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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: Oakland 20, New England 31

The first game of the year being played in the home of the NFL Champions. What more could Randy Moss ask for? I mean aside from a quarterback the caliber of Daunte Culpepper? The Patriots were 8-0 at home last year and the Raiders were 2-6 on the road. Do you believe in miracles? In week one - I don't.

Oakland Raiders (0-0)
1 Sep 8 @NE 10 Nov 13 DEN
2 Sep 18 KCC 11 Nov 20 @WAS
3 Sep 25 @PHI 12 Nov 27 MIA
4 Oct 2 DAL 13 Dec 4 @SDC
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 @NYJ
6 Oct 16 SDC 15 Dec 18 CLE
7 Oct 23 BUF 16 Dec 24 @DEN
8 Oct 30 @TEN 17 Dec 31 NYG
9 Nov 6 @KCC . THU SAT
OAK Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Kerry Collins 0 0 220,1
RB Lamont Jordan 80,1 10 0
TE Courtney Anderson 0 20 0
WR Randy Moss 0 90,1 0
WR Jerry Porter 0 30 0
WR Ronald Curry 0 20 0
WR Alvis Whitted 0 30 0
PK S. Janikowski 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: Oakland welcomes the second season of HC Norv Turner and to celebrate they went out and bought Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan. Moss is not only an immediate upgrade at wideout he's also someone to put customers in the stands - something Oakland has struggled with. Lamont Jordan comes in as the power back that Turner could only dream of in 2004 when the Tyrone Wheatley experiment went very, very bad. The offense is looking up and the defense - still looking pretty bad.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins starts his 11th season with higher expectations than the previous ten years. Collins has never thrown for more than 21 touchdowns in a season but now with Randy Moss the bar has been raised at least in the fantasy world by most. Collins posted 3495 yards and 20 scores last year in a season that had no running game and a soft schedule. This year the Raiders face the AFC and NFC East in matchups and starting this week, that Collins-to-Moss connection had better start clicking.

Running Backs: The Raiders picked up Lamont Jordan from the Jets since the Moss trade negated their ability to reach a top runner in the NFL draft. Turner's offense works best with a power back and Jordan has the physical size to fit the desired mold. What he doesn't have - at least this year - is a resume that says he can get the job done. Jordan has spent the last four years in New York backing up Curtis Martin and he's never had more than 93 carries in a season or more than 479 yards (both last year).

His yards per carry is predictably high as is most runners who back up NFL studs (think Troy Hambrick for one example) but he needs to prove himself as a primary runner that defenses scheme against. The Raider offensive line should be much improved this year which will help.

Wide Receivers: The Raiders ran through their roster last season trying to keep healthy bodies on the field. 2005 is already starting to make that same run now outside of Randy Moss. Doug Gabriel is out after having surgery on his dislocated finger. Jerry Porter has been sidelined with a hamstring strain but is expected to play this week - in some unknown capacity. Carlos Francis was also lost to a hamstring strain. Ronald Curry is returning from Achilles surgery but should be good enough to play and finally participated in preseason games. His stamina is still an issue and he's not quite ready for a full load yet.

There is definite talent in the group even beyond Moss. Porter has always been dangerous and once healthy could make secondaries pay for concentrating on Moss. Ronald Curry is considered a very viable replacement for Porter when needed and Doug Gabriel can catch the deep ball as well as anyone on the team. They just need to remain healthy and Collins has to get them the ball.

Tight Ends: Courtney Anderson returns this season and the second-year player no longer has to worry about the potential-rich, production poor Teyo Johnson anymore. With a running game and Moss on the team it is hard to see how Anderson could provide much fantasy relevance this season.

Match Against the Defense: The Patriot defense was racked by injuries in 2004 but in normal Bill Belichick style, the team somehow continued to produce adequate replacements even when it meant using WR Troy Brown as a nickel back. The inside linebackers are new and the biggest concern is that a power rushing game up the middle will be their biggest weakness. Jordan is certain to explore that and should have at least moderate success unless the game score mandates Oakland revert to "throw like crazy" as was seen last year.

Moss will get matched on CB Asante Samuel but the Patriots undoubtedly will swing help that way and Moss will be moved around regardless. This is a good test for what the Raiders believe will be a vastly improved offense. The Patriot defense has always been far greater than just the sum of its parts but some of that could be attributed to the departed defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. This will be a test of several areas for both teams and a good sign if changes have taken hold. Not helping Oakland is Jerry Porter playing less than 100% as will Ronald Curry.

New England Patriots (0-0)
1 Sep 8 OAK 11 Nov 13 @MIA
2 Sep 18 @CAR 12 Nov 20 NOR
3 Sep 25 @PIT 13 Nov 27 @KCC
4 Oct 2 SDC 14 Dec 4 NYJ
5 Oct 9 @ATL 15 Dec 11 @BUF
6 Oct 16 @DEN 16 Dec 17 TBB
7 Open Bye 17 Dec 26 @NYJ
8 Oct 30 BUF 7 Jan 1 MIA
9 Nov 7 IND M THU SAT
NEP Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 0 0 240,2
RB Corey Dillon 110,2 20 0
RB Kevin Faulk 0 30 0
TE Daniel Graham 0 30,1 0
WR David Givens 0 20 0
WR Deion Branch 0 60,1 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 30 0
WR Troy Brown 0 10 0
PK Adam Vinatieri 1 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: There's not a lot to be said about a team that hasn't already been said after winning three Super Bowls in the last four years. No one on the team dares speak it, but three in a row would vault the Patriots undeniably into rare air of "greatest of all time". What remains to be seen is what the effect is from losing both coordinators. OC Charlie Weis went to Notre Dame and DC Romeo Crennel heads up the Browns now. This is the first time during the four year stretch that either coordinator has not been there and for a team that thrives on scheme and game plans, that could matter.

Quarterback: Tom Brady comes off another fine season with 3692 yards and 28 touchdowns to his credit. He may have not been drafted early in 2000, but all the ones taken ahead of him now just call him "sir". Brady is a great fit into the complex scheme of the Patriots both as a game manager and when needed - a deadly accurate passer able to find receivers all over the field.

Running Backs: Corey Dillon turns 30 in October but last season certainly gave no indication he is due for a decline. Dillon finally left the Bengals and enjoyed not only a new ring to wear, but a career year of 1635 rushing yards with 12 touchdowns. The once disgruntled Bengal has turned into a model - and highly productive - member of the World Champions.

The Patriots drafted Cedric Cobbs in 2004 but Cobbs was always injured and never on the field. They waived him this summer and head into the season back to Kevin Faulk as the third down back and virtually no one else to step in as a replacement if needed. Patrick Pass would move over from fullback most likely. The Patriots also released Chad Morton and Kory Chapman recently. There is no concern that Dillon shares this year.

Wide Receivers: As always, the Patriots field a crew of capable wide receivers with no clear primary by design. Deion Branch is expected to take the lead this season but he'll be constantly mixed with David Givens, Andre Davis, Tim Dwight and Troy Brown to keep secondaries guessing. And in case the defense somehow covers all of them, the Patriots will just throw to one of three tight ends. The passing scheme is a nightmare for defensive coordinators and fantasy fans alike.

Davis was injured in the final preseason game and may not play. As with all New England injuries, there is no way of knowing what is hurt, how long he may be affected or when he will be back.

Tight Ends: The Patriots use the tight end position but inconsistently as is all elements of the passing attack. Daniel Graham is the starter (for what little that means) and the team is anxiously awaiting Ben Watson to play. Watson missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury but is almost healthy now and ready to use (shhhhh) his reputed 4.4 speed as a tight end.

Match Against the Defense: Last season everyone loved playing the Raiders. While moves were made to shore up a terrible defense, most of the extra cash went into the offense this off-season. Each game could be a shootout but only in the Raiders can post the points which is no guarantee this week. Look for a good game from Dillon and at least two scores by Brady that could go anywhere. The only player with a matchup of concern will be David Givens against CB Charles Woodson who is had ample practice trying to cover Randy Moss in training camp..