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

Prediction: SF 20, ARI 30

Saturday Update: Boldin was still limited in practice on Friday and is listed as questionable to play. He will be a gametime decision and he's not going to be 100% in any event. I am lowering his projections now and he is a risk to use. With Boldin, he'll likely push to play no matter what so the question is how effective he will be. The matchup is very good but Boldin is a questionable play this week. Looks like Steve Breaston will play but will not be 100% either so expect Jerheme Urban gets at least some playing time that could become significant depending in the health of Boldin and Breaston.

Friday Update: Anquan Boldin did not practice on Wednesday because of his hamstring but had some limited work on Thursday. Though he'll likely be listed as questionable on the injury report on Friday, Boldin said himself that he was certain that he was going to play. Barring a setback, Boldin should be a safe start. Steve Breaston has been practicing this week but his knee still isn't healed up and could be a minor issue. He'll play but may be limited.

These two teams are opening their seasons against each other for the third year in a row. In 2008, the Cardinals won 23-13 in Arizona for the opener and later again 29-24 in San Francisco. The difference this time around is that the Cardinals are the defending NFC champs and somehow elevated themselves while the rest of the NFC West all languished with losing records.

San Francisco 49ers (0-0)
Homefield: Monster Park
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @ARI - - -
2 SEA - - -
3 @MIN - - -
4 STL - - -
5 ATL - - -
6 BYE - - -
7 @HOU - - -
8 @IND - - -
9 TEN - - -
10 CHI - - -
11 @GB - - -
12 JAC - - -
13 @SEA - - -
14 ARI - - -
15 @PHI - - -
16 DET - - -
17 @STL - - -
SF @ ARI Rush Catch Pass
QB Shaun Hill     230,2
RB Frank Gore 80 50  
TE Vernon Davis   30  
WR Josh Morgan   60,1  
WR Isaac Bruce   40  
WR Arnaz Battle   30,1  
PK Joe Nedney 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: Mike Singletary remains as the head coach with his defensive background and Jimmy Raye becomes the 7th new offensive coordinator in the last seven years - not exactly a hallmark of consistency. There was speculation that others had turned down the job like Scott Linehan and that Raye was merely the first one that finally said yes. Raye has been around the NFL for over 30 years and most recently was the running backs coach for the Jets. He doesn't bring much in the way of new and exciting schemes but there is no arguing with his lengthy resume that he knows how to get what he can from an offense.

This could be a positive since the last time an old school coach directed the offense (Norv Turner) the results were better than most years. Still the 49ers have the look of a team still not quite turning the corner yet. Drafting Michael Crabtree with the 1.10 pick and then watching him apparently making good on his threat to sit out unless he is ridiculously overpaid is just the sort of luck the 49es have suffered with for years.

I still say let him sit out and then have the 49ers draft him again (no doubt later than 1.10). Imagine his face on ESPN - how cool would that be? Yo Mikey - we're baaaaack...

Quarterback: The 49ers have opted to stick with Shaun Hill and officially give up on Alex "it's not where you were drafted" Smith. He served up around 230 yards in most games and scored 13 times in nine games played. Considering what he had to work with - and it is not much different this year - that's pretty impressive. What will change is the 49ers going to a more conventional offense with the occasional deep strike and more use of the running back as a receiver. Hill could end up as a viable fantasy backup since the 49ers are likely to trail in most games and need to throw to finish out games.

Hill passed for 217 yards and two scores in Arizona last year. The Cardinals pass defense was one of the worst last year so Hill could do even better since he'll be heading up yet another new offense that no one has seen.

Running Backs: Frank Gore returns as the primary back and he comes off a decent year with 1036 rushing yards and six scores along with 43 receptions for 373 yards and two more touchdowns even though he missed two games with a bad ankle. What we are all waiting for is the 49ers to return to an offense that sees Gore reprise his 20065 season when he had 2180 total yards, 61 catches and nine scores. The progress with the defense will help but until the passing game strikes fear into more than 49ers season ticket holders, Gore will remain a marked man in this offense.

Gore will get help from the rookie Glenn Coffee who has already become the most promising back in San Francisco since... since Gore showed up. The plan is to use Coffee in a relief role and it is worth watching to see how Raye's offense deals with two viable rushers on the team.

Gore ran for 99 yards on 23 carries in Arizona last year and had 96 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown in the home meeting. Gore also added 55 yards on four catches in the second meeting. Look for a few less yards rushing but more receiving than last year. I will not project for Coffee until it is apparent he'll have fantasy value.

Wide Receivers: As noted, the Michael Crabtree debacle appears on a path to make Cedric Benson look like Mr. Popular in Chicago by comparison. By this point I think most of us want to see what happens when a player holds out and re-enters a draft. Dealing with who is actually there means that Isaac Bruce not only has delayed his retirement for one more season, but he may be the most reliable receiver that they have. Josh Morgan had a decent season for a rookie when he caught 20 passes for 319 yards last season and the former sixth rounder now gets a chance to become a starting split end.

Arnaz Battle has recently made strides to being the #3 in this offense and pending actual playing time, I am projecting for the three wideouts. Brandon Jones signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract back in February but fractured his right shoulder in early August and won't be back for probably another month.

Morgan scored once during his four catches for 54 yards in Arizona last year. Jason Hill had six catches for 82 yards in that game. Look for Morgan to likely score again and the second touchdown should end up with either Bruce or Battle.

Tight Ends: Vernon Davis spend yet another offseason with a few rumors that he was looking good followed by more news that he's dumber than a box of rocks and just will never "get it". For being a supposed freak of nature in size and speed, Davis has never had more four scores or 52 catches. If the 49ers do rely on Gore more as a receiver, that will only diminish Davis role even more.

Davis actually scored in Arizona on his only catch in the game. He previously had 51 yards on three catches at home.

Gaining Fantasy Points SF 12 27 12 25 14 30
Preventing Fantasy Points ARI 32 23 31 13 15 21

Arizona Cardinals (0-0)
Homefield: University of Phoenix Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 SF - - -
2 @JAC - - -
3 IND - - -
4 BYE - - -
5 HOU - - -
6 @SEA - - -
7 @NYG - - -
8 CAR - - -
9 @CHI - - -
10 SEA - - -
11 @STL - - -
12 @TEN - - -
13 MIN - - -
14 @SF - - -
15 @DET - - -
16 STL - - -
17 GB - - -
ARI vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Kurt Warner     250,2
RB Chris Wells 70,1 10  
RB Tim Hightower 40 20  
WR Anquan Boldin   50  
WR Larry Fitzgerald   100,2  
WR Steve Breaston   40  
PK Neil Rackers 3 FG 3 XP  

Pregame Notes: Every year it seems there is one big surprise team that makes it to the Super Bowl. Welcome to the 2008 Arizona Cardinals. While it all fell just short against the Steelers, the Cards are still feeling the glow of the best season in franchise history... by a large margin.

The Cardinals will run the same offense this year but HC Ken Whisenhunt has taken over the play calling duties and there is no offensive coordinator this season. The hope is that the rushing game can catch a spark and that the offense becomes a little more balanced than it was last season. Then again - why bother? It got them to the Super Bowl by throwing on almost every play.

Quarterback: Nothing wrong here. The Cardinals were merely #1 in completions (418), #2 in passing attempts (630) and yardage (4674) and #3 in passing touchdowns (31). It was a good year even without the whole Super Bowl thing. Kurt Warner returns but had hip surgery in the offseason and has not been as sharp, seemingly, in the preseason. He's 38 years old and that scares off some fantasy team owners but so far there has been nothing that Warner has done in Arizona that has not led to fantasy gold. Warner passed for 4583 yards and 30 scores for second best in both yards and touchdowns last year. And yet he's commonly been drafted around 5th or 6th quarterback taken this summer.

Warner loves the 49ers. He only managed 197 yards and one score in the road meeting but at home he bombed them for 328 yards and three touchdowns last year. The Cards added Beanie Wells and hopes to get a better rushing effort this season. That could slightly lower the results from this matchup for Warner.

Running Backs: The Cardinals ranked dead last in rushing attempts (340) and rushing yards (1178) and collectively only had a 3.5 yard rushing average with was second worst in the league. Tim Hightower only managed to gain 399 yards on 143 carries for a paltry 2.9 yards per carry average. He did score ten times thanks to the productive passing game getting close to the endzone. In the NFL draft, the Cards snapped up Chris "Beanie" Wells in an effort to have a real running back again but his durability issues have already come to bear in the preseason. That has led to Tim Hightower being named the week one starter but there is no way that a healthy Wells won't be a major upgrade over Hightower. There may be a splitting of carries in this initial game but it should end up weighing towards Wells sooner than later.

The Cardinals opened their season with Edgerrin James rushing for 100 yards on 26 carries in San Francisco but by week 10 in Arizona, the Cards only gained 22 rushing yards on 13 carries as a team. With Hightower and Wells in the backfield, look for a decent rushing effort here but a splitting of production hurts the fantasy value for both this week.

Wide Receivers: The dynamic duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin accounted for 286 of the passes that Kurt Warner threw and Fitzgerald's 12 scores tied Calvin Johnson for best in the league. This team has the best set of wideouts in the NFL universe. Not only are Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both top ten talents, but even #3 Steve Breaston ended with 1006 yards on 77 catches last year. Three wideouts all over 1000 yards? It's enough to make opposing defensive coordinators wet their pants on third downs.

Fitzgerald only had games of 31 and 46 yards against the 49ers last year but he scored once in each. Boldin fared better with 82 yards on eight catches on the road and later seven receptions for 92 yards with two touchdowns in Arizona. Even Steve Breaston had a good time with 54 yards on the road and then 124 yards at home against the 49ers. As with most games for the Cards, the question is who and how much each week because good things will happen.

Boldin is not a lock to play this week with hamstring issues but he'll gut it out if possible. I'll update later as warranted.

Gaining Fantasy Points ARI 2 28 1 32 16 11
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 19 21 25 3 27 29

The Huddle
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