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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
September 13, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
Sunday Late
DET at CHI OAK at BAL STL at SF   updated

Prediction: STL 23, SF 17

Even the switch to a more balanced offense by the Rams cannot diminish the fantasy football joy when this game pops up on the schedule. The 49ers are much improved offensively and yet still have defensive woes. The Rams are running great with Jackson and Wilkins looks like the new Rackers. But Torry Holt still remains a stud. Watching this game is like a double helping of dessert.

Amazingly the Rams were swept by the 49ers who could beat few other teams. The Rams dropped the season opener 25-28 in San Francisco and then again 20-24 in week 16.

St. Louis Rams (1-0)
1 18-10 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 at SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger 0 0 260,1
RB Steven Jackson 90,1 20 0
RB Tony Fisher 10 30 0
WR Torry Holt 0 120,1 0
WR Isaac Bruce 0 70 0
WR Kevin Curtis 0 10 0
PK Jeff Wilkins 3 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: Okay, so the new Rams cannot actually score a touchdown. But they can win games now with a balanced attack even facing the AFC West champion of last year. You want a sign of change? The Rams of old regularly would involve ten to twelve players in the offensive scheme. Yesterday? Only five Rams touched the ball on offense (okay - six with the center).

Quarterback: Marc Bulger did not get a touchdown against the Broncos but he had 217 yards and no turnovers. And he faced a tough Denver defense which only sacked him three times. Last year, it would have been double that many. The offensive scheme has shrunk the passing game and so far Bulger is still learning but not making mistakes.

Marc Bulger has long loved playing the 49ers. He opened 2005 with 362 yards and two scores against them and in week 16, even Jamie Martin had 354 yards and one touchdown when Bulger was out injured.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson comes off a 22 carry game with 121 yards and even added four catches for 19 more yards. In the new scheme, he is the primary runner and a significant receiver as well. Tony Fisher helped out with a few runs and added just two catches but one went for 49 yards. Look for more Jackson each week with Fisher turning into a fantasy bye week filler if the free agent cupboard is bare as he will be worth a couple of catches a week.

Steven Jackson gained just 60 yards in San Francisco last year and then only 28 yards on 16 carries when the 49ers came to St. Louis last year though he had one touchdown in the home game.

Wide Receivers: No more four receiver sets under HC Scott Linehan. Forget about Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald who both had no catches against the Broncos. Torry Holt remains every bit the prime cog in the passing machine with 14 passes and seven receptions for 80 yards while Isaac Bruce had ten passes for five catches and 64 yards. This all against a stout Denver secondary. Should be even better against the 49ers this week.

Holt has made a career against the 49ers, turning in games of 125 yards and 163 yards against them in 2005. Bruce remained around 70 yards in each of those match-ups and scored once.

Tight Ends: Not a single catch last week. Not even a pass.

Match Against the Defense: Swing low, sweet chariot. The 49ers rush defense held James to 73 yards on 26 carries with one score but the Rams blocking should be better. Look for a solid game here from Jackson with a score but nothing huge as the 49ers at home should have a reasonably good defense.

Bulger has always shredded the 49er secondary and while he may not have 60 passes in this game, he should do plenty with what he does throw. What's better now is that the more focused scheme should result in better numbers for Holt and Bruce without having to share with Curtis and McDonald.

San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
1 27-34 @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 vs STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith 10 0 210,1
RB Frank Gore 80,1 60 0
TE Vernon Davis 0 50,1 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 60 0
WR Bryan Gilmore 0 20 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 20 0
PK Joe Nedney 1 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: The 49ers lost their opener and the defense looked less than stellar, but there's nothing to really hang their heads about for the rebuilding team. Alex Smith appears to have made that magical leap from first to second year that so many good quarterbacks make (think Eli Manning) and the rookie Vernon Davis has already scored his first NFL touchdown. Add in a thoroughly impressive showing by Frank Gore and better days are not only ahead, they are not the dot in the distance they once were.

Quarterback: In just one game, actually in just the first four minutes of 2006, Alex Smith has already tied his season touchdown total from his rookie year. Smith completed 23 of 40 for 288 yards and one score against the Cards and looked like a completely different quarterback than he did in 2005. And that is a very good thing.

Running Backs: Perhaps the most delightful surprise of week one was the play of Frank Gore in the new Norv Turner system. Gore ran for 87 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns and added six catches for 83 more yards. It's Lamont Jordan/2005 all over again only this time Gore is a faster runner. No sharing the ball and plenty of receptions? Sounds like a third round or later steal in most fantasy drafts. It cannot be stated enough - this is what Norv Turner brings to the offense. Now Gore just has to remain healthy.

Wide Receivers: Antonio Bryant proved a good acquisition when he turned in four catches for 114 yards against the Cardinals and along with Gore and Vernon Davis provided the bulk of all offensive yards for the 49ers. Bryan Gilmore (2-19) and Arnaz Battle (2-17) are more change of pace than big contributors. With the improvement of Smith so far, good things should be in store for Bryant but there's just not enough balls for the other wideouts after Gore and Davis get their share.

Tight Ends: Those fantasy teams taking a chance on the hot new rookie tight end Vernon Davis (which never works by the way) were richly rewarded with five catches for 37 yards and one touchdown (okay, until now) against the Cardinals. He's the real deal and while he won't score every week, the early returns are that the 49ers finally made the right draft pick.

Match Against the Defense: Sadly, playing against the Rams defense doesn't appear to be nearly the fun it once was. Look for a nice game from Gore here against a defense that surrendered 161 yards and a score to the Denver ground game. He should score once and again boost his numbers with some receptions. The probable absence of LG Larry Allen won't help matters nor will LT Jonas Jennings having a high ankle sprain.

Smith won't find the Rams quite as kind in the secondary as the Cards were and he'll need to avoid the rush with potentially two starting linemen out. Tall order against a team that just pimp slapped Jake Plummer. Look for Smith to rely more heavily on the shorter passes to Gore and Davis and for Bryant's numbers to decrease.