StrategyOctober 31, 2004


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Spotlight Game: Atlanta at Denver

By Dave McGrath

Each week, Dave presents a preview of several of the week’s most interesting contests, offering his take on fantasy performances, potential sleepers and, of course, the game’s outcome.

Atlanta

Michael Vick: When fantasy owners look at Vick, they see unbelievable physical ability being wasted in the shackles of the West Coast offense. Vick simply doesn’t have the accuracy for the West Coast to be successful while he is at the helm. In addition, Vick is also restricted since the West Coast requires that he remain in the pocket more often. So, if you have another option, use him until Vick gets a grasp of this new offense. Don’t get your hopes up though, because it is estimated that the West Coast offense can take 2-3 years to learn, and a lifetime to master. Vick will continue to struggle in the passing game, but look for him to scramble more to avoid the rush. 120 yards through the air, 60 on the ground, a touchdown, and 2 turnovers should do it.

Warrick Dunn/TJ Duckett: Dunn has been a quality fantasy player thus far, putting up 405 yards along with six end zone trips. Unfortunately, he is facing a Denver defense that was ranked first in the league prior to their MNF game. Denver will be looking to redeem themselves here, and Dunn will receive the majority of their punishment. Dunn will rush 50 yards on 15 tries, including another 15 on two grabs. Duckett has been all but fazed out of the offense in recent weeks, so he should not have a place on any fantasy roster. Duckett will only see 18 yards on 6 carries, and he has no shot to hit pay dirt unless Atlanta spends some time on the goal line.

Atlanta WRs: Avoid starting any of these players. Peerless Price has proven that he cannot produce without a quality #1 receiver alongside him. In Buffalo, Moulds garnered the double coverages and the top-notch corners, leaving Price free to do what he wanted in the secondary. In Atlanta, he is the #1 receiver with no help. This week, he goes up against Champ Bailey, who was embarrassed by Chad Johnson on MNF. To say the least, Price will be completely shutdown. Only 25 yards on 2-3 catches for Price. On the other side, Dez White has only registered 125 yards on 10 catches this year, and he will only add 20 yards to that total on Sunday. Brian Finneran in the slot has also not been productive enough to consider here.

Alge Crumpler: Now here is an Atlanta receiver worth plugging into your lineups every week. He leads the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (355), and receiving scores (2). He is the lone bright spot in Atlanta pitiful passing game. Vick should look to him when Denver begins to get pressure on him. Crumpler will please his owners again, adding 4 catches, 40 yards, and a touchdown to his already lofty totals.

Defense: Keith Brooking, Matt Stewart, and Chris Draft with see even higher tackle totals than usual as they will be responsible for shutting down Droughns after he frees himself from the initial line of Atlanta defenders. Also, Patrick Kerney has benefited from Atlanta’s switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Kerney now faces less double teams, and it has shown in his statistics. He is tied for 2nd in the league with seven sacks, and he should add one or two to that total on Sunday as Denver’s O-line struggles to contain him on the outside. As for the secondary, Kevin Mathis and Byron Scott are the only players worth a start here because of their consistent tackle totals. As for their team defense, they were exposed last week by the big athletic offensive line of the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver’s offensive line is similar, so expect another sub-par day for this unit. They will register a turnover along with 2-3 sacks, but Denver’s offense will put up some points on them.

Denver

Jake Plummer: If you are trying to decide whether or not to start Plummer this week, go ahead and stick him into your starting slot without worry. Plummer is an enigma, which usually leads to owners agonizing over whether or not to play him. But consider this:

Jake Plummer’s split stats (from NFL.com):

 GAttCompPctYdsY/ALongTDInt1st1st%20+SacRate
HOME GAMES3946063.87507.9858643660.010392.1
ROAD GAMES41307053.87996.1539533955.710375.8

As you can see, he is very successful at home, averaging 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, and just over 1 interception per game in Denver. Conversely, on the road, he averages just under 200 yards a game and 1.2 touchdowns. Although he has thrown more INTs at home, owners will gladly sacrifice that for monster yardage and touchdown numbers. Denver will establish the run to open passing lanes for Plummer. Plummer’s numbers will mirror those that he usually puts up in the friendly confines of Invesco Field. Plummer tosses for 265 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 INT.

Reuben Droughns: Droughns has emerged from obscurity and into the spotlight this season. Droughns has at least 100 rushing yards in his first three games as a starter, but in this game he faces an Atlanta defense that was ranked first in the league before the KC debacle. Should owners sit him, expecting Droughns to be the victim in a redemption game for Atlanta? No. Denver will pound Reuben early and often to the tune of 100 yards and a score.

Denver WRs: Ashley Lelie is developing into an above average receiver out in Denver. The only problem he faces is that he is dropping passes with alarming frequency (almost at the rate of Seattle’s WRs, who should petition the NFL to legalize stick-um once again). Hopefully Lelie will wake up in this game after dropping three balls in Cincy, a game where he still managed 84 yards on 6 catches. So even with the burden of his dropped passes, he is still a quality start this week. 90 yards with a TD is not out of the realm of possibility. As for Rod Smith, although his skills are obviously diminishing, he is still a threat in this offense. He had Denver’s lone touchdown last week, and he still leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Smith will chalk up another 80 and a TD.

Jeb Putzier/Dwayne Carswell: Everyone thought that Dwayne Carswell’s absence would enhance Putzier’s value last week, since he wouldn’t be sharing time. However, Shanahan chose to keep him in the box more often so he could block, a job usually given to Carswell (Putzier had 0 catches). With Carswell back, they will once again share looks, but at least Putzier will have value again. 40 yards from Putzier and 20 from Carswell this Sunday.

Defense: Expect another solid outing from DJ Williams, the rookie out of Miami who is not garnering much attention, but has developed into a valuable IDP as Denver’s leading tackler. He will take care of Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett if they happen to get past the line of scrimmage. Al Wilson will assist Williams on his way to another solid day from the MLB spot. Denver’s secondary has become a formidable force this year, and this week should be no different. Champ Bailey, Kenoy Kennedy, and Kelly Herndon won’t get much in the way of tackling numbers, but they will have a good number of pass defenses. You can also expect an interception from at least one of them. As for their team defense, I consider them a great start this week. Vick has been sacked 24 times this season, most likely due to his reluctance to throw (or his receivers’ inability to find openings). Four sacks and two turnovers is not out of the question for Denver.

Sleepers:

Darius Watts: This rookie is comparable to Lee Evans. He is a tall, rangy speedster who likes to find the seams downfield. Like Lelie, he has had hands of stone this year, but he will develop them eventually. Plummer could look his way a couple of times to try to stretch the field.

Matt Schaub: Schaub, a first year guy out of Virginia, impressed Mora during the preseason, leading the league in passing yardage. Vick has been sacked 24 times this season, so an injury is not out of the question. Also, Schaub has a knowledge of the West Coast offense, unlike Vick. Mora could be growing tired of Vick’s inconsistency, so a change could be possible if Denver jumps out to a huge lead.

Prediction

Logically, both of these clubs should come out firing after their disappointments last week. However, Denver’s loss was to a desperate team in their first chance in the spotlight, so their loss was a mere chink in the armor. On the other hand, Kansas City exposed Atlanta for the frauds they are. They are not nearly as good as their record indicates. Unfortunately Atlanta’s defense cannot win games single-handedly with their offense on life support. Denver will handle them easily at home. Denver 31, Atlanta 13.

 
Dave McGrath is a freshman at LaSalle University, and will be previewing several games in this way each week. He can be found posting as dave416 in the Cafe forums.

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