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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: Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 19

This is a replay of week 15 last year when the Colts beat the visiting Ravens 20-10 and locked down the AFC South title. The Ravens loaded up with more receivers by bringing in Derrick Mason and drafting Mark Clayton, but oddly enough their ex-receivers seem to do better once they leave - like Brandon Stokley. Here's a reason to watch - this game could be the toughest of the year for the Colts other than, of course, their annual matchup with the Patriots. The Indianapolis offense could turn in a surprisingly low output in this game. If they don't - woe be unto the rest of the NFL.

Indianapolis Colts (0-0)
1 Sep 11 @BAL 10 Nov 13 HOU
2 Sep 18 JAC 11 Nov 20 @CIN
3 Sep 25 CLE 12 Nov 28 PIT
4 Oct 2 @TEN 13 Dec 4 TEN
5 Oct 9 @SFO 14 Dec 11 @JAC
6 Oct 17 STL 15 Dec 18 SDC
7 Oct 23 @HOU 16 Dec 24 @SEA
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 ARI
9 Nov 7 @NE . MON SAT
IND Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 0 0 240,2
RB Edgerrin James 70 20 0
TE Dallas Clark 0 40,1 0
WR Marvin Harrison 0 70 0
WR Reggie Wayne 0 70,1 0
WR Troy Walters 0 20 0
PK Mike Vanderjagt 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Colts return all the same offensive players this season other than Marcus Pollard and that is very, very bad news to defensive coordinators hoping for a Christmas bonus this year. It is hard to imagine the Colts being any better offensively than last year but one look at the schedule and every fantasy owner does just that - "imagine"... 'happy sigh'...

Quarterback: Peyton Manning really has left little else to say about him other than "whoa". After throwing for 49 touchdowns last year, it is inconceivable that he could replicate that success, every bit as much as it was that he would have that level of success in the first place. While the Colts would be far less without him, that is only reasonable speculation because we have never seen the Colts without him.

Last year against the Ravens, Manning threw for a paltry 249 yards and one touchdown. Now that is inconceivable.

Running Backs: Edgerrin James has every reason to play hard in this franchise contract year (make that millions and millions of reasons) and his level of consistency in this offense makes him a top back on fantasy teams. James is not the touchdown machine others may be, but there are very few that can approach him for consistent yardage each week with the a score or two every other game. He doesn't share, he gains tremendous yardage and he could be even better this year.

James ran for only 69 yards on 22 carries in the last meeting against Baltimore though he did score once and had 23 yards receiving. It was his second worst fantasy game of 2004 and that still was 92 yards and a touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley return again and all you really need to know is that the trio were all in the top 12 fantasy wideouts for 2004. There were 25 NFL teams that did not have any wideout as successful as the three for the Colts. For fantasy owners, the Colt wideouts draw about as much attention as a group of Victoria Secrets models showing up at a bar at 1 AM.

In the last meeting against the Ravens, the immortals were brought to earth with Wayne having 88 yards and Harrison turning in 73 yards and one score. Brandon Stokley did not play in that game and may not this week due to the dislocated shoulder he brought back from Japan. While he may still play, he's best to hold out of a fantasy lineup this week. I am projecting for Troy Walters as the #3 wideout.

Tight Ends: The duo of Marcus Pollard and Dallas Clark combined for nine touchdowns last year and now Clark stands alone with Pollard off to Detroit. Clark was drafted in 2003 expressly to be a receiving tight end and his first round status shows the commitment the Colts had towards him. With the wideouts already freaking out the secondary, Clark could be very big this year and against a big defense like the Ravens, he could play a bigger role than normal.

Match Against the Defense: The Ravens have been anticipating this game for the last six months when the schedules came out and playing in Baltimore makes it that much more challenging for the Colts. Almost every Colt player had one of their worst fantasy games of the season when these two teams met in 2004 and on the road, Indy will likely start out with a game that will prove very uncharacteristic of the rest of their season.

Expect a bad game for the Colts here that equals a decent game from most teams. The best matchup here is likely Reggie Wayne against CB Samari Rolle who is coming back from a knee sprain but the Ravens will be in the nickel enough to spread out coverage duties anyway.

Baltimore Ravens (0-0)
1 Sep 11 IND 10 Nov 13 @JAC
2 Sep 18 @TEN 11 Nov 20 PIT
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 @CIN
4 Oct 2 NYJ 13 Dec 4 HOU
5 Oct 9 @DET 14 Dec 11 @DEN
6 Oct 16 CLE 15 Dec 19 GBP
7 Oct 23 @CHI 16 Dec 25 MIN
8 Oct 31 @PIT 17 Jan 1 @CLE
9 Nov 6 CIN . . MON
BAL Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Boller 0 0 170
RB Jamal Lewis 120,2 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 50 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 50 0
WR Clarence Moore 0 30 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Ravens continue to be a tale of two teams. The defense which is as good or better than any other for several years now and the offense that is as bad or worse than any other for several years now. If you like it personalized, consider it the Ray Lewis/ Kyle Boller effect that is a perfect yin/yang style that produced balance (some call it mediocrity - whatever).

Quarterback: Like David Carr in Houston, Kyle Boller needs to deliver on that high draft pick that brought him to the team as the savior for the offense. Unlike Carr, Boller needs some time to pick out games in which he actually did well. The preseason so far has not given rise to renewed expectations.

Boller has been a model of inconsistency and low production. There is reason to believe he has the tools now with Todd Heap healthy, Derrick Mason on board and Mark Clayton drafted but this is a quarterback that topped out at 232 yards last year. He had four games of sub-100 yards passing. Against the Colts, he actually threw a touchdown and 210 yards, easily one of his best games of 2004.

Running Backs: Jamal Lewis could be very big this year - he has several reasons why. He no longer has the legal distractions of 2004 haunting him and he's spent jail time staring at the ceiling while envisioning running over linebackers. Lewis is determined to make this a year like 2003 when he was the most productive rusher almost of all time. But Lewis is coming off ankle surgery and bone spurs so while he is expected to be healthy this week, there is some concern he may not or may develop future healthy problems.

Lewis rumbled for 130 yards against the Colts last year though he did not score.

Wide Receivers: There is talent in this group to be certain. Derrick Mason is one of the top possession receivers in the game and Clarence Moore is at least adequate and likely a placeholder for when the rookie Mark Clayton is deemed ready to start. But you cannot evaluate this group without considering how little the offense throws and how ineffectively it does when it tries. With Boller more experienced and the wideouts better than ever, there is optimism here. But that is tempered with the reality of the last few seasons. There were no 100 yard games by any Raven wideout in 2004.

Even in the Colts game last year, only six catches for 72 yards were divided up by Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson - that is all the wideouts did in one of the best passing games for Boller in 2004.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap's ankle is expected to be at full strength and his shoulder sprain has healed enough for him to resume practice and play in the final preseason game. Heap has been an injury problem for the last year and now returns to a team that has other receiving options. He was always the focus of the passing game but Derrick Mason was not paid the big bucks for his good looks. The use of Heap in these initial weeks will be interesting to analyze since there has been so little competition for passes in the past.

Heap had 58 yards and one score last year against the Colts since the game was late enough in the year for him to play.

Match Against the Defense: No secret here. Jamal Lewis will be pounding the ball and was successful in Indianapolis last season. As long as he has no ankle problems - and he shouldn't - expect a big game here to open the year. Kyle Boller is the player in the spotlight with Mason there and Heap back in the lineup. He managed 210 yards in 2004 against this defense and has much better receivers this time around. But the Ravens will run as much as possible to keep Peyton off the field and since Lewis should have success, expect the normal low numbers from Boller. This is the best chance for Mason to reward the team for getting him but there is too much to be seen from Boller to reasonably expect much this soon.