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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 23, 2005
Season Ticket
Thanksgiving Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
DEN at DAL CHI at TB* SF at TEN* MIA at OAK Mon 9 PM
Sun 1 PM CLE at MIN STL at HOU GB at PHI* PIT at IND
BAL at CIN NE at KC   NYG at SEA Times ET

Prediction: Atlanta 20, Detroit 17

Here's the early Turkey Day game before you eat the big meal and the tryptophan kicks in and you doze off. The Falcons come off two consecutive upset losses at home which only proved what Jim Mora has said all along - the worse Vick throws the more games they win. The Lions have lost their last four games and are hungry for a win. The Falcons have played four road games this season so far but their only loss was in Seattle. Evidently they need the road to keep them focused. This game could go either way since it is a national game on Thanksgiving and takes both teams out of their normal patterns.

Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
1 14-10 PHI 10 25-33 GBP
2 18-21 @SEA 11 27-30 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 at DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 40 0 220,2
RB Warrick Dunn 60 20 0
RB T.J. Duckett 30 10 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 40 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 40,1 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 70,1 0
WR Roddy White 0 30 0
PK Todd Peterson 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Bad enough to lose two home games but now the Falcons have to rebound with only three days to prepare for their trip to Detroit. Atlanta seems to have just gotten a bit sloppy with penalties and suffered two upsets. Maybe they were just twiddling their thumbs until week 13 when they play in Carolina but it's only week 12 and the losing has to stop.

Quarterback: Michael Vick comes off a 306 yard game against the Buccaneers that had two touchdowns and one lost fumble. He got tangled up on one play and left injured before returning. Oddly enough, Vick has turned in his two best passing games this year with those two most recent losses and in each he had season low rushing yards. He has thrown for over 200 yards in each of the last three games and scored at least one passing touchdown.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn remains a constant, running for at least 80 yards in almost every game and in the last three weeks he's been catching passes as well. He had 12 receptions for 95 yards and one score in those games. T.J. Duckett ran well against the Bucs as well, gaining 51 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown. Both backs are healthy and productive, the team just is not winning in part because defenses have refused to allow Vick to run.

Wide Receivers: Last week was the first big passing yardage game and it did benefit the wideouts who enjoyed rare success with Vick passing. Michael Jenkins had missed the two previous games but returned last week to catch five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. The rookie Roddy White was able to do that which no one thought possible - he had over 100 receiving yards. Roddy caught four passes for 108 yards and is beginning to deliver on the promise he held when they drafted him last April. White scored his first NFL touchdown the previous week. The wideouts are now shaping up to be Jenkins as the possession receiver and White as the speedster stretching the field. It hasn't won games, but it looks more traditional than Atlanta has in years with Vick.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler ended his four game touchdown drought when he had five catches for 49 yards against Tampa Bay but he has been less emphasized in recent weeks as the wideouts have been doing more.

Match Against the Defense: The Lions rush defense at home has been far better than when they travel and the only runner to score a rushing touchdown in Detroit has been Arrington - his first ever in the NFL (bet they did not see that one coming). Otherwise no runner has managed to get a rushing touchdown nor has any run for over 100 yards there. Since the committee approach is used by Atlanta, figure Dunn and Duckett to have moderate games and likely not score. If one did, it would likely be the bigger Duckett.

Vick has to throw here to win though the Lions have not faced a running quarterback this season. The Detroit secondary has been generally good this season and Dre Bly is expected to return this week though he'll likely be wearing a cast of some sort on his hand. That would pit him against Roddy White, so don't expect more fireworks from the rookie this week. This could be an interesting game as well since the Lions have been very good against tight ends this season and only one has scored on them. Michael Jenkins is the most likely to score here easily with Finneran a close second.

Detroit Lions (4-6)
1 17-3 GBP 10 29-21 ARI
2 6-38 @CHI 11 7-20 @DAL
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 24 ATL
4 13-17 @TBB 13 Dec 4 MIN
5 35-17 BAL 14 Dec 11 @GBP
6 20-21 CAR 15 Dec 18 CIN
7 13-10 @CLE 16 Dec 24 @NOR
8 13-19 CHI 17 Jan 1 @PIT
9 14-27 @MIN . THU SAT
DET vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Joey Harrington 0 0 240,1
RB Kevin Jones 50,1 20 0
RB Shawn Bryson 10 20 0
TE Marcus Pollard 0 40 0
WR Roy Williams 0 80,1 0
WR Charles Rogers 0 40 0
WR Scottie Vines 0 30 0
PK Jason Hanson 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Lions come off a loss in Dallas and while they are on the short week as well, they will be at home and are used to playing in the Thanksgiving game - an advantage that they need.

Quarterback: Joey Harrington bought a lot of good will when he had 231 yards and three scores against the Cardinals but he spent it all when he only managed 169 yards and no score against the Cowboys with one lost fumble. There is no denying one truth about Harrington this season - he's a lot better at home than on the road. Four road games only produced two scores but four home games had six touchdowns. He only failed to score against the visiting Panthers, all others he had at least one touchdown.

Running Backs: Kevin Jones managed to score a touchdown in Dallas last week - a rarity for both sides - but he only had 29 rushing yards on 12 carries. Jones has been a major disappointment this season and has never had more than the 87 yards he gained back in the season opener. In most games, he has come in with less than 50 yards on the ground though he often catches a couple of passes per game.

Wide Receivers: The wideouts are mostly healthy or off suspension now but the passing game with Harrington still focuses on Roy Williams who led all wideouts last week with five catches for 72 yards. He had 117 yards and three scores the previous week in his first action back. Charles Rogers had four catches for 41 yards while trying to imagine how he is going to come up with $10 million to pay back the Lions for violating his contract stipulation about his signing bonus. While HC Steve Mariucci talks about all the wideouts he has to use, only Roy Williams really seems to matter to Harrington.

Tight Ends: Marcus Pollard only had one catch for five yards last week but he has been more heavily used in home games this season. Four of his best five games were at home.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcon rush defense has not been anything special this year, but then again neither has the Detroit running game. No reason to expect more than the minimal to moderate range from Kevin Jones though he has a good chance to score here against a rushing defense that has allowed one rushing score in almost every game this year.

Harrington faces a secondary that can be beaten by a top quarterback but that doesn't exactly fit Harrington's description. Look for moderate numbers here that will produce at least one passing score but no more than two if that even happens. That has to favor Roy Williams by sheer volume of passes but don't be surprised if Marcus Pollard steps up in this game. The Falcons have been softer against tight ends despite playing against virtually none of the really good ones.