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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 16, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DET at DAL NO at NE Sun 4 PM PIT at BAL* MIN at GB*
IND at CIN OAK at WAS SEA at SF* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: New Orleans 20, New England 24

The Saints come off their bye week on the heels of a five game losing streak which includes losing all three games in their new "home". The Patriots battled back to beat the Dolphins last week and managed to lose even more defensive players in the process with CB Randall Gay now on injured reserve. This is not a secondary that needs any more challenges. The Saints opened the season with a road win and while they managed to take down the Bills in week three, it's been a litany of injuries, penalties and turnovers that have killed the Saints who needed no more adversity as it was. Both of these teams are struggling and teetering, but the Patriots at home shouldn't have too tough of a time staying ahead of the Saints.

Update: Donte Stallworth has not practiced on Wednesday or Thursday due to a shoulder sprain and is listed as questionable on the injury report. He has not been ruled out for the game on Sunday but I am downgrading his projections.

New Orleans Saints (2-7)
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 17-20 CHI . MON SAT
NOR at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 20 0 310, 2
RB Aaron Stecker 20 20 0
RB Antowain Smith 60 10 0
TE Zack Hilton 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 110,1 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 50 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 0 90,1 0
PK John Carney 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Saints thought the season was hard enough but their upcoming schedule is nothing short of murderous. Road games at NE, NYJ and ATL and homestands against CAR and TB. Yeah, that'll be a cake walk.

Quarterback: Aaron Brooks' play has been as uneven as the rest of the Saints team this year with the exception that he has thrown at least one interception in all but one game. He currently has seven passing scores against 12 interceptions. He's been as good as 375 yards and as bad as 146 yards. There's just no telling what you get when you play the Saints this season other than it won't likely be enough for them to win the game.

Running Backs: Antowain Smith comes off his best game of the year when he ran for 110 yards on 17 carries against the Bears in week nine. He's only scored in one game this year and is no factor in the passing scheme. The Saints signed Anthony Thomas during the bye week and so far he's been thrown a playbook and told "learn it". Too early to tell if Thomas figures into the running scheme but the Saints looked at him earlier this year before the Cowboys grabbed him.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn missed four games this season with a hamstring injury but has been back for the two latest match-ups. He only had 27 yards against the tough Chicago secondary but recorded seven catches for 99 yards against the Dolphins. Donte Stallworth has scored in three of the last four games though with only moderate yardage in each. Back in week six against the Falcons, Devery Henderson had a touchdown and 53 yards but that was only a freak high game with Horn out and the assignments changes. The Saints had three great efforts from Az-Zahir Hakim until he too was injured. This unit is limited by the inconsistent play of Brooks and that is compounded by the injuries - most notably to Horn.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell remains out and Zack Hilton takes the start again but he only had 13 yards on two catches in the previous game.

Match Against the Defense: There's never been a better time to play the Patriots and is history serves, this could end up as a shootout depending on which version of the Saints show up. Most likely this game will shift into passing mode by both teams sooner than later so expect that Smith only has a moderate rushing game with no score.

The Patriots secondary has been so decimated by injuries that they are now purchasing Fathead wall figures and using them on the defense. This should be the best game by Brooks all season. This match-up has provided just that for almost every quarterback to face the Patriots. Look for Brooks to top 300 yards passing with at least two scores - everyone does and three teams already had three passing scores against the Pats. This is the week that Horn and Stallworth should both shine in the same game and post some nice fantasy numbers.

New England Patriots (5-4)
1 30-20 OAK 11 23-16 @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
9 21-40 IND M THU SAT
NEP vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 250,2
RB Corey Dillon 50 0 0
RB Heath Evans 50,1 10 0
TE Ben Watson 0 20 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR Deion Branch 0 80,1 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 50,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 60 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots managed to remain above .500 and still control the AFC East with their comeback win over the Dolphins last week. The defense - terrible. The running game - iffy at best. The passing game - with Brady all things are still possible. This is a home game that would have produced an easy win any time in the last four years but in 2005 - it all depends on how long it takes the opposing quarterback to realize that those are not cornerbacks, they're Fathead figures propped up with sticks!

Quarterback: Tom Brady represents the only consistently good aspect of the Patriots and their only tie to the dominant teams of the last few years. Brady has thrown for more yardage in each game as the rest of the team disintegrates around him and just last week in Miami, posted 275 yards and two scores. He had 265 yards and three scores against the Colts as well. With the defense unable to hold opponents at bay, Brady has the look of a shoot-out quarterback for the rest of the year.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon was able to suit up and play as promised by HC Belichick and that lasted exactly one play before Dillon remained on the bench. Welcome to the Patriot way! Heath Evans is the latest substitute running back and he managed to gain 84 yards on only 17 carries in Miami. I am going to assume that Dillon can play this week but as everyone should know that means nothing really. Dillon was able to play against the Colts and showed no signs of worsening his "leg injury" but was yanked after only one play last week. I am projecting for a mixture of Dillon and Evans but take your chances if you want to start either on your fantasy team. It's not so much that you cannot know, it is that you are not supposed to know.

Wide Receivers: David Givens was held out last week because of a knee injury and the Patriots opened with a new formation using Deion Branch, Bethel Johnson and Troy Brown. Branch has been productive for five straight games, scoring twice and remaining about 80 yards in all but one match-up. Tim Dwight was also added to the mix last week and had 70 yards on only three catches thanks to snagging one bomb. I assume that Givens sits out this week as well but no credible information will say if he does or not.

Tight Ends: The star of the last game was Ben Watson who had three catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns. He had scored only once before this season and has never had more than those 37 yards in any other game. Daniel Graham had the touchdown in week nine but had no throws in week ten.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints have been weaker against the run this year but that reflects their trailing in most games and the fact that they turn the ball over frequently. Look for Dillon/Evans to run for solid yardage and score at least once via the run as has every other opponent this year except for the Vikings who still rushed for over 100 yards.

Brady goes against a secondary that has been statistically very good though mostly against very bad quarterbacks. The only two quarterbacks that would rival Brady were Culpepper and Favre and both threw for three touchdowns and well over 200 yards. Look for at least two scores from Brady here that will favor one of the five wideouts he will use.