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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 ESPN
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: NO 14, CLE 17

The Saints (3-13) started out with the hurricane problems and their luck changed little over the season as Deuce McAllister tore up his knee and the Saints were forced to become NFL vagabonds. There are reasons to believe the Saints are on the path up now and if nothing else, it's hard to imagine they could possibly face as many challenges this year as in 2005. The Browns (6-10) start out the new Romeo Crennel era last year with some positives coming from the defense and almost nothing but problems out of the offense. Both teams have spent the last eight months getting better and that should be evident here in the first week.

New Orleans Saints (0-0)
1 --- @CLE 10 --- @PIT
2 --- @GB 11 --- CIN
3 --- ATL 12 --- @ATL
4 --- @CAR 13 --- SF
5 --- TB 14 --- @DAL
6 --- PHI 15 --- WAS
7 Open Bye 16 --- @NYG
8 --- BAL 17 --- CAR
9 --- @TB - - MON
NOR at CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 190,1
RB Reggie Bush 60 40,1 0
RB Deuce McAllister 30 0 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 20 0
WR Joe Horn 0 60 0
WR Marques Colston 0 30 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 40 0
PK John Carney 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Saints attempt to put their horrific year behind them by starting the new regime of head coach Sean Payton who last was the offensive coordinator in Dallas. Doug Marone came down from the Jets to serve as OC this year but the offensive minded head coach will be calling the plays. The first move of the franchise was to dump Aaron Brooks and obtain Drew Brees. They then had Reggie Bush fall into their laps and suddenly have a much different backfield indeed. A trade away of Stallworth recently and this team will look all new for 2005

Quarterback: Tired of the inconsistent play of Aaron Brooks, the Saints moved to get Drew Brees under center this year and hopefully start a new era in New Orleans that is costing a mere $60 million over the next six years. Brees has thrown for 27 and 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons while only totaling 22 interceptions in that time. That alone is a step up.

Brees spent the offseason rehabbing his shoulder but was given medical clearance. His level of play in the preseason wasn't up to Charger standard, but that cannot be expected this early. Brees took time to hit his groove in San Diego too.

Running Backs: The Saints signed Deuce McAllister to a $50 million deal in July of 2005 so his knee injury last year proved especially costly. Then the Saints found themselves with the chance to sign Reggie Bush and really start the new era out on a high note. Guaranteed - the Saints have some major coin wrapped up in their backfield. McAllister has looked sharp in training camp despite being less than a year from when he tore his knee up and will play. Reggie Bush has turned in some jaw-dropping moves and he too will play. The scenario seems to smack of the USC backfield that Bush just left with LenDale White as a fellow runner. That may be the only parallel to the USC offense this year though.

The expectation is that both will play and that Bush will handle most of the "between the 20's" duty and almost all the receiving role while McAllister will be more shorter yardage and between the tackles. Both will play but the question is how many opportunities will each get and how much will each limit the other's fantasy value? This could prove to be an exciting rushing attack but that could take some time with most other facets of the team still evolving.

Wide Receivers: The new coaching staff never warmed up to Donte Stallworth who was sent packing to the Eagles in August. Joe Horn remains the clear #1 wideout here. The 33-year old wideout still has some gas left in the tank and had two big seasons before the crash of 2005. He'll be joined by Devery Henderson and the rookie Marques Colston but this offense won't likely be throwing nearly as much as in seasons past with a far better rushing game to use and backs that can catch the ball which almost never happened when Brooks was the quarterback.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell is the starter because he is the better blocker but Mark Campbell is considered the better receiving tight end and is more likely to have fantasy value. Payton brings in a system from Dallas that likes to use the tight end and that should see an uptick for the position this year.

Match Against the Defense: The Cleveland defense has upgraded with NT Ted Washington and LB Willie McGinest and should be at least average or better this year with the defensive-minded Crennel as head coach. Expect the middle to be clogged for McAllister but as we are all waiting to see - the outside could be productive for Reggie Bush. Projecting for Bush will be a challenge this year since he seems very much in that Barry Sanders mode of either losing yards or breaking a long gainer. Figure Bush for at least some moderate yardage and know that his stats could change significantly on the basis of just one play.

Brees goes against a secondary that ranked #2 against quarterbacks in part due to opponents just running the ball. But Brees is still learning this offense as is the rest of the team and he hasn't looked too sharp lately. Hands off for opening week that should see only moderate numbers and no more than one score.

Cleveland Browns (0-0)
1 --- NO 10 --- @ATL
2 --- @CIN 11 --- PIT
3 --- BAL 12 --- CIN
4 --- @OAK 13 --- KC
5 --- @CAR 14 --- @PIT
6 Open Bye 15 --- @BAL
7 --- DEN 16 --- TB
8 --- NYJ 17 --- @HOU
9 --- @SD - - THU
CLE vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Charlie Frye 0 0 200,1
RB Reuben Droughns 90,1 10 0
TE Kellen Winslow 0 40 0
WR Joe Jurevicius 0 60,1 0
WR Braylon Edwards 0 30 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 40 0
PK Phil Dawson 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Browns suffered through the growing pains of their first year under Romeo Crennel but 2006 should show definite signs of turning the corner. The defense was the focus in free agency and the draft and should be markedly improved. The team tried to address the offensive line problems but LeCharles Bentley was lost for the year on the first day of training camp. Reuben Droughns has struggled with legal problems and the Browns are standing pat in the backfield. Charlie Frye returns for what should be a better season and Joe Jurevicius has replaced Antonio Bryant. Even Kellen Winslow is relatively healthy and ready to go.

Quarterback: Charlie Frye started the last five games of the season and ended with four scores and five interceptions - about expected given the situation. But this year he has some experience and a far better set of receivers with Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius and Kellen Winslow. What he needs most is a line to protect him - that will be the biggest success factor for this offense and one that failed last year.

Running Backs: The Browns acquired the newest ex-Denver back in 2005 when they brought on Reuben Droughns and he responded with 1232 rushing yards on 309 carries but only scored twice on the season. Droughns still has a legal situation looming but a trial date is not until next February so Droughns has time to play all the way through the Super Bowl (though he'll want to be on another team to have that happen).

The Browns also released both William Green and Lee Suggs so the rookie Jerome Harrison becomes the #2 who should become the third down back if not the eventual starter. He's a bit under-sized than ideal but then again he only has an ex-second string fullback in front of him.

Wide Receivers: Braylon Edwards was the prized draft pick last year and he was just starting to catch fire when he tore his ACL in week 13 after scoring two touchdowns against the Jaguars. Edwards is way ahead of schedule and already played in the third preseason game. He's not 100% yet this week by any means but his progress is very encouraging. The Browns lost Antonio Bryant and added Joe Jurevicius for a great possession receiver who will stand tall over the middle. The diminutive Dennis Northcutt was looking at expanded playing time but Edward's return will no doubt cut into that.

Tight Ends: Maybe third time's a charm? Kellen Winslow is back to practice and ready to deliver on the contract extension he signed last year. So far Winslow has made over $10 million thanks to his initial signing bonus and he's expected to become an integral part of the passing game but after two years of disappointments and a knee that even he admits is not as good as it originally was, Winslow needs to show up this year.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints downward spiral last year was more related to offensive problems than what the defense did but make no mistake here - the team will struggle to be even average this year. Expect a nice opening week for the Browns against a rebuilding and struggling Saints team that has yet to look in synch. Droughns should have one of his best games of the year here and could score the rare touchdown.

Charlie Frye gets to roll out the offense against probably the weakest team he will face all season. Expect a decent game here that involves Winslow and Jurevicius while easing Edwards back onto the field.