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

Prediction: TB 20, NO 25

Update: Jeff Garcia has not practiced this week because of his back injury and he is likely to be a gametime decision. Since Luke McCown has taken all the first team snaps, I am going to switch the projections considering him as the starter. This is a situation that may not be clear until the late afternoon games on Sunday so the safest play here is to not rely on either Tampa Bay quarterback. I am boosting Graham's numbers a bit since the Buccaneers will want to rely on the running game more if Garcia does not play.

Reggie Bush was limited in practice on Wednesday to rest his shin but returned to full practice on Thursday. He's safe to play this week.

In theory this game looms bigger since a Saints win draws them within one game of the Buccaneers with a split in head to head but the Saints still have to face the Eagles and Bears while the Bucs have a veritable cakewalk schedule. The Saints are just 2-3 at home while the Buccaneers are also 2-3 on the road.

The Buccaneers dominated the visiting Saints in week two, winning 31-14.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-4)
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @SEA 6-20 +6 41
2 NO 31-14 +3.5 41.5
3 STL 24-3 -4 38.5
4 @CAR 20-7 +3 39
5 @IND 14-33 +9 45
6 TEN 13-10 -2.5 37
7 @DET 16-23 +1.5 43
8 JAC 23-24 +4 32.5
9 ARI 17-10 -3.5 37
10 BYE - - -
11 @ATL 31-7 -3 35
12 WAS 19-13 -3.5 37.5
13 @NO   +3 42
14 @HOU 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 ATL 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @SF 23-Dec SUN 8:15 PM
17 CAR 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
TBB at NOS Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 260,2
QB Luke McCown     220,1
RB Earnest Graham 70,1 30  
TE Alex Smith   30  
WR Joey Galloway   60,1  
WR Ike Hilliard   50  
WR Maurice Stovall   30  
PK Matt Bryant 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Buccaneers are on a three game winning streak and have not allowed an opponent more than 13 points in that time. Graham has settled down to being a more than adequate solution after Carnell Williams left and the Buccaneers play almost error free football with a great defense. After this trip, the only potential blip left on the radar is the next week in Houston. After that, ATL, SF and CAR are a dream ending to the season.

Quarterback: Jeff Garcia was hit between the hip and ribcage last week and missed almost the entire game. He suffered a deep back contusion but had no fractures or structural problems and is adamant that he can play this week. He may miss a day or two of practice but the assumption is that he can play. Garcia had one of his better games of the season when he passed for 243 yards and two scores against the visiting Saints in week two. He has only thrown an interception in one game this year and has scored at least once in each of the last six full games he has played.

Running Backs: Earnest Graham has not only turned up his level of play higher than Carnell Williams had been doing, he is doing something else that Williams had problems with - scoring. Graham has six touchdowns on the year and has scored in each of the last three games which included two efforts over 100 rushing yards. He's a reliable part of the offense that performs well at home or on the road.

Carnell Williams scored twice against the Saints in week two but only gained 61 yards on 24 carries.

Wide Receivers: Joey Galloway was on a three game scoring streak until Garcia was injured last week. What will be interesting this week is that Galloway burned the Saints for 135 yards and two scores in the first meeting but that came at home. On the road, Galloway has only scored once all season and virtually every bad yardage game came away from Tampa Bay. He's turned in less than 65 yards in the last four road games but this week is coming against the Saints who gave him his best game of the year.

Ike Hilliard still supplies a decent #2 role but only has one score on the season and only caught two passes for 51 yards against the Saints this year.

Tight Ends: Alex Smith has been productive the last two weeks with 51 and 41 yards and his three scores this season all came in road games. Smith caught two passes for 45 yards in the week two game against the Saints. Chances are good he will figure in more heavily this week as well.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers caught the Saints in week two at their lowest point and this is a different Saints team now and the Buccaneers are different on the road, at least in the passing game which comes to life away from Tampa Bay even if it doesn't usually involve Galloway as much.

The Saints rushing defense has been very good this year and hasn't allowed any runner to top 100 rushing yards since week one and only two runners have scored against them since that week two meeting with the Buccaneers. Most backs suffer from a lack of carries so expect only moderate rushing numbers here from Graham with likely no score unless the Bucs end up on the one-yard line. Backs often have better receiving numbers against the Saints though, so for total yardage Graham should be decent this week.

Garcia often throws for two scores in road games and the Saints usually allow around that much anyway. I like Alex Smith to snag one touchdown here and the other likely will end up with Galloway as much as any other receiver. This all depends greatly on Garcia's health though.

Gaining Fantasy Points TB 20 9 19 25 18 21
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 26 4 30 20 24 7


New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @IND 10-41 +6 51.5
2 @TB 14-31 -3.5 41.5
3 TEN 14-31 -4 45
4 BYE - - -
5 CAR 13-16 -4 43
6 @SEA 28-17 +6 43
7 ATL 22-16 -9 43
8 @SF 31-10 -2.5 40
9 JAC 41-24 -3.5 40
10 STL 29-37 -12 46
11 @HOU 10-23 -1 47
12 @CAR 31-6 -3 41
13 TB   -3 42
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
NOR vs TBB Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees     250,1
RB Reggie Bush 50 40  
RB Aaron Stecker 20,1 10  
TE Eric Johnson   20  
WR Marques Colston   90,1  
WR Devery Henderson   30  
WR David Patten   50  
PK Olindo Mare 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The big win over the Panthers made up for the last two losses but the Saints were fortunate enough to meet the Panthers when they had no real quarterback. This is a gut check game for the Saints who are at home facing the same team that decimated them in week two. A win here gives the Saints hope for at least a wildcard this year and in the NFC, an 8-8 could end up in the playoffs if only for one week. The Saints are still very inconsistent so it depends on which Saints team shows up.

Quarterback: Since week six, Drew Brees has been on a hot streak with only one game less than two scores and over 260 yards in each of the last four games including a season high 445 yards against the Jaguars - the toughest defense they have yet faced. Brees came out of his early season funk by spreading the ball around and now has come back full circle by relying on Colston the most but still including all other receivers.

Brees passed for 260 yards and one score in Tampa Bay this season.

Running Backs: Reggie Bush had a bruised shin but still played against the Panthers last Sunday with fairly dismal results. He rushed for 32 yards on nine carries and only had three catches for 30 yards. The Saints went with using Pierre Thomas for 12 carries (32 yards) and Aaron Stecker chipped in 13 runs for 42 yards and one touchdown because Bush was pulled from the decided game later in the second half. Bush is not 100% but is still playing but his biggest role is as a receiver which would be particularly handy this week. I will project for Bush but both Thomas and Stecker will have a role - how big will depend on how well Bush holds up.

Bush was held to only 27 yards on 10 carries in Tampa Bay this year but added six catches for 43 yards. McAllister was still playing then and had 49 yards on ten runs in that game.

Wide Receivers: While all the wideouts have been contributing lately, the reality is that they usually combine for around what Marques Colston ends up with each week. Colston has caught his groove over the last five games that has never had less than 85 yards or seven catches and he has scored four times in that span. While David Patten, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson trade off each week having a decent game, Colston is the constant that moves the offense. Projecting for the other wideouts is a big hit-or-miss proposition but Colston is back to being golden each game.

Colston had eight receptions for 70 yards and a score in Tampa Bay. Patten gained 66 yards on his two catches.

Tight Ends: Eric Johnson has declined in overall use during the last month and usually settles for around 20 or 30 yards per game with only two scores on the season.

Johnson only ended with 18 yards on three receptions in Tampa Bay this year.

Match Against the Defense: This should be a tough game for the Saints since the Buccaneers bigger weakness is against the run - which the Saints do not exactly excel at this year. There should be the chance for one rushing score there but that could end up with any of the three running backs. The Buccaneers have also been great at stopping the passes to the tailbacks and Bush's 43 yards in week two still stands as the most allowed this season.

Brees faces one of the best secondaries in the NFL and his 260 passing yards in week two were the most allowed by the Bucs until last week when Jason Campbell surprised them with 301 yards. Don't expect more than one passing score here because only one team has thrown for more than a single touchdown - and that was Peyton Manning with just two. This is bound to be a close game that is decided by the health of Bush and Garcia. If either cannot play up to normal levels, then their team loses though Garcia is more critical to his team than Bush is to the Saints.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 7 13 8 14 32 27
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 1 24 3 3 5 3

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday night

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