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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 9
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
CHI at NO OAK at KC* NYG at SF BUF, DEN IND at NE
CIN at BAL SD at NYJ SEA at ARI* DAL, STL Updates*

Prediction: Chicago 17, New Orleans 13

The Bears continue to stay in the hunt for the NFC North and their win over the Lions gives them a one game edge with the first tiebreaker. While the running game comes and goes, there is no let up from the defense. The Saints sink even farther into the depths of despair, losing "at home" to the Dolphins in a game that nothing went right. Again. This week the Saints look to rebound while the Bears just want to keep pounding quarterbacks.

Chicago Bears (4-3)
1 7-9 @WAS 10 Nov 13 SFO
2 38-6 DET 11 Nov 20 CAR
3 7-24 CIN 12 Nov 27 @TBB
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 GBP
5 10-20 @CLE 14 Dec 11 @PIT
6 28-3 MIN 15 Dec 18 ATL
7 10-6 BAL 16 Dec 25 @GBP
8 19-13 @DET 17 Jan 1 @MIN
9 Nov 6 @NOR . . .
CHI at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 0 0 160,1
RB Thomas Jones 110,1 10 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 30,1 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 50 0
WR Justin Gage 0 30 0
WR Bobby Wade 0 20 0
PK Robbie Gould 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Chicago comes off their first road win of the season by taking the overtime win in Detroit. Of course it could not happen by an offensive play, it had to be an interception return for a touchdown. The offense is slowly improving in the passing game but this team's fortunes starts and ends with the defense. And more often than not - that's been enough to win games.

Quarterback: Kyle Orton shot past his previous best of 150 yards to turn in a solid 230 yard game against the Lions with one touchdown. He has not thrown an interception in the last two games and gave a hint that he can make downfield throws by hitting Mark Bradley on a 54-yard pass last week. Bradley is gone for the rest of the season now but Justin Gage steps back up and should keep Orton none the worse for the loss of Bradley.

Running Backs: Thomas Jones only gained 72 yards on 22 carries against the Lions but he added an uncharacteristic three catches for 25 yards. He also bruised his ribs in the fourth quarter and had to sit out the rest of the game. He is expected to be fine this week as they will wrap him in ace bandages and coat him with WD40 if it means getting him on the playing field for what should be a great opportunity this week.

Cedric Benson was never used during regulation play last week even when Jones was out, but came in for the one series in overtime and ripped off a nice 25 yard run. He only had three carries in the game but gained 35 yards. There is little chance that the game this week goes into overtime, so assumedly Benson is back to doing crossword puzzles on the bench.

Wide Receivers: The Bears passing game has been picking up, but the rookie Mark Bradley tore an ACL in his knee and will miss the rest of the season. Bradley was coming up well and had a 54-yard reception last week - the best of any Chicago wideout this year. In his place Justin Gage will move up to the #2 wideout spot. Muhsin Muhammad scored his second touchdown of the season when he had four catches for 49 yards against the Lions last week. He hovered around that 50 yards per game mark almost the entire season.

Tight Ends: Going against a solid defense in Detroit last week, Desmond Clark mainly blocked and only had one catch for seven yards. He'll return more to the receiving role this week, perhaps even more so with Mark Bradley gone.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints defense started the year as almost average but as the overall malaise sets in, it has only become worse as the season progresses. Now teams are running all over them and no opponent has failed to get either a 100 yard rusher or at least a rushing score. Look for a nice game by Thomas Jones here who should return to the 100+ club and score at least once, possibly twice.

Orton faces a secondary that can be beaten but the running game should work fine here and not force him to throw much. The Saints statistically have been pretty good against the pass lately but that is only because opponents are running so well against them. The Bears defense should help keep this game in check and with that, return the passing game to barely moderate numbers. Orton should have one passing score here but anything more than that would be out of character. Jones would just run in the scores in almost every case.

New Orleans Saints (2-6)
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 6-21 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 Nov 6 CHI . MON SAT
NOR vs CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 20 0 210,1
RB Aaron Stecker 20 30 0
RB Antowain Smith 40 10 0
TE Zack Hilton 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 70,1 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 40 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 20 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 0 20 0
PK John Carney 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: With the loss to the Dolphins last week, this team is getting very close to a total collapse. The running game has disappeared along with McAllister and Aaron Brooks is getting battered when he is not left alone to make bad decisions. HC Jim Haslett appears to be going through the various stages of contracting rabies and is just about to the frothy mouthy part. The owner is taking swings at cameramen and while this game is at home (such as it is), it goes against the best defense the team has faced yet.

Haslett as called out his team and vows to start benching or cutting players that fail to give 100%. If the Saints lose here, Haslett may consider turning that gun on himself. This is the last stand to be certain and after this week they have their bye. After that - a brutal stretch of the schedule with road games to NE, NYJ, ATL and two home games against TB and CAR. Not a pretty sight.

Quarterback: Aaron Brooks is getting battered lately and while he had two decent games against the Falcons and the Rams, he only managed to complete 14 of 31 passes for 181 yards and no scores against the Dolphins last week. In the three games this year that he went against decent defenses - CAR, BUF and DET - he had no touchdown passes. With the rushing game invisible now, Brooks is the one player that must step up and make a difference.

Running Backs: In the three weeks since McAllister was injured, the Saints rushing attack has gotten worse every game. Against the Dolphins, both Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker combined for only 56 rushing yards and other than Smith's two scores against Atlanta back in week six, this unit is doing little to help the offense move the ball and even less to keep defenses from teeing off on Brooks. Going against the Bears this week will probably only push that declining trend to a fourth week.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn finally played a real game for the first time in six weeks and turned in seven catches for 99 yards against the Dolphins. He claims he is only 80 to 85% right now due to his hamstring strain but that still equates to being better than Donte Stallworth (3-52). Az-Zahir Hakim was a late scratch from the game last week because he sneezed and reaggravated his rib injury (true story). Since we are heading into the cold and flu season, this does not bode well for Hakim. I am expected that all the wideouts play this week and against the Bears, all of them will be needed for the Saints to move the ball. With Horn back in the game, Brooks gets his most trusted option back and that should also help free the others from so much attention by the secondary.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell tore his posterior cruciate ligament and will be out three to six weeks. Zack Hilton will replace him in the interim but the Saints have used the tight ends sparingly this season and with Horn back, even less now.

Match Against the Defense: Let's see, the Saints cannot run very well and they go against a Bears defense that has allowed only one rushing touchdown this year and that is ranked #2 against running backs. Neither Stecker nor Smith are likely to do much this week though Stecker could come up with some receptions for moderate yardage.

Brooks goes against the #4 defense against quarterbacks and he already is getting knocked around as it is. Expecting that the running game will falter this week means Brooks should be throwing the ball at least 30 to 40 times, so he should end up with just over 200 yards and could score once but more than that will be a major success. The Bears have only allowed six passing scores for the year and none in the last three games. No wideout has topped 100 yards against the Bears this year and the Saints will need to spread the ball around anyway. Look for moderate yardage from the wideouts, almost none from the tight end and the score to favor Horn.