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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: DEN 17, ARZ 20

The Broncos are 7-6 and their winning record is in jeopardy after losing their last four games. The Cardinals are only 4-9 but have won back-to-back games and are actually 3-4 over the last four weeks. Sort of the reverse of what would be expected for this match-up. Then again, it was supposed to be Warner versus Plummer, not Cutler versus Leinart. One thing does sound probable - a late season winning streak that could save Denny Green's job.

Update: Stephen Alexander is questionable this week because of sore ribs and has been held out of practices on Wednesday and Thursday. He has not been ruled out but this is a late Sunday game so inactives won't be known until then. I am removing Alexander from the projections though he could still play. Alexander is needed as much for run blocking as for receiving so his absence will be felt in all facets of the offense.

Notable too is that CB Darrent Williams has been downgraded to questionable with both toe and shoulder injuries. That should make Boldin an even stronger play this week.

Denver Broncos (7-6)
1 10-18 @STL 10 17-13 @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 27-35 SD
3 17-7 @NE 12 10-19 @KC
4 Open Bye 13 20-23 SEA
5 13-3 BAL 14 20-48 @SD
6 13-3 OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 34-31 IND 17 --- SF
9 31-20 @PIT - MON THU
DEN at ARZ Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 0 0 210,2
RB Tatum Bell 80 20 0
RB Mike Bell 20 10 0
TE Stephen Alexander 0 20,1 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 30,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 30 0
WR Brandon Marshall 0 20 0
WR Javon Walker 0 70,1 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Denver has fallen from being an expected lock to be in the playoffs if not win the AFC West to now struggling to even reach the postseason as the #6 seed. The Cutler regime has been slow in starting while the defense has not kept pace with early season levels. But Denver comes off a rather brutal stretch of games that including playing the healthy Seahawks, at Kansas City and the Chargers twice. Then again, the week after the Seahawks won in Denver, they were beaten in Arizona.

Quarterback: After two weeks as a starter, Jay Cutler has only had games of 143 and 188 yards but scored twice in each. The learning curve is steep for a rookie quarterback but Cutler has not disappointed all things considered. He threw two interceptions against the Seahawks but had none in San Diego last week. He's not really better than Plummer right out of the gate but then again, he is no worse.

Running Backs: Tatum Bell now has two nice efforts over 100 yards since returning from his turf toe injuries but he only has two touchdowns on the season and has almost no role in the passing game. Bell is clearly the better back at breaking long runs but Mike Bell is still given at least a series worth of carries each week. The backfield looks stable finally which should mean a change or injury is due to happen soon.

Wide Receivers: When Cutler does pass, it normally is going to Javon Walker but Walker has not scored since week ten and has not exceeded 70 yards in the last month. Rod Smith is even worse with only 26 yards on four catches in the two games with Cutler though one was for a score. Using the wideouts well is not yet in the repertoire of Cutler. Even Brandon Marshall only had two catches for 19 yards Sunday.

Tight Ends: Two games with Cutler and the tight ends have come to life. The rookie Tony Scheffler comes off his best game with three catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns last week - the first of his career. Stephen Alexander only had one catch last week but scored in the previous game against the Seahawks.

Match Against the Defense: The Broncos fortunes ride on the rushing game but the Cardinals defense is one tough bird at home. They have only allowed two rushing scores to opposing runners since week one and no runner has topped 87 yards as a visitor - and that includes Gore (87), Jackson (62), Larry Johnson (36) and Alexander (76) just last week. Look for a lower rushing effort from the Broncos this week against a team very motivate to win. This is the final home game for the Cardinals and they will play like it is.

Cutler faces a secondary that has been the source of most the losses this year and Cutler should manage to maintain his two touchdown trend. That means Walker finally gets a score and then likely a tight end. This won't be a big scoring game for either team so there won't be any shootout between rookie quarterbacks.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 25 19 18 23 20 25
Preventing Fantasy Points ARZ 26 21 30 12 27 25


Arizona Cardinals (4-9)
1 34-27 SF 10 10-27 DAL
2 10-21 @SEA 11 17-10 DET
3 14-16 STL 12 26-31 @MIN
4 10-32 @ATL 13 34-20 @STL
5 20-23 KC 14 27-21 SEA
6 23-24 CHI 15 --- DEN
7 9-22 @OAK 16 --- @SF
8 14-31 @GB 17 --- @SD
9 Open Bye - - MON
ARZ vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Leinart 0 0 230,1
RB Edgerrin James 70,1 20 0
TE Leonard Pope 0 10 0
WR Anquan Boldin 0 90,1 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 50 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 50 0
PK Neil Rackers 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The switch to Leinart is starting to pay dividends and the Cardinals endless offensive line changes apparently have finally come to fruition just in time to possibly save Denny Green's job and start winning some games. This week will be the biggest test by far and ending the season with two road trips won't make it any easier, but winning three of the last three games is plenty enough to prompt smiles to make a rare appearance in the stands at Cardinals games.

Quarterback: Matt Leinart has scored at least once in each of the last four games and comes off a solid two score game against the Seahawks with 232 passing yards. After struggling early, Leinart's completion percentage is healthy and with a rushing game to balance the offense, the switch to the rookie has proven to be a positive.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James not only ran for 115 yards on 26 carries in St. Louis for his first game over the century mark as a Cardinal, he did the exact same thing against the Seahawks last week and even added a touchdown as well. The rushing game here is working exponentially better in the past month though much went against softer defenses.

Wide Receivers: The success of the rushing game during the last two weeks did what almost no defense could do - shut down Anquan Boldin. He only had six catches for 79 yards over those two games and has scored only once since Leinart took over. Larry Fitzgerald scored in those last two wins but only had 12 catches for 125 yards in those games. The biggest surprise was last week when Bryant Johnson led the team with three receptions for 81 yards and one score. Leinart is spreading out to other wideouts which only makes this offense more potent, even if it diminishes what Fitzgerald and Boldin can do.

Tight Ends: Okay, so Leinart has not gotten to using the tight ends yet.

Match Against the Defense: The Denver rushing defense has been gouged this year but really only by the elite - Larry Johnson, Tomlinson and Jackson in road games. But Edgerrin James recent improvement still does not land him in that company quite yet. Look for James to manage one rushing score as have the last four opponents on the road but to dip back below 100 yards this week.

Leinart faces a secondary that is one of the best but it can be beaten and he's been improving almost every week. Champ Bailey should lock up with Fitzgerald to keep him in check so the passing score favors Boldin who will have to be more used this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ARZ 15 29 3 32 14 8
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 4 19 2 26 28 10