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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 2, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at MIA* DET at MIN* TEN at CLE* PIT at GB* PHI at WAS*
CAR at TB HOU at JAC* Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CIN at BAL SD at NYJ SEA at ARI* DAL, STL Updates*

Prediction: Atlanta 20, Miami 17

The Falcons come off their bye week and are in a three way tie with Carolina and Tampa Bay for the NFC South - all at 5-2 on the season and until this week, none of the three teams have played each other (the Bucs host the Panthers this week). The Dolphins are only 3-4 but remain only one game behind the Patriots for the AFC East lead. Every game is a big one for both teams since they are locked in a battle for their respective divisions but the Falcons host the Packers after this game. The Dolphins have to play the Patriots the following game.

Update: T.J. Duckett was held out of practice on Wednesday but participated on Thursday and looks like he will be getting some playing time after healing up from an ankle sprain.

Atlanta Falcons (5-2)
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 34-31 @NOR 15 Dec 18 @CHI
7 27-14 NYJ 16 Dec 24 @TBB
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 CAR
9 Nov 6 @MIA M THU SAT
ATL at MIA Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 50 0 130
RB Warrick Dunn 100,1 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 30,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 10 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Todd Peterson 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Falcons come off their bye week rested and yet still wondering why they have no passing game. So far that has not really mattered since the Falcons are on pace to gain over 3000 rushing yards this season which would the third highest in NFL history if it lasts. Vick is taking off on maddening scrambles, Warrick Dunn is on a career pace and even T.J. Duckett contributes when healthy. Still - what happens when they have to pass?

Quarterback: Michael Vick has already run for 305 yards and three touchdowns this season but he only has five passing scores in seven games and has not exceeded 116 yards in the last three games. He had three interceptions against the Jets in the last game and rarely has more than a dozen completions in a game. His average game so far - 11 of 21 for 121 yards.

HC Jim Mora expressed surprise that Vick could look so good passing the ball in practice and then struggle to find any receivers in a game. Hey Jim - maybe it has something to do with the defense wanting to maim him when the game is real?

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn has rushed for 732 yards on 125 carries this season - a pace that would end with 1673 rushing yards. He has averaged 5.9 yards per carry and has already turned in four games over 100 rushing yards. The offensive line has been one of the best this season and there's hardly been any stopping Dunn since week two.

T.J. Duckett was scoring every week until the fifth game against the Patriots. He was injured the following game against the Saints and then sat out the week seven matchup against the Jets. He rarely has more than 30 yards or so in a game, but gets those short yardage scores when the goal line gets near.

Wide Receivers: Pretty amazing really. Michael Jenkins is supposed to be the focal point of this crew but he topped out at 80 yards in a game and has averaged only 36 yards a week. He has only scored once. Brian Finneran was the only wideout with any consistency, so they naturally demoted him and he had no catches, then they promoted him back up and he still had no catches. There is no consistency to this group other than they have absolutely no fantasy value. If Schaub plays - there are catches, yards and touchdowns. If Vick is the starter, the wideouts are doing little more than getting some aerobic exercise.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler has fared better than the wideouts, sometimes better than all wideouts combined, but he still only has two scores on the year and usually ends with about four catches and 50 yards in a game.

Match Against the Defense: The Dolphins have injuries in their secondary but it is not likely to matter much here since the Falcons rarely throw and don't do it well when they try anyway. What is most critical is that the Dolphins rush defense has not improved as the season continues and have allowed big games to Tampa Bay and Kansas City prior to the freebie against the Saints. The Falcons are bringing the #1 rushing offense to go against a defense that gave up 183 yards and three scores to Kansas City and 127 yards and one score to Michael Pittman.

Expect that there are no passing scores here but that the Falcons can score at least twice on runs that should favor either Dunn or Duckett. Dunn is playing the best ball of his career and with a healthy Vick coming off a bye week to worry the defense, there's no reason why Dunn shouldn't rack up a nice game here.

Miami Dolphins (3-4)
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 21-6 @NOR 17 Jan 1 @NE
9 Nov 6 ATL . . SAT
MIA vs. ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Gus Frerotte 0 0 200,1
RB Ronnie Brown 80,1 0 0
RB Ricky Williams 20 10 0
TE Randy McMichael 0 30 0
WR Chris Chambers 0 70,1 0
WR Marty Booker 0 30 0
WR Wes Welker 0 30 0
WR David Boston 0 20 0
PK Olindo Mare 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Miami used the same gameplan against the Saints that the Chiefs used against them the previous week. Just run the ball, over and over. HC Nick Saban actually was the one person who was most playing "at home" in this game since he came from LSU and the Saints were unable to stop either Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown. Now the question has to be asked - "do we see a 50/50 split between Brown and Williams from now on?"

Quarterback: Gus Frerotte only threw for 168 yards against the Saints and as long as the rushing game works, the Dolphins are not going to be throwing the ball much. Frerotte has only one score in the last three weeks and has struggled a bit with turnovers. This week against the Atlanta defense will likely force the Dolphins to throw more and that goes against the strength of this offense.

Running Backs: The gameplan last week called for getting both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown 20 carries each. As it ended up, Ronnie Brown had 23 runs for 106 yards and Williams gained 82 yards on 17 carries. The use of the two backs was more related to the game situation and weakness of the Saints defense than a true move to a RBBC situation. Williams ran well but Ronnie Brown was the better runner yet again. Against a far better defense of the Falcons this week, the real ratio of the two runners should become clearer since it is unlikely that Atlanta will be held to only six points like the Saints were.

Take away the one Saints game and Williams only has 11 carries for seven yards in his other two efforts this year.

Wide Receivers: David Boston snagged a 54-yard catch against the Saints but it was his only catch on Sunday and his first since week two - the Dolphins still much prefer Wes Welker as the slot receiver. The lower passing numbers the last three weeks have caused the wideouts to be minimal contributors lately other than Chris Chambers who has scored in each of the last two games. Chambers only had four catches for 25 yards last week and has the only scores by a wideout since week one.

Tight Ends: Randy McMichael started the season out on a tear, scoring in each of the first four games. Since that time he has turned back into a pumpkin, remaining between 20 and 30 yards in each of the last three weeks. McMichael remains a common target in the end zone but teams have learned who the money man is for touchdown passes.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons rush defense has been much worse on the road than at home this season and have allowed three runners to top 100 yards against them. They have also given up six rushing scores this year so the Dolphins will be concentrating on getting Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams plenty of carries if the game situation allows it. The Falcons have been on bye and should be fresh and they did just come off holding Curtis Martin to only 28 yards in week seven, but Miami will have at least moderate success running the ball. Since the rush defense will be better than last week, Ronnie Brown should get most of the action here and Ricky Williams will more likely return to his relief role.

The Falcons pass defense has been the weak link thanks to the corners and Frerotte should be able to throw for a score here as well. But he's not been effective enough to expect any major passing yards here and both teams will be mainly running the ball which yields fewer plays in the game. Expect some moderate yardage and one score - anything else means Frerotte has finally made a turnaround that is not expected.