Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

Prediction: SD 30, NO 27 (Line: NO by 3.5)

Players to Watch: Ryan Mathews

Players Updated: Lance Moore

The 3-1 Chargers are atop the AFC West by a full game and head east to play the 0-4 Saints who are perfecting how to lose by one touchdown or less. The Saints at home used to be a force to reckon with but the Skins and Chiefs already won there. The problem for the Saints is that the Chargers have only lost when faced with a top defense and there is no defense in New Orleans. This is a coin toss game since the Charger have only beaten teams that combine for a 3-9 record. The Saints are going to get over the hump at some point. If not, they'll be 0-5 on bye next week. This is the late game on Sunday.

San Diego Chargers
Homefield: Qualcomm Stadium
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @OAK 22-14 10 @TB -----
2 TEN 38-10 11 @DEN -----
3 ATL 3-27 12 BAL -----
4 @KC 37-20 13 CIN -----
5 @NO ----- 14 @PIT -----
6 DEN ----- 15 CAR -----
7 BYE ----- 16 @NYJ -----
8 @CLE ----- 17 OAK -----
9 KC ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SD @ NO Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 230,1
RB Donald Brown 50
RB Ryan Mathews 80,1 3-30
RB Danny Woodhead 20 5-30,1
WR Malcom Floyd 6-90,1
TE Antonio Gates 4-60
PK Nick Novak 3 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Chargers have played well above expectations for a team that has almost no wide receivers and even Antonio Gates is in a slump so bad that a fair question is if he will ever again resume his once productive ways. The Chargers have one decent running back who they have now openly refused to use just to teach him a lesson about not fumbling. And somehow, this is a 3-1 team getting the job done in all games other than against the Falcons who may be the best team in the league.

Philip Rivers throws more passes to his running backs (43%) than he does to the wide receivers (35%). He only has one game with more than 235 passing yards and has thrown six touchdowns against four interceptions. Half of Rivers scores went to Dante Rosario in one game. The Chargers have been getting the job done but it has not been pretty and it has not been with long passes. Compared to previous seasons, this offense is fortunate that the defense has been as good.

Ryan Mathews was limited to only for carries until the fourth quarter last week in a punitive measure because he had fumbled. In his place Jackie Battle scored twice even though he only gained 39 yards on 15 carries. Mathews finally got the call in the fourth quarter and ran ten times for 60 yards. Jamaal Charles fumbled twice on Sunday for the Chiefs and yet had 21 touches, 115 yards and two scores. Mathews fumbled once in week three and almost gets completely benched in week four.The Chargers won so no harm but the offense is already sputtering and then sits their best weapon for losing one fumble this year.

Antonio Gates has yet to score and has a season best of 59 yards just last week. He only had three passes even thrown his way. Gates is still a big part of the offense only because the offense is pretty small.

Eddie Royal scored last week but that was on only three catches for 16 yards and that was a season high. Robert Meachem now has two games without a catch and even Malcom Floyd was held to just 23 yards last week. This is a receiving corps that needs help and is getting none.

What is most relevant this week is that the Saints are the worst ranked defense against running backs. They are bad against the pass as well but horrible against the run. The last visitor to New Orleans was Jamaal Charles with 233 rush yards. This is where the Chargers are going to win or lose this game. Not by getting into a shootout with Drew Brees in New Orleans.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 24 5 32 15 5 12
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 31 31 29 2 31 21

QB Philip Rivers, SD KC 0000030020 *****
Rivers ripped KC for 392 & 3 in the earlier meeting. The Chiefs may be resting regulars, and by the time this one kicks off the Chargers may be out of the playoff mix as well. But as it stands now the Bolts still have a chip and a chair, which means Rivers will take his shots--and that's a good thing, fantasy-wise.
QB Kellen Clemens, SD KC 0000017002 ***
Clemens has just one game with multiple passing scores in his last five, and he hasn't topped 250 yards all season. Oh, and he's facing a Seattle defense that's allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks than any other. This isn't going to end well.
RB Ryan Mathews, SD KC 8013200000 ****
Mathews fell three feet shy of a third straight game with 100 yards and a touchdown, but clearly he's been hot of late. He scored in the earlier meeting with KC and should see ample opportunity to do so here as well--maybe even against backup defenders.
RB Donald Brown, SD KC 7012200000 ***
Trent Richardson saw more touches but Brown was more effective last week; same thing happened when the Jags and Colts met back in Week 4, and in all likelihood that's what's on tap this week as well.
RB Danny Woodhead, SD KC 2003400000 ***
Woodhead scored twice in the earlier meeting with KC, and while he isn't taking a bite out of Ryan Mathews' work in the ground game he's contributing plenty as a pass-catcher. He's a must-start in PPR formats and a solid play in just about every other format, especially if the Chiefs turn to backups early on.
WR Keenan Allen, SD KC 0061001000 ***
Allen has five touchdowns in his last three games and posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts prior to that--one of them in Kansas City. He'll be Philip Rivers' go-to guy once again, with the Chargers playing for something and the Chiefs quite possibly mailing it in.
WR Eddie Royal, SD KC 003300000 ***
Royal's 56 yard outing with a touchdown in Week 9 is the closest thing a San Diego secondary receiver has had to a fantasy helper since the team's Week 8 bye. You don't want to dig too deep into this matchup for fantasy help.
WR Vincent Brown, SD KC 002300000 ***
Brown has done almost nothing since a big 117 yard effort in Week 5. He's still full of potential... and potential still means "hasn't really done anything yet."
TE Ladarius Green, SD KC 002301000 ***
Green may have the Bolts' last two TE TDs, including one against the Chiefs earlier this year, but he's barely taking a bite out of Antonio Gates' targets and can't be banked on for fantasy productivity.
TE Antonio Gates, SD KC 005400000 ***
Ladarius Green has the Chargers' last two TE TDs, including one against the Chiefs in the earlier meeting, but it's been Gates getting the targets of late. The Chiefs have given up a couple TE TDs over the past month, and if they're going to be mailing it in that bodes well for Gates.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Nick Novak, SD KC 2244 ***
The Chiefs weren't mailing it in back in Week 12 when Novak put up 11 points on them. He's reached double digits in four of six overall as well as four of six at home, and with the Chargers clinging to playoff hopes he'll get a chance to put up big numbers again.

New Orleans Saints
Homefield: Superdome
Sportexe Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 WAS 32-40 10 ATL -----
2 @CAR 27-35 11 @OAK -----
3 KC 24-27 12 SF -----
4 @GB 27-28 13 @ATL -----
5 SD ----- 14 @NYG -----
6 BYE ----- 15 TB -----
7 @TB ----- 16 @DAL -----
8 @DEN ----- 17 CAR -----
9 PHI ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NO vs SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 300,3
RB Mark Ingram 20
RB Pierre Thomas 20 2-20
WR Marques Colston 4-60
WR Robert Meachem 2-30
TE Jimmy Graham 7-100,1
PK Shayne Graham 2 FG 4 XP

Pregame Notes: On the plus side, the home game should get to cheer on Drew Brees who will break the all-time record with 48 straight games with a touchdown pass. He is currently tied with Johnny Unitas. There is hope that they could be cheering on a win as well but they thought as much when the Redskins and Chiefs were visiting. Problem with the Saints is that they are not only consistently not quite good enough, they may start to believe it and in that have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brees has been very good even if almost nothing else has been. He has thrown for over 300 yards three times and thrown for three scores in all but one week. Brees is trying to keep the team together but a loss here sends the team 0-5 to their bye week. That can almost work against them if they press too hard and make mistakes.

The biggest hole in the Saints offense has clearly been the absence of a strong running game. The running backs have only combined for one rushing touchdown back in week two and aside from facing the Panthers once, the offense has been unable to establish any run at all. Darren Sproles has propped up his value with receptions but even he has been well short of 2011's pace. This forces Brees to rely on the pass almost exclusively to the benefit of all Brees owners. But Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas have almost no reliable fantasy value.

Jimmy Graham remains the only receiver with both production and consistency. His three touchdowns lead the team.

The wideouts have always been a collection of players that have good and bad games but that has shrunk this season. With Robert Meachem gone and Devery Henderson been a flop, almost all work ends up with Marques Colston and Lance Moore. Joseph Morgan had a 80-yard catch and run for a score last week but that was only his second career catch. It would help the offense if someone else would step up and offer another target but it just has not happened yet. Colston had been stuck around 50 yards per game until last week when he ended with 153 yards on nine catches in Green Bay. Lance Moore bounces all over from week to week.

The incoming Chargers are good against the run and not allowed anyone to gain more than 92 rush yards. The Saints are going to split up the workload anyway so don't look for any reliable starts from Ingram or Thomas. Sproles gets to play against his old team which will be much more meaningful than Meachem going against the Saints. Sproles at home is always a start anyway.

This game will have success passing but where it will be won or lost is with any turnovers and of course if the Saints defense can actually slow down the Chargers.

Gaining Fantasy Points NO 3 4 13 4 21 26
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 12 21 11 21 1 11

QB Drew Brees, NO TB 0000029030 ****
Ah, home sweet dome. It's been almost three full seasons since the last time Brees didn't throw for either 300-plus yards or multiple touchdowns at home. In fact, he has multiple TDs in 23 of his last 24 at home and 300-plus yards in nine straight and 18 of 24 at home. With the Saints needing a win to make the postseason, expect Brees to be firing on all cylinders.
RB Pierre Thomas, NO TB 4004300000 ***
The Saints haven't scored a running back touchdown in five games, with Thomas and Mark Ingram taking turns being the primary ball-carrier. Expect a little more than the 75 yards three New Orleans backs combined for in the earlier meeting between these teams, but it will be so fractured that a legit fantasy helper is unlikely.
RB Mark Ingram, NO TB 300000000 ***
The Saints haven't scored a running back touchdown in five games, with Ingram and Pierre Thomas taking turns being the primary ball-carrier. Expect a little more than the 75 yards three New Orleans backs combined for in the earlier meeting between these teams, but it will be so fractured that a legit fantasy helper is unlikely.
WR Marques Colston, NO TB 004500000 ***
Colston paced Saints receivers in the earlier meeting, but that was pre-Darrelle Revis. This time around Colston might find the going tougher against a healthy Revis, but he's been an inconsistent fantasy play anyway. Weigh the home uptick the Saints' offense gets with the possibility of Revis blanking Colston and he's pretty much right back where he started--a good play but hardly a sure thing.
WR Kenny Stills, NO TB 002400000 ***
Stills is the last non-Colston Saints wideout to score... and that was back in Week 10. This passing game runs through the tight end, with an assist from the running backs; even at home, where the Saints' numbers tend to climb, Stills is too far down the pecking order to be banked on for fantasy help.
TE Jimmy Graham, NO TB 0091102000 ***
The last time Graham saw the Bucs he went for 10-179-1--and that was on the road. If you only count his home games, Graham would still rank third among tight ends with nine touchdowns. So, yeah, he's a good play... again.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO TB 2233 ***
Graham tallied seven points in his Saints debut, more than half his team's points. Should be a significantly easier row to hoe this week--not to mention a home date in the SuperDome--so expect Graham to have ample opportunity to get his kicks this week.

BAL at KC *DEN at NE *SD at NO Bye:
*Updated BUF at SF GB at IND SEA at CAR DAL, DET, OAK, TB

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