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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
November 29, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Sunday night
ATL at WAS MIN at CHI   TB at PIT Updated

Prediction: SF 14, NO 31

The three game winning streak of the 49ers finally ended and now at 5-6 they take their 1-4 road record to New Orleans where the Saints are just 3-2. The Saints come off a big win over the Falcons even without Colston in the lineup and while the 49ers have been a mini-surprise the last month, they face off against the biggest surprise of the year.

Update: Frank Gore is only listed as probable but was held out of team drills on Wednesday because he has a couple of contusions on his right leg but he returned on Thursday and is not expected to be at all limited in the game this week. Eric Johnson is listed as doubtful but will not be playing because of a sprained MCL and Vernon Davis will not only start, he will likely be the only tight end to catch passes.

Marques Colston and Joe Horn are both questionable to play this week and both missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday. I am not adding Colston into the projections because he appears likely to miss this week because of his ankle sprain but I will leave Horn in with lowered numbers. His groin strain could keep him out but Horn has always played hurt if it is possible. He is downgraded but his final playing status may not be known until game time.

San Francisco 49ers (5-6)
1 27-34 @ARZ 10 19-13 @DET
2 20-13 STL 11 20-14 SEA
3 24-38 PHI 12 17-20 @STL
4 0-41 @KC 13 --- @NO
5 34-20 OAK 14 --- GB
6 19-48 SD 15 --- @SEA
7 Open Bye 16 --- ARZ
8 10-41 @CHI 17 --- @DEN
9 9-3 MIN - - THU
SFO at NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith 0 0 190,1
RB Frank Gore 100,1 30 0
TE Vernon Davis 0 30 0
WR Antonio Bryant 0 60 0
WR Bryan Gilmore 0 20 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 50,1 0
PK Joe Nedney 0 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Ah, the playoff talk that mathematically was alive before last week was a treat for the 49ers fans who richly deserved a treat after such a lengthy fast. But the 49ers are relying almost solely on Frank Gore now and the passing game has been almost completely ineffective even during the wins. There are still home games left against the Packers and Cardinals that can send them to 7-9 on the season and that alone is a big success for the year.

The 49ers rank second worst in points allowed (285). That could matter a lot this week.

Quarterback: Alex Smith continues to chug along not all that differently than he did last year other than he will throw the odd touchdown pass. Over the last five weeks, Smith has never had more than 164 passing yards in a game and thrown only three touchdowns over that time - never more than one per game. His 11 passing scores are a big jump up from last year, but still well below that of even a mediocre NFL starter.

Running Backs: Frank Gore's 1776 rushing yards are second only to Larry Johnson by a mere 25 yards and barely ahead of Tomlinson. He's become almost the entirety of the 49er offense and comes off a solid 134 rushing yards in St. Louis last week with one touchdown scored. He also had four catches for 31 yards - about his average. Although Gore has not run for less than 134 yards for the last three games, he has not had more than 24 carries. He is running so well that it sparks wonderment what he could be like if he played for a team that had a passing game of any note to concern defenses or if he could get more than 24 carries in a game.

Gore rolled his ankle last week and wasn't able to finish the game. The injury is considered just to be a bruise and I am assuming that he will be able to play without limitations this week. Updates if warranted.

Wide Receivers: Antonio Bryant comes off a 53 yard effort last week and that was his best game in a month. He only has one score over the last nine games. Arnaz Battle is not better and whenever either receiver turns in more than 50 yards in a game it is a rarity. With Gore running so well and Smith passing so poorly, the numbers here have no fantasy relevance.

Tight Ends: Eric Johnson caught a touchdown last week but that was only his second on the year and he's topped 20 yards in a game only once in the last five weeks. Even that cannot be counted on since Vernon Davis is back and had his first catch since week one. Davis turned in five catches for 37 yards and one score in that season opener. I am projecting for Davis now instead of Johnson though it would be a surprise to see either do much given the offensive trends.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints rush defense is worse than the ranking suggests whenever they have faced a truly good back and Gore is one of the best ones this year. Expect a reasonably good game here from Gore with a chance at one score.

Smith has been so lackluster that even facing a horrible secondary may not matter. Until last week, the seven previous opponents all had two or more passing scores so look for Smith to notch one before this is over with higher than usual passing numbers that still likely won't exceed 200 yards. That just is not in the arsenal of the 49ers this season.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SF 26 6 24 23 11 19
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 30 13 28 27 5 14


New Orleans Saints (7-4)
1 19-14 @CLE 10 31-38 @PIT
2 34-27 @GB 11 16-31 CIN
3 23-3 ATL 12 31-13 @ATL
4 18-21 @CAR 13 --- SF
5 24-21 TB 14 --- @DAL
6 27-24 PHI 15 --- WAS
7 Open Bye 16 --- @NYG
8 22-35 BAL 17 --- CAR
9 31-14 @TB - - MON
NOR vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 270,2
RB Reggie Bush 50 40 0
RB Deuce McAllister 70,2 10 0
TE Mark Campbell 0 10 0
WR Joe Horn 0 50 0
WR Terrance Copper 0 70,1 0
WR Devery Henderson 0 100,1 0
PK John Carney 1 FG 4 XP -

Pregame Notes: The win over the Falcons was big in many ways last week and back at home the Saints can maintain their lead over the Panthers in the NFC West. Brees is an unstoppable passing force and it apparently does not matter who the receivers are. With astronomic numbers from the wideouts and McAllister there to punch in any close ones, this offense can post the points unlike their opponent this week.

Quarterback: Drew Brees currently leads the NFL with 3,469 passing yards and has over 500 yards more than second ranked Peyton Manning. Currently he is the anti-Alex Smith. Brees comes off a "down" game last week when he only had 349 yards and two scores against the Falcons. That's about a month's worth for Alex Smith. Brees has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of the last five games and only failed to reach multiple touchdowns once in the last six weeks.

Running Backs: Deuce McAllister scored twice last week and now has nine touchdowns on the season. He also ran for 71 yards in Atlanta which was on the high side for his usual of around 50 yards. Reggie Bush comes off a very quiet game with only 46 total yards after netting around 100 for the two previous games. This should be a better week for Bush who typically runs better at home.

Wide Receivers: Since Marques Colston was a scratch last week, Devery Henderson filled in and almost led the league for the week with four catches for 158 yards and one touchdown. That makes three straight games over the 100 yard mark for Henderson. Joe Horn was held to just 61 yards and no score, ending his three game streak of touchdowns while Terrance Copper turned in just one catch for 48 yards and a score when he caught the Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. While the roles of the wideouts change on occasion, Brees is the one constant and that has always equated to a lot of yards to distribute. Colston has been golden this year but even when he is out his replacement catches fire. It's enough to make you wonder how much is Colston and how much is just Brees.

I am not projecting for Colston this week pending on practice reports. He did practice some last week and was not pulled from the game until after warm-ups. He will more likely play and I will update when and if that happens.

Tight Ends: No fantasy value here and compared to the wideouts it is sort of embarrassing.

Match Against the Defense: The Saints have a big road game next week in Dallas but they won't overlook the 49ers who are bad in almost every area of defense. Look for at least one score from McAllister here and around 100 rushing yards including Bush into the equation.

Brees faces as a secondary that has allowed road opponents to always score at least once via the pass if not three times - and Brees is the best so far at tossing yardage anyway. No reason to expect less than a big game here by Brees unless the rushing game just takes over - and Brees won't let that happen.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 3 7 2 20 8 27
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 24 28 18 30 27 24