FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

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

Prediction: HOU 24, SD 14 (Line: HOU by 3.5)

Players of Interest: Arian Foster, Deandre Hopkins

These two teams have played each other only one in the last six years and that was in 2010. The Texans come off a 12-4 season where they won the AFC South and was 6-2 on the road. The Chargers were 7-9 and dumped their head coach and offensive coordinator and yet did not really change the personnel. Houston brings a solid defense to face the install of a new offense. I like Houston here. This is the late Monday night double header game this week.

1 @SD - 10 @ARI -
2 TEN - 11 OAK -
3 @BAL - 12 JAC -
4 SEA - 13 NE -
5 @SF - 14 @JAC -
6 STL - 15 @IND -
7 @KC - 16 DEN -
8 BYE WEEK 17 @TEN -
9 IND - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
RB Arian Foster 50 10
WR DeAndre Hopkins 3-50
WR Andre Johnson 5-90
PK Randy Bullock 1 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The biggest question in Houston is about how well will Arian Foster play after being run into the ground for three straight seasons and he recuperated the entire off-season from back and calf injuries. There is a new wideout now with the rookie Deandre Hopkins but this is a defense and run-oriented team. Opening on the road is usually hard but playing in San Diego should not be.

QUARTERBACKS: Matt Schaub comes off a reasonably good season with 4008 yards and 22 carries but he'll always be capped as a quarterback with the ground game scoring double digit touchdowns. Schaub should throw at least marginally better this year with a truly talented #2 receiver in Hopkins at least later in the year when the rookie is getting up to speed. But Schaub will never throw more than the offense absolutely needs and in a game where the defense controls the opponent, he won't be called on to produce more than average numbers.

RUNNING BACKS: Three straight seasons and Arian Foster has been a fantasy stud. He racked up an incredible 351 carries and 40 catches for 1641 total yards and 17 touchdowns. But all those touches come at a price and even he succumbed in the offseason with calf and back injuries. Ben Tate ran for 942 yards in 2001 but then injuries left him ineffective last year. He is good to go again and the coaching staff expects more of a return to 2011 when he ran 175 times for a 5.4 yard average. The plan is for a timeshare to start the year between Foster and Tate. The ratio will always favor Foster when healthy and should grow in short order once he proves to be healthy and in game shape again.

For this week, it will be a timeshare that may be 50/50. Fortunately the opponent is below average which helps but it is unexpected for Foster to have a big game this week. The hope is that he returns to form quickly and that Tate doesn't diminish Foster's fantasy value too much ongoing.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The Texans are finally through with Kevin Walters. Andre Johnson had three times the yardage of any other Houston wideout last year. It was the third time he passed 1500 yards in a season but the 32-year old star will start declining in the next few years. The Texans brought in Deandre Hopkins with their 1.27 pick in the draft and the 6-1 Clemson star will hopefully end up as the next Andre Johnson. No other wideout had more than 518 yards last season. Hopkins can add a much needed diversity to the offense though it will take him some time to get up to NFL speed.

Johnson did almost all his damage in home games last year. He only scored once in a road game.

TIGHT ENDS: Owen Daniels is another Texan who is getting older. At 31 he is still very productive. He comes off a 719 yard season in 2012 and he scored a career best six times. But he also had a career low of 11.5 yards per catch and Hopkins could end up eating into Daniels workload.

MATCH AGAINST THE DEFENSE: While Norv Turner was fired last year and replaced by HC Mike McCoy and OC Ken Whisenhunt, the Chargers retained John Pagano and his defense. The unit is only average thanks mostly to the offense giving up good field position to the opponent as well as too much time with the ball. This first game it is hard to imagine that the Charger can stop the rushing effort anyway and Andre Johnson is always a must start. It is too early to expect a big game from Hopkins though and the Chargers are one of the better teams at stopping tight ends. Johnson, Foster and Tate are all three decent starts this week but anyone else is a risk.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Arian Foster will share with Tate this week and beyond and he really needs to show up looking healthy to repay all those first round draft picks that reached for him. Hopkins could be interesting in his first game but he'll likely start slowly.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 20 8 25 2 5 9
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 20 18 18 8 5 19

 

1 HOU - 10 DEN -
2 @PHI - 11 @MIA -
3 @TEN - 12 @KC -
4 DAL - 13 CIN -
5 @OAK - 14 NYG -
6 IND - 15 @DEN -
7 @JAC - 16 OAK -
8 BYE WEEK 17 KC -
9 @WAS - ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SD vs HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 210,2
RB Ryan Mathews 50 2-10
RB Danny Woodhead 10 5-30
WR Keenan Allen 2-30
WR Vincent Brown 4-60
WR Malcom Floyd 3-40,1
TE Antonio Gates 4-40 1
PK Nick Novak 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Chargers are learning a new offense by OC Ken Whisenhunt but they are using the same players from last year. The only really nice surprise was when Danario Alexander somehow defied his injury bug and reeled off seven touchdowns over the last eight weeks but his knees failed again and a torn ACL in practice sent him to IR for the season if not career. Installing a new offense is a big enough challenge without hosting the Texans in the first week.

QUARTERBACKS: Philip Rivers returns for his tenth NFL season but comes off his worst year since 2007. Rivers only threw for 3606 yards and 26 scores and without Alexander popping up in the second half of the season those stats would be significantly lower. The problem for RIvers is that he was not given anyone new as targets. The injury bug ravaged the Chargers in 2012 and already started with Alexander. Rivers needs to get chemistry going early in the new scheme or the wheels will start wobbling even earlier this year.

RUNNING BACKS: Ronnie Brown somehow made it through the cuts despite expectations he would be sent packing. Once again, the rushing effort will revolve around Ryan Matthews who cannot play more than 14 games in any season without getting injured. His 2011 season was promising but then 2012 saw him yet again injured and settling for only one touchdown and 959 total yards. Danny Woodhead comes over from New England with the hope that he can provide a third down role. Bottom line - this remains a committee rushing unit with marginal outlook on 2013.

Projections will be for Matthews and Woodhead though even Brown may show up.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Losing Darnario Alexander leaves a hole in this unit with no proven producers aside from Malcom Floyd who at 32 years of age will never manage to break his career best of 856 yards in one season. He's unfortunately an average #2 who may against try to play as the #1. Amazingly he has only lasted all 16 games once in his eight year career so the injury bug is almost certain to strike again. Vincent Brown will take the #2 role with the hopes that he steps up and becomes the primary receiver. The offense desperately needs someone to step up and Brown at least had some promise going into his second season before he injured his ankle and landed on injured reserve in 2012.

The Chargers drafted Keenan Allen from CAL and he fell to the 3.14 pick despite being the all-time reception leader because he tore his PCL near the end of his junior season and then declared for the draft. Because this team needs another receiver with an injury history. Allen is very talented but his rookie season may still involve getting over his knee injury of late last year.

TIGHT ENDS: Antonio Gates enters his 11th NFL season though he has not lasted all 16 games since 2009 and he comes off a career low 11.0 yards per catch. While still 6-4, his speed has waned and his hands are no longer as sure. He only topped 60 yards in one game all last year and over half remained at or below 30 yards.

MATCH AGAINST THE DEFENSE: The problem here is that the Texans sport a great rushing defense and the Chargers are busy installing a new offensive scheme. The Texans still have J. J. Watt and Brian Cushing and added Ed Reed to the secondary. Against a below average team this defense should be dominating. The offensive rankings from last year are only as high as they are because of facing Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Luck and Stafford. Rivers is a marginal start this week and really no Charger stands out as even an average play. Too early tell how the new offense impacts the production and roles but you already know the Texans will be bringing one of the best units to the game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The same players are here and the only interesting part is to see the sharing of the backfield - how much does Ryan Matthews get - and if this collection of receivers are going to be any better than last year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 23 16 28 12 20 4
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 17 1 21 25 6 10

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


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