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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 7
October 19, 2005
Season Ticket
FRI 7 PM Sun 1 PM SF at WAS* Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM
KC at MIA* NO at STL Sun 4 PM DEN at NYG TEN at ARI*
Sun 1 PM PIT at CIN* DAL at SEA* On Bye: Mon 9 PM
DET at CLE* SD at PHI BAL at CHI JAC, NE NYJ at ATL
GB at MIN* IND at HOU BUF at OAK CAR, TB Updated*

Prediction: Baltimore 10 Chicago 13

Well doesn't this game have "under" written all over it? Both teams come off much needed wins and yet are only 2-3 on the season. The difference here is that the Ravens are already three games back of the Bengals in the AFC North and yet the Bears, with the same record, are tied for the NFC North division lead. Two big defenses meet with inconsistent rushing games and almost no passing to consider. The winner will likely be the team that gets a turnover near the opponents goal line.

Baltimore Ravens (2-3)
1 7-24 IND 10 Nov 13 @JAC
2 10-25 @TEN 11 Nov 20 PIT
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 @CIN
4 13-3 NYJ 13 Dec 4 HOU
5 17-35 @DET 14 Dec 11 @DEN
6 16-3 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 at CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Anthony Wright 0 0 200,1
RB Jamal Lewis 60 10 0
TE Todd Heap 0 60,1 0
WR Derrick Mason 0 70 0
WR Clarence Moore 0 20 0
WR Mark Clayton 0 20 0
PK Matt Stover 1 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Both wins for the Ravens have come at home when the defense has held their opponent to only three points in the game (NYJ and CLE). It's not like this offense is going to win any games and so far has capped out at a big 17 points per week.

Quarterback: Kyle Boller could return as early as week nine but there's likely not a major rush to get him in since Anthony Wright has supplied a similar performance to Boller by throwing only four touchdowns in the four games he's been the starter. Wright has never exceeded 230 yards in a game. But he's been fairly efficient and held down the interceptions to only one or two per game.

There was some speculation that Wright could steal the starting job if he performed well in Boller's absence, but neither quarterback seems capable of moving this offense well.

Running Backs: Whether it is because of an attitude spawned because he does not have a new contract, or because Jamal Lewis' ankle still bothers him, or just that he's been used up in his career - Lewis has been a major disappointment this season. He only has two touchdowns and one came from a pass play. He has looked good only once back in week five against the Lions and comes off a game against the Browns where he only gained 59 yards on 24 carries.

Chester Taylor also had 92 yards on only eight runs in the last game thanks to one 52-yard rumble but he's getting about ten carries each week now and doing more with them than Lewis who typically gets twice as many carries. There's no real move to use Taylor more and HC Brian Billick had to explain away why Taylor looks so good in comparison to Lewis because the media has noticed it as well.

Wide Receivers: The only notable player here remains Derrick Mason and even he has only one score on the year and has been turning in around 60 or 70 yards per week on about six catches. Mark Clayton and Clarence Moore are usually only good for one catch per game and, of course, neither has scored this season. WIth the minimal passing, only Mason benefits and even that is hardly to the level of a third fantasy wideout at best.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap has been the lone fantasy success this season for the Ravens and he's been getting better as the season progresses. Heap has scored in each of the last two games and has been the leading target behind Mason. He's topped 50 yards in three of the last four games and has settled down to being the second read for Wright on most pass plays.

Match Against the Defense: The Bears have not allowed a rushing score this season and even with a ton of carries, Jamal Lewis will not turn in a big game here and won't likely score. Expect a moderate yardage game here from the volume of carries but not much else. This could be another chance for Taylor to pop a surprise run but he's not reliable enough to consider for a fantasy team, even more so on the road in Chicago.

Where this game turns slightly is that the Bears have been allowing 200 passing yards or so to opponents and that falls into Wright's range. It will be the only way the Ravens can likely get a touchdown but Wright has been mixing both Heap and Mason in the passing game and both CLE and MIN had over 60 yards receiving by their tight ends. Mason even gets the better matchup against CB Charles Tillman that has been much more exploited than the split end position has been giving up.

This game will hinge on turnovers and that doesn't really favor either team since both offenses are equally adept at losing the ball.

Chicago Bears (2-3)
1 7-9 @WAS 10 Nov 13 SFO
2 38-6 DET 11 Nov 20 CAR
3 7-24 CIN 12 Nov 27 @TBB
4 Open Bye 13 Dec 4 GBP
5 10-20 @CLE 14 Dec 11 @PIT
6 28-3 MIN 15 Dec 18 ATL
7 Oct 23 BAL 16 Dec 25 @GBP
8 Oct 30 @DET 17 Jan 1 @MIN
9 Nov 6 @NOR . . .
CHI vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton 10 0 110
RB Thomas Jones 60,1 10 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 20 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 40 0
WR Mark Bradley 0 20 0
WR Bobby Wade 0 10 0
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: Chicago has apparently decided to limit all offensive fireworks to only divisional rivals when they are visiting the Bears. The Vikings fell apart 28-3 last week when the Bears put on a great defensive effort that completely stymied Minnesota in every offensive category. Thanks to the weaker secondary of the Vikings, even Kyle Orton had two touchdowns and their 2-3 record puts them in a tie with the Lions for the division lead. The Bears schedule is rather kind as it ends up, and a good effort here could be a springboard to contesting for the chance to lose in the wild card round this season.

Quarterback: The plan last week was to let Kyle Orton throw deeper against the visiting Vikings but he only ended with 117 yards and never completed a pass longer than 16 yards. That makes the second consecutive week of 117 passing yards for Orton but at least he scored twice last week - both on passes to Desmond Clark. Orton will be much more challenged to pass successfully this week against what should prove to be the toughest defense he has faced this year.

Running Backs: The Bears spent the week rehabbing the level one sprain to Thomas Jones knee last week and the treatment, coupled with a shot before the game, allowed him to play the entire afternoon. Thomas ended with two scores on the day, one a nice 24 yard romp that almost had him untouched and the other a one yard dive after an interception return brought the ball near the goal line. He only ran for 89 yards on 23 carries and considering one run went for 24 yards, he was not particularly effective against what had been one of the worse rushing defenses in the league until last week.

Jones was a game time decision and when the call was made, it shelved the use of either Adrian Peterson or Cedric Benson for all but a couple of plays. Benson in particular has clearly fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and wasn't used even when the game was well in hand. Until he is injured enough to not play, it appears the Bears will be using Jones almost exclusively this season with no apparent interest in developing Benson.

Wide Receivers: Like the Ravens, there is only one wideout on the team that has any significance. Muhsin Muhammad has been getting around ten passes per game and usually ends up with about five catches for 50 yards but that will be hard to come up with this week against the Ravens. Mark Bradley only had one catch for 15 yards last week against a soft secondary though the game was well in hand by the second half. He's topped out at 33 yards in his best effort of the season.

Tight Ends: Desmond Clark was clearly a big surprise last week when he had two touchdown catches but he only managed a total of four receptions for 19 yards and he has only once gone over 20 yards in a game this season. It's not like the offense is turning towards using him more, he was just the closest open receiver to Orton last week.

Match Against the Defense: Thomas Jones has a chance of scoring again this week since the only time the Ravens do allow rushing scores is on the road but no runner has topped 88 yards against the Ravens and that required Edgerrin James to accomplish. Expect a lower production again from Jones but with a chance at a score.

The Ravens have been holding opponents to Orton-esque passing numbers this season, and they were much better than Orton to start with. Muhammad draws CB Samari Rolle though it doesn't really matter since there's no one else to worry about doubling on other than Muhammad. Look for a very low game from Muhammad here since the secondary will be hanging around him all afternoon waiting on an interception.

This game will be a defensive battle based mainly on the rushing game. Turnovers will likely be the key in this game and with both teams wanting to minimize mistakes, it should be primarily unproductive rushing attempts by both teams that could produce decent numbers if only because of the volume of carries.