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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: Tampa Bay 14, Atlanta 20

Both of these teams trail the Panthers by one game in the NFC South and only Tampa Bay has played Carolina this year - with a loss. There's still this match-up back in Tampa Bay in week 16 and more games against the Panthers, but the loser of this match-up takes a backseat in the division with some tougher games to come. These teams match-up well and this should be a closer game than it ever was last year.

The Falcons swept the Bucs 12-7 in Tampa Bay and 24-14 in Atlanta last year.

Update: Michael Jenkins has returned to practice and is expected to play at his normal, minimal level. I have added him back into the projections.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-3)
1 24-13 @MIN 10 36-35 WAS
2 19-3 BUF 11 Nov 20 @ATL
3 17-16 @GBP 12 Nov 27 CHI
4 17-13 DET 13 Dec 4 @NOR
5 12-14 @NYJ 14 Dec 11 @CAR
6 27-13 MIA 15 Dec 17 @NE
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 ATL
8 10-15 @SFO 17 Jan 1 NOR
9 14-34 CAR . . SAT
TBB at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 250,2
RB Cadillac Williams 30 10 0
RB Mike Alstott 20 10 0
TE Alex Smith 0 20 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 100,1 0
WR Edell Shepherd 0 60 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 50,1 0
PK Matt Bryant 0 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers had a comeback last week to barely nip the Redskins when Gruden opted for a two point conversion instead of an extra point. There still is no sign of the rushing game that opened the season and the team is even rolling out Mike Alstott now as a runner. The passing game has returned just in time to see the defense unable to stop the run. The Bucs remain a team in a tenuous transition.

Quarterback: Chris Simms comes off the best effort by a Tampa Bay quarterback this season when he threw for 279 yards and three scores against the normally tough Washington defense. It was his first start without a turnover and HC Jon Gruden glowed after the game about the progress that Simms has made. Simms has never thrown for less than 250 yards in a game he started and always throws at least one score.

The Buccaneers threw for 174 yards and two scores in Atlanta last year.

Running Backs: Carnell Williams continues to run like either he is not completely healthy or someone else actually wore his uniform for the first three weeks of the season (that would be someone much better at rushing). Williams only has run for 20 to 30 yards in each of the three games since he returned. The Bucs opted to send in Mike Alstott last week and he had two touchdowns on nine carries for 21 yards against the Skins. He also had one run the previous week that went for a touchdown as well. Welcome to the short yardage, goal line committee plan that will see Alstott get more action this week and likely become the touchdown hawk like Bettis was last year in Pittsburgh.

Wide Receivers: Michael Clayton was made inactive for the game because his knee bruise was bothering him. In his place Ike Hilliard took the start and had his first touchdown of the year but only has 37 yards on three catches. Edell Shepherd turned in three catches for 87 yards and one score, basically doing more than any non-Galloway receiver had done this season. Since the first read for any Bucs quarterback has to be Joey Galloway, he ended with seven catches for 131 yards - all this against one of the better secondaries in the league. If Simms can continue to make this sort of use of the wideouts, the Buccaneers can win games despite having little rushing ability. I am assuming that Clayton remains out this week until practice reports indicate otherwise.

Joey Galloway only had one catch for four yards against the Falcons last year in Atlanta while Michael Clayton had 90 yards and one score. Galloway had 48 yards back in the second game back in Tampa Bay and Clayton still had 86 yards and another touchdown.

Tight Ends: Tampa Bay comes off the best passing game of the year and for the first time - the tight ends had no catches. There was only one throw that went to Anthony Becht and none for Alex Smith. Not a good sign for the tight ends here.

Ken Dilger had 51 yards and one score in Atlanta last year.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons at home have been allowing decent rushing yardage in the last few games and the last three teams have scored at least once on the ground but the Bucs rushing attack has been feeble at best and now appears likely to be split up even more with Alstott in the picture. Expect minimal yardage here and if there is any rushing score it would go to Alstott.

The passing game is where Simms will have to compete and the Falcons secondary has been giving up huge games to opponents this season - four of the last five had over 250 yards gained by the visitors and all of them scored other than the Jets. Look for Simms to continue to work on that "progress" he showed last week and to have some success here. The matchups strongly favor the flanker that could be Clayton or Hilliard depending on who is healthy. The same went for last week though and Galloway still had the biggest game and Hilliard did little other than score once.

Atlanta Falcons (6-3)
1 14-10 PHI 10 25-33 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 17-10 @MIA M THU SAT
ATL vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 80,1 0 170
RB Warrick Dunn 70 20 0
RB T.J. Duckett 30,1 10 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 40 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 20 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Todd Peterson 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons come off a somewhat troubling loss to the visiting Packers and that makes two of the three losses this year at home. Atlanta could have been overlooking the 1-7 Packers and forward to this game. They fell behind early and discovered that a grind it out running game is not that great when trailing by 14 points in the first quarter. Vick ended with decent passing numbers (relative to him only) but most came late in the game and wasn't enough.

Quarterback: Michael Vick now remarkably has two consecutive games over 200 yards passing and he threw two scores last week against the soft Packers secondary while adding a rushing score. But he was unable to produce game winning drives when the team needed it most and his 20 of 30 for 209 yards effort masks how bad some of those 10 incompletions actually were. Vick has been great running the ball this year and his worst QB rating games have been wins, but when the team must throw - Vick still has not shown the sort of progress to expect him to lead the team on lengthy drives via the pass when it matters the most.

Vick had 147 passing yards with one score and 73 rushing yards against the visiting Buccaneers last year.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn only gained 76 yards on 17 carries last week while T.J. Duckett had his first start since week six. Duckett managed 31 yards on only four carries and even added 27 yards on two catches. When Vick was faced with a need to pass, he made use of Duckett and Dunn - in particular Warrick who had a season high six catches for 52 yards and one score. That's almost as much as he had receiving in all previous games combined. With Duckett back in the line-up and running well and now both backs involved in the passing game for at least the one week, the Falcons offense can step up the effectiveness of the tailbacks regardless of the game situation - if Vick will use them again.

Dunn ran for 76 yards and Duckett scored two touchdowns in the previous meeting last year in Atlanta.

Wide Receivers: The Falcons were getting clobbered last week but the only wideout that managed to do much was Brian Finneran who had 50 yards on four catches. Michael Jenkins remains out and Roddy White took his place with only two catches for 22 yards but he did score once. Even in the best passing games by Vick, the wideouts never have more than one score and only Finneran manages to turn in any significant yardage - and he has two games this year without any catches.

I am assuming that Jenkins is still bothered by his ankle though he may play. Meaningless updates if warranted.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler has settled down to about 50 yards per game over the last month and he hasn't scored since week five. The use of the backs in the passing game will only serve to decrease his numbers though that new feature of the offense may have only been a one week phenomena. Regardless, Crumpler just turns in 50 yards a week now regardless of what is happening in the game lately.

Crumpler had one of his best games of 2004 when the Bucs visited. He ended with 118 yards and one touchdown.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers had one of the very best rushing defenses in the league until last week when Portis ripped them up but it's hard to dismiss the other eight games because of one freak shoot-out. The Falcons will run and should have moderate success considering that Vick, Dunn and Duckett will all be sharing the load.

The Tampa Bay pass defense has been very good this year and only allowed three passing scores all year until last week. Look for minimal passing, of course, from Vick and only the standard yardage and no score from Crumpler since no tight end has scored on Tampa Bay this entire year. The Falcons will have to run in order to win and should manage just enough to take the game.