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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
  Baltimore Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Boller 0 0 150,1
RB Jamal Lewis 140,2 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 40 0
WR Kevin Johnson 0 40 0
WR Randy Hymes 0 10 0
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 3 XP -
  Cleveland Rush Catch Pass
QB Jeff Garcia 20 0 190,1
RB William Green 40 20 0
RB Lee Suggs 50 20 0
TE Kellen Winslow 0 40 0
WR Andre Davis 0 40 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 20 0
WR Quincy Morgan 0 50,1 0
PK Phil Dawson 2 FG 1 XP -

BAL (0-0) vs CLE (0-0)

Game Prediction: BAL 27, CLE 13

The Ravens start out in Cleveland where a better offense should be waiting for them - at least on paper. The preseason did little to give hope the learning curve on the new offense would be small, especially with the passing game now headed up by Jeff Garcia. The Ravens stomped the Browns 33-13 and 35-0 last year and since Jamal Lewis has his potential trial still far away, there's no reason to believe that big rushing + big defense won't spank the Brown's new offense and lesser defense.

Pre-Game Notes - BAL

The scary thing about the Ravens is that their defense might actually be even better than last year. The Raven's ranked last in the NFL in passing but it didn't hurt much with a 2000 yard rusher and a stifling defense.

Quarterback: Kyle Boller returns after missing the final seven games of 2003. The Raven's already know that Boller is prone to losing the ball from last season and with his rookie year cut short, Boller is not as far along the curve as many second-year players. While the receivers were upgraded with Kevin Johnson, Boller still is an unlikely fantasy starter this year.

Running Backs: Talk about highs and lows. Jamal Lewis came within about 15 minutes of playing time of taking the all-time single season rushing title and now instead of reveling in his big accomplishment, he's the subject of a November 1st trial date on drug conspiracy charges. That's still a couple of months away and Lewis gets to play against a team that allowed him 500 yards rushing and four touchdowns in only two games. It's all good... for now.

Wide Receivers: Travis Taylor had only one game with more than 68 yards last season and he may struggle to get that now that Kevin Johnson is on board. Johnson finally brings a credible #2 receiver for the offense so when they have to throw there is hope more can happen than the feeble product they put on the field in passing situations last year. With this defense and Jamal Lewis, there simply is no reason to throw the ball and with Todd Heap - the receivers are actually 3rd in the offensive game plan.

The Ravens also drafted Devard Darling but are considering placing him on Injured Reserve with a quadriceps strain.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap continues as one of the best tight ends in the game. The problem with his matchups against the Browns have been that Lewis runs them over so badly that Heap is never needed. He had only one catch in each of the matchups last year for a total of 21 yards and no scores.

Match Against the Defense: The Browns bring effectively the same defense as last season with only their outside linebackers changed. This was the defense that made Lewis' run to glory in 2003 possible. 500 yards in only two games? With the Browns offense going through a learning curve, there's little reason to expect that much will change from last season. Run Jamal, run.

Pre-Game Notes - CLE

The Browns tried to retool their offense this season, bringing in new Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie from the Raiders and playing musical chairs with their starting running backs. Jeff Garcia solves the quarterback controversy this year and the same set of receivers return. The Browns also went out and drafted Kellen Winslow Jr. for an entirely new kind of weapon.

Quarterback: When the Browns went with Jeff Garcia, they were looking for a proven veteran with a winning record and some stability for the quarterback slot that had been missing the past two seasons. The early returns on Garcia's addition have been mixed but mostly points to the newness of the offense that has yet to come together. The holdout by Winslow also did nothing to speed the learning curve as well. Facing the Ravens defense in the very first game also does little to make a team feel good about progress.

Running Backs: After spending last season in a self-imposed soap opera, William Green was welcomed back, scars, police record and all, to the Browns where he found that Lee Suggs needed only one giant game against the Bengals defense to take the job away. After much hemming and hawing by HC Butch Davis, it is now apparent that both Suggs and Green are intended to be used. This would follow the Raider philosophy imported by OC Robiskie though in this case, the two are not specialists so much as indistinguishable by the coaching staff.

Suggs is the "starter" but word has it that the Browns feel they can have two 1000 yard rushers this year. The same was said by the 49ers last year, erroneous as it was. Suggs is still bothered by a neck stinger he received in practice about a week ago so his status for this may not be apparent until the game is on. If he plays and it bothers him more, Green will take the carries this week. This is a tough fantasy situation that the Browns have no inclination to clear up. Suggs should receive the more primary duty when healthy but in the end you have to hope one gets either injured or stabbed again in order to get full potential benefit.

To the benefit of the running game, the offensive line now looks better than it has since the Browns returned to Cleveland. The only factor to avoid is injuries which plagued them last year.

Wide Receivers: The same receiving crew was kept intact this year, even though #3 Dennis Northcutt almost left in free agency until he realized he wasn't actually that desirable and he stayed at home. Quincy Morgan and Andre' Davis remain as the starters with Davis looking at a nice progression year to year and Morgan being singled out by the coaching staff for an increased role from last year. They want to use Morgan's speed on longer routes to see if all that rumor about Jeff Garcia not having the arm to throw long is true.

Tight Ends: The source of most excitement for Cleveland is at tight end where they picked self-appointed savior Kellen Winslow Jr.. With Steve Heiden injured (MCL), Winslow will be put to the test earlier than initially planned and the time for the soldier to put up is now. If Winslow is successful, it will serve to give Cleveland its' most diverse offensive attack in years. It would also likely water down the production of Davis and Morgan.

Match Against the Defense: A new offensive scheme gets to face the vaunted Raven defense right out of the gate. Not likely a confidence builder, particularly when the Brown offense struggled. The Browns were waxed by the Ravens last season and Suggs alone in week 15 gained only 88 yards against them. Green had only 54 yards in week three. Andre Davis pulls the tough CB matchup against McAllister though none of the wideouts have done much against Baltimore. Last year in two meetings, they totaled for less than 50 yards per game.

The Browns will try to establish the run first, but with Suggs likely still less than 100% and Green already proving ineffective against the Ravens, look for a similar ending to the games of 2003. On the plus side, you might get to see Deion Sanders match up against Quincy Morgan in the nickel package.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Ravens (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @CLE
Week 2 PIT
Week 3 @CIN
Week 4 KC
Week 5 @WAS
Week 6 bye
Week 7 BUF
Week 8 @PHI
Week 9 CLE
Week 10 @NYJ
Week 11 DAL
Week 12 @NE
Week 13 CIN
Week 14 NYG
Week 15 @IND
Week 16 @PIT
Week 17 MIA
Score Opp.
Week 1 BAL
Week 2 @DAL
Week 3 @NYG
Week 4 WAS
Week 5 @PIT
Week 6 CIN
Week 7 PHI
Week 8 bye
Week 9 @BAL
Week 10 PIT
Week 11 NYJ
Week 12 @CIN
Week 13 NE
Week 14 @BUF
Week 15 SD
Week 16 @MIA
Week 17 @HOU

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points