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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
Player Projections by Team
Game Predictions Summary
The Huddle
December 27, 2006
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
ATL at PHI DET at DAL NE at TEN STL at MIN Sunday Nite
BUF at BAL OAK at NYJ updated GB at CHI

Prediction: SF 6, DEN 24

The 49ers somehow managed a win in Seattle and yet sandwiched that game with home losses to the Packers and Cardinals. The Broncos clinch a wildcard with a win or a Chiefs loss and playing in Denver this week, it looks like it won't matter what the Chiefs do - these Broncos are heading to the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers (6-9)
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 10-34 @NO
5 34-20 OAK 14 19-30 GB
6 19-48 SD 15 24-14 @SEA
7 Open Bye 16 20-26 ARZ
8 10-41 @CHI 17 --- @DEN
9 9-3 MIN - - THU
SFO at DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Alex Smith 0 0 120
RB Frank Gore 70 20 0
TE Vernon Davis 0 50 0
WR Taylor Jacobs 0 10 0
WR Bryan Gilmore 0 10 0
WR Arnaz Battle 0 30 0
PK Joe Nedney 2 FG 0 XP -
Pregame Notes: Mike Nolan's second season ends with more questions than answers. The season appeared to be on a definite improvement until the 49ers went 1-4 over the last five games. The passing game has never taken shape and the entire offense revolved around Frank Gore which was good for six wins. The defense has struggled in almost every game and the 49ers head into the offseason still searching for help on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback: Take away the Seattle game and the 49ers passing attack has been good for only one score - if that - for the last nine weeks. Alex Smith ends with 15 passing scores and two rushing touchdowns which is a major upgrade over 2005 but the second-year player still has far to go to deliver on his high draft selection. The 49ers have done little to upgrade th3e receivers outside of drafting tight end Vernon Davis and now Antonio Bryant is suspended for four games and likely will not be with the team in 2007. Smith has not had a lot to play with this year and his numbers reflect he cannot make something out of nothing.

Running Backs: The lone pleasant surprise this season has been the play of Frank Gore who has scored nine times this year and currently has 1542 rushing yards. He'll almost certainly end up behind only Tomlinson and Larry Johnson in that critical stat and can only get better if the 49ers' passing game improves next year. Gore has run for over 100 yards in eight games this year.

Wide Receivers: Antonio Bryant was suspended for four games and that now means the 49ers are trying to pretend that Arnaz Battle is worthy of being a starter, let alone a #1 wideout. Battle has scored in only two games this year and has never broken the 100 yard mark this season. Bryan Gilmore and Taylor Jacobs have never accounted for more than one catch per game since week one. This unit needs to be the primary focus in the offseason.

Tight Ends: Vernon Davis ends his rookie season with three scores but he only played in eight games and the last three weeks have seen him score twice and turn in a 91 yard game just last week. It is a small beginning but encouraging here at the end of the year.

Match Against the Defense: The Denver rushing defense has been much softer in the final stretch but mostly because the carries per game is up by opponents since the Broncos have no scored much. Look for a solid game here by Gore but not as big as others have managed. Gore does not have the passing game to concern the defense and will get too much attention to break long gainers.

Smith faces an outstanding secondary with Arnaz Battle as his best wideout. Hands off this passing attack and hope that it does not impact the rushing game too much.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SF 27 9 28 16 14 25
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 19 2 20 26 11


Denver Broncos (9-6)
1 10-18 @STL 10 17-13 @OAK
2 9-6 KC 11 27-35 SD
3 17-7 @NE 12 10-19 @KC
4 Open Bye 13 20-23 SEA
5 13-3 BAL 14 20-48 @SD
6 13-3 OAK 15 37-20 @ARZ
7 17-7 @CLE 16 24-23 CIN
8 34-31 IND 17 --- SF
9 31-20 @PIT - MON THU
DEN vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 0 0 180,2
RB Tatum Bell 90 10 0
RB Mike Bell 50,1 10 0
TE Tony Scheffler 0 30,1 0
WR Rod Smith 0 20 0
WR Brandon Marshall 0 50 0
WR Javon Walker 0 60,1 0
PK Jason Elam 1 FG 3 XP -

Pregame Notes: After starting in week 13, Jay Cutler is now 2-2 as a starter thanks to the Bengal's inability to kick an extra point and the Broncos finally get to host a team that is not an offensive powerhouse. After hosting the Colts, Chargers, Seahawks and Bengals, here's the chance for the team to secure a wildcard spot and look like they did earlier in the year when the defense was holding every opponent to ten points or less. Cutler is playing well and this game should be a tune-up before the playoffs.

Quarterback: After four starts, Jay Cutler has thrown exactly two touchdowns in every game while only turning in four interceptions. He only has one effort over 200 yards but has already learned where to look on passing plays - Javon Walker on the post behind the safety. Cutler is already playing better than Plummer had this year and should take another step up next year with a full offseason to prepare.

Running Backs: The Broncos backfield is ending just as confusing as it started. Now both Bells are sharing almost 50/50 with Mike Bell the preferred runner near the goal line. This all smacks of Jones and Barber in Dallas only without all the touchdowns and more yardage from Tatum who last scored back in week seven.

Wide Receivers: It would be encouraging enough that Cutler has connected with Javon Walker for scores in the last two games but he's also been using Brandon Marshall in equal measure. Marshall has had nine catches for 123 yards in the last two weeks while Walker has turned in eight receptions for 136 yards. Rod Smith is playing out his final games but the Broncos already have his replacement.

Tight Ends: Yet another encouraging development - the rookie Tony Scheffler has come to life with Cutler at the helm and has scored three times in the last three games with more than 50 yards twice.

Match Against the Defense: Denver needs a win to gain that wildcard and the final home game this year should serve up some nice numbers here. The 49ers offense on the road is weak in all facets so expect the standard since Cutler has been the starter - two passing scores that likely favor Walker and Scheffler and yardage by Tatum Bell and a score by Mike Bell.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM    QB   RB   WR   TE   PK  DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 24 18 18 21 10 22
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 22 30 22 29 32 19