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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 9
September 3, 2003
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Bye Week:
CAR at HOU NYG at NYJ CIN at ARZ GB at MIN Buffalo
IND at MIA OAK at DET PIT at SEA Mon 9 PM Cleveland
JAX at BAL SD at CHI PHI at ATL NE at DEN Kansas City
NO at TB WAS at DAL STL at SF *updated Tennessee
   
St. Louis vs San Francisco Sun, Nov 2; 4 PM on FOX at San Francisco Stadium
  St. Louis Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger 0 0 280,2
RB Marshall Faulk 40 10 0
RB Arlen Harris 50,1 20 0
TE B. Manumaleuna 0 20 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 70 0
WR Torry Holt 0 100,1 0
WR Dane Looker 0 40,1 0
  San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia O O O
QB Tim Rattay 0 0 220,1
RB Garrison Hearst 80,1 20 0
RB Kevan Barlow 50 10 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 10 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 70,1 0
WR Tai Streets 0 50 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 30 0

Game Prediction: STL 27, SF 20

Update: Garcia is now held out this week due to his ankle injury and Tim Rattay will be starting. I am adjusting the numbers but this is Rattay's first start so his production is rather hard to rely on. Rattay has looked very capable in limited play so far and new quarterbacks often pose a problem for defenses who are less sure what preparations to make. Since the game plan will be similar, I am leaving the other projections alone but a bigger element of uncertainty now exists.

Marshall Faulk's role is still unclear and will be determined as the game is played. HC Mike Martz has already said that Arlen Harris will start and that Faulk will play but what ratios remain to be seen. It now looks more favorable for Harris than Faulk for this week.

This is a monster game for the 49ers since a loss here pretty much signals this season is a lost cause. Dropping to 3-6 would prove a deathknell. Problem is that the 49ers have never scored over 24 points this season outside of week one. The Rams have not score less than 30 for the past four games.

The 49ers have been wildly inconsistent this season and this is a definite "circle the wagons" game. But the Rams are hitting on all cylinders now, they know the 49ers well and can take advantage of the 49er weaknesses on special teams and pass blocking. There is no way that San Francisco can win a passing war so Hearst and Barlow (a bit dinged up with a shoulder injury) will get very heavy play in the first half. But unless San Francisco can produce another big effort like the TB game, they cannot win here. The game should prove very close at first, but with an eventual pulling away by the Rams that the 49ers will not be able to match.

St. Louis Notes

The Rams are 5-2 and tied with the Seahawks in the NFC West. They are on a five game winning streak.

Quarterbacks: Mark Bulger went to Pittsburgh last week and torched their cover two secondary. He threw for 375 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. Bulger has been on fire.

Running backs: Arlen Harris was all the news last week when he took his first start and gained 81 yards rushing, 15 yards receiving and scored three touchdowns. Harris set the Rams rushing record with an incredible 34 carries in the game which says something about their opponent when Bulger was busy throwing for his 375 yards as well. This week should see Marshall Faulk return from his hand injury and Harris to spell him. Lamar Gordon missed last week with a high ankle sprain and I am assuming that he does not play on the slow field in San Francisco.

Wide Receivers: Torry Holt now has almost identical numbers to Randy Moss with 778 yards and eight touchdowns. Isaac Bruce has 599 yards on the season and although they have received an almost even number of throws this season (76 vs. 65), Holt is clearly the preferred target near the endzone since Bruce has only one touchdown on the season. Shaun McDonald still is not getting back to the #3 spot since Dane Looker continues to play well.

Tight Ends: Cam Cleeland turned in a two catch, 54 yard effort last week against Brandon Manumaleuna's three grabs for 32 yards but Manumaleuna continues to gain more throws each game. Last week he had six over the three to Cleeland and the previous week Cleeland had none.

Match against the defense: This will be interesting - which 49ers show up? The ones that throttled the Bucs two weeks ago or the ones that could not hold off the Browns? There is a slight chance that San Francisco overlooked the Cardinals last week in the NFL's new quicksand arena, but that is harder to imagine since the 49ers did not have a winning record.

The 49ers had been very tough on the run this season but was carved up for 165 yards by Marcel Shipp last week. Last season Faulk never gained more than 73 yards on the ground against the 49ers and held him to only 57 yards earlier this season in St. Louis. Faulk's first game back is not likely to be a big rushing day though he normally adds good receiving yardage on his totals. Harris will likely be used to spell Faulk and not demand too much work from Marshall in his first game back.

In their week two meeting, Marc Bulger only threw for 226 yards and one score but that was his first start of the season and Bulger did lead a fourth quarter comeback to win that game. Bulger seems to be getting better each week. They held Holt and Bruce to only around 60 yards each when they last met and this game will provide a nice benchmark for how the Rams have developed this season against their previous meeting. Look for Bulger go after the corners the entire game but to make more use of throws to the backs and tight ends this week.

San Francisco Notes

Quarterbacks: Jeff Garcia was again pummeled by the defense, last week leaving the game for a bit with a high ankle sprain but returning. He ended with only 153 yards passing and ran for 44 yards including a touchdown. He will be considered questionable this week and Tim Rattay will play if Garcia is held out. For now, I am assuming that Garcia will play and will be the object of several blitzes.

Running backs: In the way that the NFL provides head scratching results each week, Garrison Hearst ran for 117 yards and a score against the Bucs. The next week, he gains only 43 yards on 14 carries against the Cardinals. Kevan Barlow only managed 19 yards on nine carries last week. When Hearst last played the Rams, he gained 89 yards on only 11 carries though that was propped up with three nice runs of 15, 17 and 36 yards.

Wide Receivers: Terrell Owens turned in a mere 53 yards on six catches last week but 152 yards and a score the previous. He only had 42 yards the last time these teams played though he did score once. The 49ers have languished around 200 yards passing in most games and that has primarily been at the expense of the wideouts. Tai Streets bounces between 20 and 80 yards receiving with little consistency. Cedrick Wilson is providing almost nothing each game in part due to Garcia never getting to that third read.

Tight Ends: Amazingly, Jed Weaver has between nine and 19 yards in every game the past month.

Match against the defense: This will be interesting. DE Leonard Little has a pectoral tear and may miss the game and DT Damione Lewis has a mild high ankle sprain. On the negative side, CB Travis Fisher is expected to play this week. In matching up the units, it is compounded by deciding which 49ers show up. That all impacts the game situation which strongly affects the matchups.

Garrison Hearst should have an average outing here, with Barlow gaining the standard 60% of Hearst. Terrell Owens has only had one really big game this season but that too was at home against a good opponent. Look for Owens to stop dropping passes and play more up to his ability because with the undoubted aerial show that will transpire, it will be up to him for the 49ers to remain in the game.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
STL Scores
1
22
1
22
2
12
SF Allows
18
9
19
16
1
6
STL AP
17
-13
18
-6
-1
-6
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
SF Scores
5
15
11
28
11
11
STL Allows
8
10
16
4
2
30
SF AP
3
-5
5
-24
-9
19
Offensive ranks lower = gains more points, Defensive ranks lower = allows less points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
STL
SF
2003 Game Averages
SF
STL
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
293
199
Pass yards
209
200
1.7
1.5
Pass TDs
1.1
1.1
1.1
1.4
Interceptions
1.0
1.3
6
10
Rush yards
26
8
0.4
0.1
Rush TDs
0.5
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
88
86
Rush yards
108
86
0.9
0.5
Rush TDs
0.5
0.4
27
39
Receive yards
39
33
0.0
0.0
Receive TD's
0.1
0.3
---
---
WR's
---
---
231
133
Receive yards
151
139
1.7
1.1
Receive TD's
1.0
0.9
---
---
TE's
---
---
35
27
Receive yards
19
28
0.0
0.4
Receive TD's
0.1
0.0
---
---
PK's
---
---
2.1
1.0
Field Goals
1.8
1.0
3.1
2.1
Extra Points
2.4
2.3
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.9
0.4
Fumbles
1.0
1.3
1.6
1.1
Interceptions
1.4
1.1
0.1
0.1
Touchdowns
0.1
0.4
2.0
1.8
Sacks
2.8
2.3
0.1
0.0
Safeties
0.0
0.0
49ers (3-5)
Score Opp.
49-7 CHI
24-27 @STL
12-13 CLE
7-35 @MIN
24-17 DET
19-20 @SEA
24-7 TB
13-16 @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
Rams (5-2)
Score Opp.
13-23 @NYG
27-24 SF
23-24 @SEA
37-13 ARZ
Week 5 BYE
36-0 ATL
34-24 GB
33-21 @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

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points