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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
   
St. Louis vs NY Giants Sun, Sep 7; 1 PM on FOX at Giants Stadium
  St. Louis Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner 0 0 250,2
RB Marshall Faulk 80 40,1 0
TE Cleeland/Manumala 0 10 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 70 0
WR Torry Holt 0 100,1 0
WR Shaun McDonald 0 20 0
  New York Giants Rush Catch Pass
QB Kerry Collins 0 0 240,2
RB Tiki Barber 90,1 30 0
TE Jeremy Shockey 0 50 0
WR Amani Toomer 0 70,1 0
WR Ike Hilliard 0 60,1 0
WR Tim Carter 0 10 0

Game Prediction: STL 23, NYG 26

The Rams are in new territory to start out the season. Unlike recent years where the offense returned as a powerhouse from the prior season, the humbled Rams enter the season trying very hard to forget the horror of 2002. Kurt Warner returns as the starter after spending last year looking like Superman wearing kryptonite pads. Repeated problems with his thumb doomed the Rams' 2002 season and Warner has been quite impressive this summer by showing his old accuracy was back. A potential quarterback controversy never really occurred and should not have. Marc Bulger played very well in relief last year but enjoyed a freakish set of home games against bad defenses when he did.

Marshall Faulk is another year older and still looking every bit as fast, quick, elusive and susceptible to missing two games when you need him the most. Lamar Gordon backs him up and while Gordon proved to be a better receiver than expected, he still had the traditional young runner problem of holding on to the ball. Faulk's tendency to get dinged during the season is becoming more of a fixture lately and the high ankle sprain last year that kept him out for two games limited him to less than 12 rushes per game in his final five outings. It was the first time Faulk failed to reach 1000 yards rushing in the past six years. Those with the first pick in 2002 fantasy drafts may never forget.

Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt continue to be one of the best receiving duos in the league with Holt entering his prime and Bruce trying not to leave his. The experiment with the #3 receiver continues since the loss of Az-Zahir Hakim, with Terrence Wilkins and Troy Edwards no longer on the team and the rookie Shaun McDonald taking his turn. Fellow rookie Kevin Curtis was angling for the #3 spot before breaking his leg which will keep him out for at least another month or more.

The offensive line was a major problem last season but this year added OT Kyle Turley and OT Orlando Pace has already signed a contract and will miss no time. The line may be the best one in St. Louis since the Rams returned to prominence.

The Giants start the year with very high expectations and an offense that is primed to be a big contributor. Kerry Collins comes off the best yardage year of his career (4073 yards) and that was more impressive considering Amani Toomer was the last wide receiver still standing healthy by the end of the year. Toomer also comes off a career year for both touchdowns (8) and yardage (1343) but will have to share those number with Ike Hilliard who missed the final nine games of last season with a dislocated shoulder.

Repeating the theme, Tiki Barber also comes off his career year in touchdowns (11) and rushing yardage (1387) which was largely made possible by HC Jim Fassel who took over the play calling last season and gave Barber 304 carries. His best season prior was only 213 carries. Barber is one of the lighter starting tailbacks in the league but will be used until he starts to show wear which did not happen last year evidenced by his 203 yards rushing in the final week against the Eagles.

The offense changed thanks to Fassel's play calling, but likely no one factor was as significant as the impact that TE Jeremy Shockey brought to the team. Wildly entertaining if not occasionally offensive to some, Shockey's brand of smashmouth receiving opened up the offense even when most receivers were out injured. Shockey won the rookie of the year with 74 catches and 894 yards and he is only getting started. Shockey's only downside is his susceptibility to injury due to his style of crashing and he has already cracked a rib this summer. He is expected to play this week and will likely wear a flak jacket.

About the only downside to the Giants offense are the changes to the right side of the line which will take time to come together. Look for the blitzes to originate from there and with the weapons that Collins has now, getting to him first is much easier than trying to cover all the receivers.

This will be a fascinating game to watch and could go either way. It will go far to answer two big questions from last season - are the Giants really that good and were the Rams really that bad? Look for a split decision on that as both teams will look good down to the final gun.

 

Comparative Stats
Starting Week Two

 

 

Rams (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @NYG
Week 2 SF
Week 3 @SEA
Week 4 ARZ
Week 5 BYE
Week 6 ATL
Week 7 GB
Week 8 @PIT
Week 9 @SF
Week 10 BAL
Week 11 @CHI
Week 12 @ARZ
Week 13 MIN
Week 14 @CLE
Week 15 SEA
Week 16 CIN
Week 17 @DET
Giants (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 STL
Week 2 DAL
Week 3 @WAS
Week 4 BYE
Week 5 MIA
Week 6 @NE
Week 7 PHI
Week 8 @MIN
Week 9 @NYJ
Week 10 ATL
Week 11 @PHI
Week 12 @TB
Week 13 BUF
Week 14 WAS
Week 15 @NO
Week 16 @DAL
Week 17 CAR
(Statistics are game averages from current season )