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

Prediction: DET 24, ATL 20

The Lions have never been a road team but could not have asked for a better away game to start the season than the rebuilding Falcons who will be starting a rookie quarterback and a tailback who has never been "the guy" before. The Lions are installing a new offense with the departure of Mike Martz but otherwise remain intact. The Falcons are trying to unburden themselves of the Vick-fiasco and just a horrible all around 2007 season. They'll get back on track and forge their own identity under HC Mike Smith and OC Mike Mularkey, but week one will be hard to win - even at home.

Detroit Lions (0-0)
Homefield: Ford Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @ATL - -3 41
2 GB - - -
3 @SF - - -
4 BYE - - -
5 CHI - - -
6 @MIN - - -
7 @HOU - - -
8 WAS - - -
9 @CHI - - -
10 JAX - - -
11 @CAR - - -
12 TB - - -
13 TEN - - -
14 MIN - - -
15 @IND - - -
16 NO - - -
17 @GB - - -
DET at ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Jon Kitna     210,2
RB Kevin Smith 90,1 20  
TE Dan Campbell   10  
WR Roy Williams   60,1  
WR Calvin Johnson   90,1  
WR Shaun McDonald   20  
PK Jason Hanson 1 FG 3 XP  
Pregame Notes: The L:ions are bringing in a new balanced offense with a zone rushing scheme that should make best use of the rookie Kevin Smith. While that installs, Jon Kitna still has Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson for pass targets and that'll keep the Lions in many games. The defense still hasn't made a smooth transition to an effective Tampa 2 but that only benefits fantasy football.

Quarterback: While Jon Kitna may not throw as many passes with Mike Martz gone, he may be as productive since he won't be constantly battered from a lack of pass blockers. Detroit passed for over 4200 yards these last two years but never had more than 21 touchdowns. If the defense has to respect the run, it would only help Kitna. And be all new compared to the last two seasons.

Running Backs: The Lions drafted Kevin Smith with their 3.01 selection this year and while the Central Florida star doesn't have the flash of higher drafted rushers, he brings a lunch pail, heavy workload style into the mix that should be well suited to the new zone rushing scheme. Rudi Johnson was also acquired once released by the Bengals but so far there's nor reason to expect him to be more than depth.

Wide Receivers: The duo of Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson have the potential to be one of the most productive tandems in the league. Johnson enters his second season and no longer has the nagging back injury that limited his rookie season. Williams is already a proven stud in Detroit and now that the passing scheme will be more limited to just the two starters, both players should see an increase in stats from last year when Mike Martz fed the #3 and #4 wideouts with ample passes.

This is one case where less passing should mean more fantasy points for the two starters.

Tight Ends: How the tight end will figure in remains to be seen but the Lions are establishing a run game first and blocking will be the primary job. The Lions may use both Dan Campbell and Michael Gaines in two tight end sets to help with blocking.

Match Against the Defense: The Falcons defense was already below average and then they lost CB DeAngelo Hall. The Falcons are learning all new scheme and players and even the Lions should have some success here at this early date. Expect a nice game from Kevin Smith who should score and get near the century mark. Kitna faces a defense without Hall so either wideout could score here and very well both could. The passing yardage isn't likely to be very high but two scores are absolutely doable.

Gaining Fantasy Points DET 15 30 4 31 8 6
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 21 28 23 22 26 27
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) DET -6 2 -19 -9 18 -21

Atlanta Falcons (0-0)
Homefield: Georgia Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DET - +3 41
2 @TB - - -
3 KC - - -
4 @CAR - - -
5 @GB - - -
6 CHI - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 @PHI - - -
9 @OAK - - -
10 NO - - -
11 DEN - - -
12 CAR - - -
13 @SD - - -
14 @NO - - -
15 TB - - -
16 @MIN - - -
17 STL - - -
ATL vs DET Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan     180,1
RB Michael Turner 100,1 20  
TE Martrez Milner   10  
WR Laurent Robinson   20  
WR Roddy White   70,1  
WR Michael Jenkins   40  
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Falcons may be installing all new plays and schemes but they too could hardly as for a better first opponent than the visiting Lions. No defense was a accommodating as the Lions were last year and Matt Ryan shows some nice timing already by starting out against the #32 defense against quarterbacks last year. The Falcons will take some time to come together and Ryan has obvious learning curves to contend with but Atlanta is heading in the right direction again after a car wreck of a 2007 season.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan gets the start and a new era has began - one that should feature plenty of passing and a quarterback that is willing to stay put and deliver accurate throws. Roddy White will be a big help for Ryan but the rest of the receivers continue to evolve and change. If Ryan can live up to his billing, he be a fantasy star in a few years and play inside a dome during those nasty weather fantasy playoff weeks.

Running Backs: Michael Turner gets his chance to prove that he is the next Priest Holmes (and not the next Troy Hambrick). Turner the Burner will be joined in some measure by Jerious Norwood who offers a speedy complement to the bigger Turner. Norwood could never figure in much with Warrick Dunn as the starter and his role remains to be developed but he does offer what Turner does not have - that wasn't the case when Dunn was the starter. Playing at home against the Lions gives Turner a great chance to start out with a bang.

Wide Receivers: Roddy White had his breakout season and has been wowing the new coaching staff all summer but the #2 role has been changing. Laurent Robinson held the spot last year but missed time injured and was passed by Michael Jenkins in training camp. The rookie Harry Douglas has also been impressive though his size limits him to a slot role at most. I am projecting for a mixture of White, Robinson and Jenkins but the roles have been changing and could continue to evolve.

Tight Ends: The new offense is not intending on much use of the tight end beyond being a blocker. Maybe that is another way to erase the memory of Vick to Crumpler every game.

Match Against the Defense: The Lions bring one of the worst defenses in the league but face a total rebuild on their opponent. This should be an interesting game that could be marred by mistakes as both teams use the new playbook in their first real game. Expect a decent showing here by Turner against the worst rush defense from last year. Ryan opens against a very soft secondary but won't push his luck in his first start.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 21 29 16 19 23 30
Preventing Fantasy Points DET 32 32 24 27 11 31
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) ATL 11 3 -8 8 -12 1
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