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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Thur 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
OAK at NE NO at CAR HOU at BUF DAL at SD IND at BAL
Sun 1 PM SEA at JAC NYJ at KC STL at SF Mon 9 PM
CHI at WAS TEN at PIT TB at MIN ARI at NYG PHI at ATL
DEN at MIA CIN at CLE   GB at DET Times ET

Prediction: Arizona 14, New York Giants 20

This is a replay of week 10 of last year when the Cardinals won 17-14 in Arizona against a Giants team that was struggling with the new offense. A close game last year should see the Giants put together a win playing at home with a better offense.

Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @NYG 10 Nov 13 @DET
2 Sep 18 STL 11 Nov 20 @STL
3 Sep 25 @SEA 12 Nov 27 JAC
4 Oct 2 SFO 13 Dec 4 @SFO
5 Oct 9 CAR 14 Dec 11 WAS
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @HOU
7 Oct 23 TEN 16 Dec 24 PHI
8 Oct 30 @DAL 17 Jan 1 @IND
9 Nov 6 SEA . . SAT
ARZ Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner 0 0 220,1
RB J.J. Arrington 80,1 20 0
TE Adam Bergen 0 10 0
WR Anquan Boldin 0 80,1 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 60 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 40 0
PK Neil Rackers 0 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Cardinals ended 2004 with a 6-10 record but lost seven of eight road games, winning only once in San Francisco. The offense should be much better this year with new players and the second season of Denny Green and the defense actually played better than most realized, cloaked by the inefficient play of the offense with quarterback problems and relying on the aging Emmitt Smith.

Quarterback: Kurt Warner takes the reins this season after the team languished under Josh McCown and Shaun King. Neither quarterback was up to the task of directing the new spread offense preferred by Denny Green. Warner is a natural choice since his background in St. Louis will apply far more directly to the scheme than what he had in New York last year.

While Warner has the background to play in the offense, the question left to answer is if he has recovered from his thumb problems of recent years. There is obvious speculation that he will never be the same and so far that is hard to dispute. With an opening stretch of games including STL, SEA and SF, we should know by the end of the first month where he stands.

Running Backs: The Cardinals may have made a steal in the draft with J.J. Arrington - they are saying as much already. Arrington was wildly productive at CAL and came into the league with his only perceived weakness a lack of size. The reality is that he is almost the exact same dimensions as Priest Holmes and he comes from a spread offensive scheme that is actually similar to what he will now play in while at Arizona. Arrington is very quick and if the passing game can move back the defense, he could be a big surprise this season.

Marcel Shipp returns from his broken leg of 2004 but there is no doubt that Arrington is the primary back and no real leanings toward sharing carries has been noted. Shipp will need for Arrington to be injured before he carries any fantasy value.

Wide Receivers: This could prove to be one of the best trios of receivers in the league if Warner can get the ball to them. Anquan Boldin only played for the final eight games last year but improved as the season progressed with two 100 yard games. Larry Fitzgerald had decent fantasy value in 2004 but as a rookie he excelled considering he was thrown into a primary role with a substandard quarterback in a new offense. While Fitzgerald is still waiting for his first 100 yard game, he scored eight touchdowns last year and all but one were against divisional rivals he will face twice this season.

Though he has been considered to be a bust from 2003, Bryant Johnson has been very impressive in training camp and may actually just be following the natural learning curve for wideouts. Paired with the "no learning curve" Boldin, he seemed to be a major disappointment in his first two seasons but there is great optimism that Johnson will step up this year and be a big contributor.

Tight Ends: Last year at this time, Denny Green was touting how Freddie Jones was going to the Pro Bowl. Jones was released after a disappointing year when the Cardinals needed him most. He was supposed to be replaced by NFL Europe star Bobby Blizzard but training camp has seen Blizzard all but disappear. Eric Edwards would be the starting tight end but has a torn pectoral muscle and may not play this Sunday, that leaves only undrafted rookie Adam Bergen this week.

and Eric Edwards who will mainly just block. Until the offense actually uses the tight end for receiving more, there is not much fantasy value here. Blizzard is the one to watch but that is hardly a guarantee it is worth watching.

Match Against the Defense: The Giants defense was racked with injuries last season and should be much better in 2005. A better offense will help them as well. If last seasons means anything, it is that Arrington should do well since the Giants were terrible against the run. Much of that is due to the fact that opponents were always successful scoring and just ran a lot against them to control the clock and win the game.

The Giants were, statistically, great against the pass but few teams had to bother with airing it out. Look for the Giants defense to look pretty good in this game with the Cardinals trying to get Warner and Arrington into the flow of the game for the first time. Arrington should have moderate success first time out but the Giants should manage to force Arizona to the passing game for much of the second half. With Warner still learning the ropes of the offense, that should involve all three receivers since the corners for New York are at least average if not better.

New York Giants (0-0)
1 Sep 11 ARI 10 Nov 13 MIN
2 Sep 18 @NOR 11 Nov 20 PHI
3 Sep 25 @SDC 12 Nov 27 @SEA
4 Oct 2 STL 13 Dec 4 DAL
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 @PHI
6 Oct 16 @DAL 15 Dec 17 KCC
7 Oct 23 DEN 16 Dec 24 @WAS
8 Oct 30 WAS 17 Dec 31 @OAK
9 Nov 6 @SFO . . SAT
NYG Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Eli Manning 10 0 180
RB Tiki Barber 120,1 30 0
RB Brandon Jacobs 20,1 0 0
TE Jeremy Shockey 0 40 0
WR Amani Toomer 0 60 0
WR Plaxico Burress 0 40 0
WR Jamaar Taylor 0 10 0
PK Jay Feeley 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Giants ended 2004 with a 6-10 record that included a week 17 win over the Cowboys after eight straight losses. The offense was upgraded with Plaxico Burress and the rookie Brandon Jacobs was drafted to help spell Tiki Barber if needed, plus add a better short yardage ability for the offense. Most notable is that Eli Manning has looked much better in training camp until spraining his elbow. Entering the second season of the new offense, 2005 should be more than merely handing off to Tiki Barber.

Quarterback: Unlike his big brother, Eli Manning went through normal growing pains as a rookie quarterback in 2004 and ended the season with a personal best of only 201 passing yards in a game and a total of six touchdowns against nine interceptions. The Giants are encouraged with his progress during the off-season and preseason and added a new weapon in the tall Plaxico Burress to add to Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey. There is not expectation that the Giants will ever prefer to throw the ball, but the passing game is due for improvement this season.

Manning had bruised and sprained his elbow in the preseason but is expected to play without limitation this week.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber is likely the biggest surprise of 2004 when he scored a career best 15 touchdowns and rushed for 1518 yards. That is what happens when the offense evolved into little more than handing off to Barber (322 carries) or throwing to Barber (52 catches for 578 yards). Barber has always been a top receiving back and HC Tom Coughlin was wise to continue the tradition.

Where Barber was less effective was in short yardage and at the goal line thanks in no small part to his small size. The Giants drafted the huge Brandon Jacobs last April and the expectation is that he will be able to spell Barber and take over at least some of those tough yardage runs that would wear down Barber. This first game should be a nice indicator if those plans are followed or if Barber is going to repeat his heavy use from last year. At the age of 30, Barber could likely use the help to stay healthy.

Wide Receivers: This group took it on the chin in the new offense last year and only became worse once Manning took over. Amani Toomer never scored for the first time since he was a rookie in 1996 and his 747 yards was the worst in the previous six seasons. The Giants added Plaxico Burress this season to replace Ike Hilliard which should be an immediate upgrade in an admittedly limited passing attack. The interesting aspect to getting Burress is if he will be used in the red zone considering his tall frame. But with Shockey already there and the bruiser Jacobs likely to run, it's unlikely that Burress will turn into a major target in the endzone.

This was the 4th least productive wideout crew in the league last year and while it will improve, there is little chance that there will be confusion between which Manning you are referring to when talking about a big passing game.

Tight Ends: Somewhat hidden in the poor passing numbers last year was the improving numbers from Jeremy Shockey. His six scores last year were three times as many as his first two seasons and he started a career best 15 games in 2004. He only had one score in the final seven weeks with Manning but he had 160 yards and that touchdown during the final three games. As the passing game takes better shape this year, Shockey's yardage should rise though his scoring will likely remain low with Burress and Jacobs there to add end zone options. One of his touchdowns last year was against the Cardinals.

Match Against the Defense: Playing in Arizona last year, Barber ran for 108 yards and one score and added 52 more yards on five catches. Amani Toomer had 100 yards in the game as well as the two combined for virtually all of the Giants offense that week. With the Giants at home, there is no doubt that the rushing game will be the focus again and that should spell at least a good game for Barber who will be fresh and ready to rumble. With the Giants likely to get and keep a lead, that will keep the passing numbers predictably low. The Cardinals defense always played worse on the road and that should allow the Giants to pursue their typical game plan - heavy rushing with passing only to keep the chains moving.