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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
WEEK 1
September 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Sunday night
MIA at PIT BUF at NE NYJ at TEN CHI at GB IND at NYG
Sunday
CIN at KC PHI at HOU DAL at JAX
Monday
ATL at CAR DEN at STL SEA at DET SF at ARZ MIN at WAS
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: CHI 24, GB 10

Da Bears (11-5) won the NFC North with little trouble last year thanks to a defense that ranked at or near #1 in pretty much every category including the #1 in points allowed. While the quarterback situation proved even worse than imagined it didn't matter with that defense and a sound rushing game by Thomas Jones. At least not until the playoffs. The Packers (4-12) come off a nightmare season when the team imploded due to rampant injuries that started in week one and pretty much never stopped. The resemblance of either of these teams to those of just a few years ago is pretty much non-existent.

The Bears swept the Packers last year, winning 19-7 in week 13 and then again 24-17 in week 16.

Chicago Bears (0-0)
1 --- @GB 10 --- @NYG
2 --- DET 11 --- @NYJ
3 --- @MIN 12 --- @NE
4 --- SEA 13 --- MIN
5 --- BUF 14 --- @STL
6 --- @ARZ 15 --- TB
7 Open Bye 16 --- @DET
8 --- SF 17 --- GB
9 --- MIA - - MON
CHI at GB Rush Catch Pass
QB Rex Grossman 0 0 170,1
RB Thomas Jones 100,1 20 0
RB Cedric Benson 30 0 0
TE Desmond Clark 0 20 0
WR Muhsin Muhammad 0 50,1 0
WR Bernard Berrian 0 70 0
PK Robbie Gould 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Bears lost their first playoff game last year thanks in no small part to Steve Smith going nuclear on them but otherwise the Bears had a surprisingly great 2005 season. The defense became the talk of the league and helped to mask the fact that relying on Rex Grossman has never proved to be anything but a temporary decision. The Bears drafted Cedric Benson who proceeded to have the most stupid contract holdout perhaps in all of history and was injured for most of the year as well. But when you have a dominating defense, a little Thomas Jones and playing in the NFC North goes a long way.

Quarterback: Rex Grossman is the starter (Part III) and every one inside the organization gives their head nod to the decision even if everyone in the fantasy world just shakes their head. Grossman has started seven games in three years and has yet to include that elusive fourth game in a year. After last year, the team wised up about veteran back-ups and added Brian Griese who will wait, maybe a month or maybe just ten minutes, until Grossman is hurt again and needs replacing.

Grossman had returned for the final meeting with the Packers in week 16 last year and threw for 166 yards and one score.

Running Backs: The Bears have the most interesting running back situation of any NFL team. Maybe not all in a good way, but it is definitely unique. After drafting Cedric Benson last year and watching him show up when the season started, the team relied on Thomas Jones again until Benson was deemed ready (or properly admonished). But Benson ended up injured and only had 67 carries for 272 yards without that first NFL touchdown quite yet. Thomas Jones was supposed to get phased out but ended up ranked 9th in carries and rushing yardage (314 for 1335 yards) with nine touchdowns.

Jones supposedly asked for a trade when it appeared that the Bears wanted to start Benson this year (something about paying him three times as much as Jones) and would not renegotiate Jones' contract. Then Benson was hurt again, this time in practice while Jones missed most of preseason with a hamstring strain. These are two identical runners - not complementary types. And not particularly friends either. For this week, Jones is named the starter again and the situation is a mess of sorts. At least some of the team still harbors resentment against the well-paid Benson and sides with Jones. The organization did not cough up $35 million and a #5 overall draft pick for a back-up running back. Both backs taken on either side of Benson are now starters in the NFL though neither have held out or been injured like Benson. In a fantasy sense, the situation is no less murky than a year ago and in a football sense, the dissension in the locker room cannot be a positive.

Cedric Benson was not healthy in either of the meetings with the Packers last year and Thomas Jones ran for 93 yards and 105 yards against them in 2005 with just one touchdown. Benson is improving and still could play this week but Jones will be at least the primary back. This could change week to week.

Wide Receivers: Muhsin Muhammad was the key pickup last year but his 750 yards and four scores were pretty much in line with everything else he had done other than his magic 2004 season. Muhammad was victim of the quarterback problem but also played for a team with a great defense and rushing game that never really needed to throw in most games.

Muhammad dwarfed any other receiver and only Justin Gage also scored as a wideout. The rookie Mark Bradley was promising in 2005 until he tore his ACL in week eight. This year has Bradley still recovering but should be playing and Bernard Berrian is taking the #2 spot after a good training camp. Until the defense and rushing game stops being more than enough to win, the passing game won't produce much here.

While Muhsin Muhammad had the touchdown catch against the Packers last year, Bernard Berrian had two of his better efforts when he had three catches for 59 yards and then three more receptions for 93 yards. Mark Bradley had already been injured in those games and did not play.

Tight Ends: Desmond Clark had little role last year and scored in only one game while not recording a catch in five different outings. Word is that he is looking better and could be more involved but they said as much last year.

In two meetings last year, the tight end position totaled just two catches for six yards against the Packers.

Match Against the Defense: The Bears probably could not have ordered a better opponent for opening week than the Packers who have looked like the Keystone Kops during the preseason. Even last year, the Packers were only effective against quarterbacks and wideouts but that is the opposite of what the Bears like to use. Look for a good game from Jones here who has, yet again, a chip on his shoulder and for Benson to mix in some measure. Defense and rushing once again should carry the day here.

Grossman will want to come out of the gates looking good but that's no reason to expect anything more than mediocre numbers from the passing game. I love the chance for a defensive score here but a passing touchdown won't happen more than once if that.

Green Bay Packers (0-0)
1 --- CHI 10 --- @MIN
2 --- NO 11 --- NE
3 --- @DET 12 --- @SEA
4 --- @PHI 13 --- NYJ
5 --- STL 14 --- @SF
6 Open Bye 15 --- DET
7 --- @MIA 16 --- MIN
8 --- ARZ 17 --- @CHI
9 --- @BUF - MON THU
GBP vs CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Brett Favre 0 0 260,1
RB Samkon Gado 20 10 0
RB Ahman Green 50 30 0
TE Bubba Franks 0 30 0
WR Donald Driver 0 60 0
WR Robert Ferguson 0 40 0
WR Greg Jennings 0 70,1 0
PK Dave Rayner 1 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Packers dumped Mike Sherman and now will have Mike McCarthy as head coach. McCarthy comes over after being the offensive coordinator in San Francisco and he will have a similar west coast scheme installed in Green Bay. At least as much of one that Brett Favre will allow him. Jeff Jagodzinski comes over from Atlanta as the offensive coordinator but McCarthy will be calling the plays. The Packers offense was decimated by injuries last year but the response was to bring back pretty much all the same players other than Javon Walker. The Packers looked horrible last year and so far show no signs of turning any corner soon.

Quarterback: Brett Favre hemmed and hawed about retiring last spring but decided to re-up because he can do anything he wants and he realized he was only less than 300 completions, 24 passing touchdowns and nine wins away from securing those all-time records. After throwing 29 interceptions last year in a four win season, most of those records are likely still safe this year.

Favre threw for 277 yards and later 317 yards against the Bears but failed to record a single touchdown, though he did have four turnovers in each game.

Running Backs: Surprisingly the Packers let Najeh Davenport go at the 53 man roster cut down so Ahman Green remains the starter with Samkon Gado and Noah Herron as back-ups. Green has recovered from his torn tendon of last year but certainly looks a step slower. Starting out against the Bears will be no way to disprove this notion.

When the Packers met the Bears last year, it was well after the injury domino-effect had started in the backfield and in week 13 Samkon Gado ran for 75 yards on 20 carries with one score and later in week 16 it was Noah Herron who had 14 runs for 33 yards and a score as well.

Wide Receivers: Donald Driver returns, thankfully, and no doubt provides the best target for Favre who will be looking downfield more often than not this year. But Javon Walker is gone and the rookie Greg Jennings steps in as the #2 if only because Robert Ferguson has proven by now that he is miscast as a split end or even a starting anything by now. Driver is always solid and Jennings is the one to watch here. Rookie wideouts rarely amount to much but playing with Brett Favre who will need to complete a lot of passes has proven to be a very good thing over the years.

None of the Packer wideouts did much against the Bears in 2005 other than Donald Driver who turned in games of 8-64 and 6-107 though he never scored.

Tight Ends: Bubba Franks comes off a bad year with neck and back injuries landing him on injured reserve but some have forgotten that Franks averaged seven touchdowns over the four previous seasons as one of Favre's favorite redzone targets.

The tight ends had almost no role against the Bears last year, with Donald Lee's 37 yards in week 13 the best by a large margin.

Match Against the Defense: After stumbling through the preseason, this is not exactly what the doctor ordered for the Packers. Expect Ahman Green to remain with pedestrian numbers though he should see a few passes with the loss of Tony Fisher. With Davenport a recent reject, this game is worth watching to see how involved Gado or Herron are in the game plan. It's just not likely to matter much this week.

Favre will come out chunking the rock since that is the only way he knows how to play. Expect the same as last year - some very nice yardage, likely no more than one score and more interceptions than anything. That score will most likely favor Jennings since Driver will undoubtedly be blanketed this week.