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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 20, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
updated IND at HOU TEN at BUF CIN at DEN NYJ at MIA

Prediction: CIN 20, DEN 24

Here's a very big game since the loser will be sitting home for the playoffs and the winner at least stays in contention for a wildcard. The Bengals are 4-3 on the road and the Broncos are just 3-3 at home but Denver is starting to like this Cutler kid while the Bengals are cursing the schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)
1 23-10 @KC 10 41-49 SD
2 34-17 CLE 11 31-16 @NO
3 28-20 @PIT 12 30-0 @CLE
4 13-38 NE 13 13-7 BAL
5 Open Bye 14 27-10 OAK
6 13-14 @TB 15 16-34 @IND
7 17-14 CAR 16 --- @DEN
8 27-29 ATL 17 --- PIT
9 20-26 @BAL - MON THU
CIN at DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 240,2
RB Rudi Johnson 60 10 0
TE Reggie Kelly 0 20 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 80,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 60 0
WR Chris Henry 0 40,1 0
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: After winning four in a row to draw back into contention, the Bengals were swamped by the Colts last week while continuing to rush the ball even while down by two touchdowns. The Colts needed the game desperately and took a solid win but these Bengals beat the Saints in New Orleans and held down the Ravens as well. The defense had been outstanding for the last month until Manning picked them apart last week. This is a must win game for both teams and even a win here does not guarantee the Bengals take a wildcard with the Steelers due in for week 17.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer only managed 176 yards and no scores last week but the Bengals were clearly in a "run first" mode and by the time Palmer had to throw, Chad Johnson was having cramps and the defense had already dropped back. Palmer threw for three scores in the two previous road games and he's been good for 250 or more yards in most games.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson has scored in each of the last three games but his big chance in Indy last week only ended up with 79 yards on 22 carries. On the road this season, Johnson has only topped that 79 yards once in the last six trips away from home and he has never amounted to much as a receiver. Johnson is just a solid back that won't win games but turns in at least 60 yards every week with at least one score in most games.

After falling behind, the Bengals went into passing mode and Kenny Watson had 56 yards on three catches for a season high.

Wide Receivers: After five straight weeks of great performances, Chad Johnson only managed to catch three passes for 37 yards last week in Indy and was hampered by cramps that required an IV during the game. Prior to that fiasco, Johnson had been turning in at least 90 yards in every game. T.J. Houshmandzadeh also had a down week but has scored in each of the three previous games with at least 80 yards in each.

Chris Henry is the odd man out but that only means he scores about every other week with minimal yardage attached.

Tight Ends: Reginald Kelly and Tony Stewart combine for marginal yardage each week but have only scored once this season.

Match Against the Defense: When the Broncos are not facing LaDainian Tomlinson or Shaun Alexander, this defense has been top notch against visiting runners. Expect only moderate yardage by Rudi Johnson this week and likely no score.

The Broncos have been highly ranked against the pass this year but at home have faced mostly weak passing attacks. Peyton Manning threw for 345 yards and three scores there though and Philip Rivers had two scores and 222 yards in Denver. Palmer will have to be the key to this game. CB Darrent Williams did not play last week because of toe and shoulder injuries. He would have matched on Chad Johnson unless the Broncos moved Champ Bailey over which they normally do not do. As it stands, Houshmandzadeh should get that match-up the most though both teams could move players around. Since Palmer will have to throw and not rely on the rushing game, I like his to end with good yardage and two scores that should favor Chad Johnson and Henry.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 7 20 1 30 6 20
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 18 2 21 28 10


Denver Broncos (8-6)
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 37-20 @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 34-31 IND 17 --- SF
9 31-20 @PIT - MON THU
DEN vs CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 0 0 210,2
RB Tatum Bell 70 20 0
RB Mike Bell 40,1 10 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 30,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 40,1 0
WR Brandon Marshall 0 40 0
WR Javon Walker 0 60 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Broncos ended their four game losing streak just in time to possibly save their season. With two homes games left and Cutler getting comfortable, this week is the key with only the 49ers showing up in week 17. The offense is getting better but now the defense has to come up big this week. The same defense that gave up 48 points in San Diego. Here's Cutler's first chance to make his mark.

Quarterback: Three starts and finally Jay Cutler has his first win. The rookie has thrown for two scores in every game so far and his yardage has been increasing each week up to 261 yards in Arizona on Sunday. Cutler even completed 21 of 31 passes last week and is making rapid progress.

Running Backs: The never ending backfield changes continue for the Broncos with Tatum Bell only gaining 29 yards on 18 carries last week and giving way to Mike Bell who had 61 yards on 16 runs with two touchdowns. Tatum has been getting roughly 2:1 carries over Mike but that can change in any game depending on the success of the runner. Mike has become the more likely scorer as this rotation is starting to mirror Jones and Barber in Dallas except Tatum has been successful in rushing yardage in most games.

Wide Receivers: After three weeks with Cutler, Javon Walker has his first touchdown with the new starter and his first since week ten. Walker remains the more heavily targeted wideout but Rod Smith also scored last week. Smith has never had more than 40 yards with Cutler which is no different than his role when Plummer was there. The better player so far has been Brandon Marshall with one score and two games with more than 58 yards.

Walker received a Grade 1 shoulder separation last week but played in the second half with the injury and according to HC Mike Shanahan, Walker will be able to play through the injury. Walker had no catches in the second half though and was only thrown two incomplete passes after rolling up five catches for 84 yards in the first half. I am projecting for Walker to play but be slightly limited. Walker is crucial to the passing success and his absence would be deeply felt.

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler again had a nice game with Cutler, turning in 58 yards on three catches last week. Scheffler scored twice and gained 66 yards against the Chargers and is a safety net for Cutler.

Match Against the Defense: The Bengals rush defense is above average and only Tomlinson and Parker have had great success running the ball against them. Wanting to keep Palmer off the field is reason enough to commit to the run, so expect Bell and Bell to combine for a good rushing total. Those few runners with success scoring (Droughns, Dillon, Maroney, Lewis) are much more like Mike than Tatum Bell.

Cutler so far has not had a bad game and has never had anything but two scores in each game. The Bengals secondary has been their weak spot so there's no reason to expect anything different than the two scores and moderate yardage that Cutler has done in every start. Scheffler should be a lock for a good game against the #28 defense against tight ends. Walker playing well will make a big difference and if he sits or is significantly limited, then Cutler will likely drop to just one score. Rod Smith gets the slightly better matchup but is so little used it is hard to rely on him.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 24 18 18 22 11 24
Preventing Fantasy Points CIN 29 14 15 28 9 6