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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Nite
BAL at KC NYG at CAR   SEA at ARZ *updated

Prediction: NO 21, DAL 30

The apprentice returns home. Sean Payton left the Cowboys to head up the Saints and has done an astounding job this season. After stumbling a bit this season, now the Cowboys are looking like a strong contender in the NFC. This is a big game that deserves the Sunday night spotlight. Both teams are 8-4 and in contention for a first week bye and their division crown. A loss here makes the rest of the season much more challenging since Seattle is also sitting out there with an 8-4 record and a cakewalk left to end their season. Payton certainly has been well versed in all things Cowboys, but he only remembers Bledsoe, Jones and Glenn - not Romo, Owens and Barber. Dallas is 4-1 at home while the Saints are 4-2 on the road.

Update: This game continues to be murky because the Saints are going to need to pass, and likely could have success, but Marques Colston still has not practiced and is affected by his ankle sprain that has kept him out for a couple of weeks now. I am not adding him in because it does not look likely that he will play. His playing status won't even be certain until late Sunday before the night game. Joe Horn is also questionable and has not practiced with a groin injury and he could miss this week as well. I am lowering Horn's projections but realize that he may not play this week and he has the worse match-up if he does.

New Orleans Saints (8-4)
1 19-14 @CLE 10 31-38 @PIT
2 34-27 @GB 11 16-31 CIN
3 23-3 ATL 12 31-13 @ATL
4 18-21 @CAR 13 34-10 SF
5 24-21 TB 14 --- @DAL
6 27-24 PHI 15 --- WAS
7 Open Bye 16 --- @NYG
8 22-35 BAL 17 --- CAR
9 31-14 @TB - - MON
NOR at DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 250,2
RB Reggie Bush 40 50 0
RB Deuce McAllister 60,1 0 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 40 0
WR Terrance Copper 0 40,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 110,1 0
PK John Carney 0 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Saints come off a thrilling win over the 49ers that finally saw them get a payoff - and in a big way - from their first round draft pick. The challenge this week is to reverse what has happened in the last five games that include two losses to good teams in the Ravens and Bengals and a road loss to the Steelers while winning only against the Falcons, Buccaneers and 49ers. After 12 games, the Saints have only faced two teams that currently have a winning record (BAL, CIN) and lost both by 13 points or more - and both came during home games in New Orleans.

Quarterback: Drew Brees continues to lead the NFL in passing yardage with 3,655 - exactly 350 more yards than second place Peyton Manning. Last week was a shocker of sorts when Brees only had 186 yards and one score against the 49ers - about half his usual passing yardage. But the game was a rout and Bush was having so much fun that Brees never needed to do much. Prior to last week, Brees has been on a roll with over 300 passing yards in each of the five previous games and two or more scores in all but one - the loss in Pittsburgh.

Running Backs: Reggie Bush is second best among all running backs with 568 receiving yards on a league high 74 catches. That was helped in no small part by his nine catches for 131 yards. Bush scored once on a pass and three times via the run last week but still only had 37 yards on ten carries - about normal for him without all the scoring.

Deuce McAllister still ran for 126 yards last week on just 26 carries but let the little guy get the touchdowns. That was McAllister's first game over 100 yards since week five. The oddity with McAllister is that he has scored five touchdowns over the last seven games but only when the Saints are on the road.

Wide Receivers: Joe Horn started last week but had to leave the game after an 18-yard catch in the first quarter. With Marques Colston still out with a high ankle sprain, that only left Terrance Copper ( 1-48, 1 TD) and Devery Henderson (2-14). But the rout on the 49ers never needed much from this crew anyway. Prior to last Sunday, Henderson had gained over 110 yards in each of the last three games. Colston has been nearly legendary in his rookie year. Horn had been on a scoring streak until two weeks ago.

Pending practice reports that indicate that Colston will play, I will project for a Horn (slightly limited with a groin injury), Henderson and Copper to play this week. Copper in particular would like to score against his ex-team.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints will be challenged this week against a defense that is ranked top ten in all categories that the Saints use and better than that considering just home games. The Cowboys have only allowed two rushing scores in Dallas during the five home games and only Barber was able to turn in more than 78 rushing yards. The Cowboys could be dinged by Bush as a receiver but against just the run expect only moderate rushing numbers by McAllister and likely no more than one score if that.

Brees faces a secondary that has only allowed two quarterbacks to score any touchdowns and those went to the Manning brothers who both had two scores. Expect solid yardage here around 250 with a chance for more. Henderson - or Colston if he plays - gets the matchup on Henry that produces the most yardage and all the scores. Horn will go against Terrance Newman who should manage to keep him under wraps. Brees is a top passer and should manage at least two scores here that should split between Henderson (or Colston) and Terrance Copper from the slot.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 3 2 22 7 26
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 9 8 9 22 9 18


Dallas Cowboys (8-4)
1 17-24 @JAX 10 27-10 @ARZ
2 27-10 WAS 11 21-14 IND
3 Open Bye 12 38-10 TB
4 45-14 @TEN 13 23-20 @NYG
5 24-38 @PHI 14 --- NO
6 34-6 HOU 15 --- @ATL
7 22-36 NYG 16 --- PHI
8 35-14 @CAR 17 --- DET
9 19-22 @WAS M THU SAT
DAL vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo 0 0 270,2
RB Julius Jones 60 10 0
RB Marion Barber 50,1 20 0
TE Jason Witten 0 40 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 110,2 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 60 0
WR Patrick Crayton 0 30 0
PK Martin Gramatica 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Cowboys currently rank #2 in points scored with 332 on the season - more than any other team besides the Chargers. Dallas is on a four game winning streak that has included victories over the Colts and the Giants. Tony Romo is becoming an industry and Marion Barber keeps scoring when the goal line nears. After this week, the Cowboys have only one more road game in Atlanta before ending the season with two home games. At 8-4, Dallas needs to beat the Saints because the Saints hold a tie breaker in NFC wins.

Quarterback: You know Tony Romo is charmed when he can come off a game where he threw for 257 yards, no scores and two interceptions and the media still wants to see him in Canton. Romo has remained efficient in every game and has completed 69% of his passes as a starter. His 44-yard completion to Jason Witten last week set-up the game winning field goal. Romo has scored in only one of the last three games but the running game has been doing so well that the Cowboys have the second best scoring offense in the league even without passing scores every week.

Running Backs: While nothing has been said, it is reasonable to assume that Julius Jones is swapping places with Marion Barber if not being replaced. For the last two weeks, Jones has only had 11 carries in each game while Barber has averaged 14 runs. Jones gained just 64 yards on his 22 carries. Barber has gained 159 on his 28 runs. And Barber has scored twice in each of the last three games. Jones only has three scores on the season.

Barber now has 12 rushing and two receiving touchdowns on the season.

Wide Receivers: Terrell Owens has only scored once in the last three games but has remained above 70 yards in every game with Romo as the starter with two efforts topping 100 yards. Terry Glenn has seen his numbers vary from week to week but still has been good for around 50 yards or more in most games. Owens has eight touchdowns on the year and is tied for the lead in the NFL.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten has settled down to three catches in each of the last three games but he turned in at least 30 yards even in easier games and up to 80 when the opposing secondary can cover Owens and Glenn.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints rush defense appears to have a decent enough ranking but the reality is that they have been lit up in road games this year by teams that rush well. Expect a solid game here from Jones and Barber that should total well over 100 rushing yards and produce at least one rushing score for Barber. Wanting to keep Brees off the field will mean rushing whenever possible to consume the clock. In a similar game when the Colts came to Dallas, Jones ran for 79 yards while Barber had just 35 yards and two rushing scores.

Romo goes against a secondary that had always allowed road opponents to score well via the pass. The last four teams previous to Michael Vick (who doesn't count) to host the Saints passed for at least two scores each and Palmer had three. Look for a solid game by Romo that could end up very big if the Saints turn this into a shootout.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 5 6 4 15 8 8
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 29 11 28 23 2 13