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Predictions & Projections
By David M. Dorey
 
The Huddle
WEEK 17
December 24, 2003
Season Ticket
Sat 1:30 PM Sat 8:30 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM
BUF at NE PHI at WAS CHI at KC JAX at ATL CAR at NYG
Sat 5 PM Sun 8:30 PM CLE at CIN NYJ at MIA MIN at ARZ
SEA at SF PIT at BAL DAL at NO STL at DET DEN at GB
  IND at HOU TB at TEN OAK at SD
   
Seattle vs San Francisco Sat, Dec 27; 5 PM on FOX at San Francisco Stadium
  Seattle at SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Hasselbeck 10 0 240,2
RB Shaun Alexander 80,1 40 0
TE Itula Mili 0 40,1 0
WR Darrell Jackson 0 50 0
WR Bobby Engram 0 60,1 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 50 0
  SF vs SEA Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 20,1 0 250,2
RB Garrison Hearst Q Q Q
RB Kevan Barlow 110,1 30 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 30 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 50,1 0
WR Tai Streets 0 70,1 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 60 0

Game Prediction: SEA 21, SF 31

Update: Matt Hasselbeck has been bothered by a injury to his non-throwing shoulder but should play even though he is also battling the flu. Darrell Jackson has not practiced this week but is still considered probable to play this week but I have slightly downgraded his numbers and realize he will not be 100%. This game may be the difference between the playoffs or sitting at home and all hands will be on deck to the extent they can play.

This game should be a Seattle win with a look at the standings but closer examination shows that the 49ers are 6-1 at home and the Seahawks are only 1-6 on the road. The 49ers came on strongly last week even without Owens around while Seattle just folds in road games this season. It may be a high score and it may be a low score but it is always a lesser score than their opponents.

San Francisco has a chance to avoid a losing season and even though Seattle needs this win to have a shot at a wildcard, that only gives the 49ers more motivation.

Seattle Notes

The Seahawks rise to 9-6 on the season by winning all their home games this year and losing every road game since the first one in Arizona.

After two huge games against Baltimore and Cleveland, Matt Hasselbeck has not thrown for over 246 yards or one touchdown in the past three weeks. He still has 24 passing touchdowns and two rushing ones this season and topped 300 yards three times.

Shaun Alexander comes off his seventh 100 yard rushing effort of the season and has 15 scores this season. He has either scored or topped 100 yards in all but two games this season and has scored in seven of the last eight games. In his previous game against the 49ers this season, Alexander had 77 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving but did not score.

Koren Robinson comes off his worst game of the season - only 16 yards against the Cardinals (which is hard to do and that took three catches to accomplish). He has redefined "slump" after a red-hot end to the 2002 season. Darrell Jackson suffered an ankle injury last week and playing sparingly in the game and ended with no catches. Jackson had only 55 yards the last time they faced the 49ers while Robinson had only 32 yards receiving. Jackson may miss some practice time this week but is expected to play.

Bobby Engram continues to provide the nice surprise catches and has scored in five of the last ten games. He and Itula Mili have been able to offer nice third and fourth outlets to Hasselbeck this season and Mili comes off a five catch game against the Rams.

Match against the Defense: This will be an interesting game to say the least.

Hasselbeck was not very effective last time against the 49ers and now is on the road where the Seahawks always lose. He has had his best and worst games this year on the road but should be good for at least a moderate game here.

Look for Alexander to come close to replicating his 123 yards effort of his week six game against the 49ers though he will need receptions to get there since the 49ers at home have been tough against the run.

CB Ahmed Plummer missed last week but may return this week to face Koren Robinson. The Eagles were successful throwing to Pinkston last week with Plummer out.

This game could be a shoot-out or it could be lower scoring matchup. There are plenty of subplots to this game that could change the performance of the teams.

San Francisco Notes

The 49ers rise to 7-8 with their shocking win over the Eagles. Though they had not won a road game the entire season, they waited until they faced their toughest opponent and after they lost Owens for the season due to a broken collarbone. Go figure.

Jeff Garcia has certainly made the case for him returning as the starter next season, scoring eleven times in the past three games. Oddly enough, he has not had a game all season where he threw only one scoring pass. There were five games with no passing scores and seven games with at least two passing scores. The equation is pretty simple. When he throws no touchdowns, the 49ers lose. When he does - they usually win.

Kevan Barlow has made the case for taking the reins next year as a primary back without the need to share carries. He has gained 515 total yards in the three games since Hearst has sat out and score five touchdowns. Barlow fumbled three times in the first two of those three games but against the Eagles almost single-handedly beat Philadelphia. Hearst has been cleared to practice but Barlow is the named starter again this week.

With Terrell Owens now out and probably gone for good, this game will allow the 49ers to see what life after Terrell will be like. Tai Streets has seven scores on the season but has never had over 89 yards this season. Last week in Philadelphia, he only had three catches for 46 yards and against the Seahawks before he had 77 yards on five catches.

Brandon Lloyd is the receiver that generates the most excitement among the coaches. The rookie has not caught more than three balls in any game this season and only has two scores but should see more this week as the coaches are given a good opportunity to see what Lloyd might do for his sophomore season. Cedric Wilson is the primary backup for Owens but like Lloyd has not had many opportunities this season. HC Dennis Erickson has not decided which of Wilson or Lloyd will replace Owens but likely both will in a rotation.

The 49ers wind up the season using their tight end Jed Weaver more than anticipated and he has a catch in every game this season since week one though he never scored.

The most amazing part of a forgettable season for the 49ers is that HC Dennis Erickson was brought in expressly to recharge the offense and develop a long passing game. It never happened and it was the attempt to make it work that caused the 49ers to falter during the season. Allowing Garcia to do what he does best lately has had expected good results.

Match against the Defense: The home 49ers against the road Seahawks should be a good matchup between one team that looks like it is getting back on track too late against another that seems to be intent ruining their chances every time they hit the road.

Garcia has been hot and faces a defense that has allowed at least two passing scores in each of the last six road games. He should be a lock to have a nice game though the loss of Owens will have an unknown effect.

Look for Barlow to turn in a nice game here as well - the Seahawks have allowed most opponents on the road to have a rusher top 100 yards. He will miss RG Ron Stone who is likely out with a hyperextended knee.

Team Comparisons - Current team rankings (1-32) for FF points scored or allowed by position
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
SEA Scores
4
11
1
11
15
8
SF Allows
18
20
26
6
21
19
SEA AP
14
9
25
-5
6
11
Rank (1-32)
QB
RB
WR
TE
PK
DEF
SF Scores
2
5
8
16
5
22
SEA Allows
30
5
32
1
18
30
SF AP
28
0
24
-15
13
8
Offensive ranks = #1 gains most points, Defensive ranks = #1 allows least points
AP = Advantage Points, the net difference between a positional rank gained or allowed by the teams.
SEA
SF
2003 Game Averages
SF
SEA
Gains
Allows
QB's
Gains
Allows
254
208
Pass yards
232
263
2.0
1.7
Pass TDs
1.8
2.0
1.0
1.3
Interceptions
0.8
0.7
6
9
Rush yards
17
12
0.2
0.0
Rush TDs
0.5
0.0
---
---
RB's
---
---
127
120
Rush yards
143
90
1.0
1.2
Rush TDs
0.8
0.2
27
27
Receive yards
41
40
0.2
0.0
Receive TD's
0.3
0.0
---
---
WR's
---
---
189
163
Receive yards
151
203
1.7
1.2
Receive TD's
1.5
2.0
---
---
TE's
---
---
38
18
Receive yards
40
20
0.2
0.2
Receive TD's
0.0
0.0
---
---
PK's
---
---
1.0
1.2
Field Goals
1.7
1.3
3.8
3.3
Extra Points
3.2
2.7
---
---
DEF/ST
---
---
0.8
0.8
Fumbles
0.7
1.0
0.7
0.8
Interceptions
1.3
1.0
0.2
0.5
Touchdowns
0.0
0.5
3.7
1.5
Sacks
2.3
2.7
0.2
0.0
Safeties
0.2
0.0
Seahawks (9-6)
Score Opp.
27-10 NO
38-0 @ARZ
24-23 STL
Week 4 BYE
13-35 @GB
20-19 SF
24-17 CHI
24-27 @CIN
23-16 PIT
20-27 @WAS
35-14 DET
41-44 @BAL
34-7 CLE
7-34 @MIN
22-27 @STL
28-10 ARZ
Week 17 @SF
49ers (7-8)
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
30-10 STL
Week 10 BYE
30-14 PIT
10-20 @GB
6-44 @BAL
50-14 ARZ
38-41 @CIN
31-28 @PHI
Week 17 SEA

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points