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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 16
December 17, 2003
Season Ticket
Saturday Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at TB 1 BAL at CLE NYG at DAL ARZ at SEA DEN at IND
KC at MIN 5 CIN at STL NO at JAX SD at PIT Mon 9 PM
NE at NYJ 8:30 DET at CAR TEN at HOU SF at PHI GB at OAK
Times EST MIA at BUF WAS at CHI *updated
   
Denver vs Indianapolis Sun, Dec 21; 8:30 PM on ESPN at RCA Dome
  Denver at IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 20 0 250,2
RB Clinton Portis Q Q Q
RB Mike Anderson 60 10 0
RB Quentin Griffin 30 10 0
TE Shannon Sharpe 0 50 0
WR Rod Smith 0 80,1 0
WR Ed McCaffrey 0 30 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 60,1 0
  Indianapolis vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 280,3
RB Edgerrin James 80 10 0
TE Marcus Pollard 0 30 0
WR Brandon Stokely 0 50,1 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 100,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 80,1 0

Game Prediction: DEN 20, IND 30

Denver needs this win but are only 3-3 on the road and that was with a healthy Portis. Colts are still in the hunt for homefield and need a good game here to tune up for the playoffs since next week will be against the Texans.

Denver Notes

The Broncos rise to 9-5 and are on a three game winning streak. They are still in the wildcard hunt.

Quarterbacks:: For the first time in the past nine games, Jake Plummer failed to throw a touchdown pass last week against the Browns. Plummer ended with 269 yards and added a 23 yard run but spent most of last week handing off to Portis.

Running Backs: Clinton Portis turned in two more scores and 139 yards last week against the Browns with a personal best 38 carries in the game. That gives him ten games over 100 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the season. He suffered a high ankle sprain and twisted knee during overtime. He is considered questionable this week and is not expected to practice.

I am not projecting for him since the injury is akin to the ones that have prevented virtually every other player from playing in the next game. The Broncos need him to be sure, but regardless of what Shanahan says it is unlikely that Portis will take the field this week. Mike Anderson, AKA 2000 Rookie of the Year, is healthy and ready to play along with rookie Quentin Griffin. Last week Griffin was inactive as he had missed practice time due to attending a funeral but should figure in with Anderson this week.

Receivers: Rod Smith only had 41 yards on four catches last week but Ashley Lelie gained 71 yards on four catches which was his best effort since back in week four. Lelie had the long gainer that set up the tying field goal last week. With the probable absence of Portis this week, both Smith and Lelie will assume more important roles along with Shannon Sharpe who led all receivers last week with 97 yards on eight catches.

Ed McCaffrey had a mild concussion last week but is expected to play on Sunday.

Match against the Defense: How the Broncos change without Portis will be interesting. In week four when he was gone, Jake Plummer threw for 277 yards and two scores against the Lions. The Colts had a big game last week against Michael Vick but McNair, Brady and Pennington had all thrown for multiple touchdowns against the Colts and oddly enough for between 219 and 236 yards for all three.

The Colts rush defense has allowed six runners to top 100 yards this season and both Mike Cloud and Domanick Davis scored twice in Indianapolis. With Manning being "nuclear-fission" sort of hot lately, the Broncos will be well served to run as much as possible and keep him from the field. If the score escalates and the Broncos must throw the ball, the Colts will give up yards and scores there as well. Just not as many as the opponent defenses have been to James and Manning.

The Colts corners are no less strong on either side, so Rod Smith should turn in a decent game here and Lelie has the opportunity if Plummer can connect again this week. Sharpe will naturally figure in as well but the Colts have allowed only one tight end touchdown this season to Billy Miller and no visiting tight end has exceeded 45 yards in Indianapolis. Then again, the best tight end they have faced has been Randy McMichael (88 yards).

Indianapolis Notes

The Colts rise to 11-3 and maintain a one game lead over the Titans. A win this week will seal the divisional title.

Quarterbacks:: Peyton Manning now leads the NFL with 3901 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 341 completions and after the NFL draft next season his family will be able to purchase their own country.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James turned in his fifth 100 yard game of the season last week against Atlanta when he rushed 20 times for 126 yards. He did not score since Manning would not stop throwing the ball into the endzone.

Receivers: Marvin Harrison comes off his fifth 100 yard effort of the season and he scored twice last week against the Falcons to give him ten scores on the season. Reggie Wayne continued his great work in home games when he had a touchdown and 57 yards last week. Wayne has scored or gained 100 yards receiving in his last six home games. All seven of his touchdowns came at home. He has averaged almost 90 yards per game when at home but only has averaged around 35 yards a game and never scored on the road. He is home this week.

Last week Brandon Stokely had a breakout week for the Colts, catching seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He has now taken over the #3 role from Troy Walters who was limited in the game last week due to a hamstring strain.

Match against the Defense: Only Rick Mirer has failed to throw a touchdown against the visiting Broncos and Peyton Manning is more than a little better than Mirer. Equal caliber quarterbacks like Kitna and Culpepper have thrown for over 260 yards and both Brady and Green had over 350 yards against the Broncos. Manning can beat this secondary and once again, Wayne has a great chance to score since more often it is the #2 and #3 wideouts that score.

Denver has only allowed Jamal Lewis to top 100 yards this season though several others have reached the ninety yard mark on the ground. Only four runners have actually scored against the Broncos this season so James is more likely to get yardage than touchdowns.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
DEN Scores
19
2
30
2
6
23
IND Allows
20
13
19
2
8
9
DEN AP
1
11
-11
0
2
-14
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
IND Scores
7
5
2
6
4
17
DEN Allows
18
2
12
15
25
4
IND AP
11
-3
10
9
21
-13
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.
DEN
IND
2003 Game Averages
IND
DEN
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
208
174
Pass yards
285
185
1.2
1.4
Pass TDs
2.0
0.8
0.8
0.8
Interceptions
0.2
0.4
13
11
Rush yards
3
15
0.0
0.4
Rush TDs
0.0
0.4
---
---
RB's
---
---
182
87
Rush yards
120
69
1.8
0.8
Rush TDs
1.4
0.4
26
29
Receive yards
34
26
0.2
0.2
Receive TD's
0.0
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
108
119
Receive yards
204
131
0.2
1.2
Receive TD's
1.8
0.6
---
---
TE's
---
---
74
27
Receive yards
47
29
0.8
0.0
Receive TD's
0.4
0.2
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.6
0.8
Field Goals
2.0
2.0
3.2
3.0
Extra Points
3.6
1.4
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.8
0.8
Fumbles
1.4
0.2
0.4
0.2
Interceptions
0.6
0.8
0.2
0.2
Touchdowns
0.0
0.0
2.2
1.8
Sacks
2.4
1.8
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.2
Broncos (9-5)
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
23-20 CLE
Week 16 @IND
Week 17 @GB
Colts (11-3)
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
29-27 @TEN
38-7 ATL
Week 16 DEN
Week 17 @HOU

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points using only the last five games played