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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 14, 2005
Season Ticket
Saturday Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
KC at NYG CAR at NO* SD at IND CLE at OAK* Mon 9 PM
  NYJ at MIA SF at JAC* Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Tampa Bay 20, New England 24

Here's what should be an interesting game. Both teams are suddenly resurgent after looking rather bad during mid-season and the Bucs are 5-2 on the road while the Patriots are only 4-5 outside their own division. Tampa Bay has won four of their last five games and come off a nice showing in Carolina while the Patriots rekindled a bit of 2005 when they demolished the Bills. Neither team can really afford a loss but that goes especially for the Bucs who are tied for the NFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-4)
1 24-13 @MIN 10 36-35 WAS
2 19-3 BUF 11 30-27 @ATL
3 17-16 @GBP 12 10-13 CHI
4 17-13 DET 13 10-3 @NOR
5 12-14 @NYJ 14 20-10 @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 at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 250,2
RB Cadillac Williams 100 20 0
TE Alex Smith 0 30 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 110,1 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 30 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 50,1 0
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: That Tampa Bay team which opened the season is back in form - running Cadillac Williams and using great defense to take down opponents. The defense has held the last three opponents to 13 or fewer points while Williams has kept the chains moving. If the Bucs can win here, it sets up the next week against the visiting Falcons as the final hurdle since week 17 hosts the Saints.

Quarterback: The resurgence of the rushing game by Williams has reduced Chris Simms to being just a game manager and he's only had one score over the last four games that Cadillac has been running well again. Three of the four games came in under 140 passing yards and the "play it close" style of the team has ruined the fantasy numbers here. Good news though - the Patriots sport the softest secondary the Buccaneers have gone against in about a month or more. And with Tom Brady on the other side, there will be no sitting on a three point lead.

Running Backs: Carnell Williams comes off his fifth 100 yard game of the year when he ran for 112 yards and two scores against the normally stout Panthers. That makes four consecutive games over 84 yards for Williams who has returned to getting over 20 carries a week again now that he is healthy. Considering the venue this week, the Buccaneers won't be able to rely solely on the run but will be using big doses of Williams in the game.

Wide Receivers: All this nice running by Williams has hit Joey Galloway's numbers pretty hard lately. Galloway only had 39 yards last week and has scored only once in the last four games. Michael Clayton is now getting outdone by slot player Ike Hilliard and Clayton bears zero resemblance to the hot rookie of 2005. The softer secondary of the Patriots should see this group improve this week.

Tight Ends: Since the rushing game took off again, Alex Smith has been getting one catch per game but he was on a stretch of 40 yard games when the Bucs were throwing more mid-season.

Match Against the Defense: You should dismiss what the Patriots have done the last two weeks against divisional rivals of the Jets and Bills who are both teetering on the brink of complete collapse. This should be a spot for another 100 yard game by Williams with a nice chance for one score.

Simms will have to throw more this week and the Patriots have been allowing monster games to teams that throw well. That may not really be the Bucs so much, but at least moderate numbers should happen if not a good game. Look for at least one score if not two that will favor getting Galloway back in the endzone at least once.

New England Patriots (8-5)
1 30-20 OAK 11 23-16 @MIA
2 17-27 @CAR 12 24-17 NOR
3 23-20 @PIT 13 16-26 @KCC
4 17-41 SDC 14 16-3 NYJ
5 31-28 @ATL 15 35-7 @BUF
6 20-28 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 21-16 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
9 21-40 IND M THU SAT
NEP vs TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 250,2
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 10 0
TE Ben Watson 0 40,1 0
WR David Givens 0 20 0
WR Deion Branch 0 80,1 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 30 0
WR Troy Brown 0 40 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots come off a huge 35-7 win and the defense has apparently returned by only allowing ten points over the last two games but the reality is that those games went against the Jets and Bills that both have major injury problems and are just playing out their season. The last three games against teams with winning records were all losses. A win here cements the division title for the Patriots but they'll want all the bad weather they can get to gain an edge in this game.

Quarterback: The lone constant in the Patriots play this year has been the contribution of Tom Brady who has thrown for multiple scores in half his games and he comes off a nice 329 yard, two touchdown effort last week against the Bills. This week should be a good challenge for Brady who has not fared nearly so well when facing good defenses though his best games have been almost entirely when at home.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon finally got on track again when he ran for 102 yards on 22 carries last week with one touchdown. He's either scored or topped 100 yards in seven of the nine games he has played this year though his two bad games both came when facing better defenses of the Colts and Panthers.

Wide Receivers: Though the multi-faceted attack of the Pats passing game has always used numerous wideouts in near random fashion from week to week, Deion Branch remains the one constantly productive player. He had 83 yards on five catches last week and his four scores on the season is double that of any other wideout.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson was expected to play a bigger role last week but ended with just three catches for 35 yards - still pretty good by tight end standards. Watson has been remaining at or above that level in five of the last six games.

Match Against the Defense: The Tampa Bay rushing defense has allowed several touchdowns this season but only twice has a runner topped 100 yards and that was during the mid-season lull when the Bucs were struggling. Look for a more moderate game here from Dillon with a decent chance he'll cross the goal line once.

Brady goes against a secondary that has been one of the better ones in the NFL and one that has intercepted 15 passes this season. Brady is always a tough one to game plan against and he should manage at least moderate numbers here but a really big game would be a surprise. Expect moderate numbers around 250 yards which would be on the high side for what the Bucs typically allow and one or two scores. No quarterback has managed more than two scores against Tampa Bay this year. Given's match-up against Ronde Barber is one to avoid.