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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
  Atlanta Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 50,1 0 220,1
RB Warrick Dunn 60 30 0
RB T.J. Duckett 50,1 10 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 30 0
WR Dez White 0 50 0
WR Peerless Price 0 70,1 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
PK Jay Feeley 1 FG 3 XP -
  San Francisco Rush Catch Pass
QB Tim Rattay 20 0 190,1
RB Kevan Barlow 80,1 20 0
TE Jed Weaver 0 20 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 80,1 0
WR Curtis Conway 0 20 0
WR Cedrick Wilson 0 50 0
PK Todd Peterson 0 FG 2 XP -

ATL (0-0) vs SF (0-0)

Game Prediction: ATL 24, SF 14

This is a rather ironic game. It pits the 49ers against their 2003 coaching staff. Ex-Defensive Coordinator Jim Mora Jr. is now the head coach for Atlanta and brought along OC Greg Knapp. The talent purge for San Francisco was not limited to merely players. While Atlanta brings a team that has been upgraded with coaches and a new rookie wideout, the 49ers have been stripped down to Barlow and a cast of relative unknowns being paid in sourdough bread and Ghiradelli chocolate. As if the talent comparison was not bad enough, consider that Atlanta has the inside skinny on everything offensive and defensive that is in San Francisco since they left it all behind.

Pre-Game Notes - ATL

Any time a new offense is installed, there are reasons to expect stumbling at first and the Falcons offense will have those trying times ahead only not this week. Unlike at any time in 2003, the Falcons are all healthy and Vick could prove to be deadly in a West Coast variant that will allow him to run around.

Quarterback: Michael Vick was bothered by hamstring issues this summer which only stoked the fires of his durability issues. But Vick is a great fit for this offense and OC Knapp already understands what it is like to use a running quarterback. And he has never had any quarterback the likes of Michael Vick.

Running Backs: Warrick Dunn had foot surgery in the off-season but is back in the groove. Paired with T.J. Duckett, the duo can reprise the role of Hearst/Barlow every bit as well since the two have better respective strengths than the more similar Hearst and Barlow. What to expect here will be a timeshare that varies only when one player gets hot. On the slow track of "Candlestick", Duckett will likely be better suited as opposed to Dunn's speed on the faster track at home.

Wide Receivers: Last year was bad. Peerless Price came over as the high-priced free agent and did nothing near as big as his paycheck expected. Then again, almost no one on the offense did either, if in fact they were healthy enough to play. Price as an outstanding #2 receiver but his speed was not enough to compensate for constant double coverage thanks to no other suitable #2 receiver appearing in ATL last year. That should change now. Dez White came over from Chicago and has won the #2 spot for now but eventually he will lose it to Michael Jenkins - the rookie pickup in the spring. Brian Finneran still is hanging around but as a #4 there's little to expect from him. This offense should progress nicely this year, with Price stepping up his production thanks to a healthy Vick and a new scheme that will help. FF'ers should keep an eye on the Jenkins/White situation but this early White is safe.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler turned in a good year for a tight end in 2003 but had minimal production in the final four games of 2003 when Vick was back. He's more likely to see a drop this year than a gain given that more receiving options exist and the new scheme imported from the 49er's has not made the tight end a very featured aspect of the game plan.

Match Against the Defense: The 49ers always play tougher at home but it's hard to determine what to expect here given that the offense will be placing the defense in completely new and less advantageous situations this season. The most appealing matchup should be Dez White against CB Rumph but it is a new offense in ATL so the game plan has yet to be seen. Chances are best here that both Dunn and Duckett have good games, with Duckett likely having the more unusually better game because of the turf and the eventual need to run out the clock.

The 49er's best defensive player - LB Julian Peterson - held out for the first month of camp and is still learning the new defense.

Pre-Game Notes - SF

Few teams will be as interesting to watch as the 49ers who will be featuring new players at literally every fantasy position since last year. The team was stripped of talent in their first true salary purge since before Eddie DeBartolo carried an extra briefcase on his way to Louisiana. The 49ers - long the epitome of all things West Coast Offense - have now abandoned "what brung 'em" and will be featuring an offense directed by HC Dennis Erickson with an emphasis on throwing the long ball. Chances are - they're going to need them to be caught. All of them.

Quarterback: Tim Rattay suffered a groin injury this off-season but is now back and looking sharp by most accounts. He'll need to in order to figure out which of those guys out there are his own. Rattay started three games last year and threw six touchdowns but only one went to a player still on the roster (LLoyd).

Running Backs: Finally Kevan Barlow gets everything - no 40/60 sharing with Hearst and the entire focus of every defensive lineman and linebacker. He should start out well this year though, with a team emphasis of slowing down the game and trying not to lose control. He has had durability problems in the past, but for this week Barlow actually has a decent home matchup to start his new career as "the man".

Not in Barlow's favor is that blocking fullback Fred Beasley is questionable to play this week.

Wide Receivers: Better buy the program on the way into the stadium. Terrell Owens and Tai Streets are gone and now Brandon Lloyd and Cedrick Wilson take the starts. Lloyd in particular has been impressive in the off-season and with the amount of likely throwing that will occur, his upside is fairly high right now. Curtis Conway was acquired in the offseason but he was unable to break into a starting lineup that have barely played the game. Erickson's new offense may feature more #3 use, but the reality is that Conway is no longer as fast as a #3 should be.

Rashaun Woods has worked his way up to about a tie with Arnaz Battle for the #4 spot.

Tight Ends: Eric Johnson picks up where he left off from a promising 2003 season cut short by a shoulder injury. In this new offense, he is an unknown factor in the game plan and could surprise given the probable need to throw. With Jed Weaver gone (unless the recently dumped TE shows up again), whatever the TE gets in SF will be all Johnson's.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons brought in DC Ed Donatell from Green Bay and with him a new, aggressive style of play. There should be ample blitzing and risk taking by this defense that will likely pay off for the most part. It will also allow a possible big gainer or two in the passing game which favors mostly Lloyd but could end up with Wilson. since Barlow should get a heavy dose of carries, he should be fine fantasy wise but the Falcon defense will be set on harassing Rattay who only managed 142 yards and once score last year against Donatell's GB defense.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Falcons (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @SF
Week 2 STL
Week 3 ARI
Week 4 @CAR
Week 5 DET
Week 6 SD
Week 7 @KC
Week 8 @DEN
Week 9 bye
Week 10 TB
Week 11 @NYG
Week 12 NO
Week 13 @TB
Week 14 OAK
Week 15 CAR
Week 16 @NO
Week 17 @SEA
49ers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 ATL
Week 2 @NO
Week 3 @SEA
Week 4 STL
Week 5 ARI
Week 6 @NYJ
Week 7 bye
Week 8 @CHI
Week 9 SEA
Week 10 CAR
Week 11 @TB
Week 12 MIA
Week 13 @STL
Week 14 @ARI
Week 15 WAS
Week 16 BUF
Week 17 @NE

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points