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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 14
December 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CHI at GB IND at TEN TB at NO KC at DEN CAR at ATL
CIN at BAL OAK at PIT WAS at NYG MIA at NE Mon 9 PM
DAL at PHI SD at DET Sun 4 PM NYJ at BUF STL at CLE
HOU at JAX SEA at MIN ARZ at SF *updated Times EST
   
Indianapolis vs Tennessee Sun, Dec 7; 1 PM on CBS at The Coliseum
  Indianapolis Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 270,2
RB Edgerrin James 50 20 0
TE Marcus Pollard 0 40,1 0
WR Troy Walters 0 60 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 100,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 40 0
  Tennessee Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 10 0 240,2
RB Eddie George 60,1 10 0
TE Frank Wycheck 0 20 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 100,1 0
WR Justin McCareins 0 80,1 0
WR Tyrone Calico 0 20 0

Game Prediction: IND 26, TEN 27

Update: Drew Bennett has a good chance to play this week but would not be the #2 since McCareins has likely already won that job outright already. Bennett could play as the #3 on some downs and replace Calico who has been knocked for dropping passes lately. I am not changing the projections, but do not be surprised to see Bennett nor expect too much from Calico.

Steve McNair did not suffer any setbacks after last week and apparently will only sit out a game if tied to a hospital bed.

This game is a coin flip now with McNair somewhat hobbled by his calf injury and coming off a short week. Colts are 5-1 on the road but the Titans are 5-0 at home. Neither team will likely run that well so the second half should end up a passing shoot-out by two teams that can post some yards and points through the air.

If McNair can play up to form, he can help erase the 33-7 spanking the Colts gave him in week two and the Titans claim sole possession of the division but Manning will not go quietly and will make this one a war to watch. Both teams could run the table for the rest of the season so all the marbles are played in this one.

Indianapolis Notes

Colts fall to 9-3 with their loss to the Jets. They are still tied with these Titans for the AFC South lead.

Quarterbacks:: Peyton Manning comes off a huge 278 yard, four touchdown effort against the Patriots in a game that oddly ended with Manning handing off on three of the final plays down by the goal line. Manning already has 23 touchdowns on the season and had his lowest output for the year in week two when he beat the Titans. He only had 173 yards and one score in that game since the Titans were ambushed and passing was not needed.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James comes off a 25 carry, 88 yard against the Patriots with no touchdown though he really needed to get one at the end of the game. James had 127 and 108 yards in the two previous games and had scored five times in those games.

James had his second best game of the season in week two when the Colts faced the Titans. He ran for 120 yards on 30 carries in that game with one score when the Colts throttled the Titans and just ran out the clock in the entire second half.

Receivers: Marvin Harrison scored once last week and gained 88 yards on seven receptions, but it was only his second score since week five. Harrison had only 59 yards and one score back in the last game against the Titans.

Troy Walters had five catches for 56 yards and one score while Reggie Wayne ended with only 30 yards on three catches but also scored last week. Wayne only had 22 yards against the Titans this year while Walters had only one catch for eight yards.

Dallas Clark broke his leg last week and is out for the rest of the regular season so Marcus Pollard takes over again as the lone receiving tight end. He has scored in three of the last four games and will be counted on even more with Clark gone.

Match against the Defense: The last meeting between these teams took a very different look since the Colts dominated the Titans in perhaps their best defensive showing of the season. This time around it is less likely that they get the big lead and run out the clock.

The Titans can give up big games against good passers and have allowed five opponents to score more than once via the pass though none have gone over two. Tennessee has allowed Doug Johnson to throw for 276 yards and two scores and Pennington to have 231 yards and two scores in the past two weeks. They have given up three 300 yard passing games to opponents this season as well.

This is important since the Titans have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this season other than James back in week two. The good rushing defense is forcing the opponents to the air where Manning is rather comfortable being anyway. Samari Rolle should manage to contain Reggie Wayne who moves around little compared to Harrison.

Look for a lower rushing game from James - it has been two months since any runner has gone over 65 yards on the ground and yet Manning will be able to connect via the pass. The most common receiver to score has been the flanker which Harrison provide though both split ends and even #3 receivers have scored against the secondary this season.

Tennessee Notes

The Titans fall to 9-3 and are still tied with these Colts for the AFC South.

Quarterbacks:: Steve McNair made the fantasy world play the guessing game last week since lineups were typically due on Sunday and McNair's status was not known until Monday night. McNair was allowed to play on the premise that he would not further injure his calf but he had only one run for a one yard loss and threw two costly interceptions. He ended with 272 yards and two scores.

Back in week two, McNair only had 138 yards and one touchdown against the Colts.

Running Backs: The plan last Monday was to run Eddie George and he provided 73 yards on 18 carries. He ran well but with the scoreboard getting away from the Titans, his use waned later in the game. Back in week two, George gained only 46 yards on 15 carries.

Receivers: Derrick Mason led receivers last week with eleven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown while Justin McCareins continues his hot streak with 78 yards and one score. McCareins now has scored in each of the past four games.

Back when these teams played in week two, McCareins still was a backup and had only 19 yards on two catches even though the starter Drew Bennett had no catches in that game. Mason had ten catches for 98 yards against the Colts last time.

Match against the Defense: The Colts rushing defense has become much worse since week two and yet Eddie George has hardly been a stellar back in the interim. Look for moderate numbers by George unless the Titans can keep the score close or get a lead in which case George gets a much bigger volume of carries. Since McNair is hobbled, George is the more likely goal line scorer.

McNair faces a secondary that he should be able to exploit, but it was undeniable that he did not look like himself on Monday night. When the Colts have faced more complex passing attacks like the Titans potentially can be, they have allowed the Patriots (236, 2 TDs) and Jets (219, 3 TDs) to shine in the past three weeks.

The opportunity is there, the question is if McNair is healthy enough to take advantage.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
IND Scores
2
13
2
3
3
24
TEN Allows
21
11
26
13
1
7
IND AP
19
-2
24
10
-2
-17
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
TEN Scores
4
29
3
9
6
2
IND Allows
14
23
16
12
10
3
TEN AP
10
-6
13
3
4
1
Offensive ranks = #1 gains most points, Defensive ranks = #1 allows least points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
IND
TEN
2003 Game Averages
TEN
IND
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
301
255
Pass yards
248
200
2.2
1.3
Pass TDs
1.9
1.4
0.7
1.3
Interceptions
0.5
0.9
0
5
Rush yards
10
5
0
0
Rush TDs
0.3
0.2
---
----- 
RB's
----- 
---
93
68
Rush yards
90
117
1
0.6
Rush TDs
0.6
1
38
56
Receive yards
19
38
0.2
0.1
Receive TD's
0.0
0
---
----- 
WR's
----- 
---
199
159
Receive yards
193
122
1.6
1.0
Receive TD's
1.6
1.3
---
----- 
TE's
----- 
---
64
40
Receive yards
36
40
0.5
0.1
Receive TD's
0.3
0.1
---
----- 
PK's
----- 
---
2.1
1.0
Field Goals
1.7
1
3.4
2.1
Extra Points
3.3
3
---
----- 
DEF/ST
----- 
---
0.8
0.5
Fumbles
0.9
0.7
0.6
0.5
Interceptions
1.5
0.6
0.1
0.4
Touchdowns
0.5
0.1
2
1.3
Sacks
2.4
1
0
0.1
Safeties
0.1
0
Colts (9-3)
Score Opp.
9-6 @CLE
33-7 TEN
23-13 JAX
55-21 @NO
38-35 @TB
20-23 CAR
Week 7 BYE
30-21 HOU
23-17 @MIA
23-28 @JAX
38-31 NYJ
17-14 @BUF
34-38 NE
Week 14 @TEN
Week 15 ATL
Week 16 DEN
Week 17 @HOU
Tennessee (9-3)
Score Opp.
25-20 OAK
7-33 @IND
27-12 NO
30-13 @PIT
30-38 @NE
38-17 HOU
37-17 @CAR
31-7 @JAX
Week 9 BYE
30-17 MIA
10-3 JAX
38-31 @ATL
17-24 @NYJ
Week 14 IND
Week 15 BUF
Week 16 @HOU
Week 17 TB

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points