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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
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
GB at CIN OAK at TEN* PHI at DEN ATL, SEA *Updated

Prediction: Jacksonville 31, St. Louis 20

The Jaguars come off a bye week still two games behind the Colts in the AFC South but with a great schedule and shot at a wildcard this season. The Rams managed to beat the Saints last week but somehow Martin, Curtis and McDonald won't likely be enough this week against one of the better defenses in the NFL.

Update: Now the three amigos - Marc Bulger, Isaac Bruce and even Torry Holt are expected to miss the game this week. Holt is now listed as doubtful and has not practiced due to his knee injury.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-2)
1 26-14 SEA 10 Nov 13 BAL
2 3-10 @IND 11 Nov 20 @TEN
3 26-20 @NYJ 12 Nov 27 @ARI
4 7-20 DEN 13 Dec 4 @CLE
5 23-20 CIN 14 Dec 11 IND
6 23-17 @PIT 15 Dec 18 SFO
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 @HOU
8 Oct 30 @STL 17 Jan 1 TEN
9 Nov 6 HOU . . SAT
JAX at STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Byron Leftwich 0 0 260,2
RB Fred Taylor 90,1 10 0
RB Alvin Pearman 20 20 0
TE Kyle Brady 0 10 0
WR Jimmy Smith 0 110,1 0
WR Reggie Williams 0 60,1 0
WR Ernest Wilford 0 20 0
WR Matt Jones 0 20 0
PK Josh Scobee 1 FG 4 XP -
Pregame Notes: Jacksonville has won their last two games by taking down the Bengals and Steelers and by doing so they have served notice that they will be contenders this season. The defense has played very well while the offense - particularly passing - has lagged. There are reasons to believe that the offense will be thoroughly enjoying a great schedule for the second half of the season after having been through a grinder for over the last month.

Quarterback: Byron Leftwich has been just good enough to keep the Jaguars in contention, but he's not taken the step up that was expected this season that included a new offensive coordinator (Carl Smith from USC) who was to install a vertical passing game intended to get Leftwich more yards and big plays. It just has not happened.

Leftwich has thrown for at least one score in all but one game this year but he has only topped 200 passing yards in two of six games this season. The remaining part of the season will define Leftwich who started out with 252 yards and two scores against Seattle, but then hit a tour of the best defenses of the AFC including IND, NYJ, DEN, CIN and PIT.

His schedule coming up - STL, HOU, BAL, TEN and ARZ is far kinder other than the Ravens matchup and this will either be his time to show he is taking the much needed step up or that he will remain what he currently is - a good but decidedly average quarterback who has not met expectations.

Running Backs: Fred Taylor sat out the last game and in his place, Greg Jones was the surprise primary ball carrier for the first half when he totaled almost all of his 18 carries for 77 yards and one score against the Steelers. Alvin Pearman also had 15 runs for 22 yards and added five catches for 35 yards to finish out the game. There is no stated movement toward using Jones as the primary whenever Taylor is out, but it is an obvious option during a game.

Taylor had 132 yards in his last game which was week five against the Bengals but he is effectively no different than last year. He has only one touchdown on the year and normally only has about 80 yards in a game. Since he has had two weeks to heal from his sprained ankle and I am assuming he will play. Updates if warranted.

Wide Receivers: This crew has felt the effects of Leftwich not playing up to expectations and the tough schedule that opened the season. Jimmy Smith had a hot start but only managed six catches for 75 yards total in the last two games. Matt Jones recorded the first touchdown of his career in week six against the Steelers but he has never had more than 37 yards in any game. Reggie Williams has provided only average numbers as the #2 in this offense has has yet to score on the season or gain more than 54 yards in a game. To Williams' credit, he is being targeted 7 or 8 times each week, he is just not turning those throws into much so far. Ernest Willford is second only to Jimmy Smith for receiving touchdowns but he rarely has more than one throw each week just like last season.

This group needs to make use of the lighter schedule coming up for the next month, but so far only Jimmy Smith has proven up to the task.

Tight Ends: No real fantasy relevance here and only one score on the season for George Wrighster.

Match Against the Defense: Fred Taylor only has one score on the season but there's a nice chance he could get his second in this game. The Rams have allowed multiple big games to runners and have been giving up over four yards per carry to opponents lately - Taylor should see about 25 carries here if he is healthy.

This game also pits Leftwich against the St. Louis secondary, the unit that has allowed at least two scores to every opposing quarterback this season other than Warner who still had 327 yards. This is easily the softest matchup that Leftwich will have faced this year and only the success of the rushing game will prevent him from turning in his best game of the year here. Expect two scores and well over 200 yards. Jimmy Smith should be a lock for a big game here and even Reggie Williams could finally see his first score of the year against this secondary. Considering that Bruce and Bulger will be out should mean the Jaguars defense controls this game and allow Leftwich some luxury as he moves down the field.

I like the chance for a defensive score in this game as well. Martin struggled against the Saints, wait until he sees what the Jaguars are like.

St. Louis Rams (3-4)
1 25-28 @SFO 10 Nov 13 @SEA
2 17-12 @ARI 11 Nov 20 ARI
3 31-27 TEN 12 Nov 27 @HOU
4 24-44 @NYG 13 Dec 4 WAS
5 31-37 SEA 14 Dec 11 @MIN
6 28-45 @IND 15 Dec 18 PHI
7 28-17 NOR 16 Dec 24 SFO
8 Oct 30 JAC 17 Jan 1 @DAL
9 Open Bye . MON SAT
STL vs JAX Rush Catch Pass
QB Jamie Martin 0 0 200,1
RB Steven Jackson 80,1 10 0
RB Marshall Faulk 10 30 0
TE B. Manumaleuna 0 10 0
WR Dane Looker 0 30,1 0
WR Torry Holt 0 60,1 0
WR Kevin Curtis 0 60 0
WR Shaun McDonald 0 30 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Rams took a much needed win from the Saints last week thanks in no small part to a long interception return for a score and the fact the Saints burned up all their timeouts and could not challenge the call at the end of the game. They played without Bulger, Bruce and Holt so any win was gladly accepted. Holt should be back this week but Bulger is expected to miss one more week. Martin showed last week why he was a 36-year old quarterback with only four career starts.

Quarterback: In fairness, Jamie Martin had to take his first start of the season when Isaac Bruce was out and Torry Holt became a gametime inactive. Relying on Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald to take two leaps up the depth chart with a mediocre back-up quarterback had predictable results. Martin finished with 198 passing yards with no scores though he did not turn the ball over. Martin is just a caretaker while Bulger mends and he'll likely take a further decrease this week against a stronger Jaguar defense.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson comes off his best game of the year when the Rams finally gave him 20 carries in a game and he responded with 97 yards and two touchdowns. That makes four straight games with a score for Jackson and five of the last six. Marshall Faulk continues to provide relief but his role has been more pass catching than rushing. Against the Saints he only had two runs for nine yards but caught five passes for 28 yards. He had four carries and four catches the previous week.

Wide Receivers: Torry Holt went from being probable during last week, to a Saturday questionable and then was made inactive on Sunday. It was the first game that Holt had missed since he had been in the NFL, breaking a 102 game streak. Kevin Curtis continues to shine with four catches for 90 yards against the Saints and he even ran in one touchdown. That is very rare in the NFL the last few years. Curtis has taken over for Isaac Bruce for the last four games and scored three times while never falling below 63 yards.

Dane Looker (3-22) and Shaun McDonald filled in but McDonald had no catches in the game.

Holt was held out due to a knee sprain that did not respond to treatment but I am projecting for him this week to play with minor limitation. Bruce has missed four games with a toe injury and since has not practiced and there has been little word regarding his health, I am assuming he is out again. Updates as warranted.

Tight Ends: While it would be reasonable to assume the tight ends would become more involved with all the injuries to the wideouts, that would just be an example of "flawed logic".

Match Against the Defense: Steven Jackson has been a scoring machine lately and while he should turn in respectable yardage here, the Jaguars have only allowed two rushing scores this year and both went to non-traditional players (Ran Carthon and Jerald Sowell). Look for moderate to good yardage but even one score will be a success against this rushing defense.

Martin goes against a secondary that has averaged only about one passing score per game and no quarterback has topped 250 yards. He should manage the one score here but with the Jaguars secondary holding all wideouts to low numbers, there will be no receiver with a big game. Every #1 wideout to face the Jaguars has only had 60 yards or less and the only players that topped that were just a couple of slot receivers that brought down one long pass to get up to about 80 yards. The better defense of the Jaguars will control this game and they are rested after preparing for two weeks for this game.