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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WILDCARDS
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Saturday
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Prediction: ATL 27, ARI 21

Update: Harry Douglas has been limited in all practices this week and although he is a gametime decision, he is expected to play. The Falcons have had some minor distractions this week with Michael Turner having a domestic dispute with the mother of his child and Mike Mularkey and Rich McKay both being courted by other clubs.

Anquan Boldin was limited in practices this week but had a full day on Friday and will definitely play.

The Falcons are the "feel good" story of the NFL along with the Dolphins and at 11-5 were better than three other division winners including these 9-7 Cardinals. The Falcons are just 4-4 on the road but on a three game winning streak. The Cardinals were 6-2 at home and have surprisingly struggled since securing their division.

Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
FieldTurf
  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 45-28 -1 42.5
13 @SD 22-16 +5 49
14 @NO 25-29 +3 52
15 TB 13-10 -2.5 42
16 @MIN 24-17 +3 43
17 STL 31-27 - -
18 @ARI   -2 51
ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan     260,2
RB Michael Turner 80,1 10  
RB Jerious Norwood 20 30  
WR Michael Jenkins   70,1  
WR Roddy White   110,1  
WR Harry Douglas   30  
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: The recent history of the Falcons says that they can play on the road. They beat the Vikings in Minnesota two weeks ago as a prime example and also defeated the Chargers in San Diego - both winners of their respective divisions. This team has evolved not only into a rushing team but the defense has been improving as the season progresses. Six of the first seven games allowed 20+points but three of the last five held opponents to 17 points or less.

Quarterback: Rookie quarterbacks are going to have a hard time topping Matt Ryan. He was just named the Offensive Rookie of the Year and ends his first season with 3440 passing yards and 16 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions. That's amazing and mostly for the lack of interceptions. Peyton Manning ended his first year with 3739 yards and 26 touchdowns but also tossed 28 interceptions. Ryan makes shockingly few mistakes for a rookie quarterback.

Running Backs: Michael Turner finished #2 in rushing yards with 1699 and scored 17 rushing touchdowns to again rank #2. He has topped 100 rushing yards in eight different games and scored in seven of the last eight weeks. Turner doesn't even slow down on the road much with three of those 100+ yard games away from Atlanta.

Jerious Norwood had a big two touchdown game last week against the Rams but he typically only shows up much when the opponents have a bad defense. He has minimal impact in the tougher matchups.

Wide Receivers: Roddy White had no problems from pairing up with a rookie quarterback. His 1382 yards were fourth best in the league among wideouts and only the explosive rushing attack caused his numbers to wane later in the season. Four of his seven games over 100 yards happened on the road when the rushing game was less effective and bodes well for any playoff games that the Falcons get.

Michael Jenkins has filled a consistent possession role and hits right around 60 yards per week no matter where the game is or how tough the opponent.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons at home have been much better against the run with only three running backs rushing in a score there - though four caught a touchdown there. Adrian Peterson gained 165 yards there but no other runner has managed more than 69 yards. Turner faces a tougher foe this week so expect less than 100 yards but he should manage a score here. Norwood should have only minimal playing time in this one.

Ryan faces one of the worst secondaries in the league this year and 11 different quarterbacks had multiple passing scores against them. That makes Roddy White a slam dunk this week and should involve either Harry Douglas or Michael Jenkins as a scorer unless Norwood becomes the fifth back to catch a touchdown pass against them.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 24 3 7 31 6 22
Preventing Fantasy Points    ARI 32 23 31 13 15 21


Arizona Cardinals (9-7)
Homefield: University of Phoenix Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @SF 23-13 -2.5 41.5
2 MIA 31-10 -7 38.5
3 @WAS 17-24 +3 42
4 @NYJ 35-56 +3 45
5 BUF 41-17 -1 45
6 DAL 30-26 +5 50
7 BYE - - -
8 @CAR 23-27 +4.5 43.5
9 @STL 34-13 -3 49
10 SF 29-24 -9.5 47.5
11 @SEA 26-20 -3.5 47.5
12 NYG 29-37 +3 49
13 @PHI 20-48 +3 47
14 STL 34-10 -13.5 49
15 MIN 14-35 -3 48.5
16 @NE 7-47 +7.5 45.5
17 SEA 34-21 - -
18 ATL   +2 51
ARI Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner     300,2
RB Edgerrin James 50 10  
RB Tim Hightower 10,1 10  
WR Anquan Boldin   70  
WR Larry Fitzgerald   120,1  
WR Steve Breaston   80,1  
PK Neil Rackers   3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Cardinals happily accept the NFC West title but it was as much about the Seahawks finally imploding as it was the Cardinals improving. The Cardinals won nine games but six were sweeping the entire NFC West. No doubt that the Cardinals can post gaudy numbers against a weak defense but unfortunately they never get to play against themselves because their own defense has allowed four games over 35 yards in the last six weeks. The Cardinals have not won against a non-divisional opponent since week six when they surprised the Cowboys.

Quarterback: Kurt Warner ended the regular season second in passing yardage (4583) and ranked third with 30 passing touchdowns. He was cranking out multiple scores every week but has only one in the last four weeks since clinching. Warner is a safe bet for a couple of passing scores but only topped that four times this year. He had seven games exceed 300 passing yards. He has been very successful this year and no small thanks are those six interdivisional games.

Running Backs: The Cardinals have all but abandoned their rushing attack but last week allowed Edgerrin James to be the feature back once again with good results. He ran for 100 yards on 14 carries but it was, sigh, against the Seahawks. That was the only meaningful playing time he had since week five and he still has only three scores on the season.

Tim Hightower has ten rushing scores but only one in the last five weeks and other than his 109 yard effort against the, sigh, Rams - he has never ran for more than 37 yards in any game.

The assumption is that both will play this week and neither will be a decent fantasy starter.

Wide Receivers: Anquan Boldin has not played since week 15 and the guy that had scored ten times in the first ten weeks only had one touchdown over the final seven games. He's been solid enough with catches and scores early on but only had three games go over 100 yards. He has been out with a bad shoulder but is expected to play here.

Larry Fitzgerald ended up #2 in the league with 1431 yards but his 12 touchdowns tied him with Calvin Johnson for the NFL's best. He had seven games top 100 yards and continued to produce at a high level even without Boldin lately.

Steve Breaston has been one of the most effective slot receivers in the league and has six games that topped 90 yards.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons rush defense is nothing special and is even worse on the road where they have allowed nine touchdowns to running backs but the Cardinals have one of the worst rush attacks in the league. The only likely positive here is that Hightower could score once.

Warner needs to rise to the occasion here and the Falcons secondary has actually been playing better. Two of the most recent road games were against Philip Rivers (149 yards, no scores) and Drew Brees (230 yards, 2 TDs) and the cornerback play has actually been the best part of this defense. Look for no more than two passing scores here and for decent yardage or even huge if it turns into a real shootout.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ARI 2 28 1 32 16 11
Preventing Fantasy Points    ATL 25 22 13 28 6 2

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