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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
  Kansas City Rush Catch Pass
QB Trent Green 0 0 240,2
RB Priest Holmes 60,1 50,1 0
TE Tony Gonzalez 0 70,1 0
WR Richard Smith 0 20 0
WR Dante Hall 0 60 0
WR Eddie Kennison 0 30 0
PK Lawrence Tynes 0 FG 3 XP -
  Denver Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 30 0 210,1
RB Quentin Griffin 110,1 30 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 20 0
WR Rod Smith 0 80,1 0
WR Darius Watts 0 20 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 50 0
PK Jason Elam 3 FG 2 XP -

KC (0-0) vs DEN (0-0)

Game Prediction: KC 21, DEN 23

This will be a very different meeting than last season. Denver decided to turn in the big offense for a big defense while the Chiefs are still trying to prove they have a defense. This game could turn either way.

Pre-Game Notes - KC

The Chiefs brought in Gunther Cunningham to make the defense do more than point to their own endzone and his ability to make the group rise to at least average will be key to the fortunes of the Chiefs. The offense already is potent, they just need a defenses that allows one point less than the KC offense scores.

Quarterback: Trent Green comes off a great season where he threw for 4039 yards and 24 touchdowns and yet never really had any wideouts to use. That is fortunate since the same is likely true this year.

Running Backs: Priest Holmes has told friends he wants to get a rushing yardage title now and after the man scored 27 time last year, the natural response is just to nod your head in agreement. Holmes flirted briefly with the notion of retiring in the offseason but decided to return and play better than any tailback ever. Thing is - he actually might.

Wide Receivers: The crew of Johnnie Morton (740 yards) and Eddie Kennison (854 yards) were surprisingly small contributors to an offense that generated over 4000 passing yards and they may struggle to be even that good this season. The Chiefs were planning to use Marc Boerigter more until he left with a knee injury to IR and now plan on using Dante Hall on the offense much more. Both Kennison (wrist) and Morton (Achilles Tendon) have battled injuries this summer but both are no locks to play in the opener. Particularly Morton. I am assuming Kennison plays.

Dante Hall should get some good action this week and even the rookie Richard Smith could contribute. Smith was undrafted but has actually looked sharper than the others this summer - not that hard when the starters have been out injured.

Tight Ends: Tony Gonzalez should get no less work this year, particularly since fellow tight end Kris Wilson broke his leg and ruined the plans to go to a two receiving tight end formation. With the injuries to the wideouts, Gonzo may be even bigger this year.

Match Against the Defense: The big difference this season is that the Denver defense should be better than any in recent memory. The major addition of Champ Bailey means the left side of the secondary is now closed for business and Kennison should play if only to keep Champ busy and out of the way. Trent Green threw for 397 yards in Denver last year though his only score was to Kennison and that is not happening this week. Denver wants to stop the points war that many games became last year because they no longer have the personnel to wage the fight. They do, however, have a much improved defense to keep it from happening, including Safety John Lynch and DT Luther Ellis who both should be big contributors against the run.

Priest never ran well against the Broncos last year, gaining only 44 yards in Denver though scoring twice. This should end up as a much lower scoring game than we've come to expect from the matchup.

Pre-Game Notes - DEN

As noted above, Denver has changed their philosophy this season. Faced with significant losses on offense of Clinton Portis, Shannon Sharpe and Ed McCaffrey, they elected to spend their money on the defense. The visiting Chiefs are likely a major reason why. With a downgraded offense and an upgraded defense, this game will help determine if the net was positive or negative.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer comes back for his second season and the Broncos did go 9-2 in games that he started. Obviously a problem was that he could not start them all due to injury and this season he suddenly finds his most cherished weapons - Sharpe and Portis - are gone. Plummer did not look sharp in the preseason and the passing game needs to find a new rhythm and identity which will not happen quickly enough.

Running Backs: Out with Portis and in with Quentin Griffin. It would seem folly to suggest the Broncos could get away with that swap but then again - they always have in the past. RB-R-US opens the front door and Griffin comes in with the chance to be the fifth different 1000 yard rusher since Shanahan came to Denver. Waiting in the wings is Garrison Hearst if needed but eventually, Tatum Bell will get a better shot at the job. He was drafted higher than any of those five other 1000 yard rushers and actually compares favorably to Portis in college.

The Broncos have never been very big on RBBC unless the tailback is not effective. The jury is still out on whether Griffin can be good and if he can remain healthy.

Wide Receivers: While the same crew - less McCaffrey - returns, the optimism they will make a difference is less this season. Rod Smith is now 34 years old and Ashley Lelie did nothing to fulfill his potential last season. Darius Watts got ample play in the preseason and looked great against many secondary backs who no longer are on any team, but the entire passing game seems suspect and has not been effective so far this summer.

There is conjecture that Lelie better step up before he becomes labeled a first round bust and Watts passes him on the depth chart.

Tight Ends: As if the loss of Shannon Sharpe was not already stinging, the Broncos pulled out a surprise last week when they released both Jed Weaver and Byron Chamberlain. Promoted up is Jeb Putzier after two years on the roster. While Putzier had no catches as a rookie, he did snag four balls for 34 yards last year. Those must have been four really, really impressive catches.

Otherwise, it is a sign that the offense is changing and the gameplan will not try to replicate what has worked in the past. On the plus side, Putzier is a lock to have a career year.

Match Against the Defense: The Chiefs were horrible against the run last season, allowing Portis to run for 141 yards in week five and then spend week 14 with a game for the ages when he ran for 214 yards and five touchdowns. While Gunther Cunningham has been working on just that, the first week out on the road in Denver is unlikely to resolve the problem quite yet. Expect a big game from Griffin, even more so since the Denver passing game is having trouble getting in synch.

Plummer will be throwing with moderate success at most and won't be passing any more than the game dictates. This will be an interesting matchup to follow largely since Denver gets to try a new offensive and defensive players out that should produce a very different game than in the past. CB Dexter McCleon has been battling a shoulder injury and may not play. In either case it should help Rod Smith.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Colts (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @NE
Week 2 @TEN
Week 3 GB
Week 4 @JAX
Week 5 OAK
Week 6 bye
Week 7 JAX
Week 8 @KC
Week 9 MIN
Week 10 HOU
Week 11 @CHI
Week 12 @DET
Week 13 TEN
Week 14 @HOU
Week 15 BAL
Week 16 SD
Week 17 @DEN
Patriots (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 IND
Week 2 @ARI
Week 3 bye
Week 4 @BUF
Week 5 MIA
Week 6 SEA
Week 7 NYJ
Week 8 @PIT
Week 9 @STL
Week 10 BUF
Week 11 @KC
Week 12 BAL
Week 13 @CLE
Week 14 CIN
Week 15 @MIA
Week 16 @NYJ
Week 17 SF

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points