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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: Indianapolis 31, New England 20

Rarely has Monday Night Football gotten it so right. This is one of the most interesting games of the year and now we get to see if the new-age Colts with their rushing attack can finally take down the Patriots. On paper - no question the Colts enter the game with the tangibles for a solid win here but if any team can mess with the mind of Manning, it's the Patriots and DC Romeo Crennel... wait a minute... he's gone... and Peyton just hands off now... hmmm.....

Indianapolis Colts (7-0)
1 24-7 @BAL 10 Nov 13 HOU
2 10-3 JAC 11 Nov 20 @CIN
3 13-6 CLE 12 Nov 28 PIT
4 31-10 @TEN 13 Dec 4 TEN
5 28-3 @SFO 14 Dec 11 @JAC
6 45-28 STL 15 Dec 18 SDC
7 38-20 @HOU 16 Dec 24 @SEA
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 ARI
9 Nov 7 @NE . MON SAT
IND at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 240,2
RB Edgerrin James 110,2 10 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 20 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 80,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 70,1 0
WR Brandon Stokley 0 40 0
PK Mike Vanderjagt 1 FG 4 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Colts have been the one team that has yet to stumble this season and in most games, they have not even been that tested even though they won a few early games by close scores. This week is either the stamp of validity that this is indeed a new team with all the pieces or a loss will undo much of the confidence that has been building every week. On paper, this looks like a slam dunk for the Colts but this is the biggest nemesis that Indy has to get past. A win or a loss here won't really affect the Colts season but you have to know how badly every player wants a win in New England.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning started the season with an appalling pace - he only had two touchdowns in week one and then none in the next two games. Since then, Manning has reeled off nine scores in the last four games which may be off his pace of 2004, but it is far better than how he began this season. Manning still has never thrown for more than 255 yards this year and is averaging only 222 yards per game.

Running Backs: The offense has turned away from the prolific passing of last year and now Edgerrin James takes center stage in most games. He has never had less than 21 carries nor gained under 114 total yards in any game. James has scored in each of the last five matchups and has eight scores on the year. James is a consistent feature of the offense and the only player who can be relied on having a big game every week.

Wide Receivers: Manning has been throwing more scores and yards in the most recent weeks, but that still has not equated into that much for the wideouts. Marvin Harrison has the only 100 yard game this year (109 yards) and his five scores are more two more than all other wideouts have caught. Reggie Wayne has varied between 19 and 97 yards and only has two touchdowns this year. Brandon Stokley made the slot into a fantasy point producer last year but he has yet to score this year and has not had more than 59 yards in the last six games. Going into New England this week, there is no super-star wideout to worry about by the defense - part of the plan.

Tight Ends: Dallas Clark finally caught a touchdown this year when he had three catches for 51 yards in Houston in week seven, but he's been a relatively invisible part of the offense. With James such a focus rushing, Clark is honing his blocking skills more than anything now.

Match Against the Defense: The Colts are all about the run this season and the Patriots have been all about letting opponents do just that. They have already allowed three 100 yard games in the last four weeks. Look for James to take his 21 carries (though it may approach 30 this week) and turn in a solid game here with at least one score if not two.

Manning goes against his biggest nemesis once again but the Patriots are allowing literally every opponent to throw for two or more scores against them lately other than the Bills. Those scores are going everywhere - to backs, wideouts and tight ends so Indy will get to choose which way to score. Manning should get at least two here and by pattern that will go to Harrison and likely Wayne but they could go anywhere. Even Stokley.

New England Patriots (4-3)
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 21-16 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
NEP vs IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 220,1
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 0 0
TE Ben Watson 0 30 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20,1 0
WR David Givens 0 40 0
WR Deion Branch 0 50 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 30 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: TEDY BRUSCHI!!!

There -just had to get that last one out of my system. The Patriots may only be 4-3 on the season, but they are still all alone in the AFC East. They found enough of that Patriot magic last week to mount a game winning comeback over the visiting Bills and Corey Dillon is either still greatly hobbled or perfectly healthy. There is no game that the Patriots would like to win more than this one and perhaps no game that they have a mental edge in more than this.

Quarterback: Tom Brady remains off his pace of 2004 and has only nine touchdowns in seven games though he has been at or over 300 yards in four games this season. Brady comes off his worst game of the year when he only managed 199 yards and one score against the Bills. No doubt he'll find the new pass rush from the Colts less to his liking this year.

Running Backs: Patrick Pass was the starter last week but left the game with the standard "undisclosed leg injury" . Corey Dillon had not played in the previous two weeks but came in and ended with 72 yards on 18 rushes and scored two very critical touchdowns - both short. While no injury report is reliable from the Patriots, the expectation is that Dillon is back now and Pass will at most resume a secondary role as the fullback if he even plays.

Wide Receivers: Both Deion Branch (3-92) and David Givens (7-58) turned in decent efforts last week in an almost unheard of situation where the two primary wideouts are actually the two primary wideouts in the same game. Since Patriot wideouts never score in two successive games, this could be a problem for Branch this week. The Patriots finally got a catch out of Andre Davis last week and he just missed another long pass which means now the Patriots will be using Branch, Givens, Davis, Tim Dwight, Troy Brown and Bethel Johnson as receivers. Might as well assign them numbers and roll a dice to guess which one has the best game.

Tight Ends: Brady has made almost no use of the tight ends in the last three games which likely just means one of them will go off this week. Either that or they have no catches - it's the Patriot way.

Match Against the Defense: This is where the game will become fascinating. Dillon, provided he is healthy and he appears to be, should manage some moderate yardage here and has a chance at one score but the Colts have only allowed two rushing scores this entire season and they went to the Rams and Texans in games the Colts could not have been worrying about. There has been no 100 yard rusher against the Colts this season either. Expect a moderate game from Dillon with a chance at one score if they end up near the goal line.

Tom Brady does not face the same sieve for a secondary that the Colts sported the last few years. They've only allowed five passing touchdowns for the year and never more than one per opponent. More incredible is that no opponent has thrown for over 220 yards against the Colts. Three of the scores went to tight ends and only two went to wideouts. The Patriots passing scheme is always impossible to predict by design and the Colts will be coming hard on the pass rush to disrupt it anyway. There is a good chance that Brady only finds tight ends open for a score and they'll be closest to him in patterns anyway.