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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 Shaun Hill, STL NYG 0000022010 ***
If not for his rushing score in a 52-0 blowout of the Raiders, Hill wouldn't have a single fantasy helper to his credit. Only one of the last six quarterbacks to face the Giants has thrown double-digit touchdown passes; unlikely Hill winds up the second.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Tre Mason, STL NYG 10012100000 ****
Mason continues to get the bulk of the workload, so when there's a favorable matchup--like against the Giants, who have allowed four 100-yard rushers--he's the primary beneficiary.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Stedman Bailey, STL NYG 004601000 **
If Shaun Hill puts up enough yardage to generate a fantasy-worthy receiver--and that's a reasonably big "if"--Bailey is the most likely candidate; he's been the Rams' top receiver three of the past four games.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Britt, STL NYG 005700000 ***
Britt remains in the mix, but he's wildly inconsistent and dependent on a quarterback who doesn't exactly churn out tons of helpful fantasy stats.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Tavon Austin, STL NYG 3002100000 ***
The Rams are becoming more creative in getting the ball to their top pick from a year ago, but he's largely a non-factor as a receiver so you're banking on returns and gimmick plays for him to get you fantasy points--always a risky proposition.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jared Cook, STL NYG 002200000 ***
Cook will be the most targeted tight end in a reasonably favorable matchup, but he still has to fend off Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey--as well as hope Shaun Hill throws enough for them to be fantasy relevant.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Greg Zuerlein, STL NYG 2222 ***
Aside from his five-field goal outing against the Broncos Zuerlein has been mostly ordinary with no more than two field goals in any other contest since Week 2. It's not an overly favorable matchup, so no need to go out of your way to get Legatron into your lineup.

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 @CHI 0000031030 ***
Stafford hasn't thrown a road TD since Week 8, but a date with the dysfunctional Bears--whom he gutted for 390 and 2 back in Week 13--should get him back on course.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Joique Bell, DET @CHI 7012200000 ***
Bell gouged the Bears for 91 yards and two TDs just three weeks ago; in the two games since, Chicago has served up 419 combo yards and three TDs to opposing backs. Bell has accounted for 236 combo yards and a pair of scores in the two games since, so there's really nothing preventing him from a repeat of--maybe even improvement on--those solid fantasy stats.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Calvin Johnson, DET @CHI 00101202000 ***
Megatron has five TDs in his last three against the Bears, including 11-146-2 just three weeks ago. Unlikely that Chicago's secondary has improved enough since Thanksgiving to not consider Johnson one of the better fantasy plays of the week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Golden Tate, DET @CHI 007901000 ***
Tate chipped in 8-89 against Chicago a couple weeks back, then last week scored his first TD in a game in which Calvin Johnson also played significant snaps. He's obviously not as reliable a fantasy play as Megatron, but he should still give you a fantasy helper here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Eric Ebron, DET @CHI 002200000 ***
It's an incredibly favorable matchup, as no team has given up as many TE TDs as the Bears and it isn't even close. However, the Lions have exactly two TE TDs on the year and with the receivers set to have success it's unlikely they suddenly swerve and turn to Ebron.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Matt Prater, DET @CHI 2244 ***
Inking Prater midseason has turned out to be the best move the Lions could have made; he has half the misses of his 2014 predecessors in twice as many games. More importantly, he's booted multiple treys in seven straight, has three consecutive games with double-digit points (including Week 13 against Chicago) and faces a Bears D that's surrendered at least seven points to every kicker they've faced.

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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