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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Wildcard Week
January, , 2005
Season Ticket
Washington at Tampa Bay
4:30 PM Saturday on ABC
Carolina at New York Giants
1:00 PM Sunday on FOX
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Jacksonville at New England
8:00 PM Saturday on ABC
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
4:30 PM Sunday on CBS

Prediction: Jacksonville 20, New England 30

The Jaguars head up north having won eight of their last nine games to face the resurgent Patriots and this game places the Jags into a colder game then they are used to playing. New England has finally had most injured players return or at least figured out how to compensate for those still gone and seem to be enjoying their role of Super Bowl champion turned underdog.

Line: Patriots by 7.5
Weather: Partly cloudy, temperature about 30 degrees

Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4)
1 26-14 SEA 10 30-3 BAL
2 3-10 @IND 11 31-28 @TEN
3 26-20 @NYJ 12 24-17 @ARI
4 7-20 DEN 13 20-14 @CLE
5 23-20 CIN 14 18-26 IND
6 23-17 @PIT 15 10-9 SFO
7 Open Bye 16 38-20 @HOU
8 21-24 @STL 17 40-13 TEN
9 21-14 HOU . . SAT
JAX Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Byron Leftwich 0 0 250,2
RB Fred Taylor 60 10 0
TE Kyle Brady 0 10 0
WR Jimmy Smith 0 80 0
WR Reggie Williams 0 30 0
WR Ernest Wilford 0 80,1 0
WR Matt Jones 0 30,1 0
PK Josh Scobee 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Jaguars appear to be ready to start Byron Leftwich once again but even if he is healthy, this team has struggled against quality opponents this year other than the one win in Pittsburgh. Jacksonville enjoyed what turned out to be one of the lightest schedule in the entire NFL this season but lost both games to the Colts and a visit by the Broncos. The defense has been stellar this year but mostly thanks to that schedule. No team has turned in more than 28 points against them this season.

Quarterback: Byron Leftwich was touted as returning last week but never played a down but this time - they really mean it. David Garrard has added a new flavor to the offense with his running but the passing game needs Leftwich because winning in New England will not likely happen without three or more touchdowns. Tall order for a quarterback that will be rusty in his return and has not played in six weeks.

Leftwich has been taking all the first team snaps in practice this week.

Running Backs: Fred Taylor has really played sparingly in the last half of the season so he should be as rested as he can get for this match-up. Taylor has topped 100 yards in only three games this year and only once since week eight. His only hope of a decent game here is for the score to remain close enough to get him well over 20 carries but he has only had more than 22 carries twice this season.

Wide Receivers: If Leftwich can return and play to form, this group has great promise this week. With Garrard, the passing attack declined to little more than pitch-and-catch with Jimmy Smith but under Leftwich, both Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford enjoy a far bigger role. Wilford has scored in both the last games and even Matt Jones had a touchdown last week, but the passing attack becomes far more diverse and formidable with Leftwich under center.

Tight Ends: Only three scores and very inconsistent use this season. Three times a tight end here has had around 40 yards in a game but in virtually all others there is maybe one catch per game.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriot rushing defense has been very good over the last half of the season and holding Larry Johnson to only 119 yards on 31 carries in Kansas City now looks rather impressive. Unless Taylor has been secretly holding back for the last eight weeks, look for a moderate game here that could end up as a bad one much more likely than a good one.

Leftwich's success is harder to gauge since he has not played in six weeks and returns in a road game in New England. The Patriots pass defense has vastly improved over the last five games after spending most of the season as one of the worst. Best bet here is for Leftwich to have moderate success if he can avoid the rush and score at least once and likely twice. The Patriots secondary has been turning in much better games as of late, but then again they have hardly faced an elite slate of QBs in games against MIA, NYJ (twice), TB and BUF.

New England Patriots (10-6)
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 28-0 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 31-21 @NYJ
8 21-16 BUF 7 26-28 MIA
9 21-40 IND M THU SAT
NEP Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 250,2
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 10 0
RB Patrick Pass 10 20 0
TE Ben Watson 0 30,1 0
WR David Givens 0 70,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 50 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 20 0
WR Troy Brown 0 20 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots win the AFC East once again and had won four consecutive games before tanking in the last game of the season. That final stretch allowed them to mop up the rest of their division with only one game against the Bucs outside their divisional rivals in the last five weeks but even then - they waxed a visiting Florida team 28-0.

Quarterback: While the rest of the team has been injured and lacking consistency, they same cannot be said for Tom Brady who ended the regular season with a league leading 4110 passing yards and his 26 touchdowns are trailing only Manning and Palmer. While the team has been up and down this year, Brady has simply remained at his best the entire season.

Running Backs: While Corey Dillon has only been averaging 3.5 yards per carry this year and has only two games over 77 yards, he has been a scoring machine when he played with 13 touchdowns on the season and at least one in each of the last four games that he started. Dillon won't take over a game with his running but he's been a sure thing to end at least one drive per game with a touchdown.

Wide Receivers: That consistency that Deion Branch has brought to the wideouts here has been over for a while this season. He only has one score in the last six games and has not exceeded 50 yards in most games during the final half of the season. He has only one game over 100 yards while the only other two both went to David Givens who has only scored twice this year. The use of wideout rotation continues to be diverse and without pattern by design.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson finally scored last week after six consecutive weeks without a touchdown. Watson may be the most consistent player on the team though since he hangs out at around 30 yards in almost every game during the last half of the season.

Match Against the Defense: The Jaguars rush defense is good though not great and Dillon should continue his pattern of scoring and falling below 100 yards again this week.

This game, as has most for the Pats, will be won by Brady throwing and there is a great chance that Watson scores this week since he is consistently getting three or four catches per game and the Jags are softer against tight ends. Look for two passing scores from Brady since six of the last seven opponents have managed that against the Jaguars.