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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: Philadelphia 30, Atlanta 17

A mere eight months later and we get to replay the NFC Championship game that the Eagles won 27-10 in spite of not having Terrell Owens to use. The Eagles return intact and likely upgraded with either Greg Lewis or Reggie Brown replacing Todd Pinkston while the Falcons have added Roddy White and dumped Peerless Price. That game left the Falcons saying 'okay - so maybe a passing game is important." On Monday night, we get to see what progress eight months has brought.

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
1 Sep 12 @ATL 10 Nov 14 DAL
2 Sep 18 SFO 11 Nov 20 @NYG
3 Sep 25 OAK 12 Nov 27 GBP
4 Oct 2 @KCC 13 Dec 5 SEA
5 Oct 9 @DAL 14 Dec 11 NYG
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @STL
7 Oct 23 SDC 16 Dec 24 @ARI
8 Oct 30 @DEN 17 Jan 1 WAS
9 Nov 6 @WAS . MON SAT
PHI Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 20,1 0 230,1
RB Brian Westbrook 60,1 30 0
RB Ryan Moats 10 20 0
TE L.J. Smith 0 30 0
WR Terrell Owens 0 100,1 0
WR Greg Lewis 0 30 0
WR Reggie Brown 0 10 0
PK David Akers 3 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Eagles have not made many changes and thanks to a rare burst of reasoning skills, Terrell Owens is back in the fold. The offense should be no less deadly than last year as long as Owens is thinking "okay - next year I hold out". The defense was among the NFL's best last year and was so confident that they just took the franchise tag off of Corey Simon and let him walk.

Quarterback: Donovan McNabb could be scary good this year if Owens stays together and his career season in 2004 of 3875 yards and 31 passing touchdowns could be easily surpassed with an even easier schedule this season.

McNabb threw for only 160 yards against the Falcons last January but he had two scores and with a 17 point win, there was no need to air it out. Oh yes - that was in a game without Owens.

Running Backs: The Eagles are relying on the versatile Brian Westbrook to continue to deliver his high powered rushing and receiving into the mix though he won't be asked to carry 30 times in any game ever. Westbrook had 133 total yards against the Falcons in their last meeting.

Adding into the mix in some fashion will be Ryan Moats - a near clone of Westbrook in size and potentially ability who will likely end up around half a dozen touches per game and will replace Westbrook if needed. The Eagles also just added in Lamar Gordon who will likely be considered for the "Dorsey Levens" role since he is a big back more capable of short yardage than Westbrook or Moats. He's just been brought aboard so it may take a few weeks before the Eagles considered him.

Wide Receivers: Last year the passing game was almost entirely McNabb to Terrell Owens and that was plenty to win most games. Owens returns this season after an ill-conceived holdout and how well he will play with the other children remains to be seen. If he can get with the program, or at least acknowledge that a program exists outside himself, Owens could challenge once again for the best wideout in the NFL. With a probable contract dispute looming once again, two seasons of proof means more than just one.

Greg Lewis takes over for the fallen Todd Pinkston and he was impressive with eight catches in the playoffs last year. He could get pushed for playing time by the rookie Reggie Brown but until Brown learns the offense and proves himself, this should be Lewis' biggest opportunity in the NFL.

Tight Ends: Adding to the weaponry for McNabb is third-year tight end L.J. Smith who already had 377 yards and five scores last year. A receiving tight end to the core, Smith could step up big this year - depending on what is left over after Owens is satisfied.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons have a defense to rival the Eagles, at least when they play bad teams. Using the NFC Championship game as a measuring stick, they have to stop Brian Westbrook first and then figure out how to cover Terrell Owens who was absent in the game last January. The fast track at the Georgia Dome should only help Westbrook's running and catching style so any advantage the indoor play may normally allow won't be a factor here.

Look for Westbrook to have a good game of around 100 total yards but the Eagles will want to mix in Owens and the rest of the receivers. The Eagles won easily before and that was without Owens, so the preparations that failed last time have to be even more intense this game.

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
1 Sep 12 PHI 10 Nov 13 GBP
2 Sep 18 @SEA 11 Nov 20 TBB
3 Sep 25 @BUF 12 Nov 24 @DET
4 Oct 2 MIN 13 Dec 4 @CAR
5 Oct 9 NE 14 Dec 12 NOR
6 Oct 16 @NOR 15 Dec 18 @CHI
7 Oct 24 NYJ 16 Dec 24 @TBB
8 Open Bye 17 Jan 1 CAR
9 Nov 6 @MIA M THU SAT
ATL Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Michael Vick 60 0 170,1
RB Warrick Dunn 70,1 10 0
RB T.J. Duckett 20 0 0
TE Alge Crumpler 0 50 0
WR Dez White 0 40,1 0
WR Michael Jenkins 0 30 0
WR Roddy White 0 10 0
PK Todd Peterson 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Falcons featured the #1 rushing attack in the league last year when considering the 902 yards gained by Vick. His big rushing yardage combined with 2313 passing yards and 17 total touchdowns add up to a highly successful season (for a high school quarterback anyway). The Falcons enjoyed a very nice schedule in 2004 that pitted them against the very soft NFC South, the AFC West and the NFC West. Ends up that was a cakewalk. This year he replaces that with the AFC East and NFC East games. That means trading the Raiders, Cardinals and 49ers for the Eagles, Bills and Patriots just to name a few changes.

Quarterback: Michael Vick is the heart and soul of this team, and while his style of play is deadly against average or worse teams, his inability to pass will continue to keep the Falcons from rising to the next and final level. His thrilling runs are often enough to win most games but until he can match against a defense with his arm as well, the team knows they are limited.

How that may change his style won't be known and Vick is VIck - he will never be confused with Peyton Manning. The Falcons drafted Roddy White this season and Michael Jenkins in 2004 to provide him with the tools to succeed. With defenses now keying on covering Alge Crumpler and boxing Vick in, all he needs is some success - even just average numbers - from his wideouts and this offense could become almost unstoppable.

Vick only passed for 136 yards and one interception in the last meeting and ran for only 26 yards on four scrambles.

Running Backs: For a little guy with historic durability issues, Warrick Dunn defied all odds in 2004 when he played in his first 16 start season ever and ran 265 times for 1106 yards with nine touchdowns. The new west coast offense installed by Jim Mora Jr. and Greg Knapp surprisingly never makes Dunn a factor in the passing game. His 29 catches for 294 yards were the lowest of his eight year career. For a team that could not hit a wideout with an open-choke shotgun last year, not using a strength of Dunn seems a wasted opportunity.

Also under-used was T.J Duckett who had only 104 carries for 509 yards last year and was strangely ignored every other week for the first half of the season. Dunn is 30 years old now and worth protecting but the use of Duckett is not necessarily bound for an increase. After all - this was the offense with the most rushing yards. At some point, even Duckett has to realize that this team is all about Vick first and foremost.

Dunn only gained 59 yards on 15 carries but scored a ten yard touchdown last January. Duckett was left with only seven carries for 14 yards.

Wide Receivers: Four names to note here - Muhammad, Horn, Walker and Holt. What do they have in common? Each one gained more receiving yardage than all Falcons wideouts combined did last year. That's four wide receivers that combined could not total as many yards as four individual players on other teams did. One of them is now gone - Peerless Price and Roddy White is added to the mix. Michael Jenkins (7-119 yards, 0 TD) and Dez White (30-370, 2 TDs) are the starters and could see their production rise, particularly Jenkins. No guarantees.

Vick did spread the ball around well in the Championship game though - Price (2-37), Finneran (1-29), Jenkins (1-7) and White (1-7) showed the Eagles could not load up on one player and stop the aerial assault.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler's 774 yards and six scores dwarfed the other Falcon receivers last season. Since he failed to exceed 49 yards and scored only once in the final five weeks, his role was not lost on defensive coordinators either. Crumpler oddly continued that trend by turning in exactly 49 yards and no scores against the Eagles last meeting.

Match Against the Defense: The last time that Atlanta played, it was against these Eagles and both teams are relatively unchanged. What is different is that Atlanta is at home again while the Eagles have added Owens back into the mix.

First game of the season both teams will be fresh and wanting to start the year on a high note. So far, Vick's inability to pass against the Eagles cannot be considered cured though his rushing ability should be better back inside the dome. Look for a better game from Vick at least running the ball but both these teams have something to prove here and according to a very important game last January, the Eagles have the final say.