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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 1, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
Sunday night
On Bye
GB at BUF NO at TB CLE at SD *updated NYJ, PHI

Prediction: CIN 23, BAL 20

This could not be a bigger game for the AFC North. The Bengals have fallen to 4-3 with their loss to the Falcons and now trail these 5-2 Ravens. A win would draw them to a tie with the first tiebreaker going to the Bengals. A loss means the Ravens head off with a two game lead and shove the Bengals down to 4-4 where panic mode sets in. This game not only has big implications for the division, it sets the tone for what these teams are going to be like for the rest of the year.

The Bengals swept the Ravens last year, winning 21-9 in Baltimore and then 42-29 in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)
1 23-10 @KC 10 --- SD
2 34-17 CLE 11 --- @NO
3 28-20 @PIT 12 --- @CLE
4 13-38 NE 13 --- BAL
5 Open Bye 14 --- OAK
6 13-14 @TB 15 --- @IND
7 17-14 CAR 16 --- @DEN
8 27-29 ATL 17 --- PIT
9 --- @BAL - MON THU
CIN at BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 280,2
RB Rudi Johnson 60 10 0
TE Reggie Kelly 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100.1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 80 0
WR Chris Henry 0 70,1 0
PK Shayne Graham 3 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bengals have lost three of their last four games and that big win in Pittsburgh looks less impressive looking back now. Frustrating is that the Bengals have been playing to the level of their opponents - less about a field goal. The return of Chris Henry last week helped out but not enough to get the victory. The running game went into hiding again and what's even worse is that the Bengals dropped another home game. On the road this week, they need a big turn around and fast.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer has been rather consistent for the last month, recording games of around 250 yards every week and scoring in each of the last three. He has not thrown an interception since week three and his completion percentage is healthy enough (63%). He's been good, just not good enough to win games lately.

Palmer threw for 248 yards and two scores in Baltimore last year and had 302 yards and three scores back at home against the Ravens.

Running Backs: After turning in 101 yards against the Panthers, Rudi Johnson again fell back last week when he only had 46 rushing yards. That wasn't really his fault though since he only had 12 carries in the game and did score once. Johnson has been vocal about his unhappiness with his workload and he's probably right. He's been averaging about four yards per carry for the last four weeks but has only one game with more than 17 carries. Without a running game to concern the opponents, the defenses have been taking away the long passes from the Bengals because the safety has been able to play deeper. The offense needs Johnson to get into the same groove he had last year and that would require almost twice the carries as he has been receiving lately.

Rudi Johnson gained 97 yards on 29 carries and scored once in Baltimore and later had 114 yards and two scores back at home against the Ravens.

Wide Receivers: Chad Johnson, AKA Ocho Cinco, has been vocal about getting back to the outspoken, fun-loving receiver of the past and he comes off one of his better games because he actually caught a touchdown. But he ended with six catches for the fourth week in a row and had just 78 yards. That's decent for most receivers but still a down week for "85". T.J. Houshmandzadeh had his standard rock solid game last week when he had six catches for 70 yards and didn't score for only the second game played this year. Chris Henry returned to the lineup and turned in a bigger game than either of the starters, snagging five passes for 81 yards and a score. In the games that he has played, Henry has been the most consistent of the three - he has scored in each of his last three games.

Chad Johnson had 91 and 88 yards against the Ravens last season while Houshmandzadeh turned in games of 61 and 147. Both wideouts scored only in the home game.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value here. The Bengals had used the tight ends in years past but their role this year has been almost zero in the passing game.

Match Against the Defense: Rudi Johnson has not been given many carries lately and now he goes against a defense that has not allowed any runner to score or top 100 rushing yards this year. Look for Johnson to settle for another ho-hum week.

Carson Palmer is the key to this entire game. If he can rekindle the Carson of old - the Bengals have a chance to win and prevent the Ravens from just jamming Lewis down their throat every play and letting the defense take the win. But the Ravens secondary is only average really and has been exposed the last two weeks with giving up 365 and 383 yards to Delhomme and Brees with two and three scores respectively. With Chris Henry taking the handcuffs off and joining the dynamic duo of Houshmandzadeh and OchoCinco, the Bengals should make no pretense of establishing the running game here and get to work downfield. For whatever reason, Palmer has enjoyed nice games against the Ravens and will need to come up big here. It's time to put up or accept mediocrity for the Bengals. Both Johnson and Henry should score this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 16 24 6 27 7 19
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 15 1 16 4 6 4


Baltimore Ravens (5-2)
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 35-22 @NO 17 --- BUF
9 --- CIN - THU MON
BAL vs CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 20 0 200,2
RB Jamal Lewis 70 0 0
TE Todd Heap 0 70,2 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 70 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 40 0
WR Demetrius Williams 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens made amends for that loss to the Panthers by visiting New Orleans and delivering their most dominating game to date. With Brian Billick back in the role as play caller, the offense had their best showing of the year while the defense continued to be one of the best other than allowing a lot of trash time yardage to the Saints wideouts. The Ravens fortunes this year will be determined over the next five weeks when they host CIN and PIT and then head to CIN in week 13. The offense looks better and the defense still looks great.

Quarterback: With Brian Billick controlling the offense, Steve McNair turned in his best game of the season when he went to New Orleans and turned in 159 passing yards with two touchdowns and ran in one score during his five runs for 23 yards. Just as important - he had no turnovers. McNair benefited from the defense crushing the Saints from the start so that passing was more a "pick and chose" than by necessity. This week that luxury likely won't happen and Billick's effect on the passing game will be more realistically shown.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis comes off his only 100 yard game of the season and the coaches are saying happy things about the state of the running game but the reality here is that Lewis still hasn't changed. He has not scored since week one and while he did finally turn in 109 yards, that required 31 carries to get there (3.5 YPC). He now has a 3.6 YPC on the year. But the Ravens are happy enough running Lewis and getting mediocre returns thanks to a defense that controls the game anyway.

Jamal Lewis only gained 49 yards on 15 carries in the home game against the Bengals last year but later had 113 yards and one score while in Cincinnati.

Wide Receivers: What the "new" Billick offense has done is to finally involve Derrick Mason more. That still only meant he had six catches for 67 yards but that was his best game since week three. No other wideout had more than 17 yards against the Saints or more than one catch. So far the best this unit has looked all year was when Boller was the quarterback and Mark Clayton kept catching batted passes for touchdowns. Clayton tweaked his hamstring during the game last Sunday but is expected to play this week.

Mason had about 60 yards in each of the previous meetings with the Bengals and scored in Cincinnati.

Tight Ends: The only feature of the Ravens offense that has worthwhile fantasy value is Todd Heap who has scored in five of the last six games. His yardage usually hovers around 50 each week and he's the only consistently used receiver every week.

Heap only had 28 yards at home against the Bengals last year but turned on 87 yards on six receptions with two touchdowns in the game in Cincinnati.

Match Against the Defense: Jamal Lewis faces an average rushing defense at best, but he's got a ways to go to be just average. The Bengals rushing defense has only allowed three runners to score this year and Lewis is unlikely to become the fourth. Expect 3.6 x (number of carries) for yardage that will likely be around 20. Could be higher if the Ravens thwart the Cincy passing game and could be a lot lower if the Bengals can force the Ravens to pass.

McNair looked good last week in a game that he didn't much have to do anything. This week he has to throw well and he hasn't been over 200 yards but once in the last six games. The Bengals secondary has been victimized for at least two scores in each of the last four games so look for that to happen again. Forget the good ranking against tight ends - Gonzo and Crumpler both scored and had big games against the Bengals. The Bengals secondary is actually good against wideouts, so I am giving both scores to Heap this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 18 29 31 2 16 2
Preventing Fantasy Points CIN 24 21 2 29 9 10