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The Prognosticator – Week 1

Welcome my fantasy brethren to the first 2004 edition of The Prognosticator. May it be your pearl in this dried up, tainted, oyster bank. 2004 once again brings vast changes to FantasySharks. We have a lot of the old and we’ve introduced many new features that we think you’ll be happy with. It’s a sort of coming of age for us here. With 14,000+ registered members and an estimated 50,000 – 70,000 of you just lurking in the background, we’re proud of our little corner of the web. Registering with us doesn’t bring unwanted Email or unsolicited offers from our partners. In fact, in the three years we’ve been working on this project we’ve only sent an Email to our list twice, both times at the beginning of each season as a reminder that we’re still here. Many folks offer us green backs to get at our mailing list but hopefully by now our members realize we don’t take advantage of their right to privacy. Those that know us know we do things very differently around here and we like to think it’s a refreshing change from the other guys that seem intent on dreaming up as many ways as possible to part you from your dollars. Perhaps some of you actually like to be cheated? 

We’re not here to sell you or ask outrageous fees for our service. We’re building a powerful online fantasy football community that everyone can be proud to be a part of. The only reason we ask you register with us is so that we can customize how we show you your information by saving your scoring system, players, lineup requirements, contest entries etc. with a member name. Without it, how would we know you? It allows us to provide you a better, more accurate service and after all, isn’t that why you’re here?

Over the years I’ve been crafting this weekly rag, it never ceases to amaze me how widely read this offering is. I’m flattered to have you read and I sincerely enjoy your company. For those new to The Progno, where have you been? Welcome aboard, strap in, and let’s crack the seal on this season, Progno style. 

This Week’s Predictions

Team Rushing Passing

ARI

Average Average

ATL

Average Frigid

BAL

Hot Cold

BUF

Frigid Frigid

CAR

Frigid Average

CHI

Average Average

CIN

Warm Cold

CLE

Frigid Cold

DAL

Cold Average

DEN

Hot Average

DET

Cold Cold

GB

Average Average

HOU

Average Frigid

IND

Frigid Average

JAX

Average Cold

KC

Cold Hot

MIA

Average Frigiid

MIN

Hot Average

NE

Cold Average

NO

Average Hot

NYG

Average Frigid

NYJ

Average Warm

OAK

Average Frigid

PHI

Warm Hot

PIT

Warm Average

SD

Warm Hot

SEA

Hot Warm

SF

Warm Warm

STL

Warm Hot

TB

Warm Average

TEN

Cold Warm

WAS

Cold Frigid

 


All times are Eastern

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots – Thursday 9:00pm

Ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that the Colts complained to the league about the way the Patriots cornerback’s man handled their receivers in the post season last year and the league listened. 

What? 45 – 17 scores aren’t enough already? When is enough NFL? 72 – 56 is that more fun for us? Is that the thinking? It’s a well known fact that the average viewer likes to see scoring. They like to see hockey fights and end over end crashes on the track as well. Does that make it right? For those that like arena football (me not counted among them) does constant back and forth scoring really make the game better to watch? Am I the only one left that prefers a tight 17 – 17 contest with the final drive deciding it with a 48 yard FG? Am I? 

The game of football is a chess match and within those boundaries is where the real enjoyment is, not wide open offenses that frustrate the defense. Defense wins championships and to toss that all away, opens the NFL to an anyone can win league and if anyone can win, the big market teams fans, the markets that drive the sport, will lose interest and that’s a fence the NFL needs to stop riding. I realize that the NFL is a business first and a sport second, don’t ever think football is a sport because it’s not. It’s a business whose business is sport. The business says that people will watch if scoring goes up but sports fans, you need to always fight the fight and keep the pressure on to keep this something special. 

You shouldn’t stand for Terrell Owens pom-pom celebrations, you shouldn’t stand for Keenan McCardell contract demands, you shouldn’t stand for Joe Horn’s antics you shouldn’t stand for Terry Glenn’s hang nail keeping him out of the lineup. Rather, you should applaud Steve McNair for taking the field battered and bruised and manage to perform at a high level. You should applaud Brett Favre and his heart for the game. You should exalt Jerry Rice’s TD’s and his “score it like you’ve been here before” attitude. You should even applaud a guy like Antowain Smith who has his entire career, only done whatever the team has asked him to do with little fuss. I don’t know if it was the Icky Shuffle or whether it’s a by product of media glitz that has tainted the NFL but whatever it was, it’s bad for the NFL and in this author’s opinion, has pushed the NFL onto a downward slope.

Now, was there an NFL game on Thursday night? Oh yeah! The Colts against the Superbowl Champion New England Patriots! 

The Patriots are going to turn the ball over in this one and whether they win or not depends on how costly a fumble it is.  If Corey Dillon fumbles on their own 20 then this could swing the Colts way.  Look for the Patriots to start Dillon early as he’ll be the featured player this weekend in the Patriots offense.  In fact, look for Dillon to have more yards than Edgerrin James this day.  Though neither back really gets on track.

Prediction: Patriots 27 – Colts 24


Arizona Cardinals at Saint Louis Rams – Sunday 1:00pm

Does anyone else get the feeling that it is going to be a long season for the Arizona Cardinals. You know, if we wanted to pool our pennies we could buy the Cards for about $500 million. That’s paltry by NFL standards and the Cards are in fact the least valued team in the NFL. For years I’ve said I have the answer to turn this franchise around and that remains true to this day. For starters, strip it down to the bone and start again. Change the name of the team, change the boring logo, change the boring uniforms. We have to get merchandising sales up early to help pay the bills and listen carefully now, NO ONE wants to wear a Cardinals jersey. That should be the first obvious clue. 

After we get merchandising straightened out by choosing a handful of the most enigmatic players on the team, wrap marketing campaigns and an entourage around them and push them into the spotlight so they’re on radio, news and in the papers daily, we fire the player personnel director and conditioning coach. Then after we do all that, trade away any player worth his salt (which includes Anquan Boldin) at the end of this season, to a playoff contender, and give up on the guys that aren’t worth their salt. 

I’d keep the offensive line as best I could but over the next 3 years, focus on defense and depth on the offensive line. The Cardinals need to make a statement in the league and the best way to make that initial statement is to get back to smash mouth football. Start pushing people around. It doesn’t matter if you win, as long as you pushed people around on the field and added a few bruises to the other team’s collection. To do that, you need to run the ball but you can’t run without a defense, so priority one is go out and spend the majority of your cash on defense.

Make Arizona a place that other teams don’t like to play and I assure you, word will get out. Eventually over the years that will grow and take root. It’s then we rip out a page from the Colts draft plan, switch gears, and draft a young rookie Peyton Manning type QB, we pay him and we lock him up for 7 years. Next season we draft the best RB in the draft while we loosen up the lines a little to help pay for our two new stars. Two years later, after we lose in the second round of the playoffs we sign some cheap veterans that have been there and with a little luck, we bring the Cardinals a SuperBowl Championship. It’s my 10 year Cardinal plan as that is how long it will take to turn this franchise around. If Tampa Bay can do it, so can the Cards. Guys, just drop me a line at tholm@fantasysharks.com and I’d be happy to drive this for a nominal fee. 

Till this pipe dream comes true, the Cardinals continue to get shellacked by a Rams team that has also heard how average they are supposed to be this year.  Expect the Cardinals to not look *that* bad on offense but they’re about to get torched on defense by some fairly motivated Rams.  Torry Holt is questionable in this one which is too bad as he would account for 3 TD’s himself.  Watch his status.  Look for Marshall Faulk to easily score in this one way contest.

Prediction: Rams 35 – Cardinals 17


Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns – Sunday 1:00pm

I hope everyone paid attention to one of the Progno golden draft rules and stayed away from Jeff Garcia. So many blind people liked Garcia as their big sleeper QB pick of the preseason and it was fun taking rampant abuse in all my early expert public drafts for skipping over him and taking “bums” like Joey Harrington or Jake Delhomme instead. If for some reason you have him on your team, work a deal now while he still has some value. After Week 1, especially after the Ravens make him look like a high school QB, you won’t be able to get two sticks for him.

While trial is far away for Jamal Lewis and he’s been able to focus on football, expect great things.  This is the same Jamal Lewis that exploded last season in the same situation and you should expect similar numbers.  In the early going this season, Lewis will be a downhill force on the field.

Go ahead and start Kyle Boller if you have some sick desire to lose.

RB Lee Suggs is probably not going to play with a neck stinger which puts the ball in William Green‘s hands by default.  I like Green, but against the Ravens, don’t expect him to take the job away.  Opportunity is one thing, a brick wall is another.

Prediction: Ravens 34 – Browns 14


Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints – Sunday 1:00pm

The Seahawks are going to run Shaun Alexander a lot in this as they test the Saints front.  To break up Alexander they’ll throw successfully to both Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson to boot.  An all around solid day for the Seahawks offense in the dome.

The Saints have Deuce McAlister of course but they are going to surprise with their game plan as they’re going to throw a lot.  The Saints are actually feeling a little cocky about their trio of Joe Horn, Donte Stallworth and Boo Williams.  With Aaron Brooks apparently in good shape for Week 1, they’re going to de-emphasize Deuce and emphasize their passing game so that they can spring Deuce lose next week.  Look for the Saints to look good in the air too.  

Prediction: Seahawks 28 – Saints 27


San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans – Sunday 1:00pm

For me it will be very interesting to see how the Texans have progressed this season. They should be a better team and they should get off to an early victory to help with their initial confidence level.  The Chargers will form a circle around LaDainian Tomlinson and as a unit will try to march down field.  When that stops working, they’ll all run one way with Tomlinson running the other way and they’ll still throw to Tomlinson.  Because of Tomlinson the Chargers receiving numbers are going to look quite good.  Look for a mini surprise from Eric Parker but it won’t last.

Domanick Davis wants to prove he’s the man and while he’s a little rusty, he’ll perform adequately.  He won’t lose his job nor will he cement it this week, but look for marvelous things down the road from this gifted player.  

Texans win by playing good fundamentals and keeping the ball close to the vest.

 
Prediction: Houston 27 – Chargers 24


Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears – Sunday 1:00pm

Listen to me now and hear me later, the Lions are going to win some games this season. Joey Harrington will come of age and they will throw a lot. The big difference will be that they actually have guys to throw to this season and they will be very active. They’ll get it done with a committee on the ground and as long as their secondary doesn’t get decimated with injuries like last season, as in their division the last thing you want is a poor secondary, they’ll win some games. If they lose their secondary, then this thing unravels faster than a kitten with an old ball of string.

The problem for the Lions in Week 1 will be the complexity of the new plays added to the offense.  The Lions will have a complicated playbook and the Bears will simplify things for their young QB.  In Week 1, advantage Bears because of it.  The Lions will still win more games than the Bears when all is said and done.

No real stars in this game, just a lot of back and forth football with the ball spread around to a gaggle of players.

Prediction: Bears 24 – Lions 17


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins – Sunday 1:00pm

Which franchise is worth the most money in the NFL? The Dallas Cowboys? The New England Patriots maybe? How about the Oakland Raiders who top the merchandising list? While all three would be good guesses and all three do rank very highly, it’s actually the Washington Redskins who are valued at approximately $2.2 billion dollars. We could buy four Arizona Cardinal teams for the price of the Redskins.

The Redskins should squeek this one out but it will not be pretty.  Those expecting a Clinton Portis extravaganza are going to have to rethink because it won’t be.  It will be a tough and hard fought victory for the Redskins.  

The Bucs are going to have success on the ground as their offensive line is having trouble pass blocking.  Look for Charlie Garner to start his Bucs career off with a bang.

Prediction: Redskins 21 – Bucs 20


Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins – Sunday 1:00pm

If they can wait for the eye wall to pass by, it’s possible they could get a few minutes in before the back wall passes through the stadium and continues the carnage that is the state of Florida.  It’s possible this game will be canceled outright so make sure you check the weather closely for your Titans or Dolphins.

If they do get the game in, look for a good passing game from the Titans as Steve McNair comes out hot and healthy.  Drew Bennett will open as the early surprise receiver of the season.  Chris Brown looks ready to shoulder the load for the Titans but don’t expect miracles out of the gate.  Look for a couple of games to go by before he reaches his full stride.  

The Dolphins have pretty much been written off as a joke team this season but history would have something very negative to say about that.  You see, the Dolphins are always a contender and simply put, there’s no reason to think they can’t make the adjustments and bring some heat this season.  It’s too early to write them off.  Their three headed running machine of Lamar Gordon, Travis Minor and Sammy Morris may just work and there are a lot worse QB’s than Jay FiedlerChris Chambers is ultra talented and if they do score another WR like Keenan McCardell, they will be just fine. 

Look for the Dolphins to surprise the Titans.

Prediction: Dolphins 28 – Titans 23


Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills – Sunday 1:00pm

It is going to take a while for the Jaguar offense to gel again.  They’ve made some changes that will take them a couple of games to fully absorb and the Bills D should be fairly strong this season to slow their progress.  Fred Taylor to be the best Jag player on the field but even then, a very average day for him as the Jaguars continue to not pass the ball his way. 

While it’s not a popular pick as evidenced by the location of his draft selection this season, I think Drew Bledsoe will be a flat out steal for any of you that wisely drafted him very late. He has RB’s to take the pressure off, a bona-fide QB coach that has been focusing on the right thing, getting the ball out fast and some interesting very quiet depth at WR. 

There are a few too many new faces in Buffalo and that will hamper them statistically but as a unit they will have a little more success than the Jaguars this day.

Prediction: Bills 21 – Jaguars 20


Cincinnati Bengals at NY Jets – Sunday 1:00pm

Assuming Carson Palmer is able to avoid injury this season, as that is the one remaining question mark for me as I’m partially worried he is a little brittle, this kid is going to be something special. The Bengal’s have a grueling schedule so it is going to be uphill all the way for him this year, but next season I’m already thinking he could be a Top 5 QB though will probably be drafted lower. Chad Johnson at the close of preseason picks out one player to have a foot race with and everyone gathers around to have some fun with it. It’s all predetermined and the other guy accepts the challenge earlier in preseason, this year it was Carson Palmer. The race is from end zone line to end zone line with the catch being that Johnson spots the other guy 10 yards. Keep in mind we’re talking about a 6’5” QB that isn’t paid to be fast against a guy that is fast. While Johnson closed the 10 yard gap he was still 7 yards behind Palmer as he crossed the goal line first. If your league rewards rushing for a QB, Palmer my faithful is a deep hidden gem.

Look for Rudi Johnson to get on track early and run very well against the Jets.  He will be utilized frequently as the staff try to keep linebackers off Carson Palmer.  

Chad Pennington is going to be a steal this year.  He was drafted fairly late as a QB in most leagues and he will finish in the Top 5 this season.  It starts here as he very wisely picks the Bengals secondary apart with a variety of looks and passes.  

Prediction: Bengals 24 – Jets 21


Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday 1:00pm

The real question here will be Rich Gannon and not who wins.  Can he do it?  Can he comeback and be the incredible QB he was just two seasons ago?  A lot of questions will be answered in Week 1 and I fear for Gannon’s sake, the answer will not be what he wants to hear.  I hope you loaded up with Kerry Collins as Jerry Porter will make Collins look better than he really is eventually this season.  Look for the Raiders to try to manage the clock, run the ball and try to beat the Steelers with their physical play.

The Steelers are going to open with Duce Staley and he’s going to run surprisingly well.  Duce has had a solid preseason and that will carry over to the real season.  Look for the Steelers to also want to control the clock as both teams plan on playing for the last possession, though the Raiders will fall behind and Gannon won’t be able to get them back into the party.  

Prediction: Steelers 28 – Raiders 17


Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49’ers – Sunday 4:15pm

Is it me, or do you also have that sinking Michael Vick feeling? The one that leaves you with that gauze rubbing against a cast type of feeling? It’s not a good feeling is it? The Falcons so desperately need a WR after they messed up royally thinking they could convert Peerless Price to a #1. Vick’s receivers aren’t getting separation and that causes him to have to hold onto the ball longer. Since his line thinks a block describes cheddar, and the opposing defense very easily contains Vick on the perimeter with the strong safety, as they stay in a nickel package a little more often, it’s pretty easy to beat Michael Vick.  As the Falcons don’t have time to throw the ball, look for the coaching staff to call a lot of running plays as they’ll be gun shy to call anything in the air.

Shock of the weekend happens here.  The 49’ers are going to score some points both on the ground and in the air.  Those folks that questioned Kevan Barlow‘s ability and whether he’d make a viable fantasy starter?  Get that foot ready, you may want to try a nice BBQ rub.  Guess what?  WR Brandon Lloyd is going to surprise you too, as is QB Tim Rattay.  The 49’ers are going to be a scrappy team this season and not as bad as everyone is writing them off to be.

It starts now. 

Prediction: 49’ers 33 – Falcons 20


Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings – Sunday 4:15pm

All you guys that drafted Eddie George over Julius Jones, let me explain something about the business side of the NFL and again, why you can’t ever lose site of the business side when evaluating talent. Jerry Jones understands business; Eddie George is a popular player. The name George on the back of a Dallas Cowboy jersey looks great. Jerry Jones will make more on Eddie George merchandise (remember the Cowboys are among the league leaders in merchandising revenue) than he ever will out of Eddie George on the football field and that is with revenue sharing. The Cowboys will give Drew Henson the ball as soon as he’s able and particularly if they start losing. Julius Jones will be given a lot more opportunity to succeed on the field as he pairs better with Henson and that will leave Eddie George holding the bag.

Look for the Cowboys to exercise their talented group of receivers more than anything this week as Keyshawn Johnson and even Terry Glenn get into the box score.

The Vikings are going to run on the smallish Cowboys with Moe Williams and Onterrio Smith while Michael Bennett heals.  They’ll be able to control the pace of the game and that will be what enables them to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Vikings 24 – Cowboys 23


NY Giants at Philadelphia Eagles – Sunday 4:15pm

While it’s certainly entertaining to see the Giants try to take a swing at the NFL, it’s going to be an uphill battle with several loud bangs along the way.  Just about every position on the team is currently up for grabs and the starters are all penciled in.  It’s not a great atmosphere to be in and the Giants will get off to a very slow start until they establish some identity.  

The Eagles will take flight in this as they demonstrate to the world that this Donovan McNabb to Terrell Owens connection is going to be extremely lethal.  As soon as opposing D’s over compensate to try and shut that down, Brian Westbrook will bust one up the middle.  It is going to be a long season for anyone who plays the Eagles twice as stopping them will be a tremendous challenge.  

Prediction: Eagles 37 – Giants 11


Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos – Sunday 8:30pm

This is not going to come down to Priest Holmes, but rather, the arm of Trent Green.  The Chiefs will have success in the air against the Broncos and Priest Holmes is in line for a lot of receiving.  Look for Eddie Kennison to make the most of this day as the Chiefs ride Trent Green on Saturday night.

The Broncos want to keep pressure off Jake Plummer and to do that, they’re going to run their RB’s.  Quentin Griffin will see most of the carries but Garrison Hearst and Tatum Bell will be in the mix as well.  Both will look decent on top of it adding just a small element of doubt to the stability of the Broncos starting RB job.  

Prediction: Chiefs 28 – Broncos 27


Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers – Monday 9:00pm

As long as their is a Brett Favre, the Packers have a better than 50/50 chance of winning any game they’re in.  The Packers may have finally been able to mold a group of three WR’s into a group that Favre can actually utilize.  Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver all have a very good shot at putting up numbers this season.  This is the Panthers Defense though and that’s a tall order for any team.  The Panthers always play tough and they will get in the way of the Packers here and there.  

The Panthers want to run the ball every down but will have to make some adjustments in this one.  Unfortunately for them, by the time they make the adjustment to better use Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith, it’ll be too late.  Look for some late inning heroics from Delhomme and company that will make everyone take a closer look at Jake Delhomme next week.  Delhomme owners can expect a trade offer or two. 

Prediction: Packers 28 – Panthers 21


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