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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: BUF 13, NE 31

The season opens rough for the Buffalo Bills (5-11) who come off a bad season that witnessed the loss of long-time wideout Eric Moulds and a new head coach in the recycled Dick Jauron. The Patriots (10-6) won the AFC East last year but it was no cakewalk with a resurgent Miami and a Patriots team that somehow kept plugging along despite injuries.

The Patriots swept the Bills last year, winning 21-16 in week eight and then again 35-7 in week 14.

Buffalo Bills (0-0)
1 --- @NE 10 --- @IND
2 --- @MIA 11 --- @HOU
3 --- NYJ 12 --- JAX
4 --- MIN 13 --- SD
5 --- @CHI 14 --- @NYJ
6 --- @DET 15 --- MIA
7 --- NE 16 --- TEN
8 Open Bye 17 --- @BAL
9 --- GB - - -
BUF at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB J.P. Losman 10 0 170,1
RB Willis McGahee 80 20 0
TE Robert Royal 0 10 0
WR Peerless Price 0 40 0
WR Lee Evans 0 70,1 0
WR Josh Reed 0 20 0
PK Rian Lindell 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Buffalo tilled the soil by adding new head coach Dick Jauron who led the Chicago Bears until getting the boot there after 2003 and landing with the Lions where he filled in as interim head coach after Mariucci left during the season. Jauron's background was primarily defense and he made an interesting pick in tabbing Steve Fairchild who spent the last three years as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis. If Buffalo can end up with Chicago's defense and St. Louis' offense, it will be a contender. As a rebuilding team this year, they look more like they have Chicago's offense and St. Louis' defense but changes have to start somewhere.

Quarterback: HC Dick Jauron finally named J.P. Losman as the starting quarterback but that took until August 29th - not exactly a ringing endorsement quite yet. Losman is the quarterback that is supposedly the most talented if only in that "potential" sort of way but he only played in nine games last year. That was four games as a starter before being yanked for playing horribly and then picking back up in week ten after Holcomb got a concussion. Losman had a couple of decent games then so the jury is still out.

Kelly Holcomb threw for 263 yards and one score in New England last year while J.P. Losman took the week 14 game and had only ten completions for 181 yards and one score with three interceptions.

Running Backs: Willis McGahee became the heavy-duty, every down back last year when he totaled 1247 yards on 325 carries. That ranked 8th best in carries for the NFL last year but that was the only top ten performance that McGahee had. He only averaged 3.8 yards and scored only five times. In fairness, McGahee started the season out hot with four 100 yard games in the first eight weeks and four of his scores but then his performance sharply declined as did the rest of the team last year. He'll again be a fulltime back only now he'll be playing in more of a "St. Louis" offense that could eventually reduce his carries but increase his role in the passing game a little.

In week eight, McGahee slashed the Patriots for 136 yards on 31 carries but only managed a paltry three yards on eight runs when the Pats visited Buffalo in week 14.

Wide Receivers: The long-time veteran Eric Moulds has gone to Houston and leaves behind Lee Evans as the clear #1 wideout in Buffalo. Evans has averaged eight touchdowns a year in just two seasons and enters his third year with far less competition than ever before. Evans still has not had more than 50 catches in a season nor surpassed 843 yards (his rookie year). But for being a third year wideout, he is in a good position. He'll need to prove this year that he is more than just a blur down the sideline and pick up some of the possession catch needs that Moulds historically supplied. For those that believe in miracles, the Bills have re-acquired Peerless Price who returns to the only place that he ever had any success (though that was just for about half a year really). Moulds was the possession guy that allowed Price to go deep so now he and Evans will flip a coin in the huddle to see who gets the post pattern and who gets crushed by the safety in the middle. Josh Reed still figures into the equation as well but has proven to be little more than an adequate #3 receiver. This will be an interesting game to see since the passing game should look rather different from last year.

In perhaps his best effort of the year, Eric Moulds was able to catch nine passes for 125 yards and a score against the Pats in week eight while Lee Evans only had one catch for 14 yards. In week 14, Evans ended with 83 yards on four catches while Josh Reed had 76 yards and one touchdown.

Tight Ends: Buffalo tight ends have mattered little in recent years and with a Rams-style offense looming there is no reason to believe that will change.

There was only one tight end catch in each of the meetings against the Patriots last year.

Match Against the Defense: Losman struggled mightily against the Patriots last year despite the fact that New England ranked dead last against wideouts. He only completed 10 of 27 passes for 181 yards and one of those was a 51 yard touchdown to Reed during the final two minutes of trash time. He had three picks and one was returned for a score. The Patriot defense will be better this time if only because they are healthier and the game being played in Foxboro doesn't help matters much. Expect a sub-par game from Losman and hope it isn't just a normal game for him this year.

McGahee was completely ineffective the last time he faced the Pats but that was at the end of a very bad year. McGahee should start out with at least a decent game here but expect the score to get away from the Bills quickly enough that McGahee won't get the volume to do that much. The Pats are running the same defense with healthy players against a new scheme in Buffalo with either new or inexperienced players in many positions.

New England Patriots (0-0)
1 --- BUF 10 --- NYJ
2 --- @NYJ 11 --- @GB
3 --- DEN 12 --- CHI
4 --- @CIN 13 --- DET
5 --- MIA 14 --- @MIA
6 Open Bye 15 --- HOU
7 --- @BUF 16 --- @JAX
8 --- @MIN 17 --- @TEN
9 --- IND - - MON
NEP vs BUF Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 260,2
RB Corey Dillon 110,1 10 0
TE Ben Watson 0 50,1 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 10 0
WR Doug Gabriel 0 40 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 70,1 0
WR Troy Brown 0 50 0
PK S. Gostowski 1 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots stumbled through a tough season in 2005 but still won the AFC East thanks to all teams taking a step down from yesteryear. The brightest spot was the addition of Laurence Maroney but he is being called out this week so Dillon returns as the primary ball carrier with little or no sharing. Brady has been a master as spreading the ball around which will definitely come into play this year with Deion Branch pulling a McCardell routine by not reporting and the wideouts have lost David Givens. This will be a mostly new set of receivers but as long as Brady remains under center, it really has not matter much who is going out for a pass.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has shown remarkable consistency each of the last four seasons always throwing from 23 to 28 touchdowns and usually turning in 3700 passing yards. His 4110 yards last year led the league and his 26 scores ranked third best. It is a complicated system and so far there has been no one as good as Brady running the show.

Brady only had 188 yards and one score when they hosted the Bills in 2005 but as a visitor he rang up 329 yards and two touchdowns with yet another rushed in as well.

Running Backs: The Patriots acquired Laurence Maroney as the second back drafted this year and while he looked terrific in the preseason, he suffered the standard "undisclosed" injury to his knee and has been claimed to be out this week. That leaves Corey Dillon to continue to take the start and the 32-year old running back will be playing with a chip on his shoulder in an offense that has seen him score 13 times both seasons in New England. He may not last the whole year, but he should start out "en fuego".

Dillon ran for 72 yards and two scores in the first meeting against the Bills and tacked on 102 yards and one touchdown in the second meeting.

Wide Receivers: The Patriots always have an interesting set of wideouts that are hard to forecast and this may be the worst year of all to make predictions. David Givens is gone and Deion Branch is trying really hard to be as well. For this week, the most likely candidates include the 35-year old Troy Brown, newly acquired Reche Caldwell and "just last week" acquired Doug Gabriel. If you thought Patriot wideouts were hard to rely on in the past, you have not seen anything yet. This should be interesting game since last year the only wideout with a catch against the Bills who is still on the Pats roster was Troy Brown who only had 45 yards in week 14.

Tight Ends: While Daniel Graham remains the starting tight end, that moniker refers to his role in the passing game more than anything. Graham only had 235 yards last year with three scores. The most exciting tight end, and could be overall receiver, is Ben Watson who had almost no playing time in his first two seasons but turned in 29 catches for 441 yards and four scores last year. He is the one to watch here and is positioned for a very nice breakout year.

Ben Watson had 35 yards on three catches in the second meeting against the Bills last year and no tight end scored against them.

Match Against the Defense: The Bills already had the 24th ranked defense in points allowed last year and they're rebuilding this year. Tough gig to start out in New England for them but that should be a big benefit to the Pats. Expect a nice game from Dillon here free from Maroney and a bit pissed off that everyone tried to write him off already.

Brady should have at least a good game here but how good will depend on the game situation that appears a near lock to be an easy win. All teams like to start out hot though and at home, what better way for Belichick to send a message to Branch than to show that he does not need him. Brady should throw for a couple of scores but where they go is almost impossible to predict at this time. I like the chance for a defensive score here with Losman and a new scheme coming together.