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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: Miami 14, New Orleans 24

Two struggling franchises meet up this week but while the Dolphins are battling the learning curve of the new offense and new players, the Saints are fighting the demons of fate this season. The Saints get their best shot at a win this week since their schedule turns into a brutal stretch for the next month.

Update: Ernie Conwell has missed practice with a knee sprain and will likely miss this game. He will be replaced by Zack Hilton. Marty Booker is questionable with an ankle sprain but has practiced and will play this week. While all three wideouts for the Saints are listed as questionable, all three have practiced this week. There is a chance that Horn may play though it could be a gametime decision so I am not projecting for him. If you need him badly to play, make sure he is active for the game.

Miami Dolphins (2-4)
1 34-10 DEN 10 Nov 13 NE
2 7-17 @NYJ 11 Nov 20 @CLE
3 27-24 CAR 12 Nov 27 @OAK
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 BUF
5 14-20 @BUF 14 Dec 11 @SDC
6 13-27 @TBB 15 Dec 18 NYJ
7 20-30 KCC 16 Dec 24 TEN
8 Oct 30 @NOR 17 Jan 1 @NE
9 Nov 6 ATL . . SAT
MIA at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Gus Frerotte 0 0 200,1
RB Ronnie Brown 90,1 10 0
RB Ricky Williams 10 10 0
TE Randy McMichael 0 30,1 0
WR Chris Chambers 0 60 0
WR Marty Booker 0 40 0
WR Wes Welker 0 40 0
PK Olindo Mare 0 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Dolphins should have had an extra advantage last week when the hurricane forced the game to play on Friday and the Chiefs literally were coming off the plane straight to the stadium on a short week. Didn't work out that way with the Chiefs resorting to a basic but deadly game plan of running the ball against the overmatched Dolphin defense. The Ricky Williams hype is about to disappear completely now, along with any hopes of the playoffs for the Dolphins.

Quarterback: Gus Frerotte comes off his worst game as a starter when he only managed to complete 11 of 29 passes for 125 yards and one interception against the visiting Chiefs last Friday. That marks the second straight game that he was unable to score and last week he was replaced by Sage Rosenfels who only threw one pass - a 77 yard strike to Chris Chambers for a touchdown. The Chiefs were able to remove the wideouts from the game plan other than the one pass to Chambers and the running game by Kansas City controlled the game.

Frerotte hits an easier part of his schedule now, but he's only been getting worse for the last two weeks.

Running Backs: While the Dolphins lost last Friday, at least the game offered one positive - a clearer picture of the backfield that had been muddled by the addition of Ricky Williams. Ronnie Brown only had eight carries in the game but gained 95 yards thanks to a 65 yard touchdown scamper that showed both power and speed. Ricky Williams had six carries - almost as many as Brown - and yet ended with a total of a negative yard lost. Williams was in for two series and shared with Brown in a third one, but he only turned in two runs for positive yardage and his four yard run was his best. Brown never had a play for negative yardage.

Wide Receivers: Chris Chambers had a total of 88 yards and one score last week but that was only thanks to a 77 yard touchdown reception when defenders missed the initial tackle. Chambers only had one other catch in the game and the game marked only the second time this season that he had exceeded 60 yards in a game. Marty Booker once again disappeared last week and he has not managed more than three catches in any of the last six games despite being the starting split end. Booker did suffer a sprained ankle during the game but x-rays were negative. I am assuming he can play this week.

The only other wideout of note here is Wes Welker who has yet to score this season and only twice has topped 50 yards in a game.

Tight Ends: After scoring in each of the first four games, Randy McMichael has only six catches for 49 yards total in the last two games with no touchdowns. Something about scoring every week has finally been taken to heart by the defensive coordinators and McMichael is the number one focus of the defense when the ball gets inside the ten yard line.

Match Against the Defense: Ronnie Brown has been showing flashes of why he was the first back drafted this year but most of that has come on a long run or two. The Saints have allowed all but one team to run in a score or two and Brown has a nice chance at some decent yardage and a score this week. He's getting into the groove while the Saints are struggling more against the run than pass.

The Saints have given up a few big games to quarterbacks, but Frerotte has been really off the mark lately. Look for a standard outing by Frerotte of around 200 yards with a chance for one score that actually favors McMichael. The Saints have been allowing tight ends to do well against them and yet wideouts have not fared well. This game should see nice running by Brown with moderate passing and once they near the endzone, McMichael should hop back onto the scoring track after two weeks of no scores.

New Orleans Saints (2-5)
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 31-34 ATL 15 Dec 18 CAR
7 17-20 @STL 16 Dec 24 DET
8 Oct 30 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 Nov 6 CHI . MON SAT
NOR vs MIA Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 30 0 190,2
RB Antowain Smith 50,1 10 0
RB Aaron Stecker 50 20,1 0
TE Zack Hilton 0 10 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 80,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 20 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 0 40 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: If it weren't for bad luck, they'd have none at all. Undeniably snake-bitten this year, the Saints come off yet another painful loss due in part to another bad call by referees that came after all time outs were used and that could not be challenged. By this point, even HC Jim Haslett is just shrugging his shoulders and moving on to the next game. To the Saints credit, with every reason to give up they just keep fighting.

Quarterback: These last two weeks - both without Joe Horn or McAllister - Aaron Brooks has turned in nice games of around 240 yards and two scores in each. After only throwing for two touchdowns in the first five games, Brooks has four scores in the previous two games. He's adding almost exactly 30 rushing yards every week and now gets to experience his first two consecutive home games this season.

Running Backs: Both Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker are almost evenly dividing the running duties since McAllister has been out though only Smith has scored this season. Stecker had 12 carries for 33 yards against the Rams but added three catches for 32 yards. Smith had 14 runs for 56 yards in that game. Neither runner is distinguishing himself from the other, so the ratio should continue with no reason to change.

Wide Receivers: Since Joe Horn has not played since week three, Az-Zahir Hakim has made the most of his opportunity replacing Horn by gaining 393 yards in the last three weeks with his first touchdown of the season against the Rams last Sunday. Donte Stallworth has scored in each of the last two games though his yardage has been about half what Hakim has turned in. Horn has been out with a hamstring injury that has been slow to heal and I will assume he remains out until word from practices says otherwise. Updates as warranted.

Tight Ends: No catches last week, no fantasy relevance.

Match Against the Defense: The Miami rushing defense has not improved as the season progresses and each of the last three opponents have scored at least one rushing scores against them - the Chiefs had three. The split duties means that neither Stecker or Smith will turn in big yardage here but both should provide reasonable numbers in their time-share with a good chance of a rushing score that would favor Smith. The Dolphins just lost SS Tebucky Jones due to a pectoral injury and DE Jason Taylor has been hobbled by a foot injury which should help both the running and passing game.

The Dolphins secondary has been very stout this season, allowing little over one passing score a game and keeping most teams under 200 yards passing. Brooks at home needs a good game and he has gotten used to his receivers without Horn being there. The matchups strongly favor Stallworth to score and turn in the biggest game here and there is a good chance that Brooks has a second touchdown as well. The Saints do not use their tight ends much and Hakim gets a tougher matchup against CB Reggie Howard, so Stecker has a shot at scoring on a pass as have two other running backs when facing the Dolphins this season.