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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 5
2012
ARI at STL (THU) CHI at JAC MIA at CIN *TEN at MIN
ATL at WAS *CLE at NYG PHI at PIT *HOU at NYJ (MON)
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
Grass
  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.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SD 24 5 32 15 5 12
Preventing Fantasy Points NO 31 31 29 2 31 21

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Philip Rivers, SD @SF 0000019011 ***
Rivers has stumbled of late, with multiple touchdown tosses in just one of his last six games. A matchup with the Niners will do him no favors; they've allowed multiple TD tosses just once in the past five games and thrice in the past three months.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Donald Brown, SD @SF 2005400000 ***
Brown saw some extended touches last week as well, but he remains behind Branden Oliver in the pecking order. And in a matchup with the 49ers, there won't be much in the way of table scraps.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Branden Oliver, SD @SF 3002200000 ***
With Ryan Mathews still hobbled Oliver looks to bed in line for the bulk of the carries. Unfortunately for him it's a lousy matchup; his best hope might be for a passing game contribution.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Malcom Floyd, SD @SF 005600000 **
By virtue of being essentially the last man standing, Floyd becomes the Bolts' WR1. Hey, at least he's on the dance card.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Eddie Royal, SD @SF 003200000 ***
With Keenan Allen out everybody bumps up a spot in the pecking order. Unfortunately, it's not a particularly favorable matchup where said bumping up will have a profound fantasy affect.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Antonio Gates, SD @SF 006601000 **
Gates continues to keep Ladareus Green at bay, and in the process he managed to return to the end zone for the first time in almost two months. Facing a Niners defense that's giving up an average of 61 yards per game to the position over the past six weeks, Gates has another opportunity to be a fantasy helper.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Nick Novak, SD @SF 2211 ***
The only two games in which San Francisco has allowed double-digit kicker points were both divisional contests. Novak isn't a consistent enough contributor to buck that trend, so keep a lid on expectations this week.

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.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NO 3 4 13 4 21 26
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 12 21 11 21 1 11

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Drew Brees, NO ATL 0000027020 ***
The Falcons have held three of their last four foes to one or zero touchdowns, and they limited Brees to 333 & 1 back in the season opener. So don't look for gaudy numbers; settle for pretty good and you'll be just fine.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Mark Ingram, NO ATL 11022100000 ***
You can run on the Falcons, as no team has given up more fantasy points to running backs. And while he no longer gets all the carries, Ingram gets enough to make a fantasy impact.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Pierre Thomas, NO ATL 1006400000 ***
Thomas faces a Falcons' defense that has served up the third-most running back receptions and third-most RB receiving yards. Since his primary function is as a receiver out of the backfield, expect him to capitalize on those stats with a solid fantasy helper here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenny Stills, NO ATL 006901000 ***
Stills is handling Brandin Cooks' duties, so it's worth noting that the rookie went for 7-77-1 in the earlier meeting--numbers that could easily be replicated here in the rematch.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Marques Colston, NO ATL 005701000 ***
Colton went for 110 yards in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, but that's not rare against the Falcons. Five different wideouts have hit triple-digits in the past six games; expect Colton to return to their ranks this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jimmy Graham, NO ATL 004500000 ***
The Saints haven't forgotten about the tight end position; they've scored four TE TDs in the past three games. They have, however, apparently forgotten about Graham, who has scored exactly zero of those touchdowns. He's scored in six of eight career meetings with Atlanta, and remains an every-week starter--though a gentle reminder to Sean Payton of his presence would be appreciated.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO ATL 2244 ***
Graham tallied double-digit points back in the season opener in Atlanta, but he hasn't been back above that mark since Week 8 and has just one multiple field goal outing in that span so keep those expectations in check.

WEEK 5
2012
ARI at STL (THU) CHI at JAC MIA at CIN *TEN at MIN
ATL at WAS *CLE at NYG PHI at PIT *HOU at NYJ (MON)
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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