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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 17
December 24, 2003
Season Ticket
Sat 1:30 PM Sat 8:30 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM
BUF at NE PHI at WAS CHI at KC JAX at ATL CAR at NYG
Sat 5 PM Sun 8:30 PM CLE at CIN NYJ at MIA MIN at ARZ
SEA at SF PIT at BAL DAL at NO STL at DET DEN at GB
  IND at HOU TB at TEN OAK at SD
   
Buffalo vs New England Sat, Dec 27; 1:30 PM on CBS at Gillette Stadium
  Buffalo at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 150
RB Travis Henry 70 10 0
TE M. Campbell 0 30 0
WR Eric Moulds 0 40 0
WR Josh Reed 0 20 0
WR Bobby Shaw 0 50 0
  New England vs BUF Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 230,2
RB Kevin Faulk 30 20 0
RB Antowain Smith 90,1 10 0
TE Fauria/Graham 0 50,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 40 0
WR David Givens 0 30 0
WR Deion Branch 0 50,1 0

Game Prediction: BUF 0, NE 31

The Bills throttled the Patriots 31-0 in week one and that sort of thing tends to stick with the loser. Especially since they have gone 13-1 since that time. Conversely, the Bills are only 5-9 since that time and getting worse instead of better.

I like this game to be a revenge game. The Patriots need a win to maintain homefield throughout the playoffs and with a week to rest before playing, there is no reason why they will not be bringing the heat to stay sharp for the playoffs. A nice win here catapults them into the postseason as the team to beat with the defense that cannot be beaten. I love the chance for a defensive score in this game.

Buffalo Notes

The Bills come off their ninth loss of the season to the visiting Dolphins 20-3 and are now ensured of a having a losing season. Head Coach Gregg Williams is on the hot seat after a season that began with the promise of the playoffs.

Drew Bledsoe comes off a 114 yard effort against Miami which is not even his worst of the season. For the seventh time this season he threw for no touchdowns and he only threw for over 250 yards once in a game after week four. There is some speculation that Bledsoe is also on a hot seat.

Eric Moulds is finishing up the worst season of his career that had only two 100+ yard efforts and an astonishing one touchdown scored in 2003. His groin muscle injury plagued him almost the entire season which coupled with an ineffective passing game spelled a season to forget.

Josh Reed may later develop into a "Peerless" player, but there is little to suggest that such a big step is in the making. He only has two scores on the season and comes off a game where he had no catches. He had only one 100 yard game this year. He was considered a bust by the organization.

Bobby Shaw was actually the most productive receiver as the #3, scoring four times this season though never exceeding 92 yards in any game.

The tight end position has been almost nonexistent for the past five weeks, but Mark Campbell finally scored his first touchdown last week. This is just a bad offense and the tight end was no bigger a factor here than most teams.

Travis Henry winds up with ten touchdowns but like the rest of the offense was inconsistent. Henry had five 100 yard games and some monster efforts like 167, 169 and 124 yards. But in half of his games he failed to score and battled rib problems this season. Still, even with a bad season Henry was able to show that he belonged in the NFL and will make the starting decisions interesting next year.

Match against the Defense: This is a bad offense that failed to score more than one touchdown in seven games this season. Most of that is directly responsible by the bad blocking from a constantly banged up offensive line and the loss of Peerless Price which caused the passing game to become one-dimensional.

Now they must travel to New England where possibly the best defense in the league awaits. The Bills waxed the Patriots 31-0 in the season opener and there is zero chance that the Patriots have forgotten that game, particularly since they have only lost one other game.

Look for lower numbers from the entire offense which already produces minimal amounts unless facing a bad defense. This game could be a shut out for reasons of revenge and the 86 yards that Henry gained the first time took 28 carries to reach. He will not get that many chances this time around and the Patriot defense is far better now than 16 weeks ago.

New England Notes

The Patriots rise to 13-2 with the best record in the NFL. They have won their last 11 games and now get to face the team that humiliated them in the shutout that started this season.

The impressive fact is that this team has won more than any other team and yet is only sending two players to the Pro Bowl - DT Richard Seymour and CB Ty Law (who got there mainly on name recognition). This is a team that is far greater than the sum of the individual players. That is good coaching and a good system.

Tom Brady's name was thrown around as a potential league MVP but that mainly came from being the quarterback on the team with the best record. Brady has been good - he has 21 touchdowns passing this season but also played six games without any score. He only had two 300+ yard games and enjoyed the benefits of playing for a team that had a defense knocking the opponent on their butt in most game.

Brady threw scores in nine games this year and had multiple scores in all but one game. He either had big games or small games and almost none in the middle.

Antowain Smith comes off his first 100 yard effort of the season against the Bills last week and his sixth as a Patriot. He only had 18 carries last week and only once had more than that in a game this season. Kevin Faulk has been disappearing as the weather gets cold and the turf gets slow and wet. Smith has been the bad weather guy for New England and Faulk has been declining in use for the past four games.

Deion Branch will likely end up as the most productive receiver for the Patriots and he only has 51 catches this year. In fantasy terms, this offense has been a nightmare to forecast since Brady will hit up to nine different receivers every game and David Givens has the singular distinction this season of being the only Patriot receiver that actually caught a touchdown in consecutive games. Actually that is only because he scored in weeks seven and nine and was out injured for week eight. The reality is that the passing game is different every week and the same player never performs well the next week. Isn't that a treat for defensive coordinators?

Match against the Defense: Drawing conclusions from past games matters little here. The Bills are nothing like they were in week one and the Patriots have extra motivation in playing them now. Opponents have not had big yardage games against a decent defense but mostly they have not had to produce big to win. They wait around for the Bills to hurt themselves.

Look for a smaller game from Brady since he has only thrown for three scores in the seven home games this season and the Bills have been playing the pass reasonably well this season. If Brady throws one score, he will likely throw for two.

The Bills have been softer against the run, so Antowain Smith is a good start here.

The bottom line is that the Patriots will be motivated to win and should handily. How they do that is always different each week.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
BUF Scores
5
4
16
8
5
17
NE Allows
25
1
15
25
3
8
BUF AP
20
-3
-1
17
-2
-9
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
NE Scores
18
23
12
9
14
1
BUF Allows
30
22
26
17
27
11
NE AP
12
-1
14
8
13
10
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.
BUF
NE
2003 Game Averages
NE
BUF
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
159
202
Pass yards
224
196
0.8
1.2
Pass TDs
1.3
0.8
0.7
2.3
Interceptions
0.8
0.7
3
12
Rush yards
4
1
0.2
0.8
Rush TDs
0.0
0.2
---
---
RB's
---
---
121
74
Rush yards
87
83
0.5
0.0
Rush TDs
0.7
0.3
22
42
Receive yards
40
28
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.0
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
118
136
Receive yards
149
149
0.5
0.8
Receive TD's
1.0
0.7
---
---
TE's
---
---
19
23
Receive yards
35
19
0.3
0.5
Receive TD's
0.3
0.2
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.2
1.2
Field Goals
1.5
1.2
1.7
1.5
Extra Points
2.5
1.8
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.7
0.8
Fumbles
0.5
1.2
0.5
0.8
Interceptions
2.3
0.3
0.2
0.0
Touchdowns
0.5
0.2
3.7
2.2
Sacks
2.7
3.5
0.3
0.0
Safeties
0.2
0.0
Bills (6-98)
Score Opp.
31-0 NE
38-17 @JAX
7-17 @MIA
13-23 PHI
22-16 CIN
3-30 @NYJ
24-7 WAS
5-38 @KC
Week 9 BYE
6-10 @DAL
10-12 HOU
14-17 IND
24-7 @NYG
17-6 NYJ
26-28 @TEN
3-20 MIA
Week 17 @NE
Patriots (13-2)
Score Opp.
0-31 @BUF
31-10 @PHI
23-16 NYJ
17-20 @WAS
38-30 TEN
17-6 NYG
19-13 @MIA
9-3 CLE
30-26 @DEN
Week 10 BYE
12-0 DAL
23-20 @HOU
38-34 @IND
12-0 MIA
27-13 JAX
21-16 @NYJ
Week 17 BUF

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points