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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: IND 30, NE 27

One of the most anticipated match-ups of the year even though it has no major bearing on either division. Both teams should win their respective divisions handily and this could easily be a rematch in January. The Colts have won seven straight and the Patriots are on a four game streak. The only thing in common is that the Colts just beat the Broncos 34-31 and the Patriots lost 7-17 when they went to Denver. Looks like both teams are peaking now but one has to lose. The Colts won 40-21 in New England last season but this time the ending will be much closer.

Update: It's bad enough that the Patriots use the injury report for creative writing but now the Colts are as well. Brandon Stokley is likely to miss this week as expected but the safety Bob Sanders is back to practicing fully and is expected to play this week. He'll be a much needed help stopping the run.

The Patriots have both Reche Caldwell (knee) and Chad Jackson (hamstring) listed as questionable this week and both have missed practice time on Wednesday and Thursday. Neither are counted out and both will likely play, but as always with the Patriots injury news, there is never a guarantee until the game starts - if then. Heading into this big game, I am not changing any of the projections as all but Stokley appears likely to play.

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Indianapolis Colts (7-0)
1 26-21 @NYG 10 --- BUF
2 43-24 HOU 11 --- @DAL
3 21-14 JAX 12 --- PHI
4 31-28 @NYJ 13 --- @TEN
5 14-13 TEN 14 --- @JAX
6 Open Bye 15 --- CIN
7 36-22 WAS 16 --- @HOU
8 34-31 @DEN 17 --- MIA
9 --- @NE - - MON
IND Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 320,3
RB Dominic Rhodes 40 30 0
RB Joseph Addai 60 20 0
TE Ben Utecht 0 20 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 40,1 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 110,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 80,1 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 3 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Colts "struggled" to a 6-0 record by barely clipping most opponents and even that required a heroic effort by Peyton Manning to happen. Heading into Denver against the stingiest defense in the league, Manning coolly showed exactly why he is the first fantasy quarterback drafted every summer when he dissected the Broncos and managed, yet again, to barely outscore what his defense was giving away. This Sunday is the week of weeks though, going against the nemesis that lost their magic in 2005 but have come roaring back this season. A win here means that the season could be put on automatic pilot in the final weeks. A loss is not catastrophic by any means, but could be a set-up for a testy rematch in the playoffs.

Quarterback: While Peyton Manning has not kept pace with the production of Donovan McNabb so far, it is important to note that he has never lost a game this year while the Eagles are 4-4. And Manning made a big stride upwards last week when he had 345 yards and three touchdowns against the previously unbeatable Bronco defense. Manning has perhaps never looked better than he did when he completed 32 of 39 passes and carved Denver apart. That gives hi, nine scores over the last three games and not unlike last year, a slow start is becoming a torrid pace by mid-season.

Manning threw for 321 yards and three scores in New England last season.

Running Backs: Now that the NFL has reached mid-season, we are at the point in the season that many believed that Joseph Addai would take over. It appears that notion was correct. Addai had 17 runs for 93 yards in Denver and caught five passes for 37 yards while Dominic Rhodes only had three carries for no gain and three receptions. Addai has clearly shown more burst on running plays and merits the promotion. Rhodes is not entirely out of the picture by any means, but has settled down into a more supporting role as a third down and change of pace back.

James ran for 104 yards and one score in the meeting with the Patriots last year but that took 34 carries to get there.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison was covered by Champ Bailey last week and only had five catches for 38 yards as a season low. But Reggie Wayne rather enjoyed all the attention that Harrison was getting and comes off a season best ten catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns in Denver where no other team has even scored a touchdown. Wayne has connected with Manning for five scores in the last three weeks and has been outpacing Harrison in almost every game. It's not that Harrison is slowing down, it's just that Wayne is getting better - and enjoying lesser coverage.

Both wideouts had big games against the Patriots in 2005 with nine catches each. Harrison ended with 128 yards and two scores while Wayne turned in 124 yards and one score.

Tight Ends: Facing a staunch defense left Manning to look for his tight ends far more than usual. Dallas Clark ended with a season high of six catches for 68 yards last week but more typically the tight ends here will remain around 20 yards per game.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriot rushing defense has been solid this season and only Tatum Bell had any success. While both teams are putting together game plans that could be slanted either way, the most likely assumption here is that Addai has some moderate yardage as the primary runner but neither he nor Rhodes gets a touchdown.

Manning made a mockery of the Denver secondary last week and this defense is not that good. And you know that Manning wants this game to no longer be a monkey on his back even with the big win in 2005. Look for solid yardage and three scores here that first favors Marvin Harrison. Like Brady, Manning will spread the wealth but has fewer players that he uses. Any of the main players are likely to score.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points IND 3 14 2 4 4 22
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 5 8 15 3 5 12


New England Patriots (6-1)
1 19-17 BUF 10 --- NYJ
2 24-17 @NYJ 11 --- @GB
3 7-17 DEN 12 --- CHI
4 38-13 @CIN 13 --- DET
5 20-10 MIA 14 --- @MIA
6 Open Bye 15 --- HOU
7 28-6 @BUF 16 --- @JAX
8 31-7 @MIN 17 --- @TEN
9 --- IND - - MON
NEP vs IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 260,2
RB Corey Dillon 40 10 0
RB Lawrence Maroney 90.1 20 0
TE Ben Watson 0 60,1 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 20 0
WR Doug Gabriel 0 60,1 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 40 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30 0
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: Other than the visit to Denver, no opponent has given the Patriots that much trouble this year and the team has not win a game by less than 10 points over the last month. The receivers are coming into sharper focus now even if the rushing game has noticeably tailed off. The defense has not given up more than 13 points to any of the last four opponents and the Patriots have quietly positioned themselves for yet another stellar year.

Quarterback: Not unlike Peyton Manning, Tom Brady comes off a road game against a very good defense where he looked absolutely flawless. Brady threw for 372 yards and four scores on Monday night and that makes four straight games with at least two scores in each. While the season began shaky for the wideouts, by now he has a full complement to use and is back to his old style of spreading the ball everywhere. He had ten different players catch his passes last week, eleven if you count the one interception. Brady is back and just in time for this big game.

Brady threw for 265 yards and three scores against the Colts in 2005.

Running Backs: The rushing game has really soured in New England after opening with big games. Laurence Maroney has not topped 40 yards in the last three weeks and Corey Dillon has not gone above 50. The increased effectiveness of the passing game has done much to reduce carries even though the recent weeks have all been solid wins. It's Brady ball once again, where everyone has a little and only Brady has a lot.

Dillon only gained 40 yards on 12 carries in the previous meeting with the Colts.

Wide Receivers: Typical Patriots play calling. As HC Bill Belichick has said many times, Brady's favorite receiver is the one that is open. Last week that translated into just about everyone on the team at some point. Chad Jackson had a touchdown but only one catch in the game (he had another long gained called back on penalty). Reche Caldwell also scored and had a season high of 84 yards on seven catches but that's almost as much has he had in the six prior games combined. Doug Gabriel did not score but had 83 yards on five catches. Even Jabar Gaffney had a catch. Even Troy Brown had a catch that went for a touchdown. It's like spin the bottle in the huddle. Five wideouts had catches last week. Take your pick.

Tight Ends: At least Ben Watson is offering some consistency. He comes off his best game of the year with seven catches for 95 yards and one score last Monday which is the best performance by any Patriot receiver this year. Unlike all other receivers though, Watson never does worse than 30 yards and generally turns in around 60 yards in most games.

Match Against the Defense: There is a chance that the safety Bob Sanders returns this week and the Colts need him desperately. There is no doubt that the Patriots will want to run the ball a great deal if only to keep Manning from the field. The Colts rushing defense has been readily exploited so expect some big numbers from Maroney and Dillon with mostly Maroney taking the main load and scoring at least once.

Brady has looked sharp as a tack but he'll buy into the running game as long as this doesn't end up as a track meet - which seems likely. Expect at least two passing scores here and nice yardage that could go high if the Colts were to take an early lead. The scheme will make nailing down the most likely to score almost impossible but Gabriel and Watson will get the most looks.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 6 5 17 6 26 17
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 21 28 3 20 2 3