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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
December 28, , 2005
Season Ticket
Sat 4:30 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM SEA at GB*
DEN at SD* ARI at IND CHI at MIN* NO at TB WAS at PHI*
Sat 8 PM BAL at CLE CIN at KC Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Updated* CAR at ATL MIA at NE TEN at JAC* Times ET

Prediction: New Orleans 3, Tampa Bay 20

The Buccaneers won 10-3 in the week 13 match-up with the Saints in San Antonio. The Buccaneers need a win here or a loss by the Panthers in Atlanta to secure the NFC South. Both Tampa Bay and Atlanta are playing at the same time, so a win here is the only safe way to guarantee the title. And the Saints have lost their last four games to show how likely that will be.

New Orleans Saints (3-12)
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 17-36 @ATL
6 31-34 ATL 15 10-27 CAR
7 17-20 @STL 16 12-13 DET
8 6-21 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 17-20 CHI . MON SAT
NOR at TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Todd Bouman 0 0 180
RB Aaron Stecker 30 10 0
RB Antowain Smith 40 10 0
TE Zack Hilton 0 50 0
WR Joe Horn 0 30 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 60 0
WR Az-Zahir Hakim 0 20 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 0 XP -
Pregame Notes: A final road game in a season that has been nothing but road games. The Saints close out what could be the most challenging season in the history of the NFL that has witnessed their best running back on injured reserve, their best quarterback benched and their best wideout apparently hitting the age wall face first. There are two constants at play here though - the Saints always play competitive games and they almost always lose anyway.

Quarterback: Todd Bouman is hardly making the case that he should have consideration next year as the starter. After throwing four interceptions and just 193 yards against the Panthers, he only had 233 yards and no scores in the lass to the Lions last week. That was the Lions on the road that beat the Saints. Not a resume builder.

Brooks threw for 215 yards and four interceptions in the previous meeting with the Bucs.

Running Backs: Antowain Smith is only getting about a dozen carries a game now and has done little with them. Aaron Stecker typically is getting about eight carries per game with slightly better results but rarely any significant yardage.

Smith only gained 49 yards on 18 carries against the Buccaneers this year.

Wide Receivers: With Todd Bouman as the quarterback, Donte Stallworth had a big game against the Panthers in week 15 but then fell to only 47 yards last week. Joe Horn only had one catch for six yards against Carolina but then had 70 yards on six catches last week in his best game since week 11. Horn only has one touchdown on the year and has not been over 100 yards since week two.

No wideout had more than 42 yards in the previous meeting with Tampa Bay this year.

Tight Ends: One player likely to stick next year is Zack Hilton who has made the tight end spot matter once again. He had 83 yards on sven receptions to lead all receivers last week and has been the closest player to consistent production outside of Stallworth.

Zack Hilton had four catches for 50 yards in week 13 against the Bucs.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers already held the Saints to just three points in the previous match-up and this time the game is in Tampa Bay with the NFC South on the line. Expect an even worse showing by the Saints who just no longer have the means to compete for a win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5)
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 0-28 @NE
7 Open Bye 16 27-24 ATL
8 10-15 @SFO 17 Jan 1 NOR
9 14-34 CAR . . SAT
TBB vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Chris Simms 0 0 180,1
RB Cadillac Williams 80,1 10 0
RB Michael Pittman 20 20 0
TE Alex Smith 0 20 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 60,1 0
WR Edell Shepherd 0 20 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 40 0
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: While the Buccaneers were shut out in New England two weeks ago, they sandwiched that loss with wins over the Panthers and Falcons to reach the top of the NFC South with a tie breaker over Carolina in case they remain tied. The Bucs need this win and at home against the hard-luck Saints, the last half of a sweep is all but certain.

Quarterback: Chris Simms threw for just 123 yards and one score in the previous meeting with the Saints and he's been consistently around 150 yards until last week when he had 285 yards and two scores against the Falcons. In the last six games, Simms has only scored in two of them though and remains little more than a game manager in most.

Running Backs: Carnell Williams ran for 96 yards on 22 carries against the Saints earlier this year and he comes off a 150 yard, one touchdown game against the Falcons. He's healthy again and back at home against a NFC South rival that usually nets him his best games.

Wide Receivers: The minimal passing numbers over most of the last month have made this unit secondary to the rushing game but Joey Galloway finally had a decent game again when he had 97 yards on eight catches last week - his best game in December. Galloway had five receptions for 75 yards and one score in the previous meeting with the Saints in week 13.

Michael Clayton will likely miss this week with a toe injury.

Tight Ends: The rookie Alex Smith had been reduced to sub-30 yard games for the last month but showed up big last week when he had a season and career best 75 yards on eight catches.

Match Against the Defense: Since the Saints are sticking with Bouman, this game score should remain fairly low and predicated on defense and rushing. That should allow Cadillac to have a nice running game here with a good shot at one score though he'll likely come in under 100 yards unless he gets a lot of carries. The Saints have not allowed a 100 yard runner in the last nine games.

Simms faces a secondary that has only allowed one team (New England) to throw for more than one score over the last nine games as well. Look for that one score to most likely favor Galloway but the yardage should remain barely moderate as it almost always has this year.