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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday night
On Bye

Prediction: NEP 30, IND 27

Here's the match-up we've all been waiting for even before we knew it would pit two undefeated teams. Forget anyone that says this is just another game on the schedule - it just doesn't get any bigger for a regular season game against the two best teams in the NFL. The reality here is that the winner very likely is going to the Super Bowl because they will have a one game lead for the #1 seed in the NFL plus the first tie breaker of head to head. That's huge for two teams that are pretty much in a class by themselves this year. It could be argued that the Patriots main impetus for acquiring three free agent wideouts in the offseason was expressly to use against the Colts.

The Colts won 27-20 when they hosted the Patriots last year and later won 38-34 in the AFC Championship game. The Colts also won 41-20 in 2005 in a game played in New England. Prior to that it was the Patriots winning the six previous match-ups.

Update: Ben Watson has practiced the last two days and could play this week though he was "limited" in practice which in Patriot-speak could mean a very wide range of things. I am not adding him into the projections but he could play. He still has not had a full practice yet so it would be optimistic to expect much if he does play.

Marvin Harrison has not practiced this week and he will likely be a game-time decision if only to make the Patriots prepare for his potential availability. I am not adding him into the projections but he has not been ruled out. This is a later afternoon game unfortunately, so his game status will not be certain until a couple of hours past the initial kickoffs on Sunday. Safest bet is to expect him to miss this week but if he is healthy enough, he will certainly play and does not need the practice time. His limitation in practice was officially credited to a team decision instead of the standard "knee" so they could be letting him get as healthy as possible. If you can start players after the initial kickoff on Sunday and have another option to quickly turn to, it could be worth seeing if he does play. Big risk either way.

New England Patriots (8-0)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NYJ 38-14 -6.5 40.5
2 SD 38-14 -3 47
3 BUF 38-7 -16.5 41
4 @CIN 34-13    
5 CLE 34-17 -15.5 48
6 @DAL 48-27 -5 52.5
7 @MIA 49-28 -17 51
8 WAS 52-7 -16 48
9 @IND   -5.5 56.5
10 BYE - - -
11 @BUF 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 PHI 25-Nov SUN 8:15 PM
13 @BAL 3-Dec MON 8:30 PM
14 PIT 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 NYJ 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 MIA 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @NYG 29-Dec SAT 8:15 PM
NEP at IND Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady     310,3
RB Laurence Maroney 60    
TE Kyle Brady   20,1  
WR Randy Moss   110,1  
WR Donte Stallworth   60  
WR Wes Welker   100,1  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 3 FG 3 X P  
Pregame Notes: The Patriots are either going to be very happy heading into their week ten bye week or they will be stewing once again after meeting the Colts. The rushing game here has been surprisingly lackluster given the ample opportunities in blowout wins but Brady just keeps playing with his new toys of Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker. Maroney has been injured much of the year but is now back and the defense has been rock solid even when the game is out of hand and they could relax. In the wake of Cheat-Gate and after three straight losses to the Colts, this week is what the Patriots have been waiting for since last January.

Quarterback: Tom Brady is certainly looking forward to meeting the Colts this year. He has some revenge to extract for throwing for only 201 yards and four interceptions against them last year with no scores during the regular season and later threw for 232 yards and one score with one interception in the AFC Championship game. With 30 passing touchdowns in the first half of the season, he leads the league in passing yardage as well (2431). Consider this - Brady already has 17 more touchdowns than Manning has. He has never had less than three touchdowns in any game and scored 14 in just the last three games.

Running Backs: Laurence Maroney has been back for two weeks but only had 14 carries for 75 yards last week against the Redskins and just six carries for 31 yards in Miami the previous game. He still has yet to score a touchdown this season and hasn't run effectively in road games where two efforts netted only a total of 26 carries for 103 yards. Sammy Morris remains out and the Patriots used four different running backs last week for a total of 28 carries. They just did not opt to use Maroney much perhaps to save him for this week.

In 2006, Corey Dillon was the starter and scored two touchdowns against the Colts in week nine. He only gained 48 yards on 13 carries. In the Championship game Dillon ran for 48 yards and a score while Maroney only gained 13 yards on eight carries.

Wide Receivers: What not to like here? After seasons of sub-par wideouts that had little or no reliable fantasy value, now you can start any of the three starters and pretty much expect to get a nice game in return. Randy Moss has scored in all but one game this year and his eleven scores are on a pace to set an NFL record. He already has four games with two scores in them and five efforts over 100 yards.

Wes Welker went through a low period this year but in the last three games has scored five times with an average of 117 yards per game. Spend too much time on Moss and Welker kills you.

Donte Stallworth has scored in three of the last four games and has one game over 100 yards this year. Spend too much time on Moss and Welker and then Stallworth kills you. This unit is so much more talented and productive compared to last season that it is ridiculous. And it is also exactly what the Pats were looking for when they pulled out the company VISA at the free agent store.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson has missed the last two games with what is deemed a sprained ankle. He had scored in four of the six games played and even turned in 107 yards and two scores against the Browns but has given way to Kyle Brady who also has two scores in the last three weeks. I will assume that Watson will be out this week until he practices enough to give confidence to using him this week.

Watson turned in 54 yards on four catches against the Colts last year.

Match Against the Defense: Here's where it will get interesting. The Patriots have not run much nor all that well in games this year and the Colts have one of the better rushing defenses in the league. What happens here depends largely upon how healthy Maroney really is and how much the Pats get to use him. Expect decent numbers here but likely no score. Anything more means the Pats were saving Maroney for this week but that seems unlikely going against a solid rushing defense.

Tom Brady goes against a secondary that has only allowed a total of five passing scores in the seven games played this year. Worth nothing though is that the Colts have not faced any decent quarterbacks in any game this year, let alone the most wildly productive quarterback of all time through eight games played in a season. The Colts have only allowed two passing scores to wideouts this year and none have turned in more than 72 yards in a game against them. But once again - the Colts have not played against any good quarterbacks. True - they held Steve Smith to just two catches last week but that was with Testaverde and a hurt Carr playing. Look for three passing scores here as statistically improbable as it may seem because Brady has just been much better than his opponents and has too many weapons to use. In past years you never knew who to cover because none of the receivers were all that good. Now they all are. The Pats have been angling for this game for the last ten months and it all comes to fruition this week.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 1 12 1 8 5 1
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 2 11 1 20 2 1


Indianapolis Colts (7-0)
Homefield: RCA Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 NO 41-10 -6 51.5
2 @TEN 22-20 -7 46
3 @HOU 30-24 -6 47.5
4 DEN 38-20 -10 46.5
5 TB 33-14 -9 45
6 BYE - - -
7 @JAC 29-7 -3.5 45
8 @CAR 31-7 -6.5 45
9 NE   +5.5 56.5
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 NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning     270,2
RB Joseph Addai 90,1 30  
RB Kenton Keith 30 20  
TE Dallas Clark   60,1  
WR Aaron Moorehead   20  
WR Reggie Wayne   80,1  
WR Anthony Gonzalez   30  
PK Adam Vinatieri 2 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Colts too are unbeaten and at home have not won by less than 18 points. And while they have not score quite as much as the "roll it up" Patriots, they still have been scoring an average of 37 points in home games and they have the better defense in this game. So far no opponent has scored more than 24 points and the last two efforts going into this week only had seven points allowed in each. This will be a monumentally bigger task for the secondary but then again the unit is better than last year. Harrison has been out but is expected back this week and otherwise the entire team is pretty healthy.

Quarterback: Peyton Manning threw for 326 yards and two scores against the Patriots during the regular season and later had 349 yards and one score in the Championship game. He's always thrown for at least one score in every game but has three times where that's all he produced. He also only has one effort over the 300 yard mark thanks in part to a more productive rushing game and a better defense. No doubt that Manning can bring it when needed and getting Harrison back will help.

Running Backs: The Colts rushing attack has been stellar this year with Joseph Addai already scoring eight touchdowns on the season and owning three efforts over 100 rushing yards which includes the only two home games in which he played. Kenton Keith has become a valuable complement that the Colts use to rest Addai and even he had a big game at home when he ran for 121 yards and two scores against the Buccaneers in week five. There is little doubt that they Colts will want to run the ball as much as possible to keep Brady off the field and both runners should produce decent fantasy numbers.

Addai gained only 43 yards on 18 carries against the Pats last season but scored once. He had no receptions in the game. He later gained 56 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown in the Championship game.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison was held out last week because of his bruised knee and his playing status likely won't be known until as late as Friday or Saturday which would be sort of ironic since it is typically the Pats that specialize in deceptive injury information. I will not project for Harrison until he practices and will update as warranted on Friday.

The absence of Harrison from all or most of the last three weeks has been amply replaced by Reggie Wayne who comes off two straight efforts over 130 receiving yards and with two scores. Anthony Gonzalez has been all too quiet so far with only one decent game this year but that did occur at home against the Buccaneers.

Harrison caught eight passes for 145 yards and two scores against the Pats in 2006 while Reggie Wayne turned six catches into 90 yards. In the Championship game, Wayne turned in 68 yards on five receptions while Harrison had four catches for 41 yards. Neither scored in that meeting.

Tight Ends: The high-flying Dallas Clark finally turned in a dud last week when he only had two catches for 22 yards in Carolina but he scored in the five previous games and has been good for at least 60 yards in almost every other game this year.

Clark turned in 42 yards on two receptions against the Pats last season but then led all Colts receivers in the Championship game with six catches for 137 yards.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriots rush defense has been great this year because their offense blows every one out and no runner has managed more than 20 carries against them. Most of the decent backs have good rushing averages but never get the playing time to amount to a good game. Expect Addai to get as many carries as the Colts think they can get away with to eat the clock and keep the ball away from Brady. Expect one rushing score with healthy yardage here.

Manning faces a secondary that has been facing trash time in games all year and yet has never allowed more than two passing scores in any game. Much depends too on how healthy Harrison will be this week. Expect a good game and a score from both Clark and Wayne. Manning knows this defense quite well and has played only as good as he needed to be in games this season. He should end up with very good passing yardage here that could become big if the Pats get a sizable early lead and force the Colts to throw on most downs.

Gaining Fantasy Points IND 4 1 12 2 2 19
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 11 7 6 23 1 2

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday night
On Bye

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