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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: DEN 10, CIN 24

Saturday Update: Knowshon Moreno is still limited in practice and while he has not been counted out for the game, Correll Buckhalter will get the start and Moreno will probably just mix in with the other backs. I am lowering his projections and he is not safe to start this week. You can only hope this is not a harbinger for things to come since HC Josh MCDaniels is already playing the misinformation game he learned in New England.

Orton is still listed as questionable but he's expected to play despite the finger injury. No need to change the projections.

Chris Henry and Carson Palmer are both listed as probable and had a full day of practice on Friday.

Friday Update: Kyle Orton was limited in practice because of his finger. It doesn't impact his throwing supposedly so he'll be playing this week. Knowshon Moreno has also been limited as he recovers from his knee injury but he is practicing full contact. HC Josh McDaniels won't say if Moreno will play yet and since he is a Belichick product, whatever he does say is not necessarily the truth. Check back on Moreno. I won't update him at this time but will if warranted after Friday's practice. It is looking for favorable for him at least.

Chris Henry injured his thigh and missed practice on Thursday. I'm not projecting for him anyway but it would likely benefit Andre Caldwell from not needing to share with him. Carson Palmer is practicing fully all week and is a safe start.

In fantasy terms, this is a must watch game. The Broncos are different offensively for the first time since recorded history and ending 8-8 last year was enough to send Mike Shanahan packing. There will be no changes in the secretiveness and outright misleading information but there's a new offensive scheme and new players to run it. The only old ones there are requesting a trade anyway. The Bengals annual crash and burn was even worse than normal with a 4-11-1 record in 2008 because Carson Palmer was injured. Ends up he matters.

Both these teams have bad defenses so there is the chance for some fireworks. This is a game that only fantasy football could love.

Denver Broncos (0-0)
Homefield: Invesco Field
Grass
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @CIN - - -
2 CLE - - -
3 @OAK - - -
4 DAL - - -
5 NE - - -
6 @SD - - -
7 BYE - - -
8 @BAL - - -
9 PIT - - -
10 @WAS - - -
11 SD - - -
12 NYG - - -
13 @KC - - -
14 @IND - - -
15 OAK - - -
16 @PHI - - -
17 KC - - -
DEN @ CIN Rush Catch Pass
QB Kyle Orton     210,1
RB Knowshon Moreno 40 10  
RB Correll Buckhalter 50    
TE Tony Scheffler   20  
WR Brandon Marshall   80  
WR Eddie Royal   60,1  
WR Brandon Stokley   20  
PK Matt Prater 1 FG 1 XP  

Pregame Notes: In with the new. The Broncos bring on board the youngest head coach in the league - 5th youngest in NFL history when they brought in Josh Daniels from the Patriots where he was the offensive coordinator. McDaniels was credited with Matt Cassell being Brady-like enough that it didn't all fall apart last season. McCoy is the offensive coordinator but rest assured that Daniels has the heavy hand on this offense. This becomes the Rocky Mountain Patriots only without those pesky star players.

McDaniels first move was to lose out trying to get Matt Cassell to come to Denver and thereby driving off a perfectly good Pro Bowl quarterback in Jay Cutler. He did manage to bring in game manager Kyle Orton and his head spinning 170 yard passing games. He also managed to alienate Brandon Marshall (in fairness - not a hard thing to do) who still wants to be traded or at least paid huge money and neither is happening. The Broncos had ranked in the top three for attempts, completions and passing yardage last year. That will be a tall order for Orton.

Complicating more is the defense that was second worse in the league overall. They ranked 29th in yards allowed and 30th in points surrendered. It could be an impressive turnaround, it could be a absolute car wreck. But this season is worth watching either way.

Quarterback: This will be fascinating since McDaniels is importing a complicated, pass-heavy offense and Kyle Orton comes from Chicago where he was instructed to either hand it off to Matt Forte or throw it to Matt Forte or just take the sack. Orton has been careful with the ball and doesn't usually turn it over - great for a team that has a strong defense and running game. But the opposite is true here. He will get Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall (probably) which will be sorely needed. But this is very much worth watching since it should be a pass happy attack if it works to form.

The Bengals secondary is average at best and this should be a nice place to unroll the new scheme and see what it does. Having Marshall suspended and not practicing was no help though and the biggest surprise is if this offense doesn't sputter at least initially.

Running Backs: The Broncos only had 378 rushing attempts in 2008 for the fourth lowest in the league. The new regime has restocked the backfield now with Knowshon Moreno as the first running back drafted this spring and brought in Correll Buckhalter and Lamont Jordan and kept Peyton Hillis as the least likely keeper from last year (since he's more a fullback). The scheme being employed is that from the Patriots though there has been no word yet which type of coin they will flip when deciding who to send in every series. The safest - and most likely - scenario is using Moreno as the primary back since he is most talented even without playing a down yet. And then likely relying on some combination of Hillis and Buckhalter. Jordan was expected to be released but made the team when someone apparently mixed up the lists.

Bottom line here - we need to see this week how the breakdown is made. Moreno lost time with a sprained knee but should play against what is historically an average or worse defense.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Marshall had an NFL-high 181 passes thrown to him though he only caught 104 last year. Then again, he did not play week one so he had one less game than most. His 1265 yards and six scores were solid enough but his "per pass" ratio was low. And that was with Jay Cutler at the helm. And before he wanted to be traded away. Or suspended for a few weeks for conduct detrimental to the team. The assumption has to be that Marshall will play and not be an issue but it's not something you want to bet mortgage money on.

Eddie Royal has quietly been the lone holdover from 2008 who wants to play regardless of all the changes. As a rookie (with Cutler) he had 91 catches for 980 yards and five scores. That's only 10.8 yards per catch which is low for a smaller guy but Royal can play the middle and should be a nice match for this offense once it hits on all cylinders. Think Wes Welker. Only with Kyle Orton.

Brandon Stokley has received some positive comments in training camp as the slot receiver but he has only one decent season to his resume and that was with Peyton Manning. Again - without the star quarterback.

Tight Ends: While Kyle Orton shows up with experience using tight ends, the offensive scheme won't use them nearly so much. Tony Scheffler remains the best receiver in the group but barring a surprise, he's lost any reliable fantasy value a while back.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 4 23 5 3 19 32
Preventing Fantasy Points CIN 17 13 23 23 12 26


Cincinnati Bengals (0-0)
Homefield: Paul Brown Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 DEN - - -
2 @GB - - -
3 PIT - - -
4 @CLE - - -
5 @BAL - - -
6 HOU - - -
7 CHI - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 BAL - - -
10 @PIT - - -
11 @OAK - - -
12 CLE - - -
13 DET - - -
14 @MIN - - -
15 @SD - - -
16 KC - - -
17 @NYJ - - -
CIN vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Carson Palmer     230,1
RB Cedric Benson 120,1 10  
TE Chase Coffman   10  
WR Chad Ochocinco   100,1  
WR Laveranues Coles   40  
WR Andre Caldwell   30  
PK Shayne Graham 1 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Bengals had a crash and burn last year that seemed underway even before Carson Palmer left after week five. The schedule was brutal to be sure and as a result of injuries, the Bengals tied for worst in the league with only six total rushing scores in 2008. Without Palmer around, the passing game ranked among the worst three in both yardage and scores. It was a horrible season for all but Cedric Benson who finally found a home where he is not hated by the fans.

This is the same offense, same coaches and other than Houshmandzadeh, the same players or better than last year. If the Bengals could remain healthy, they could surprise with the potential firepower on the offense.

I like the chance for a Bengals defensive score in this game.

Quarterback: Carson Palmer had an elbow injury that was feared to need "Tommy John" surgery but the ulna collateral ligament healed itself and Palmer has been able to practice with the team and is slated to be okay to play this week. In the "how quickly we forget" category, Palmer had back-to-back 4000+ yard seasons before his injury of 2008 and he's opening up against one of the weaker defenses in the league other than the cornerbacks.

Look for a decent showing by Palmer here but there should be no reason to push him any harder than needed. The Broncos rush defense has long been suspect and they come in as visitors installing their own new offense. Should be only a moderate need to pass this week.

Running Backs: Cedric Benson has finally found a home where he hasn't poisoned his persona with any ill-advised holdout. He only played in 12 games and really only became a starter from mid-season onward. He gained 747 yards on 214 carries but only had two rushing scores and a 3.5 yard rushing average. Playing the Steelers and Ravens sort of hurts that effort.

But Benson was on the upswing to end the year when he reeled off 282 yards in the final two games and he gets to be a primary back in a league where most teams opt for committee backfields. He'll need to remain healthy but he gets a much kinder schedule this year and should have at least the occasional decent game - like this week when he faces one of the weakest rush defenses of 2008 as a visitor no less. Expect a very nice showing here by Benson that may be his only really good game for a while.

Of some note is the rookie Bernard Scott who has clearly become the #2 back with an impressive offseason and camp. This offense doesn't normally mix runners but Scott becomes relevant should Benson get injured.

Wide Receivers: Chad Ochocinco once again claims that he has "got it" after his annual offseason grousing and there is reason to believe that 2009 could be an up year for him. He led the league in receiving yardage in 2006 and 2007 before last year's debacle without Palmer around. And T.J. Houshmandzadeh is gone - Palmers safety blanket. At worst Ochocinco should have a solid yardage total fed by a handful of monster games but he could actually return to being more consistent as he was in the earlier portions of his career without Houshmandzadeh there.

Laveranues Coles fills in the vacated flanker spot and he's been very quiet this sumner. Coles has averaged around 930 yards and six scores per season while playing with far less capable quarterbacks than Carson Palmer. Coles should take over the possession role from Houshmandzadeh though less likely his role in the endzone. This week he draws Champ Bailey and that will depress his numbers.

Palmer also gets his choice of two more wideouts - Andre Caldwell who has finally developed into a viable target and will be the #3 wideout and Chris Henry who claims to have finally matured. There are plenty of targets for Palmer here, he just has to get the time to throw them the ball. I will project for Caldwell as the #3 but we'll see how that goes.

Tight Ends: One of the more curious picks in the NFL draft is when the Bengals grabbed Chase Coffman from Missouri with the 3.34 pick. The Bengals never throw to the tight ends. Reggie Kelly led the team last year and that was with only 31 catches for 207 yards. And no tight end, not one of the five who played, ever scored last year. But Coffman is a pure receiving tight end. He's 6'6" but only 245 pounds because he is a receiver. This bears watching to see if the Bengals are changing their mind about tight ends but not yet worthy of much fantasy attention.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CIN 28 32 23 30 31 26
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 15 31 7 29 29 13

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
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