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Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
September 9, 2004
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Sun 1 PM SD at HOU OAK at PIT NYG at PHI Mon 9 PM
JAX at BUF TEN at MIA TB at WAS Saturday no byes
  Arizona Rush Catch Pass
QB Josh McCown 0 0 200,1
RB Emmitt Smith 50 10 0
RB Troy Hambrick 20 10 0
TE Freddie Jones 0 60,1 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 30 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 40 0
WR Karl Williams 0 40 0
PK Neil Rackers 1 FG 1 XP -
  St. Louis Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger 0 0 300,3
RB Marshall Faulk 100,1 40 0
RB Steven Jackson 40,1 0 0
TE B. Manemaleuna 0 20 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 80,1 0
WR Torry Holt 0 130,2 0
WR Dane Looker 0 20 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 2 FG 5 XP -

ARZ (0-0) vs STL (0-0)

Game Prediction: ARZ 10, STL 41

This should be considered one of the locks of the week. The Rams playing at home with a healthy Marshall Faulk, Bulger, Holt and Bruce pits the "Greatest Show of Turf" against the "Annual Desert Disaster". All teams like to have a fast start and it gets no better than this for anyone holding a Ram on their roster.

Pre-Game Notes - ARZ

The Cardinals start anew with Denny Green's pass-heavy offense and while the system has always been productive, consider that there will be no Robert Smith, Randy Moss, Cris Carter or Daunte Culpepper this week. Once the offense gets comfortable in the scheme and Anquan Boldin returns to the lineup, it will still likely be bad this year but the current crew should be redefining "lowered expectations" for the first month of the season. Just wait until next week when the Cards host the New England defense.

Quarterback: Josh McCown takes the reins but somehow ends up with few horses. Expect him to struggle since he has practiced little with either Larry Fitzgerald or Bryant Johnson this summer thanks to their injuries and it is a new offense that has not yet come together. McCown started the final three games of 2003 and while he had decent passing yardage, almost the bulk of it went to Anquan "not yet" Boldin. On the road to SEA, he threw for 274 yards and a score but 122 went to, of course, Boldin. His upside this week is that the Rams should pile up some scores on the Cards and McCown will be heaving the ball out of need most of the game.

Running Backs: If Emmitt Smith and Troy Hambrick did not work for the Cowboys two years ago, chances are very high it is not a recipe for success in Arizona where the NFL is conducting a Witness Protection Program for running backs since the 1980's. The only mildly interesting factor here is what sharing Smith and Hambrick might do, and if Josh Scobey will figure in any 3rd down role. Denny Green always loves "specialists" for the backfield but none of his players seem all that special.

Wide Receivers: This could be a dynamic crew at some point, just not this week. Or next week. Or whatever week it is that Anquan Boldin makes it back healthy. Matching Larry Fitzgerald with Boldin should produce two very respected and talented receivers with first-rounder from 2003 Bryant Johnson to contribute as well. This would have been interesting anyway since the Cardinals moved Boldin to the other side and allowed Fitzgerald to take the split end spot. Now that Fitzgerald and Johnson have been out and Boldin is gone from the equation for now, the only upside here is that the Cards will have to pass a lot but that is no guarantee they will do it well. Fitzgerald suffered a sprained ankle this summer but both he and Johnson are likely to play this week.

If you can avoid it, both Fitzgerald and Johnson are very risky starts this week given their long layoffs and the fact that their health status is not entirely clear. Best to not start them if possible.

Tight Ends: Freddie Jones actually could be good in this game, having practiced with McCown and receiving glowing comments from HC Denny Green who claims that Jones will be a Pro-Bowler this season. With Boldin out and both the starting WR's coming off injury with minimal practice, this should provide Jones with some good numbers in the early part of the season.

Match Against the Defense: Last year the Cards fell 13-37 in St. Louis during Week 4. On the plus side, it provided one of the only two touchdowns rushed by Smith in 2003. On the downside, Blake only threw for 88 yards in that game while McCown did play and managed 47 yards. All but 49 yards went to Boldin that week. This looks like a romp and while the Cardinals will need to throw, they already proved last year unable to do so in St. Louis. Even trash time there does not look very appealing with a new offense and relatively new players.

Pre-Game Notes - STL

St. Louis suffered the loss of their starting center and right tackle during the summer and that will play into what they can do when they face a real team. Isaac Bruce is yet another year older and likely a little slower but the rest of the offense is largely intact if not upgraded considering their acquisition of Steven Jackson.

Quarterback: Marc Bulger has looked both great and bad in the preseason but that is likely meaningless. The only downside here is if the blocking breaks down on passing plays and he is not given enough time to throw. That could snowball this season if teams see benefit in blitzing but that chuck of snow is unlikely to roll anywhere this week.

Running Backs: Marshall Faulk is back again and by all accounts over his last injury and ready to move on to his next. There is no doubt that he will miss time this year - he always does for the past several years. The Rams added Steven Jackson as heir apparent to the RB spot but nothing in their history suggests that a platoon is due to start. The Rams prefer the single tailback and Faulk is the man until he is hurt. Then Jackson will become the man. For those of you expecting to see Jackson with a notable relief role, don't expect it yet. That would be out of character for the team and has never materialized before. Faulk missed the Week 4 game last year and yet Arlen Harris and Lamar Gordon combined for 154 yards and one score. When Faulk played in Arizona, he had 133 yards and one score.

There is a decent chance that this is Faulk's final year and that could prove a motivator for one of the most exciting running backs in the past decade.

Wide Receivers: Torry Holt showed tremendous chemistry with Bulger last year and proved it again in limited play this summer. He had 287 yards in two games against the Cardinals in 2003 and even Isaac Bruce turned in 153 yards in those matchups. The passing game will work this week and in past meetings, the #3 wideout was hardly used though Dane Looker did score once. Shaun McDonald has been impressing coaches in the summer, so eventually he may figure in as well but this week when everything should work, there'll be less reason to expect anything much out of the #3 or #4 spots.

Tight Ends: The tight end has not been a big factor in most games last year and this opener should not be any different. Last year, tight ends only managed around 20-25 yards in the two matchups.

Match Against the Defense: A home game against the Cardinals that are featuring a new offense and defense, on the road, and with an even worse rushing game and injured best wideout. The Rams will score big this week if only because they will get the ball so often. Look for Holt to continue his high-octane ways over the Cards and Bruce to step up for a better than average performance as well. Faulk should manage his 100 yards and if the game gets away early enough, the Rams can use Steven Jackson as a relief player. You just cannot ask for a nicer home opener than this. Even Safety Dexter Jackson appears that he will miss this game with a back injury.

There is a decent chance that a defensive score happens here as well.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Cardinals (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @STL
Week 2 NE
Week 3 @ATL
Week 4 NO
Week 5 @SF
Week 6 bye
Week 7 SEA
Week 8 @BUF
Week 9 @MIA
Week 10 NYG
Week 11 @CAR
Week 12 NYJ
Week 13 @DET
Week 14 SF
Week 15 STL
Week 16 @SEA
Week 17 TB
Rams (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 ARI
Week 2 @ATL
Week 3 NO
Week 4 @SF
Week 5 @SEA
Week 6 TB
Week 7 @MIA
Week 8 bye
Week 9 NE
Week 10 SEA
Week 11 @BUF
Week 12 @GB
Week 13 SF
Week 14 @CAR
Week 15 @ARI
Week 16 PHI
Week 17 NYJ

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points