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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
Championship
January 14, 2004
Playoff Ticket
Sunday
3:00 PM, CBS at Gillette Stadium
6:45 PM, FOX at Lincoln Financial Field
   
Indianapolis at New England  
  Indianapolis Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 260,2
RB Edgerrin James 90 40 0
TE Marcus Pollard 0 40,1 0
WR Brandon Stokely 0 60,1 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 80 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 30 0
  New England Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 220,2
RB Kevin Faulk 20 30 0
RB Antowain Smith 50,1 0 0
TE Fauria/Graham 0 40 0
WR Troy Brown 0 40 0
WR David Givens 0 30,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 50,1 0
WR Bethel Johnson 0 30 0

Game Prediction: IND 23, NE 24

Line: New England by 3

The oddity this week is that the two Conference championships feature teams that played each other in week 13 of this season, and both home teams were road teams and both road teams won. Little did we know that we were watching the first matchups of the four teams contending for the Superbowl.

The Patriots defeated the Colts 38-34 that week in a game that the Pats lead 24-10 at the half and then held on to take the eventual win in spite of the typical Manning comeback bid. The Colts had a chance to tie with only 3:27 left to play but elected to take the field goal. After the Colts held the Patriots to three and out, they got the ball back with 2:57 left to play and then marched down to the New England 2-yard line where they ran four plays and failed to score. They tried Edgerrin James on three of the four plays including the final fourth-and-one with only 14 seconds remaining. Had they scored with four tries inside the 2-yard line, the Colts would have won and both teams would have ended 13-3 with the Colts hosting this game. That ended up to be the biggest goal line stand of the year.

Below are the actual stats from that week 13 game to consider - the question is how will this game be difference than that one?

13
IND
RY
RT
CY
CT
Fum
Int
13
NE
RY
RT
CY
CT
Fum
Int
QB
Manning P
1
.
278
4
1
1
QB
Brady T
-1
.
236
2
.
2
WR
Harrison M
.
.
88
1
.
.
WR
Branch D
.
.
64
1
.
.
WR
Walters T
.
.
56
1
.
.
WR
Ward D
.
.
50
1
.
.
WR
Wayne R
.
.
30
1
.
.
WR
Givens D
.
.
21
.
.
.
WR
Moorehead A
.
.
0
.
.
.
WR
Stokes J
.
.
7
.
.
.
TE
Pollard M
.
.
36
1
.
.
WR
Johnson B
.
.
7
.
.
.
TE
Clark D
.
.
18
.
.
.
TE
Fauria C
.
.
45
.
.
.
RB
James E
88
.
50
.
.
.
RB
Faulk K
42
.
36
.
1
.
RB
Rhodes D
9
.
0
.
.
.
RB
Cloud M
6
2
0
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
RB
Pass P
9
.
6
.
.
.

Both teams were able to move the ball on each other and this was the freak game were Mike Cloud scored two touchdowns. Otherwise, the Patriots were unable to mount any real rushing in the game. James ran effectively, but the entirety of the second half had Manning airing the ball out to catch up on the score board. Missed it by only a yard.

There is an undeniable difference this week because the Patriots are at home where they have not lost this season and they are playing very good defense. The Colts languished near the end of the season only to catch fire against the Broncos and Chiefs and suddenly make the post-season look easy.

But Indianapolis is a good road team and are apparently peaking after only starting a few weeks ago. The Patriots are the team to beat and have been for a while so the emotional factor likely leans toward the Colts. They could have beaten them in week 13 but did not. The Patriots have to play up to expectations in front of a home crowd which has pluses and minuses.

These playoffs have been less "following the script" than any year in recent memory so either team could win and New England is not a lock here. What will be key is the turnover battle - in week 13 the Patriots had a short field from one fumble and the Patriots had a kickoff return for a score as well. Indianapolis has the better offense and the Patriots have the better defense. What wins championships?

The forecast for Sunday will be below freezing but should be in the 20's or so with a slight chance of snow flurries. Weather should not be a huge factor but favors the Patriots slightly.

Last week the projections ended up 1-3 straight up on games (3-1 against the line) and getting 25% right is easily the worst week in my seven years of projecting outcomes. Granted two were overtime losses, but the sting hurts no less. But it is indicative of how these playoffs are not about drawing lines from previous performances and relying on past history as a predictor of future results.

I am projecting a New England win because projections are not guesses or wishes, they are predicated on past history (which slightly favors the Patriots) and current dynamics (which still slightly favors the homefield Pats) though the emotional favorite here is Indianapolis. But the Colts have the firepower to post points and if they can keep from making errors, they have every chance to win this game.

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
13
12
3
6
4
20
NE Allows
25
1
15
25
3
8
IND AP
12
-11
12
19
-1
-12
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
NE Scores
18
23
12
9
14
1
IND Allows
21
14
21
4
10
4
NE AP
3
-9
9
-5
-4
3
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
NE
2003 Game Averages
NE
IND
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
262
202
Pass yards
224
185
1.7
1.2
Pass TDs
1.3
1.3
0.2
2.3
Interceptions
0.8
0.8
3
12
Rush yards
4
13
0.0
0.8
Rush TDs
0.0
0.7
---
---
RB's
---
---
107
74
Rush yards
87
104
1.3
0.0
Rush TDs
0.7
0.8
29
42
Receive yards
40
29
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.0
0.2
---
---
WR's
---
---
185
136
Receive yards
149
129
1.5
0.8
Receive TD's
1.0
1.2
---
---
TE's
---
---
48
23
Receive yards
35
28
0.3
0.5
Receive TD's
0.3
0.0
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.8
1.2
Field Goals
1.5
0.8
3.3
1.5
Extra Points
2.5
3.2
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
1.2
0.8
Fumbles
0.5
0.7
0.7
0.8
Interceptions
2.3
0.2
0.2
0.0
Touchdowns
0.5
0.2
2.0
2.2
Sacks
2.7
1.8
0.0
0.0
Safeties
0.2
0.0
Colts (12-4)
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
17-31 DEN
20-17 @HOU
Patriots (14-2)
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
31-0 BUF

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points