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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: St. Louis 13, Dallas 30

The Rams close out a season that included being swept by the 49ers and the Cowboys playoff hopes hang on by a thread. Dallas needs the Redskins or Panthers to lose in addition to winning this last game of the regular season (there are other more involved and less likely ways Dallas could advance). They'll already know when this game happens if the Redskins have won or not so this could be meaningless or very, very important. Probably meaningless but you never know.

St. Louis Rams (5-10)
1 25-28 @SFO 10 16-31 @SEA
2 17-12 @ARI 11 28-38 ARI
3 31-27 TEN 12 33-27 @HOU
4 24-44 @NYG 13 9-24 WAS
5 31-37 SEA 14 13-27 @MIN
6 28-45 @IND 15 16-17 PHI
7 28-17 NOR 16 20-24 SFO
8 24-21 JAC 17 Jan 1 @DAL
9 Open Bye . MON SAT
STL at DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jamie Martin 0 0 250,1
RB Steven Jackson 50 10 0
RB Marshall Faulk 10 30 0
TE B. Manumaleuna 0 10 0
WR Torry Holt 0 90,1 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 60 0
WR Kevin Curtis 0 20 0
WR Shaun McDonald 0 20 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Rams without Marc Bulger is an offense that cannot score which is unfortunate since the defense has never failed to allow opponents easy access to the endzone. Heading into the off-season, this final game comes on the heels of a home loss to the 49ers that highlighted the two deadly weaknesses of the team - a porous defense coupled with an offense that can gain yards but too often turns the ball over before actually scoring.

Quarterback: Jamie Martin was given the starting nod last week and while he had a career high 354 passing yards, his two interceptions spelled disaster. The Rams offensive line has not given Martin or Fitzgerald enough time for plays to develop and that won't get any better in Dallas. In the last four games, the Rams have only thrown five touchdowns.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson was able to play last week after some question about his availability because of a hip pointer. But he only had 28 yards on 16 rushes and Marshall Faulk's final home game (at least likely) had him back in the third down role with nine catches for 44 yards - a season high. The Rams without Bulger have not gained more than 82 rushing yards and even less when on the road.

Wide Receivers: Though all other players have seen their production nosedive since Bulger left, Torry Holt has become the central focus of the offense and his 163 yards last week tied for a season high. Isaac Bruce has not scored or gained more than 73 yards in the last month and Kevin Curtis has fallen off the map with sub-20 yard games for the last month.

Tight Ends: Ending the year as worthless as they started it.

Match Against the Defense: This final home game for the Cowboys may be to net a wildcard but even if that no longer matters, the Cowboys will look to end a promising season on a high note in what could be Parcells' final game as head coach. The running game here has been lethargic at best and in Dallas will struggle to meet even moderate numbers.

Martin goes against a secondary that has been outstanding at home and that will most likely continue the trend of the last month - allow him to throw for some decent yardage and maybe one score while forcing him to throw interceptions and short-circuit most drives. Torry Holt matches on Anthony Henry (if he is allowed to play after last week) and Holt moves around anyway. He should be a safe bet for decent yardage because he gets the lion's share of passes anyway.

Dallas Cowboys (9-6)
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 24-20 @CAR
8 34-13 ARI 17 Jan 1 STL
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DAL vs STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 250,2
RB Julius Jones 90,1 20 0
RB Marion Barber 20 10 0
TE Jason Witten 0 40 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 70,1 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 100,1 0
WR Patrick Crayton 0 10 0
PK Shaun Suisham 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Cowboys hold on to their slim chance at getting the final wildcard and will already know if this game secures a January game or is just playing out a season of too many close losses. This could be the final game for Bill Parcells who refuses to discuss the matter in the way that suggests he has made up his mind and just doesn't want to talk about it. Dallas is 5-2 at home and will look to end on a high note.

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe ends the season with mixed reviews but one thing has held constant - he has played much better at home than on the road. A good showing here against a very weak secondary will help ensure that he starts out next year with a second chance to revive the franchise and he has been better than the recent cast of starters for the last several years.

Running Backs: In what was the most surprising performance of week 16, Julius Jones ran for 194 yards and 34 carries and scored twice. He had not scored since week three and had not topped 100 rushing yards the entire season until last week. It would make sense for Jones to have another big game this week since this is what he did last year, staying below 100 yards in every game until turning in three 150+ yard games at the end of the season. Marion Barber has naturally declined in carries for the last three weeks but remains the relief for Jones.

Wide Receivers: After a hot start to the season turned into mediocrity for most of the year, Terry Glenn has turned it back up with a score in three of the last four games including the impressive game winner last week in Carolina. That included one game over 100 yards which has been his only one since week five. Keyshawn Johnson was scoring earlier in the year but has scored only once in the last seven games. Both Johnson and Glenn will love the cornerbacks of St. Louis and even Patrick Crayton may finally have a game of note though he has only one catch in the three games since returning from injury in week 13.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten is either very important or nothing. In the last five games, he has scored in three of them with at least 41 yards in each and in the other two - he only had one catch for less than ten yards.

Match Against the Defense: In this final home game, the Cowboys offense goes against a very weak Rams defense that is even worse on the road. Look for a good game by Jones with one score.

Bledsoe gets to throw at least two scores and it could be more. That strongly favors the wideouts since the Rams corners are horrible but it could involve Witten again as well. Opponents get to chose when playing the Rams. I like this game to have some good points in it as a reward to the hometown fans in a game that Dallas should win handily and that could be a send-off for Parcells.