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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
NYJ at WAS DEN at CIN MIN at GB ATL at DAL OAK at TEN
Sun 1 PM HOU at MIA NE at BUF CHI at SF Mon 9 PM
ARZ at DET IND at CLE SD at KC NO at SEA TB at PHI
BAL at PIT JAX at CAR STL at NYG Times EST no byes
   
Chicago vs San Francisco Sun, Sep 7; 4 PM on FOX at San Francisco Stadium
  Chicago Rush Catch Pass
QB Kordell Stewart 30,1 0 230,1
RB Anthony Thomas 60 10 0
RB Adrian Peterson 20 10 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 30,1 0
WR Marty Booker 0 90 0
WR Dez White 0 50 0
WR David Terrell 0 20 0
  San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 10 0 260,2
RB Garrison Hearst 80,1 20 0
RB Kevan Barlow 30 0 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 30 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 100,1 0
WR Tai Streets 0 60 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 40,1 0

Game Prediction: CHI 14, SF 27

The Bears come off a tough 2002 season which threw them to the other end of the expectation scale from 2001. Injuries decimated the Bears defense and offensive line and the Bears were unable to mount any consistent effort other than a losing games. Anthony Thomas came off a nice rookie year to stumble through 2002 before leaving injured after week 13. Thomas comes into this year wanting to quiet his critics that say he is too slow and lacks the power or vision to be a good NFL running back. So far this offseason, he has not done much to keep the skeptics at bay and probably his best fantasy characteristic so far is that Adrian Peterson has not been able to wrestle the job away. The current plan is to use both backs with Thomas the primary but Peterson more than a mere relief runner. You can expect Thomas and Peterson to share unless one gets a hot hand at the expense of the other.

Kordell Stewart was acquired and is intended to put more variation into the offense with rollouts and bootlegs and given the state of the offensive line, he might be running anyway. The plan is to use him to keep the defense looser and allow longer developing plays and improvisation. He should also help the running game by concerning the linebackers with more to think about each play.

The Bears also acquired Desmond Clark with the intention of making him a featured pass catching tight end and he has been very impressive in camp so far. Clark's presence can actually help out Marty Booker who last season assumed a huge role by catching 97 passes while neither Dez White or David Terrell were able to do much. Terrell is entering his "magic" third year but does so with very little of the apparent development typical for breakout receivers. The Bears burned a first round pick on Terrell and he has done nothing to earn the money so far.

The 49ers come into a season looking very much on paper the same but will more likely be a different team than seems apparent at first glance. Jeff Garcia's well publicized back problems seem under control, but as one of the smallest quarterbacks in the game, Garcia could always be one hit away from a back brace. Behind him is Tim Rattay whom some in the organization actually think may be better than Garcia at running the newer offense under HC Dennis Erickson. No wait - there's more! The 49er's are also pretty pleased with rookie Ken Dorsey and have already tagged him as someone who could be a factor in future years.

Aside from the quarterback situation that may, or may not, be an issue this season, the 49ers return the same rushing duo of Kevan Barlow and Garrison Hearst. Even though Hearst turns 32 years of age, there is no immediate plan to feature Kevan Barlow any more than last season regardless of how long you've had him on your dynasty team. Hearst is getting older and reasonably more open to injury but he makes a much better blocker than Barlow and the plan is for more downfield throws this season - meaning longer for Garcia and his back to hold the ball and the more critical someone always picks up the blitzer. Hearst is the named starter again but with the caveat that Barlow receives the same use.

Terrell Owens and Tai Streets are back and while Owens is an obvious receiving stud, he has not spent as much time with Garcia this summer as a new offense would like. Streets has a great year in 2002, enough so that J.J. Stokes was finally dismissed but both players are free agents next year and it is probable both will not be back in 2004 if they can turn in big seasons now. Owens availability on the free agent market could prove a real bank breaker for a new team. San Francisco is leaning away from re-signing him in order to avoid entering back into salary cap hell again. Several young receivers are intriguing and worth watching this season - Cedric Wilson the #3 receiver and rookie Brandon Lloyd who has been very impressive as well.

The Bears travel to the Bay and will give the 49ers a good run since the defense in San Francisco is no better than last season. Look for the 49ers to start out the Erickson regime on a high note as they begin a very soft start to their schedule for the next month.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Bears (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @SF
Week 2 @MIN
Week 3 BYE
Week 4 GB
Week 5 OAK
Week 6 @NO
Week 7 @SEA
Week 8 DET
Week 9 SD
Week 10 @DET
Week 11 STL
Week 12 @DEN
Week 13 ARZ
Week 14 @GB
Week 15 MIN
Week 16 WAS
Week 17 @KC
49ers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 CHI
Week 2 @STL
Week 3 CLE
Week 4 @MIN
Week 5 DET
Week 6 @SEA
Week 7 TB
Week 8 @ARZ
Week 9 STL
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 PIT
Week 12 @GB
Week 13 @BAL
Week 14 ARZ
Week 15 @CIN
Week 16 @PHI
Week 17 SEA
(Statistics are game averages from current season )