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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
WEEK 1
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Monday
Sunday
Sunday Late
*updated Sat
*updated

Prediction: CHI 20, GB 23

These divisional rivals split home wins with the Bears squeaking past 20-17 in Chicago but the Packers rolling them 37-3 in Green Bay. But the Packers have only won two of the last eight meetings. This is a chance for them to give the crowd at Lambeau a nice start to the season. This is the late game on Sunday and a nice chance for everyone to see what Cutler in Chicago will be like.

Chicago Bears (0-0)
Homefield: Soldier Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @GB - - -
2 PIT - - -
3 @SEA - - -
4 DET - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 @ATL - - -
7 @CIN - - -
8 CLE - - -
9 ARI - - -
10 @SF - - -
11 PHI - - -
12 @MIN - - -
13 STL - - -
14 GB - - -
15 @BAL - - -
16 MIN - - -
17 @DET - - -
CHI @ GB Rush Catch Pass
QB Jay Cutler     240,2
RB Matt Forte 60 40  
TE Greg Olsen   50,1  
WR Devin Hester   70  
WR Earl Bennett   40,1  
WR Juaquin Iglesias   20  
PK Robbie Gould 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Bears ended 2008 with a 9-7 record that missed making the playoffs. In what would become a tumultuous spring, Kyle Orton was sent packing to the Broncos (along with other enticements) and the Bears received back Jay Cutler who could be argued to be the best quarterback in a Bears uniform in a decade. Maybe two. Maybe more. At some point you accept you can argue with a Bears fan all you want but in the end you are not going to tell him much.

Cutler does bring an entirely new dynamic that should help the offense. The defense remains one of the better units in the league and Matt Forte is back to run the ball. But exactly what does a passing game for the Bears look like?

Quarterback: Bottom line - Kyle Orton was a game manager whose best asset was that he did not make many mistakes. He rarely made any big plays as well but at least none of them were for opposing defenders. Rex Grossman could sling it downfield and have big games. And he could make Brett Favre seem overly cautious by comparison because Grossman would invariably have the game killing turnovers and errors.

Jay Cutler comes in with the management ability of Orton and yet the passing fury of Grossman. He's basically everything the Bears have seen in their quarterbacks all wrapped up in one guy. How that translates in blustery December remains to be seen but for early season it has to be a huge life for this offense.

The Bears never passed for more than 142 in two games against the Packers last year with Kyle Orton as the starter. He passed for just one score in the home meeting. The Packers pass defense is about average - figure on Cutler surprising them a bit in the first game.

Running Backs: Ah yes, the Perfect Storm happened in 2008 when the Bears sent Cedric Benson packing last summer ("yeah, well, we never liked you anyway") and by then the only waiver wire replacement was Kevin Jones who was rehabbing an ACL surgery. He was not able to add anything to the offense with a bad knee and little knowledge of the offense so 2008 became the year of Matt Forte. Over and over, he either carried it or caught it. Forte led all running backs with 63 receptions last year and 477 yards as a receiver was second only to Jones-Drew (565). Forte also scored four times as a receiver and eight more as a runner. He was one of the heaviest used backs in the league despite on averaging around 3.9 yards per carry.

This year is all different. The receiving and third down duties have been offloaded to Kevin Jones and Cutler shows up with a penchant for going downfield, not dumping it off. And then Jones tore a tendon in his ankle and Cutler riddled Forte with passes in the third preseason game. Welcome to a Perfect Storm II. There is no one else to carry the load once again.

Forte rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries and added six catches for 40 yards in Green Bay last year. He later had 73 yards on 23 runs with just two catches for 28 yards at home. He scored only once against the Packers during the home meeting.

Wide Receivers: This unit has been little used in the recent past with Orton around but now with Cutler should be better - and maybe much better. Devin Hester is the split end who has the speed to get under a Cutler deep ball. Earl Bennett is the second-year player short on NFL experience but remarkably familiar with Cutler thanks to when they played together at Vanderbilt. Cutler can wing it with the best of them and that has to benefit the wideouts more than any other position. How well they step up remains to be seen but a good quarterback makes for good receivers. The Bears have that for the first time in decades.

The #3 role could be changing as the year progresses since Juaquin Iglesias, Rashied Davis and Devin Aromashodu could all figure in. This will be the first time that the Packers are going to have to prepare first and foremost to stop the Chicago wideouts. Look for one score to this unit that likely favors Bennett the most.

Tight Ends: There is no debating that Orton liked to throw to Greg Olsen who had a solid second-year of 54 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns. But Cutler can throw to tight ends just as well or better and having the secondary giving respect to the wideouts more this year could serve to free up Olsen even more.This road trip should be a good test for Olsen and Cutler.

Olsen had two similar games against the Packers when he hauled in four catches for 45 yards and later five receptions for 49 yards. He scored once during the home meeting.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CHI 16 17 28 8 17 9
Preventing Fantasy Points GB 14 27 8 22 17 7


Green Bay Packers (0- 0)
Homefield: Lambeau Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CHI - - -
2 CIN - - -
3 @STL - - -
4 @MIN - - -
5 BYE - - -
6 DET - - -
7 @CLE - - -
8 MIN - - -
9 @TB - - -
10 DAL - - -
11 SF - - -
12 @DET - - -
13 BAL - - -
14 @CHI - - -
15 @PIT - - -
16 SEA - - -
17 @ARI - - -
GB vs CHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Aaron Rodgers 20   250,2
RB Ryan Grant 110 20  
TE Donald Lee   20,1  
WR Greg Jennings   80,1  
WR Donald Driver   60  
WR James Jones   20  
PK Mason Crosby 3 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Packers had a bad season with only a 6-10 record but at least one major accomplishment was made. Brett Favre was actually replaced and the offense did not suffer for it at all. In fact, Aaron Rodgers had almost mirror stats to Favre's last season in Green Bay which if you recall was one of his best in many years. The offense won't be a liability and the defense should be better. Before we all know it, this will be only known as Aaron Rodgers team. At least here in the fantasy football world.

Quarterback: First year as a starter and it wasn't nearly so scary as it seemed it would be. Aaron Rodgers not only came out of the gate throwing touchdowns, he improved as the season progressed with multiple touchdowns in six of his last seven games. He passed for 4038 yards and 28 touchdowns which was fourth best in the league for both but he deviates from Brett Favre in one way. Rodgers only threw 13 interceptions all year. Favre hasn't had that few in over 14 years.

Rodgers didn't have too much trouble with the Bears last year. He passed for 227 yards and two scores at home and later 260 yards and two more touchdowns in Chicago.

Running Backs: Ryan Grant finished the last half of 2007 on a tear that suggested the next elite NFL running back was found. Then he was lost again when he opened 2008 with a lackluster stretch of games that included only one touchdown in the first nine weeks. He improved later on but his 1203 yards on 312 carries (3.9 YPC) was disappointment enough, Grant should be better this year. He held out of the preseason last year to get paid and now has his first full Packer training camp under his belt.

Grant rushed for 145 yards and one score against the Bears last year though he later only managed 61 yards on 25 carries in Chicago.

Wide Receivers: The switch to Rodgers was a boost to both Donald Driver and Greg Jennings with both players topping the 1000 yard mark. Jennings turned 80 catches into 1292 yards and nine scores while Donald Driver slowed down his decline with 74 catches for 1012 yards and five touchdowns. Jennings was hotter in the first half of the year while Driver came on better in the second half once defenses realized they still had to commit to stopping Jennings even with Favre gone.

The #3 spot goes to James Jones at least for now though Jordy Nelson could be moving up eventually.

Jennings only had efforts of 5-64 and 6-38 against the Bears last year but scored in each game. Driver had around 60 yards in each game without any touchdowns. Look for a similar outcome unless Grant really surprises with a huge game.

Tight Ends: Donald Lee remains the starter but he was a less used target for Rodgers than he was with Favre. Lee had 39 catches for 308 yards and five touchdowns last year but that could decline yet again this season thanks to second-year player Jermichael Finley who has progressed to an entirely new level since 2008. In training camp, Rodgers said the speedy tight end was "uncoverable" and at 6-5 and 247 pounds, he is a true tweener more aligned with a true receiving tight end. He had seven catches for 74 yards and two scores in two games played this preseason but it is too early to rely on him being a factor. I will not project for him yet but he is worth keeping an eye on to be sure. I am giving Lee a score but it could end up with Finley.

Donald Lee scored once in the home game against the Bears but no Packers tight end ever had more than 35 yards facing the Bears last year.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points GB 3 26 3 19 7 4
Preventing Fantasy Points CHI 20 18 30 17 19 9

The Huddle
WEEK 1
~ 2009 ~
Season Ticket
Thursday
Sunday
Sunday
Sunday
Monday
Sunday
Sunday Late
Other Features
Fantasy Statistics
Early Injury Report
Free Agent Forecast
Commentary From the Edge
Game Recaps
Tunnel Vision
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