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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 9, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Mon 9 PM
CHI at CLE SEA at STL* CAR at ARI On Bye:  
NE at ATL TEN at HOU* WAS at DEN MIN, NYG Updated*

Prediction: New England 17, Atlanta 27

The Patriots have been exposed as merely mortal and at 2-2 they are in danger of having a losing record. With so many injuries on both sides of the ball and a tough schedule, the Falcons have a chance to make that happen. Atlanta has the best rushing game in the league and will only be limited this week if Vick's hamstrings and knee ligaments continue to be a problem.

New England Patriots (2-2)
1 30-20 OAK 11 Nov 13 @MIA
2 17-27 @CAR 12 Nov 20 NOR
3 23-20 @PIT 13 Nov 27 @KCC
4 17-41 SDC 14 Dec 4 NYJ
5 Oct 9 @ATL 15 Dec 11 @BUF
6 Oct 16 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
NEP at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 250,2
RB Corey Dillon 60 10 0
RB Patrick Pass 0 40,1 0
TE Ben Watson 0 10 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 10 0
WR David Givens 0 70 0
WR Deion Branch 0 30 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 20 0
WR Troy Brown 0 40,1 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Patriots are hitting all new ground after a stretch of being the best team in the NFL. They were just blown out in their own stadium and barely managed to eke out a win in Pittsburgh or they would be an inconceivable 1-3 on the season. The loss of tackle Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and Rodney Harrison has left this team oddly struggling on both sides of the ball and with two road games in Atlanta and Denver looming, there is little time to correct the problems.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has always been as good as the team needs for a win, even if that entails late game heroics. Last week against the Chargers, he only managed 224 yards and one score and the reality is that Brady only has four scores on the season after four games. He hasn't enjoyed the same level of support from the rushing game this year and the blocking is not nearly as good this year.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon actually had a decent 4.5 yards per carry average last week but he only had 14 carries. He scored once to give himself five touchdowns on the year but after such a great 2004 campaign, Dillon has yet to top 63 yards in a game this year. His fantasy value has been propped up with several touchdowns but his yardage has been lacking.

Kevin Faulk was lost for a month or two with some undescribed leg injury and was replaced by fullback Patrick Pass last week. Pass had only one rush for six yards but he added a team high eight catches for 55 yards against the Chargers.

Wide Receivers: The passing game was not effective last week and while David Givens had a respectable six catches for 66 yards, Deion Branch only managed one catch for six yards. The lone touchdown was caught by Tim Dwight but he ended with only two receptions for 42 yards and had no catches the previous week. As with most Patriot teams under Belichick, there has not been a primary wide receiver from game to game despite the growing need to pass.

Tight Ends: Somewhat uncharacteristic of a Patriot offense, the tight ends have disappeared this year and rarely have more than one catch per game.

Match Against the Defense: A big factor in this match-up is having the Falcons at home. On the road they were dinged for major rushing yardage by SEA and BUF but at home they have not yet allowed more than 57 rushing yards - about what Dillon does every week. Look for a standard game by Dillon here and likely more of Patrick Pass as a receiver.

The Atlanta secondary is only about average and has not had the same level of play by CB Jason Webster that CB DeAngelo Hall has had recently. Hall should be pitted against Branch unless the Patriots go to different formations. Look for Brady to need to throw since the running game is only average but the Falcons will be bringing blitzes and making Brady throw faster to shorter routes. That should favor Givens again and could go back to the tight ends if they are once again used. With the blocking needs, the tight ends will likely remain a non-factor.

The wideout most likely to score will be either the slot or a four receiver set which favors either Troy Brown or Tim Dwight. The only passing scores allowed by Atlanta have gone to the slot receivers.

Atlanta Falcons (3-1)
1 14-10 PHI 10 Nov 13 GBP
2 18-21 @SEA 11 Nov 20 TBB
3 24-16 @BUF 12 Nov 24 @DET
4 30-10 MIN 13 Dec 4 @CAR
5 Oct 9 NE 14 Dec 12 NOR
6 Oct 16 @NOR 15 Dec 18 @CHI
7 Oct 24 NYJ 16 Dec 24 @TBB
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 CAR
9 Nov 6 @MIA M THU SAT
ATL vs NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Schaub 20 0 180,1
RB Warrick Dunn 90,1 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 30,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50,1 0
WR Dez White 0 30 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 60 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Todd Peterson 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons remain home this week after dismantling the Vikings last week and they have not lost a game in the Georgia Dome this year. Vick suffered a knee sprain but Matt Schaub picked up and kept the team rolling. The Falcons have the best rushing game in the league with Vick adding his scrambles and the defense has not allowed a visitor to score more than 10 points this year.

Quarterback: Michael Vick was having a big rushing game last week until he sprained his left knee. The early diagnosis is that he sprained his medial collateral ligament but that there were no tears and he will likely play this week. Matt Schaub not only kept the game going when Vick was sidelined, he ran four times for 56 yards.

I am assuming that Vick plays this week with only minor limitations from his knee sprain. Updates if warranted.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn comes off his best game of the year when he ran 18 times for 126 yards and one score against the Vikings last week. It was his first touchdown of the year and T.J. Duckett also scored - for the fourth straight game. Duckett normally has only minimal yardage but when the ball gets inside the five-yard line, he's scored in every game.

Wide Receivers: There was only 88 passing yards last week so the hit against the wideouts was even worse than normal. The only notables from last week was that Michael Jenkins only had one pass and gained a mere 11 yards while the rookie Roddy White finally had his first NFL action and ended with two receptions for 12 yards. If this team doesn't need to pass, it won't. In most games - there is little need.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler only had three catches for 16 yards last week but caught the lone receiving touchdown in the game. It was the first score of the year for Crumpler who has yet to catch more than four passes in any game this year.

Match Against the Defense: There's no hidden game plan here - the Falcons will run and at home they should be successful against the Patriot team that has been hard hit with the loss of Rodney Harrison as shown, repeatedly, by Tomlinson last week. Look for some nice yardage from the usual suspects rushing here and likely yet another low yardage game passing.

The New England secondary can be beaten, but with the Falcons there is no safe fantasy start outside of Crumpler and even then, he's only good for about 40 yards per game.