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

Prediction: STL 17, PHI 31

Update: Donnie Avery has not practiced and will not play this week because of a sore knee. He has been removed from the projections and replaced by Dante Hall. Reggie Brown has continued to be bothered by his hamstring and is listed as doubtful. It is unlikely that he will play and did not practice on Thursday or Friday. I am replacing him with Hank Baskett.

Both these teams come off nightmare seasons. The Rams ended 3-13 at the cellar of the NFC West after injuries decimated the team and they ended with a four game losing streak. The Eagles managed to end 8-8 but McNabb was lost for three games and the Eagles defense was surprisingly ineffective at times. Playing this game in Philly should make the year start out well for the Eagles and facing the Rams will make the offense look better than it probably is.

St. Louis Rams (0-0)
Homefield: Edward Jones Dome
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @PHI - +7 44
2 NYG - - -
3 @SEA - - -
4 BUF - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 @WAS - - -
7 DAL - - -
8 @NE - - -
9 ARZ - - -
10 @NYJ - - -
11 @SF - - -
12 CHI - - -
13 MIA - - -
14 @ARZ - - -
15 SEA - - -
16 SF - - -
17 @ATL - - -
STL at PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Marc Bulger     220,1
RB Steven Jackson 70,1 30  
TE Randy McMichael   30,1  
WR Torry Holt   80  
WR Dante Hall   20  
WR Drew Bennett   40  
PK Josh Brown 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The offense changes with the addition of Al Saunders who imports his "KC-style" scheme. That should mean the tight end gets more use - Steven McMichael in this case - and the running back becomes an even greater focal point since he is one of the primary receivers as well. That fits well into what Steven Jackson can do. But the Rams defense will continue to be their Achilles Heel even if they get their offense on track quickly. The scheme doesn't employ wide receivers nearly as much though Holt is still a safe bet for heavy use. Starting the season with three tough games won't make it easy on this team.

Quarterback: Marc Bulger comes off a horrible year when he started out with broken ribs, got a concussion and then had to run for his life since his entire offensive line literally was out injured. The new scheme should help Bulger to maintain good passing totals since Trent Green was consistently over 4000 passing yards in his time in Kansas City. Green is another player gone full-circle since he is backing up Bulger this year.

Bulger's protection will get a workout this week since the Eagles will employ blitzes to rattle him. Installing a new scheme is never easy and the Rams were looking very bad until week three in the preseason. Now they can now how much farther they need to go.

Running Backs: Steven Jackson was a rather hot property in drafts this year for a player that barely clipped 1000 rushing yards and scored only six times last year. But the new offense under Al Saunders made stars out of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in Kansas City and even Clinton Portis had solid years with Saunders merely influencing the offense. Jackson has already proven himself as a great receiver after catching 90 passes for 806 yards in 2006. While fantasy owners will want to see that sort of production resume, it may be tough for the first few weeks of the season before the schedule lightens up. Keep an eye on Jackson and consider trading for him around midseason since almost all tough games come in the first eight weeks and then the second half of the season should be far easier.

Wide Receivers: Isaac Bruce left to join Mike Martz in San Francisco and Drew Bennett gets the bump up on the depth chart. But the new scheme this year has never used wide receivers as much as tight ends and running backs and certainly never #2 wideouts. Torry Holt will remain a common target as one of the most talented players on the team but the stats are not likely to trickle down below him much. Donnie Avery because the first wideout drafted this year but will do no more than the slot as a rookie on a team that won't often pass to the position.

Tight Ends: The good news here is that Randy McMichael suffered thought one of the worst years of his career in 2007 but could very well have a career best in 2008. The hallmark of a Saunders offense is the use of the tight end and Tony Gonzalez will be in the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Chris Cooley became the leading scorer for receivers in Washington. McMichael will have an improved year and he should have a career year, but how big remains to be seen.

Match Against the Defense: Other than the one preseason game, the Rams did not look very well versed in their new offense and they struggled when passing. That won't be helpful playing in Philly where the defense will constantly try to reach and rattle Bulger. The best expectation to take this week is that the passing game will be much shorter - lots of Jackson and some McMichael. And while the scheme is still new to the Rams, it will be similar to the one that the Eagles have been facing in Washington while Saunders was there. Look for average numbers out of the gate here but receptions to help out Jackson.

Gaining Fantasy Points STL 24 26 14 24 26 20
Preventing Fantasy Points PHI 8 6 16 9 20 19
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) STL -16 -20 2 -15 -6 -1

Philadelphia Eagles (0-0)
Homefield: Lincoln Financial Field
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 STL - -7 44
2 @DAL - - -
3 PIT - - -
4 @CHI - - -
5 WAS - - -
6 @SF - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 ATL - - -
9 @SEA - - -
10 NYG - - -
11 @CIN - - -
12 @BAL - - -
13 ARZ - - -
14 @NYG - - -
15 CLE - - -
16 @WAS - - -
17 DAL - - -
PHI vs STL Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 20,1   270,2
RB Brian Westbrook 60,1 70,1  
TE L.J. Smith   40,1  
WR Reggie Brown 60,1
WR Hank Baskett   50  
WR DeSean Jackson   50  
WR Jason Avant   30  
PK David Akers 1 FG 4 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Eagles look to make amends for last season when they finally lost their hold on the NFC East. This game should be a tune up before the trip to Dallas next week. The same offensive players return this year but Kevin Curtis has been lost for the immediate future and Reggie Brown was hampered by a hamstring most of the preseason. While there are plenty of players to point at and conjecture, we all know it is going to come down to McNabb remaining healthy and Westbrook yet again turning in a monster year while missing one game injured.

Quarterback: The Eagles fortunes do ride on Donovan McNabb's shoulders this year and failure will all be certainly result in McNabb leaving. This is a big year in the career of McNabb. He claims to be as healthy as he has been in years but we'll see if he can say that in a few months. Losing Curtis is no help but L.J. Smith can step up and Westbrook is already the premier pass-catching running back in the NFL. It's all on Donovan this year.

Running Backs: Brian Westbrook is as integral to his team as perhaps any player in the NFL. Always undervalued in fantasy drafts, Westbrook somehow defies all logic and produces rushing stats like the big, burly runner he will never be and he excels as a receiver. He always gets dinged up and misses a game and just when you think he may actually be really injured he'll have a monster game.

What could change this year is that the Eagles acquired Lorenzo Booker from the Dolphins and he is a clone of Westbrook (physically anyway). Booker could actually become the relief for Westbrook that is always promised and never delivered. Booker's role will be the most interesting to track on this offense since the Eagles do not want to wear down Westbrook. In theory anyway.

Wide Receivers: As noted, losing Kevin Curtis for at least a few weeks and potentially many more hurts the offense but not as much as losing a #1 wideout on most teams would. McNabb always spreads the ball around and there is never a lack of receivers in a west coast offense. Reggie Brown is expected to play this week after nursing a hamstring strain and is in the perfect position for a breakout year but was a big disappointment in 2007. The rookie DeSean Jackson is far too small to be considered for every down work but a lack of other options and a genuinely impressive preseason has made Jackson a starter for at least this game. At only 166 pounds, he is the lightest wideout in the NFL and should be suited only for special teams work but he will get his shot with the offense.

Tight Ends: L.J. Smith missed six games last year because of groin and knee injuries and had a very uncharacteristic season but the two previous years averaged around 55 catches for 650 yards and four scores. That should be the lower end of what Smith can do this year since Curtis is out and McNabb needs a reliable receiver.

Match Against the Defense: The Rams visiting for the home opener is like a very early Christmas present. Next week in Dallas is a big game but this week won't be overlooked. Expect the normal numbers from the Eagles offense since they'll want to look as good as possible to start the year out right. Considering everyone besides Curtis is healthy, it may never get better for the Philly offense than this week. I also like the chance for a defensive score in this game.

Gaining Fantasy Points PHI 10 4 10 26 21 32
Preventing Fantasy Points STL 22 24 28 8 32 30
Rank Advantage (-31 to 31) PHI 12 20 18 -18 11 -2

The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late


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