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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 8
October 26, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ARI at DAL JAC at STL* WAS at NYG* TB at SF* BUF at NE
CHI at DET* MIA at NO* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CLE at HOU MIN at CAR* KC at SD* IND, NYJ BAL at PIT*
GB at CIN OAK at TEN* PHI at DEN ATL, SEA *Updated

Prediction: Buffalo 14, New England 27

The late game on Sunday pits two long-time AFC East rivals but the Patriots have won 8 of the last 9 meetings including the last three. The Bills have not won in New England since 2000 and are already 0-3 on the road this season. The Patriots may not be as good as last year or even in the last five years, but they are at least Buffalo-good.

The Patriots swept the Bills in 2004, winning 31-17 and 29-6.

Buffalo Bills (3-4)
1 22-7 HOU 10 Nov 13 KCC
2 3-19 @TBB 11 Nov 20 @SDC
3 16-24 ATL 12 Nov 27 CAR
4 7-19 @NOR 13 Dec 4 @MIA
5 20-14 MIA 14 Dec 11 NE
6 27-17 NYJ 15 Dec 17 DEN
7 17-38 @OAK 16 Dec 24 @CIN
8 Oct 30 @NE 17 Jan 1 @NYJ
9 Open Bye . . SAT
BUF at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Kelly Holcomb 0 0 220,1
RB Willis McGahee 70,1 10 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Eric Moulds 0 80,1 0
WR Lee Evans 0 60 0
WR Josh Reed 0 40 0
PK Rian Lindell 0 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bills thought they had turned a corner when Kelly Holcomb led them to two consecutive home wins but it only required a trip to Oakland to remind the league that the Bills are still struggling to reach up to average. The defense from last season is not getting the same turnovers and scores while the offense apparently does not travel well. The Bills are averaging only nine points per game when they leave Buffalo.

Quarterback: Kelly Holcomb may not be the savior that he seemed even a week ago, but in fantasy terms he remains a huge upgrade over J.P. Losman. Holcomb has scored in each of this three starts though he continually hovers around only 170 passing yards per game, regardless of what the game situation dictates.

In two meetings last season, the Bills only had one touchdown and never had more than 247 passing yards. When they played in New England, the Bills only managed 81 yards passing.

Running Backs: Willis McGahee unwisely shot his mouth off last week and said that he was the best running back in the league, challenging the Raiders. Perhaps it was the four straight games with a touchdown or maybe it was just the 143 yard game he had just had over the Jets, but the Raiders were apparently more motivated than in awe. They held McGahee to only 50 yards on 16 carries and that was not even the worst game that McGahee has turned in. That came on the road in Tampa Bay when he only managed 34 yards on 13 carries. This offense revolves around McGahee to be sure, but that only means the defenses will continue to stack the line against him.

Mcgahee only played against the Patriots in week 10 and he only gained 37 yards at New England.

Wide Receivers: Eric Mould's rejuvenation took a hit when he only managed 36 yards on four receptions against the Raiders after having scored in each of the two previous games with Holcomb as the starter. Lee Evans did have a touchdown last week but only caught three passes for 19 yards. Other than the one game against Miami when Evans had 65 yards, Evans hasn't managed more than 27 yards in a game since week one. Josh Reed finally scored this year when he had four catches for 31 yards in Oakland but this receiver crew is limited by the fact that Holcomb only throws for around 170 yards every week. Splitting that out between two or three wideouts does not yield much fantasy value here.

Eric Moulds had a monster game of 126 yards and one score in the first meeting against the Patriots but only managed 46 yards at New England in week 10. Evans had 93 yards in that first game but was held to only one catch for 15 yards as a visitor.

Tight Ends: Mark Campbell is just a standard 10 yards per game tight end. Except for two weeks when he had no yardage.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots rushing defense has not been stellar this year though it has not been bad either so long as Tomlinson is not showing up. Tedy Bruschi may play this week and if he truly is back to form it would be a huge lift for this team since they typically are good at slowing running backs but have already allowed seven rushing scores this year, most of which have been just short plunges. Look for McGahee to be used extensively of course and he should have at least moderate success but the Bills on the road have been horrible this year and a deficit on the scoreboard could end up significantly reducing the carries that McGahee will get.

Holcomb plugs along at 170 yards per game but the Patriots secondary has only once allowed less than 216 yards and in all but one matchup, the opponent threw for at least two scores. The Bills will be forced to the air at least eventually and Holcomb will have more success against this secondary. Look for him to breakout of his 170 yard doldrums though he won't have a huge game here since the offense is not designed to run that way. This should end up as the best start yet for Holcomb and by matchup Moulds gets the better side that should see him score once with at least moderate yardage. Evans has yet to catch a touchdown bomb and while it could happen here, it hasn't happened yet which is the bigger concern.

New England Patriots (3-3)
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 20-28 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
9 Nov 7 IND M THU SAT
NEP vs BUF Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 260,1
RB Corey Dillon 80,1 0 0
RB Patrick Pass 20,1 10 0
TE Ben Watson 0 20 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR David Givens 0 70,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 50 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 20 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots come off their bye week with some much needed rest for the starters and this week is only the third home game of the season. At 3-3, the Patriots are in sole possession of the suddenly punchless AFC East and may be getting back LB Tedy Bruschi this week. That would be a big boost for the team that has seen the interior of the defense go soft. The only reason why the Patriots may not play well this week - the Colts are coming in week nine for what should be one of the better games of the year.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has managed to throw for at least one score in every game this season other than when he rang up 372 yards against the Steelers and allowed Dillon to score twice on rushing attempts. Brady has been solid enough so far this year but he's facing more intense pass rushes and blitzing each week as the rushing game tails off and allows opponents to expect the pass.

The Patriots are using two rookies on the left side of the line and until the rushing game starts to get back on track, Brady is becoming the sole focus of each defense. He's already made 68 straight starts for the Patriots and it's imperative that Brady remains healthy and effective for the Patriots to challenge for yet another championship run.

Brady had two scores in each of the games against the Bills last year and passed for 298 and 233 yards.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon missed the last game with an unspecified leg injury and in his place, Patrick Pass had a very nice game with 10 carries for 64 yards and one score and six passes for 89 yards as well. Amos Zereoue finally had some playing time but only managed to gain 14 yards on seven carries in his first showing as a Patriot.

So far Dillon has five scores on the season but he's only topped 63 rushing yards once this season and his average per carry is only 3.5 with the Atlanta game included - otherwise he's only managed 3.1 yards on average in the first four games. The blocking has not been up to the same level as last season and now lumping some injury on Dillon only makes his value even less.

Pending practice reports and the injury list, I am assuming that Dillon plays this week but will update as needed. He has had two weeks to heal from whatever undisclosed injury he had.

Corey Dillon racked up 151 rushing yards in the game against the Bills last year.

Wide Receivers: Tom Brady has been posting nice yardage totals passing, but he has only managed to find the wideouts for five scores this season. David Givens finally has his first score in the previous game but he varies from 13 to 130 yards per game. Deion Branch opened the season with a touchdown but has none since and he varies from between six and 107 yards per week. Bethel Johnson has one score on the year, but he only has two catches on the season as well.

David Patten scored in each of the games against the Bills last year though no other wideout did. David Givens was playing for Branch in both meetings and had 86 and 66 yards. Patten had 113 yards as a visitor but only managed 43 yards while at home.

Tim Dwight has been the touchdown machine here because only he has two scores so far even though he has yet to catch more than two passes in any game. This passing game has always been diverse by plan, but the scoring is even less reliable from this group.

Tight Ends: After turning in 119 yards and a touchdown in week five, Daniel Graham only has one catch for five yards in the previous game to remind everyone that anything about one catch is not typical or reliable from any Patriot receiver, much less a tight end. Daniel Graham scored in the first game against the Bills last year and Christian Fauria scored in the meeting at New England. Of the four passing scores, two went to tight ends in the matchups last season.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots will rush well against the Bills - everyone does now. Since Takeo Spikes was lost, this unit cannot stop the run and have allowed eight rushing scores this season already. Each opposing running back has gained over 97 yards other than Houston. Assuming that the mysterious injury to Dillon has healed in the last three weeks, this should be a great matchup that will produce good numbers even if the Patriots once again resort to using Patrick Pass.

The Bills secondary has not been giving up much yardage but that is mostly a function of the opponents just running the ball so well. Kerry Collins just ripped this defense up and that was while Lamont Jordan was also having a big game. The Patriots passing scheme is always diverse, but the matchups most favor David Givens this week.