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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
NYJ at WAS DEN at CIN MIN at GB ATL at DAL OAK at TEN
Sun 1 PM HOU at MIA NE at BUF CHI at SF Mon 9 PM
ARZ at DET IND at CLE SD at KC NO at SEA TB at PHI
BAL at PIT JAX at CAR STL at NYG Times EST no byes
   
New England vs Buffalo Sun, Sep 7; 1 PM on CBS at Ralph Wilson Stadium
  New England Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 220,2
RB Kevin Faulk 40 20 0
RB Antowain Smith 60,1 20 0
TE Christian Fauria 0 20,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 60 0
WR Deion Branch 0 30 0
WR David Patten 0 50,1 0
  Buffalo Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 260,2
RB Travis Henry 60 10 0
TE M. Campbell 0 20 0
WR Eric Moulds 0 80,1 0
WR Josh Reed 0 50 0
WR Bobby Shaw 0 70,1 0

Game Prediction: NE 27, BUF 23

Tom Brady started out last season with the very hot hand but cooled significantly during the final five games of 2002 right when fantasy teams needed him the most. The Patriots return the same receiving cast as 2002 with the addition of rookie Bethel Johnson who is a true speed merchant but considered very raw right now. The Patriots have the smallest sized receivers in the league but in the scheme that uses so many receivers it still works. If Johnson can deliver on his defense stretching potential, it will open up the short and middle game more which benefits Troy Brown and David Patten. Deion Branch is also developing nicely and should improve in his second season as well.

Where the Patriots decline is in the rushing game where aging Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk are planned to be combined in a rotational scheme that hopes to produce numbers equal to having one great rusher which they not only do not have, but made no motions in the offseason to acquire. Faulk has been elevated in the eyes of the coaching staff but that just means he is considered an equal to Antowain Smith which is not exactly something that lands you in the top ten in fantasy drafts.

Where the Patriots hope most to improve this season is defense. The addition of NT Ted Washington has had good returns so far and since the Patriots ranked 31st against the run last year, plugging that hole in the front will mean big things this season. Last year the Patriots were good at pass rushing and coverage but were killed by the run. If that hole stays plugged, then New England will stay competitive in all games and by forcing lower game scores manage to allow their complex offense to control the ball with the short pass.

The Bills enjoyed the same high-powered passing game as the Patriots last season and Drew Bledsoe looked like the answer to all their offensive woes for much of the season. Like Brady, he too cooled later in the season and now misses Peerless Price which will significantly change the dynamics in the passing game.

Josh Reed is penciled in as the starter across from Eric Moulds but may not hold off the challenge by Bobby Shaw who compensates his lack of speed and size with playing smart and tough. The Bills want to return to a better ground control game with Travis Henry running and if Henry can be successful, it will allow Bledsoe the time to gain one-on-one matchups that he can exploit.

The Bills added Willis McGahee in the draft and while they placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list, Willis can start practicing as early as mid-October. That remains to be seen and there is no guarantee that McGahee gets any playing time this season but it also casts a slight shadow of doubt on Henry's future - both next season and potentially late this year.

The Patriots have been dominating the Bills lately and that should not stop here. Both squads should have defenses as good or better than last season while both offenses should be no better and possibly worse than 2002. The Pats defense held Henry to only 53 and 60 yards in their two games last season and that takes away the strength of the Bills.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Patriots (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @BUF
Week 2 @PHI
Week 3 NYJ
Week 4 @WAS
Week 5 TEN
Week 6 NYG
Week 7 @MIA
Week 8 CLE
Week 9 @DEN
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 DAL
Week 12 @HOU
Week 13 @IND
Week 14 MIA
Week 15 JAX
Week 16 @NYJ
Week 17 BUF
Bills (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 NE
Week 2 @JAX
Week 3 @MIA
Week 4 PHI
Week 5 CIN
Week 6 @NYJ
Week 7 WAS
Week 8 @KC
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 @DAL
Week 11 HOU
Week 12 IND
Week 13 @NYG
Week 14 NYJ
Week 15 @TEN
Week 16 MIA
Week 17 @NE
(Statistics are game averages from current season )