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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: DEN 17, OAK 20

Update: Javon Walker was limited in practice on Wednesday and then held out the last two days because of his hamstring. He is listed as questionable but is no given to play. He has a horrible match-up anyway and should be avoided along with all other Raiders receivers this week.

The Broncos come off one of their worst seasons in recent memory with only a 7-9 record but that still beats the 4-12 pounding the Raiders took in 2007 in their first season with HC Lane Kiffen and OC Greg Knapp. One very notable change here is that the Raiders will be starting JaMarcus Russell. The Broncos won 23-20 when the Raiders came to Denver but lost 20-34 when they went to Oakland in week 13 last year - that was actually the first playing time that Russell had in the NFL. The Broncos will be without their main weapon for this one game - Brandon Marshall.

Denver Broncos (0-0)
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @OAK - -3 41.5
2 SD - - -
3 NO - - -
4 @KC - - -
5 TB - - -
6 JAX - - -
7 @NE - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 MIA - - -
10 @CLE - - -
11 @ATL - - -
12 OAK - - -
13 @NYJ - - -
14 KC - - -
15 @CAR - - -
16 BUF - - -
17 @SD - - -
DEN at OAK Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler 10   210
RB Andre Hall 30,1 10  
RB Selvin Young 80,1 40  
TE Tony Scheffler   20  
WR Eddie Royal   40  
WR Brandon Stokley   50  
WR Darrell Jackson   30  
PK Matt Prater 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The decline in the Denver rushing game continues and it's more than just a lack of sufficient leg whipping. The Broncos have fallen in the last two seasons in all rushing categories and that has placed more pressure on the passing game that has struggled to find a viable receiver outside of Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler has already proven to be the real deal and now has his diabetes under control. The team went to great lengths bringing in free agent receivers but in the end may have found a rookie that had it all along.

Quarterback: Jay Cutler's second season was already a success with 20 passing touchdowns against only 14 interceptions and nearly 3500 passing yards. But then it was divulged that Cutler had diabetes which affected him most of the season including weight loss. That begs the question - what can a healthy Cutler do?

Cutler had marginal success against the Raiders last year. He passed for 269 yards and one score in the home game but had two interceptions. Later in the year, he only posted 214 yards but still had two interceptions.

Running Backs: The Broncos have had a different leading rusher in each of the last five seasons - that doesn't speak well for Selvin Young. The smallish back will be the primary with help from Andre Hall thanks to the rookie Ryan Torain's injury and Travis Henry being forever purged from the roster. It has been two seasons since Broncos featured a dominating rushing attack and the team seems unable now to make them out of sticks and mud like in the past.

Travis Henry was still the starter in week two when he gained 128 yards on 26 carries against the visiting Raiders. He later only had 49 yards on 15 carries in Oakland but scored twice in that game.

Wide Receivers: Missing Brandon Marshall this week could make a difference. The Broncos are forced to go with Darrell Jackson and Eddie Royal as starters with help from Brandon Stokley. Jackson has hardly impressed but gets the job largely from being a veteran. Royal is the interesting one that showed up in camp as a quick learner and devoted player with really good hands. Now that the regular season is starting his performance may not be as impressive but the Broncos have to make do without Marshall against one of the better secondaries in the league.

Marshall had games of 82 and 67 yards against the Raiders last year but never scored. Javon Walker had 101 yards in the first meeting and Brandon Stokley gained 103 yards in the road game against the Raiders.

Tight Ends: The Broncos have dropped Tony Scheffler on the depth charts apparently because he is an "uncommitted blocker" but Daniel Graham has no fantasy value. With Marshall gone in particular it would be a surprise to not use Scheffler but he is not a safe start and may not get much playing time since the coaches are down on him lately.

No tight end had more than one catch against the Raiders last year.

Match Against the Defense: The Raiders defense was already top five in pass defense and one of the worst against the run. So naturally, the team went out and added DeAngelo Hall and other secondary upgrades while doing nothing to address the weakness against the run. Warren Sapp even left. The Raiders look like they are bound to be in rushing wars all season long. Expect lower numbers from a passing attack without Brandon Marshall but decent stats for Selvin Young that could end up with Andre Hall as well.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 14 22 17 7 15 18
Preventing Fantasy Points OAK 5 31 3 16 18 28
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) DEN -9 9 -14 9 3 10

Oakland Raiders (0-0)
Homefield: McAfee Coliseum
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DEN - +3 41.5
2 @KC - - -
3 @BUF - - -
4 SD - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 @NO - - -
7 NYJ - - -
8 @BAL - - -
9 ATL - - -
10 CAR - - -
11 @MIA - - -
12 @DEN - - -
13 KC - - -
14 @SD - - -
15 NE - - -
16 HOU - - -
17 @TB - - -
OAK vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB JaMarcus Russell 10   150
RB Darren McFadden 60,1 30  
RB Michael Bush 30,1 10  
RB Justin Fargas 50    
TE Zach Miller   50  
WR Javon Walker 30
WR Ronald Curry   30  
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins   10  
PK Sebastian Janikowski 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Raiders have set themselves up for a good rushing attack with Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. The team already went from being ranked in the bottom two in rush yards and scores in 2006 to being 7th in yards (1887) last year using little more than Huggy Bear's kid. After seasoning on the bench for a year, Jamarcus Russell makes his debut as the franchise quarterback. The team is setup to run first and foremost and that will allow Russell more time to develop instead of being thrown into shootouts every week. But the newest thing in Oakland is the old thing - they get to use the same coaches and scheme for the second year in a row!

Quarterback: JaMarcus Russell won't be asked to throw more than needed and the huge passer is already versed in the offense. It should be fun to watch once Russell gets comfortable since he can flick the ball 50 yards and appears capable of breaking fingers with the power of his throw. He had sparing use at the end of last season but his first month is a run through the AFC West - he gets to work sooner than later.

Running Backs: What an impressive set. Justin Fargas was already opening eyes when he rushed for 1009 yards on just 254 carries last year and was signed to a contract extension. The Raiders also had Michael Bush who they saved for this year to give the Louisville star two years to heal his broken leg. And to top it off, they drafted Darren McFadden who won the last two Doak Walker Awards as the best running back in the NCAA.

The obvious question now is who plays and who sits? McFadden gets his playing time - no doubt. But Michael Bush could fill in a valuable role as a short yardage and goal line runner since his 245 pounds is bigger than the fullback Justin Griffith. I am projecting for McFadden as a primary runner and some work by Bush but will adjust ongoing as needed. Fargas will get work as well. Week one will show what to expect from a three-headed rushing attack.

The Raiders enjoyed big rushing efforts against the Broncos last year. Lamont Jordan gained 159 yards on 25 carries in Denver and later Justin Fargas rushed for 146 yards and a score in the home meeting.

Wide Receivers: The drama surrounding Javon Walker is hopefully over and instead of retiring or getting mugged he can earn his keep as a ridiculously overpaid wideout on a team not likely to throw much. Ronald Curry remains and hopes to stay healthy while Johnnie Lee Higgins will man the slot role that may hardly ever get used though recent addition Ashley Lelie may squeeze into that role as early as this week. Until more is certain about Russell, none of the Raiders wideouts are reliable fantasy starters anyway.

Tight Ends: Zach Miller is an intriguing tight end entering his second season with a quarterback that already has shown a tendency to use him near the goal line last year and in preseason games this summer. It's worth tracking closely since Miller may be a free agent in smaller leagues.

Match Against the Defense: The Broncos were soft against the run and there is no doubt that the Raiders will be using McFadden and Bush to their full extent possible. Expect nice numbers here from both McFadden with yardage and Bush who should knock in a score. The passing game could produce a touchdown as well which would have to favor Miller. Walker may have a desire to stick it to his old team, but he doesn't really have the quarterback and faces a matchup with Dre Bly that should be avoided.

Gaining Fantasy Points OAK 25 12 26 22 27 28
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 25 20 11 31 22 24
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) OAK 0 8 -15 9 -5 -4
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