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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Late Sunday

Prediction: NO 20, CAR 17

Update: This game is going to be a mess to forecast. Now the Saints are saying that Brees may not play more than one series and he may not play at all because they want to preserve his completion percentage that is best in NFL history. That makes all Saints a risk to rely on and Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas are almost sure to not play. That would seem to wildly favor the Panthers but they will be without Steve Smith (IR) and DeAngelo Williams who has not practiced and is doubtful.

Thanks to that little problem with losing to the Cowboys and Buccaneers, the Saints secured the homefield throughout the playoffs only due to the Vikes losing to the Bears. The Panthers have been doling out upsets the last couple of weeks but now Steve Smith is on the sideline with his arm in cast. And with him the entirety of the passing game. The Saints say they are going to play this one out and that makes total sense after two troubling losses. The Saints need to get back the swagger and confidence and have a bye week to rest up anyway.

The Saints won 30-20 when the Panthers came to New Orleans in week nine.

New Orleans Saints (13-2)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DET 45-27 -13.5 49
2 @PHI 48-22 +3 46.5
3 @BUF 27-7 -5.5 52.5
4 NYJ 24-10 -6.5 46
5 BYE - - -
6 NYG 48-27 -3 47
7 @MIA 46-34 -6 48
8 ATL 35-27 -10 54
9 CAR 30-20 -14 52
10 @STL 28-23 -14 50.5
11 @TB 38-7 -10.5 51
12 NE 38-17 -3 56
13 @WAS 33-30 -9 46.5
14 @ATL 26-23 -10 50.5
15 DAL 17-24 -7.5 53.5
16 TB 17-20 -14 48.5
17 @CAR - OFF -
NO at CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 300,2
QB Mark Brunell     210,1
RB Mike Bell 40,1 10  
RB Reggie Bush 30 40,1  
TE David Thomas 30
WR Marques Colston   50  
WR Devery Henderson   40  
WR Robert Meachem   40  
PK Garrett Hartley 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: For a team that won 13 straight games, the Saints are suddenly looking very mortal and not the slam dunk it seemed not long ago. Losing to the visiting Buccaneers was a very rude wake up call - or a signal to the league that the NFC is still very much open for grabs.

Quarterback: Drew Brees is honing in on an almost mirror image of last year. He currently has passed for 4421 yards and has 36 touchdowns - a bit lighter in yardage but already two more scores than in 2008. He has scored in each of the last ten games but only managed one score in each of the losses to the Cowboys and Buccaneers.

Brees passed for 330 yards and one score in the week nine win over the Panthers. Brees needs this game to go well but the Panthers have only allowed six passing scores in Carolina over seven games played there. Only one quarterback had more than 225 yards in Carolina. Expect a good showing here - he needs it and failing that spells immediate trouble in the playoffs.

Running Backs: Pierre Thomas injured his ribs last week but the x-rays were negative for any structural damage. He is still questionable this week so I will assume Reggie Bush and Mike Bell take the load. The Saints rushed for 83 yards and one score in the home meeting with the Panthers but most of that came from Thomas.

Rushing defense is usually the weakness of the Panthers though and they have given up 13 rushing scores to running backs this year. These last couple of weeks have been impressive though. Look for moderate yardage that gets split up but one score that should end up with Bell.

Wide Receivers: The three starting wideouts continue to excel though the last two games were less so besides Robert Meachem who has nine touchdowns on the season and seven of those since midseason. Marques Colston remains solid with yardage but has not scored in two weeks. Back in week nine, Colston only had one catch for 45 yards while Meachem rolled up 98 yards and a score on five catches. Devery Henderson turned in 93 yards on three catches in that game.

The Panthers have only allowed one touchdown to a visiting wideout all season. Just one. I like the slightly more desperate Saints to have Meachem repeat his previous showing and score.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey missed the last two games with a turf toe but is improving. I will assume that David Thomas fills in for him again this week. Shockey had 42 yards on three catches in the previous meeting.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 2 1 7 11 4 2
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 4 22 3 12 6 29

Carolina Panthers (7-8)
Homefield: Bank of America Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 PHI 10-38 +2.5 43.5
2 @ATL 20-28 +6 43
3 @DAL 7-21 +9 46
4 BYE - -3.5 37.5
5 WAS 20-17 -5 38
6 @TB 28-21 -3 39
7 BUF 9-20 -7 37
8 @ARI 34-21 10 43.5
9 @NO 20-30 +14 52
10 ATL 28-19 +1 43.5
11 MIA 17-24 -3 43.5
12 @NYJ 6-17 +3.5 41
13 TB 16-6 -3.5 40
14 @NE 10-20 +12.5 43.5
15 MIN 26-7 +9 42.5
16 @NYG 41-9 +9 43
17 NO - OFF -
CAR vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Moore     150
RB DeAngelo Williams 60,1 20
RB Jonathan Stewart 110,2 20  
WR Kenneth Moore   30  
WR Muhsin Muhammad   50  
PK John Kasay 1 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: After stumbling through a forgettable season with a 5-8 record, the Panthers have suddenly caught fire and reeled off two huge upsets when they were nine point underdogs. The defense was stellar and the offense had all new punch. But now Steve Smith is sidelined with a broken arm and with him the only player that secondaries feared.

Quarterback: After suffering through a shockingly bad season with Jake Delhomme, the Panthers went with Matt Moore once Delhomme was placed on injured reserve and the offense has never looked better. Moore passed for three scores in each of the last two games and those came against the VIkings and Giants. The passing game was finally clicking but then Steve Smith broke his arm on a touchdown catch. All Moore has now is a 36-year old wideout who should have retired last year and. well, no one.

Delhomme passed for 201 yards and no scores in New Orleans this year.

The Saints secondary has been hard hit by injuries and is the place to attack but with who? Moore may get a strike in to some obscure player but he's going to have to really earn his paycheck now. Gonna be a lot of running going on this week.

Running Backs: DeAngelo Williams has missed the last game and a half with a bad ankle but there is optimism that he may return this week. There is certainly nothing to be saving him for now. In his place, Jonathan Stewart has been electric rushing for 109 yards against the Vikings and then turning in 206 yards in Giants Stadium and a score in each game.

I will assume that both backs play but that Williams is still not 100% and Stewart takes the bigger share. Back in week nine, Williams rushed for 149 yard and two scores in New Orleans and Stewart tacked on 24 more yards. With even less concerns against the pass with Smith out, figure on the Saints to really focus on stopping the run.

Wide Receivers: Steve Smith had successful surgery to repair his broken left radius but is expected to be ready for offseason work. Smith accounted for seven of the 15 passing scores thrown by the Panthers this year and his 982 yards were nearly double that of Muhsin Muhammad who has just one score and becomes the primary wide receiver. The 36-year old wideout is unlikely to see any rebirth as the primary receiver. Kenneth Moore will likely move up but he only has 59 yards on the season.

Leave these wideouts alone. Without Smith, there is nothing here. Muhammad was held without a catch in the last meeting.

Tight Ends: The tight ends need to pick up the slack with Smith out but there has never been any consistency with them and only five scores over the entire season. Too much risk here to warrant any consideration.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 27 5 28 17 26 9
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 5 24 23 9 23 10

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