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 0000024022 **
Rivers has multiple touchdowns in five straight meetings with the Chiefs, as well as multiple scores and/or 300-plus passing yards in six straight visits to Kansas City. The Chiefs haven't seen a ton of great quarterbacks, but they did hold Ben Roethlisberger to 220 and 1 last week and Peyton Manning to 179 and 2 a month ago, so it won't be easy. But history--and San Diego's lack of a running game--suggest Rivers can still get it done.
RB Branden Oliver, SD @KC 4002100000 ***
With no Ryan Mathews the Chargers' backfield has become a committee affair; at least Oliver's touches suggest he's the committee chair. However, that role hasn't amounted to much in the way of fantasy production for any of the committee members, and a date with a Chiefs defense that's allowed only four RB TDs all year isn't going to help matters.
RB Donald Brown, SD @KC 2003200000 ***
Brown wasn't even the best Brown on his own team last week, as retread Ronnie Brown was more effective. There's no fantasy value to be found here.
WR Dontrelle Inman, SD @KC 005600000 **
Let's face it, if your season boils down to Dontrelle Inman doing something for you in Week 17 you need to take a step back and re-evaluate things.
WR Malcom Floyd, SD @KC 003400000 ***
Floyd and Eddie Royal are tag-team replacing Keenan Allen as the Chargers' WR1, both doing enough to remain on the fantasy radar even in what looks to be a pretty tough matchup.
WR Eddie Royal, SD @KC 003400000 ***
No Keenan Allen? No problem, as Royal and Malcom Floyd stepped up their respective games. The Chiefs haven't given up many big games to opposing wideouts, but that doesn't mean Royal can't carve out a fantasy helper here--something along the lines of the 7-72-1 Antonio Brown took KC for last week.
TE Antonio Gates, SD @KC 007702000 ***
Gates (and short-yardage TE John Phillips) scored against the Chiefs in the earlier meeting, but that's to be expected: in 19 career games against KC Gates has found the end zone 15 times. He's also scored in each of his last two games, and with Keenan Allen out--and a playoff spot on the line--he's Philip Rivers' go-to guy.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Nick Novak, SD @KC 2222 ***
Novak's eight points in the earlier meeting with KC are indicative of his season, as he's hit double-digits just once in the past three months. But that eight is also indicative of what the Chiefs have been giving up to opposing kickers, so it's one of those high floor/low ceiling opportunities.

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
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 0000030021 ***
Lovie Smith's defense has been significantly better since giving up 372 and 2 to Brees earlier this year. In fact, they've held six of the past seven quarterbacks they've faced to just one TD toss--good quarterbacks, too, including Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and RG3. Brees hasn't exactly been tearing it up like usual anyway; he's thrown single scoring strikes in three straight and four of five against NFC South foes, so keep a lid on expectations here.
RB Mark Ingram, NO @TB 7012100000 ***
Whether they're using him up before letting him hit free agency or they've just decided to give him the ball, the Saints are loading up Ingram with carries--30 the past two weeks, versus eight for the rest of the New Orleans backfield. Like earlier in the year when all the other Saints RBs were injured, Ingram has responded--not necessarily with big yardage, but with touchdowns in each of those two games. He missed the earlier date with Tampa Bay while Khiry Robinson rushed for 89 yards and a TD and Pierre Thomas chipped in 112 combo yards and a couple scores. Look for Ingram to consolidate the rushing numbers and provide one more fantasy helper in a Saints uniform.
WR Marques Colston, NO @TB 005701000 ***
The Bucs have surrendered four 100-yard WR games the past three weeks, and while Colston isn't a pure WR1 he's the closest thing the Saints have and thus the most likely to take advantage here.
WR Kenny Stills, NO @TB 0051000000 ***
Brandon Cooks paced the Saints with 11 targets the last time they faced Tampa Bay. Stills has ascended to Cooks' role as WR2 in New Orleans; with Drew Brees struggling it isn't a guaranteed fantasy producer, but after watching the Bucs give up four 100-yard games and three WR TDs over the past three weeks it definitely gets Stills on the fantasy radar.
TE Jimmy Graham, NO @TB 005701000 **
The Bucs have been stout against tight ends, giving up just one TE TD in the past 11 games and just one game north of 61 yards in that span as well. That stretch included a disappointing 2-36 by Graham in which he was only the third-most productive Saints tight end. He's been a bigger factor of late and you can't sit him, but you can start him with a bit of trepidation.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Shayne Graham, NO @TB 1133 ***
Graham hasn't had multiple field goals in more than a month, but here come the Bucs to the rescue: they've allowed eight in the last three games and served up three to Graham earlier this year.

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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