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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket

Sunday night

Prediction: NO 27, IND 31

Here's the way to start a season - two of the best offenses in the NFL facing off and the Colts begin their defense of their Super Bowl title. What's even better is that both defenses likely won't be any better and could be worse. Consider this game as a treat the NFL served up for fantasy football.

New Orleans Saints (10-6)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @IND   +6 51.5
2 @TB 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 TEN 24-Sep MON 8:30 PM
4 BYE - - -
5 CAR 7-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
6 @SEA 14-Oct SUN 8:15 PM
7 ATL 21-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
8 @SF 28-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
9 JAC 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 STL 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 @HOU 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 @CAR 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 TB 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 @ATL 10-Dec MON 8:30 PM
15 ARI 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 PHI 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @CHI 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
NO at IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees     280,2
RB Deuce McAllister 80,1 10  
RB Reggie Bush 50 60,1  
TE Eric Johnson   20  
WR David Patten   20,1  
WR Devery Henderson   60  
WR Marques Colston   80  
PK Olindo Mare 2 FG 3 XP 9 Pts
Pregame Notes: The Saints were easily the most improved team of 2006, reaching the NFL Championship before finally falling to the Bears in Chicago. Drew Brees was shockingly good and that draft decision by the Texans paid off big - for the Saints. The Saints open with two road games but they've been preparing for this one since January when they missed their chance to match-up with the Colts.

Quarterback: In fantasy terms, Drew Brees was a sleeper of near historic proportions last year when he inherited a down-trodden Saints team coming off their horrific, Katrina-marred 2005 campaign that witnessed the team fall apart, the coaching staff fired and Deuce McAllister blew out his knee. But Brees came in and by the time he was done, he ranked #1 in the NFL with 4,424 passing yards. Only Palmer and Manning had more than the 26 touchdowns tossed by Brees and that considers that Brees barely played in the two meaningless final games. Brees returns the same receivers other than Joe Horn and has picked up Eric Johnson just in case the tight ends matter this year.

Running Backs: Deuce McAllister was coming off a knee injury that ended his 2005 season so expectations were already low before the Saints received "the gift" from Houston and drafted Reggie Bush. But it ends up that McAllister's supposed down year never really happened. Sure he shared some with Bush, but McAllister still gained 1057 rushing yards on 244 carries and scored a total of ten touchdowns. Reggie Bush did not prove all that effective as a runner since he was usually limited to around ten carries per game but his role as a receiver made him a dual threat and a big bonus in points per reception leagues. Bush had 89 catches last year - only one behind NFL leader Steven Jackson and he also trailed only Jackson in receiving yards by a running back with 748. The Saints backfield has become everything the Eagles have been trying to accomplish for years now.

Wide Receivers: Nothing like going from being only four picks away from never being drafted to dominating all rookie wideouts last year. Marques Colston proved a sleeper wideout for the ages when he turned in 70 catches for 1038 yards and eight touchdowns despite not being drafted in many leagues and never as anything more than a final wideout for some speculative owners. With Joe Horn gone this year, Colston takes over as the #1 this year and now has to incur all the double teams. Colston was playing at a very high level last year through week ten before spraining his ankle and missing three games and playing less than 100% in a couple of others. You want scary? Colston's two best games - both over 160 yards - came against Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

He's joined by Devery Henderson who steps up into the flanker role and Henderson shined in three games as a the starter last year when he filled in for either Horn or Colston. The Saints drafted Robert Meacham but he missed much of the off-season with a knee condition and never got up to speed enough to challenge for a starting role. David Patten was also added and looked sharp in the preseason. Then again, with Brees throwing in this offense, sharp is not as hard a quality to exhibit. Terrance Copper also returns this year. While perhaps not loaded with experience in the starting spots, the team has the depth and talent to continue to shine.

Tight Ends: The Saints added Eric Johnson from the 49ers in the offseason and there is some speculation that Johnson will figure in more than last year when four different tight ends combined for only 400 yards and one touchdown. That remains to be seen and Johnson's track record of remaining healthy is hardly persuasive but it bears a casual eye. The Saints are not going to turn into a tight end heavy passing attack but Johnson could figure in to some greater degree.

Match Against the Defense: This is where the match-up gets interesting. Playing on the road on "Big Thursday" In Indianapolis should be a certain recipe for falling behind on the scoreboard and yet the Colts defense should be no better than in 2006 and likely be worse given more subtractions than additions. This game should end up as a shootout. The Colts came up big against the pass last year but in part because the rushing defense was terrible and all opponents wanted to run and keep Manning off the field. Look for more of the same from the Saints in using McAllister against a soft rush defense and plenty of Reggie Bush who was coming on as a runner later in 2006. But inevitably this game ends with pass and Brees has enough weapons to at least ensure that the Saints keep moving. That may not be from Colston and Henderson as much as in future games, but should feature Bush as a receiver and looking for either Eric Johnson or the slot guy which could be Patten, Copper or Meacham as the year progresses.

Notable here is that the Colts at home in 2006 never allowed more than 226 passing yards and even Carson Palmer was held to just 176 yards and no score. As bad as the rushing defense was, the pass defense was good particularly at home.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 4 3 5 24 11 30
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 4 32 1 15 20 4
rankings reflect as of week 17, 2006


Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Homefield: RCA Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 NO   -6 51.5
2 @TEN 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 @HOU 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 DEN 30-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
5 TB 7-Oct SUN 4:05 PM
6 BYE - - -
7 @JAC 22-Oct MON 8:30 PM
8 @CAR 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 NE 4-Nov SUN 4:15 PM
10 @SD 11-Nov SUN 8:15 PM
11 KC 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 @ATL 22-Nov THU 8:15 PM
13 JAC 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 @BAL 9-Dec SUN 8:15 PM
15 @OAK 16-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
16 HOU 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 TEN 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
IND vs NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning     320,3
RB Joseph Addai 90,1 50  
RB Kenton Keith 20    
TE Dallas Clark   20  
WR Marvin Harrison   100,2  
WR Reggie Wayne   90,1  
WR Anthony Gonzalez   40  
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 4 XP 7 Pts

Pregame Notes: The Colts are in the unusual position of not explaining how last season got away from them and how they will do better this year. They cannot do better. They can only hope to hold on to the Super Bowl crown. Peyton Manning has cast off that monkey that some wanted him to wear on his back and the Colts enter 2007 as the team to beat. The defense has taken a few hits in the offseason and Dominic Rhodes has left Joseph Addai alone, but otherwise the core of this prolific offense remains intact.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning has held the Lombardi Trophy now. And not just in some commercial, but the real one at the end of a Super Bowl. Manning comes off yet another great year where he ranked #1 in the NFL with 31 passing scores and his 4,397 passing yards were second only to Brees. The receivers have not changed this year other than the oft-injured Brandon Stokley has been replaced by the rookie Anthony Gonzalez. Unlike so many past Super Bowl winners, Manning is intent on not experiencing a drop off and to return. Ends up he actually likes winning the big game.

Running Backs: The Colts rushing attack accounted for 1722 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns between Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai but Rhodes was dumped in the offseason and now Addai stands alone. DeDe Dorsey was the heir apparent to the back-up role but he couldn't make it past the cut to the 53 man roster. Now ex-CFL star Kenton Keith takes over the #2 role. Addai ran 226 times for 1081 yards and seven scores with an additional 40 catches for 325 yards and another touchdown coming via the passing game. He'll need to either really step up his workload or Keith becomes the hottest property on the waiver wire after the games this weekend.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison remains age-less and comes off a 2006 season where he had 95 catches for 1366 yards (second only to Chad Johnson's 1370 yards) and his 12 scores were just one short of the NFL leader Terrell Owens last year. Reggie Wayne had 1310 yards on 86 catches for 9 scores to remain in the top ten in all receiving categories. What should be a change this year is the addition of rookie Anthony Gonzalez who will man the slot role vacated by Brandon Stokley's departure. Gonzalez is a precise route runner who should prove to be a good addition to the Colts and the replacement for Harrison if in fact he ever proves mortal. The Colts have not used the slot for much production since Stokley's big 2004 season but Gonzalez will change that at least eventually.

Tight Ends: The Colts used their tight ends for 946 yards on 85 catches for six scores last year but that was almost evenly divided among Dallas Clark (40-467-4), Ben Utecht (37-377) and Bryan Fletcher (18-202-2). Clark remains the "primary" but he won't see much increase this year. The tight ends top out about where Clark already is.

Match Against the Defense: The Colts open the season at home, rested and healthy and face the sieve that is the New Orleans secondary. Like Christmas in September. The Saints rush defense is about average and gets better numbers only because their offense often forces opponents to pass where they will be more successful anyway. Look for a decent game from Addai here but no reason to start out the year with 30 carries. Keith's role will be the most interesting aspect to watch for but expect a good showing by Addai all the same.

Manning goes against a soft secondary and should start the year out with a bang. Expect over 300 yards here and three passing scores because it is a national game that Manning has probably spent the last couple of months preparing to play. Scores should end up with both Wayne and Harrison but a third one could end up with any receiver.

Gaining Fantasy Points IND 2 16 2 8 4 29
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 25 9 27 19 4 8

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