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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
October 25, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
BAL at NO SF at CHI NYJ at CLE NE at MIN  
HOU at TEN TB at NYG PIT at OAK   updated

Prediction: BAL 16, NO 17

Yet another chance for the Saints to show they are this season's team of destiny (though never say that around Chicago). The Ravens come off a bye week licking their wounds after two straight losses while the Saints are back at home where they are 3-0 including wins over the Eagles and Falcons. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this week but the Saints at home with a more diverse offense should be just enough. These teams usually play in very close games anyway and points will likely be at a premium here. One major mistake could easily sway the outcome.

Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
1 27-0 @TB 10 --- @TEN
2 28-6 OAK 11 --- ATL
3 15-14 @CLE 12 --- PIT
4 16-13 SD 13 --- @CIN
5 3-13 @DEN 14 --- @KC
6 21-23 CAR 15 --- CLE
7 Open Bye 16 --- @PIT
8 --- @NO 17 --- BUF
9 --- CIN - THU MON
BAL at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 0 0 200,1
RB Jamal Lewis 50 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 60,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 70 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 40 0
WR Demetrius Williams 0 10 0
PK Matt Stover 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: After back-to-back losses, the Ravens started their bye week by firing their offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and the play calling will go back to HC Brian Billick. While he spent six years as the offensive coordinator in Minnesota, it has been seven years since he left to become a head coach. The offense is not going to change overnight and the playcalling is not going to be dramatically altered in just one week. Billick is just asking his players to execute the plays correctly - Just like Fassel did.

Quarterback: After the first four weeks, the Ravens were still the darlings of surprise teams with a 4-0 record and a defense that was even better than expected. But those games against the Browns and Chargers were very close wins and indicated that all was not well with the offense. A loss in Denver was followed by a loss to the visiting Panthers who knocked Steve McNair out of the game. The oddity here - Kyle Boller looked much better than Steve McNair had and threw for three touchdowns and 226 yards.

McNair suffered a concussion but is expected back this week and according to HC Brian Billick, there is no change to who the starting quarterback is even despite the nice showing by Boller.

Running Backs: The offensive problems for the Ravens are no more pronounced than in the rushing game where Jamal Lewis has been just as ineffective as ever. He hasn't scored since week one and hasn't even topped 43 rushing yards in the last three games. He has 352 rushing yards on 97 carries so far this year for a 3.6 yard average but in the last three weeks, he racked up a paltry 118 yards on 39 runs - just 3.0 yards per carry. While Musa Smith has been more impressive in very limited play, they team has not moved from featuring Lewis. Mike Anderson was given half a dozen runs in each of the last two games but hasn't done enough to warrant more time. Against the Panthers he turned six carries into only seven yards.

Wide Receivers: There has been precious little happening here for the entire season and the reuniting of Derrick Mason and McNair has yet to mean much outside of just one game in Cleveland. Mason has not scored this year and outside of that one game, he's been stuck turning in around 40 or 50 yards every week. Mark Clayton comes off a career best game when he had five catches for 101 yards and two scores against the Panthers but the reality was that both score came from tipped balls that were not originally intended for him. They all count on the scoreboard but not as a major turn upward for Clayton. The passing attack has been lethargic in most games anyway and what passing yards and scores there are typically ends up with Heap instead.

Tight Ends: The lone aspect of the Baltimore offense that has excelled this year has been Todd Heap who shows up injured almost every week on the injury but still plays. He has caught a touchdown in all but one game this year and is as close to a lock for 50 yards and a touchdown per game as any tight end in the league.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints defense has been about average this year and in most games, it's just good enough. The Ravens have not been running well in any game this year, let alone on the road so expect just another average game from Lewis. The Saints have only given up two rushing scores this year so the chance that Lewis scores here is very small.

McNair is back as the starter this week and the Saints secondary has been giving up two scores each week for the last three games. But McNair has only thrown for two scores once this season and that's unlikely to change here. Look for one touchdown that should have favored Mason but will end up with Heap instead.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 22 30 31 2 16 2
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 27 15 23 29 3 3


New Orleans Saints (5-1)
1 19-14 @CLE 10 --- @PIT
2 34-27 @GB 11 --- CIN
3 23-3 ATL 12 --- @ATL
4 18-21 @CAR 13 --- SF
5 24-21 TB 14 --- @DAL
6 27-24 PHI 15 --- WAS
7 Open Bye 16 --- @NYG
8 --- BAL 17 --- CAR
9 --- @TB - - MON
NOR vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 210,2
RB Reggie Bush 20 50,1 0
RB Deuce McAllister 60 10 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 20 0
WR Joe Horn 0 60 0
WR Marques Colston 0 40,1 0
WR Lance Moore 0 10 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The season started getting tougher in the last game when the Saints faced the Eagles but they still won. Now with BAL, PIT, CIN and ATL on the horizon, it gets no easier. So far the Saints are perfecting "just good enough" while still waiting to see if Reggie Bush the runner still exists. What a difference from 2005 to 2006. The Saints have a one game lead over the Falcons with the first tie breaker already in their back pocket.

Quarterback: While Drew Brees doesn't rank yet as a top fantasy quarterback this year, he's been consistent with scoring in almost every game and he comes off a season high three touchdown effort against the Eagles when he had 275 yards. Brees turns in enough games with either one or no score (4) that he's not yet a safe fantasy starter but has two big games this year and so far has made a place for himself as a solid fantasy back-up.

It is notable that Brees has turned in two of his lowest games of the year while at home in soft match-ups. This week will be the toughest defense that he has faced this year and like the Saints, the Ravens are coming off a bye with two weeks to prepare for this game.

Running Backs: For nursing a torn-up knee from a year ago, Deuce McAllister has shown impressive ability to bounce back and hit the ground running. He has four touchdowns on the season and has been consistently effective at home this year. McAllister only had 12 carries against the Eagles but gained 64 yards and for the first time this year, he really figured into the passing game as well when he had six catches for 36 yards. The Saints drafted Bush but they use McAllister more in the rushing game every week.

Reggie Bush has been a mainstay as a receiver but has done very little as a rusher. He's not had more than 25 yards on the ground in the last three games and yet has had between nine and 11 carries in those games. Since week one when he had 61 yards on 14 carries, he has spent the last five games gaining only 128 yards on 50 carries - just a 2.5 yard rushing average. But he has been big in the passing game in most weeks and has yet to turn in less than four catches every week. Bush has scored on a punt return but is still searching for his first score as a tailback.

Wide Receivers: This season has been rather topsy-turvy to expectations, with Joe Horn supplying little more than a possession role while Marques Colston has torn up opposing secondaries. Leading up to week six, Colston had scored four times while Horn had been denied each week. Against the Eagles, that reversed with Colston only ending with four catches for 40 yards but scoring once while Horn has his best game of the year with 110 yards and two touchdowns. No other wideout here has mattered outside that duo but now both have shown that they can be the difference maker.

While Colston has been an obvious surprise this season, the concern is that defenses are catching on to him now. Over the last two games, he only has seven catches for 78 yards but his height advantage continues to make him an attractive endzone target.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell has been lost for at least the next couple of weeks with arthroscopic knee surgery for a meniscus tear but the Saints don't miss much in the passing game since Conwell rarely had more than one catch per game. Mark Campbell should take up the slack which just means he may end up with two meaningless pass receptions per week instead of just one.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens have not allowed any running back to score this year and none have topped 100 yards though Tomlinson and Bell hit 90 yards. With the job split between McAllister and Bush, look for Bush to figure in a little more this week if only because of his role as a receiver.

Brees faces a secondary that has allowed at least one score in each of the last four games and even a surprising amount of yardage to CAR and CLE. Expect one and possibly two passing scores in this match-up that favor Colston and either the TE Campbell or Bush. Brees needs to be careful of course, but he has enough weapons with Bush, Colston and Horn to get the job done this week. It should be a close game and lower scoring with Baltimore involved. That means no mistakes and a couple of scores should win this contest.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 16 7 16 12 4 11
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 8 1 6 5 7 8