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Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
September 9, 2004
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Sun 1 PM SD at HOU OAK at PIT NYG at PHI Mon 9 PM
JAX at BUF TEN at MIA TB at WAS Saturday no byes
  Indianapolis Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 250,1
RB Edgerrin James 80,1 20 0
TE Marcus Pollard 0 20 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 30 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 90,1 0
WR Brandon Stokley 0 30 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 50 0
PK Mike Vanderjagt 3 FG 2 XP -
  New England Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 210,2
RB Corey Dillon 90,1 20 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 30 0
WR Troy Brown 0 30 0
WR Deion Branch 0 60,1 0
WR David Givens 0 40,1 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 3 XP -

IND (0-0) vs NE (0-0)

Game Prediction: IND 20, NE 24

Now we're getting some high octane in the tank with the first game of the season. This pits one of the top offenses - that could be better - against one of the top defenses that may have an offense better than either of the Patriot teams that won two Superbowls in three years.

These teams played last year to a 38-34 win in Indianapolis with a wild finish by the Pats offense. Don't look for that many points again, but do watch for an excellent way to kick off the season.

Pre-Game Notes - IND

As always, the defense is the focus in Indy since the offense could hardly be improved much. As always, the jury is still out if this version will be any better than the past years.

Quarterback: It does not get any better for a pure passer than Peyton "4000 - write it down" Manning. If anyone will show that the enforcement of the bump rule makes a difference, it is Peyton.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James enters into his likely final season with the Colts since his contract ends this year and there are a number of suitors already ordering flowers and candy for January. James is in the best shape since his knee injury a few years ago and could see this season as his final return to stardom with every motivation and a finally healthy body.

Dominic Rhodes has also recovered from his 2002 knee operation and while he was bothered by ankle and groin injuries, he'll be ready to go this year and could figure in more often as a rest to James.

Wide Receivers: Marvelous Marvin Harrison is one of the few receivers that can honestly claim 94 catches and 10 touchdowns as an "off year". He's still only 32 years old and has several more seasons in him and is joined by Reggie Wayne who only has to learn how to play well on the road in order to be a solid contributor. No better place to start that than New England.

Troy Walters broke his arm but was not placed on Injured Reserve. The Colts are keeping him on the active roster and Brandon Stokley will man the #3 spot. In the big shootout in Indy last year against the Pats, Marvin Harrison had 88 yards and one score and even Wayne managed to get a touchdown with his 30 yards on three catches. But on the road, Harrison is typically alone.

Tight Ends: Both Dallas Clark and Marcus Pollard will play, but the Colts want and need Clark to continue to step up since the 32-year old Pollard is slowing down. Pollard did have a score in the last meeting with the Patriots.

Match Against the Defense: Not only did New England have the best defense last season, they were downright terrifying at home. They only allowed 68 points to the visitors last year for an average of only about eight points a team. However, NT Ted Washington is now gone which counts big in the 3-4 defense and most of the linebackers and secondary players are over 30 years of age - they need to just maintain what they are.

This is a great first game of the season because it pits the best passing attack in the league of IND against the stingiest defense of NE. If the new enforcement of the bump rule shows up anywhere, it will be in this game because the Patriot defensive backs are noted for being the most "grabby" in the NFL to the extent opponents keep sending in tapes of supposed transgressions. They alone may be a primary reason why the rule is suddenly talked about with such gusto.

So what we have is the best pure passer in the game of Manning with Harrison, Wayne, Stokley, Clark and Pollard out in the pattern. If the rule enforcement changes anything, it shows up here. Edgerrin James should turn in at least an average game with the loss of Ted Washington not yet proven to be compensated. But the passing game here will be worthy alone since it is a first and best chance to see if the NE Graboids are gone or not. Figure Harrison for a good game as always, but those secondary receivers will be the key.

Pre-Game Notes - NE

The Patriots have already proven they can win a Superbowl without a great offense. Now they appear to be trying the feat with an actual offense. Brady has a new threat in the backfield in Corey Dillon, a deep receiving corps led by David Givens and Deion Branch and two potentially dangerous tight ends in Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson. This should be a better offense than either of the Super Bowl years.

Quarterback: The offense has always done only as well as Tom Brady who has proven to be the link pin that holds a complicated scheme together. So long as Brady remains healthy, this offense can hit opponents from every direction.

Running Backs: The most exciting acquisition this spring was clearly Corey Dillon and the chance he brings for the Pats to have a rushing game. While Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk were proven to be adequate, they were never an advantage. With Dillon on board, the rushing game should create yet another wrinkle to account for by defenses. Opening against the Colts should provide a wonderful opportunity for Dillon to show what this year will be like. Faulk will continue to figure in as a third-down back.

What the Pats lack now is running back depth with the release of Mike Cloud and placing Cedrick Cobbs on the PUP list for an undisclosed injury which prevented him from practicing this summer.

Kevin Faulk will miss the season opener due to personal reasons.

Wide Receivers: There may be no passing game harder to gameplan for than the Patriots. They simply do not use the same players in the same way in two consecutive games. This season sees promise with both David Givens and Deion Branch as starters since both are developing into playmakers but they'll also be joined by Bethel Johnson and of course Troy Brown as the #3 receiver that can play anywhere.

Brown did not have a catch in the preseason and injured his leg against the Panthers in week three of the preseason but is expected to play since HC Bill Belichick is not showing any concern. David Givens was also suffering a leg injury in the summer and has been out the last couple of weeks and is not likely to play in week one.

Troy Brown is questionable this week and the Pats are evasive about his condition. Best to avoid him this game.

Tight Ends: As if the Patriots needed any more diversity, they drafted Benjamin Watson to add to Daniel Graham who was an addition to Christian Fauria. Graham was the much heralded new "Ben Coates" in training and now there are two. Watson ended the preseason as the leading receiver for the Pats with 10 catches for 114 yards. Wonderful. The offense will get better and trying to determine from game to game which one will excel will be like turning off the lights to play Yahtzee.

Match Against the Defense: The Colts defense did not pose a great problem to Brady last season when he threw for 260 yards and two scores in a come from behind win. The Colts have also been susceptible to the run, particularly on the road and now Dillon starts for the Pats. Expect there to be only as much passing as needed to secure the win by the Patriots and the game will be more running and good defense against the Colts.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Colts (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @NE
Week 2 @TEN
Week 3 GB
Week 4 @JAX
Week 5 OAK
Week 6 bye
Week 7 JAX
Week 8 @KC
Week 9 MIN
Week 10 HOU
Week 11 @CHI
Week 12 @DET
Week 13 TEN
Week 14 @HOU
Week 15 BAL
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @DEN
Patriots (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 IND
Week 2 @ARI
Week 3 bye
Week 4 @BUF
Week 5 MIA
Week 6 SEA
Week 7 NYJ
Week 8 @PIT
Week 9 @STL
Week 10 BUF
Week 11 @KC
Week 12 BAL
Week 13 @CLE
Week 14 CIN
Week 15 @MIA
Week 16 @NYJ
Week 17 SF

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points