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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 15
December 10 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at IND HOU at TB SF at CIN CLE at DEN NYG at NO
BUF at TEN JAX at NE SEA at STL CAR at ARZ Mon 9 PM
DAL at WAS MIN at CHI Sun 4 PM GB at SD PHI at MIA
DET at KC PIT at NYJ BAL at OAK *updated Times EST
   
Cleveland vs Denver Sun, Dec 14; 4 PM on CBS at Invesco Field
  Cleveland Rush Catch Pass
QB Tim Couch 0 0 180,1
RB Jamel White 50 40 0
TE Darnell Sanders 0 20 0
WR Andre Davis 0 20 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 40,1 0
WR Quincy Morgan 0 50 0
  Denver Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 10 0 230,2
RB Clinton Portis 120,1 20 0
TE Shannon Sharpe 0 60,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 80 0
WR Ed McCaffrey 0 40,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 30 0

Game Prediction: CLE 10, DEN 27

The Browns are all over the map in what they can do game to game but one constant remains - on the road they are bad against the run and Denver's rushing game is looking sort of good lately. The Browns may be trying out different players in a look-see for next season while the Broncos are in a dead heat for a wildcard spot.

The way the Browns are losing players to injury, even this score may be optimistic.

Cleveland Notes

The Browns fall to 4-8 on the season and are again alone in the cellar of the AFC North doing who knows what down there.

Quarterbacks:: Kelly Holcomb threw for 80 yards and one touchdown on Monday night but added two interceptions and one lost fumble. He was replaced by Tim Couch who threw for 98 yards and one score with only one lost fumble. Last week was a microcosm of the Browns season - both quarterbacks had moments of brilliance, neither could avoid turnovers, both were repeatedly bashed by the pass rush and neither played consistently.

This week I am assuming that Couch plays, but that could change both by Friday and during the game on Sunday.

Running Backs: James Jackson suffered a knee injury that appeared serious and may be out for the remainder of the season. Jamel White stepped in and was very productive, gaining 101 yards on only 15 carries and scoring once while adding 39 yards on four receptions.

White is the assumed starter now and the rookie Lee Suggs may start getting a few carries as well.

Receivers: Quincy Morgan led all receivers with 64 yards and one score while no other wideout amounted to much. Andre Davis has become invisible again, catching only one pass in each of the last two games. After Morgan, the most common receiver was Jamel White which will likely continue. The poor pass blocking has prevented any quarterback from connecting with the receivers on a consistent basis beyond Jamel White.

Match against the Defense: Denver has a top ten defense in almost every category while the Browns are in the ten worst in most.

Both Trent Green and Tom Brady have ripped the Bronco secondary for big games, but the Browns have hardly shown to be of that caliber. Most teams remain under 180 yards passing and half the time opponents do not throw a touchdown in Denver. Look for Couch, I mean Holcomb, no - Couch, to have around 180 which is the average of both the Browns offense and Broncos defense when Cleveland hits the road.

No running back has exceeded 70 yards in Denver and even Holmes had only 44 last week. Jamal White's biggest contribution to the offense will more likely be receiving than rushing. The Broncos have a relatively fast set of linebackers which negates the one strength of White who is a nifty runner but too small for power work.

Denver Notes

The Broncos rise to 8-5 and while they are still three games back of the Chiefs with little chance for the division, they are in the thick of the wildcard race.

Quarterbacks:: Jake Plummer had his most effective game this season last week, completing 20 of 29 passes for 238 yards and one score. For some reason the Chiefs kept freaking out on the play action passes which allowed Plummer to peel off on a bootleg and complete most of his throws.

Plummer started his Denver career out with some nice rushing efforts but he no longer is a running threat really. He has not ran for over 14 yards in his four games.

Running Backs: Clinton Portis turned in a nice effort last week in the same sense that winning the lottery helps out your financial situation. Portis rumbled 22 times for 218 yards and an incredible five rushing touchdowns. It was the single best fantasy football performance in recent memory if not all time. His success allowed Plummer to be ignored if he even hinted at handing off and when he did give it to Portis he was gone in a cloud of dust more often than not. The one game cemented Portis as an elite back in the NFL and considering his young age, one that should be around for many more games.

Reuben Droughns sprained his ankle badly last week and may miss the game against Cleveland but Mike Anderson has completed his four-game suspension and will be available.

Receivers: Rod Smith returned to his productive ways last week, catching seven passes for 85 yards. Other than the Oakland game, his last three games have been 84, 86 and 85 yards. Now there is consistency. Ashley Lelie only had one catch for seven yards and that, too, is becoming his brand of consistent play.

Ed McCaffrey had his first catch since week six and ended with four receptions for 39 yards against the Chiefs and Shannon Sharpe had 73 yards on six catches. Portis, Smith and Sharpe - an effective trio but not likely one for much longer since Sharpe and Smith are among the oldest players at their positions.

Match against the Defense: Cleveland allowed Jamal Lewis to set the all-time singe game rushing record already this season, Shaun Alexander had 127 yards and a score two weeks ago and Marshall Faulk broke 100 last Monday. Look for another nice performance by Portis.

The Browns on the road have been much worse against the pass than the home version. The last two road trips gave up 328 and 368 yards to Trent Green and Matt Hasselbeck and both of them scored three times. With Portis now able to command so much fear from a defense, Plummer will have the chance to post decent numbers if he desires.

The last two road games have yielded three scores to the left wide out which means potentially Lelie could get back into the game plan if not McCaffrey. But in a game that the offense should work well in many facets, relying on any one is risky.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
CLE Scores
22
27
11
24
18
28
DEN Allows
9
5
8
22
24
7
CLE AP
-13
-22
-3
-2
6
-21
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
DEN Scores
13
4
30
2
11
23
CLE Allows
5
13
5
29
32
25
DEN AP
-8
9
-25
27
21
2
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.
CLE
DEN
2003 Game Averages
DEN
CLE
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
212
196
Pass yards
194
201
1.3
1.1
Pass TDs
1.4
1.1
1.1
1.4
Interceptions
1.0
0.8
2
7
Rush yards
15
7
0.1
0.2
Rush TDs
0.1
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
86
80
Rush yards
134
95
0.5
0.5
Rush TDs
1.0
0.5
36
36
Receive yards
37
42
0.1
0.1
Receive TD's
0.3
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
157
124
Receive yards
102
126
0.9
0.7
Receive TD's
0.4
0.6
---
---
TE's
---
---
19
36
Receive yards
55
34
0.3
0.3
Receive TD's
0.7
0.5
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.5
1.8
Field Goals
1.5
2.3
1.9
1.9
Extra Points
2.6
1.6
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.5
0.5
Fumbles
0.5
1.0
0.6
1.0
Interceptions
0.5
1.1
0.2
0.2
Touchdowns
0.2
0.2
2.0
1.8
Sacks
2.4
2.7
0.0
0.1
Safeties
0.1
0.0
Browns(4-9)
Score Opp.
6-9 IND
13-33 @BAL
13-12 @SF
14-21 CIN
33-13 @PIT
13-7 OAK
20-26 SD
3-9 @NE
Week 9 BYE
20-41 @KC
44-6 ARZ
6-13 PIT
7-34 @SEA
20-26 STL
Week 15 @DEN
Week 16 BAL
Week 17 @CIN
Broncos (8-5)
Score Opp.
30-10 @CIN
37-13 @SD
31-10 OAK
20-16 DET
23-24 @KC
17-14 PIT
20-28 @MIN
6-26 @BAL
26-30 NE
Week 10 BYE
37-8 SD
10-19 CHI
22-8 @OAK
45-27 KC
Week 15 CLE
Week 16 @IND
Week 17 @GB

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points