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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 1
2010
MIN at NO ATL at PIT* OAK at TEN* GB at PHI
MIA at BUF CLE at TB* CAR at NYG DAL at WAS
IND at HOU* CIN at NE* SF at SEA BAL at NYJ
*UPDATED DET at CHI DEN at JAC* ARI at STL* SD at KC

Prediction: DET 20, CHI 34

The Lions ended 2009 with a 2-14 record which was second worst in the NFL but at least this time they drafted a top defensive player that should pay dividends to defense that has long been one of the weakest. The Bears finished 7-9 and went on a hunt for a new offensive coordinator. They came away, amazingly enough, with Mike Martz of "throw it, throw it, throw it again" fame. It seems like an odd fit for an outside, cold weather team that had long been about rushing and defense. Then again, Martz is not sticking around long on teams these days. This is Lovie Smith's latest attempt to throw something at the wall and see if it sticks.

The Bears swept the Lions last year but at least there were plenty of fantasy points involved. The Lions lost 24-48 in Chicago and later 23-37 at home. Nothing wrong with declining defenses in fantasy football.

Detroit Lions (0-0)
Homefield: Ford Field
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @CHI -- 10 @BUF --
2 PHI -- 11 @DAL --
3 @MIN -- 12 NE --
4 @GB -- 13 CHI --
5 STL -- 14 GB --
6 @NYG -- 15 @TB --
7 Bye - 16 @MIA --
8 WAS -- 17 MIN --
9 NYJ -- - - -
Lions Report | Statistics | Roster
DETROIT at CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Matthew Stafford - - 250,2
RB Jahvid Best 70 20 -
TE Brandon Pettigrew - 20 -
WR Calvin Johnson -- 100,2 -
WR Bryant Johnson - 30 -
WR Nate Burleson - 60 -
PK Jason Hanson 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Lions enter yet another season with optimism that this will be the turn around year and at least so far, we do not know what is going to go wrong to prevent that from happening. Matthew Stafford is coming along nicely at quarterback, Jahvid Best was drafted to reinvigorate the rushing game and Nate Burleson was added to help out Calvin Johnson. Plus the defense got some love as well. On paper - this is a better team.

QUARTERBACKS: Matthew Stafford enters his second season and while he only lasted for ten games as a rookie because of a knee injury, he had scored in eight of his ten games played including a 422 yard effort against the Browns (yeah, I know, who didn't?). But the skill positions are upgraded or welcoming players back from injury and things are looking up for a franchise long in need of some positive movement.

Stafford passed for 296 yards and one score in Chicago last year. That was only his fourth game played so expect a nice effort here. Better rushing by Best could cut down on the yardage needs though.

RUNNING BACKS: The rookie phenom from CAL follows the trend away from bruising big backs to speedy shifty guys who tip the scales at less that 200 pounds. Jahvid Best was a force at CAL before missing out on most of his senior year with a very severe concussion. But he has been nothing short of electric in camp so far and had 129 rush yards on 15 carries in the preseason for a 8.6 yard average. In years past he would be shrugged off as more of a third down back but now he will be the primary back without the need for significant support.

The Lions had minimal rushing yards against the Bears in 2009 though Kevin Smith scored twice as a visitor there. Look for decent yardage from Best but temper expectations for now. He's still an unknown commodity when the games are real. But he's a really exciting unknown commodity.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Calvin Johnson had a down year of sorts with he only had 67 catches for 984 yards and five scores but there was the learning curve for Stafford who also missed six games. The restocked offense should help Johnson who spent most of last season being the only player the defense really cared about. Bryant Johnson (35-427, 3 TDs) was a flop and has been moved back to the slot and the Lions picked up Nate Burleson to play the flanker role across from Calvin. Burleson is not about to cut into Johnson's action but he will be better than Bryant.

Johnson caught eight passes for 133 yards in Chicago last year. He later managed 86 yards on six catches and a score from Culpepper who replaced the injured Stafford in week 17. Look for a nice game from Johnson with a score if not two.

TIGHT ENDS: The Lions picked up Tony Scheffler but stick with second-year player Brandon Pettigrew who was the first round pick last year but after 11 games he tore his ACL and was lost for the season. Pettigrew had caught 30 passes for 346 yards and scored twice as a rookie. He will likely share some with Scheffler and should not be a fantasy start until proven healthy and productive again.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DET 20 25 26 16 29 28
Preventing Fantasy Points CHI 26 20 25 24 22 15


Chicago Bears (0-0)
Homefield: Soldier Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 DET -- 10 MIN --
2 @DAL -- 11 @MIA --
3 GB -- 12 PHI --
4 @NYG -- 13 @DET --
5 @CAR -- 14 NE --
6 SEA -- 15 @MIN --
7 WAS -- 16 NYJ --
8 Bye - 17 @GB --
9 @BUF --   - -
Bears Report | Statistics | Roster
CHICAGO vs DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler - - 300,3
RB Matt Forte 100,1 20 -
TE Greg Olsen - 20 -
WR Devin Hester - 70 -
WR Devin Aromashodu - 60 -
WR Johnny Knox - 100,1 -
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bears embark on an entirely new chapter with the addition of Mike Martz to the offense led by Jay Cutler. The Bears had a season somewhat like the Falcons in that they came off a good year when they faced an easy schedule and then spent last year with a tough slate of games while battling injuries on several fronts. The schedule is kinder this year and Cutler certainly prefers to throw it. But like most Martz offenses, they are slow to take form because of the complexity. Thankfully, it is only the Lions who are visiting.

QUARTERBACKS: While Jay Cutler did drop from 4526 passing yards in Denver to only 3666 yards last year in Chicago, he had a record 27 passing touchdowns to his credit. He also had a career worst 26 interceptions. That is a major concern this year in a new offense that has historically resulted in higher interceptions (and more injuries too from fewer pass blockers). If nothing else, this is going to be interesting and a fantasy bonanza for Cutler and/or the opposing defense.

Cutler passed for 141 yards and two scores when the Lions visited last year. He later had 276 yards and four scores in Detroit. At home against the worst road team - sure. Start Cutler with a lot of confidence that he starts the year out on a high note.

RUNNING BACKS: One of the biggest surprises in 2008 was the emergence of then rookie Matt Forte who had 1715 total yards and 12 scores. And one of the biggest disappointments of 2009 was Matt Forte who fell to only 1400 total yards and four touchdowns. But Forte was bothered by both knee and hamstring issues last season and now gets an offensive coordinator in Mike Martz who has specialized in having backs catch passes and play a big role. The addition of Chester Taylor is somewhat troublesome since he has been an adept third down type but Forte should remain the focus of the backfield and see at least a partial return to the productivity of his rookie season.

Forte rushed for 121 yards and a score on just 12 carries against the visiting Lions last season. He later totaled 101 yards on 16 runs in Detroit. Expect a nice showing again this year at home in perfect health.

WIDE RECEIVERS: The complexity of a Martz-style offense usually relies on multiple wide receiver sets and spreading the ball around. Applied to the Bears has Devin Hester as the split end but Johnny Knox has spawned the most excitement as a player who is "perfect" for this offense. He's been the talk of training camp and the sleeper everyone was sitting on in their fantasy drafts. Devin Aromashodu is also in the mix. Cutler has the arm to accomplish any throw but has been more preferential towards Knox.

These are the visiting Lions with the #32 defense last year against quarterbacks and #30 against wide receivers. Knox is a must start but even Hester or Aromashodu could have nice games here. It's just a bit riskier to rely on with no experience in this offense.

TIGHT ENDS: Bears were tied for #1 with 13 touchdowns scored by tight ends in 2009 but that seems likely to end now. Martz never uses tight ends in his offense, preferring a third or fourth wideout in most cases. Even when he had Vernon Davis and said pointedly he would involve him it never happened. Is all lost for Greg Olsen? Probably all the fantasy value.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CHI 13 32 15 5 16 11
Preventing Fantasy Points DET 32 27 30 29 32 31

WEEK 1
2010
MIN at NO ATL at PIT OAK at TEN GB at PHI
MIA at BUF CLE at TB CAR at NYG DAL at WAS
IND at HOU CIN at NE SF at SEA BAL at NYJ
  DET at CHI DEN at JAC ARI at STL SD at KC
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