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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
September 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Thur 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Sun 1 PM SEA at JAC NYJ at KC STL at SF Mon 9 PM
DEN at MIA CIN at CLE   GB at DET Times ET

Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Cleveland 13

This battle of Ohio was played out last year and was the last gasp for the Browns who won 34-17 in week six before the wheels started wobbling and then shot off in all directions. Cleveland did not win again until the final week of the season. The loss sent the Bengals to 1-4 but they headed upward after that, going 7-4 on the rest of the year. This time the Browns are the one with a new quarterback. And they have a new coach. New wideout. New scheme. Bengals win. The second time these teams met last year was in Cincinnati and the Bengals won 58-48 (AKA "fantasy nirvana").

Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 Sep 18 MIN 11 Nov 20 IND
3 Sep 25 @CHI 12 Nov 27 BAL
4 Oct 2 HOU 13 Dec 4 @PIT
5 Oct 9 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 Oct 16 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 Oct 23 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 Oct 30 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 Nov 6 @BAL . . SAT
CIN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 10 0 250,2
RB Rudi Johnson 120,2 10 0
RB Chris Perry 20 0 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 20 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 70,1 0
WR Kelley Washington 0 40 0
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 4 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bengals offense opens this year with the same starters returning in the offensive skill positions and Carson Palmer takes his second season as the quarterback. Expectations are higher this year and they should be - this offense can post some big points and never bigger then when they are against the Browns.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer enters his second season as the starter with expectations of a break out season. There is little reason why he should not - the best quarterback drafted in 2003 has Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh for wideouts and the effective Rudi Johnson to make the defenses respect the run.

Palmer threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns in the last meeting but this week is less likely the shootout that happened in 2004.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson returns this season as the starter and he'll not likely repeat his last effort against the Browns - 202 rushing yards and two scores. That doesn't mean he won't have a big game though.

The interesting aspect to the running game will be if Chris Perry gets much playing time. Perry was hampered the entire 2004 season with an abdominal muscle strain but has looked good this summer. Johnson carried the ball 362 times last season - second to only Curtis Martin. He could use the rest.

Wide Receivers: No changes here other than the loss of Peter Warrick who rarely played the last two seasons. Chad Johnson remains one of the elite receivers in the league and T.J. Houshmandzadeh has locked down the #2 spot with a surprising 2004 season. Kelley Washington fills in as the #3 and should continue to be good for a long catch every game or two.

Johnson had his biggest game of the year in 2004 against the visiting Browns, catching 10 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Houshmandzadeh only had 79 yards but he also scored twice.

Tight Ends: The Bengals are one of the few teams that will use the tight end position but had been mixing in three different players into the games - Reginald Kelly, Matt Schobel and even Tony Stewart. Schobel finally took a primary role last season with four of the five touchdowns scored by the position. He'll look to continue to be the primary as long as he can stay healthy.

Match Against the Defense: Last year these teams met and the fireworks were a thing of beauty. While 58 points are not likely this time (though not impossible), the Bengals are the team much more likely to post the big numbers again - the same offensive stars are there in place. The Browns are a new team this season and that always spells a slow start. Look for a nice game from Rudi Johnson who should be the man in the second half but Palmer needs a feel good game and the Browns should be just the team to dish that up. Week one games are always hard to call but this one has the markings of a big win by Cincinnati and a great way to start the fantasy season for Palmer, Rudi Johnson, Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh.

Cleveland Browns (0-0)
1 Sep 11 CIN 10 Nov 13 @PIT
2 Sep 18 @GBP 11 Nov 20 MIA
3 Sep 25 @IND 12 Nov 27 @MIN
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 JAC
5 Oct 9 CHI 14 Dec 11 @CIN
6 Oct 16 @BAL 15 Dec 18 @OAK
7 Oct 23 DET 16 Dec 24 PIT
8 Oct 30 @HOU 17 Jan 1 BAL
9 Nov 6 TEN . . SAT
CLE Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Trent Dilfer 0 0 220,1
RB Reuben Droughns 60 10 0
RB William Green 20 0 0
TE Steve Heiden 0 20 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 80,1 0
WR Braylon Edwards 0 70 0
WR Dennis Northcutt 0 30 0
PK Phil Dawson 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Browns welcome in the Romeo Crennel era and with Maurice Carthon coming over from the Cowboys to be the offensive coordinator, the offense will look a lot like the Patriots/Cowboys when it finally takes form. That could take some time with Trent Dilfer as the quarterback, no apparent #1 running back that can stay healthy and a new scheme to learn.

Quarterback: The choice of Trent Dilfer was a bit surprising as the Browns rebuilt their team this year - He's spent the last four years as the back-up in Seattle and never started more than six games in a season. But the new offense won't be pass-happy and the best bet in the first season will be a veteran caretaker who can manage games. That won't mean many big passing games but also means fewer mistakes.

The Browns drafted Charlie Frye this April and in him lies the future. He may get some playing time towards the end of the season but until he is ready and the offense has the other parts working, he'll likely just watch and learn.

Running Backs: The Browns get to claim the most confusing backfield in the NFL so far. Lee Suggs is the most productive back they have but he is rarely healthy for a long stretch. Reuben Droughns came over from the Broncos to prove he really is not a backup fullback and really is a power runner away from the safe harbor of the Denver offensive line. In the mix, always, is William Green who continues to play the role of fallback prom date - not the one they really want but good enough if they have to resort to him.

Suggs is currently slowed by a high ankle sprain and will likely miss this game. While Green has impressed the new coaches, expect Droughns to take the bulk of work this week. This could be a fluid situation the entire season.

Wide Receivers: While the passing game will likely take some time to form, the Browns have the top wideout from the NFL draft in Braylon Edwards who has already looked impressive as he "works his way up" the depth chart (wink, wink). Andre Davis was sent to the Patriots in exchange for a 2006 draft pick and a desk chair that Crennel forgot to pack. That leaves Antonio Bryant in the role as the #2 and the fast, shifty but smaller Dennis Northcutt in the slot. The trio could actually be pretty good over time, just likely not this week.

It is likely that Bryant will get some notice by the Bengals secondary. The last time they saw him he was gaining 131 yards and scoring twice in his best game of 2004.

Tight Ends: Finally Kellen Winslow gets to start his NFL career and...huh?.... he what? Really?...DOH! The Browns were planning on relying on Winslow as a much used outlet this season until he proved "real soldiers don't do wheelies". Aaron Shea and Steve Heiden step in and could be in the receiving mix. The new offense should use the tight end enough to give Heiden or Shea at least marginal fantasy value if the team sticks with one as the primary receiver.

Match Against the Defense: Last season this was the goldmine game but playing on the road with a new offense, banged up runners and Trent Dilfer is not likely to repeat last season's point-fest. Look for Droughns to get the bulk of carries but the game should favor the Bengals early enough that he won't get the volume to turn in a decent game. The entire passing game could work since there is no film on it, but the offense is likely to start the season sluggish. As appealing as playing the Bengals always has been, there is just too much newness to be able to rely on good production from any individual player yet.