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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
October 16, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CAR at DET* MIA at TBB* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CLE at BAL NYG at DAL* NYJ at BUF PHI, SF *Updated

Prediction: Atlanta 21, New Orleans 17

Atlanta took a tumble last week when the visiting Patriots took them down but that was without Vick for one game. This week has the Saints coming off a historic beat down 3-52 in Green Bay and starting this week there will be no McAllister for the rest of the season. If you could choose the one player they could least afford to lose, it would be Deuce. Coupling that injury with the absolute and total demolition last week by the Vikings spells problems for the Saints the rest of the year. The Saints could win this or they could end up blown out again - it depends on their mind-set and attitude more than ever.

In 2004, the home team won their matchup that week with Atlanta taking the 24-21 win while the Saints took their game 26-13 in week 16 when the Falcons were slowing down for a playoff run.

Update: Vick is still questionable but has practiced and looks likely to play. He will be limited in running, so this should be interesting. Horn is also questionable again but has been practicing and is also expected to play.

Atlanta Falcons (3-2)
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 28-31 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 at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 40 0 160,1
RB Warrick Dunn 80,1 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 30,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50,1 0
WR Dez White 0 20 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 40 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 40 0
PK Todd Peterson 0 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Falcons fall to 3-2 but the Buccaneers also lost so they are still only one game back for the AFC South lead. Vick should be back this week and while this matchup has always been a fun one, the Falcons should be back at full strength this week against the Saints who are trying to decide if they still have any.

Quarterback: Matt Schaub had a great game against New England, throwing for 298 yards and three scores with no turnovers but it proved not quite enough. Schaub almost doubled the game high passing yards by Vick this year and he changes the style of the offense nicely when called on. Michael Vick will be healthy enough to play this week though he may not be 100% yet and that could be a problem. If the Saints prove as easy to beat as they seem, the coaching staff could either elect to sit Vick down one more week to get him completely healthy or worse yet, could play him and later in the game give Schaub playing time. I am assuming Vick plays but be aware that he could end up pulled at any time if the coaches think it is prudent.

Vick ran for 69 yards and one score at home while throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He did not play in the week 16 game against the Saints.

Running Backs: T.J. Duckett finally had a game in which he did not score a touchdown and he only had five carries in the game last week. Warrick Dunn had 83 yards on 19 carries and the big surprise was that he caught two passes for the first time this season. He had 23 yards on the two receptions and finally was used in the passing game at least slightly - of course by Schaub, not Vick.

Dunn ran for 59 yards against the Saints in week 12 last year but then gained 52 yards and one score with a very rare 87 yards receiving when Schaub was throwing to him in week 16. Duckett never scored last year against New Orleans and he had 58 rushing yards in the first game. He did not play in week 16.

Wide Receivers: Funny thing when the Falcons actually throw for nearly 300 yards in a game - there are wide receivers that matter. Michael Jenkins had three catches for 55 yards and was easily the most used target by Schaub (ten throws) and as always, Brian Finneran actually did better with five catches and 103 yards - the first 100 yard game by a Falcon wideout since Peerless Price did it in week five of 2003. Dez White returned to the starting lineup and had only one catch but it went for a score.

With Vick back this week, we should start the clock over again to see if it takes another two years to get the next 100 yard game by a wideout.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler had a solid though unspectacular start to the season but he is picking it up as the season progresses. He has scored in each of the last two games and turned in six catches for 99 yards against the Patriots for a season high.

Crumpler had a big game against the Saints last year, gaining 103 yards and one score. He did not play in the week 16 game.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints defense has been beaten on the ground and through the air this season and after the monumentally bad game last week, it's hard to see how well they will respond. Often teams really pull together after a bad loss but this Saints team just lost their starting running back and will be challenged to answer the bell this week. Losing 52-3 is not "letting a close one get away". Particularly against a team that was already ravaged by injury.

Figure the Falcons to do what they always have - run the ball effectively. The Saints have allowed six rushing scores already this season and even in their one home game already this year gave up one to McGahee. If Michael Vick plays, this will be almost entirely about rushing with minimal passing but the Saints secondary can certainly be beaten. If Schaub plays, he could easily toss at least one score but most likely will be Vick playing and the score remaining low with plenty of rushing to control the clock and end the game.

New Orleans Saints (2-3)
1 23-20 @CAR 10 Open Bye
2 10-27 NYG 11 Nov 20 @NE
3 16-33 @MIN 12 Nov 27 @NYJ
4 19-7 BUF 13 Dec 4 TBB
5 3-52 @GBP 14 Dec 12 @ATL
6 Oct 16 ATL 15 Dec 18 CAR
7 Oct 23 @STL 16 Dec 24 DET
8 Oct 30 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 Nov 6 CHI . MON SAT
NOR vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 20 0 260,2
RB Antowain Smith 60 10 0
RB Aaron Stecker 10 20 0
TE Ernie Conwell 0 40,1 0
WR Joe Horn 0 70,1 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 60 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 0 40 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: It's becoming hard not to feel bad for the Saints. With four road games already, the trip to Green Bay was just too much and the pounding the Saints had there "will leave a mark". They were not beaten by a top team in the NFL, it was the winless Packers who were already without their starting tailback and best wideout. The Saints then lose McAllister for the season and you could hardly paint a bleaker picture for the Saints right now.

Quarterback: So far this season, Aaron Brooks peaked in week two and then has declined every week. He comes off one of his worst performances ever after throwing only 9 of 22 for 146 yards and two interceptions. He has only two passing touchdowns on the entire season and only once exceeded 200 yards passing. Add in McAllister's departure and the picture does not improve.

Brooks only threw for 189 and 227 yards against the Falcons last year with one touchdown passing and another one rushing in both games.

Running Backs: With McAllister now out, the Saints will rely on Antowain Smith to carry the load with some help from Aaron Stecker. They also just traded to get Jesse Chatman. While the patterns of usage will likely change as the season progresses, the key to what to expect this week is what happened last week when McAllister left the game. The Saints ran Antowain Smith eleven times and Aaron Stecker had only one carry.

Stecker was impressive in the past subbing for McAllister, but the Saints were very pleased with Smith's training camp and will give him the first nod. This is Smith's fourth NFL team and he has never started 16 games in any season nor topped four yards a carry since his rookie year back in 1997.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn has now missed two games due to the sore left hamstring but has already said he will be playing this week. Az-Zahir Hakim subbed for him last week and had five catches for 108 yards while Donte Stallworth followed up his 129 yard effort against the Bills with only having one catch for six yards. The Packers aimed to shut down Stallworth since Horn was out and Stallworth only had the one pass thrown to him. With everyone watching Stallworth, Hakim became the best target last week.

Joe Horn had 101 yards and a score while in Atlanta last year and later had just 76 yards and no score. Stallworth had 62 yards and one score in the final game against the Falcons.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell only managed three catches for 24 yards last week in a game that he should have done more.

Match Against the Defense: This game is less predicated on matching up numbers than it is how well the Saints can rebound from a terrible 1-2 punch last week of losing badly and losing McAllister. Back in their pseudo-home, they have to face the Falcons who will be extra motivated coming off a loss themselves.

Look for Antowain Smith to have moderate success here but it should be too early to rely on him as a fantasy starter and there still is less certainty about how Stecker might also be used.

Brooks will need to throw and the Falcons secondary can be beaten. He should be a lock for throwing at least one score and likely two against a defense that has allowed over 250 passing yards to virtually every opponent. Horn is always the most likely to score and will be moved around if needed to get him open. Ernie Conwell also should have a better game this week against a defense that has allowed three scores to tight ends this season. The Saints losing McAllister could end up forcing them to throw much more this year than originally intended and that could start as early as this week - but it all depends on how well the Saints respond to adversity that only becomes greater every week.