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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CLE at CIN* OAK at NYJ SF at SEA MIA at SD* Mon 9 PM
IND at JAC TB at CAR BAL at DEN Updated* Times ET

Prediction: New Orleans 17, Atlanta 23

After dropping three of the last four games, the Falcons have dug themselves a hole that may be impossible to get out of. The Saints are on a trend of winning one and then losing two or three and they just won two weeks ago. Atlanta already beat New Orleans 34-31 when the Saints hosted the game in week six.

New Orleans Saints (3-9)
1 23-20 @CAR 10 Open Bye
2 10-27 NYG 11 17-24 @NE
3 16-33 @MIN 12 21-19 @NYJ
4 19-7 BUF 13 3-10 TBB
5 3-52 @GBP 14 Dec 12 @ATL
6 31-34 ATL 15 Dec 18 CAR
7 17-20 @STL 16 Dec 24 DET
8 6-21 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 17-20 CHI . MON SAT
NOR at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 30 0 250,2
RB Aaron Stecker 20 40 0
RB Antowain Smith 70 10 0
TE Zack Hilton 0 40,1 0
WR Joe Horn 0 50 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 70,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 30 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Nothing really new with the Saints who have accepted their futile season but most of the losses are coming in games that could be won with just one or two good plays or lucky breaks. That just ain't in the stars for these Saints this season.

Quarterback: Aaron Brooks threw for 259 yards and two scores in the week six game against the Falcons. That was his second best game of the year and while he was on a roll in road games against the Jets and Patriots when he had five combined touchdowns, Brooks comes off his worst game of the year - throwing for 215 yards and four interceptions against the Buccaneers. The Saints had plenty of chances to even win that game but the interceptions killed them. As has always been the case, you can never be sure which Aaron Brooks shows up at games.

Running Backs: Antowain Smith has been languishing with sub-50 yard games for three weeks now and his only scores on the entire season were back against the Falcons when he ran for 88 yards on just 12 carries and scored two touchdowns in week six. In his heaviest workload of the season - just last week - Smith only had 18 carries and gained just 49 yards. Aaron Stecker has been offering minimal relief though he has been better in the passing game lately. Just to make it even more unclear, the Saints had Anthony Thomas take one carry last week which could spell even more use as the season winds down.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn has just never done much this season and his only truly good game came in week two. Since then, he has not scored, he has not had a 100 yard game and he has three sub-50 yard games in the last four weeks. Donte Stallworth only had 20 yards last week but he's been the big scorer this year with six touchdowns but even he has not had a 100 yard game since week four. Stallworth caught seven passes for 83 yards and one score while Hakim had 85 yards and a touchdown as well when the Falcons visited this season. Az-Zahir Hakim has been so banged up that the Saints made him inactive last week.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell is now on injured reserve but Zack Hilton has been making the tight end position into more than it has been all year. He has 155 yards and one score over the last three weeks and never less than three catches for 33 yards.

Match Against the Defense: The Atlanta rush defense has been pretty bad lately and even an average rushing game finds success and a score against them. But that is not what the Saints have. Expect only moderate numbers from Smith and Stecker if not Thomas coming into the mix as well. There is opportunity for yards and a score here but the Saints just have not been able to mount a rushing game yet this season since McAllister went down.

Brooks had a big game in the last meeting with 259 yards and two scores but that's been the best effort against the Falcons since the week six game. Look for a score here that favors Stallworth and possibly two since the Saints often play well against the Falcons who have been reeling lately, but as always - it depends on which Brooks shows up this week.

Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
1 14-10 PHI 10 25-33 GBP
2 18-21 @SEA 11 27-30 TBB
3 24-16 @BUF 12 27-7 @DET
4 30-10 MIN 13 6-24 @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 vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 60 0 170,1
RB Warrick Dunn 90 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 20,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 60 0
WR Brian Finneran 0 30 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
WR Roddy White 0 40,1 0
PK Todd Peterson 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: After rolling up a 6-2 record, the Falcons have dropped three of their last four and lost their first meeting with the Panthers last week when they were drummed 24-6 by Carolina. The main culprit in the decline - a defense that has been unable to keep opponents out of the endzone other than the Lions who were never that familiar with it anyway. The passing game has picked up sharply in the past month of losing but the valuable rushing by Vick has sharply declined. This is a must win for the Falcons and with two road games in Tampa Bay and Chicago and a final home game against the Panthers, these Falcons could be hard pressed to reach a winning season if they were to lose this week. They may end up only .500 even if they beat the Saints.

Quarterback: Michael Vick only threw for 112 yards and one score but added 51 rushing yards in the previous game against the Saints this season. Since that time he has become a much more frequent passer and had three straight games with two scores and over 200 passing yards but only won two of them. Last week in Carolina, Vick was back to his worst, completing just 17 of 35 passes for 171 yards and two interceptions. Since that week six game against the Saints, Vicks has only once been over 50 yards rushing in those six games.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn keeps chugging along almost oblivious to what is happening in games. He always turns in at least 80 rushing yards and rises above 100 only when the Falcons win. T.J. Duckett had a terrible game last week but scored in the previous two games.

Dunn ran for exactly 100 yards on 22 carries and scored once in the previous match-up with the Saints this year. Duckett only had two carries for five yards.

Wide Receivers: All the passing yards over the last month has really not benefited any one wideout besides Roddy White who has developed into a favorite target for Vick. White has only been good for 20 or 30 yards in most games but he is the only wideout with catches every week and had 108 yards against the Buccaneers for the only 100 yard effort by a Falcon wideout in the last seven games. Michael Jenkins and Brian Finneran have turned in a few moderate games but mostly there is no consistency here beyond Roddy White and that has been only minimal in most weeks.

Jenkins was the leading wideout in the previous game against New Orleans and that only meant he had two catches for 24 yards.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler remains the preferred target for Vick and has been cranking out about 50 or 60 yards per week with a season high of 104 yards just two weeks ago against the Lions. Crumpler logged four catches for 52 yards in the previous game against the Saints.

Match Against the Defense: This is a replay game and one that has to be won by the Falcons. The Saints are always on the road this year and their effort never changes according to home or away. The Saints usually play in close losses and know the Falcons well enough to not be surprised by anything. Look for Dunn to turn in a decent game here but likely any score will be by Duckett.

The Saints pass defense has also been quietly better than expected and should continue to keep Vick to lesser numbers. Vick has to establish himself as a runner again and the failure to do so has been a disaster recently. Look for a bounce back game with Vick running the ball but he'll manage to throw for at least one score as well.