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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: SF 13, ARZ 30

A true fantasy football fan cannot hide the smile when these sort of games happen. The 49ers (4-12) once again ended the season in the cellar and early signs are that there are definite improvements and they won't likely be enough to get the franchise up the stairs again this year. The Cardinals (5-11) were the darlings of fantasy football last year for any owners of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and since there was no shred of any other offense, starting them each week was a lock for some nice points. Both teams should evolve this year but week one is not the time to expect to see many signs.

The Cardinals swept the 49ers in 2005, winning 31-14 in week four and then again 17-10 in week 13.

San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
1 --- @ARZ 10 --- @DET
2 --- STL 11 --- SEA
3 --- PHI 12 --- @STL
4 --- @KC 13 --- @NO
5 --- OAK 14 --- GB
6 --- SD 15 --- @SEA
7 Open Bye 16 --- ARZ
8 --- @CHI 17 --- @DEN
9 --- MIN - - THU
SFO at ARZ Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith 10 0 180
RB Frank Gore 70,1 20 0
TE Vernon Davis 0 30 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 70 0
WR Taylor Jacobs 0 20 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 40 0
PK Joe Nedney 2 FG 1 XP -
Pregame Notes: Year two of HC Mike Nolan and the progress is sort of hard to find really. A defensive mastermind in the past, the 49ers 30th rank in both points scored and allowed was a sign that this head coaching thing was not going to be all that easy. In just little over a year, Nolan will have a different quarterback, running back, tight end and primary wideout than his predecessor and perhaps most encouraging of all is the addition of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator where he has had most career success. It won't happen overnight, maybe not over this year, but the team is headed in the right direction. Or at least pointing in the right direction.

Quarterback: Alex Smith can only hope to replicate the one year turnaround that Eli Manning showed in his second season but with just one touchdown against eleven interceptions last year that sort of transition seems optimistic. On the good side, Smith is pretty much a lock to improve. On the bad side, even dramatic improvement may not raise him to mediocre. But Smith was talented in college and has been practicing for over a year now so some tip of the hat must be given to his potential on a team that will likely need to throw again this year.

Smith started the week 13 meeting against the Cards last year and ended with 185 yards, no scores and three interceptions.

Running Backs: Speaking of potential, evidently Kevan Barlow's bottle finally ran dry and the 49ers shipped him off to the Jets in exchange for a Statue of Liberty key chain and a really cool hat. Barlow only managed to gain around three yards per carry last year while the rookie Frank Gore averaged 4.8 yards per run and scored three times while sharing with Barlow. Gore is the man now as long as his surgically repaired knees hold up and a nice schedule could make him even more productive if Smith actually steps up in the passing department. Norv Turner loves to run the ball and does not use any committee approach.

The 49ers were unable to mount any rushing attack against the Cards last year, with Barlow only gaining 45 yards in week four and later Gore only managing 22 yards thanks to the team only having 16 or less rushing attempts in each game.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Lloyd was clearly the best wideout last year so the 49ers allowed him to leave and added previous malcontent Antonio Bryant who could not ask for a more clear #1 wideout designation. Bryant turned in 1009 yards in Cleveland last year and is used to these sort of offenses. He had 126 targets but only reeled in 69 catches, a ratio he will likely continue. Arnaz Battle mans the #2 spot after just 32 catches for 363 yards and three scores last year - none from Alex Smith.

The only wideout with much success last year was Brandon Lloyd and of this year's roster, there were no wideouts with any catches. Both Morton and Lloyd are gone. But Lloyd did turn in 102 yards and one score back in week four. The slot is not settled quite yet nor much used anyway with Taylor Jacobs, Bryan Gilmore and the rookie Brandon Williams vying for playing time.

Tight Ends: The rookie Vernon Davis enters as this year's freakishly talented and gifted player (see Matt Jones, 2005) and were he to have landed on the Colts, Patriots or Seahawks - he'd be the freakishly attractive tight end to own. But he goes to one of the worst passing attacks from last year and is, despite all freakish attributes, just a rookie tight end. One to watch to be sure but not one to bank heavily on at the start of his rookie season.

Terry Jones had one catch for seven yards - that's all folks. In two games combined.

Match Against the Defense: The Cardinals actually had an average defense last year, up from "rather bad" in previous seasons and oddly enough ended 2005 ranked #1 against tight ends since NFC West teams rarely used them. Playing at home will help even more and the 49ers never had any success against them last year. Expect an improved game with Turner as OC but nothing more than a moderate game by Gore though I like his chance of scoring once.

Smith was comparatively successful against the Cards late last year though he did not score and threw three interceptions. It's still a little early to expect Smith to match his 2005 season total for touchdowns (1) but he could end up with some trash time yardage that would favor Bryant and Battle.

Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
1 --- SF 10 --- DAL
2 --- @SEA 11 --- DET
3 --- STL 12 --- @MIN
4 --- @ATL 13 --- @STL
5 --- KC 14 --- SEA
6 --- CHI 15 --- DEN
7 --- @OAK 16 --- @SF
8 --- @GB 17 --- @SD
9 Open Bye - - MON
ARZ vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner 0 0 310,2
RB Edgerrin James 110,1 20 0
TE Leonard Pope 0 20 0
WR Anquan Boldin 0 110,1 0
WR Larry Fitzgerald 0 110,1 0
WR Bryant Johnson 0 40 0
PK Neil Rackers 3 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Cardinals tried to address their rushing woes by grabbing J.J. Arrington in the second round of 2005 but somehow not having any lanes to run in kept Arrington bottled up almost every play. This led to what was to become a tremendous passing game that really only used two wideouts - Fitzgerald and Boldin who ended ranked first and second in catches last year and 4th and 5th in receiving yards. Everyone knew it was coming but with 343 passes thrown to the duo, good things were going to happen. The addition of Edgerrin James places a whole new slant to the offense that both has great promise and yet remains to be seen.

Quarterback: Kurt Warner only lasted for ten games last year but he managed to throw for 2713 yards with 11 scores which included five games over 300 yards. Warner is the starter for as long as he lasts and the Cardinals may have found a gift when they drafted Matt Leinart who had fallen slightly from his expected spot. Leinart was delayed coming to camp but looked "USC good" in the preseason already. This could be a nice passing attack this year with either quarterback.

The Cards shredded the 49ers via the pass last year, with Josh McCown tossing for 385 yards and two scores in week four and later Warner turning in 354 yards and one touchdown.

Running Backs: One of the must see players of week one has to be Edgerrin James who traditionally turned in top five numbers for the Colts but now plays for Arizona who have historically have needed to cheat at Madden Football to see what a great running back looks like in a Cardinals uniform. The offensive line has been a work in progress the last few years but there's nothing like getting a talented back to make the blocking seem better. James could really change the dynamics of how teams prepare to play the Cards and could be a factor in the passing game. This week starts to answer those questions.

Wide Receivers: There simply was no wideout tandem as productive as Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald last year and that statement could ring true for many more seasons. Both were top five in virtually every category that mattered if not the #1 wideout last year and Bryant Johnson's 40 catches for 432 yards and one score pales against the combined 2808 yards and 17 touchdowns from the dynamic duo last year. The scary thing here - same offense and now the specter of a rushing game

Both Fitzgerald and Boldin shined when meeting the 49ers in 2005. In two meetings, both players had over 115 yards in each game and only Fitzgerald failed to score in both games.

Tight Ends: In seasons past, the Cardinals would suggest that they would use the tight end spot more, going as far as having HC Denny Green predict a Pro Bowl season for Freddy Jones in 2004. But they have never mattered. That could change with the draft pick of Leonard Pope who already showed a bit of talent in the preseason, enough to become the starting tight end. Green has rarely used the tight end much but Pope could become a factor at least occasionally down near the goal line.

Match Against the Defense: What's not to love about facing the #30 defense from 2005? San Francisco ranked in the bottom three against every offensive ball handling position in 2005 and the turnaround is hardly complete. Expect a nice game from James here that could eclipse the 100 yard mark and score at least once.

Warner shredded this defense last year and now has a running game and possibly even a tight end. Look for a 300+ game yet again for Warner with at least two scores unless having a real running back starts to turn passing scores into rushing touchdowns. This early in the year - still likely to be nothing but more Boldin and Fitzgerald yet again.