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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket

Sunday night

Prediction: BAL 14, CIN 20

Always a fun match-up in the AFC North. These teams traded home wins last year. The Ravens won 26-20 in week 9 and the Bengals won 13-7 in week 13 but the Bengals have won four of the last five match-ups. Neither team has changed much from last year other than the addition of Willis McGahee to the Ravens and all the stars are a year older. Starting out in Cincy should keep the home game win streak alive.

Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CIN   +3 40.5
2 NYJ 16-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
3 ARI 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 @CLE 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 @SF 7-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
6 STL 14-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
7 @BUF 21-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
8 BYE - - -
9 @PIT 5-Nov MON 8:30 PM
10 CIN 11-Nov SUN 4:05 PM
11 CLE 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 @SD 25-Nov SUN 4:15 PM
13 NE 3-Dec MON 8:30 PM
14 IND 9-Dec SUN 8:15 PM
15 @MIA 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 @SEA 23-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
17 PIT 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
BAL at CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Steve McNair 10   250,2
RB Willis McGahee 70 20  
TE Todd Heap   50,1  
WR Mark Clayton   60  
WR Demetrius Williams   60,1  
WR Derrick Mason   40  
PK Matt Stover 0 FG 2 XP 2 Pts
Pregame Notes: The Ravens have a new offensive coordinator in Rick Neuheisel who was promoted from QB coach and with him the promise that the Ravens will throw the ball more. The defense remains one of the best in the league and McGahee brings hope that the rushing game will get out of second gear after a few lackluster years by Jamal Lewis. This is a tough opener to be sure between two well known opponents but the schedule lightens up for the Ravens who could easily reach their week 8 bye at 6-1 or 5-2.

Quarterback: Steve McNair came over last year and for all his promise, he turned in almost exactly the same season that he had in 2005 with the Titans. McNair threw for 3050 yards and 16 touchdowns with the obligatory one rushing score just to show he still can do it. His reuniting with Derrick Mason didn't mean much but at least he only had 12 interceptions. The team expects more passing this year and there are the weapons to do it. On the road in Cincy, passing will be a necessity and not just an option.

McNair threw for 245 and 227 yards in the meetings with the Bengals last year and only had one touchdown.

Running Backs: The Ravens finally parted ways with one-time star Jamal Lewis and brought in Willis McGahee who also has seen down years since 2004. McGahee was no more effect as runner in Buffalo than Lewis was but it is a change of pace and McGahee brings in more speed than Lewis had. If the offense is shifting to a more open attack, then McGahee will prove a better match.

Jamal Lewis gained 72 and 61 rushing yards against the Bengals in 2006 with just one touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Here is where the optimism about the passing game is justified. Mark Clayton gained 939 yards and five scores as the lead receiver last season and it was only his second season in the NFL. Derrick Mason only had 750 yards and two scores but he's been moved to the slot so that Demetrius Williams can step up into a starting role. Williams had 22 catches for 396 yards and two scores last year as a rookie and has looked great this summer. This is a very young set of starters but both have justified their position. Mark Clayton suffered a sprained ankle which puts him in question this week but I am assuming that he plays with only minor limitations if that. Updates on Friday if warranted.

Clayton had 73 yards at home against the Bengals but only 29 in Cincinnati last year. Mason had 90 yards and a score on the road.

Tight Ends: The fear in 2006 was that Todd Heap would no longer be the primary receiver with Kyle Boller on the sideline and that his production might suffer. And true enough - he was not the primary receiver. But he turned in 73 catches for 765 yards and six scores to rank top 5 in each category among tight ends. Any change to the scheme from Neuheisel could have an effect here but Heap is one of the most talented at his position. Even if he falls it would not be far if it even happens.

Heap had 84 yards when the Bengals visited in 2006 but only managed 29 yards on the road against them.

Match Against the Defense: The Bengals defense shouldn't be too different but the Ravens could be if McGahee proves to be more than Lewis (likely at least marginally) and if there really is a new emphasis on the pass here. Best bet here is to assume a moderate game from McGahee with no score. McNair had decent enough yardage against the Bengals last year but only scored once. That should be up this year with a bit more yardage and two scores if only later in the game trying to catch up. A new passing game means it is new for the Ravens as well and Mason and Williams have swapped positions.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 15 23 21 4 5 2
Preventing Fantasy Points CIN 30 16 21 28 7 6


Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
Homefield: Paul Brown Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 BAL   +3 40.5
2 @CLE 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 @SEA 23-Sep SUN 4:05 PM
4 NE 1-Oct MON 8:30 PM
5 BYE - - -
6 @KC 14-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
7 NYJ 21-Oct SUN 4:05 PM
8 PIT 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 @BUF 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @BAL 11-Nov SUN 4:05 PM
11 ARI 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 TEN 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 @PIT 2-Dec SUN 8:15 PM
14 STL 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 @SF 15-Dec SAT 8:15 PM
16 CLE 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @MIA 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
CIN vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer     255,2
RB Rudi Johnson 70 10  
TE Reggie Kelly   20  
WR Chad Johnson   90,1  
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh   80,1  
WR Tab Perry   30  
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Bengals ended yet another season that seemed to hold so much more promise than it ended up having. A three game slide at the end left them only 8-8 on the year but once again they come into the year with the hopes of a playoff run. This time Carson Palmer is not on the mend from a knee injury and maybe Chad Johnson won't wait until mid-season to explode again but Chris "I gots problems" Henry won't show up until the Bengals have already played those first eight games.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer tore up his knee in January of 2006 so when he started the 2006 season, there was natural concern and trepidation. Ends up unwarranted though since Palmer threw for a career high 4035 yards and 28 touchdowns. He oddly used Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry the first part of the year and left Johnson alone but that's not an option this year with Henry suspended for eight weeks. Palmer is 100% healthy though and Chad Johnson has dedicated himself to getting his groove back this year.

Palmer only threw for 195 and 234 yards against the Ravens last year with one score in each game.

Running Backs: Rudi Johnson is perhaps the most delightfully consistent players in the NFL. He's scored 12 touchdowns in each of the last three years and never fallen below 1300 rushing yards. The Bengals tried getting his some help by drafting Kenny Irons but the rookie blew out his knee and is gone until 2008. The team just released Quincy Wilson and picked up Antonio Pittman but until Pittman shows something that he evidently never did in New Orleans, expect more of the same from Rudi this year. And that is a good thing.

Johnson ran for 77 yards and one score in Baltimore last season but only had 47 yards in week 13 when the Ravens came to town.

Wide Receivers: No changes here in the starters of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and why should there be? Johnson had the most receiving yardage in the NFL (1370) for the second year in a row. Houshmandzadeh ranked top ten in catches (90) and touchdowns (9). The only piece missing here is Chris Henry on a well deserved eight game suspension but the dynamic duo will have to make up for it. Tab Perry will start the year in the slot since Antonio Chapman has a hamstring injury but Perry is not Henry. The passing game will shrink a bit onto Johnson and Houshmandzadeh for the first half of the year but it's arguable that there may be no other duo as productive as they outside of the Colts.

Chad Johnson only had 32 yards in the first meeting with the Ravens but turned in 91 yards and a score at home in week 13. Houshmandzadeh had solid efforts in both meetings, gaining 66 and 106 yards with a score in each game.

Tight Ends: Reggie Kelly returns as the starter but the Bengals have never used a tight end for more than the occasional catch and even rarer touchdown.

Match Against the Defense: Opening at home helps out against the Ravens defense but Rudi Johnson has never had a big game against them. Expect moderate numbers here in the ground game at best against what was the #1 defense at stopping running backs last year. Palmer never had a big game against the Ravens either last year though he torched them twice in 2005. Look for two scores from Carson that will be split between Houshmandzadeh and Johnson.

Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 8 20 1 30 10 18
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 11 1 20 3 1 2

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