Posted: Thursday August 23, 2012 4:50PM ; Updated: Thursday August 23, 2012 4:50PM

Offseason moves, preseason games make for bold prognostications

Story Highlights

Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall teamed for 2,590 yards and 13 TDs in Denver

Reggie Bush's importance to Dolphins offense will lead him better 2011 stats

Eli Manning has receivers, O-line to pass for 4,000 yards in fourth-straight year

By Michael Beller, SI.com

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In two previous years with Jay Cutler in Denver, Brandon Marshall caught 206 passes and connected for 13 touchdowns.
In two previous years with Jay Cutler in Denver, Brandon Marshall caught 206 passes and connected for 13 touchdowns.
AP

With the ever-important third week of preseason games upon us, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The regular season is right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing. It's time to make some fantasy predictions.

Eric Mack set the boldness bar high with his predictions last week, and I'll try to match him with my entry below. Since he laid out such an effective roadmap for making and explaining his bold picks, I'll follow his template.

As Mack said, this is not done simply because we're expected to have a predictions column that differs from the rest of the fantasy community. The prognostications you'll find within come from a place of true conviction. They also just might prove to be the key to hoisting that fantasy trophy in December.

Brandon Marshall will finish as fantasy's No. 2 wide receiver

Why is this bold?

Calvin Johnson is the consensus No. 1 at the position, and rightfully so. After him, a host of options headed by Larry Fitzgerald make up the second tier. While most pundits see Marshall in that group, it's hard to emerge in front of guys like Fitzgerald, A.J. Green, Victor Cruz, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, Julio Jones and Andre Johnson. Don't forget that as long as Lovie Smith is at the helm, the Bears will "get off the bus running."

Why is this going to happen?

Despite Lovie's protestations that the Bears will always be a run-first team on his watch, there's no doubting that this is now Jay Cutler's offense. That's why new GM Phil Emery went out and got Marshall and Cutler's old QB coach from Denver, Jeremy Bates. In the two years Cutler and Marshall teamed in Denver, they connected 206 times for 2,590 yards and 13 touchdowns. The touchdown totals are a bit low, but the Bears should have one of the league's best red zone offenses, even with the sometimes-shaky Cutler, thanks to a plethora of options from Marshall to running backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush, to rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery and Cutler's trusted slot man Earl Bennett.

Meanwhile, Cruz, White, Jennings and Jones all have to split targets with other strong options opposite them, Green and Fitzgerald don't play with a quarterback nearly as talented as Cutler, and Johnson always raises injury questions. Marshall will emerge from this hodgepodge as fantasy's second best wide receiver.

What should we do about it?

Marshall is a big play receiver who can be deadly in the red zone, and he's typically going outside the top-30 picks. There's no reason for you to reach for him, even if you agree with this prediction. Focus on backs and the elite quarterbacks with your first two picks, and snag Marshall in the third round.

Maurice Jones-Drew falls outside the top-15 running backs

Why is this bold?

Jones-Drew has been among the fantasy elite essentially since scoring 15 touchdowns in his rookie year. He had 1,175 total yards and nine touchdowns in the worst year of his career. In the last three seasons, he has averaged 1,795 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. He has been about as bankable a back as you could find since entering the league, and he's still just 27 years old.

Why is this going to happen?

His contract situation is a mess, he's very unhappy in Jacksonville, and he's talking trade two weeks before the season starts. Even if he stays in Jacksonville, their offense looks like a train wreck this year. If he leaves, he'll have to learn a new offense on the fly. And Chris Johnson showed last year showed all of us what a prolonged holdout can do to an established star. Other than that, everything is great in MoJo Land.

Also, while every running back outside the top three comes with his own risks, the talent pool remains deep. Guys like Steven Jackson, Fred Jackson, Ryan Mathews and Michael Turner are all on the outside of the current top-12 backs by ADP.

What should we do about it?

Resist the urge to take Jones-Drew in the late first/early second round. Wide receiver is very deep this year, so I'd recommend going with a back like Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray or Jamaal Charles in that spot. Of course, if Tom Brady or Drew Brees falls there, something totally within the realm of possibility, that's the pick to make.

Reggie Bush surpasses his 2011 numbers

Why is this bold?

Many fantasy experts wrote off Bush's eight-touchdown campaign with the Saints in 2009 as a fluke. It was nothing more than being part of one of the league's offenses, we said. When an injury cost him half of the 2010 season, we all patted ourselves on the back. I was foremost in labeling Bush a bum heading into last season. Then he went and rolled up nearly 1,400 total yards to go along with seven scores. Still, many see this as the absolute best he can do. They will be surprised in 2012.

Why is this going to happen?

The primary reason this will happen is because I believe the Dolphins will get Bush more than the 259 touches he had last year. He's easily their most dangerous weapon, as he's the team's best rusher and receiver. While he still may not excel at running between the tackles, he averaged five yards per carry last year, and 5.6 back in his breakout 2009 season. He's going to catch 50 balls at the minimum, and he'll always turn those catches into solid yardage. And don't sleep on the impact Ryan Tannehill will have on this offense. While a severe need at quarteback in Miami may have made Tannehill a higher pick in the draft than he may have gone in other years, he has looked impressive this preseason, and certainly looks the part of an effective NFL QB. Improved quarterback play will only result in a better season for Bush.

 
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