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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
WEEK 14
December 7, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
CHI at PIT NE at BUF* NYG at PHI* KC at DAL DET at GB
CLE at CIN* OAK at NYJ SF at SEA MIA at SD* Mon 9 PM
HOU at TEN STL at MIN WAS at ARI*   NO at ATL
IND at JAC TB at CAR BAL at DEN Updated* Times ET

Prediction: St. Louis 17, Minnesota 27

Here's game that had everyone salivating last summer thinking about Culpepper versus Bulger. Now it's just Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Brad Johnson and the Vikings are on a five game winning streak because of their defense. The Rams are 2-4 on the road with wins only over the Cardinals and the Texans (and barely that one). The Vikings come off their fifth straight win and have not lost at home in the last four match-ups there. Outside of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, this game bears almost no resemblance to what we were thinking back in August.

St. Louis Rams (5-7)
1 25-28 @SFO 10 16-31 @SEA
2 17-12 @ARI 11 28-38 ARI
3 31-27 TEN 12 33-27 @HOU
4 24-44 @NYG 13 9-24 WAS
5 31-37 SEA 14 Dec 11 @MIN
6 28-45 @IND 15 Dec 18 PHI
7 28-17 NOR 16 Dec 24 SFO
8 24-21 JAC 17 Jan 1 @DAL
9 Open Bye . MON SAT
STL at MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 0 0 270,2
RB Steven Jackson 50 30 0
TE B. Manumaleuna 0 10 0
WR Torry Holt 0 110,1 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 60,1 0
WR Kevin Curtis 0 40 0
WR Shaun McDonald 0 20 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: That magic created by Fitzpatrick evidently was limited to the state of Texas because the Redskins made him look much more like a rookie from Harvard than a sudden savior last week. Faced against a good defense, the rushing game has disappeared again and the Rams now make a winning season almost impossible. Two more home games against the Eagles and 49ers mean reaching .500 is not out of the question but a final trip to Dallas likely will - unless that Texas magic has not been used up. The Rams - not a road team even under ideal circumstances.

Quarterback: Ryan Fitzpatrick may have fallen from his 310 yards and three scores against the Texans to only 163 yards and an interception against the Redskins, but he showed enough to warrant not being labeled a one game wonder (see - "Rosenfels beats the Bills"). He completed 21 of 36 passes and ran for 22 yards including a nice touchdown on a quarterback draw. More importantly, he looked good enough to start this week.

Running Backs: Missing OT Alex Barron was no help and the Redskins rushing defense was already very sound, but Steven Jackson turned in another stinker when he only gained 24 yards on 11 carries last week. He only had 12 runs for six yards against the Cardinals and other than his 110 yards in Houston, Jackson has not been running well for the past month.

Wide Receivers: Torry Holt turned in six catches for 75 yards last week but that dwarfed what any other wideout had including Isaac Bruce (4-33) and Kevin Curtis (2-6). Holt's numbers have not suffered with Fitzpatrick but the jury is still out for the rest. With only two games of such drastically different results, it's too early to say how well the wideouts will fare on going if Fitzpatrick continues.

Tight Ends: You'd think they would have at least blocked better.

Match Against the Defense: The Vikings have been playing the run very well over their recent resurrection as a team and while most teams manage a rushing score, there is usually minimal rushing yardage. Look for another sub-standard game here from Jackson though he could score once.

Fitzpatrick would have loved the old Vikings secondary - heck, we all did. But this new one that has popped up has been much improved. Expect that there is at least one passing score here and possibly two but most veteran opponents in Minnesota have not been throwing for more than 220 yards. A heavy reliance on the pass should push that upwards this week. The primary wideout is always the one that does the best here and that means Holt should remain a good fantasy option - if only him.

Minnesota Vikings (7-5)
1 13-24 TBB 10 24-21 @NYG
2 8-37 @CIN 11 20-17 @GBP
3 33-16 NOR 12 24-12 CLE
4 10-30 @ATL 13 21-16 @DET
5 Open Bye 14 Dec 11 STL
6 3-28 @CHI 15 Dec 18 PIT
7 23-20 GBP 16 Dec 25 @BAL
8 13-38 @CAR 17 Jan 1 CHI
9 27-14 DET . . MON
MIN vs STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Brad Johnson 0 0 230,2
RB Mewelde Moore 80,1 20 0
TE Jermaine Wiggins 0 50,1 0
WR Koren Robinson 0 40 0
WR Nate Burleson 0 30 0
WR Marcus Robinson 0 40,1 0
WR Travis Taylor 0 30 0
PK Paul Edinger 2 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: It's like the Vikings lost Culpepper and sent someone to the stockroom looking for a replacement. He returned and said "I couldn't really find anything like we wanted but look - over in the corner was this box labeled 'defense'. Wonder what it does?"

The Vikings are on a five game winning streak and while they won't likely catch the Bears, the fact that they could end up over .500 is nothing short of amazing considering that they were 2-5 and had just lost their franchise player. The fantasy aspect of the Vikings has turned to almost nil now but in NFL terms, their return to winning ways has been quite impressive.

Quarterback: Brad Johnson was just a game manager when he took over from Culpepper but he has thrown five touchdowns over the last two games and remained above 200 passing yards in each. Granted - facing the Lions and Browns have not been major defenses but then again neither are the visiting Rams.

Running Backs: Once again Mewelde Moore has been nicked up and given way to a surprising game by Michael Bennett. Moore already had sore ankles and sprained the right ankle last week after only one carry for a six yard loss. Bennett came in and reeled off 79 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown and he scored another on a pass reception as well. Oddly enough, both of Bennett's games of any significance have come in relief of Moore against the Lions. He has more yardage against them than in all other games combined and his only scores were against them as well.

Moore said he expects to play this week and since they are not playing the Lions I am assuming Moore can go but we'll see how long he lasts this time.

Wide Receivers: Several interesting developments for the Vikings and their wideouts-o-plenty. Nate Burleson still is doing almost nothing every week while reports are that he is healthier now. Marcus Robinson only gets passes if he is standing in the endzone and Koren Robinson took the start along with Travis Taylor last week and had a monster game with four catches for 148 yards and a score. That was the first time any Vikings wideout had topped 100 yards this season and only because he had an 80 yard catch for the touchdown. Troy Williamson has gotten on HC Mike Tice's bad side by getting dinged up and then just taking himself out of practice without saying anything to Tice or the trainers. Williamson has been made inactive for the last two games.

That still does not equate to a reliable pattern of using wideouts other than Taylor, Williamson and Burleson all having no fantasy value. Marcus Robinson does if he is standing in the endzone when he catches a short pass or Koren has a long gainer for a score. This is all a far cry from "All Randy Moss, all the time".

Tight Ends: Brad Johnson has widely decided to rely on Jermaine Wiggins who has 67 yards in each of the last two games. Wiggins is the lone consistent receiver from week to week.

Match Against the Defense: The Rams defense was already bad and has missed SS Adam Archuleta to make it even worse. The Rams rank as a bottom five defense against every meaningful category so expect the Vikings to manage to score at least once on a run and gain upwards of 100 on the ground if Moore can stay healthy.

Johnson could throw for much more than he will since the Vikings like more of the clock management thing now but expect at least two scores through the air that will favor no receiver in particular. An educated guess of recent trends suggest Wiggins and Marcus Robinson but any one of six different players could catch the touchdowns.