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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: Chicago 13, Tampa Bay 18

The suddenly resurgent Buccaneers host the "just won't go away" Bears in a match-up guaranteed to be low scoring. The Bears are 2-2 on the road and the two wins were against the Lions and Saints. The Buccaneers are 4-1 at home this season and come off important, though close, wins over the Falcons and Redskins.

Update: Anthony Becht is questionable with a knee sprain and did not practice on Wednesday. I am removing him from the projections.

Chicago Bears (7-3)
1 7-9 @WAS 10 17-9 SFO
2 38-6 DET 11 13-3 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 20-17 @NOR . . .
CHI at TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 0 0 140
RB Thomas Jones 80,1 0 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 10 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 60 0
WR Justin Gage 0 40 0
WR Bobby Wade 0 10 0
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: No secret to how the Bears have been winning games. Being the #1 defense in the NFL means that having just an average offense will win games and that's what the Bears have - on a good day. The Bears have never scored more than 20 points on the road this season and that came against the Saints. The defense has to keep coming up big to keep the Bears ahead and more often than not, that's just what they do. Chicago is on a six game winning streak that is just ripe for a loss.

Quarterback: Kyle Orton just chugs along with sub-150 yard games and one touchdown in almost every one. He had exceeded the 150 yard mark only once this season. He's spending his rookie campaign as a game manager with the occasional glance at Muhammad.

Running Backs: After missing week ten, Thomas Jones returned last week and gained 87 yards on 25 carries against the Panthers. Since his week eight game against the Ravens, Jones has not had more than those 87 yards last week and three of his four 100 yard games came earlier this year at home. He's just not been as effective since he has been getting banged up.

Wide Receivers: Muhsin Muhammad had the score last week but it's just the third touchdown for the year. He only had 49 yards on six catches and although he has been as high as 85 yards this season, he also has been as bad a mere three yards against the 49ers. Justin Gage comes off his best game of the year with 81 yards on seven catches but he's done little else since replacing Mark Bradley starting in week nine.

Tight Ends: Desmond Clark comes off his first game with no catch. He's been as good as 50 yards before but all his best performances come in home games.

Match Against the Defense: Until Portis showed up two weeks ago, opposing runners in Tampa Bay had never done more than 50 yards in a game. But the Redskins forced a high points shootout and that has zero chance of happening here. Look for Jones to run for moderate yardage but with a good shot at scoring once.

Orton will throw for his standard 140 yards because he always does. The difference in this game is that he'll likely have a rare game without a passing score because there have only been three touchdown passes against the home version of the Bucs this season. This will be, of course, a defensive game with only minimal offense by the Bears. The run game will be relied on and the passing game will remain below average.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)
1 24-13 @MIN 10 36-35 WAS
2 19-3 BUF 11 30-27 @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 vs CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 200,1
RB Cadillac Williams 70 20 0
RB Michael Pittman 10 20 0
TE Alex Smith 0 30 0
TE Anthony Becht 0 10 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 50 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 40,1 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 30 0
PK Matt Bryant 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Evidently the Cadillac has gone through that bad tank of gas and is back to purring down the field. The Bucs come off a huge win in Atlanta and mounted a comeback over the Redskins the previous week. The reason for the turnaround? Chris Simms has stepped up and stopped turning the ball over. The defenses are respecting the pass more and Carnell Williams is running again. For all the heartache that happened when Brian Griese was initially gone, the Bucs are still tied for the NFC South lead and are 7-3 on the season.

Quarterback: Chris Simms only had 118 yards passing last week, but he connected on 11 of 19 and only had one interception against the Falcons. He threw for 279 yards and three scores against the Redskins with no turnovers the previous week. Simms struggled in the first two games as a starter but is slowly getting a grip on what he can and cannot do. And if last week can be repeated, the best thing is for him to handoff to Williams.

Running Backs: After missing two games and never gaining more than 29 yards in the last three match-ups, Carnell Williams suddenly roared back to life in Atlanta last week when he ran for 119 yards and one touchdown with 13 more yards on three receptions. He appeared to find those upper gears and showed a quickness that had been missing. Mike Alstott also scored once but only had four carries for eight yards. That makes three consecutive games with a touchdown for Alstott who is now the preferred goal line back.

Wide Receivers: The big win in Atlanta had only minimal passing and for the first time this season it never included Joey Galloway who had five passes thrown to him with no catches. That ended a four game streak of scoring a touchdown and gaining at least 83 yards in a game. Galloway has been one of the best wideouts in the game this season and he either comes through with a very nice game or just flops. It was his second game with no catches on the season. He scored in six of the other eight games and had at least 87 yards in the two that he failed to score. The Buccaneers had success with Edell Shepherd in week ten but he had no catches in Atlanta. Rather quietly, Michael Clayton had his best game since week two though it was only for 48 yards last week.

Tight Ends: Alex Smith has been a solid part of the game plan with three games over 41 yards in the last four games. That should come into play more this week against the stout Chicago defense.

Match Against the Defense: The Bears have allowed only one rushing touchdown the entire season and most runners have done well enough to gain 70 yards against them. This will be a very big test for Williams to prove that last week was more than a one fluke good game. Chances of a score here are low and would likely go to Alstott anyway.

The Buccaneers will need to score via the pass and Bears only average about one score allowed per week. The best game yet against them has only been 237 yards and since Chicago has already intercepted 16 passes, no team wants to throw more than necessary. Simms is looking better but no need to challenge his good progress the last couple of games. Simms should manage at least one passing score here but much more will be surprising. The Bears had not allowed a 100 yard receiver until last week when Steve Smith was thrown 21 passes and that won't happen with Simms under center. Look for another down game from Galloway who will be blanketed and the score will likely end up with either Clayton or Shepherd. It would only be appropriate for Clayton to score his first touchdown of the season against the #1 defense since he is the only Buccaneer wideout without a score this season. Galloway has all wideout touchdowns except for two that were split between Shepherd and Hilliard.