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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
   
Denver vs Cincinnati Sun, Sep 7; 1 PM on CBS at Paul Brown Stadium
  Denver Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 20 0 200,1
RB Clinton Portis 110,2 20 0
TE Shannon Sharpe 0 30 0
WR Rod Smith 0 60 0
WR Ed McCaffrey 0 30 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 50,1 0
  Cincinnati Rush Catch Pass
QB Jon Kitna 0 0 250,2
RB Corey Dillon 90,1 20 0
TE Reggie Kelly 0 10 0
WR Peter Warrick 0 60 0
WR Kelly Washington 0 50,1 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100,1 0

Game Prediction: DEN 30, CIN 21

The Broncos start out their 2003 season with their latest attempt to rekindle John Elway, this time in the form of Jake Plummer. The hottest free agent quarterback this season, Plummer has already displayed his trademark inconsistency in training camp but showed enough good play to keep the coaches happy so far. Plummer's mobility is a new feature to the offense that has missed having a scrambler like the Elway was at one time. The Broncos are planning on many more rollouts this season and getting Plummer a little more time to get rid of the ball will be a bonus for the receivers, especially on deeper routes.

Clinton Portis spent last year making everyone forget Terrell What's-his-name and though Portis has added almost ten pounds to help his durability, he still looks just as fast and elusive as he ever has. Portis will be relied on to keep the defenses from loading up on Plummer while Jake gets used to having an actual offense around him.

Rod Smith returns and at 33 years of age is on the decline. Paired up with 34 year old McCaffrey, the duo's most productive years are behind them. Easy Ed returns and looks strong after an offseason groin injury but will undoubtedly share much time with second year player Ashley Lelie who has been nothing less than thrilling this summer. Rather than have Lelie step in and replace Smith or McCaffrey, the plan is to have him play both positions and get on the field as much as possible. Lelie has the definite look of a second-year break out player and is the one to watch this season. With Smith and McCaffrey getting older, Lelie brings in an excellent timed infusion of talent and youth into the receiving game.

Shannon Sharpe almost retired last spring but then decided to come back for one more season and will try to pile on more numbers to the tight end records he holds.

The Bengals come in with optimism for 2003, not exactly hard to do since the league's worst franchise for the past decade has no where to go but upwards. Marvin Lewis is the new headcoach and brings with him a sound background in defense and discipline - something missing last season in Cincinnati. Lewis comes in with the unenviable task of turning around a perennial loser but without all those immediate high expectations that other coaches normally get.

Though the Bengals drafted Carson Palmer with their traditional first overall pick in the draft, Palmer will sit this season and learn. He's shown good form in training camp and in preseason games but wisely he will be given the year of seasoning before taking the helm. Jon Kitna runs the offense this year and produced good results in the later part of last season. Lewis wants to stretch the field more with the pass which can help out both the receivers and Corey Dillon.

Chad Johnson had his breakout season last year and already has set his sites on even bigger numbers for 2003. The Bengals drafted Kelley Washington who had fallen in the draft due to neck surgery which fused two of his vertebrae together. He will be relied on to provide the deep routes and free up Johnson and Peter Warrick.

Reggie Kelly was acquired from the Falcons and while he has not shown much as a pass receiver, he displays great blocking skills that will benefit Dillon.

The Bengals enter this game with a new offense scheme and an improved defense. Look for the Broncos to get a good start to their season by mixing in plenty of Portis runs with the occasional long strike by Plummer to Lelie or Smith. The Bengals have enough to stay in the game until late, but will not be able to get the ball enough in the fourth quarter thanks to Portis.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

Broncos (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @CIN
Week 2 @SD
Week 3 OAK
Week 4 DET
Week 5 @KC
Week 6 PIT
Week 7 @MIN
Week 8 @BAL
Week 9 NE
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 SD
Week 12 CHI
Week 13 @OAK
Week 14 KC
Week 15 CLE
Week 16 @IND
Week 17 @GB
Bengals (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 DEN
Week 2 @OAK
Week 3 PIT
Week 4 @CLE
Week 5 @BUF
Week 6 BYE
Week 7 BAL
Week 8 SEA
Week 9 @ARZ
Week 10 HOU
Week 11 KC
Week 12 @SD
Week 13 @PIT
Week 14 @BAL
Week 15 SF
Week 16 @STL
Week 17 CLE
(Statistics are game averages from current season )