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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: CHI 20, SD 31

Here's the Super Bowl that many were expecting last year but that the Chargers were unable to reach. San Diego had the highest scoring offense of 2006 with 31 points per game and have become the new Colts in the sense they have the offensive talent to reach the championship but have squandered what appears to be advantages. A new coaching staff takes over but the skill positions remain intact. The Bears come into this tough match-up ready to defend their NFC title this year but no longer have a tandem backfield but still have Rex Grossman who spent the summer doing nothing to dispel the notion that he is too inconsistent to be a top-flight quarterback.

Chicago Bears (13-3)
Home field: Soldier Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @SD   +5.5 42.5
2 KC 16-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
3 DAL 23-Sep SUN 8:15 PM
4 @DET 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 @GB 7-Oct SUN 8:15 PM
6 MIN 14-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
7 @PHI 21-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
8 DET 28-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
9 BYE - - -
10 @OAK 11-Nov SUN 4:15 PM
11 @SEA 18-Nov SUN 8:15 PM
12 DEN 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 NYG 2-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
14 @WAS 6-Dec THU 8:15 PM
15 @MIN 17-Dec MON 8:30 PM
16 GB 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 NO 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
CHI at SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Rex Grossman     230,2
RB Cedric Benson 80 10  
RB Garrett Wolfe 20 20  
TE Desmond Clark   30,1  
WR Muhsin Muhammad   50  
WR Bernard Berrian   80,1  
WR Devin Hester   20  
WR Rashied Davis   20  
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Bears come off a great year all except for that final game and ranked #3 in scoring offense with 27 points per game. They also ranked #3 in defense by only allowing 16 points per contest to their opponents. The defense took a few hits in the off-season but remains one of the strongest looking units in the league and the offense returns with the same cast other than Thomas Jones. As last year, they play in a softer division which helps but that does nothing for this game.

Quarterback: Rex Grossman has played in a Super Bowl now but the consensus remains that he's just too inconsistent to be a reliable quarterback when you need him the most. He started out 2006 with ten scores in his first five games and was looking reborn but soon enough he fell back into the maddening up and down trend which also saw him turn in seven games with less than 200 passing yards including several of 150 yards or less and even a 34 yard effort against the Vikings. Grossman has little middle ground, he either does very well or outright bombs. He only threw interceptions in half of his games last season but five times had three or more. Grossman is both a weapon and a weak link - you just have to catch him on the right week.

Running Backs: After two seasons of being battered by the media, fans and even his own team mates in practice, Cedric Benson finally gets his shot to redeem himself after the most ill-advised holdout in the recent era until this year (and a hearty "thanks dude!" goes to JaMarcus Russell from the Benson clan). Benson has averaged around 4.1 yards per carry while being the caddy for Thomas Jones and will spend 2007 finally showing what he can do as the heavy-use back the Bears bought back in 2005. Benson's typical MO prior to coming to the NFL was to wear down defenses and hurt them worst after 20+ carries but he's never had more than 16 in any NFL game. He also needs to dispel the notion that he is injury prone even though he never missed a game last year.

The committee backfield is gone with the departure of Thomas Jones, or at least so it seems. Adrian "the other" Peterson will be the primary back-up but is not expected to fill a "Benson" role. Most notable in this backfield will be the use of Garrett Wolf who showed some running ability and can catch the ball. Garrett could become a valuable third down back and change of pace runner but as with all rookies, his effectiveness will be measured starting this week. Until he does show up well in box scores, this backfield should be almost all about Benson.

Wide Receivers: The Bears return the same wideout crew from last year but one that should see Bernard Berrian improve in his second season as a starter. Berrian comes off a good year of 780 yards and six scores but after opening the year with four scores in the first five games, he tailed off dramatically for the rest of the season. The expectation is that Berrian will supplant the aging Muhsin Muhammad as the #1 wideout in Chicago this year. Muhammad comes off his best year in Chicago with 863 yards and six scores last year but his major career spike in 2004 in Carolina is a forgotten memory now. The Bears are also playing with using Devin Hester on the offense to make use of his speed and open field moves and while that could end up a benefit, most of those attempts do not end up that well. Hester's value will always be primarily as a devastating punt and kick returner. Rashied Davis and Mark Clayton are still looking for more playing time and Hester will likely do little more than depress their numbers which were already pretty depressing.

Tight Ends: The Bears drafted Greg Olsen with their first round draft pick as the first tight end taken in April and Olsen looks like he will be a definite weapon in the offense - great hands and surprising speed from a tight end. But Olsen sprained his knee in the final preseason game and barring late information clearing him, I will assume Desmond Clark gets most or all of the tight end action in this game. The Bears have been surprisingly tight-lipped about Olsen's condition but the best information so far is that he just sprained it and should be 100% within a month or less.

Match Against the Defense: The Chargers defense has lost Wade Phillips and Donnie Edwards but the scheme should remain the same and Shawne Merriman remains a force there. More than anything, with the offense outscoring all other NFL teams last year the defense gets the benefit of knowing the opponent is playing catch up and so far Rex Grossman has done little to suggest that he can rise above his inconsistency in San Diego. The Chargers held most visitors to less than 200 passing yards in San Diego last year but Grossman should rise above that - with the interceptions to show for it. Berrian draws Quentin Jammer but still remains the best bet for a scorer in this game. Olsen would have been a nice addition here with the Chargers ranked so lowly against tight ends.

The rushing attack with Cedric Benson will almost certainly suffer a bit here against a defense that never had to defend against a runner carrying the ball more than 19 times in any home game last year. The rushing game has to be abandoned by the fourth quarter if not earlier and that means Benson will be primarily limited by the number of carries. The rushing defense here is not all that above average, so Benson has to get into a groove quickly to post many fantasy points.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CHI 19 13 14 10 1 1
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 10 11 8 30 12 1

 

San Diego Chargers (14-2)
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CHI   -5.5 42.5
2 @NE 16-Sep SUN 8:15 PM
3 @GB 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 KC 30-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
5 @DEN 7-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
6 OAK 14-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
7 BYE - - -
8 HOU 28-Oct SUN 4:05 PM
9 @MIN 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 IND 11-Nov SUN 8:15 PM
11 @JAC 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 BAL 25-Nov SUN 4:15 PM
13 @KC 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 @TEN 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 DET 16-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
16 DEN 24-Dec MON 8:00 PM
17 @OAK 30-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
SD vs CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers     270, 2
RB LaDainian Tomlinson 80,1 50  
TE Antonio Gates   70,1  
WR Vincent Jackson   80,1  
WR Malcolm Floyd   40  
WR Craig Davis   20  
PK Nate Kaeding 4 XP 1 FG 7 pts

Pregame Notes: Nothing like turning in the league's best record with the highest scoring offense (31 points per game) and then flopping in the playoffs. Ouch. It was enough to send Marty Schottenheimer packing and enough to give every Charger player a hungry edge this year. It was a magic year for LaDainian Tomlinson to be sure, but just wait until week two when the Chargers go to New England for the late game on Sunday. The opening schedule for the Bolts is not that kind but with Tomlinson, Gates and an improving Philip Rivers - will it matter?

Quarterback: After holding a very expensive clipboard for two years, Philip Rivers finally took to the field in 2006 and had a solid 3387 yards and 22 passing scores against only nine interceptions. And that was just his first year as a starter. And that came while he was mostly handing off to Tomlinson in every game. Rivers has the talent to become an elite quarterback and the talent around him to support that cause. The Chargers helped matters more by dumping Keenan McCardell and promoting up Vincent Jackson. They also caught a break when Eric Parker hurt his toe so that the rookie Craig Davis and Malcolm Floyd get more playing time.

Running Backs: What's left to say about a running back who comes off the best fantasy season in the history of NFL running backs? LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 1815 yards to lead the league and he added 508 more yards via receptions. His 28 rushing scores and three receiving touchdowns were record setting and did not even include his two passing scores. Michael Turner was kept this year though he is out for now with a high ankle sprain. This week at least we get to see that giggling moron who got the first pick in the draft have to face the Chicago defense to start the year.

If nothing else, Tomlinson is the only running back guaranteed to turn in a lesser performance this year... right?... right?

Wide Receivers: The Chargers already had the highest scoring offense in the league last year and that was without using their wideouts. Starters Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker did not have a single score between them. Now McCardell is replaced with Vincent Jackson and Parker is mending while Malcolm Floyd takes his spot for now. Oh yes, and the LSU rookie Craig Davis is also in the running for the #2 spot which he should win at least eventually. This unit is better than last year and that is downright scary on this offense.

Tight Ends: Antonio Gates comes off his worst season as a starter when he only had 924 yards and nine scores but that still ended up as better than any other NFL tight end in those categories. Encouraging is that Gates improved later in the season as Rivers learned the ropes. Scary is that the wideouts should be better and secondaries cannot devote as much attention to Gates as they did last year.

Match Against the Defense: After such a bitter loss last January, the Chargers will be stoked to start this season. Had they advanced to the Super Bowl like the Bears did, maybe they would be due for a let down. With new head coach Norv Turner, this offense should not suffer. The Bears defense went through some minor changes but should prove as good as 2006 though it may be hard to tell in San Diego. Tomlinson will be of obvious concern to the defense so expect this week to keep him under 100 rushing yards but for him to have a bit higher catches. The new Turner offense should use him in all his abilities of course. Rivers goes against a secondary that doesn't play out quite as well as it seems, particularly on the road where they gave up far more yardage and scores than they did at home. With the Bears unable to rely on game film from 2006 thanks to the tweaked offense, look for a nice passing game here by Rivers who should top 250 yards while the Bears freak out about stopping Tomlinson. I like the wideouts here to show up against the bigger weakness (relatively) of the defense on the corners. Expect Jackson to reel in one score in this game at least.

The Bears ranked great against tight ends last year but mainly because they hardly ever faced any elite ones. I also love the chance that the Chargers get a defensive score in this game.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 18 1 24 1 2 5
Preventing Fantasy Points CHI 6 7 16 2 2 24

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