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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 21, 2005
Season Ticket
Sat 1 PM Sat 1 PM Sat 1 PM Sat 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at CIN NYG at WAS TEN at MIA* IND at SEA* Mon 9 PM
DET at NO* SD at KC* CHI at GB Updated* Times ET

Prediction: Dallas 10, Carolina 20

Just when it appears that the Cowboys are about to turn the corner and return to being play-off worthy, they show up in Washington where they were waxed in every facet of the game. That leaves the Cowboys only 3-4 on the road this season and likely out of the playoffs unless they can pull off a win here. But the Panthers are 5-2 at home and need this win to make their final game unnecessary. Both teams are inconsistent. Both teams have had moments of brilliance. But only one is at home in this important coin flip game.

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
1 28-24 @SDC 10 21-20 @PHI
2 13-14 WAS 11 20-7 DET
3 34-31 @SFO 12 21-24 DEN
4 13-19 @OAK 13 10-17 @NYG
5 33-10 PHI 14 31-28 KCC
6 16-13 NYG 15 7-35 @WAS
7 10-13 @SEA 16 Dec 24 @CAR
8 34-13 ARI 17 Jan 1 STL
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DAL at CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 190,1
RB Julius Jones 50 20 0
RB Marion Barber 50 10 0
TE Jason Witten 0 40 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 40 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 60,1 0
WR Patrick Crayton 0 10 0
PK Billy Cundiff 1 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: If there is one constant for this Cowboys team, it is that they choke on the road. Dallas is just 3-4 on the road this year and only 1-4 in the last five road trips. The veteran leadership that Bledsoe was expected to bring to Dallas has stayed in Dallas - and not when the team travels. The week 15 game against the Redskins was a statement game and it said "you're not even close to being there yet".

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe has been up and down this year but he has offered one consistent measure. In each of his last five road games he has only thrown for one score and never for more than around 200 yards. Bledsoe also has eight interceptions over the last four road trips.

Running Backs: For the last two weeks, Julius Jones and Marion Barber have almost exactly split carries and neither has had much success. Jones has not scored since week three and Barber has been only marginally more effective and yet comes in later in games. Either player could turn in nice fantasy points if they could take all the carries but splitting time means halving what could be.

Wide Receivers: Terry Glenn is now the first Dallas wideout to top 1000 yards since 1999 but on the road he has not had more than 37 yards in a game for the last four trips, though he did score in two of them. Keyshawn Johnson started the year as a solid possession receiver but has languished at 35 yards or less in the last three games. The only good news here is that Patrick Crayton finally had his first catch last week since returning three games ago.

Tight Ends: The recent woes of the offense have not really affected Jason Witten who has scored in three of the last four games. Unfortunately, other than the trip to San Francisco, Witten has not played nearly as well on the road where he always comes in with less than 50 yards - at home he is almost always well over.

Match Against the Defense: Other than a freak high game by Carnell Williams, the Panthers have held opposing runners to no more than 75 yards in a game and with the split between Jones and Barber to consider, no Dallas runner is likely to manage more than moderate numbers here if that much. The loss of guard Marco Rivera is not going to help.

Bledsoe has struggled on the road and now faces a secondary that has only allowed one passing score in the last four games and only twice have opponents topped 200 passing yards. Look for only moderate numbers here at best that should favor Glenn with one score and not much lese.

Carolina Panthers (10-4)
1 20-23 NOR 10 30-3 NYJ
2 27-17 NE 11 3-13 @CHI
3 24-27 @MIA 12 13-9 @BUF
4 32-29 GBP 13 24-6 ATL
5 24-20 @ARI 14 10-20 TBB
6 21-20 @DET 15 27-10 @NOR
7 Open Bye 16 Dec 24 DAL
8 38-13 MIN 17 Jan 1 @ATL
9 34-14 @TBB . MON SAT
CAR vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Delhomme 0 0 200,1
RB DeShaun Foster 70 20 0
RB Nick Goings 30,1 10 0
TE Kris Mangum 0 20 0
WR Steve Smith 0 70,1 0
WR Keary Colbert 0 30 0
WR Ricky Proehl 0 30 0
PK John Kasay 0 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Other than the one game against the Buccaneers, the Panthers defense has been outstanding by holding every opponent to 14 points or less for the last nine games. That is fortunate since this offense has not been running well and move largely in relation to how well Steve Smith does. The Panthers are atop the NFC South by one game and need this win to remain in the hunt for a first round bye and their division title.

Quarterback: Jake Delhomme has thrown a score in 12 of 14 games this year but his big yardage games have not happened in the second half of the season. At home, Delhomme almost always scores at least once but has not been better than 220 yards since week eight.

Running Backs: Now that Stephen Davis has hit the injured reserve, DeShaun Foster has a clear road to proving that he is worthy of being the primary back but outside of his one game against the Falcons, he's just not been that impressive. He comes off a 75 yard effort in New Orleans that required 21 carries and he only had 46 yards on 14 runs against the Buccaneers. Worse yet - he has only scored in one game this season.

The Panthers turned to Nick Goings later in the game last week and he had 52 yards on 16 carries - about the same as Foster.

Wide Receivers: Rod Gardner has been released and Keary Colbert hasn't had more than 32 yards in the last five games if he even has any. Ricky Proehl is no different. Steve Smith remains the only wideout of note for the Panthers and he continues to lead the league despite getting no help from his teammates. Smith has scored 11 touchdowns this year though only three have come at home. As goes Smith, so goes the entire Carolina passing game.

Tight Ends: Michael Gaines had one catch for a two yard loss last week. He is often better than that, but not much.

Match Against the Defense: The Cowboys rushing defense has not gotten better later in the season and on the road are allowing most teams to score once and top 100 rushing yards. Expect a moderate game here for Foster that could turn into some decent numbers if he can pop a long run. If there is a score, it more likely will go to Goings since Foster is allergic to the endzone.

The Cowboys pass defense has been above average this year and no receiver has topped 100 yards against them since week four. Where the biggest problem has been is against tight ends as shown last week when Cooley scored three times. But since the Panthers rarely use tight ends, that means the chance for one passing score is good and thereby excellent that Smith gets it.