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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
RB Zac Stacy, STL @SEA 7002100000 ****
Stacy rolled up a season-high 134 yards when the Seahawks visited St. Louis in Week 8, and he's scored in both Arizona and Carolina. Not much more to be proved, so while a TD in Seattle is a tough get Stacy has the resume to suggest he'll snag one.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Tavon Austin, STL @SEA 2003400000 ***
If you're forced to start a member of the St. Louis passing game, at least Austin has return-game upside. If he's healthy, that is.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Austin Pettis, STL @SEA 002200000 ***
To identify which wide receiver could have success in St. Louis, we suggest a dart, a coin, and a 20-sided die. Good luck.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jared Cook, STL @SEA 003400000 ***
Cook is sharing looks with Lance Kendricks in an unfavorable matchup with the Seahawks; none of that sounds like much in the way of fantasy assistance.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Greg Zuerlein, STL @SEA 1100 ***
The Seahawks don't give up much to kickers, even less at home, so despite the nine Zuerlein mustered in the earlier meeting you'll want to get your kicks elsewhere.

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 @MIN 0000024012 ***
Stafford kicked off the season with 357 and 2 against the Vikings; since then Minnesota has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks of any team in the league while Stafford has 4,430 yards and 28 touchdowns. Nothing to play for doesn't mean Stafford won't get a chance to up those numbers in a very favorable matchup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Joique Bell, DET @MIN 4012200000 **
Bell scored twice as the change of pace guy in the earlier meeting with the Vikings; he also chipped in 67 receiving yards. And last week, with Reggie Bush struggling, Bell added 154 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. So he's a threat, especially when the matchup is favorable like this one is.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Reggie Bush, DET @MIN 5004200000 *
Bush gouged the Vikings for 90 rushing yards, 101 receiving yards, and a touchdown way back in Week 1. It's a road game but it's still a fast track and a dome, and the Vikings are still giving up big yardage to pass-catching backs. Maybe the fireworks won't be quite as big as in Detroit, but there should still be fireworks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kris Durham, DET @MIN 003401000 **
Durham has parlayed his familiarity with Matthew Stafford into an occasional fantasy helper, and secondary receivers often have success against the Vikings. Hopefully you don't have to dig this deep into the depth chart for fantasy help this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Golden Tate, DET @MIN 005600000 ***
Tate scored twice in the earlier meeting with St. Louis, but he hasn't topped two catches in either of the Seahawks' last two games so he's a difficult fantasy play at best.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @MIN 00000000 *
We'll write a proof for Einstein's theory of relativity before we figure out how the Vikings held Megatron to 4-37 back in Week 1. Over the past month Minnesota has served up 249 & 2 to Alshon Jeffery, 92 & 1 to Marlon Brown, 195 & 1 to DeSean Jackson, and 97 & 2 to A.J. Green; aside from bailing due to injury there's no logical way Megatron dogs fantasy owners again this week. UPDATE: What was that we were saying about injury? Megatron did not practice all week, and while he's listed as questionable there is talk he's played his last snap of 2013. That makes him a risky fantasy play this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Joseph Fauria, DET @MIN 003201000 ***
With Brandon Pettigrew hurt, Fauria saw a season-high seven targets last week. Good timing, as he'll now face a Vikings defense that's allowed the second-most touchdowns to the position and let Fauria find the end zone in the earlier matchup, as well as four TE TDs in the previous three games.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K David Akers, DET @MIN 2222 ***
Akers hit for double-digits in a home matchup with the Vikings back in Week 1, but he hasn't done much since--certainly not enough to be trusted with a fantasy start on the road in a meaningless game.

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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