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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
   
Cleveland vs Cincinnati Sun, Dec 28; 1 PM on CBS at Paul Brown Stadium
  Cleveland at CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Tim Couch 0 0 220,1
RB Lee Suggs 80 0 0
RB Jamel White 20 20 0
TE Darnell Sanders 0 10 0
WR Andre Davis 0 50 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 50 0
WR Quincy Morgan 0 50,1 0
  Cincinnati vs CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Jon Kitna 0 0 240,2
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 0 0
RB Rudi Johnson 70,1 0 0
TE Stewart/Schobel 0 40,1 0
WR Peter Warrick 0 30 0
WR Kelly Washington 0 40 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100,1 0

Game Prediction: CLE 10, CIN 31

Update: Peter Warrick is still considered doubtful to play but was reported to practice much of Friday and has optimism that he will suit up for the game and play. I am leaving his projections low but be aware he may not play at all and will be limited if he does.

Since the Bengals will still be fighting for a potential division title, they will be plenty motivated in their final home game of the season. Since the Browns are on the road ending a season that may not even be referenced in the media guide next season, they have little motivation beyond... well... after last week they biggest reason is that they do not get paid if they do not show up.

Cleveland Notes

The Browns fall to 4-11 with their shutout loss to the Ravens last week. They are ready to get off this 2003 roller coaster. There is no guarantee they are tall enough to even ride it lately. They have lost their last five games in a row.

Tim Couch takes the final start and is willing to renegotiate his contract with the Browns next season if they will keep him and not make him search for meaningful employment. Couch has started six games this year and has seven touchdowns against five interceptions.

The lone bright spot last week, said in the way trapped miners look for even a pinpoint of light, was the running of Lee Suggs who gained 68 yards on 20 carries against a very motivated Ravens defense. With William Green a messy question mark, Suggs offers some hope next year if Green expands his rap sheet.

The receivers for the Browns have been little more than a tease this season with each wideout having exactly one 100 yard game and never scoring in consecutive games. There has been little reason to start a Cleveland receiver on a fantasy team this season but if they just scored or had good yardage, the player was a safe bet to bench.

Match against the Defense: When a team comes off a 35-0 pasting, at the end of a 4-11 season and a five game losing streak, there is little reason to expect much. Couch had 280 yards and two scores in the previous meeting against the Bengals but that was back in week four when things still mattered.

Couch will throw for a score - all quarterbacks have against the Bengals since week three but more than that is hard to gauge given the towel throwing in Cleveland the past few weeks. Cleveland will lose this game and they know it. How much they want to do in a loss is hard to guess.

The most interesting start here would be Suggs who had 20 carries last week against only 4 for Jamel White. He could have a decent final game of the season just to stoke William Green into straightening up.

Cincinnati Notes

The Bengals fall to 8-7 on the season with their loss in St. Louis and now have to hope for the Ravens to lose while Cincy beats Cleveland in order to win the division and advance to the playoffs. They can no longer win a wildcard. Since the Ravens are the late game on Sunday, the Bengals will not know if their efforts are in vain and besides that, they have a shot at - get this - a winning record this year. The Bengals will be accidentally approaching the podium in the NFL draft next April several times before it is actually their turn. It will be purely an instinctual habit. They have not had to wait that long in many years.

Jon Kitna was not enough to defeat the Rams last week and he did throw three interceptions. But he also has thrown at least one score in every game but one this season and has 26 passing scores already for 2003.

Chad Johnson had a touchdown and 115 yards last week, giving him ten scores and over 1300 yards on the season. Peter Warrick was out last week but is expected to play on Sunday. In his place, Kelly Washington scored his fourth touchdown of the season.

The most interesting facet right now is which running back will be carrying the load against the Browns this week. Last week Corey Dillon only had seven carries for 37 yards last week and Rudi Johnson gained 30 yards on 11 runs, a bit less than his 174 of the previous week. The plan is for Dillon to start and Rudi to play. It could make some sense to let Dillon pump up his stats if they want to move him next season but it also makes sense to let Rudi Johnson play more in that scenario.

Match against the Defense: Matching this up is difficult because Cleveland is becoming a buffet for opposing offenses. Sure, the rushing table has plenty for everyone but the passing tray is available as well.

Look for the most certain thing to be the rushing game against the Browns to succeed since they have allowed 1756 rushing yards to running backs this year. They have allowed three 200+ yard games. They should redesign their blank helmets to incorporate a tire tread going over the top of it.

The carries will be split between Dillon and Johnson and there will be plenty to split and both have motivation to do well. The question is how the Bengal coaching staff want to distribute that which has been an in-game decision for most weeks.

Give Kitna and Chad Johnson a touchdown but beyond that it will just depend on what the Bengals want to do in the game. It's all there. It's the Browns coming to town while looking at their watches wondering when the game will end.

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
21
27
10
19
25
23
CIN Allows
29
27
29
17
29
9
CLE AP
8
0
19
-2
4
-14
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
CIN Scores
14
15
2
27
8
15
CLE Allows
6
22
6
27
32
31
CIN AP
-8
7
4
0
24
16
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
CIN
2003 Game Averages
CIN
CLE
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
223
263
Pass yards
225
191
1.2
1.7
Pass TDs
2.2
1.0
1.2
0.7
Interceptions
0.8
1.2
4
12
Rush yards
6
10
0.0
0.2
Rush TDs
0.0
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
82
118
Rush yards
144
130
0.5
1.3
Rush TDs
0.3
1.0
38
43
Receive yards
33
36
0.0
0.2
Receive TD's
0.2
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
170
197
Receive yards
178
123
0.8
1.2
Receive TD's
1.8
0.5
---
---
TE's
---
---
16
23
Receive yards
15
32
0.3
0.3
Receive TD's
0.2
0.5
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.2
1.7
Field Goals
1.5
2.2
1.8
3.2
Extra Points
2.8
2.3
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.2
0.7
Fumbles
0.8
1.7
0.8
0.8
Interceptions
0.7
1.0
0.2
0.0
Touchdowns
0.3
0.3
2.8
2.7
Sacks
2.2
3.2
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
Browns(4-11)
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
20-23 @DEN
0-35 BAL
Week 17 @CIN
Bengals (8-7)
Score Opp.
10-30 DEN
20-23 @OAK
10-17 PIT
21-14 @CLE
16-22 @BUF
Week 6 BYE
34-26 BAL
27-24 SEA
14-17 @ARZ
34-27 HOU
24-19 KC
34-27 @SD
24-20 @PIT
13-31 @BAL
41-38 SF
10-27 @STL
Week 17 CLE

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points