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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
 
The Huddle
Divisional Round
January 10, 2007
Saturday, January 13th
Sunday, January 14th
Indianapolis at Baltimore, 4:30 PM Seattle at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Philadelphia at New Orleans, 8:00 PM New England at San Diego, 4:30 PM

Prediction: PHI 17, NO 31

While the other three games this weekend contain top defenses for at least one if not both teams, not so here. This is the game most likely to warm the heart of every fantasy football fan and the one that contains two of the favorite teams for fans who have their home team already eliminated. The Eagles were supposed to crumble when Donovan McNabb was injured and a brutal road stretch ended the season. But the Eagles have thrived under Jeff Garcia and keep proving everyone wrong. The Saints host this game as easily the biggest surprise of all after suffering through one of the most ill-fated seasons in 2006 that resulted in changes for coaches, quarterbacks and wide receivers. They landed Reggie Bush in the NFL draft but were installing a new scheme from scratch with a new quarterback in Drew Brees. Had the Saints ended up 5-11 on the season, no one would have been surprised. But ending up 10-6 and hosting a second round game - now there is a surprise. Saints fans have now known both ends of the spectrum in just two years and while every game wasn't the Big Easy, they were all fun to watch.

The Saints already won 27-24 when the Eagles came to New Orleans in week 6.

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
1 24-10 @HOU 10 27-3 WAS
2 24-30 NYG 11 13-31 TEN
3 38-24 @SF 12 21-45 @IND
4 31-9 GB 13 27-24 CAR
5 38-24 DAL 14 21-19 @WAS
6 24-27 @NO 15 36-22 @NYG
7 21-23 @TB 16 23-3 @DAL
8 6-13 JAX 17 24-17 ATL
9 Open Bye 18 23-20 NYG
PHI Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 0 0 250,2
RB Brian Westbrook 70 40 0
TE L.J. Smith 0 40 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 60,1 0
WR Reggie Brown 0 90,1 0
WR Hank Baskett 0 20 0
PK David Akers 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Eagles may have lost in New Orleans earlier this year, but they have not dropped a game in the last six weeks including road games against the Giants and Cowboys and a wildcard win last week. The Eagles lost CB Lito Shepherd last week which won't help when they face the NFL's #1 passing yardage team but the rest of the squad is healthy and playing at a high level.

Quarterback: Jeff Garcia hasn't done much in the last four weeks because the Eagles rushing game has been enough to take the wins. Garcia only threw three scores total in those games and he has topped 240 passing yards only once as a starter but more than the yardage and scores, Garcia has grown into an emotional leader for the team in the wake of McNabb's season=ending injury.

In week six, McNabb threw for 247 yards and two scores in New Orleans.

Running Backs: While Garcia may be a saving grace for the Eagles, Brian Westbrook is the reason why the Eagles reached the playoffs and are still playing - make no mistake. Westbrook had never rushed for more than 812 yards in a season but turned in 1217 yards this year along with 11 touchdowns. He even saved the best for last when he had a season high 141 yards on just 20 carries against the Giants last week.

Westbrook gained 72 yards on 16 carries and added just three yards on three catches in the previous match-up against the Saints.

Wide Receivers: If Garcia has a favorite target, it would be Reggie Brown who had over 70 yards in four of the last five games but in the final game of the regular season when most starters were resting or taking it easy, Hank Baskett turned in a season high 177 yards on seven catches. He followed that up with only one catch for five yards last week. Donte Stallworth scored last week but only had 41 yards on three catches and only 56 yards over the three previous games combined. Brown remains the most likely to do well but either Stallworth or even Baskett can have a good game.

Brown was the star in the week six loss to the Saints when he had 121 yards on six receptions with one touchdown and he also scored on a 15 yard run. No other wideout had a catch in that game. Stallworth was injured in that game so this is his chance for a "revenge game" but by the same token - the Saints already know all about him.

Tight Ends: While McNabb always relied on L.J. Smith, Garcia has been less inclined to use him. Smith hasn't scored since week 14 and his yardage has taken a big dip when Garcia took the reins.

Smith caught four passes for 48 yards and one score In New Orleans this year.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints at home have allowed four different visiting runners to top 100 rushing yards but only two have ever scored. Westbrook was contained well enough the last time and these Saints are rested and ready to play - expect a repeat of week six for Westbrook if only from a lower number of carries.

Garcia has won several games but he hasn't produced the sort of big numbers that this game will likely need. The Saints were successful already in shutting down all but Brown the last time and this is the same offense coming to town. Look for Garcia's magic to end this week since he will be forced to throw to keep up and with that open up to more mistakes than he has had in the recent winning streak. Prior to the meaningless week 17 game, the Saints held their five previous opponents to 17 points or less.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points PHI 1 10 9 7 24 8
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 25 9 27 19 4 8

 

New Orleans Saints (10-6)
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 42-17 @DAL
6 27-24 PHI 15 10-16 WAS
7 Open Bye 16 30-7 @NYG
8 22-35 BAL 17 21-31 CAR
9 31-14 @TB - - MON
NOR Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 280,2
RB Reggie Bush 40,1 60 0
RB Deuce McAllister 70,1 10 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 60,1 0
WR Marques Colston 0 80,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 40 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: Talk about a turn around. The Saints were the second worst team in the NFL last year and that netted them Reggie Bush in the draft thanks to Gary Kubiak's "any guy will do" mentality. They added Drew Brees as the best free agent acquisition in the NFL perhaps for the last several seasons and then lucked into a seventh round rookie wideout who has been playing like he was drafted with the pick that delivered them Bush. As bad as 2005 was is how good 2006 has been. The turn around has been profound and the team is just getting better. Throw in the Coach of the Year and suddenly no one wants the Saints on their schedule.

Quarterback: Hard to imagine that the Saints weighed Drew Brees against Daunte Culpepper in the off-season. Brees merely ended up with an NFL-leading 4,424 passing yards despite sitting out most of the final game and taking it easy the last three weeks. Brees already threw for 275 yards and three scores back in week six against these Eagles.

Running Backs: The addition of Reggie Bush did not yield a dominating ruining back from the start but instead gave the Saints a dangerous player that varies from almost no rushing yards up to 126 in games this year and more importantly, an outlet for Brees that has already turned in two games over 120 receiving yards. Bush has improved as the season progresses and gives the offense an entirely different aspect to defend against.

Deuce McAllister has scored 14 times this season and provides the muscle in the running game to counter the quick strike of Bush. McAllister ran for 64 yards on just 12 carries in the week six game against the Eagles while Bush had just 60 total yards.

Wide Receivers: After missing the last four games of the regular season with a partially torn groin muscle, Joe Horn may play this week Horn was the star back in week six when he had 110 yards on six catches and two scores against the Eagles. Marques Colston also scored in that game but only had 40 yards on four catches. Colston has not had a big game since returning in week 10 and the rest should only help him to prepare this week. I am assuming a slightly limited Horn plays this week but will update if it appears he will not play.

Tight Ends: Tight ends have played only a minimal role in this offense.

Match Against the Defense: This is a replay game and one that has the Saints a better offense than they were back in week six. Bush has become a much bigger factor while McAllister continues to provide a solid rushing game. Look for more success here from both tailbacks.

Brees already had a big game against the Eagles and that was with Lito Shepherd healthy. Now that he has a dislocated elbow, his match-up against Horn will be passed off to Rod Hood. With a rushing game that should be more productive, Brees likely won't need to throw as much as he did back in week six, but consider the NFL leader in passing yardage as unable to resist turning in a good game here after being relatively quiet for the last few games of the season.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 3 5 24 11 30
Preventing Fantasy Points PHI 18 22 6 11 21 17