Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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BUF at ARI *GB at HOU *NE at SEA *DEN at SD (MON)
*CIN at CLE *IND at NYJ *NYG at SF Bye:
*Updated DAL at BAL *KC at TB OAK at ATL CAR, CHI, JAC, NO

Prediction: DEN 24, SD 20 (Line: SD by 2.5)

Players Updated: Demaryius Thomas

Players to Watch: Ryan Mathews, Robert Meachem

The 2-3 Broncos have lost three of their last four games and both of the road trips so far. The 3-2 Chargers are at home only for the third time and are 1-1 in San Diego thanks to the Atlanta loss. The Chargers won 29-24 in Denver last year but later lost 13-16 when the Broncos were the visitors. This will be an interesting game that should contain decent fantasy points for each team.

Denver Broncos
Homefield: Invesco Field
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT 31-19 10 @CAR -----
2 @ATL 21-27 11 SD -----
3 HOU 25-31 12 @KC -----
4 OAK 37-6 13 TB -----
5 @NE 21-31 14 @OAK -----
6 @SD ----- 15 @BAL -----
7 BYE ----- 16 CLE -----
8 NO ----- 17 KC -----
9 @CIN ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
DEN @ SD Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 320,3
WR Jordan Norwood
WR Demaryius Thomas 7-100,1
WR Wes Welker 7-80,1
TE Jacob Tamme 5-40,1
PK Connor Barth 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Broncos are 2-3 but in fairness they opened with a brutal schedule and two of their losses came within one touchdown. This is clearly a better team with Peyton Manning as the quarterback and an offense that has always posted at least 21 points no matter how tough the opposing defense is. Manning is on a three game streak of 330+ yard games with two or three scores in each. He has thrown an interception in just one game so far. Manning is even showing decent arm strength on deeper throws to Demaryius Thomas.

Willis McGahee has been very productive other than in the Houston game. He has rushed for more than 100 yards twice. Better yet, he has been used as a receiver for five or six receptions in the last two games which ensures at least some fantasy value every week. McGahee ran for 125 yards against the visiting Chargers last year and 117 yards in San Diego. With a solid passing game under Manning, McGahee is enjoying one of his best years.

Joel Dreessen has never had more than 36 yards in a game this year but has scored in each of the last three. That's tough to rely on even for a bye week filler but pulling the hat trick with Peyton Manning as pitcher is an encouraging development. Jacob Tamme still gets more catches and yardage but so far has not scored since the season opener. Manning has thrown a score to a tight end in all but one game so far.

Eric Decker is sold enough in most games and has scored the last two weeks but tends to remain below 60 yards most of the time. Demaryius Thomas has become a true #1 and an elite wideout who has gained over 100 yards in three of five games and scored twice. His problem is that he has fumbled in each of the last three games but his talent is far beyond any other receiver here and down the field he is a deep threat with over 20 yards per catch in three different matchups. Brandon Stokley comes into play only against teams with two good corners.

Manning should light it up again against this secondary since the last three opponents have and that includes Matt Cassel. The rushing with McGahee may have a tougher time this year than in 2011 since no one has ran for more than 88 yards on them and that was Jamaal Charles playing in Kansas City but at least McGahee is catching passes as well.

Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 6 14 6 5 22 20
Preventing Fantasy Points SD 23 20 25 12 2 13

QB Peyton Manning, DEN @CIN 0000025020 ***
Cincy's been solid against the pass all season; Peyton's been ordinary the past couple of weeks. Dial back expectations, though you needn't go so far as to bench Manning here.
Update: Peyton has been limited in practice by the same thigh injury that sent him into the locker room early last week. No indication he'll miss the Monday night game, but if you have a roster spot you may want to stash Brock Osweiler... just in case.
RB C.J. Anderson, DEN @CIN 10014301000 ***
The Broncos are going to run Anderson plenty--109 carries over the past four games, resulting in 478 yards and four rushing scores. The Bengals couldn't contain similarly heavy-loaded backs like Stevan Ridley (27-113-1), Terrance West (26-94-1) or Le'Veon Bell (26-185-2), so expect Anderson to work back towards his 100-yard days after a couple weeks under that milestone.
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @CIN 0071001000 ***
Cincy's secondary has been among the best this year at shutting down opposing wide receivers. That said, the last time they say a tandem even close to the talent level of Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders they gave up matching 100-yard games to Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. No worries about Demaryius making his appointed rounds this week.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @CIN 004600000 ***
It's not a particularly favorable matchup, and Sanders has taken a back seat to Demaryius Thomas the past couple of weeks against tougher defenses. But the pattern set by the Steelers, with both Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant topping 100 yards, seems to be the closest fit to what Denver brings to the table this week. Consider Sanders just a half-step behind Thomas at the top end of the Denver passing game.
TE Julius Thomas, DEN @CIN 003400000 ***
Thomas had one catch in his return to action last week. Now he'll face a Cincy D that was beaten by Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen earlier in the year but held Jimmy Graham in check and has allowed only one TE TD in the past two months. He's still a threat, but if you've found a quality backup plan during his absence you'll want to give serious consideration to employing it for at least one more week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Connor Barth, DEN @CIN 2233 ***
Peyton Manning's struggles are to Barth's benefit, as he's booted five field goals in two of the past three games; prior to that Denver had just two multi-field goal games all year. Cincy's surrendered multiple treys in three straight, so Barth's fun times three should continue this week.

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 24-31 14 @PIT -----
6 DEN ----- 15 CAR -----
7 BYE ----- 16 @NYJ -----
8 @CLE ----- 17 OAK -----
9 KC ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SD vs DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Philip Rivers 260,1
RB Donald Brown
RB Ronnie Brown 5-50
RB Ryan Mathews 90,1 5-50,1
RB Danny Woodhead 10 4-20
WR Malcom Floyd 4-50
TE Antonio Gates 3-50
PK Nick Novak 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Chargers fell in New Orleans but still put up a good game. This week will be the toughest matchup of the year other than the big loss to Atlanta since the Broncos have pushed through a far tougher schedule. Consider too that the Chargers lost 3-27 when the Falcons visited and yet the Broncos barely lost 21-27 at Atlanta.

Philip Rivers comes off a season high 354 yards and two scores in New Orleans (where everyone has a season high). He has thrown eight touchdowns over five weeks against five interceptions but that came against teams like OAK, TEN, KC and NO. Against the Falcons, Rivers only passed for 173 yards and no score. Unless Robert Meachem can prove his effort against his old team was more than a fluke, Rivers is trying to make-do with below average receivers.

Jackie Battle started the Saints game because HC Norv Turner has clearly lost his mind. Battle was shelved after his four runs covered a whopping ten yards. Ryan Mathews was only given 12 runs but gained 80 yards and one touchdown along with 59 yards on six receptions. Still - the Chargers preferred Ronnie Brown on obvious passing downs and the old man gained 47 yards on five catches he had no business taking away from Mathews. Turner has now said that Mathews will be more heavily used because after a few years he has just now learned whatever lesson there was to learn by watching inferior players hurt the Chargers chance to win (?). Turner said he expected Mathews would be one of the leading rushers in the NFL and yet would not elaborate on why that needed to wait until week six to start in earnest. At least this eliminates Battle from the projections.

Ryan has rushed for over 120 yards in all three career games against the Broncos. Why not give him a chance?

The Player Formerly Known as Antonio Gates has not scored this year. Has only one game with more than three catches of more than 43 yards. He is being heavily covered as he has always been only now he has lost the speed and any moves. Understand this much about Gates - he just went through the easiest part of his schedule.

Robert Meachem was able to score twice and gain 67 yards on three catches back in his old home stadium in New Orleans, but it's hardly the breakout two scores suggest. Meachem was only thrown four passes and his five game career with the Chargers now totals nine catches for 159 yards. That includes two games with no catches.

Malcom Floyd is the only player with any sense of consistent production but has not scored since the season opener and his two decent games came against the Saints and Titans - two of the worst secondaries in the NFL. This is a receiver crew that sorely misses having a real #1 threat like Vincent Jackson. Vincent Brown returns in a month but until he is back and healthy this is an offense that has to spread the ball around and throw to the running backs.

Playing at home will help this week but the Broncos have been solid against the pass even when facing Matt Ryan or Tom Brady. Ryan Mathews should be central to the offensive effort and the Broncos weakest point is against the run.

Gaining Fantasy Points SD 21 3 29 19 8 15
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 18 18 17 18 12 14

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

BUF at ARI *GB at HOU *NE at SEA *DEN at SD (MON)
*CIN at CLE *IND at NYJ *NYG at SF Bye:
*Updated DAL at BAL *KC at TB OAK at ATL CAR, CHI, JAC, NO

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