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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: Jacksonville 23, Arizona 20

With a 7-3 record, the Jaguars remain in the thick of a wildcard race thanks to sharing the NFC South with the Colts. The Cardinals come off a rare road win and a chance for Warner to have some fun against his old team. Back in Arizona, the Cardinals have a 2-3 home record with wins only coming against the 49ers and Titans. Both teams have seen better showings from their offense but only one has the clearly superior defense.

Update: Fred Taylor has returned to practice and is not on the injury report. I have added him back in and removed Greg Jones, but as we learned last week that doesn't always last. Bryant Johnson has been removed from the projections because he has already been ruled out this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3)
1 26-14 SEA 10 30-3 BAL
2 3-10 @IND 11 31-28 @TEN
3 26-20 @NYJ 12 Nov 27 @ARI
4 7-20 DEN 13 Dec 4 @CLE
5 23-20 CIN 14 Dec 11 IND
6 23-17 @PIT 15 Dec 18 SFO
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 @HOU
8 21-24 @STL 17 Jan 1 TEN
9 21-14 HOU . . SAT
JAX at ARZ Rush Catch Pass
QB Byron Leftwich 0 0 230,2
RB Fred Taylor 70 10 0
RB Alvin Pearman 10 20 0
TE Kyle Brady 0 10 0
WR Jimmy Smith 0 60,1 0
WR Reggie Williams 0 20 0
WR Ernest Wilford 0 80,1 0
WR Matt Jones 0 30 0
PK Josh Scobee 3 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Jaguars had a tougher time getting a win over the Titans than was expected, but enroute to that victory came the career best game by Leftwich. The Jaguars only have one homestand against the Colts that stands out as a tough game and yet no matter if the Jaguars could run the board for the rest of the season, they still would not likely win the AFC South. This week should be a nice way to see how much of the big game against the Titans was Leftwich and how much was just the Titans secondary.

Quarterback: The Titans provided Byron Leftwich with an opportunity to use all those young receivers and he responded with a career best 258 yards and three passing scores with another touchdown rushed in as well. Leftwich has scored at least once in each of the last eight games with half providing two or more touchdowns. This was expected to be a breakout season for Leftwich and while it started out slowly, he has been getting better as the season grows old and the schedule gets easier.

Running Backs: Fred Taylor pulled one of those big fantasy no-no's last week when he was doubtful to play, didn't practice and then was announced as the starter which sent fantasy team owners scurrying to change their lineups for the week. Taylor only lasted for six carries before getting injured again and leaving the game. He also only gained a negative eight yards, so a fantasy team starting Fred Flintstone would have netted better results than switching to Taylor. The Titans committed to stopping the run and left Greg Jones with only 33 yards on 16 carries once Taylor was gone. I assume Taylor is out again this week but all bets are off after last Sunday's debacle.

Wide Receivers: The Jaguars wideouts have evolved over the season with good results. They started out with Jimmy Smith and Reggie Williams naturally enough and Smith had four scores in the first four weeks and two 100 yard games. But he has done little since week four. Reggie Williams started with almost nothing, added nothing and currently contributes almost nothing - but he does so as the #3 or #4 wideout in the game now, not as the starting flanker. That spot has been taken over by Ernest Wilford who has scored five times this season and three times in the last four games. Matt Jones began the year as the slot man with minimal results, but has stepped up in the last five games by scoring in four of them. He had 117 yards against the Ravens but usually remains under 50 yards even with the scoring. He has become a favorite endzone target for Leftwich which was the design all along. Most surprising - Jimmy Smith not only has done less as the season goes on, he was on the sidelines late in the game last week while Leftwich was winning the game.

Tight Ends: Kyle Brady had his first touchdown of the season when he caught three passes for 43 yards against the Titans but he's never had more than 15 yards in any other game.

Match Against the Defense: The Cardinals have been wildly inconsistent this year against the run. Some weeks they will hold their opponents to no rushing scores and minimal rushing yardage like last week when Jackson only had six yards. But there have also been three games with runners topping 120 yards and scoring at least twice. Since Alexander is not playing in this game, figure on the Cardinals at home to be better against the run and hold Jones to only moderate yardage and likely no score.

Leftwich can continue to look better this year by going against the Cards secondary that ranks as one of the worst in the league when opponents concentrate on the pass. Expect no less than 220 yards from Leftwich and those two scores with an outside chance at three. Those scores will go to the wideouts and should favor Wilford and Smith as long as the Jags don't continue to pull Jimmy from games.

Arizona Cardinals (3-7)
1 19-42 @NYG 10 21-29 @DET
2 12-17 STL 11 38-28 @STL
3 12-37 @SEA 12 Nov 27 JAC
4 31-14 SFO 13 Dec 4 @SFO
5 20-24 CAR 14 Dec 11 WAS
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @HOU
7 20-10 TEN 16 Dec 24 PHI
8 13-34 @DAL 17 Jan 1 @IND
9 19-33 SEA . . SAT
ARZ vs JAX Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner 0 0 250,2
RB J.J. Arrington 40 20 0
RB Marcel Shipp 20 10 0
TE Adam Bergen 0 30,1 0
WR Anquan Boldin 0 70 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 80,1 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 20 0
PK Neil Rackers 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Cardinals ended a three game slide with the big win in St. Louis that saw Warner tear apart his former team while his replacement Bulger was likely knocked out for the remainder of the season. It was a rare road win by Arizona and just "one of those games" where everything clicked. More troubling is that the Cardinals defense had been holding down scores but now has allowed at least 29 points to each of the last four opponents.

Quarterback: Kurt Warner saved his best scoring game for a "back at ya" against his ex-employer of the Rams. He threw for three touchdowns and gained 285 passing yards. That makes Warner the clear choice for starting the rest of the year as he has been at or over 285 yards in each of the three games since he returned from injury. This offense can post some nice yards and points through the air when players are all healthy and the defenses are only average.

Running Backs: J.J. Arrington is slowly taking over the primary role from Marcel Shipp. In the last two games he has scored and had more carries than Shipp and the 45 yards on 11 carries is a season high for the rookie who also is adding almost 30 yards a game on receptions as well. That still does not equate to a decent running game but at least Arrington is showing progress. That's more than Shipp has done.

Wide Receivers: Anquan Boldin returned last week from his knee surgery and looked like he had never left. Boldin ended with eight catches for 105 yards and one score while Larry Fitzgerald had nine catches for 104 yards and a touchdown as well. The entire offense revolved around this duo and when both play, no other receivers really matter on this team. Each has five touchdowns for the year and there has been only one other touchdown thrown to a Cardinals wideout this year - Bryant Johnson when Boldin was out in week nine.

Tight Ends: Adam Bergen had four catches for 35 yards and one score last week and that's the first touchdown caught by a tight end this season. Bergen has turned in two straight games over 30 yards after never topping ten yards in the first eight games. One more showing and the tight end may be back in the Cardinals passing scheme.

Match Against the Defense: The Cardinals have not been running well this season and going against Jacksonville doesn't make that look any more likely to improve. Since most runners do not score against the Jaguars, expect Arrington to stay on his side of the goal line this week.

Warner goes against a secondary that has been giving up two scores per game recently but never more than 250 yards this entire season. That's less than any game Warner has turned in since coming back three weeks ago. Expect that Warner challenges that 250 yard mark but not throw for more than two scores. The Jaguars have been softer against tight ends so Bergen could continue his mini-spree of relevance but wideouts have not fared nearly so well. Fitzgerald has the better matchup that has allowed the most scores, but most wideouts end up with less than 70 yards against the Jaguars.