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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 3
September 25, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
ATL at BUF* JAC at NYJ* TEN at STL* NE at PIT NYG at SDC
CAR at MIA NOR at MIN Sun 4 PM On Bye: Mon 9 PM
CIN at CHI OAK at PHI* ARI at SEA BAL, HOU KCC at DEN
CLE at IND* TBB at GBP* DAL at SFO* DET, WAS Times ET

Prediction: New Orleans 21, Minnesota 24

The Saints come off a tough loss in a game that slowly but surely got away from them. That sort of "losing slowly" progress of games can only be dreamed of by the Vikings who have not only shown up in 2005 with the same lackluster defense, but without any shred of the offense from last season. The Saints are on the road for the third straight week and the Vikings have their second home game. A loss here by Minnesota will all but ensure that the season is already lost. Losing Randy Moss was no help, but losing OC Scott Linehan to the Dolphins may be just as big a culprit.

The Saints hosted the Vikings in week six last year and lost 31-38.

New Orleans Saints (1-1)
1 23-20 @CAR 10 Open Bye
2 10-27 NYG 11 Nov 20 @NE
3 Sep 25 @MIN 12 Nov 27 @NYJ
4 Oct 2 BUF 13 Dec 4 TBB
5 Oct 9 @GBP 14 Dec 12 @ATL
6 Oct 16 ATL 15 Dec 18 CAR
7 Oct 23 @STL 16 Dec 24 DET
8 Oct 30 MIA 17 Jan 1 @TBB
9 Nov 6 CHI . MON SAT
NOR Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Brooks 20 0 260,2
RB Deuce McAllister 90,1 20 0
TE Ernie Conwell 0 40,1 0
WR Joe Horn 0 80 0
WR Donte Stallworth 0 80,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 30 0
PK John Carney 0 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: Tough loss in New York during "the other Monday night game." The Saints looked much more similar to the 2004 brand last week, complete with turnovers by Brooks and a soft Saints secondary. Whatever magic they brought into the season seems to have lasted only about six quarters.

Quarterback: Aaron Brooks had good fantasy numbers last week with 375 passing yards and one score but that is only if you did not lose points with each of his three interceptions. He's only had three runs in each of his two games and is not making a difference on the ground. The passing game is much improved from last year with the inclusion of Stallworth though and while Horn is still just as deadly, having more options should allow Brooks to continue to produce solid numbers - if you do not lose points for interceptions.

Aaron Brooks threw for 249 yards and one touchdown in the match-up against the Vikings last year.

Running Backs: The Giants handled Deuce McAllister last week, limiting him to only 47 yards on 15 carries. The focus on the offensive line during the off-season should have produced bigger numbers in the rushing game though - McAllister only has 111 rushing yards after two weeks and with 41 carries, he only has an average of 2.7 yards per carry.

McAllister ran 18 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns last year against the Vikings and added three catches for 15 yards.

Wide Receivers: While it was a big loss last week, there's nothing wrong with seeing the Saints notch monster games from both wideouts. Joe Horn (9-143, 1 TD) and Donte Stallworth (8-141) combined for historic highs thanks to the pass heavy attack in the second half against the Giants. Even Devery Henderson in the slot had 42 yards on three catches. This unit can get some yardage when trash time rolls around.

Joe Horn had seven catches for 65 yards and one touchdown against Minnesota last year. Donte Stallworth only managed 34 yards while Jerome Pathon in the slot accounted for a season high of 92 yards.

Tight Ends: Ernie Conwell had 71 yards in the first game but failed to catch any of his four passes last week. That hides a bit the importance of Conwell this season and one of those incompletions came in the endzone. The Saints like their tight end this year and last week could likely be the lone game where the tight end is not a factor.

Match Against the Defense: What's not to like about facing a team that has been ravaged the last two weeks? The rushing defense has been adequate but is either giving up the long run or just is facing too many runs in a game to hope to keep rushers at bay. Expect that McAllister scores at least once in this game but he may not quite reach the 100 yard mark just like Rudi Johnson last week.

Brooks should have success here as well, going against a secondary that has allowed at least two scores in each game this year. The Vikings should play better this week - they have to show up here or all is lost and that sense of desperation is still motivating instead of deflating. Look for Brooks to throw for two strikes that could go anywhere but of the five scores allowed by the secondary - three have gone to tight ends. This should be a start week for Conwell on your roster. The split end spot played by Stallworth has also been the weak link on the corners.

Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
1 13-24 TBB 10 Nov 13 @NYG
2 8-37 @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 30,1 0 250,2
RB Michael Bennett 40 10 0
RB Mewelde Moore 40 10 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 30 0
TE Jim Kleinsasser 0 10 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 20 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 50,1 0
WR Troy Williamson 0 40 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 70,1 0
PK Paul Edinger 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: All is not well in Minneapolis. In fact, pretty much nothing is right and after two disasters, the Vikings are quickly running out of excuses and cliches. With a road game to Atlanta looming in week four, a loss here will likely mean an 0-4 start at the bye week and if that happens, there will be changes. There will have to be.

Quarterback: It is as if Daunte Culpepper and his receivers are using two different play books. After two weeks, the perpetual best fantasy quarterback has yet to throw for a touchdown and has turned the ball over ten times. His one rushing score last week is the only positive against a very dark scenario. There has been no rushing game to support him and no wideouts stepping up to fill the evidently "unfillable" void left when Moss went to Oakland. Culpepper has played without Moss before, but he's never looked so out of synch with his receivers. Unless Culpepper has suddenly contracted the Ryan Leaf disease, the bulk of the problem here has to be coaching and preparation.

Culpepper threw for a ridiculous 425 yards and four touchdowns in the meeting last year with the Saints and only 89 yards and one score went to Moss.

Culpepper bruised the middle finger on his throwing hand but is not expected to be affected. He'll play this week.

Running Backs: Not even a whiff of a running game here. So far this season, Michael Bennett has the best game with 36 yards on three carries last week but he also managed to lose two fumbles - there's a ratio you try to avoid. Bennett was benched.

Mewelde Moore ran for 29 yards on eight rushes last week but the Vikings have been so overwhelmed on the score board that running the ball is not an option and even when they try, the results are a disaster. In two games, the Vikings have a total of only 24 carries. The biggest problem here is lack of opportunity, blocking and Bennett holding onto the ball.

Mewelde Moore enjoyed his monster game in 2004 when he faced the Saints and turned in a combined 187 total yards though he did not score.

Wide Receivers: The brightest spot so far has been Travis Taylor catching seven passes for 75 yards last week. With Taylor, Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson and Troy Williamson there should be no lack of targets, it's just that none of these players are often in the same place as where the pass ends up. To add to the mess is Nate Burleson possibly missing this week with a knee sprain. I am assuming he does not play but will update later if warranted. Koren Robinson will likely debut this week and it will only add more potential into the crew, as well as more inexperience with whatever offensive scheme they are trying to use. It's almost as if the Vikings now have too many options with no clear place for Culpepper to go.

Marcus Robinson had two scores and 32 yards against the Saints in 2004 while Nate Burleson turned in six catches for 134 yards.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins has not been a factor yet and only had three catches for 17 yards last week. The big deficits on the score board have forced Culpepper into longer throws at the expense of the tight end position.

Jermaine Wiggins had five catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the New Orleans game last year.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints defense is improved this season and has been especially tougher against the run. Since the Vikings cannot run so far, do not expect a turnaround this week for Bennett or Moore.

Where the Vikings have to win this game is twofold - with passing and opportunistic defense. The split end has been the most successful against the Saints this year which favors either Taylor or Robinson depending on which one is in there. The introduction of Robinson could be coming at a good time if Burleson is out but so far none of the receiving crew generates much confidence. This week is a statement game by Minnesota and a must win. Look for Culpepper to finally get that elusive first passing score this year but for him to do more will rely on him playing far better than the first two weeks has seen. There is still time to turn it around, but not much if the same problems persist this week.