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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey

The Huddle
~ 2007 ~
Season Ticket

Sunday night

Prediction: DEN 20, BUF 10

The Broncos start out their season on the road again this year and after dropping openers in Miami and St. Louis the last two years, there's no shortage of reasons why Denver needs to take this game very seriously. The Bills ended 2006 with a 7-9 record and only a two game losing slide at the end dropped them below the .500 mark. On paper this should be Denver's game but they need to get past that week one problem first.

Denver Broncos (9-7)
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @BUF   -3.5 37
2 OAK 16-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
3 JAC 23-Sep SUN 4:05 PM
4 @IND 30-Sep SUN 4:15 PM
5 SD 7-Oct SUN 4:15 PM
6 BYE - - -
7 PIT 21-Oct SUN 8:15 PM
8 GB 29-Oct MON 8:30 PM
9 @DET 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @KC 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 TEN 19-Nov MON 8:30 PM
12 @CHI 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 @OAK 2-Dec SUN 4:05 PM
14 KC 9-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
15 @HOU 13-Dec THU 8:15 PM
16 @SD 24-Dec MON 8:00 PM
17 MIN 30-Dec SUN 4:15 PM
DEN at BUF Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 10   200,1
RB Travis Henry 110,1 20  
TE Daniel Graham   30,1  
WR Javon Walker   60  
WR Brandon Stokley   50  
WR Brandon Marshall   30  
PK Jason Elam 2 XP 2 FG  
Pregame Notes: The Broncos finally gave up on Jake "take my ball and stay home" Plummer last year and turned to the rookie Jay Cutler who took his lumps but generally was rather impressive. The Broncos also surprisingly decided to stop expecting running backs to magically appear on the depth charts and acquired Travis Henry to return the backfield to some stability. The defense is loaded here and the offense is younger and hungry.

Quarterback: Jay Cutler started the final five games of 2006 and threw for two scores in each of his first four efforts - pretty impressive. Granted he mainly used Tony Scheffler and largely avoided the heavily covered Javon Walker, but for his first foray into the world of the NFL, he looked sharp and promising. His receivers have not changed much from last year other than the addition of Brandon Stokley who may be miscast as a #2 instead of the slot where he belongs and Daniel Graham who has taken over the starting tight end spot. The season opens with a tough stretch for Cutler who faces top ten defenses until he reaches the bye in week five.

Running Backs: After several years of musical chairs, the Broncos finally decided to just go out and buy a running back instead of creating one year wonders out of below average runners. Travis Henry will take over and rid Denver of the need to swap out starters or even share the ball much this year so long as he can remain healthy and he doesn't spend all his free time fathering double digit children. Henry sprained his knee during the preseason but is expected to be ready this week. I am projecting for a healthy Henry but will update if warranted.

The back-up spot still maintained the musical chair quality this summer with Mike Bell and Cecil Sapp trading places, then in the final week undrafted rookie Selvin Young from Texas made the final roster and is also in the mix. At this point, just hope Henry does not get injured because the maddening guessing game will start all over.

Wide Receivers: This is the interesting area of the Broncos offense because Jay Cutler did not use the position nearly as much as he will this year. Javon Walker had a great year with 1207 yards and nine scores but his numbers took a tumble once Cutler was under center. Something about a rookie quarterback and the only double-covered wideout just not meshing as well. That will certainly change as Cutler gets more acclimated to reading defenses but could be slower in the early parts of the season. Brandon Marshall connected well with Cutler but now drops to the #3 for now. Brandon Stokley will start the season as the #2 here but he's had numerous durability issues in the past and should be playing the slot where his speed and deep play ability is better showcased. Marshall was only a rookie last year - he will improve. Rod Smith starts the year on the PUP list and for fantasy purposes, he is already retired.

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler was a surprising rookie find last year since he connected well with Cutler who was looking for a tall, nearby target but Scheffler broke a bone in his foot during the summer and missed much of training camp. Daniel Graham came over from New England and has looked so good that he now takes the starting spot. Graham was primarily acquired as a run blocker but has displayed such good hands that he's also considered the first receiving option for tight end. I will project for Graham and not Scheffler until there is a reason to add or swap.

Match Against the Defense: The Bills defense was already bad against the run and allowed Takeo Spikes and Nate Clements to leave so the passing lanes could be more open this year. A home opener on the road is tougher though and the Broncos hardly have a stellar record for big wins right out of the gate. Look for a very nice game here from Travis provided he is healthy and there should be enough rushing in this game that a clear idea of any use of Bell, Sapp or Young can be gleaned. Henry should top the century mark and score at least once.

Cutler's numbers should remain only moderate here even with the defections from the Bills secondary. No need to press and risk any step backwards. Look for a controlled passing game that nets one score that should likely favor Graham the most but could go anywhere.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 23 18 18 18 12 16
Preventing Fantasy Points BUF 7 28 7 12 9 25


Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Homefield: Ralph Wilson Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DEN   +3.5 37
2 @PIT 16-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
3 @NE 23-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
4 NYJ 30-Sep SUN 1:00 PM
5 DAL 8-Oct MON 8:30 PM
6 BYE - - -
7 BAL 21-Oct SUN 1:00 PM
8 @NYJ 28-Oct SUN 4:05 PM
9 CIN 4-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
10 @MIA 11-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
11 NE 18-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
12 @JAC 25-Nov SUN 1:00 PM
13 @WAS 2-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
14 MIA 9-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
15 @CLE 16-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
16 NYG 23-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
17 @PHI 30-Dec SUN 1:00 PM
BUF vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB J.P. Losman 20   190,1
RB Marshawn Lynch 50 40  
RB Anthony Thomas 30    
TE Robert Royal   20,1  
WR Lee Evans   70  
WR Josh Reed   30  
WR Peerless Price   20  
PK Rian Lindell 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Bills finally saw J.P. Losman take a step up last year and Lee Evans delivered the standard third year break out. But little else on this offense saw much success in 2006 and the Bills opted to dump Willis McGahee and start over in the backfield with the rookie Marshawn Lynch. The problem is less about personnel this year than it is an absolutely brutal schedule that would challenge the very best of teams. And the Bills are not exactly in that class yet anyway.

Quarterback: The Bills finally stuck by J.P. Losman last year and were rewarded with a very decent season. Losman threw for 3050 yards and 19 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions. Losman is a common sleeper pick by many fantasy team owners who maybe haven't looked at the schedule this year but with his first six games against DEN, PIT, NE, NYJ, DAL and BAL chances are Losman will be wondering what happened to the progress of last year.

Running Backs: The Willis McGahee era has ended in Buffalo and did so much quieter than it began. McGahee fell below 1000 rushing yards last year thanks to missing two games but he's not seemed nearly as explosive the last two years as he did in 2004 when he first played. To cure this, the Bills used their first draft pick to take Marshawn Lynch out of CAL. This could be a very nice addition in the long-run since Lynch was wildly successful in college and brings a new dual threat to the offense with his ability to be a receiver.

The Bills at least claim to also intend on using Anthony Thomas as well. That seems optimistic since Thomas was there last year and only had 107 carries for 378 yards (3.5 YPC) and two scores. Lynch is the future of this backfield and Thomas will likely only be used until Lynch shows he can clearly play all necessary roles. Besides, with that schedule it's almost unfair to throw a rookie runner to those wolves all by himself. I will project for the split backfield the Bills and spoken about, but I also expect at some point to only need to worry about Lynch. Anthony Thomas? Just do not guy it.

Wide Receivers: Losman had nice progress last year and facilitated Lee Evans turning into a stud fantasy wide receiver. That was a great thing. What was not great were all the other wideouts for the Bills who never had more than 410 yards or 50 catches or three scores for any of them. Peerless Price (50-402) mans the #2 position again this year for some reason, Josh Reed (34-410) will battle him for the starting spot like anyone really cares and Roscoe Parrish (23-320) will be spoken of mainly just at family gatherings. The Bills did Losman and Evans no favors by failing to bring in a credible #2 wideout to this offense that will definitely need to throw this year. Sadly the biggest challenge Evans has this year is trying to catch passes while attracting more attention than a stripper at a bachelor party. HC Dick Jauron loves his running game but this schedule says he's not going to be featuring nearly as often as preferred this year. And that means Evans has to be exponentially better than any other wideout here because of his coverage.

Tight Ends: There's been spoken overtures to using the tight ends more this year and Robert Royal in particular but Royal only had 23 catches for 233 yards last year so doubling it still doesn't make him fantasy relevant.

Match Against the Defense: The Bills open their 2006 tour of the best NFL defenses by hosting the Broncos who already had one of the very best pass defenses before they acquired CB Dre Bly from the Lions. Expect only moderate numbers here in the passing game since Evans draws Bly and Champ Bailey could probably cover both Reed and Price at the same time. The Bills lack of diversity in the passing attack really shows when facing top notch corners. The Bills should score once and that has to come through the air. That could almost only be Evans who wriggles free on one play or someone like Royal over the middle.

Lynch and Thomas will combined for decent yardage but that will depend largely on the number of carries they get due to game situation. The Broncos can stop the run better this year and the Bills are still trying to figure out who will do what. What we want to see is Lynch as a receiver and with those corners, that is almost guaranteed to happen.

Gaining Fantasy Points BUF 24 30 15 29 20 12
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 3 19 2 20 28 16

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