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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
October 18, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
JAX at HOU SD at KC WAS at IND   *updated

Prediction: PHI 20, TB 17

Both these teams were in "table turning" games but that meant the Eagles dropped one to the incredibly resurgent Saints while the Buccaneers finally ended their frustrating string of losses by a couple of points each when they beat the Bengals by one point. But the Eagles two losses came by giving up leads and the Buccaneers haven't gotten to dominating anyone late in games.

Update: Donte Stallworth hasn't practiced this week and is listed as questionable. It is likely he'll take off another week and no changes are needed for the projections.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-2)
1 24-10 @HOU 10 --- WAS
2 24-30 NYG 11 --- TEN
3 38-24 @SF 12 --- @IND
4 31-9 GB 13 --- CAR
5 38-24 DAL 14 --- @WAS
6 24-27 @NO 15 --- @NYG
7 --- @TB 16 --- @DAL
8 --- JAX 17 --- ATL
9 Open Bye - - MON
PHI at TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 10 0 260,2
RB Brian Westbrook 50 40 0
TE L.J. Smith 0 50,1 0
WR Hank Baskett 0 40 0
WR Reggie Brown 0 80,1 0
WR Greg Lewis 0 30 0
PK David Akers 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Eagles came out predictably flat last week and then predictably came back to get the lead and then unpredictably allowed the Saints to march down and kick a winning field goal. It's just not enough to be good for 59 minutes anymore. The reality is that the Eagles on the road had been giving up three scores to the last two opponents and they are just a different bird when they leave Philly. No matter though - their two close losses went to teams that are above .500 and the Bucs come off their first win of the year.

Quarterback: Donovan McNabb holds on to his "best in the league" status with 247 yards and two scores last week in New Orleans and he threw only his second interception of the year. He never runs when he is on the road but then again, he has yet to turn in less than two scores in every game along with 247 or more yards.

Running Backs: Brian Westbrook's knee is holding up so far and he had 16 carries for 72 yards against the Saints though also a very uncharacteristic three catches for three yards. He had never fallen below 50 receiving yards in any other game he played in this year. With Westbrook feeling well, the Eagles have little use for Correll Buckhalter who only had five carries for 21 yards in the last two games combined.

Wide Receivers: Donte Stallworth missed his second game of the year when he failed to play against his ex-team. I am counting him out again this week until reports that he is practicing and seems likely to play (not that it is ever a guarantee). Reggie Brown has stepped up very nicely this year and not only had a season high 121 yards on six catches for one touchdown, he also ran in a 15-yard end around for a second score last week. Brown has quietly become one of the most productive wideouts in the NFL and has 392 yards in five games - on pace for 1250 yards and 16 touchdowns this year.

The rest of the crew - Hank Baskett, Greg Lewis and Jason Avant have had their moments this year but none factor in with much consistency.

Tight Ends: While L.J. Smith only had one big game this year, he continues to factor in for at least a few catches each week and has scored twice so far. In a down year for tight ends, Smith continues to be one of the more reliable fantasy starters.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers defense has been dinged by a few bigger backs but they are quick and could contain Westbrook better than most in this home game. As an example, last week had Reggie Bush only gaining 23 yards on nine carries but McAllister turned in 123 on just 15 runs. Westbrook needs to return to a heavy role in the passing attack and Buckhalter could get a few more runs this week just to help Westbrook from getting excessively banged up. The Bucs have only allowed two rushing scores at home this year.

McNabb faces a secondary that has always allowed a touchdown but never more than one. This will be another challenge for him but one that he has given every reason to believe he is able to meet and overcome. Something has to change - the Bucs only allow one score and McNabb has always had two. Hard not to like McNabb in this case. Stallworth would have the better match-up this week if he plays and Baskett will replace him if need be but he has really not been more than one catch this year. The two scores could, by design, go anywhere but slightly favor Smith and likely Brown by virtue of his dominant role.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4)
1 0-27 BAL 10 --- @CAR
2 3-14 @ATL 11 --- WAS
3 24-26 CAR 12 --- @DAL
4 Open Bye 13 --- @PIT
5 21-24 @NO 14 --- ATL
6 14-13 CIN 15 --- @CHI
7 --- PHI 16 --- @CLE
8 --- @NYG 17 --- SEA
9 --- NO - MON THU
TBB vs PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Bruce Gradkowski 20 0 230,2
RB Cadillac Williams 70 10 0
RB Michael Pittman 10 30 0
TE Alex Smith 0 20,1 0
WR Joey Galloway 0 80 0
WR Michael Clayton 0 60,1 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 20 0
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers finally found the win column when they surprised the Bengals last week but for the third week in a row, the game was decided by a field goal or less. The rushing game has come back to life and the rookie quarterback is still exceeding expectations, but going against the Eagles is a pretty tall order for a second win. But as always, it should be a closer game.

Quarterback: Bruce Gradkowski has only started two games but both efforts were above expectations and a nice showing against quality opponents. While he threw his first interception last week and only produced 184 passing yards, he did that with 25 of 44 passes completed and had two scores yet again. Gradkowski appears to be the new Simms, able to replace the entrenched starter and in this case, he clearly looks superior to who he is replacing. For a sixth round pick, this quarterback looks like a gem pick.

Running Backs: For the second week in a row, Carnell Williams has played up to last year and comes off a 94 yard effort on 19 carries against the Bengals. He only has one score on the season but has 205 yards on 39 carries in the last two weeks. He doesn't factor much into the passing equation here but this year is looking like 2005 in reverse - horrible for the first three weeks and now great for the next two.

Wide Receivers: Not unlike Simms last year, Gradkowski clearly knows the best player to throw his passes to - Joey Galloway. The duo hooked up for 110 yards and a score in New Orleans and had seven completions for 67 yards last week to lead the team. Michael Clayton had his first touchdown catch of the year during his six receptions for 55 yards which was rather encouraging after only logging a single catch in the Saints game.

Tight Ends: A big tight end is often a nice crutch for a young quarterback and Alex Smith caught a touchdown in each of Gradkowski's starts. His yardage is never much but he has caught eight short passes during the two game reign of the rookie quarterback.

Match Against the Defense: Williams runs against a very good rush defense that should keep him to lower numbers this week with likely no score. The Eagles only give up rushing scores to teams with good passing attacks and that probably won't happen here.

Gradkowski goes against a secondary that always surrenders one passing score on the road and since this week looks more like Philly will not wait to start their push, it should result in more passing yards in the second half for the Bucs. I like Gradkowski to throw at least one score here and likely two since the Bucs at home are playing opponents pretty even so far. Those scores should favor Clayton and even Smith though pulling the hat trick with three straight games with a touchdown would be an even bigger surprise.