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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: Houston 13, Buffalo 20

The Bills enter this game hoping for a better start than last season when they opened to an 0-4 start before ending 9-3 the rest of the way. Much of that success came from Willis McGahee taking over in week six and never looking back (he would have just seen a lot of guys chasing him anyway). The Bills defense turned into one of the best fantasy starts of the year as well. The Texans come off a 7-9 season that featured Domanick Davis with the occasional pass to Andre Johnson. Both offenses return largely intact other than J.P. Losman taking over for Drew Bledsoe. The Texans were actually a better road team (4-4) than a home team (3-5) last year. This early in the season, no reason to expect the Texans to take a win on the road but they could make the game interesting.

Houston Texans (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @BUF 10 Nov 13 @IND
2 Sep 18 PIT 11 Nov 20 KCC
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 STL
4 Oct 2 @CIN 13 Dec 4 @BAL
5 Oct 9 TEN 14 Dec 11 @TEN
6 Oct 16 @SEA 15 Dec 18 ARI
7 Oct 23 IND 16 Dec 24 JAC
8 Oct 30 CLE 17 Jan 1 @SFO
9 Nov 6 @JAC . . SAT
HOU Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB David Carr 20 0 190,1
RB Domanick Davis 80 50 0
TE Mark Bruener 0 10 0
WR Andre Johnson 0 60,1 0
WR Corey Bradford 0 40 0
WR Jabar Gaffney 0 40 0
PK Kris Brown 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Texans return with the same offense though the blocking schemes have been changed this year. The early returns on that have not been glowing since the Texans have looked lethargic in the preseason on every count - enough for it to be noticeable and discussed. The team was mired in the over-use of Domanick Davis in 2005 but little has seemed to change from that trend. David Carr needs to take the next step up commensurate with the expectations he has carried since being the first player drafted in the 2002 NFL draft.

Quarterback: David Carr was improved last year by throwing for 3531 yards and 16 scores, but it is not nearly the level expected when the Texans made him "the franchise" in 2002. Carr has battled small injuries most of his career and while started red hot in 2004, much of that was a cakewalk schedule early on against AFC West opponents. The last half of the season he never had more than 220 passing yards in game and only twice in the entire year did he throw for more than one score in a game.

Carr has a much tougher schedule this season and the same crew of receivers which includes basically Andre Johnson and no one else. Carr needs to bring up his game but this week on the road in Buffalo is unlikely for it to happen.

Running Backs: Domanick Davis has become the junior version of Priest Holmes with less scoring but slightly better durability. In many games last year, Davis was the both the best rusher and receiver for the Texans and while the Texans always claim to want to not over-use the smaller tailback, the reality is that he is the only weapon that works with any regularity. Davis is coming off a sprained ankle but is expected to be fine this week.

The Texans drafted Vernand Morency who is more like a Davis clone than Tony Hollings. Morency will fill in when Davis is injured but how much he will spell Davis remains to be seen since the Texans have not yet limited Davis when healthy. It is worth watching but there is no expectation that Davis will be used less - if he remains healthy. Hollings remains third string.

Wide Receivers: Andre Johnson has delivered on his promise in spite of getting little other help from the rest of the wideouts. His 1142 yards last season was almost twice the next player - Jabar Gaffney (632 yards). This season will see Corey Bradford lining up across from Johnson and Corey has been impressive to coaches during training camp but after seven years he still has never had more than 697 yards a season. Gaffney has been recovering from shoulder surgery and a staph infection but is practicing again and will play. This unit remains Johnson and little else.

Jerome Mathis was drafted as a true burner but any role he'll have this year will be later on and minimal as a #4 receiver at best.

Tight Ends: The Texans just parted ways with Billy Miller which leaves the newly acquired Mark Bruener as the starter. While the Texans used Miller extensively in the first year, their use of the tight end slot decreases every season and Bruener was brought on board to block - pure and simple. He hasn't exceeded 200 yards in a season for the last ten years. No fantasy value expected here.

Match Against the Defense: The Bills had one of the top defenses last season and starting out at home against an offense that appears to be inexplicably struggling is not a recipe for success for Houston. Davis should manage a moderate game here but that could come as much as a pass outlet than as a runner. The Bills secondary knows enough to cover Andre Johnson and the Texans have not yet given reason to expect too much from Bradford and Gaffney. Since the Bills will rush the ball and are starting Losman for the first time, expect a low score in this game with the lesser being Houston. Other than Davis, only Johnson has any fantasy value and what success opponents had throwing against the Bills last year was normally away from CB Nate Clements - the matchup that Johnson gets.

Buffalo Bills (0-0)
1 Sep 11 HOU 10 Nov 13 KCC
2 Sep 18 @TBB 11 Nov 20 @SDC
3 Sep 25 ATL 12 Nov 27 CAR
4 Oct 2 @NOR 13 Dec 4 @MIA
5 Oct 9 MIA 14 Dec 11 NE
6 Oct 16 NYJ 15 Dec 17 DEN
7 Oct 23 @OAK 16 Dec 24 @CIN
8 Oct 30 @NE 17 Jan 1 @NYJ
9 Open Bye . . SAT
BUF Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB J.P. Losman 30 0 180,1
RB Willis McGahee 110,1 20 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Eric Moulds 0 60,1 0
WR Lee Evans 0 50 0
WR Josh Reed 0 20 0
PK Rian Lindell 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bills had a great season in 2005, they just did not start it until about week five. Switching to Willis McGahee made that 2003 draft pick suddenly look like a genius move and the defense stepped up to hold 11 opponents under 20 points in a game. This season will likely be a slow start again with J.P. Losman breaking into the league finally but the defense and rushing game is expected to give Losman the luxury of managing instead of needing to produce big in most games.

Quarterback: Anytime there is a new quarterback playing, all bets are off on what he will produce. Normally - the results are less than satisfying and J.P. Losman has not yet looked like he will hit the ground throwing well. In this offense, he mainly needs to hone his handoff skills and occasionally look deep for Lee Evans.

There is a chance that Losman gets a decent start though. The Texans secondary was so weak last season that given an option, most teams just threw against the Texans because it was so much easier. Losman won't throw any more than needed and that may not be much this week but when he does, he'll be successful if last season's history repeats for Houston.

Running Backs: Willis McGahee was one of the better success stories last season for running backs. Though he did not start until week six, McGahee turned in seven 100 yard games and scored 13 times, much of that production coming against soft defenses he won't face again like Seattle and San Francisco. With Losman to protect, McGahee enters his first full season as a starter with the green light to be one of the heavier used backs in the league.

Wide Receivers: The deep routes of Lee Evans worked quite well last year - he turned in nine scores on the year even though he only had more than four catches in game four times in 2004. He either caught the long pass or his numbers suffered. Eric Moulds slide downward continued last year and the once star receiver of the Bills comes off a season that saw him score in each of the first three games and then only twice more the rest of the year.

This is not a passing offense anymore and with Losman there, it could be worse in 2005.

Tight Ends: The total numbers from tight ends in Buffalo look fairly good - seven touchdowns total. The reality is that three came in one game and no tight end ever exceeded 40 yards in a game. In six games there were no tight end catches. There is little consistency here and certainly none worth fantasy consideration.

Match Against the Defense: As noted, the Texans pass defense was a fantasy delight in 2004 but that is not what this Bills offense is about anymore. The good news is that almost half of their opponents had a 100 yard rusher though few scored. In this game, expect that Losman throws for a score since every team does when facing the Texans but most of the action will go to McGahee who should turn in a good game but not a great one if last season's stats hold up. At home in the opener against a Texans offense that likely will have struggles, McGahee should get the volume that alone will ensure good fantasy numbers.