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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: Denver 23, Dallas 24

The second game of Thanksgiving promises to be an interesting match-up between division leaders and if there ever was a time to fight the urge to take a nap - this is it. The Broncos have risen to the second best record in the NFL and other than the week one fiasco in Miami, only the Giants have managed to beat the Broncos this year and that took a comeback in New York to get the one point win. If Denver is susceptible to a loss, which is not very often, it comes on the road. The Cowboys are tied for the lead in the NFC East and have shown they can put together a nice game - particularly at home. They even defeated the Giants that beat the Broncos. This should be a great game to watch with playoff implications and this game should end up going down to the wire.

Denver Broncos (8-2)
1 10-34 @MIA 10 31-17 @OAK
2 20-17 SDC 11 27-0 NYJ
3 30-10 KCC 12 Nov 24 @DAL
4 20-7 @JAC 13 Dec 4 @KCC
5 21-19 WAS 14 Dec 11 BAL
6 28-20 NE 15 Dec 17 @BUF
7 23-24 @NYG 16 Dec 24 OAK
8 49-21 PHI 17 Dec 31 @SDC
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DEN at DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 0 0 250,1
RB Mike Anderson 70,1 10 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 40 0
WR Rod Smith 0 100,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 60 0
WR Charlie Adams 0 30 0
PK Jason Elam 3 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Broncos are likely without Tatum Bell this week but Mike Anderson has already been shouldering most of the load anyway. Denver comes off a shutout over the Jets and every aspect of this team is playing well. The only failing for the team this season has been a propensity to allow opponents to mount comebacks but only the Giants were able to turn the game into a loss. This is a short week and a road game which makes it tougher for the Broncos, but Plummer and the defense has never looked better.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer has not been throwing for huge yardage this season, but when the need arises he has answered the call and has been as high as 309 yards and four scores in a game this year. Typically the Broncos are leading and just rushing the ball so the passing numbers are depressed anyway but Plummer has been very efficient this season and more importantly, he has not thrown an interception since week two. In most games, Plummer has not been asked to throw more than 25 times so he rarely has been given the chance to play as well as he seems capable.

Running Backs: Tatum Bell got plastered last week and bruised his chest. I am assuming he doesn't play this week since there are only three days between games and the Broncos are likely to activate Ron Dayne for the game just in case. Mike Anderson should be enough anyway, and he has scored in each of the last five games and managed five efforts over 98 yards rushing in the last seven weeks. Doesn't matter if he is on the road or at home, Anderson is running strong this season.

Wide Receivers: The reduced passing this season has translated into less than expected numbers from Ashley Lelie and Rod Smith, and the duo has combined for only five touchdowns so far this year. Smith has the lone 100+ yard game and has not been over 76 yards in a month. Lelie remains very consistent at around 80 yards in each of the last five games but has not scored since week five. This unit could do more but just has not been asked to catch many passes this season.

Tight Ends: Jeb Putzier has remained consistent at around 30 yards every week but he has not scored yet this year.

Match Against the Defense: The Dallas rush defense has only allowed one rushing score this season in Dallas and that went to Kevin Jones last week. No visiting runner has topped more than 64 yards against the Cowboys so Anderson will face one of his biggest tests this week. If the Broncos are to move the ball consistently it will require more passing than usual. Expect a moderate game from Anderson this week but less sharing than he has been subject to since Bell is likely a non-factor this week.

Plummer will get his chance to open up the passing game here but the Cowboys at home have been outstanding against passers. Brunell managed a 291 yard game thanks to two very late bombs to Moss but otherwise no quarterback has thrown for more than 215 yards in Dallas and there have only been two passing scores in the last four games there. The Cowboys lost CB Anthony Henry but Aaron Glenn has played well enough. That match-up favors Rod Smith to get the passing score here though Lelie could end up with a long gainer over Terrence Newman.

On paper the Broncos are bringing the better offense and defense to the game but it is a very short week played in Dallas. That could end up as the more pertinent aspect to this match-up. Jason Elam also had a slight calf injury last week though he will play this week and managed to kick two field goals with it last Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
1 28-24 @SDC 10 21-20 @PHI
2 13-14 WAS 11 20-7 DET
3 34-31 @SFO 12 Nov 24 DEN
4 13-19 @OAK 13 Dec 4 @NYG
5 33-10 PHI 14 Dec 11 KCC
6 16-13 NYG 15 Dec 18 @WAS
7 10-13 @SEA 16 Dec 24 @CAR
8 34-13 ARI 17 Jan 1 STL
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DAL vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 220,2
RB Julius Jones 60 10 0
RB Marion Barber 30,1 40 0
TE Jason Witten 0 30 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 80,1 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 40 0
WR Peerless Price 0 30 0
PK Billy Cundiff 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Cowboys have been winning games lately and are on a three game winning streak but each week has usually been a close game, especially when faced with a strong opponent. Dallas has won their last four home games and has not allowed an opponent to score more than 14 points against them as visitors this season. This week will be the biggest test yet of that streak against one of the strongest teams in the NFL.

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe has certainly cooled off from his hot start to the season. After scoring ten times in the first five games, Bledsoe threw for only one score in each of the next four games and now comes off his first scoreless outing of the year. In the last four games he has not been over 200 passing yards and only once was above 200. The running game is looking better which has contributed to fewer passes, but Bledsoe's completion percentages are down as well.

Running Backs: Not unlike the Broncos, the Cowboys are now relying on a committee approach to the backfield using primarily Julius Jones but mixing in ample runs by Marion Barber. When the Cowboys near the goal line now, Barber has been the man and scored twice last week while Jones had only one carry inside the ten yard line. The attack has been potent against softer teams but this week will go against the best run defense yet faced.

Wide Receivers: Bledsoe's declining passing numbers as of late have made Terry Glenn's production take a nose dive. He's only had a high of 65 receiving yards in the last five games and scored only once in that time. Keyshawn Johnson has been slightly better at consistency but he too has topped out at 56 yards over the last month. Other than one catch two weeks ago, Peerless Price has been a non-factor. Keyshawn Johnson's best games have come at home while Glenn's have come just a long time ago.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten was enjoying a strong showing this season until a couple of weeks ago and he's only had games of 27 and 15 yards in the last two games. His better games have been coming against the softest opponents and the success of the rushing game has been requiring him to block more lately.

Match Against the Defense: Denver has an outstanding run defense that has allowed only one runner to top 100 yards - Portis in a game with extra motivation. There have only been five rushing scores allowed by Denver this season and most runners end with only about 60 yards on the ground. Look for moderate games from both Jones and Barber here because short weeks usually spell simplified game plans and an emphasis on running the ball.

Bledsoe goes against a secondary that has allowed every road opponent to throw for over 210 yards and at least one score and usually two. The secondary is the weaker link of the Broncos. Though Bledsoe has tailed off on production over the last two games thanks to all the running, he should rebound to some degree this week. That favors primarily Keyshawn Johnson since Glenn draws CB Champ Bailey this week though Witten could turn in some decent numbers if the Cowboys do not end up running most of the game.