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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) *IND at CHI *PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC *JAC at MIN *PIT at DEN *WAS at NO
*BUF at NYJ *MIA at HOU *SEA at ARI *CIN at BAL (MON)
*UPDATED *CAR at TB *NE at TEN SF at GB *SD at OAK (MON)

Prediction: STL 13 , DET 31 (Line: DET by 8.5)

Players to Watch: Every Rams Receiver

This game alone is reason enough to load up with Lions on your fantasy team. The Lions went to the playoffs last year after posting a 10-6 record and posting the greatest passing stats in the history of the franchise. The Rams came off an encouraging 2010 season with the Offensive Rookie of the Year and brought on OC mastermind Josh McDaniels that apparently imported a scheme that only he and Brandon Lloyd understood. The Rams ended 2-14 are are currently on a seven game losing streak. They had a 1-7 record on the road. I'll take the Lions, please.

St. Louis Rams
Homefield: Edward Jones Dome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @DET ----- 10 @SF -----
2 WAS ----- 11 NYJ -----
3 @CHI ----- 12 @ARI -----
4 SEA ----- 13 SF -----
5 ARI ----- 14 @BUF -----
6 @MIA ----- 15 MIN -----
7 GB ----- 16 @TB -----
8 NE ----- 17 @SEA -----
9 BYE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster

Pregame Notes: The Rams cleaned house and brought in HC Jeff Fisher who will install a Tennessee-like offense with the help of OC Brian Schottenheimer. Fisher has thrown his support behind Sam Bradford who left a great rookie year to flop last season while battling a high ankle sprain. His ankle is still an issue with news that it still bothers him and may require surgery after the season. If the offensive line play does not improve, he won't make it to December anyway.

Steven Jackson is the power back that Jeff Fisher likes in his offense though Jackson is 29 years old and leads all active running backs in career touches. The question is if Jackson has one more good season in him. He has been amazingly durable in his career though and has long been a workhorse back. At times Jackson has been nearly the entirety of the offense. Fisher looked to the future when he drafted Isaiah Pead but the rookie has been slow to pick up needed skills like pass blocking. This may be Jackson's final big year. It may have happened last year. Regardless - he's been a great running back for the franchise and a paragon of durability.

Where the Rams need to sort it all out is with the receivers. For reasons hard to fathom, St. Louis has been a clearing house for wide receivers to come in, hint at potential and then get injured (usually season ending). Starting with nearly an entirely new crew of soon to be injured receivers, the Rams will start Danny Amendola back from his badly dislocated elbow from week one last year. He is joined by Steve Smith who is now two years removed from microfracture surgery on his left knee. Back in 2009, Smith did post 1220 yards on 107 catches for seven touchdowns in New York before his injury. Then there is Brandon Gibson who missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. The Rams spent two early picks to get Brian Quick and Chris Givens but neither had a good enough camp to merit a week one starting spot. This is a group that will develop as the season progresses and no spot is a lock other than Amendola. There should be good fantasy value in here someplace, but then again we thought the same thing in 2011. If they can all merely stay healthy that will be a huge help over the last two seasons.

The Rams just released Michael Hoomanawanui which is sad considering how much time sports writers and radio hosts spent learning to spell and say his name. But Lance Kendricks is expected to be a big component in the offense and OC Schottenheimer already did wonders for Dustin Keller in New York. Kendricks was a second round pick last year but only caught 28 passes. He's a sleeper sort that could break out in his second year. He had the talent when he left Wisconsin.

First week on the road for a new offense? Temper expectations but there are plenty of reasons to watch the game. The Rams are a work in progress.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points STL 31 29 23 28 32 21
Preventing Fantasy Points DET 26 16 27 13 26 23

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Austin Davis, STL @KC 0000021011 ***
The Chiefs haven't allowed a 20-point game to an opposing quarterback since Peyton Manning in Week 2. Meanwhile, after a hot start Davis has come back to Earth with back-to-back fantasy non-helpers. Regardless of what Brett Favre says, don't expect Davis to be much fantasy help this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Tre Mason, STL @KC 900000000 ***
Mason seems to have taken over as the lead dog in the Rams' backfield committee. There won't be much in the way of scoring against a Chiefs D that has yet to surrender an RB TD on the season, but with another 18-touch workload he could do enough yardage-wise to blip on the fantasy radar.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Benny Cunningham, STL @KC 2003300000 ***
The Chiefs haven't allowed a running back TD all year, and since Cunningham's reduced role requires a touchdown for him to be fantasy relevant he'll have an extremely difficult time helping your fantasy team this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Brian Quick, STL @KC 005600000 ***
While Quick remains the closest thing the Rams have to a reliable fantasy receiver--he's paced the St. Louis receiving corps in fantasy points five of the six games--the team hasn't had a fantasy-relevant receiver since Week 5 and the Chiefs secondary doesn't do opponents any favors. You'll have better luck looking elsewhere.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Britt, STL @KC 004500000 ***
No reason to think this is an "up" week for the wildly inconsistent Britt, who's had just 43 yards in two games since his last fantasy-relevant effort (3-68-1 in Week 5).
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Lance Kendricks, STL @KC 001101000 **
In three of the past four games the Rams have ordered the Code Red in the red zone and Kendricks has delivered; in fact, he owns all of the Rams' TE TDs on the season. So if you're wondering which is the better bet to take advantage of a Chiefs' D that's surrendered six TE TDs already this year... well, here's your answer.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jared Cook, STL @KC 004400000 ***
The Chiefs have given up six TE TDs already this season... but all that likely means for Cook is that Lance "Code Red" Kendricks swipes his red zone TD again.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Greg Zuerlein, STL @KC 3311 ***
Legatron is getting rusty; he hasn't had multiple field goals or topped seven points since Week 2 against Tampa. A trip to Arrowhead isn't likely to right the ship, either.

Detroit Lions
Homefield: Ford Field
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 STL ----- 10 @MIN -----
2 @SF ----- 11 GB -----
3 @TEN ----- 12 HOU -----
4 MIN ----- 13 IND -----
5 BYE ----- 14 @GB -----
6 @PHI ----- 15 @ARI -----
7 @CHI ----- 16 ATL -----
8 SEA ----- 17 CHI -----
9 @JAC ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Stats | Roster

Pregame Notes: The Lions lost their playoff game in New Orleans but by all measures last season was a success the extent not seen in Detroit for many, many years. 2011 was the first winning season by the Lions since 2000 when they were 9-7. This is the first time in recent history the Lions can honestly make a goal of winning a playoff game. They are already winning season good and reach the playoffs good.

All those high annual draft picks finally came together when Matthew Stafford not only played his first season without missing a game, he became one of only four quarterbacks to ever pass for over 5000 yards. He finished with 5038 yards and 41 touchdowns with only 16 interceptions. It took three years but it was worth waiting for. The good news - the offense may be even better this year.

Calvin Johnson remains the premier wideout in the NFL and ended last season with 1681 yards and 16 touchdowns. There were only five games that he failed to score at least once. Six times he had two scores. The rookie Titus Young turned 48 catches into 607 yards and six scores with almost all of that coming in the final ten weeks. Young has continued to improve and will definitely cut into Nate Burleson's action. Young is one of the smallest wideouts in the league at 5'11 and only 174 pounds but he offers a tremendous complement to the huge and somewhat uncoverable Megatron. These three were good for 217 catches, 25 touchdowns and 3045 yards. That could actually increase. The Lions also added Ryan Broyles who is still recovering from a torn ACL that ended his standout career at Oklahoma. Broyles is already off the PUP and will play this year. If he returns to full form - and there is no reason to expect he won't - he'll replace Burleson next year to make a scary good trio of receivers. Scary good.

Brandon Pettigrew has apparently found his ceiling after two seasons with around 750 yards and four or five scores. If Broyles eventually catches fire, it would likely come at the expense of Pettigrew's stats at least partially.

The Lions go into this season with Jahvid Best on PUP because of the concussion that never ends. That leaves Kevin Smith as the primary back. He had 140 rush yards and two scores when the Buccaneers brought their NFL worst rush defense to town last year but otherwise never gained more than 50 rush yards in his seven other games. He injured his ankle and sprained his knee last season and then twisted his ankle in a preseason game. Not exactly dispelling any durability questions. He'll be joined by Mikel LeShoure once he is done with his two game suspension from smoking weed while recovering from the knee injury that sidelined him for his entire rookie season. LeShoure actually looked good in preseason play once he cleared his hamstring strain.

True fact - the Lions have never had any primary running back play all 16 games in the last 11 years. James Stewart did it in 2000. Barry Sanders did it for his final five years. But since then the Lions have been cursed. All the better for the passing game...

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DET 5 12 2 3 13 2
Preventing Fantasy Points STL 9 27 22 1 29 27

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Matthew Stafford, DET @ATL 0000025010 ***
The last time these teams threw out the Welcome Matt for each other Stafford had 443 yards while Ryan threw four touchdowns. Atlanta's defense may not be quite as soft these days, but they've given up three 300-yard outings already so even sans Calvin Johnson Stafford's a decent play here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Joique Bell, DET @ATL 9022200000 ***
The Falcons have given up a dozen RB TDs already, and with Reggie Bush and Theo Riddick both nicked Bell is housing the majority of the touches. More touches equals a larger share of the workload against this fantasy-friendly Falcons defense.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Theo Riddick, DET @ATL 2006400000 ***
Update: With Reggie Bush doubtful it's another opportunity for Riddick to shine. If you're so inclined to wake up early on Sunday and check on Reggie's status, if he can't go you'll want Riddick in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Reggie Bush, DET @ATL 00000000 ****
We'd like Reggie more this week if he were getting in full practices. Instead, we'll wait until the final injury report of the week to see if he's worth plugging into this extremely favorable fantasy matchup.
Update: Officially Reggie is listed as doubtful, and he hasn't practiced since a limited session on Wednesday. Don't bank on him for a fantasy contribution this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Golden Tate, DET @ATL 0081001000 ****
Sans Megatron it's all about the Tate. Atlanta has allowed a TD or 100-yard receiver--often both--in every game this season; Tate's a good bet to hit both ends of that daily double.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Corey Fuller, DET @ATL 002400000 ***
Fuller appears to be the receiver stepping up into the WR2 role with Calvin Johnson out. He's a sneaky fantasy play against a defense that's allowed multiple wideouts to score and/or top 50 yards in every single game this year.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jeremy Ross, DET @ATL 002300000 ***
Ross is only slightly behind Corey Fuller in Detroit's passing game pecking order, but as it stands the Falcons are more prone to giving up a couple fantasy helpers--not a squadron.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @ATL 002300000 *
Update: Johnson is optimistically listed as questionable and practiced on a limited basis all three days this week. We've seen this movie before, however, and we know how it ends: Rosebud is the name of the sled, and Megatron is a mere shell of his former self.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Brandon Pettigrew, DET @ATL 003200000 ****
Pettigrew has been mostly a caddy for rookie Eric Ebron this season. With Ebron injured it's Pettigrew's opportunity to shine, but the Falcons aren't particularly soft against opposing tight ends; odds are your fantasy lineup can do better.
Update: Pettigrew is a game-time decision; let's be honest, he's not worth getting up at 6 am on the West Coast to sweat out his availability. Just make an alternative plan and get your beauty rest.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Prater, DET @ATL 2133 ***
Baby steps: last week was the first time the Lions didn't miss at least one kick all season. Prater should get some opportunities against a Falcons' defense that's allowed multiple treys in four straight games, but... baby steps.

WEEK 1
2012
DAL at NYG (WED) IND at CHI PHI at CLE STL at DET
ATL at KC JAC at MIN PIT at DEN WAS at NO
BUF at NYJ MIA at HOU SEA at ARI CIN at BAL (MON)
  CAR at TB NE at TEN SF at GB SD at OAK (MON)

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