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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 8
October 22, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM *DET at CHI Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Bye Week:
CAR at NO NYG at MIN HOU at IND BUF at KC Atlanta
*CLE at NE SEA at CIN *NYJ at PHI Mon 9 PM Green Bay
DAL at TB *STL at PIT *SF at ARZ *MIA at SD Oakland
*DEN at BAL TEN at JAX   *updated Washington
   
Cleveland vs New England Sun, Oct 26; 1 PM on CBS at Gillette Stadium
  Cleveland Rush Catch Pass
QB Kelly Holcomb 0 0 230,1
RB William Green 40 10 0
RB Jamel White 10 20 0
TE Steve Heiden 0 10 0
WR Kevin Johnson 0 50,1 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 70 0
WR Quincy Morgan 0 50 0
  New England Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 170,1
RB Kevin Faulk 70 20 0
RB Mike Cloud 30,1 0 0
TE Christian Fauria 0 20 0
WR Troy Brown 0 50,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 30 0
WR David Patten 0 20 0


Game Prediction: CLE 16, NE 20

Update: Deion Branch is still bothered by his ankle injury and is listed as questionable to play though is expected to suit up.

The Browns on the road are far better than the home version but the Patriots are playing well everywhere lately. New England is on a three game winning streak and that just defies logic in the AFC East.

Cleveland Notes

The Browns fall to 3-4 with the loss to the Chargers last week. Still, incredibly, they are only a half game from the top of the AFC North.

Quarterbacks: The Browns quarterback situation is changing again. Tim Couch was just as ineffective as the Couch of last season against the Chargers and in retrospect, Couch may have been better served if he would have just retired from the NFL after the Pittsburgh triumph. He had only 13 completes on 24 passes for 102 yards and two interceptions before Kelly Holcomb hopped into the game to lead the Browns on two touchdown drives and came close to saving the game.

Couch once again reverted to refusing to speak to the media after the game. I am assuming that Holcomb plays this week.

Running Backs: Facing what normally is a terrible rushing defense, the Browns accepted their "curse of homefield" and struggled to establish a running game. William Green managed 65 yards on 14 carries but fumbled twice and left the game after being speared in the back . With the offensive line now using four backups, the blocking was just not there against a bad defense. James Jackson finished the game.

Wide Receivers: The return of Holcomb marked a definite change in the passing game. Dennis Northcutt had a touchdown reception and the receivers came to life. It was too little, too late last week.

Tight Ends: While Darnell Sanders had a touchdown, Steve Heiden continues to be the starter and primary receiver for tight ends.

Match against the defense: Assuming that Holcomb plays, the Browns face a solid defense but one that has yielded passing yards in their two previous homestands. Steve McNair threw for 391 yards and Kerry Collins managed 314 yards. The Patriots are tough on the run and have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this season. With the bad blocking of Cleveland, Green is not likely to have even an average day.

Holcomb could ignite some good passing yards, particularly if the game takes a nice Patriot lead and the Browns get trash time yards. Holcomb has the receivers to generate some good production once the running game is abandoned as long as his pass blocking holds up or unless the Pats drop back more players into coverage and give him time. Holcomb favors Dennis Northcutt typically but as always with the Browns, there are four receivers that all mix and match differently each week.

New England Notes

The Patriots rise to 5-2 and are on a three game winning streak. They lead the AFC East and last week beat the Dolphins in Miami for a big morale victory as well since they had not won there in six years.

Quarterbacks: Tom Brady bounced back from his meager performance against the Giants and threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins last week. Brady has been wildly inconsistent per game this season and his numbers in Miami were helped when he hit Troy Brown for an 82 yard game-winning touchdown in overtime. Brady will be back to his lower numbers this week against a defense that has been the best at keeping quarterbacks at bay this season.

Running Backs: After Kevin Faulk had his career best 87 yards against the Giants, he followed that up with a big 38 yards on 19 carries in Miami. Antowain Smith was a scratch for the game but Mike Cloud fared no better when he had eight yards on five carries. The Patriots are not good enough to gain rushing yards against a solid run defense and need a below average defense in order to succeed - oh look, here come the Browns.

Wide Receivers: Much like the Browns, the Patriots employ about 65 different wideouts per game. Troy Brown turned in a great game last week - 131 yards and a score but that all came on the 82 yard touchdown in overtime. Deion Branch is as close to a favorite target as it got last week but between David Patten, Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Bethel Johnson and now even David Givens, the complicated short passing scheme rarely produces any one receiver of note and never one of reliability.

Tight Ends: Just in case you are relying on Christian Fauria, Brady split his throws between Fauria and Daniel Graham last week. It means nothing more than there is no consistent tight end for the Patriots.

Match against the defense: The Browns, once you remove the freak game in Pittsburgh, have been wildly inconsistent this season. When they faced the Bengals, Kitna drilled them for three passing touchdowns. They turn around and dominate the Raiders which by this time seems almost hard not to do and then follow that up with allowing the Chargers to beat them using nothing more than Ladainian Tomlinson who gained 200 yards rushing. When a team yields two games of over 200 yard rushing in a six game span, there are major problems. The Browns lost last week and yet held Drew Brees to only 74 yards passing.

And yet this same defense occasionally looks stout. To complicate matters, the Browns are 1-3 at home and 2-1 on the road. They beat PIT and SF as a visitor and then fall to SD and CIN at home.

After the team gave up the record to Jamal Lewis, they beat the 49ers. After they were beaten at home by the Bengals, they whipped the Steelers. If Cleveland were to win this game, they would be doing the exact opposite of what is expected each week. The only factor that prevents following that trend is that the Browns are not consistent enough to be consistent in their inconsistency... yeah... I think that is correct. Cleveland fans must consume massive amounts of Excedrin as they follow their team.

The Browns have been tough against the pass, for the most part, though flavor that with two games of enormous rushing yardage allowed. They have been weak against the run, for the most part, though temper that with some nice performances. It all boils down to the expectation that Cleveland once again rises up after an embarrassing loss and plays surprising well. New England does not have the top grade runner to take advanatage of the weakness in the middle but the shorter passing scheme of Brady will work reasonably well in tandem with the defense.

Team Comparisons Current team rankings (1-32) by position for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32) QB RB WR TE PK DEF
CLE Scores
22
28
13
28
19
23
NE Allows
20
12
5
24
27
10
CLE AP -2 -16 -8 -4 8 -13
Rank (1-32) QB RB WR TE PK DEF
NE Scores
20
14
21
13
21
4
CLE Allows
1
20
1
17
26
18
NE AP -19 6 -20 -4 5 -14
Offensive ranks - lower = gains more points, Defensive Ranks lower = allows less points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.

CLE NE 2003 Game Averages NE CLE
Gains Allows QB's Gains Allows
194
255
Pass yards
213
157
1.3
0.4
Pass TDs
1.1
0.6
1.3
1.6
Interceptions
1.0
1.0
3
13
Rush yards
3
8
0.1
0.3
Rush TDs
0.1
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
88
74
Rush yards
102
124
0.1
0.7
Rush TDs
0.6
0.6
26
54
Receive yards
43
31
0.1
0.0
Receive TD's
0.1
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
151
155
Receive yards
134
96
1.0
0.3
Receive TD's
0.7
0.3
---
---
TE's
---
---
17
47
Receive yards
36
30
0.1
0.1
Receive TD's
0.3
0.3
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.7
2.3
Field Goals
1.4
2.4
1.6
1.6
Extra Points
2.3
1.1
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.6
0.6
Fumbles
1.1
0.6
1.0
1.0
Interceptions
1.4
1.3
0.1
0.1
Touchdowns
0.6
0.3
1.7
2.3
Sacks
3.0
2.0
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
Browns(3-4)
Score Opp.
6-9 IND
13-33 @BAL
13-12 @SF
14-21 CIN
33-13 @PIT
13-7 OAK
20-26 SD
Week 8 @NE
Week 9 BYE
Week 10 @KC
Week 11 ARZ
Week 12 PIT
Week 13 @SEA
Week 14 STL
Week 15 @DEN
Week 16 BAL
Week 17 @CIN
Patriots (5-2)
Score Opp.
0-31 @BUF
31-10 @PHI
23-16 NYJ
17-20 @WAS
38-30 TEN
17-6 NYG
19-13 @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

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points