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
TE Owen Daniels 6-80,1

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 @OAK 0000030021 ***
Both history--Manning has averaged 317 yards and almost three TDs per meeting with Oakland since coming to Denver--and the Raiders defense--multiple TD passes allowed in every game, at least 269 yards (and an average of 319) in those tilts--suggest this is a "get back in the saddle" game for Peyton. But here's your red flag: in the December meeting with Oakland Manning threw for just 273 yards and zero touchdowns. Harbinger? On the bright side Manning's been better on the road, and in a four-team bye week his upside is still such that he warrants a fantasy lineup spot.
RB Ronnie Hillman, DEN @OAK 4011100000 ***
Hillman has the superior production, both of Denver's RB TDs and all the upside in this matchup with an Oakland run defense that's no longer a cakewalk. Pencil him in for decent numbers, but something akin to the 15-56 he posted as CJ Anderson's caddy against Oakland last December wouldn't surprise.
RB C.J. Anderson, DEN @OAK 3001100000 ***
These Raiders are no pushover on the ground, and Anderson isn't the back who posted games of 87 & 3 and 90 yards on Oakland last year. He's at best an equal partner in the Denver backfield committee, which means a share of the yardage and a shot at a touchdown. Tough to get giddy about that.
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @OAK 0091001000 ***
History suggests--nay, demands--that Demaryius produces here. His lines against Oakland during the Peyton Manning era: 8-115, 11-108, 6-113-2, 10-94, 5-83, and 5-103. His worst game this season was 7-60 in the sluggish season opener; since then he's topped 90 yards and caught at least eight balls in every game. That's a pretty high floor, and while this iteration of Manning may limit his ceiling we're still talking about a very helpful fantasy line.
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @OAK 008800000 ***
Sanders is a Goose-like wingman to Demaryius Thomas' Maverick: never outshining the boss, but offering plenty of productive support. His 6-73 and 5-67-2 against Oakland in last season's series mirror what he's doing this season and provide a high hard deck for this engagement.
TE Owen Daniels, DEN @OAK 005501000 ***
Daniels has scored in back-to-back games, and he waltzes into perhaps the most favorable matchup in fantasy football: a tight end against the Raiders. Oakland has allowed at least one TD and 83 yards to every starting tight end they've faced. Why not Owen? Why not, indeed.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN @OAK 2233 ***
You have to go back to 2011 to find a Broncos/Raiders game where the Denver kicker didn't have at least 10 points. And time travel hasn't been invented yet, so you can't really go back to 2011. Enjoy your McManus 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 Danny Woodhead 10 4-20
WR Malcom Floyd 4-50
WR Stevie Johnson 4-50
WR Jacoby Jones 2-20
TE Antonio Gates 3-50

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 PIT 0000030030 ***
The Steelers' D has looked better the past two games, though facing Nick Foles and Joe Flacco instead of Tom Brady has a little something to do with that. Rivers is much closer to the Brady end of that sliding scale, with 762 yards and five TDs in his two previous home games, so expect him to expose Pittsburgh's pass D again this week.
RB Danny Woodhead, SD PIT 4005400000 ***
Woodhead's a PPR must, but his upside is limited by a Steelers defense that's allowed only one RB to top 20 receiving yards and none to find the end zone via the pass.
RB Melvin Gordon, SD PIT 5003200000 ***
The Steelers haven't allowed a running back touchdown this year, but they did just give up 150 yards to Justin Forsett in prime time. Now they'll visit Gordon in another nationally televised event, though Gordon isn't seeing nearly the touches Forsett is. There's upside, but not enough to warrant a fantasy reach.
WR Keenan Allen, SD PIT 00111201000 ***
Allen has three big fantasy efforts in four games this year, and a Steelers' secondary that's allowed a consistent stream of fantasy helpers isn't likely to keep him from his appointed rounds.
WR Dontrelle Inman, SD PIT 004500000 ***
Inman did a serviceable Stevie impression last week, but his fantasy potential this week depends on Johnson's availability--and you may need to wait until Monday to make that determination.
TE Ladarius Green, SD PIT 004501000 **
Green has more than held down the fort in Antonio Gates' absence, but he's sure to lose at least some targets now that the steroid-free Gates has returned. Worse, it's a lousy matchup against a Steelers defense that was abused by Gronk but has largely kept all the other tight ends they've faced in check. A small pie split multiple ways offers little fantasy help.
TE Antonio Gates, SD PIT 004401000 *
Gates returns to the lineup after a four-game suspension. There's no guarantee he's the same Gates off 'roids, nor is there any guarantee the Chargers will simply give him the full workload after Ladarius Green found success in his absence. Regardless, it's not a favorable matchup against a defense that's allowed just 48 TE yards the past two games so wait until Gates is fully reacclimated before banking on him for fantasy purposes.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Josh Lambo, SD PIT 3333 ***
Lambo's been productive in two home games, tallying nine and 12 points. Pittsburgh's D has been a bit more stingy but has given up more field goals in each game thus far; that's a trend Lambo can capitalize on.

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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