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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Divisional Week
January 14, 2005
Season Ticket
Washington at Seattle
4:30 PM Saturday on FOX
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
1:00 PM Sunday on CBS
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New England at Denver
8:00 PM Saturday on CBS
Carolina at Chicago
4:30 PM Sunday on FOX

Prediction: New England 20, Denver 24

The Patriots hit the road for a rematch of the game in Denver during week six when the Broncos won 28-20 after leading 28-3 in the third quarter when they allowed the Patriots to make the score more respectable. But this time the Patriots will have Corey Dillon back on the field, assumedly, and the Patriots have been scoring points and winning handily in the last month.

Line: Denver by 3, Over/Under = 43.5
Weather: Clear and around 44 degrees

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 0 270,2
RB Corey Dillon 60 0 0
TE Ben Watson 0 40,1 0
WR David Givens 0 80,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 70 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 30 0
WR Troy Brown 0 40 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Patriots had little trouble dispatching the Jaguars last week when came up with three passing scores by Brady that was finally capped off by a long interception return for a touchdown by Asante Samuel. The previous meeting with the Broncos came during the worst stretch of the year for the injury-wracked Patriots and the final month of the season showed that whatever had been missing has been compensated for by now. The Patriots, incredibly, feel disrespected and the reigning champs will come to play.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has been nothing short of stellar this season regardless of how the rest of the team has fared. He threw for 299 yards and one score against the Broncos in week six with one score and had no turnovers. Since that game Brady has thrown for at least two touchdowns in the last four games and his 299 yards in week six was the second most allowed by the Broncos this season.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon did not run well last week - he only gained 40 yards on 17 carries and did not score for the first time in over a month. Kevin Faulk actually opened the game but only had six carries that netted him 51 yards. Back in week six, the Patriots ran for 78 yards and one score with most of that coming from Patrick Pass who was also the leading receiver for the team with six catches for 89 yards that mostly came later in the game when the Broncos dropped deeper to protect against the wideouts.

Wide Receivers: Deion Branch matched against Champ Bailey in week six but still had seven catches for 87 yards while David Givens turned in 58 yards and the lone passing score. Tim Dwight had one catch for 49 yards but no other wideouts had any production. Most of their yardage came in the second half though when the team trailed badly. Brady only had 118 yards by halftime and Givens and Branch combined for only 58 yards at the end of the second quarter.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson only had one catch for six yards in the previous meeting with the Broncos, but he's been far more involved in virtually every game since then. Watson had been turning in around 35 yards every week and last Sunday led the team with 91 yards and one score thanks to a 63 yard touchdown catch.

Match Against the Defense: Patrick Pass was only visiting runner to score against the Broncos this year other than Tomlinson and the Broncos have kept all runners in Denver below that 64 yard mark other than Clinton Portis. Dillon had been scoring in each game for the last month until last week but he's not likely to run any better in Denver than he has been so expect only moderate yardage here with only a small chance for a rushing score.

Brady goes against a team that allowed him 299 yards and a score last time but most of that came when the Broncos already had a significant lead. The Broncos have only allowed eight passing scores in Denver this year along with eight interceptions. The Patriot defense is playing better and won't likely allow the Broncos to get a significant lead again, so the passing numbers for Brady will drop a bit. But this is an "all or nothing" game for the champs, so two scores by Brady should happen here. In each game that the Broncos faced a team with a good tight end, they allowed nice games so Watson in particular should better his numbers here from the previous game.

Denver Broncos (13-3)
1 10-34 @MIA 10 31-17 @OAK
2 20-17 SDC 11 27-0 NYJ
3 30-10 KCC 12 24-21 @DAL
4 20-7 @JAC 13 27-31 @KCC
5 21-19 WAS 14 12-10 BAL
6 28-20 NE 15 28-17 @BUF
7 23-24 @NYG 16 22-3 OAK
8 49-21 PHI 17 23-7 @SDC
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DEN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 0 0 240,2
RB Mike Anderson 50,1 10 0
RB Tatum Bell 80 10 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 20 0
WR Rod Smith 0 80,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 70,1 0
WR Charlie Adams 0 30 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Broncos come off their bye and get ready to add to their four game winning streak and their perfect 8-0 home record. Having won 28-20 already in week six in a game that wasn't even close until the fourth quarter, the Broncos just need to replicate their previous performance only without the late game prevent defense that allowed the Patriots to draw much closer.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer completed 17 of 24 for 262 yards and two scores in the previous meeting against the Patriots in what would end up as his second best game of the regular season. Plummer more typically has only thrown one score in each game and his two efforts over that since week six are balanced by two games without a passing score. Just as important, Plummer has thrown only one interception at home since week two of the season.

Running Backs: Mike Anderson had a tough time getting yards in the previous match-up against the Patriots when he only turned in 57 yards on 15 carries though he scored once. Tatum Bell was the problem for the Pats defense since his speed allowed him to gain 114 yards and one touchdown on only 13 carries. The duo will be mixed again in this game with Bell a bigger worry for the Patriots. Anderson has scored in four of the last five home games.

Wide Receivers: Rod Smith had six catches for 123 yards and one score against the Patriots this year while Ashley Lelie turned just three receptions into 81 yards. Despite his age, Smith remains the primary target for Plummer and has been consistently around 60 yards per game as a starting point. Lelie only has one score on the season versus six for Smith but has topped 80 yards in a game four times this year. The wideouts will be needed this week against a secondary that still remains the weak spot for the Patriot defense.

Tight Ends: Jeb Putzier had three catches for 32 yards against the Pats in week six and that has been roughly his average game. Putzier still has not scored this season and almost all his games with notable yardage have come on the road. He has gained 312 yards in away games and yet only 169 yards while in Denver this year.

Match Against the Defense: Anderson and Bell combined for 161 yards and two scores in the previous meeting with the Patriots and that was the most allowed this season. On the road, the Patriots rush defense has been much improved from earlier in the year though those came against divisional rivals. In their two most recent road games outside well known foes, the Pats allowed big games to both Denver and Kansas City. Expect Ball to continue to be the leader in yardage from his ability to break long runs and for there to be at least one rushing score - that still favors the bigger Anderson.

Tedy Bruschi did not play last week as he assumedly was recovering from a calf injury of week 17 but he is expected to play this week and the run defense improves with him there.

Plummer already threw for 262 yards and two scores against the Pats this year and that was in a game that only needed 24 pass attempts. The Patriot secondary still remains the weakest part of this defense though improved from week six. The Patriots always allow at least one passing score and more often two to road opponents. Look for the Broncos to continue that trend which already fits into what they did in week six.