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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 13, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
  JAX at TEN WAS at NO STL at OAK *updated

Prediction: DAL 24, ATL 13

The Cowboys and Tony Romo were the newest darlings in the NFC and gained that moniker - "the new team to beat". And that was exactly what the Saints did last Sunday night. Over and over again. Now the Cowboys fall to 8-5 and out of the lead for a first round bye. The Cowboys are only 4-3 on the road and head to Atlanta where the Falcons are slowly climbing back up the ladder. This should be a bounce back game for the Cowboys because a loss here means the NFC East won't be decided until the final Sunday.

Update: Both Warrick Dunn (calf strain) and Jerious Norwood (knee strain) are questionable to play this week and missed practice on Wednesday. Norwood returned on Thursday and practiced well though he still had a slight limp when he walked. Both players have been called game time decisions by HC Jim Mora. I am not changing the projections even though either or both could potentially play. This is a very important game for both teams and even more so for the Falcons who may be out of the playoffs with even one loss. That means it is to the advantage of Atlanta to keep Dallas guessing.

Best guess here is that Norwood does have some playing time but his knee is not 100% and this is the same knee that gave him problems earlier in the season. Griffith is the most likely to take the bulk of carries this week, but the bottom line here is that it is very unlikely to be the normal Dunn + Norwood scenario. Dunn only needs three yards to break 1000 but he has three games left to do so.

Another notable is that CB DeAngelo Hall has been held out of practice with a knee sprain but is listed as probable. He is expected to play but may not be 100% when he covers Terry Glenn.

Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
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 17-42 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 at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo 0 0 260,2
RB Julius Jones 80 10 0
RB Marion Barber 30,1 10 0
TE Jason Witten 0 40 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 120,1 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 60 0
WR Patrick Crayton 0 20,1 0
PK Martin Gramatica 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: After beating the Colts and Giants, the Cowboys looked like they were on a roll that would not stop. Tony Romo was the darling of the Dallas media and Terrell Owens had actually faded from the limelight. But the Saints gashed Dallas in almost every way and all the questions are back. But - the Cowboys were due for a down game after big wins over the Colts and Giants. They just made a very poor choice of when they would do that. Ends up there really is a difference between Drew Brees and a quarterback who twiddled his thumbs for a few years waiting to play.

Quarterback: The bubble burst for Tony Romo last week but mainly just because he could not manufacture a win. Romo threw for 249 yards and one score against the Saints but he only had 257 yards and no score the previous week against the Giants with almost the exact same attempts and the same two interceptions. Other than his monster five touchdown game against the Buccaneers, Romo has only thrown one score in the last three games against five interceptions. Perhaps his wing in Canton can remain a broom closet for now.

Running Backs: For several weeks, Julius Jones had been the starter but was always overshadowed by Marion Barber AKA the TD Machine. Last week the roles were exactly reversed with Jones ripping off a 74 yard touchdown and ended with 116 yards on ten carries while Barber had only two carries for a net one yard loss. Barber had scored twice in each of the three previous games and usually out gained Jones in yardage. Consider last Sunday as a game that got out of hand quickly and then just got worse.

Wide Receivers: While the rest of the Cowboys were being roped and branded by the Saints, Terry Glenn caught eight passes for a season high 150 yards. Glenn previously had topped out at 94 yards this season. That left Terrell Owens with only three catches for 56 yards but he scored once and currently has nine touchdowns on the season. In most games, Owens commands the most yardage and nearly all the scores from the position.

Tight Ends: After several weeks with Romo made Witten back into mainly a blocker, he had 73 yards against the Giants. And then he only managed 33 yards on four catches last week - right about the same level as he has been with Romo.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons have been better than average at stopping the run this year but the Cowboys combine Jones and Barber well (in most games anyway). The faster track in the Georgia Dome should favor Jones for yardage but Barber has a nice shot at one score here.

Romo will have to win this game and he faces a secondary that is nowhere nearly as good as their ranking suggests. Four of the last five visitors to Atlanta have passed for two or more touchdowns. DeAngelo Hall will match on Glenn and should bring him back down to more normal numbers but Owens should manage a nice game here over 100 yards and at least one score.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 5 6 4 15 8 13
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 12 9 28 11 18 8


Atlanta Falcons (7-6)
1 20-6 @CAR 10 13-17 CLE
2 14-3 TB 11 10-24 @BAL
3 3-23 @NO 12 13-31 NO
4 32-10 ARZ 13 24-14 @WAS
5 Open Bye 14 17-6 @TB
6 14-27 NYG 15 --- DAL
7 41-38 PIT 16 --- CAR
8 29-27 @CIN 17 --- @PHI
9 14-30 @DET - MON SAT
ATL vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 60 0 140,1
RB Justin Griffith 40 10 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 40,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 40 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
WR Roddy White 0 20 0
PK Morten Andersen 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons ended their four game losing streak with road trips to play the Redskins and Buccaneers. At 7-6, Atlanta remains two games behind the Saints with no realistic chance of overtaking them but just two more wins could spell a wild card invitation. This will be the biggest challenge left and a win here means the Falcons can likely squeeze into the playoffs with a win in Philly for the final game.

Quarterback: Michael Vick has already run for 934 yards this season and is just 38 yards short of the all-time record set by Bobby Douglass of 968 yards. Forget that slam dunk - Vick is only 66 yards shy of the first ever 1000 rushing yard season by a quarterback... with three more games to play. An oddity was that Vick had been running for over 50 yards in virtually every game this year until last week when he only had five yards on three carries. Was it that Vick could not run or better yet, was it that he wanted to break Douglass' record in a home game?

Vick hasn't passed for more than 155 yards in the last four weeks.

Running Backs: The Falcons had their backfield stripped last week when Warrick Dunn left the game with a strained calf and five plays later Jerious Norwood left with a sprained knee. Both injuries have since been described as "not as serious as initially believed". Justin Griffith stepped in when they left and ran 12 times for 57 yards and one score. Pending reports that either Norwood or Dunn will make this game, I am only projecting for Griffith. Expect updates as more information is known. If neither player is available, the Falcons could also call up a practice squad player as well.

Wide Receivers: Also known as the Michael Jenkins report. And Jenkins only had one catch for six yards last week. But all six touchdowns thrown to a wideout have gone to Jenkins while the others hang around for their two or three catches in most games.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler has fallen off sharply in the last six games with only one touchdown and just one game over 40 receiving yards (and that was thanks to one catch).

Match Against the Defense: Assuming that Griffith has to start at tailback, the pickings should be slim here against a defense that has allowed just two runners to top 100 rushing yards and most end up less than 60. Griffith is not a very attractive pickup on the waiver wire this week.

Vick faces a defense that has never played against a running quarterback this year but the Cowboys defense is predicated on speed and should contain him to only moderate rushing gains and likely one touchdown. Problem with that is Terrance Newman draws Michael Jenkins and should keep him under wraps. That means Crumpler or even a wideout not named Jenkins should score. Has to be Crumpler.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 3 17 32 8 17 15
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 21 15 12 20 7 18