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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Wildcard Round
January 3, 2007

Saturday, January 6th
Sunday, January 7th
Kansas City at Indianapolis, 4:30 PM New York Jets at New England, 1:00 PM
Dallas at Seattle, 8:00 PM New York Giants at Philadelphia, 4:30 PM

Prediction: DAL 27, SEA 24

Here's a match-up of two teams that neither have the look of an NFC champion. The Seahawks stumble into the playoffs as a division winner thanks in part to one of the softer schedules and even then they were on a three game losing skid until finally beating the Buccaneers in week 17. The Cowboys were looking like a team that was improving until the Saints thrashed them in week 14 and then after managing a win in Atlanta, the Boys dropped their final two games - both at home - against the Eagles and even Lions. This is not a team that enters the post-season on a roll. The game boils down to whether the slowly improving Seahawks can compensate for a banged up defense or if the Cowboys have one of their "on" games after looking so bad the last few weeks. At least one visitor wins in the wild card round and this looks as likely as any.

Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
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 38-28 @ATL
7 22-36 NYG 16 7-23 PHI
8 35-14 @CAR 17 31-39 DET
9 19-22 @WAS M THU SAT
DAL at SEA Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo 0 0 260,2
RB Julius Jones 50 0 0
RB Marion Barber 40,1 20 0
TE Jason Witten 0 50 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 80,1 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 90,1 0
WR Patrick Crayton 0 20 0
PK Martin Gramatica 2 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: This game could end 30-0 with the Cowboys on either side of that score considering how inconsistently they have played. The offense has been mostly good when Romo is not turning the ball over but the defense shows up nicely in some weeks but more often disappears for devastating stretches during most games and the unit has not even had any major injuries other than losing Greg Ellis months ago. The talent is there to play against almost any team in the NFL but the coaching and apparent motivation has not. This team has played flat for so long, it would be a surprise to see them play up to their potential - particularly on defense.

Quarterback: While Tony Romo still gets his share of fans holding posters in the stands (Romo-mentum!), the hot start to his career has cooled noticeably in the last month when the Cowboys lost three of their last four games (all at home no less). In those three losses, Romo threw for four touchdowns against seven lost turnovers and two of those scores came against the formerly lowly Lions.

On the plus side, Romo has always had better numbers in road games and threw for two scores in three of the last four.

Running Backs: As the most visible sign of how differently the Cowboys play on the road or at home, consider that in the last six weeks Marion Barber scored five times and never gained less than 65 rushing yards in the three trips away from Dallas. In the last three home games he scored just once and had a total of 18 rushing yards for those match-ups. When Dallas struggles they automatically remove Barber from the gameplan. When Dallas plays well as a team, Barber always shows up well and usually holding the ball in the endzone.

Julius Jones has been grumbling about his role in the offense and yet over the last six weeks, he only had one good game when the Saints came to town.

Wide Receivers: Patrick Crayton scored last week but that was his first touchdown in eight weeks. This unit is really nothing more than Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn which has been a deadly combination this year, just not quite as productive as many opponents have been as of late. Owens has scored in each of the last four games and his 14 touchdowns on the season lead all NFL wideouts. He typically remains below 100 yards each week but he almost always scores - ten of the last twelve games in fact.

Glenn hasn't scored in six weeks now but he's been more likely to have a big yardage game than Owens has been. Problem for Glenn is that he either had big yardage games or comes up with very little. Owens is consistent with about 60+ yards in most games and one score. Glenn could be 100 yards one week and then just 20 the next.

Tight Ends: While Jason Witten no longer has a role in the endzone - he only has one score on the year - he has been a consistent target for Romo this year and typically accounts for 50 or more yards per game.

Match Against the Defense: The Seattle rush defense may rank as average but only because they have limited most opposing rushers from scoring - not from yardage. Also few teams have thrown to their backs much against Seattle. But there have been seven backs top 100 rushing yards against the Seahawks this year. Julius Jones has not rushed particularly well since mid-season so expect only moderate yardage from him as most likely but Barber has done well in road games this year. He should manage at least one rushing score here.

Where this game hinges is with Romo going against a secondary that is ravaged by recent injuries. The Seahawks have lost cornerbacks Marcus Trufant, Kelly Herndon and Jimmy Williams in the last two weeks and now they face the #4 set of wideouts in the NFL. Expect no less than two scores from Romo here against a secondary that is going to have to patch together ex-safeties and rookies into a secondary to keep up with Owens and Glenn. This could be impacted by rain which is currently expected for this game,

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 5 11 4 14 13 9
Preventing Fantasy Points SEA 19 13 25 6 15 27


Seattle Seahawks (9-7)
1 9-6 @DET 10 24-22 STL
2 21-10 ARZ 11 14-20 @SF
3 42-30 NYG 12 34-24 GB
4 6-37 @CHI 13 23-20 @DEN
5 Open Bye 14 21-27 @ARZ
6 30-28 @STL 15 14-24 SF
7 13-31 MIN 16 17-20 SD
8 28-35 @KC 17 23-7 @TB
9 16-0 OAK - MON THU
SEA vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Hasselbeck 0 0 220,2
RB Shaun Alexander 80,1 10 0
TE Jerramy Stevens 0 40 0
WR D.J. Hackett 0 50,1 0
WR Deion Branch 0 80,1 0
WR Bobby Engram 0 30 0
PK Josh Brown 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Seahawks come off a solid win, finally, when they beat the Buccaneers last week but they lost their three previous games to the Cardinals, 49ers and Chargers - two of those at home. The Seahawks are only 5-3 in Seattle this year whereas home games had been almost guaranteed wins in recent years. Darrell Jackson may be back this week which will help but that devastating rushing attack by Alexander has remained back in 2005. Now the secondary has been stripped of starters and the Seahawks need to prove that this team is better than the 1-3 record that ended the season.

Quarterback: Matt Hasselbeck ends the year with 18 touchdowns in just 12 games played but 14 came in just four games while the other eight match-ups only managed to score a total of five times - never more than one per game. Hasselbeck has never thrown for more than 268 yards in a game this year and has been around 220 yards in most weeks. The return of Darrell Jackson would play huge for Hasselbeck who has always done better with his preferred target on the field.

Running Backs: After a record-setting 2005 campaign, Shaun Alexander has battled a broken bone in his foot that kept him out for seven weeks but even when he has played, he's not been nearly as effective as he was last year. Alexander has scored seven times this year and in four of the last five games but his 252 carries have produced only 896 yards for an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. He has been over that mark only twice all year when he gained 201 yards on 40 carries against the Packers (5.0 YPC) and 140 yards on 31 carries against the Chargers (4.5 YPC). Otherwise he has remained below 3.5 yards per carry in all other games. His offensive line is just not as good this year and has not improved.

Wide Receivers: Darrell Jackson has not played since week 14 with a bad turf toe condition but he could be back this week. Jackson's presence is critical for this offense to move the ball and he already has ten scores on the season - no other receiver here has more than four on the year. Deion Branch spends most weeks with no scores and around 50 yards while Nate Burleson has almost no role. Bobby Engram has been back for the last two weeks and supplies slot work but only when Jackson is there do the wideouts come up with more than moderate yardage or scores in a game.

D.J. Hackett has produced well in relief of Jackson but returns to his back-up role if Jackson returns this week. Since Jackson still is not practicing, I will assume that Hackett gets the start again.

The assumption here is that Jackson is able to play and be only slightly limited by his turf toe.

Tight Ends: Jerramy Stevens has had his problems dropping passes this year but when Jackson went out, Stevens suddenly became a much more heavily used target. Since week 14, Stevens has caught eight passes for 101 yards in those three games. When Jackson is there, Stevens rarely exceeds 20 yards in a game.

Match Against the Defense: The Dallas defense has only allowed three runners to top 100 rushing yards this year and Alexander evidently needs at least 30 carries to get there. Expect a good but not great rushing effort from Alexander with one score likely.

Hasselbeck faces a secondary that has been stung by the big play for the entire season and if Jackson comes back, this offense should post at least one or more passing scores. Hasselbeck will primarily hand off to Alexander but he'll still total over 200 passing yards of only because of a couple of big plays. Deion Branch should have a very nice game here against the same match-up that has been problematic for Dallas the entire season. He rarely scores but this should be a nice opportunity for him.

If it rains it will depress numbers here, but Hasselbeck can still sling it in bad weather.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SEA 12 29 7 26 15 14
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 31 12 24 27 14 21