Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1 BAL at DEN (THU) GB at SF *NE at BUF *TB at NYJ

Prediction: CIN 16, CHI 17 (Line: CHI by 3)

Players of Interest: Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Martellus Bennett

These teams have not played in the last four years and just once in the last nine. The Bengals finished 2012 10-6 with a wild card spot in the playoffs while the Bears just missed the playoffs with the same 10-6 record that lost out on tiebreakers to the Vikings. The Bears were5-3 at home in 2012 while the Bengals were 6-2 on the road. While this is much the same Bengals team, the Bears are sporting all new coaches and schemes. Both bring very good defenses to the game. This will be close and while the line favors the home Bears slightly, it could go either way and the offense for Chicago is entirely different.

1 @CHI - 10 @BAL -
2 PIT - 11 CLE -
3 GB - 12 BYE WEEK
4 @CLE - 13 @SD -
5 NE - 14 IND -
6 @BUF - 15 @PIT -
7 @DET - 16 MIN -
8 NYJ - 17 BAL -
9 @MIA - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
CIN @ CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Andy Dalton 240,1
RB Giovani Bernard 50 2-20
WR A.J. Green 5-80,1
WR Greg Little 6-70,1
WR Denarius Moore 4-40
WR Mohamed Sanu 4-50
TE Tyler Eifert 3-30
PK Mike Nugent 3 FG 1 XP

Pregame Notes: The Bengals had a solid season in 2012 and while they have yet to hit the level of being a really good team, they are definitely above average and thanks to the defense remain in every game they play. The offense went for a new spark with the drafting of Giovani Bernard but otherwise the personnel has not really changed and the group has another year under their belt playing with each other.

QUARTERBACKS: The Red Rocket is getting better. Andy Dalton comes off his second season and ended with 3669 passing yards and 27 touchdowns against only 16 interceptions. He even added four rushing scores after only notching one as a rookie. He's no real threat to run though and his production leaves him about middle of the pack in the NFL.

Dalton returns the same receivers from last year but with a new receiving rookie tight end in Tyler Eifert. His biggest challenge last year wasn't trying to locate a receiver, it was getting to play with the same ones in consecutive weeks because injuries ravaged the receiving corps outside of A.J. Green. Starting the year, they are all healthy again and that should make a difference.

RUNNING BACKS: The Bengals grabbed the first back from the draft with their 2.05 pick selecting 5-8, 202 pound Giovani Bernard from North Carolina. While he is smaller in stature than many and maybe most NFL backs, he's no different than Reggie Bush, C.J. Spiller or Chris Johnson. The expectation is that he will share the backfield in a committee with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and chances are it will be a ratio that favors Bernard more and more as the season progresses. He brings a homerun ability and open field moves that Green-Ellis simply never had.

This first game out against a very good Chicago defense is likely to go quieter for Bernard who inherited a fairly tough schedule thanks to playing in the AFC North. But it is only a matter of time before he makes his place known. He's the element in the rushing game that has been missing in Cincinnati and allows the offense to be more diverse. And yet Green-Ellis is expected to maintain at least some fantasy value the entire year.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A.J. Green already had an impressive rookie season and took yet another big step up in 2012 when he caught 97 passes for 1350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Thanks to rampant injuries to the rest of the wideouts, Green basically produced as much as all other Bengal wide receivers combined. Mohamed Sanu was the 3.20 pick of the Bengals in 2012 and was starting to warm up until a foot injury landed him on IR after week 12. He's healthy again and ready to assume the #2 role. Beyond him are a group of players vying for the #3 role that so far has accounted for almost nothing in this offense.

Green remains the big dog here and unless Sanu can stay healthy and make a big step up, Green will once again be heavily relied on.

TIGHT ENDS: There is much potential here but how that plays out depends on the progress of rookie Tyler Eifert. He was the Bengals 1.21 pick out of Notre Dame and came before they selected Giovani Bernard. He is a pure receiver and a very over-sized (6-6) concern for defenses once he gets his bearings in the NFL. Last year Jermaine Gresham accounted for a respectable 64 catches for 737 yards and five scores. No doubt that Eifert impinges on that if not replaces him all together but Eifert was chosen like Bernard to make a difference in the offense by adding a new sort of weapon. Gresham will still maintain some value.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Bears have a new defensive coordinator this year and Brian Urlacher is gone. But this is still a great defense with Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Tim Jennings and so on. They have been one of the few defenses that has been consistently good every year. Playing at home in their opener should be an even bigger spark. The Bears only allowed nine passing scores in their eight home games of 2012 and three went to Aaron Rodgers at the end of the year. That bodes worse for a Bengals team which relies heavily on one wideout - Green - and less any others. With rookies Bernard and Eifert to work in, it should depress stats a little more in this first game. Since the Bengals also have a good defense and the Bears are installing a whole new offense, this game looks to be lower scoring. While you should not ignore your Bengal players this week, you should temper your expectations. The Bears only allowed two rushing scores to visitors all year and only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster had much success rushing.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Giovani Bernard was the first back drafted and so how will the Bengals use him and how much at first? Tyler Eifert is another high draft pick meant to be a difference maker but a rookie tight end rarely contributes much. Those two rookies were brought in for offensive sparks this year.

Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 14 30 6 19 8 6
Preventing Fantasy Points CHI 4 4 13 21 3 21


1 CIN - 10 DET -
2 MIN - 11 BAL -
3 @PIT - 12 @STL -
4 @DET - 13 @MIN -
5 NO - 14 DAL -
6 NYG - 15 @CLE -
7 @WAS - 16 @PHI -
8 BYE WEEK 17 GB -
9 @GB - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
CHI vs CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 240,2
RB Matt Forte 70 5-40,1
WR Alshon Jeffery 4-60
TE Martellus Bennett 3-40
PK Robbie Gould 1 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Bears finally swapped out Lovie Smith and the rest so that Marc Trestman/Mastermind could step in and run an offense that Smith just could never quite produce. The Chicago defense remains stalwart and the offense has only added one new player of note - Martellus Bennett. The new offense - which we finally get to see this week - should be very good if Trestman's history proves relevant. The offensive line is in perpetual rebuild but at least the pieces are in place for a better showing in 2013. That may take some time and the season starts with a few tough defensive matchups before easing up.

QUARTERBACKS: No one should be happier about Trestman showing up than Jay Cutler. Trestman has a long resume of working with and creating top quarterbacks. Trestman has been in Canada winning a couple of Grey Cups these last few years but is back in the states and resuming his NFL career. A major difference is a shorter passing scheme that should help counteract the leaky Chicago line that has allowed Cutler to get pummeled each year. He has missed games in each of the last three seasons from injury. Anything that helps him remain upright, on the field and throwing to Brandon Marshall is a good thing.

RUNNING BACKS: There is optimism with the backs as well since Matt Forte is expected to return to heavier use as a receiver. He opened his career with 63 catches back in 2008 and declined almost every year to only 44 in 2012. He's been locked in around 1000 rushing yards each year and the new offense holds the promise of more rushing attempts, more receptions and a bigger year for Forte. Michael Bush remains the #2 here but short of an injury to Forte, he carries no reliable fantasy value. Forte is still in his prime and will be in what should be a much improved offense. He is primed for a good year.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Last year started and ended as pitch and catch with Brandon Marshall. That allowed the old relationship forged in Denver to flourish and he ended with 118 catches for 1508 yards and 11 touchdowns while supposedly sporting an injured hip. The Bears drafted Alshon Jeffrey with their 2.3 pick of 2012 but he struggled and suffered a mid-season knee injury that left him with only ten games played and 24-367-3 for a stat line. Expectations are that Jeffrey makes a big step up this season and at 6-3, he'll provide another nice short target for Cutler.

This remains a two man receiver show. Instead of a slot receiver, the Bears are expected to incorporate their new tight end as a receiving target more than in the past.

TIGHT ENDS: Martellus Bennett signed a four-year deal worth $20.4 million with the Bears during the offseason and that was intended to buy more than a blocker. His first season from underneath Jason Witten's shadow resulted in 55 receptions for 626 yards and five touchdowns for the Giants. He cashed in on his one-year deal with them to join the Bears. The new offense is going to throw the ball faster and that should favor Bennett much more than past season's for any Bear's tight ends. How big his role is remains to be proven and he'll certainly remain behind Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. But Bennett was paid to come in and be a difference maker. He's the one new element in the offense.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: The Bengals possess one of the best defenses in the NFL and yet have no star players really. The defense allowed just 16 passing scores last year and only one 300 yard game (oddly enough to Brandon Weeden). The Bears are installing a new offense and it will be the first time the defense sees it. There is some advantage there but going against a solid unit like the Bengals means it may not be a good time to enter into a learning curve either. Playing at home helps and while the score is not likely high, the notable Bears are still adequate fantasy plays this week.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Bears paid up to bring Martellus Bennett into town - now what are they going to do with him and will this new offense employ a pass-catching tight end enough to merit fantasy attention?

Gaining Fantasy Points CHI 26 19 20 32 14 1
Preventing Fantasy Points CIN 8 24 4 17 17 25

WEEK 1 BAL at DEN (THU) GB at SF *NE at BUF *TB at NYJ

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