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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: Cleveland 14, Minnesota 20

The Browns come off a shutout over the Dolphins last week but are only 1-4 on the road this season with their lone win away being back in week two against the Packers. The Vikings have quietly won four of their last five games and are suddenly at .500 with some chance of a playoff run. It isn't winning like the old Vikings would have, but it is winning.

Cleveland Browns (4-6)
1 13-27 CIN 10 21-34 @PIT
2 26-24 @GBP 11 22-0 MIA
3 6-13 @IND 12 Nov 27 @MIN
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 JAC
5 20-10 CHI 14 Dec 11 @CIN
6 3-16 @BAL 15 Dec 18 @OAK
7 10-13 DET 16 Dec 24 PIT
8 16-19 @HOU 17 Jan 1 BAL
9 20-14 TEN . . SAT
CLE at MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Trent Dilfer 0 0 220,2
RB Reuben Droughns 60 10 0
TE Steve Heiden 0 10 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 60,1 0
WR Braylon Edwards 0 80,1 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 30 0
PK Phil Dawson 0 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Browns come off a dominating shutout over the Fins last week and the defense has held opponents to less than 20 points in seven of the last eight games. Reuben Droughns has never looked better and yet Dilfer had his first taste of the bench last week when Charlie Frye was finally given some playing time. On the road these Browns are not nearly as good, but the defense still plays well.

Quarterback: Trent Dilfer only had an average game last week when he threw for one score and 137 yards but the story of the week was the first playing time by Charlie Frye who completed six of 11 for 58 yards and the obligatory first game interception. The transition to Frye starting is not on yet, but the introduction of him to the game has begun. This only serves to water down the anemic numbers from Dilfer even more.

Running Backs: The Browns had a kick start to the game last week when on the first offensive play, Reuben Droughns ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run. He ended with a season high 166 yards on 30 carries as the Browns just ran the ball for most of the game to kill the clock. Droughns has scored in each of the last two games but those are his only scores on the year.

The fullback Terrelle Smith invariably gets one carry for no yards in most games but caught a six-yard touchdown last week on his only catch in the game.

Wide Receivers: Antonio Bryant comes off a 60 yard game last week but he's been all over the map in terms of production this season. His production has been waning the last couple of weeks thanks to the ever-vocal rookie Braylon Edwards who has stepped up his play with six catches for 90 yards last week and 64 yards in the previous game. As Edwards rises, Bryant goes back and Dennis Northcutt falls off the map.

Tight Ends: Steve Heiden had four grabs for 31 yards against the Fins but he does that about every three games while struggling to reach even 10 yards in most outings.

Match Against the Defense: There are now the old Vikings and the new Vikings. The old Vikings would have allowed Droughns to cruise to a big game but the new version has not allowed a 100 yard rusher in the last six games and the last two visitors went away with only 49 yards as a best effort. Look for a moderate game at best here from Droughns.

Dilfer, if not Frye, will go against a secondary that always allows at least one touchdown but the unit is playing better and Dilfer is not. Expect over 200 yards passing here with at least one score. Bryant gets the more commonly successful matchup but the Browns are using Edwards more so either one has a decent chance at a score.

Minnesota Vikings (5-5)
1 13-24 TBB 10 24-21 @NYG
2 8-37 @CIN 11 20-17 @GBP
3 33-16 NOR 12 Nov 27 CLE
4 10-30 @ATL 13 Dec 4 @DET
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 STL
6 3-28 @CHI 15 Dec 18 PIT
7 23-20 GBP 16 Dec 25 @BAL
8 13-38 @CAR 17 Jan 1 CHI
9 27-14 DET . . MON
MIN vs CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Brad Johnson 0 0 180,1
RB Mewelde Moore 90,1 10 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 40 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 40,1 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 20 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 30 0
WR Troy Williamson 0 30 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 30 0
PK Paul Edinger 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: When they pass around the Viking yearbooks for team mates to sign after the season, every signature will have "what a weird trip it has been" written above the name. The Vikings no longer have a passing offense and are relying on the rushing game and defense to win games. And yes, Nostradamus mentioned this as a pre-cursor to Armageddon.

Quarterback: Since Culpepper left in week eight, Brad Johnson has taken over and managed only two scores in three games with no outing over 196 yards passing. But the Vikings keep winning. Consider it the Vick effect in play where the worse he does, the more they win. Johnson is primarily just a game manager now which is a big job since the Vikings are rotating in five different wideouts.

Running Backs: Mewelde Moore comes off a season high 122 yards on 22 carries in Green Bay where the Packers had been strong against the run. Moore has topped 100 yards in both games when he had over 20 carries and ran so strongly last week that there is no question that Bennett remains with only spot duty. The Vikings are also now relying on the rookieCiatrick Fason for short yardage runs near the goal line. He never played against the Packers until the ball was inside the ten-yard line. Fason has only played in the most recent three games and has two rushing touchdowns to lead all runners for the Vikings.

Wide Receivers: This team was once the easiest to forecast - most passes went to the Randy Ratio with the leftovers split up between two players. Now the Vikings are turning into the Patriots by using five different wideouts in games with no real pattern as to which one will be the most successful. The only certain thing here is that none of them will have a big game. Hard to image that after ten weeks of playing, not one Vikings wideout has turned in a 100 yard game. And likely won't with this scheme. Even Koren Robinson has showed up as a decent receiver to only add more to the mix.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins has been the closest thing to a primary receiver with Johnson throwing the ball. He had 67 yards on seven receptions against the Packers to lead all receivers.

Match Against the Defense: The Browns defense has been much improved as the season progresses and comes off a shutout over the Dolphins. But within that they still allowed 139 rushing yards to Miami and most teams can approach the century mark with a runner if they commit to the ground game. Look for a solid game from Moore in yardage here but a score would more likely go to Fason again.

Brad Johnson should have no problem hitting his average game here with one score but where that pass will go is only getting tougher to determine. The rotation system used is not focusing enough on any one player to make a match-up analysis useful. The Browns are about average against tight ends so Wiggins should manage a decent game.