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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: PHI 34, HOU 20

The Eagles (6-10) ended their string of divisional wins by losing far too many of their players to injury last year, including Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook. Terrell Owens was given the "sit down and shut up" and the offense never recovered. The Texans (2-14) come off their own heartbreak season though they are a bit more used to it. Their outlook is brighter this year even if the talk so far has been about who they did not draft.

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
1 --- @HOU 10 --- WAS
2 --- NYG 11 --- TEN
3 --- @SF 12 --- @IND
4 --- GB 13 --- CAR
5 --- DAL 14 --- @WAS
6 --- @NO 15 --- @NYG
7 --- @TB 16 --- @DAL
8 --- JAX 17 --- ATL
9 Open Bye - - MON
PHI at HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 20,1 0 240,2
RB Brian Westbrook 70 40,1 0
RB Correll Buckhalter 30,1 0 0
TE L.J. Smith 0 40 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 70,1 0
WR Reggie Brown 0 60 0
WR Hank Baskett 0 20 0
PK David Akers 2 FG 4 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Eagles lost offensive coordinator Brad Childress but Andy Reid just promoted up Marty Mornhinweg. Childress is gone but this will be much the same offense this year and Reid will be calling the plays. The offense returns to the Pre-TO days when McNabb was still a star quarterback, Westbrook was always dangerous and no wide receiver generated much fantasy interest or production.

Quarterback: After a monster career best season in 2004 with Owens around, Donovan McNabb only lasted nine games in 2005 thanks to a groin injury that ended his year. With Owens gone, McNabb should return to previous form that included around 3200 passing yards each season and around 20 scores. In his initial seasons, McNabb was running for about 500 yards each year and scoring up to six times on the ground but hasn't done nearly that much rushing since 2002 in part due to health problems. McNabb is likely to run this year but the 30-year old quarterback may be pushing his luck if he tries to run too much.

Running Backs: Brian Westbrook enters his fifth season and has yet to play all 16 games. Last year he missed four games and ended with just 617 rushing yards and 616 receiving yards but those numbers should pick up with Owens gone and an even greater need to find a quick passing outlet for McNabb.

The Eagles also have Correll Buckhalter back this year, at least for the first week, to play the short yardage role in the offense. Buckhalter missed all of 2002, 2004 and 2005 with injuries but did manage eight scores in 2003. Anyone holding Buckhalter with plans on using him this season is definitely a "glass half full" sort of owner.

Wide Receivers: With Owens gone, the offense will use second year player Reggie Brown who had 43 catches for 571 yards and four scores though most of that all came late season when McNabb and Owens were gone. Joining him will be newly acquired Donte Stallworth who may not be another Owens, but by the same token he won't be another Pinkston either. It may take a bit of time for Stallworth to hit his groove here but he'll have one of the best NFL quarterbacks and a scheme that will need him to step up into a big role.

Hank Baskett was a training camp star but as a rookie has limited potential for this year. The Eagles were wise in grabbing the veteran Stallworth and allowing Baskett to develop at a slower pace.

Tight Ends: This could be the big year for L.J. Smith who turned in 61 catches for 682 yards and three scores last year. McNabb likes him and the offense needs him to step up. The Philly schedule is tough this year and the tight end should become a very valuable outlet for McNabb and Smith's strength is in receiving. That may not become apparent this week against what should be a softer opponent but will be tested more as the season progresses and ends on the worst string of games in the league this year.

Match Against the Defense: Welcome to the #32 defense in points allowed last year. Sure, the Texans have been working on their defense but week one is not when all the changes come together. Expect a nice game here from the healthy Eagles with Westbrook turning in a solid game of around 100 total yards and Buckhalter getting a chance to score a touchdown before his next season ending injury.

McNabb will want to come out of the gate in a big way after all the crap from the Owens era that questioned his role and ability. Houston ranked #31 against quarterbacks, running backs and wideouts last year. Figure on McNabb needing to prove something here to his teammates if not himself. The yardage should not be that high this week but his touchdown totals should be solid and could go anywhere in this offense at this point.

Houston Texans (0-0)
1 --- PHI 10 --- @JAX
2 --- @IND 11 --- BUF
3 --- WAS 12 --- @NYJ
4 --- MIA 13 --- @OAK
5 Open Bye 14 --- TEN
6 --- @DAL 15 --- @NE
7 --- JAX 16 --- IND
8 --- @TEN 17 --- CLE
9 --- @NYG - - -
HOU vs PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB David Carr 10 0 250,2
RB Vernand Morency 20 20 0
RB Wali Lundy 50 30 0
TE Owen Daniels 0 20 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 20 0
WR Andre Johnson 0 70,1 0
WR Eric Moulds 0 60,1 0
WR Kevin Walter 0 20 0
PK Kris Brown 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Texans start out the Gary Kubiak era after luring the ex-Denver OC to finally becoming a head coach. Troy Calhoun followed Kubiak from Denver to serve as the OC but Kubiak will continue to call the plays. The Texans defense fell apart last year and took the offense along with them. What had been promising in 2004 disappeared last year as David Carr and Andre Johnson both took big steps backwards while Domanick Davis apparently went through what was left of his knee cartilage.

Quarterback: After an encouraging 2004 season that had David Carr throwing for 3531 yards and 16 scores, it was natural to assume he would take the next step in 2005. Unfortunately, that step was on a muddy hill as Carr slid back to only 2488 yards and 14 scores in a season that just kept getting worse. The new offense under Kubiak should be a big benefit for Carr and his career should get back on track now that they team has extended his contract in a show of confidence.

Running Backs: Ah Domanick, we hardly knew ye. After three seasons as the starting tailback for the Texans, Davis continual injury woes finally have added up to chronic knee problems and he's landed in injured reserve as a means for the Texans to retain his rights and their own sense of denial. In his place could have been Reggie Bush but the team opted to go snatch up DE Mario Edwards (see Houston defense, #32 in 2005) as an impact player that could be signed quickly.

That was supposed to leave the aged Antowain Smith as the starter but he was entirely unimpressive in camp and has taken a back seat to sixth round pick Wali Lundy from Virginia. He's about the same size as Davis and has the "one cut and go" style that Kubiak likes. Plus he is a previous unknown (relatively anyway) and could help Kubiak start his own string of "out of nowhere" tailbacks like he had in Denver. Lundy will at least share time with Vernand Morency who is also in the mix and could steal significant playing time if not the starting role eventually. Time will tell and both players are about the same size.

The Texans also grabbed Ron Dayne when he was released by the Broncos. That will spark some speculation that Dayne will become either a short yardage runner or even a starter eventually but it should have no bearing this week and really - after five years of failure and on his third team, shouldn't the optimism be waning by now?

Wide Receivers: The Texans already had former first round pick Andre Johnson for potential and now added the veteran Eric Moulds for a complement that Johnson has never had. While Johnson struggled last year along with the entire team, he has 1142 yards and six scores in his second season. He could break out this year with an improved offense around him. Moulds is 33-years old but still has some playing time left in him. He's long been one of the better possession receivers in the game with a very odd track record of always topping 1000 yards in every even-numbered year (and yet never in an odd-numbered year).

Kevin Walter came over from the Bengals and is the most likely candidate for the #3 receiver with Derrick Lewis also vying for playing time. This offense hasn't been able to use two wideouts well before so it will take some time before the slot means much here.

Tight Ends: A Kubiak offense seems to suggest that the tight ends could matter but how that shakes out is very unclear here. Officially, the 4th round rookie Owen Daniels is listed as the starter with Jeb Putzier as the #2. Bennie Joppru was drafted a few years ago on the premise he was to become the receiving tight end but has battled constant injuries until now. Daniels is a bit of a surprise but played quarterback, flanker and tight end in college. And Kubiak loves pulling players out of a hat...

Match Against the Defense: The Philly defense took a big tumble last year but they've added DE Darren Howard and the front four should be solid this year. Look for the Houston running game to NOT resemble Denver quite yet and produce just moderate numbers here. This early the safest bet is about a 2:1 split for Lundy and Morency but that will unfold this week.

Carr has an improved cast of receivers this year and a new scheme that hasn't been seen yet in Houston. Look for a nice game here from Carr who should surprise by making this into a decent game. Favor Johnson and Moulds but it's too early to be sure how the offense will come around this year.