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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: DEN 16, NE 17

The Broncos head into New England with a troubling lack of offense - at least where passing is concerned. The amazing fact is that the Denver defense has actually played very well so far and has yet to allow a touchdown. Then again, they've only scored one themselves. The Patriots are 2-0 after dispatching the Bills and Jets and head into Denver where they lost 28-20 in week 6 of last season and then again 27-13 in the divisional round of the 2005 playoffs.

Denver Broncos (1-1)
1 10-18 @STL 10 --- @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 --- SD
3 --- @NE 12 --- @KC
4 Open Bye 13 --- SEA
5 --- BAL 14 --- @SD
6 --- OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 --- @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 --- IND 17 --- SF
9 --- @PIT - MON THU
DEN at NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 0 0 160
RB Mike Bell 50,1 20 0
RB Tatum Bell 60 10 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 10 0
WR Rod Smith 0 40 0
WR David Kircus 0 30 0
WR Javon Walker 0 50 0
PK Jason Elam 3 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The win over the Chiefs was much needed last week but the way the Broncos accomplished that - 9-6 in a field goal war - underscores the need for the offense to start posting some points. There's nothing wrong with the defense that has only allowed 12 points per game, but in particular the passing attack has been not only flat, but the source of five turnovers so far without a single score.

Quarterback: Despite calls for the rookie Jay Cutler, Mike Shanahan is standing behind Jake Plummer as the starter even with no touchdowns, four interceptions, one lost fumble and a completion rate that hovers around 50%. Plummer has yet to throw for more than 173 yards this year and is not doing him or his career any favors.

Plummer threw for 262 yards and two scores in the regular season meeting last year but only had 197 yards and one score in the playoff game.

Running Backs: The Broncos continue with the 60/40 rotation between Tatum Bell and Mike Bell and with a couple of receptions, the duo are fairly close to 50/50 in their use. Mike Bell scored in the first game but that's been the only trip by either into the endzone. In fantasy terms, Shanahan is committed to the rotation though that only promotes concern that the offense cannot get into a groove with a constant shift between a power runner and a fast slasher.

Tatum Bell ran for 114 yards against the Pats in week six last year and the Denver running backs produced two scores in each game.

Wide Receivers: Javon Walker turned in 79 yards on five catches last week but he only had 41 yards the previous game and Rod Smith has only five catches for 50 yards in both games combined. Outside of one long pass to Walker, there's been almost no fantasy value in this crew so far and they are taking the brunt of Plummer's passing troubles. Smith left the game against the Chiefs with a concussion but he is expected to play this week.

Rod Smith rang up 123 yards and one score in week six against the Pats and later 96 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs. Seems amazing by this year's standards.

Tight Ends: Two catches a week and almost no yardage here.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots have not faced a big rushing attack yet this year but there are ample reasons to expect that the Broncos won't have a big game on the ground this week. Look for one rushing score to happen by the more powerful back in Mike Bell but the split in carries will prevent either from turning in anything more than a moderate game here.

Plummer of 2005 had little problem exploiting this defense. Plummer of 2006 is struggling and the Patriots are not racked by injuries on defense this time. On the road, look for Plummer to continue to post sub-200 yard numbers and to still not score. Pennington gashed the Pats last week but that came late in the game after the Pats had a 24-0 lead. Pennington only had 104 yards at halftime.

New England Patriots (2-0)
1 19-17 BUF 10 --- NYJ
2 24-17 @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 DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 210,1
RB Corey Dillon 70,1 20 0
RB Lawrence Maroney 80 0 0
TE Ben Watson 0 40 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR Chad Jackson 0 30 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 30 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30,1 0
PK Stephen Gostkowski 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Patriots outlasted the Bills to open the season and thought they had an easy win last week when they led the Jets 24-0. After 17 unanswered points, it looked like the game was much closer than it should have been. Those late game collapses are a killer and that should send the message to put teams away when they can. Brady has not been nearly as electric this year as he was in 2005, but he's just now getting all his wideouts on the field and sorted out. With a road trip to Cincinnati next week and a home stand against the Dolphins, the Patriots will have to work to reach 5-0 when they have their bye week.

Quarterback: Tom Brady has only a game high of 220 passing yards so far this season but the team is 2-0 and thanks to the addition of Laurence Maroney, the rushing game now accounts for around 35 carries each week. Doug Gabriel and Chad Jackson are now added to the menu and should help Brady find more targets. More than that, the first two weeks were the easier part of the schedule and now with Denver and Cincinnati up next, Brady will have to be more productive to ensure a win.

Brady threw for 299 yards and one score in Denver last year and later had 341 yards and a score in the playoff loss.

Running Backs: While neither Corey Dillon nor Laurence Maroney rank as top fantasy backs, the fact is that together they produce huge numbers and separately they still have enough value to warrant starting on a fantasy team. The duo has combined for 159 and 145 rushing yards in the first two weeks and both scored against the Jets. The split remains slightly favoring Dillon but either back could start on most NFL teams.

Dillon was injured during the regular season match-up and only had 57 yards on 13 carries in the playoffs against Denver.

Wide Receivers: The low passing numbers from Brady have made this crew pretty mediocre so far but the rookie Chad Jackson showed up last week and recorded his first NFL touchdown during his two catches for 42 yards. Doug Gabriel was held without a catch but should start to make his presence known soon enough. It's the typical Patriot passing scheme - spread the ball out to everyone so that no one has much fantasy value and even less reliability.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson was held to only 39 yards on three catches last week and he had 50 yards the week before. His role should expand as the defenses get tougher this season.

Match Against the Defense: The Broncos defense has kept opponents out of the endzone so far but they've only marginally slowed running backs. Both Jackson (22-121) and Johnson (27-126) had nice efforts and neither player has done what the Pats are doing with the tandem of Maroney and Dillon. Look for the Broncos to give up one score here to one of the running backs and for both to turn in respectable yardage.

Brady's role will depend in part on the success of the run game. Given that it looks like that should work well, expect just a moderate game from Brady but with one score.