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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 6, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
BAL at TB NO at CLE     SD at OAK

Prediction: DEN 20, STL 23

The Broncos (13-3) enter the year with yet another starting running back (maybe anyway) and while they were 8-0 at home last year, they only managed a 5-3 record on the road. The Rams (6-10) will start the year without Mike Martz and his pass-happy offense. Scott Linehan comes over from the Dolphins to lead the Rams and that makes for one interesting match-up. This isn't the first time that Linehan has faced Shanahan. It happened just last year when the Broncos were surprisingly waxed by the Dolphins 34-10. When was that?

On opening weekend, 2005.

Denver Broncos (0-0)
1 --- @STL 10 --- @OAK
2 --- KC 11 --- SD
3 --- @NE 12 --- @KC
4 Open Bye 13 --- SEA
5 --- BAL 14 --- @SD
6 --- OAK 15 --- @ARZ
7 --- @CLE 16 --- CIN
8 --- IND 17 --- SF
9 --- @PIT - MON THU
DEN at STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 0 0 200,1
RB Mike Bell 80,1 10 0
RB Tatum Bell 30 20 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 20 0
WR Rod Smith 0 70,1 0
WR David Kircus 0 30 0
WR Javon Walker 0 50 0
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Broncos start the season with a new offensive coordinator in Rick Dennison who was merely promoted up. Expect no changes here - Mike Shanahan will be calling the plays while Dennison gets used to his new job. What will be different is the addition of Javon Walker and the loss of Mike Anderson. The Broncos also added Jay Cutler for the future but his week will be Plummer starting to polish his resume for next year.

Quarterback: After an impressive 2004 season with 4089 yards and 27 touchdowns, Jake Plummer only managed to turn in 3366 yards and 18 scores last year though he did limit his interceptions to a career best seven. Plummer's season was stamped "Failure" when he lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions against the visiting Steelers in the playoffs last year. This no doubt played into the drafting of Jay Cutler. There is no rush to get Cutler playing time but in his brief stint during the preseason, he looked like a very wise draft pick.

Running Backs: The summer began with Ron Dayne as the starting tailback (since released) and then the undrafted rookie Mike Bell was anointed much to the chagrin of Tatum "what about me" Bell. Now Shanahan is only admitting that he has running backs on the roster and that some of them will probably play some unspecified amount this week. Standard operating procedure in Denver.

Smart money has to be on Mike Bell taking the start and filling the role vacated by Rueben Droughns and then Mike Bell. That leaves Tatum Bell as the change of pace back and in case Shanahan wants to remember what Tatum is capable of, he can look at opening week in 2005 when Bell could only muster 47 yards on 13 carries against the Dolphins. Sure, there is also Cedric Cobbs on the roster as well. With Denver, you just put you money down and cross your fingers. But the spinning bottle should point towards Mike Bell this week.

Wide Receivers: The ageless (actually 36) Rod Smith returns for his 12th season in Denver and he's still going as strong as ever. Smith had 85 catches for 1105 yards and six scores last year to lead the team. Javon Walker infuses some youth and talent (unlike Lelie who just had the youth) into the crew that should pay dividends for several years. Walker tore his ACL during opening week last year but is coming very close to being fully healed. By next year at the latest, he should become a big contributor as a flanker.

The slot will end up with either David Kircus or the rookie Brandon Marshall. For this week, expect Kircus to get the call. From just last January, the only starting wideout left for Plummer is Rod Smith.

Tight Ends: Stephen Alexander remains the starting tight end here but the Broncos picked up Tony Scheffler in the draft and he looks like the real deal so far. Don't expect too much this early from Scheffler but keep an eye on the 6'5" product from Western Michigan.

Match Against the Defense: The Rams had one of the worst defenses last year as was tradition with Martz. But the defense has been a big focus in the offseason with the addition of DT La'Roi Glover and LB Will Witherspoon. The changes won't all take effect overnight but don't write this defense off as the same as previous seasons. That means whoever (Mike Bell) the starting running back will be won't have quite the running room he would have last year.

Plummer goes against a retooled secondary and he'll want to start the year out right. New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will throw new things at Plummer who is already playing in an offense that features only Rod Smith from last year for starters. Expect Plummer to post some decent numbers here and score twice but to make some mistakes that will not help his case.

St. Louis Rams (0-0)
1 --- DEN 10 --- @SEA
2 --- @SF 11 --- @CAR
3 --- @ARZ 12 --- SF
4 --- DET 13 --- ARZ
5 --- @GB 14 --- CHI
6 --- SEA 15 --- @OAK
7 Open Bye 16 --- WAS
8 --- @SD 17 --- @MIN
9 --- KC - - MON
STL vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger 0 0 230,2
RB Steven Jackson 70 10 0
TE Joe Klopfenstein 0 20 0
WR Torry Holt 0 100,1 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 40 0
WR Kevin Curtis 0 50,1 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 3 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Rams dumped Mike Martz and now start the new Scott Linehan era. It was Linehan who masterminded the offense in Minnesota where Culpepper and Moss enjoyed their best seasons and he served as offensive coordinator for the Dolphins last year during their big turnaround. While Greg Olsen will serve as OC for St. Louis, it will be Linehan calling the plays and controlling the offense. He's a great fit for a team used to high-powered offenses. Now if the changes by Jim Haslett to the defense can take shape, this team can look all new and yet use much the same players on offense.

Quarterback: Marc Bulger has been a fantasy star the last three years but he still has yet to play a full 16 game schedule meaning that eventually you know he will not be there for your team. And probably when you needed him most. But Linehan is installing a shorter drop system to minimize the exposure Bulger gets. If Bulger can just avoid getting battered as quarterbacks in Martz's system often do, he could be scary effective.

Should Bulger go down injured, Linehan has brought along Gus Frerotte who already ran the system last year in Miami and before that in Minnesota.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson now plays in the same offense that produced great rushing yards in Miami last year and in this instance - there is no Ricky Williams to share the ball with. Jackson is a bruiser at 6'2" and 231 pounds and he gained 1046 yards last season on 254 carries. Boost that up to 320 runs and he'd turn in top ten numbers for sure. Just one caveat with Jackson - he needs to show that he can play a full season without injury. His style of running invites a lot of hits.

The Rams added Tony Fisher as well but he sustained a concussion and may not play this week. Stephen Davis was also signed and could be available if Fisher cannot play.

Wide Receivers: The Rams will revert to a more standard formation than what Martz preferred and that will include the two wideouts Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce but won't feature nearly as many multiple receiver sets that benefited kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald in the past. Holt remains a lock for a big year since he has not fallen below 1300 yards for six years now and takes over the "Randy Moss/ Chris Chambers" role in the offense. Isaac Bruce will start but at the age of 34 and with injury problems in recent years, he may give way to Kevin Curtis at some point.

Holt suffered a bruised sternum in the preseason but is expected to be 100 % this week.

Tight Ends: The tight end mattered little under Mike Martz but that will be changing under Linehan who will use two tight end sets for blocking and not hesitate to throw to the position as well. A sign of the times- the Rams drafted Joe Klopfenstein in the second round and Dominique Byrd in the third round in the draft this year.

Match Against the Defense: The denver defense was ranked #2 against running backs last year and should be no less dominating with the addition of DE Kenard Lang. Look for only moderate rushing numbers from Jackson this week.

Bulger gets the benefit of rolling out a new offense without game film on it and yet still has Holt and Bruce. The corners were the weakness of the Denver defense last year and Champ Bailey matches on Isaac Bruce which should hold him back. But Holt should enjoy a good opening week and score at least once with some very nice yardage.