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

Prediction: BAL 16, DAL 23

Update: Ray Rice was limited in all practices and may not get much playing regardless so no need to add him or McGahee in Marion Barber has not improved with calf and toe injuries and has sat out practices all week. He'll likely follow the plan of last week by having a handful of meaningless carries while Tashard Choice takes most if not almost all the action.

Another pivotal game this weekend and it comes by itself on Saturday. The Ravens are 9-5 and vying for a wildcard after losing to the Steelers last week. They are 4-3 in road games and the Cowboys are also 9-5 and in the hunt for a wildcard. They are 6-1 at home. This Saturday game may not have a lot of points, but it will have plenty of importance. The loser will likely miss the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens (9-5)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CIN 17-10 +1 39
2 BYE - - -
3 CLE 28-10 -2 38.5
4 @PIT 20-23 +6 34.5
5 TEN 10-17 +3 35
6 @IND 3-31 +4.5 39
7 @MIA 27-13 +3 36.5
8 OAK 29-10 -7 36
9 @CLE 37-27 +1.5 36.5
10 @HOU 41-13 +1.5 41.5
11 @NYG 10-30 +6.5 42
12 PHI 36-7 -1 38.5
13 @CIN 34-3 -7.5 36.5
14 WAS 24-10 -5 36.5
15 PIT 9-13 -2 34
16 @DAL - +5 39.5
17 JAX - - -
BAL @ DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco     170,1
RB Le'Ron McClain 60 10  
TE Todd Heap   30,1  
WR Mark Clayton   40  
WR Derrick Mason   70  
PK Matt Stover 3 FG 1 XP  
Pregame Notes: So close last week that they are still talking about Santonio "OUT! NOT IN!" Holmes. The Ravens have been playing at a much higher level this year despite opting for a rookie quarterback but in the end, only Joe Flacco may end up to be a positive on offense this year. The backfield is a jumbled three-man mess and Derrick Mason is nearing gold watch time. But the defense has been outstanding but the Ravens have one small problem. Their losses went to PIT (2), IND, NYG and TEN. Also known as the only playoff-bound teams they faced in the regular season. The defense was brutal against a bad team but the offense was held to ten points or less in the final four losses.

Quarterback: The loss last week ended Joe Flacco's eight game scoring streak but make no mistake - this is the quarterback of the future and the present. The rookie has only five interceptions in the last nine weeks and has exceeded all expectations with a team that has no stars anywhere else on offense. The future looks very bright but the present has him making do with what he has. He has scored in each of the last five road games and has produced more away from Baltimore.

Running Backs: The backfield remains a mess. Le'Ron McClain took his second start at tailback and managed 83 yards on 23 carries against the Steelers. That makes four straight games that McClain has gained at least 60- rushing yards and scored in two of them. Willis McGahee has played for the last two weeks but had minimal impact and only 17 total carries, He was supposed to become a third down sort of back but only has three catches for a total of seven yards in the last three games played.

The Ravens also hope that Ray Rice returns this week from his bruised shin while McClain is supposed to be fine from his neck sprain last week. I will project for McClain but both McGahee and Rice will have some yet unknown workload this week which we should all know could be minimal to significant. The return of Rice is especially problematic since he takes away touches from both other runners.

Wide Receivers: The wideouts remain with spotty play this year and Derrick Mason is always the primary but only has four scores on the season but usually comes up with around 80 yards in most away games. Mark Clayton has been roughly half that much in most games though he has the odd good showing. Most road games have seen him remain less than 20 yards though in Cincy he had a season best 164 yards and one score. There is no reliable fantasy numbers here but Mason and Clayton will show up in many games.

Tight Ends: Every time that Todd Heap seems to suggest that he will start having fantasy value again, he drops another game with less than 20 yards. Not reliable enough to consider and only three scores on the year.

Match Against the Defense: The problem this week is that the Cowboys have a top ten ranked defense in most categories but they have been markedly better since mid-season when Wade Phillips took over the defensive play calling. There have not been any rushing scores allowed to a visiting running back in Dallas since week two and most teams fall short of 70 rushing yards there. Consider that the Ravens will use some mixture of two or three players and none of the Ravens backs are an attractive start this week.

Flacco faces an improved secondary that has allowed only one team to throw a passing touchdown in the last four games in Dallas. Plus the defense has registered 15 sacks in the last two games there as well. The Cowboys corners are working better and I actually like Heap to be the one to score a touchdown here. The last three games there have seen the tight end be the scorer.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 24 11 23 24 21 2
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 9 7 13 9 25 23

Dallas Cowboys (9-5)
Homefield: Texas Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CLE 28-10 -5.5 49
2 PHI 41-37 -7 47
3 @GB 27-16 -3 51
4 WAS 24-26 -11.5 46
5 CIN 31-22 -17.5 44
6 @ARZ 24-30 -5 50
7 @STL 14-34 -7 44
8 TB 13-9 -2 42
9 @NYG 14-35 +8.5 41
10 BYE - - -
11 @WAS 14-10 -1.5 43
12 SF 35-22 -11 48
13 SEA 34-9 -12.5 46.5
14 @PIT 13-20 +3 41.5
15 NYG 20-8 -3 44
16 BAL - -5 39.5
17 @PHI - - -
DAL vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo     230,2
RB Marion Barber 20    
RB Tashard Choice 60 20  
TE Jason Witten   50  
WR Terrell Owens   60,1  
WR Patrick Crayton   40,1  
WR Roy Williams   20  
PK Nick Folk 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Cowboys can commiserate with the Ravens about losing to the Steelers when they thought they had won. The NFC is suddenly more up for grabs with the Giants hit with their problems but the Cowboys are in a do or die situation that extends to next week when they wrap up in Philadelphia who would relish knocking off the Cowboys if nothing else. But this week comes first and the Ravens bring the third consecutive top defense that the Cowboys have had to face. If they make it through this gauntlet, there is a chance they could actually win a playoff game.

This is also the final game played in Texas Stadium. Now God can look down and see the Cowboys selling everything off down to the toilet paper.

Quarterback: Tony Romo has remained productive even with all these great defenses though he has slipped from 300 yards and three scores down to 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns. He had his worst game of the year in Pittsburgh when he passed for only 210 yards and one score against three interceptions and another lost fumble. Romo suffered a back contusion last week but played through it and had two scores and 244 yards on the visiting Giants. This will be yet another big test that he must pass.

Running Backs: The Cowboys are going to have a nice problem next year when Felix Jones returns and joins Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. Barber was able to play last week but only gained two yards on eight runs and was clearly not his old self. HC Wade Phillips said Barber did not re-aggravate his toe so Barber should be playing this week as well though likely limited once again.

Meanwhile Tashard Choice is popping eyes and dropping jaws. After gaining 88 rushing yards in Pittsburgh with 78 more yards on receptions, he went against the vaunted Giants defense and walked away with 91 yards on nine carries with one score and added 52 yards on four catches. That's just 309 total yards against two of the toughest defenses in the league. Yeah, they like him. If he pulls the hat trick and shows up the Ravens, Barber better get worried.

Wide Receivers: Terrell Owens ended his three game scoring streak but more importantly Jason Witten did not score either. Yeah! Take that Jason!

Seriously, the only development here is that Patrick Crayton finally showed up for a score against the Giants and his 49 yards on two catches actually led all receivers. Roy Williams is still waiting for his second touchdown and has been nearly invisible during this tough defense stretch. Perhaps once Barber is healthy they can allow Choice to become a receiver and whip them into shape.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten was the subject of a media storm about he and Terrell Owens but much ado about nothing. Witten has remained in the game plan to be sure but has been hovering around 50 yards on five catches in these matchups with the toughest defenses.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens have only allowed two runners to rush in a touchdown against them this year and only rarely does a team gain more than 50 rushing yards. But that was before the Cowboys had a Choice. A better parallel is that the Giants gained 210 rushing yards on the visiting Ravens. Barber is hurt and Choice has been delightfully good but reason says the Cowboys will find it tough to run against the best defense in the league playing in a game they cannot afford to lose. Expect barely moderate rushing numbers if that and likely no score.

The Ravens on the road are not nearly as good stopping the pass. They have allowed Peyton Manning (271, 3 TD) and Derrick Anderson (219, 2 TD) and Sage Rosenfels (294, 1 TD) and Chad Pennington (295, 1 TD) to all have better than average passing games and CB Fabian Washington pulled his hamstring and may not play this week. It would be a stretch to expect a huge game here by Romo but a decent showing should happen and one long pass always changes a game.

I like both Terrell Owens and a player like Patrick Crayton or Miles Austin to get a second score. The Ravens have allowed primary split ends to score along with speedier slot guys.

Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 7 14 12 1 25 9
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 4 1 4 6 3 22

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