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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
September 18, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at TBB NE at CAR Sun 4 PM MIA at NYJ Mon 9 PM
JAC at IND* PIT at HOU* STL at ARI *Update Times ET

Prediction: Minnesota 24, Cincinnati 30

The Bengals started out their season almost exactly as expected but the Vikings? Whatever that was in Minnesota last week had Daunte Culpepper there and a football, but it looked like a different game than what normally happens in the Metrodome.

Minnesota Vikings (0-1)
1 13-24 TBB 10 Nov 13 @NYG
2 Sep 18 @CIN 11 Nov 21 @GBP
3 Sep 25 NOR 12 Nov 27 CLE
4 Oct 2 @ATL 13 Dec 4 @DET
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 STL
6 Oct 16 @CHI 15 Dec 18 PIT
7 Oct 23 GBP 16 Dec 25 @BAL
8 Oct 30 @CAR 17 Jan 1 CHI
9 Nov 6 DET . . MON
MIN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Daunte Culpepper 20,1 0 290,2
RB Michael Bennett 50 20 0
RB Moe Williams 30 10 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 30 0
TE Jim Kleinsasser 0 20 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 80,1 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 30 0
WR Troy Williamson 0 50,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 30 0
PK Paul Edinger 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The game was certainly not cast as a cake walk, and it was a much closer affair than the 13-24 score suggests, but two major bombs went off last week. The Vikings had virtually no rushing game of any kind and Daunte Culpepper had no touchdowns against three interceptions and two lost fumbles. He looked like... this is hard to say... he looked like a rookie again. And not even a particularly good one at that.

Quarterback: Life without Moss started rather poorly last week and while Daunte Culpepper has an extensive collection of receivers - Burleson, Taylor, Robinson (M), Robinson (K), Wiggins and more - it was like he was still looking for #84. Culpepper was harassed the entire game and lost two fumbles. He threw three interceptions. As expected, Burleson was the most productive. What was not expected was that meant only 45 yards.

The complete lack of a rushing game is allowing defenses to tee off on Culpepper and without Moss for the jump ball, the season could get long if they do not figure this out. Going against the Bengals secondary should help clear up where they are at this year.

Running Backs: Wow. Michael Bennett's speed allowed him to reach the tacklers faster. He had six carries for a one yard loss in total. Moe Williams ran six times and by comparison had a gaudy 15 yards to show for the effort. Mewelde Moore never played a down and may be grateful for the oversight.

Moore was leg-whipped in the game on special teams which contributed to his absence.

This starts with line play which was bad at best. Expect the Vikings to give it more than a dozen carries this week to search for improvement or at least the cause. It's obviously premature to call the rushing attack in big trouble, but then again there is not any proof yet that it is not.

Wide Receivers: Without Moss around, the Vikings did do a good job of distributing the passes around. It's just that Nate Burleson (3-45), Travis Taylor (3-38) and Marcus Robinson (3-22) were all equally as fantasy irrelevant. Much more is expected from this group beginning this week. A nice turn-around game here can erase week one but it all goes back to Culpepper having the time to throw.

Troy Williamson did not have a catch in his rookie debut.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins was a nice fantasy surprise last year while Jim Kleinsasser was out and he still had four catches for 33 yards last week. But Kleinsasser also had four catches for 42 yards himself. Good for the offense, bad for fantasy owners wanting a clear cut primary receiver. Expect this to continue as Kleinsasser was the primary before Wiggins took over last year. They both play - Kleinsasser as tight end and Wiggins as H-back.

Match Against the Defense: This should be a better week for the offense. The Bengals allowed Reuben Droughns to gain 78 yards on only 12 carries last week so the rushing game should be much improved if the blocking is there and Tice decides on which back to use. Expect more splits between Bennett as the favored runner and Williams as the favored back that actually can block well. It's worth a fantasy gamble on Bennett this week but it is an obvious risk given the fluid nature of starting assignments.

If Trent Dilfer can throw for 278 yards and a score against these Bengals, then Culpepper had better equal or exceed that. On the road in a game likely to get higher scoring, the passing will be " a plenty" and the best matchup could end up anywhere because it was Frisman Jackson in multiple receiver sets that burned the Bengals last week. Look for Burleson to be the best bet here, manning the same flanker spot as Bryant last week but in what is slated to be an open passing attack, the ball could go anywhere. Troy Williamson did not have a catch last week but this should be when he starts to be integrated into the offense for at least a long pass or two.

Cincinnati Bengals (1-0)
1 27-13 @CLE 10 Open Bye
2 Sep 18 MIN 11 Nov 20 IND
3 Sep 25 @CHI 12 Nov 27 BAL
4 Oct 2 HOU 13 Dec 4 @PIT
5 Oct 9 @JAC 14 Dec 11 CLE
6 Oct 16 @TEN 15 Dec 18 @DET
7 Oct 23 PIT 16 Dec 24 BUF
8 Oct 30 GBP 17 Jan 1 @KCC
9 Nov 6 @BAL . . SAT
CIN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer 0 0 250,2
RB Rudi Johnson 100,1 20 0
TE Reggie Kelly 0 10 0
TE Matt Schobel 0 10 0
WR Chad Johnson 0 100,1 0
WR Houshmandzadeh 0 60,1 0
WR Kelley Washington 0 50 0
PK Shayne Graham 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Bengals got a break by playing against one of the "new teams" on opening week. The results were all rather standard for what we came to expect last season with no surprises. The Bengal offense struggled some in the preseason but looked good last week. They'll need that firepower just in case the real Vikings show up.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer threw a very efficient 26 of 34 for 280 yards and two scores against the Browns last week though he did turnover both a fumble and an interception. He picked up right where he left off in 2004 and the Bengals had seven plays inside the ten yard line and opted to pass on four of them. That is confidence in what is shaping up to be a nice, veteran group of wideouts.

Palmer is starting to come into his own now, making good decisions and playing within the gameplan without any errors. That could prove a very dangerous thing to the rest of the league.

Running Backs: Starting out with a bang, Rudi Johnson rushed for 126 yards and one touchdown last week and was spelled by Chris Perry for only five plays. Since Perry only managed to gain 11 yards in total, it is safe to expect Johnson to continue to be one of the most heavily used backs in the league again this season.

Just to scare all the fantasy owners, it was released that Johnson would not start the game due to violating a team rule (word is that he's chronically late for meetings). Guess that meant Johnson could have had 27 carries instead of 26.

The Bengals threw a score to fullback Jeremi Johnson but it was his only play and just a wrinkle in the normal offense.

Wide Receivers: More of the same from 2004 here. Chad Johnson (9-91) was the productive primary catching nearly everything thrown near him and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (5-75) turned in a solid game. Kelley Washington (4-47) had a touchdown as well and the team is very high on these "triplets". Each fills a specific need for the passing game and in combination could be deadly if Palmer continues to progress so well.

Tight Ends: Matt Schobel missed his only pass last week and there were no tight end catches. Remember that in a week or two when one of them turns in what seems like a big game.

Match Against the Defense: The Vikings defense actually played much better than usual last week but the 72 yard run by Carnell Williams really jacked up the score and the yardage artificially. Prior to that run, the Vikings had held him to only 75 yards on 26 carries. The secondary had held Griese to only 213 yards and two scores with two interceptions, so this is an improved unit from the last few seasons already.

But Rudi is a workhorse and he'll undoubtedly get his yards and if the Viking offense struggles again, Johnson could end up with a very big game here from 30 carries or even more.

Palmer should manage at least around the 240 yard mark and anything less than two scores will be a disappointment. Chad Johnson gets the same matchup that gave Galloway 97 yards a week ago and Houshmandzadeh against CB Deltha O'Neal should prove at least moderately productive.