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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
Divisional Round
January 10, 2007
Saturday, January 13th
Sunday, January 14th
Indianapolis at Baltimore, 4:30 PM Seattle at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Philadelphia at New Orleans, 8:00 PM New England at San Diego, 4:30 PM

Prediction: IND 17, BAL 20

The divisional round has historically been heavy on the home teams winning - natural enough since the two best teams in each division are playing at home - but twice in the last three years there have been one visitor from each division advancing to the conference championship. Those two games sandwiched 2004 when all the home teams won as happened in 2002. Each home team is favored this weekend but this game has the smallest spread with the Ravens favored by four points. What cannot be dismissed is that the Colts have not won on the road since week nine of the season, dropping each of their final four road games (and only losses).

This game also has a side plot to consider - it will be the first time that the Colts will play in the postseason in Baltimore since relocating to Indianapolis in 1984. But that will mean more to the fans than the players since most were only in elementary school at the time.

Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
1 26-21 @NYG 10 17-16 BUF
2 43-24 HOU 11 14-21 @DAL
3 21-14 JAX 12 45-21 PHI
4 31-28 @NYJ 13 17-20 @TEN
5 14-13 TEN 14 17-44 @JAX
6 Open Bye 15 34-16 CIN
7 36-22 WAS 16 24-27 @HOU
8 34-31 @DEN 17 27-22 MIA
9 27-20 @NE 18 23-8 KC
IND Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 270,2
RB Dominic Rhodes 30 20 0
RB Joseph Addai 40 10 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 30 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 70,1 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 90,1 0
WR Aaron Moorehead 0 20 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Colts spent the second half of the season looking great one week and horrible the next and that usually was directly related to where they were playing. After four consecutive road losses, it's hard to see the Colts excelling as a visitor to Baltimore where the Ravens top defense awaits but last week the visiting Chiefs were surprised to see the Colts turn in one of their best defensive efforts of the season. It won't take a lot of points to win this week but even getting a few will be a big challenge.

Quarterback: No questions about Peyton Manning here. Since the Colts have been playing worse on the road, that means Manning's numbers have actually gone up from needing to score. Manning has scored at least once in every game this year and during road trips four efforts top 300 passing yards and scored 16 times. The better defenses faced on the road this year were Jacksonville (313 yards, 1 TD) and Denver (345 yards, 3 TDs).

Running Backs: No surprise here - the Colts rushing attack has been less away from Indianapolis this season. In those final four road losses, the Colts only had two rushing scores - both by Dominic Rhodes. While Joseph Addai ran for 100 yards on 15 carries in Houston, his other three road games to end the year never had more than 56 rushing yards and no scores.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison only had 48 yards last week but was never really needed to beat the Chiefs. But Harrison had come up big in those final four road losses as Manning's preferred target and his best games of the year all came when facing a tough defense on the road. Consider that he had a season high 172 yards and one score in Tennessee, 101 yards in Jacksonville and 145 yards in New England. He was held to only 38 yards during the win in Denver.

Reggie Wayne has turned in an unusual pattern that should benefit him this week. Of his five games over 100 yards this season, three came in road games against solid secondaries. He produced well in Denver (138, 3 TD), New England (90), Dallas (111, 1 TD) and Jacksonville (110). The Colts always throw more in losses and against tough defenses that thwart the rushing game and both Harrison and Wayne become the stars of what too often are losing efforts.

Tight Ends: The return of Dallas Clark in week 17 finally brought some action to this position. Clark had 56 yards on four catches against the Dolphins and then 103 yards on nine catches last week against the Chiefs. Ben Utecht and Bryan Fletcher typically provide one or two catches per week but Clark becomes another wideout when he plays.

Match Against the Defense: If the Colts manage anything in the rushing game it will be a surprise. The Ravens are #1 against running backs this year and only once allowed a rushing score to a visiting running back. No opposing runner in Baltimore had over 100 rushing yards and most ended up with less than 60 yards. This is not where the Colts can or will win the game.

Manning faces a good secondary but definitely the weaker facet of their defense compared to their domination over the rushing game. The Ravens allow only one passing score in Baltimore on average and while many visitors have been less than top passing teams, they held Carson Palmer to 195 yards and one score. The lone opponent that had more than 240 passing yards was Jake Delhomme with 365 yards and two scores so it can be done - just not very often. The best two visitors were Lee Evans (7-145, 1 TD) and Steve Smith (8-189, 1 TD) and both largely matched up on Samari Rolle as will Reggie Wayne. Manning's passing numbers will reflect how early the Colts fall behind and by how much. Harrison's match-up against Chris McAlister should depress his numbers though the Colts will likely move the receivers around to gain different match-ups.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points IND 2 16 2 8 4 29
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 11 1 20 3 1 2


Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
1 27-0 @TB 10 27-26 @TEN
2 28-6 OAK 11 24-10 ATL
3 15-14 @CLE 12 27-0 PIT
4 16-13 SD 13 7-13 @CIN
5 3-13 @DEN 14 20-10 @KC
6 21-23 CAR 15 27-17 CLE
7 Open Bye 16 31-7 @PIT
8 35-22 @NO 17 19-7 BUF
9 26-20 CIN - THU MON
BAL Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 10 0 180,1
RB Jamal Lewis 80,1 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 50 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 60 0
WR Demetrius Williams 0 10 0
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens end the season on a four game winning streak and have allowed only about nine points per game for the last seven weeks - and never more than 17 points. The Ravens also ended the 2006 season on a high note by dominating the Steelers in Pittsburgh and again against the visiting Bills. The Ravens were 7-1 at home this year with the lone loss coming back in week six to the Panthers by just two points. After spending the season with the defense actually improving and McNair getting more comfortable as the season progresses.

Quarterback: Steve McNair has not produced much in home games this year because he never had to thanks to the defense. McNair only managed to score in three games this year and never had more than 265 passing yards in any game this year. McNair also did not play in the lone home loss this year. McNair has spent this year being just what the Ravens needed - as good as he needs to be.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis has nine scores on the season but he only had two games over 100 yards and most weeks ended with 70 yards or less. Lewis continues to supply the primary role but he's rarely been good for more than four yards per carry and has a 3.6 YPC on the year. Lewis does not win games but he supplies just a plodding presence that usually gets over 20 carries a game. To his credit, most of his better performances all came at home thanks to higher carries. Which in turn was thanks to a dominating defensive game.

Wide Receivers: Derrick Mason has not experienced much improvement with his reuniting with McNair and only has two scores on the season and only one effort over 90 yards which came back in week three. But Mark Clayton has improved significantly this season with six touchdowns and four games over 100 yards. Clayton's best efforts all came in road games because those were the only times the Ravens were really challenged. In the lone home loss, Clayton still had 101 yards and two scores.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap started the year out on a tear with five scores in the first six games but he only managed one more score in the next ten games and remains a fixture in the offense for around 50 yards per week - without a score. Some of Heap's role in the endzone has been shifted to Mark Clayton.

Match Against the Defense: Not unlike the Ravens against the run, the Colts have been tops against the pass to wideouts this year largely as a function of being run on so much. Ranked 32nd should mean that Lewis would have a big game but he has never changed much from game to game regardless who the opponent is for the week. The Colts also showed up with a far better rushing defense last week as well. Unless the Ravens have so much success that they run the ball 30 or more times, expect Lewis to remain with only moderate numbers though Lewis should score at least once in this game.

McNair will only do as much as needed and that relies on how the game unfolds. Since the Ravens will hope to control the ball and keep it away from Manning, most likely McNair will only have another moderate game here of around 180 yards and one score - about his average. That could ramp up if the Colts get a lead but the Ravens defense should provide enough field position and hold the scoring down enough to allow the Ravens to not need a big offensive effort here. The Colts corners are fairly good and only Clayton has been scoring touchdowns lately - expect either him to score or Heap who is overdue and going against the weaker middle of the defense.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 15 23 21 4 5 2
Preventing Fantasy Points IND 4 32 1 15 20 4