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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: TB 24, NO 27

Update: Both Antonio Bryant (knee sprain) and Joey Galloway (groin strain) have been limited in practice this week and are listed as questionable. Even Michael Clayton has been limited and is questionable but the three are expected to play this week. I am adding Bryant into the projections but it will be a slight risk to use the Buccaneers this week because of the injuries that have so limited the team working together. Then again - they are playing the Saints.

The Buccaneers start their season with the same solid defense and questionable offense. A 9-7 record got the Bucs into the playoffs and the lack of any offense sent them back home. The Saints appear poised to challenge the Bucs this year but only from an offense that can post points. These two teams are in the same division and yet are almost complete opposites from each other. The Saints at home should be just good enough to take the win here.

The Buccaneers swept the Saints last year, winning 31-14 in Tampa Bay and later 27-23 in New Orleans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @NO - +3.5 42.5
2 ATL - - -
3 @CHI - - -
4 GB - - -
5 @DEN - - -
6 CAR - - -
7 SEA - - -
8 @DAL - - -
9 @KC - - -
10 BYE - - -
11 MIN - - -
12 @DET - - -
13 NO - - -
14 @CAR - - -
15 @ATL - - -
16 SD - - -
17 OAK - - -
TBB at NOR Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 10   240,2
RB Earnest Graham 90,1 10  
RB Warrick Dunn 20 30  
TE Alex Smith   20,1  
WR Joey Galloway   100,1  
WR Antonio Bryant   50  
WR Michael Clayton   30  
PK Matt Bryant 1 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: The offseason saw the Bucs court Brett Favre unsuccessfully and now Jeff Garcia pretends his feelings were not hurt. Earnest Graham was the surprise player from 2007 and while he was re-signed, they did not give him "thank you Mr. Starter" kind of money. They did bring in Warrick Dunn to mix into backfield. But the Buccaneers will always be about defense and mistake-free offense with just enough points to win most games. It's not fantasy football fun, but it does work in the NFL.

Quarterback: The addition of Jeff Garcia last year did help bring a passing attack that was mired in the lowest tier for years up to being almost average. He also threw only four interceptions against 13 touchdowns. But Garcia is 38 years old and hasn't last more than 13 games per season since he left the 49ers. Playing for the Bucs this year is the first time he has played a second season for a franchise in the last four years.

The Buccaneers enjoyed good passing efforts against the Saints last year. Garcia threw for 243 yards and two scores in the home game and later Luke McCown passed for 313 yards and two scores in New Orleans.

Running Backs: Better late than never. After four seasons in the NFL and at the age of 28, Earnest Graham became a starter in 2007 and turned in 898 yards and 10 touchdowns over about a dozen starts. He only averaged 4.0 yards per carry and only topped 100 rushing yards three times but he scored in seven of the final eight games. He will be joined this year by Warrick Dunn who has come full circle in his NFL career. Jon Gruden has glowed about getting the aging Dunn back into the fold and he should end up more of a third down back. Dunn has always been a valuable receiver from the backfield even if the Falcons never really used him in that capacity.

The first meeting between these teams had Carnell Williams rushing for 61 yards and two scores. In week 13, Graham gained 106 yards and scored once.

Wide Receivers: Even though the Bucs had better passing last year, that still didn't mean too much for the wideouts outside of Joey Galloway who broke 1000 yards for the third consecutive time as a Buccaneer. But Galloway is 37 years old now and eventually has to slow down. No other wideouts appear likely to take his place since Ike Hilliard is also nearing retirement and Michael Clayton has never followed-up on his fine rookie season four years ago. The bad news here is that Galloway rarely has a big game anymore and last year only had three efforts top 100 yards. The good news is that two of those were against the Saints.

Galloway loves the Saints. In 2007, he had 159 yards on seven catches in the road game and 135 yards on four receptions and two scores in the home game.

Tight Ends: The Buccaneers continue to like their tight ends as scorers but not so much as yardage receivers. The nine scores turned in by the position in 2007 ranked 7th best in the league but it was dispersed over three tight ends and none of them had more than 32 catches on the year.

The meeting in New Orleans last year had Anthony Becht and Jerramy Stevens catching touchdowns.

Match Against the Defense: Not unlike most teams, the Buccaneers enjoy their better offensive showings whenever they meet the Saints. It's like the new Saints are the old Rams - explosive on offense, absent on defense. Played in New Orleans makes this a much tougher game though and the Saints will post some points. Expect one of Garcia's best passing games of the year this week and for Graham to have at least a decent game. Watch too for what Dunn does since he has been ignored in most leagues and remains on the waiver wire in several.

Gaining Fantasy Points TB 16 8 21 12 10 14
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 30 5 32 20 21 10
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) TB 14 -3 11 8 11 -4

New Orleans Saints (0-0)
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 TB - -3.5 42.5
2 @WAS - - -
3 @DEN - - -
4 SF - - -
5 MIN - - -
6 OAK - - -
7 @CAR - - -
8 SD - - -
9 BYE - - -
10 @ATL - - -
11 @KC - - -
12 GB - - -
13 @TB - - -
14 ATL - - -
15 @CHI - - -
16 @DET - - -
17 CAR - - -
NOR vs TBB Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees     250,2
RB Reggie Bush 50 50  
RB Deuce McAllister 20,1    
TE Jeremy Shockey   50,1  
WR Marques Colston   70,1  
WR Robert Meachem   20  
WR Devery Henderson   30  
WR David Patten   30  
PK Martin Gramatica 2 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Saints stumbled to a 7-9 record last year thanks in no small part to a shockingly slow start and then having the backfield ravaged by injuries. The difference this year should be that the offense has added Jeremy Shockey and Robert Meachem appears ready to make up for a lost rookie year. The same wounded backfield returns but Deuce McAllister is now playing on a couple of bad knees that could go at any moment and Reggie Bush didn't exactly prove himself as an every down player last year. The great news is that the defense should still be horrible and Brees is going to have to throw like a madman this year.

Quarterback: Two seasons in New Orleans and Drew Brees has back-to-back 4400 yard seasons. Brees started painfully slow last year but after a head scratching month, turned it on to resume being one of the elite passers in the NFL. This year should be no less and could easily produce a career best since the running game is unchanged and the receivers are upgraded with Shockey and Meachem.

Brees never had a big game against the Buccaneers last year. He passed for 260 yards and one score in the road game and later only had 179 yards and two scores in the home meeting.

Running Backs: The rushing game has several questions to answer this week. Reggie Bush is back from injury and has always been a tremendous receiver but his rushing ability wasn't nearly enough to carry the team last year. Deuce McAllister returns - surprising some -but with his knees he cannot be considered reliable for more than short yardage work. Pierre Thomas figures in some measure but the ratio of touches remains to be seen and could change drastically depending on game situation. For this week I am only projecting for Bush and McAllister as the assumed goal line guy but that could change as soon as next week.

Bush never had more than 77 total yards against the Bucs last season and two games only produced one rushing score by Mike Karney.

Wide Receivers: Marques Colston has already proven that he belongs with the elite players of the league but should see a bit more help - AKA less need for him -thanks to the potential emergence of Robert Meachem and Shockey joining the team. Meachem remains the #4 with David Patten and Devery Henderson sharing the #2 but those roles could well change in a matter of weeks if Meachem can progress and gain consistency.. This is one of the best passing teams in the league without a strong rushing game. There will be plenty to share.

Colston came up with eight catches for 70 yards and one score in the road game against the Bucs and later only produced two catches for 39 yards in the home meeting.

Tight Ends: The use of Jeremy Shockey won't materially change the way the Saints play, it will just give them one tight end to use instead of several. The Saints already had 75 completions thrown to the position last year for 706 yards and that was mixing Billy Miller and Eric Johnson. Shockey needs to remain healthy for once, but he can lend consistency and more talent to the tight end slot.

Match Against the Defense: The Buccaneers always play tough defense but less so on the road. The Saints have a new look for them this year with Shockey and Meachem involved and that should be critical because the Buccaneers ranked #1 against QBs and WRs last year. You cannot come at them with just two wideouts and expect to succeed. Adding in a third wideout and a pass catching tight end should pay dividends in this matchup. Bush was never that successful against the Bucs in the past but remains a strong start this week from his role as a receiver anyway.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 6 11 7 17 30 19
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 1 21 1 10 4 5
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) NO -5 10 -6 -7 -26 -14

The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late


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