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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: Chicago 7, Washington 20

Here's another meeting between two good defenses that last year had almost no help from their own offenses. In week 6 of 2004 these two teams met and the offensive explosion led to a 13-10 win by the Redskins. Both defenses should be good again and both offenses have reasons to think that they will be better. The Skins already won last year in Chicago and back at home should enjoy giving the rookie Kyle Orton his first introduction to what the real NFL is all about.

Chicago Bears (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @WAS 10 Nov 13 SFO
2 Sep 18 DET 11 Nov 20 CAR
3 Sep 25 CIN 12 Nov 27 @TBB
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 GBP
5 Oct 9 @CLE 14 Dec 11 @PIT
6 Oct 16 MIN 15 Dec 18 ATL
7 Oct 23 BAL 16 Dec 25 @GBP
8 Oct 30 @DET 17 Jan 1 @MIN
9 Nov 6 @NOR . . .
CHI Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 10 0 160,1
RB Thomas Jones 60 20 0
RB Cedric Benson 20 0 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 10 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 60 0
WR Justin Gage 0 40,1 0
WR Bernard Berrian 0 20 0
PK Doug Brien 0 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Chicago ended the 2004 season at 5-11 with the last four games as losses. It was a carousel at quarterback and the offense sputtered. In response, the team drafted Cedric Benson with the 1.04 pick and acquired Muhsin Muhammad in free agency. Just when it looked good - Rex Grossman once again went down to injury. While the team flirted with using Chad Hutchinson, it only took two horrible showings for Orton to get the keys. And then Benson finally signed. The Bears future is looking better now but it is more like they will be conducting training camp into the regular season.

Quarterback: Thankfully, Chad Hutchinson was dumped before the Bears were forced to relive 2004. Kyle Orton is just a rookie but one that already looks promising - something not hard to appear when compared with the other alternatives on the team. He'll likely start slow but within a month or so should be gaining speed along with the rest of the offense.

Running Backs: Ever in transition, the Bears drafted Cedric Benson and then watched him become the longest hold out in many years. Thomas Jones will start this week and until Benson gains the trust of the coaches with blocking and shows promise as a runner, Jones will continue as the primary back.

The interesting aspect here is that Benson was the second back drafted during the best year for early running backs ever. And yet - no one has seen him play a down in the NFL yet. This week will be the first that Benson has the chance to play and while he will likely get at least a few token carries, it is unlikely he will take much of a load from Jones. The situation is worth tracking for owners of Jones and Benson because the starting spot will be handed off eventually, it is only a question of when.

Wide Receivers: The Bears were the second worst team in passing yards last year and the wideouts were predictably irrelevant in fantasy terms. While the Kansas City offense was being imported and touted as needing no primary wideout, what was not mentioned was that even in combination the crew was lackluster on a good day. Muhsin Muhammad will be the clear primary here with help from Justin Gage and likely the speedy Bernard Berrian as the slot. Ron Turner's new offense should see much more traditional use of the wideouts and that will definitely benefit Muhammad. But until Orton shows he is up to the task, this is mainly a situation worth watching- not relying on for your fantasy team.

Tight Ends: Desmond Clark was a complete flop last year but he remains the primary guy. It remains to be seen how much the new offense will use the tight end and given the focus on running the ball, likely Clark will not amount to much this year either for yards or scores.

Match Against the Defense: Unfortunately for the Bears, they get to open 2004 with a rookie quarterback, a new wideout and a placeholder running back looking over his shoulder at the rookie who has a $17 million smile. As they install a new offense. And do so on the road against one of the better defenses in the league. Look for Thomas Jones to get 20 or so carries but to struggle to reach 70 yards and likely not score. The Redskins were already great against the run and that was without facing a rookie quarterback. On the road, look for this first game to be a low point for the Bears before hitting a nice four game stretch against easier opponents. Orton is untested and the offense is new. Not an equation that inspires initial optimism.

Washington Redskins (0-0)
1 Sep 11 CHI 10 Nov 13 @TBB
2 Sep 19 @DAL 11 Nov 20 OAK
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 SDC
4 Oct 2 SEA 13 Dec 4 @STL
5 Oct 9 @DEN 14 Dec 11 @ARI
6 Oct 16 @KCC 15 Dec 18 DAL
7 Oct 23 SFO 16 Dec 24 NYG
8 Oct 30 @NYG 17 Jan 1 @PHI
9 Nov 6 PHI . MON SAT
WAS Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Patrick Ramsey 0 0 170,1
RB Clinton Portis 120,1 20 0
TE Chris Cooley 0 20 0
WR Santana Moss 0 70,1 0
WR David Patten 0 40 0
WR Taylor Jacobs 0 20 0
PK Jeff Chandler 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Redskins did not have the preseason they wanted - the offense looked just as sluggish as last year though there were occasional flashes of Clinton Portis running well and Patrick Ramsey looking sharp (though not nearly as common as looking worse than last year). The wideouts have been swapped out for David Patten and Santana Moss and the scheme is planned on being run-heavy with long throws. Sort of the antithesis of the west coast offense but one oddly similar to what HC Joe Gibbs remembers from the 80's.

Quarterback: Patrick Ramsey is the starter but wasn't so impressive this summer as to make everyone believe he will end that way. Ramsey has to secure his starting role with impressive play or the fans will call for Mark Brunell. Jason Campbell was drafted but at this point there is no expectation that he'll see playing time this year.

Running Backs: This is the season that Clinton Portis needs to deliver on the big paycheck he received last year. The Redskin line starts out healthy and everyone knows the scheme. Portis had some nice flashes this summer and should get the volume of carries this week to produce nice fantasy numbers. Unless the passing game can stretch the defense, he'll likely copy last year with many up and down games depending on the quality of the opposing defense.

Wide Receivers: With such low average yards per catch last year, the Redskins made a move to retool the wideouts and acquired Santana Moss and David Patten while jettisoning malcontents Laveranues Coles and Rod Garner. Most importantly, Moss was brought in for the long ball and if Portis is successful with a healthy line, it could lead to some nice numbers from Moss when the safeties choose wrongly. Ramsey won't likely make these wideouts into stars, but Moss could turn in some very nice games with long scores if it works according to plan.

Tight Ends: Chris Cooley was a nice surprise last year, scoring six times in his rookie season though his role in the offense was largely limited to red zone passes. His second season will be key to see where his career will go - either he continues to take a bigger part in the passing scheme as an H-back or his role will remain largely as hands in the endzone not unlike Bubba Franks. If Moss and Patten can run deeper patterns, it could open up the short middle for Cooley but that is only if the Redskins include him.

Match Against the Defense: The Chicago defense ranked dead last in the NFL for 2004 in allowing the other team to have offensive plays. No other defense was on the field more than the Bears. That is more a testament to the failing offense than the defense being inadequate. What happened was that the offense did little and the defense made opponents work hard for their gains. Portis enjoyed a 171 yard game against the Bears in Chicago last year and he'll look to turn in a big game here because the Bears offense is unlikely to mount many time-consuming drives. Look for the Redskins to try out some deep passes as well and likely land one or two just because the defense is focusing on Portis - as planned.