Backs: Wow.

What more is there to say? The Panthers had already seen DeAngelo Williams gain over 100 rushing yards in four of five games and score nine times in those but Monday night against the hawkish Buccaneers, he ripped off 186 yards on 19 carries and added two more touchdowns. Even Jonathan Stewart gained 115 yards and two scores on just 15 carries. Williams gets first dibs but when there's more to share, Stewart can join in at high level as well. The Panthers rushing attack has been dominating for the last six weeks and is easily the #1 in the NFL considering just the second half of the season.

Wide Receivers: As a sign of a team on a roll, all the rushing lately has dropped passing numbers for everyone - except for Steve Smith who has topped 100 yards in six of the last eight games and has five scores on the year. Smith continues to catch long passes that end up as short rushing scores for Williams and Stewart but he has definite fantasy value every week and has been one of the stronger plays since the second half of the season.

Muhsin Muhammad turns in around 50 yards each week but his workload has taken a major backseat to Smith and Williams.

Tight Ends: By now there is absolutely no fantasy value here because they have to block.

Match Against the Defense: Oops. Seems the Broncos not only have a really poor rush defense, but it gets markedly worse in road games. They have allowed nine rushing scores in road games and the last two gave up two scores each. Three runners have crossed the 100 rushing yard mark and Larry Johnson did not stop until he had 198 yards and two scores. Look for there to be plenty of rushing this week and probably a bit more use of Stewart than usual just to keep from wearing down Williams. Expect nice stats here.

Delhomme will eventually throw for marginal yardage and one score that has to end up with Smith if it goes anywhere. Champ Bailey will no doubt shadow Smith but Bailey is not 100% healthy and Smith is still hard to cover.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 25 7 16 26 17 20
Preventing Fantasy Points    DEN 16 29 6 30 23 16

The Huddle
WEEK 15
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Sunday
Monday
Other Features
Fantasy Statistics
Tuesday Injury Report
Free Agent Forecast
Commentary From the Edge
Game Recaps
Tunnel Vision
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