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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 20, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
GB at DET WAS at HOU STL at ARZ   updated

Prediction: ATL 24, NO 16

The Falcons are starting out red hot again this year sporting yet again the NFL's best rushing attack thanks to Michael "and I'm off" Vick and the age-less Warrick Dunn. The Saints are also on a very surprising 2-0 start with their own version of Vick-mania in Reggie Bush. This should be a good Monday Night game played as the opener in New Orleans in a refurbished Superdome with all the obligatory (and deserved) references to the catastrophe last year that befell all of the area. The Falcons have this one on paper but the emotion will belong to the Saints.

The Falcons swept the Saints last year, 34-31 and 36-17.

Atlanta Falcons (2-0)
1 20-6 @CAR 10 --- CLE
2 14-3 TB 11 --- @BAL
3 --- @NO 12 --- NO
4 --- ARZ 13 --- @WAS
5 Open Bye 14 --- @TB
6 --- NYG 15 --- DAL
7 --- PIT 16 --- CAR
8 --- @CIN 17 --- @PHI
9 --- @DET - MON SAT
ATL at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 80,1 0 120,1
RB Warrick Dunn 100 10 0
RB Jerious Norwood 50,1 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 30,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 20 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Morton Andersen 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: Nothing wrong with the Atlanta defense when they rip through their two biggest divisional opponents with two wins and only allowing a total of nine points so far this year. The passing game has finally be officially deemed "it is what it is" and the running game has never looked better with Vick, Dunn and now the rookie Norwood tearing up the turf. After two big wins, this could be the place for a letdown but that defense and rushing game make it hard to imagine. A win here over their third straight divisional opponent puts the Falcons in a commanding lead.

Quarterback: While Michael Vick already has three passing scores this year, he has not thrown for more than 140 yards in a game and his completion rate is just above 50% but it doesn't really matter when he has already gained 175 yards on 21 runs over the last two week - a mere 8.3 yards per carry. The offense not only has looked sharp, it has stopped trying to be anything more than it is - a run-heavy attack spearheaded by Vick that is very difficult to defend against.

Vick had some of his better games against the Saints last year, turning in 112 passing yards and one score as a visitor that included 51 rushing yards. Back in Atlanta in week 14, he had 38 rushing yards and two touchdowns along with 231 passing yards and yet another score.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn had already racked up two games of around 133 yards in each though he still has no touchdowns and only one catch for ten yards outside of his rushing role. The rookie Jerious Norwood ran for 66 yards on 10 carries in the opener and added 45 more on nine runs last week. He's averaging 5.8 yards per carry while Dunn has a "mere" 5.3 yard average.

Dunn ran for 100 yards and a score in New Orleans last year but only had 73 yards back in Atlanta.

Wide Receivers: With all the rushing, there's little chance or need for the wideouts to matter and so far Michael Jenkins has the season high game with just 77 yards. No other wideout has managed more than 27 yards in a game and that will continue as long as the running game mows down the opposing defenses.

Roddy White scored once against the Saints last year but no wideout had more than his 65 yards in that home game. He injured his ribs last week and could not finish the game. I am projecting for White but his status could change.

Tight Ends: All this rushing has even hit Alge Crumpler who only has four catches for 49 yards and one score on the year. He wasn't even the primary pass target for Vick last week and only had two balls thrown his way.

Crumpler only had four catches for 52 yards in New Orleans last year but turned in 94 yards back at home in this match-up.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints rushing defense has been outstanding so far this year but that's only going against Ahman Green and Rueben Droughns. That's like making two old dogs sit compared to trying to herd cats this week. It is a Monday Night game and the national stage - expect a nice game from Vick and Dunn here when the Falcons show the Saints the difference between playing against two 0-2 teams and now hosting a 2-0 squad.

Vick won't likely throw any more than he has and the fast carpet in the Superdome only helps him and Dunn running. Expect meager passing numbers and one score and for the bulk of offense, of course, to come from Vick and Dunn.

New Orleans Saints (2-0)
1 19-14 @CLE 10 --- @PIT
2 34-27 @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 vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 260,1
RB Reggie Bush 20 70 0
RB Deuce McAllister 60 10 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 40 0
WR Marques Colston 0 80,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 50 0
PK John Carney 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Saints have opened the Sean Payton era in a nice way with two wins but the Browns and the Packers are hardly the cream of the league. But both came on the road for a rebuilding team installing a new offense and defense so the team is headed in the right direction. Playing at home finally back in the Superdome should be emotional for the fans but probably less so for the team that has all new coaches, a new quarterback and running back that were not around for the nightmare of 2005.

Quarterback: After an average outing of just 176 yards and one score in week one, Drew Brees ripped up the Packers last week for 353 yards and two scores. Brees still had an interception in both games as a Saint and even lost two fumbles in Green Bay last week. The offense is still new and developing but Brees has already learned his best pass - dump it to Bush and then watch what happens.

Running Backs: After a big rushing effort against the Browns, the Saints settled down significantly against the Packers and Reggie Bush was denied the corner for the entire game, leaving him with a paltry five yards gained on six runs. But as he did in week one, he also caught eight passes and makes his mark more as a receiver than a rusher. Deuce McAllister only came up with 12 runs for 47 yards last week but he scored twice and is shaking off the rust from last year.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn was almost blanked in week one but against the softer Packer secondary, he posted five catches for 88 yards. Both Devery Henderson and Marques Colston scored last week and that makes the rookie Colston now the top wideout in both yards and catches and touchdowns for the Saints. Brees has been spreading the ball around fairly well already and the three wideouts all have turned in decent games so far.

Tight Ends: The tight end has no real role in this offense so far, with no passes being thrown to them in week one and only one completion to Mark Campbell last week.

Match Against the Defense: Not unlike the Saints defense, the Falcons have been outstanding against the run this year but both Carnell Williams and DeShaun Foster have flopped against all opponents. The Saints are going to be motivated to win their home opener and Bush in particular will want a big game. This is the true test of the offense against a very good defense that is very familiar with playing in a dome on the carpet with fast players. Expect moderate numbers here but it likely depends on whether Bush can get the corner or break a long reception.

Brees goes against an opportunistic defense that will occasionally risk a long completion for a chance to bash the quarterback. Since the Falcons are likely to gain an early lead here, expect more late game passing to catch up that will benefit the three wideouts but mostly Marques Colston since Horn draws CB DeAngelo Hall.