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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: Denver 27, Miami 16

The Broncos may feel that they had a slightly disappointing season in 2004 with a 10-6 record, but that was exponentially better than the Dolphins who redefined crash and burn with a 4-12 season that wasn't nearly as good as that seems. These teams met in 2004 in week 14 in Denver when the Broncos eked out a 20-17 win in a game they thought they could mail in. Ended up that they pretty much could anyway. The Dolphins are back to having a running back this time but a new offense against a veteran Bronco team can't hope to start out HC Nick Saban's new regime with a win.

Denver Broncos (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @MIA 10 Nov 13 @OAK
2 Sep 18 SDC 11 Nov 20 NYJ
3 Sep 26 KCC 12 Nov 24 @DAL
4 Oct 2 @JAC 13 Dec 4 @KCC
5 Oct 9 WAS 14 Dec 11 BAL
6 Oct 16 NE 15 Dec 17 @BUF
7 Oct 23 @NYG 16 Dec 24 OAK
8 Oct 30 PHI 17 Dec 31 @SDC
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DEN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 30 0 230,2
RB Mike Anderson 110,1 10 0
TE Stephen Alexander 0 30 0
WR Rod Smith 0 60 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 80,1 0
WR Darius Watts 0 30,1 0
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Broncos return in 2004 with the third season for Jake Plummer and since Jerry Rice decided to retire, the same set of wideouts come back as well. The biggest change, yet again, is the new/old running back Mike Anderson as the starting tailback. The Denver offense is nothing new though the defense aims to be improved. Denver was only 4-4 on the road last year and had problems scoring in most away games.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer comes off his career best season - easily - with 4089 passing yards and 27 passing scores. His season was almost twice what he typically did in Arizona and the increase surprised the fantasy world. Oddly enough, one of the few games he did not score in last year was the one against the Dolphins when he only threw for 219 yards. Plummer's biggest challenge - cut down from those 20 interceptions last year and play consistently every week.

First game of the year and on the road - no chance Jake takes this one lightly like last year even though the Broncos could probably still mail in a win.

Running Backs: One of the most interesting backfields to watch this summer was supposed to be the Broncos, but it actually wasn't. Mike Anderson was the starting tailback at the first of the summer and never relinquished it to Tatum Bell as expected. The Broncos drafted Maurice Clarett for some intrigue but he was injured, never practiced and was cut. Then Quentin Griffin was released at the 53 man cut down so that now the only backs really are Anderson, Bell and Ron Dayne.

Anderson takes the start this week and those recalling the 2000 season are expecting good things. Those recalling a back with one good season five years ago who is 32 years old and coming off a season ending groin injury are expecting much less. Those who drafted Tatum Bell are just plain hoping Anderson does not last. The Denver backfield is always a challenge to predict and the aging Anderson doesn't do much to create confidence by most people. This week - he is a safe start. Next week - let's just wait until we have to say.

Wide Receivers: Denver returns the same wideout crew with Ashley Lelie breaking through in his third year during 2004 with 1084 yards and seven scores. Rod Smith comes back off a nice season as well with 1144 yards and seven scores and defied logic at the age of 34 when he did that. Now that he is 35 years old, the fantasy world keeps waiting for the big slow down which was apparently reversed last season. Darius Watts mans the slot but not so much that he was that much better than Jerry Rice, but just that he was about 20 years younger.

With a tougher schedule this season, the wideouts will again have to come up big and while they were moderately used in the mail-in game last year, this time against the Dolphins they should and will need to do better.

Tight Ends: Jeb Putzier was moderately effective last year with 572 yards but only two touchdowns. The Broncos acquired the enigmatic Stephen Alexander during the offseason and have, at least officially, promoted him over Putzier. While I will project for Alexander as the starter, both will likely see use and a few games will be needed to know for sure which tight end has the most fantasy relevance.

Oddly enough, the only full season that Alexander every played in was also 2000 like Mike Anderson. And both are historically injury prone .

Match Against the Defense: While the Dolphin defense went for years as one of the best, age and defections have been reducing this unit and considering the offense it was supporting last year, a matchup against the Fins is nothing like it once was. Add in a new defense being installed and it should mean good things for the Broncos in spite of the game being played in the once invincible Miami. Look for Mike Anderson to turn in a solid game here that should approach the 100 yard mark if only due to the number of carries. The Fins pass defense was almost untested last year since almost all opponents had the early lead anyway. Opening week for a new offense and defense in Miami should spell a good game by all the Bronco players though more for the rushing game. Rod Smith matches on Sam Madison and while it is not the feared pairing it once was, chances are better on the other side with Lelie to see a score.

Miami Dolphins (0-0)
1 Sep 11 DEN 10 Nov 13 NE
2 Sep 18 @NYJ 11 Nov 20 @CLE
3 Sep 25 CAR 12 Nov 27 @OAK
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 BUF
5 Oct 9 @BUF 14 Dec 11 @SDC
6 Oct 16 @TBB 15 Dec 18 NYJ
7 Oct 23 KCC 16 Dec 24 TEN
8 Oct 30 @NOR 17 Jan 1 @NE
9 Nov 6 ATL . . SAT
MIA Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Gus Frerotte 0 0 200,1
RB Ronnie Brown 60 10 0
TE Randy McMichael 0 40 0
WR Chris Chambers 0 60,1 0
WR Marty Booker 0 50 0
WR Wes Welker 0 20 0
WR David Boston 0 20 0
PK Olindo Mare 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Fins usher in a new era under HC Nick Saban and they've retooled the offense under OC Mike Linehan from Minnesota. Gus Frerotte takes over as quarterback (for this week at least) and the 1.02 pick in the draft produced Ronnie Brown. Throw in a little RIcky Williams eventually and this will be an all new offense and one that should be much more open than for many years in Miami.

Quarterback: Gus Frerotte was named the starter just this week and while he clearly outplayed A.J. Feeley initially, the coaching staff was still unsure which one to start this season. The changes may not be over yet. Frerotte does have a relationship already with Linehan and is familiar with the offense, but in a rebuilding effort of year one, the turnstile at quarterback could show up after a few losses.

Running Backs: The Dolphins acquired the franchise back of the future by selecting Ronnie Brown in the draft and the initial plan is to run him "12 to 15" times this week. If the Dolphins fall behind early enough, that may be all the carries there are in the game.

Ricky Williams will sit for the next month, waiting his turn or at least for a trade. He has bills to pay and it doesn't really matter if his heart is in it or not. This first four game stretch without Ricky is key for Brown to look good but the opening schedule is nothing short of brutal for him to excel. Looking at the schedule it is hard to see how this was one of the worst teams in the league last year.

Wide Receivers: Chris Chambers once again heads up this crew and like every other year, he'll likely turn in a handful of great games and fall just short of 1000 yards like each of his previous four seasons. Marty Booker looks to finally post some numbers in this new offense that should throw more while David Boston has yet to injure himself this season. Give it time.

This season could be interesting for this group. The old Wannstedt run offense has been dumped and a variant of the Vikings offense is being installed. That won't happen overnight and it may not happen at all with the quarterbacks but there is one thing to rely on - the Dolphins will need to throw in most games.

Tight Ends: Randy McMichael is very quietly one of the better tight ends in the league. He has pending legal problems that have not been resolved though that hardly makes him unique in the league. McMichael was a part of the passing scheme last year and in the new offense, likely will be as well. If nothing else, he'll be closest to the quarterback and Linehan likes a pass catching tight end.

Match Against the Defense: The Broncos defense is less the issue than the new offense of the Dolphins. With a new quarterback and running back, the personnel changes are significant even without the change in scheme. Expect the offense to remain fairly simple with running Brown and Frerotte throwing mostly high percentage passes. Knowing Linehan, he'll take a few chances downfield but week one is not a time to place your fantasy hopes on a new offense.