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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

The Huddle
WEEK 1
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket

Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday night
Sunday
Monday
updated

Prediction: ATL 10, MIN 20

This is an interesting game to be sure though the fantasy value may not be that high. The Falcons thankfully leave behind an offseason that started with a new coaching staff headed by Bobby Petrino and then the last two months have been all about Vick even though he hasn't been with the team since last May. The distractions would have been significant to a well-established team and trying to not only change the schemes but now the personnel as well, the Falcons will be walking up hill this year. The Vikings offense did not see any bump from importing the Philly offensive scheme last year because evidently it needs Donovan McNabb to operate correctly. But the Vikings had surprisingly solid play from their defense and for opening week, they catch the best team in the NFL to face.

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @MIN   +3 36
2 @JAC 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 CAR 23-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
4 HOU 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 @TEN 7-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
6 NYG 15-Oct MON 8:30 PM
7 @NO 21-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
8 BYE - - -
9 SF 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @CAR 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 TB 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 IND 22-Nov THU 8:15 PM
13 @STL 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 NO 10-Dec MON 8:30 PM
15 @TB 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @ARI 23-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
17 SEA 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
ATL at MIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Joey Harrington     210,1
RB Warrick Dunn 40 10  
RB Jerious Norwood 50 10  
TE Alge Crumpler   40  
WR Joe Horn   50  
WR Michael Jenkins   40,1  
WR Roddy White   60  
PK Matt Prater 1 FG 1 XP  
Pregame Notes: It's hard not to feel badly for the Falcons team and fans given that they had nothing to do with the firestorm that evolved around Michael Vick. Petrino is installing that power running game he ran in Louisville along with wide open passing. It's almost the opposite of the West Coast variant of the Jim Mora Jr. era (who did, as it ends up, have nice timing of when to get fired). The team is already rebuilding and without Vick, the entire look and feel of the offense will change. That's a tall order to expect early success but to some extent a benefit since the Falcons must come together as a team and face adversity rather than follow VIck around and wonder what he'll do next.

Quarterback: Joey Harrington had no idea that he was accepting the starting spot with the Falcons when he joined the team but that's exactly what five years of sponsoring dog fights by Vick has created. Harrington played in 11 games last year for the Dolphins and totaled 2236 yards and 12 touchdowns during what would become Nick Saban's swan song. If nothing else, Harrington knows how to act on a team in turmoil.

Running Backs: Bobby Petrino is noted for having a power rushing game but once with the Falcons, he made no motions towards drafting either Michael Bush or Kolby Smith who both played for him and were easily accessible last April. In fact, the Falcons never drafted any tailbacks. That clearly means that he is prepared to enter the season with Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood. Dunn is now 32-years old and hardly someone that Petrino wants to build his offense around. Dunn also suffered a back injury that kept him out most of the preseason and even when he did play, he bruised his knee and had to leave the game. But Dunn will be the starter, if only for the first play of the game.

Jerious Norwood is the interesting player in this equation since the speedy rookie ran for 633 yards last year and averaged an NFL-high 6.4 yards per carry on the fast carpet of the Georgia Dome. Norwood is listed at 204 pounds but has put on a bit of weight. That's still smaller than what a power running game usually relies on. Then again, that is a lot bigger than Warrick Dunn and Norwood has blazing speed as well. In rebuilding a team, running back is never the first item on the list so this offseason is no guarantee that Norwood is already penciled in as a starter in future years. But he does have a nice opportunity to show that he should be.

Wide Receivers: One positive aspect of the Vick fiasco is that the Falcons just might have wideouts that matter now. Under Vick, this crew was always one of the worst producing in the NFL. Now with Harrington who will much rather throw it than risk getting obliterated downfield himself, the wideouts should perform better - you know, like wideouts on the other 31 NFL teams. The Falcons brought in Joe Horn for his final hurrah but the 35-year old receiver only managed 37 catches for 679 yards last year while playing in the #1 passing attack in the NFL. When he signed with the Vick Falcons, he was going to the worst team and perhaps thought anything he did would look good in comparison. Week one should answer several questions here since the depth charts have been moving around this summer. Roddy White worked as the #2 in most preseason games and in camp but Michael Jenkins could return to his old spot. They were using Jenkins as the slot receiver for a while in camp with seems rather optimistic for a 6'4" slow possession receiver. Then again, Roddy White looked great up until it came to actually catching the ball. This offense will have to throw the ball a lot this year and should have some ability to do so. This is a definite watch for fantasy value that we never thought we would see with the Vick Falcons.

Tight Ends: Alge Crumpler has been one of the top tight ends for the last four years because he has been the leading receiver for the Vick Falcons. When all else failed - and I mean all else - Vick relied on Crumpler to catch the ball. Now the offense is changing and the scheme is no longer the same west coast dink-n-dunk. That doesn't mean Crumpler turns back into a pumpkin by any means but it should result in at least slightly lower numbers this year. After all, the Falcons will need to throw this year and Crumpler will be closest to Harrington.

Match Against the Defense: Here's where it starts to go badly for the Falcons opener. The Vikings at home were brutal against the run in almost all games last year and the still wet behind the ears Falcons offense shows up with 32 year old Dunn and Norwood to share the load. Do not expect much from either player in the run game. Other than a meaningless week 17 game against the Rams, no visiting runner in Minnesota had more than 74 yards and most stalled out around 50 yards. They only scored two rushing scores in those first seven games at the Metrodome last year.

Harrington will have to throw and the secondary of the Vikings are opportunistic but below average against wideouts. Projecting who might do what is guesswork at this point, but I like Harrington to eventually end up with one score here that should favor the wideouts - most probably Michael Jenkins standing tall in the endzone. But this offense is all new and the softer secondary should come together well enough to send the Falcons winless to Jacksonville where an even better defense awaits.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 3 17 32 6 26 23
Preventing Fantasy Points MIN 17 2 30 4 31 29

 

Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
Homefield: Metrodome
FieldTurf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 ATL   -3 36
2 @DET 16-Sep SUN 4:05 PM
3 @KC 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 GB 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 BYE - - -
6 @CHI 14-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
7 @DAL 21-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
8 PHI 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 SD 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @GB 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 OAK 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 @NYG 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 DET 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 @SF 9-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
15 CHI 17-Dec MON 8:30 PM
16 WAS 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @DEN 30-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
MIN vs ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Tarvaris Jackson 30   180,1
RB Chester Taylor 60 30  
RB Adrian Peterson 70,1 10  
TE Vishante Shiancoe   20  
WR Troy Williamson   40  
WR Bobby Wade   30  
WR Sidney Rice   40,1  
PK Ryan Longwell 2 XP 2 FG 8 Pts

Pregame Notes: The Vikings could never get over the mediocre hump under Mike Tice so they brought in offensive guru Brad Childress to run the team and were rewarded with a 6-10 season that ended as the worst ranked offense in the history of the Vikings. Remember when they had a great offense?Why? It's gone. Since the rushing game was the only good aspect of the offense last year, the team opted to use their first pick on another running back. The passing attack was so feeble last year that bringing in Bobby Wade looks like a big upgrade.

Quarterback: The complicated west coast offense brought in by Brad Childress is predicated on a strong quarterback which is why the decision to stick with Tarvaris Jackson and not acquire at least a great back-up was mildly surprising. Jackson only played in three games last year and was as good as 213 yards and as bad as just 50 yards in an entire game. But in fairness, Jackson was just learning the job and should be better this year. The VIkings are upgrading their receivers with Bobby Wade and drafting Sidney Rice but this is not an offense that looks like it is due for a big improvement this year.

Running Backs: Chester Taylor finally got his chance to be a starter when he went to the Vikes last year and he ended his season with 1214 rushing yards and six scores. He added 288 yards on 42 catches as well for value in points per reception leagues. He ranked 9th in both rushing yards and total yards against all other NFL RBs. And so the VIkes have drafted his backfield buddy and likely replacement in Adrian Peterson.

As always, the stated intent is to use them both this year in some fantasy football quashing rotation but the expectation is that a runner with the pedigree of Peterson - the first back taken in the 2007 NFL draft - will take over the primary role if not exclusively sooner than later. This should be the easiest game that the Vikes will have maybe all year, so look for what Peterson does. Minnesota has a good line and can run the ball. Peterson could be big here if he can give the Vikes a reason not to use Taylor much.

Wide Receivers: The only returning wideout from last year is Troy "had it in my hands" Williamson who only had 455 receiving yards last year. Bobby Wade came over from the Titans while Travis Taylor was shown the door. This should at least start with Williamson and Wade as the starters but the team hopes that Sidney Rice continues to develop to the point he can take over a starting role. Both Williamson and Wade are pretty given commodities. Rice has the promise here that will need Jackson to play well in order to realize. This unit was in a big need of an upgrade but unless Rice comes through later in the year, the change should be only marginal.

Tight Ends: Jermaine Wiggins was the starter last year but only totaled 46 catches for 386 yards with one score in an offense that needed receivers to step up. He too was shown the door and Vishante Shiancoe comes over from the Giants where he was never going to get out from behind Jeremy Shockey. Shiancoe spawned much optimism as an unused rookie but never did much in New York even when he had the chance.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons have a decent secondary and DeAngelo Hall's match-up on Bobby Wade should keep that side quiet. Unfortunately, the other side is Williamson who so far hasn't done too much to warrant optimism. Look for lower passing numbers here but Jackson could toss for one score. That has to favor either WIlliamson or Rice and I'm giving it to Rice because I think Williamson will drop his chance.

The Falcons rushing defense has a bit better than average last year but it is a whole new dynamic with the team changing their offensive scheme and losing Vick. Look for the Vikes to have enough rushing attempts to satisfy both Peterson and Taylor owners. This won't be a high scoring game but the Vikes could end up with a defensive score.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points MIN 25 14 22 22 28 4
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 16 10 31 9 16 13

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