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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
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
GB at MIN* IND at HOU BUF at OAK CAR, TB Updated*

Prediction: San Francisco 3, Washington 27

The 49ers are willing to go through the pains of developing Alex Smith and the Redskins are just the team to give it to them. Washington has lost two games in a row now and need a good win before hitting another tough stretch on the schedule. The 49ers have Tampa Bay next and then... well... it just doesn't get any prettier.

The Redskins won 26-16 in San Francisco during week 15 of last year.

Update: Arnaz Battle is doubtful to play this week which only makes this matchup even more lop-sided, as if it needed help. Battle has not practiced this week and likely will miss this game.

San Francisco 49ers (1-4)
1 28-25 STL 10 Nov 13 @CHI
2 3-42 @PHI 11 Nov 20 SEA
3 31-34 DAL 12 Nov 27 @TEN
4 14-31 @ARI 13 Dec 4 ARI
5 3-28 IND 14 Dec 11 @SEA
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @JAC
7 Oct 23 @WAS 16 Dec 24 @STL
8 Oct 30 TBB 17 Jan 1 HOU
9 Nov 6 NYG . . SAT
SFO at WAS Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith 0 0 90
RB Kevan Barlow 60 20 0
RB Frank Gore 20 10 0
WR Brandon Lloyd 0 30 0
WR Johnnie Morton 0 10 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 20 0
PK Joe Nedney 0 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: The 49ers shifted to Alex Smith as the starting quarterback in week five and the move wasn't really about "the future is now" so much as it is "let's go through hell now for the future next year". The team has already been decimated in the secondary with four cornerbacks already injured and the offensive line continues to be shaky at best - not a recipe for success for Smith but definitely a trial by fire. A very, very hot and painful fire until Smith gets the learning curve underway. Smith had a terrible outing as a starter but it is not completely without optimism. The rookie has to learn to read defenses and digest the entire offense, but he undeniably has the arm strength to make any throw. It just may be a while until those passes are caught.

Quarterback: Alex Smith opened his career by facing the Colts which for the first year ever is just not the team to play against. Smith completed only nine of 23 passes for 74 yards with four interceptions and one lost fumble. Seven of his nine completions were caught by running backs for minimal gain and Johnnie Morton was the only wideout with a catch - for just 13 yards. Going against a motivated Redskins defense that has lost their last two games is yet again not the defense that Smith should optimally be facing.

Just to signal that this season is over, the 49ers have sent Tim Rattay to the Buccaneers in a trade. Smith is flying solo now and the autopilot has been removed.

The 49ers used Ken Dorsey in the meeting against the Redskins last year and he managed to throw for 206 yards and two scores when Washington was the visitor.

Running Backs: Kevan Barlow actually gained a season high 99 yards on 18 carries against the Colts, though the 49ers had no real business running the ball anyway in the blowout which likely explains some of his success. He hasn't scored since week one and had never ran more than 14 times in a game until week five's 18 carries. The 49ers would love for the rushing game to take pressure off of Smith, but with the center Newberry perpetually banged up and the left tackle Jonas Jennings likely lost for the year, anything good that happens here will be like the last game - when the defense drops back during a blowout and allows Barlow to have a two yard head start.

Same thing goes for Frank Gore who typically has about a 1:3 ratio with Barlow in both carries and yards.

Barlow only gained 18 yards against the Skins last year while Maurice Hicks had 37 yards.

Wide Receivers: Sadly the introduction of Smith into the passing game has killed the wideouts at least temporarily. Brandon Lloyd had been a nice surprise this year with three scores and two games over 100 yards with Rattay under center but he had no catches against the Colts. Arnaz Battle had scored in two games and returned from injury only to also be held without a catch in week five. There is no fantasy relevance with this crew until Alex Smith starts to get comfortable and that won't be happening in Washington this week. Or against the Buccaneers in the next game.

Brandon Lloyd had 51 yards and one score to lead all 49er receivers last year in the meeting with the Redskins.

Tight Ends: In what could only be described as utterly amazing, the 49ers have only completed two passes to the tight ends for the entire season and both gained no yards. At least an incompletion kills the clock.

Match Against the Defense: Let's not bother much here. The 49ers under Alex Smith are in step one of a long learning curve and they are on the road against a great defense that has just lost both their last two games. I'm calling for a shutout here only because I cannot figure out how to end up with negative points. The Redskins have to win, are at home and the 49ers cannot even hope for slop play or the opponent overlooking them.

Washington Redskins (3-2)
1 9-7 CHI 10 Nov 13 @TBB
2 14-13 @DAL 11 Nov 20 OAK
3 Open Bye 12 Nov 27 SDC
4 20-17 SEA 13 Dec 4 @STL
5 19-21 @DEN 14 Dec 11 @ARI
6 21-28 @KCC 15 Dec 18 DAL
7 Oct 23 SFO 16 Dec 24 NYG
8 Oct 30 @NYG 17 Jan 1 @PHI
9 Nov 6 PHI . MON SAT
WAS vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Mark Brunell 0 0 280,2
RB Clinton Portis 100,1 10 0
RB Ladell Betts 20 20 0
TE Chris Cooley 0 50,1 0
WR Santana Moss 0 120,1 0
WR David Patten 0 50 0
WR James Thrash 0 20 0
PK Nick Novak 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Redskins have lost their last two games though they had late surges in each that fell short. The passing attack has been the biggest surprise this season and that revolves around one short and very fast player - Santana Moss. The Redskins return home where they are undefeated to face the #32 passing defense coming to visit. Chances are Santana is not done quite yet.

Quarterback: This offense was supposed to be about rushing Portis but since Mark Brunell took over, it has only been about throwing two or more scores a game and topping 290 yards in three of four games. Brunell goes against the worst secondary in the league this week and he'll have to resist what he could do.

Ramsey was the starter last year when the Redskins went to San Francisco and he ended with 214 yards and one score.

Running Backs: Clinton Portis only has two games over the 100 yard mark this season and he has yet to score a touchdown. But he's been adding at least 20 yards per week as a receiver and topped 100 total yards in each of the last three games.

Portis ran for 110 yards against the 49ers in 2004 and had no scores.

Wide Receivers: The passing game has been revolving around just one thing - Santana Moss. Maybe Pennington really wasn't that good or maybe Brunell really is, but whichever the case may be, Moss has been on fire this season. He is second only to Torry Holt in receiving yardage (631) and he's averaging over 20 yards per catch. That is not unusual for a speedy longballer like Moss, but what is hard to understand is how he does it every week. Moss has never had less than 86 yards in a game this season. It is sort of like this is the reverso year. The good Manning has now changed places with the bad Manning. And the good Moss has swapped positions in the rankings with the bad Moss.

The only other receiver of any note here is David Patten but he only has one 63 yard game to join all the rest that have been only 22 yards or less.

Tight Ends: Chris Cooley is doing it again. He became a favored target in the endzone in 2004 and had six scores as a rookie. This season he has scored in each of the last two games and now is being included in passing that is not just for a score. He's had 18 catches for 197 yards and two scores over the last three games.

Match Against the Defense: Let me count the ways I love thee, San Francisco.

Clinton Portis has a good chance to top 100 yards this week if only from volume of carries. The 49ers rush defense has been actually pretty good but has allowed five scores this year and only because the passing game has been so successful by opponents have teams not ran more against them. That could end this week with a big game by Portis.

Brunell faces the worst secondary in the league statistically that is allowing 365 yards and over two scores on average and the main reason it is not higher is because in week five Peyton Manning only had 255 yards and one score. Brunell will not resist at least one score to Moss and he should end up with good yardage if only because Moss won't stop running for a long time when he catches it. This is a game the Redskins need and can win. There is less reason to expect them to "take it easy" since they are coming off two straight losses and could use a feel good win here.