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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: DAL 20, TB 17

Saturday Update: Both Bryant and Clayton returned to full practice and are safe to start.

Friday Update: Both Antonio Bryant (sprained knee) and Michael Clayton (hamstring) were limited in practice on Thursday but had practiced fully on Tuesday and Wednesday. HC Raheem Morris said he was just giving both wideouts a little rest and that both are expected to play without any limitations on Sunday.

Both these teams had winning records of 9-7 last year and both missed the playoffs despite the lower bar of the NFC. This was accomplished by the Cowboys losing their last two games and the Buccaneers dropped their last four. Both teams have undergone a revamp and meet again this time in Tampa Bay. This should be a low scoring game since the Buccaneers have questionable firepower but are at home and already played the Cowboys nearly even last year in Dallas

The Cowboys won 13-9 when the Buccaneers came to Dallas in week eight last year.

Dallas Cowboys (0-0)
Homefield: Texas Stadium
RealGrass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @TB - - -
2 NYG - - -
3 CAR - - -
4 @DEN - - -
5 @KC - - -
6 BYE - - -
7 ATL - - -
8 SEA - - -
9 @PHI - - -
10 @GB - - -
11 WAS - - -
12 OAK - - -
13 @NYG - - -
14 SD - - -
15 @NO - - -
16 @WAS - - -
17 PHI - - -
DAL @ TB Rush Catch Pass
QB Tony Romo     200,1
RB Marion Barber III 70,1 40  
RB Felix Jones 60    
TE Jason Witten   60,1  
WR Roy Williams   40  
WR Patrick Crayton   30  
WR Miles Austin   10  
PK Nick Folk 2 XP 2 FG  
Pregame Notes: While Wade Phillips was spared the axe there is no doubt that his leash is getting shorter all the time and that the Cowboys have to win if only to help pay for the new $1.15 billion stadium which incidentally sort of looks like a crashed mothership from the movie "Independence Day". Terrell Owens was purged and the Cowboys are going to try this new style called "playing as a team". They are also intending on rushing much more since someone recollected that all those Super Bowl wins (heck - just playoff wins) came when the Cowboys were a rushing team. Not a "throw it to Terrell to shut him up" team. Crazier things have worked.

Quarterback: Tony Romo has been dinged in fantasy drafts this year since he fell back a bit in 2008 with only 3448 yards and 28 scores though he did miss three games because of injury. The loss of Terrell Owens obviously means less passes - or does it? The stated intent is to run the ball more this year but that won't necessarily mean the demise of Romo as a fantasy stud quarterback. Granted he won't likely have the 4200 passing yards of two seasons ago but there are enough weapons on the team for a solid season. The Cowboys also intend on using more two tight end sets which gets Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett both on the field and they could be the most productive tight end tandem in the league (if such actually exists elsewhere).

Romo did not play last year when the Buccaneers came to Dallas. Brad Johnson only had 122 yards and one score in that game. The Buccaneers famed defense declines a bit every year but that won't mean Romo has a big game here. This should once again be a defensive match with more rushing than receiving.

Running Backs: The Cowboys are back with a healthy and potentially potent backfield if only everyone can stay on the field this time. Marion Barber remains the primary back who missed one game and played sparingly in several others and ended with a career worse 3.7 yard rushing average due in part to his bad toe. He had been around 4.8 yards per carry as a starter with double digit scores until last season.

Felix Jones is back after missing the final ten games of the season but he was a force in his brief playing time last year. In games with more than three carries he scored each time with a signature long run. He only caught two passes but his role as the change of pace back could be frightening - if he remains healthy.

And Tashard Choice was a big surprise when he was called on. He tore up both Baltimore and Pittsburgh and unfortunately bought himself a guaranteed role as a backup in Dallas since three backs were needed to make it through last year. Choice could be a starting option on several teams in the NFL but waits in Dallas for the chance.

Barber gained 71 yards on 25 carries and added 29 yards on six receptions against the Bucs last year.

Wide Receivers: Terrell Owens is gone but he wasn't replaced. Roy Williams is expected to step up and fill any void but the Cowboys do not intend on using the wideouts as much in 2009. Williams has shown at least some minor chemistry with Romo in the offseason but suffered a shoulder injury that made him miss a few weeks of training camp. Patrick Crayton moves back to the #2 role that has not had much fantasy value in the past and Miles Austin may be the #3 unless Sam Hurd takes it. In the end it doesn't really matter in fantasy terms.

No wideout had more than 33 yards versus the Bucs last year but Roy Williams had the lone touchdown. Expect the same yardage but not the score.

Tight Ends: Jason Witten ranked #2 among tight ends with 952 yards on 81 catches last year and that was while sharing with Terrell Owens. This year - it could be even busier. Witten is the clear #1 receiver on this team and Romo's favorite target. He is also joined by Martellus Bennett during two tight end sets and Bennett had four scores himself in 2008. Witten will remain the primary receiver for the Cowboys and Bennett should at least approach fantasy relevance for a tight end.

Witten only had one catch for eight yards against the Bucs last year. Since he's the safest throw for Romo, expect a decent game here from Witten that could end up benefiting Bennett as well.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DAL 10 14 14 1 27 10
Preventing Fantasy Points TB 9 16 10 12 20 17


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
Homefield: Raymond James Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DAL - - -
2 @BUF - - -
3 NYG - - -
4 @WAS - - -
5 @PHI - - -
6 CAR - - -
7 NE - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 GB - - -
10 @MIA - - -
11 NO - - -
12 @ATL - - -
13 @CAR - - -
14 NYJ - - -
15 @SEA - - -
16 @NO - - -
17 ATL - - -
TB vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Byron Leftwich     230,1
RB Derrick Ward 40 30  
RB Ernest Graham 30,1 10  
RB Carnell Williams 40    
TE Kellen Winslow Jr.   60,1  
WR Antonio Bryant   60  
WR Michael Clayton   20  
WR Sammie Stroughter   30  
PK Mike Nugent 2 XP 1 FG  

Pregame Notes:The Buccaneers hired Jeff Jagodzinski in January as offensive coordinator and then just dumped him last week. Greg Olson has been promoted from being the quarterbacks coach but the offensive style will remain the same - run the ball. Run it some more. Then maybe fake a pass and run it again. The Buccaneers have revamped their offense but mainly by using castoffs from other teams. Kellen Winslow has talent but may not have the knees for long and Derrick Ward and Byron Leftwich don't exactly do much for the Buccaneers Super Bowl odds.

Quarterback: Byron Leftwich gets the starting nod for week one but may not hold it for the entire season. The Bucs are excited about their rookie Josh Freeman but aren't willing to throw him into the fire quite yet. Leftwich held off Luke McCown in the competition to be the starter and McCown was later sent packing. This is Leftwich's team until someone yells "Freeman - grab your helmet". There have been upgrades to the receivers with Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant has been slapped with the franchise tag. But this has been one of the worst passing offenses for many years and Leftwich is hardly the way you turn that around.

Garcia was the starter last year when the Bucs went to Dallas and he passed or 227 yards and no scores. That sounds more like a high side for Leftwich in the new offense.

Running Backs: Ah yes, Derrick Ward. He became a darling to many when he ran for over 1000 yards behind the Great Wall of New York and he is an accomplished receiver. He is also a 29-year old back who has done little until last year and still has only five rushing touchdowns in his five year career. He is added to the mix of Ernest Graham the capable but brittle running back never good good enough to be given a job by himself. And now Carnell Williams has popped up again and has even been noted on team depth charts to be #1 - whatever that means.

The plan is to use all three backs in every game with a ratio of 2 series - 2 series - 1 series. That's a picture perfect formula for draining every reliable shred of fantasy value from this backfield. We'll see how it shakes out starting this week but I'll faithfully try to project this exercise in random numbers. At least I can project for Williams before his next catastrophic knee injury.

Graham rushed for only 42 yards on 17 carries in Dallas last year. But the Cowboys are far better at stopping the run at home than on the road. Look for a respectable total from the three combined and at least one rushing score. And for none of them to be an attractive start. Maybe ever.

Wide Receivers: This is a changing offense but the roles remain the same from last year other than Sammie Stroughter who has risen from being the seventh round pick in April to being the slot receiver on this team that will not throw much and certainly never to the #3 wideout. The Buccaneers were surprised to find that Antonio Bryant went from being out of football to actually being highly productive in this offense. He had 1248 yards and seven scores for a career best. It only took sitting at home for a season and finding his fourth team to matter. But the Bucs still do not completely believe what they saw (ditto baby) and franchised him for $9.8 million rather than pay up for a longer contract. Make it trend, not the aberration, Mike. In February, the Bucs gave Michael Clayton a five year, $24 million contract with $10 million guaranteed which is pretty impressive for a player who has never had more than 484 yards in the last four years and has a total of two touchdowns in those four seasons. Makes you wonder what they give you if you produce (oh yeah, franchise tag).

Bryant had six catches for 45 yards in Dallas last year. Back at home, the passing game could be a little better but it is a new quarterback and some coaches as well. Plus Winslow will be fed regularly as well. Best to see what happens here before buying into it. And that won't cost you $9 million.

Tight Ends: Kellen Winslow gets to soldier down in Florida now after signing a six-year, $36 million contract and he will be used heavily knee permitting. Winslow played against the Cowboys as a Brown last year and had five catches for 47 yards and one touchdown. No doubt the coaches want to see Winslow succeed and justify his salary so look for a decent game here thanks to a volume of passes.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points TB 15 16 18 10 4 6
Preventing Fantasy Points DAL 10 12 11 11 31 28

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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