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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: New England 20, Denver 24

The Patriots rise to 3-2 with their win over the Falcons that was meant to serve up a big old glass of "shut-up juice" to the rest of the league thinking they are done for the year. The Broncos come in with a four game winning streak and will give the Patriots yet another test to pass. This should be a great game that either has the Broncos taking the win or the Patriots once again conjuring up some magic to make it happen.

New England Patriots (3-2)
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 31-28 @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 DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 270,2
RB Corey Dillon 60 10 0
RB Patrick Pass 10 30 0
TE Ben Watson 0 10 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR David Givens 0 80,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 30 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 40,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The home loss to the Chargers was bad but the win in Atlanta made things better for now. This is the final game before the bye week for the Patriots who may be only 3-2 but they still own the AFC East lead by themselves. A win here says little has changed but a loss opens a door yet again.

Quarterback: It is undeniable that Tom Brady can make something out of nothing and make things happen in ways that confound defensive coordinators. He comes off a 350 yard, three touchdown game against Atlanta - easily his best of 2005 so far. He still throws exactly one interception every week but he simply cannot ever be counted out.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon finally had over 100 yards rushing this season when he totaled 106 on 23 carries against the Falcons but he suffered the "undisclosed leg injury" which only means something between the toes and groin has been injured in some way between a scratch and the need for immediate amputation. Pending information that the Patriots will skirt the NFL rules trying not to divulge, I am assuming that Dillon plays this week but will be slightly limited. Updates as warranted though unlikely reliable until after kickoff.

Wide Receivers: Deion Branch comes off his best game of the year when had 107 yards on eight catches which followed his previous game of one catch for six yards. Such is the nature of a Patriot wideout. Troy Brown started the season well but has declined to only one catch for two yards last week, suggesting he may have 100 yards on Sunday. David Givens has been the most consistent player with three straight games of 56+ yards but even he just had two catches for 14 yards. Bethel Johnson scored last week on his only catch.

The mix-n-match nature of the wideouts is largely by design and the only consistency for years with this group is that any player with a touchdown one week has almost no chance of scoring the next. Hence, scratch Bethel Johnson from your plans. Or is that what they want us to think...

Tight Ends: The tight ends have actually been growing in importance to the passing attack and last week saw both Ben Watson (1-33) and Daniel Graham (5-119) score touchdowns. They had only scored once previously to this and Graham's monster game came one week after he had no catches against the Chargers.

Match Against the Defense: Even if Dillon is completely healthy, which he may or may not be, he would be hard pressed to rack up much yardage against a very tough Denver defense that has held most opponents to little yardage. Expect a moderate game here with a touchdown unlikely.

Where the Patriots will need to compete is with the pass and the Broncos secondary just gave up an uncharacteristic 322 yards to Brunell though most teams remain at less than 240 and only one score. Figure Brady for two scores here that could literally go to any player including the ball boy if he suits up (actually him in particular). CB Champ Bailey matches against Deion Branch who just had a big game and should not be due again for a week or two.

Denver Broncos (4-1)
1 10-34 @MIA 10 Nov 13 @OAK
2 20-17 SDC 11 Nov 20 NYJ
3 30-10 KCC 12 Nov 24 @DAL
4 20-7 @JAC 13 Dec 4 @KCC
5 21-19 WAS 14 Dec 11 BAL
6 Oct 16 NE 15 Dec 17 @BUF
7 Oct 23 @NYG 16 Dec 24 OAK
8 Oct 30 PHI 17 Dec 31 @SDC
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DEN vs NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 0 0 220,2
RB Mike Anderson 50,1 20 0
RB Tatum Bell 70 20 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 10 0
WR Rod Smith 0 80,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 40 0
WR Charlie Adams 0 30,1 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: Denver prompted some chuckles when they dropped their opener to the Miami Dolphins but no one is laughing now. The Broncos have not only defeated their next four opponents, they've done it against quality foes of SD, KC, JAX and WAS including a road win in Jacksonville. Denver squeaked past the Redskins last week but only because they allowed Washington to get back into the game with two fourth quarter scores. This team is legit and this is one game they will want to win the most.

Quarterback: Funny thing about having a very good defense and a great running game - it plays hell on the quarterback production. Jake Plummer has only thrown five touchdowns this season and hasn't topped 152 passing yards since week two but the Broncos are winning. Just as important - he hasn't had a turnover in those three games either.

Running Backs: Just when Mike Anderson has his best game of 23 carries for 115 yards in week four, he becomes no longer an automatic fantasy start. In week five, he only gained 34 yards on 11 carries and what's worse, Tatum Bell scooted 12 times for 127 yards and two scores against the previously stout Washington defense. The only consolation in this is that you can completely forget about Ron Dayne now. Look for more of the two-headed monster this week.

Wide Receivers: Ashley Lelie finally caught a pass for a touchdown but it was the only catch he had in the entire game last week. That makes the third straight week of only one reception per game. Rod Smith only has six catches for 55 yards in the last two games combined. Until this offense has to pass, it won't and the wideouts will continue to suffer in sub-mediocrity.

Tight Ends: Back to only one catch per game, this group leaves even Shannon Sharpe speechless.

Match Against the Defense: This game will proceed largely in relation to game situation. The running game should have some success here and could turn in another big game as have other teams like San Diego and even Atlanta who had 113 yards last week. Since the volume of carries depends on the scoreboard, the safest assumption here is a split between Anderson and Bell with Bell the most likely to pop a long one and get good yards.

Most likely there is some good news here though. The Patriots will not go quietly into that bad night and will make Denver work at winning which means Plummer will have to throw more and he should be successful against a team that has allowed at least two scores in each of their last three games. Look for Rod Smith to score again this week and lead the pack that so far has been stymied at only one catch each per week. That cannot last in this game, the Patriots will still post the points to make the Broncos unable to just run the ball and end the game.