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Predictions & Projections
David M. Dorey
The Huddle
September 8, 2004
Season Ticket
Thu 9 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
Sun 1 PM SD at HOU OAK at PIT NYG at PHI Mon 9 PM
JAX at BUF TEN at MIA TB at WAS Saturday no byes
  San Diego Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 10 0 200,1
RB L. Tomlinson 120,1 30 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 50 0
WR Kassim Osgood 0 30 0
WR Eric Parker 0 50,1 0
WR Tim Dwight 0 30 0
PK Nate Kaeding 2 FG 2 XP -
  Houston Rush Catch Pass
QB David Carr 10 0 230,2
RB Domanick Davis 110,1 20,1 0
RB Tony Hollings 30 10 0
TE Billy Miller 0 20 0
WR Corey Bradford 0 40 0
WR Andre Johnson 0 100,1 0
WR Jabar Gaffney 0 30 0
PK Kris Brown 1 FG 3 XP -

SD (0-0) vs HOU (0-0)

Game Prediction: SD 17, HOU 24

Two of the teams you most love to play against get to begin the season paired up where one gets a winning start for 2003. Big rushing on both sides with suspect defenses - what's not to like?

Pre-Game Notes - SD

The Chargers enter the year with hopes that the defense will be better and that they can be the surprise team. If they win, it will be a surprise. If anyone outside of Tomlinson is a significant contributor, it will be a surprise. If they falter and HC Marty Schottenheimer gets the axe - no surprise.

Quarterback: After the confusing draft day trade ("here, hold up this jersey. Now, I mean this one"), the Chargers ended up with Philip Rivers as the quarterback of the future and only yesterday finally admitted Drew Brees was the quarterback of the present. They also kept Doug Flutie which provides great depth for a team that rarely throws the ball.

Expect Rivers to get some playing time once the Chargers fall from playoff contention after week six.

Running Backs: All we know for sure is that Ladainian Tomlinson is one of the most talented backs in the NFL, he is more than merely the focal point of the offense and that he can easily count to eight by pointing at the closest defenders on every play. He has been durable almost beyond reason but this season rookie Michael Turner should provide some power if the unthinkable happens.

Wide Receivers: The Chargers tried to upgrade their receivers by acquiring Kevin Dyson but later released him when it was determined he did not return kicks nor would block for Tomlinson. The Chargers go into this season with Tim Dwight and Eric Parker as starters with Kassim Osgood hanging around for when Parker gets injured again. Dwight is a burner but continues to be hampered by various ailments which should allow Osgood some time to be the guy they don't throw the ball. This crew would struggle to be #3 wideouts on almost any team and until the passing game shows life for more than one week, it's not reasonable to expect much here nor particularly to rely on it.

Parker actually has turned in some very nice games but lost half of last year to a shoulder injury. He's a little undersized at 177 pounds unlike the 6'5" Osgood but the duo could surprise if a passing game actually happens.

Tight Ends: There is optimism that not only could Antonio Gates become a viable receiver this season, he may end up as the #1 pass catcher for the team. He's the one most interesting to watch this season as he enters his second year.

Match Against the Defense: No surprises here. Tomlinson gets to face one of the worst rushing defenses from 2003 and will be used extensively. The Texans have tried upgrading their secondary with some rookies and moved CB Marcus Coleman to free safety which will help but that leaves rookie CB Dunta Robinson on Eric Parker and Robinson lost some time this summer with a hip strain. He should be ready but will be the weaker link that Brees will most likely try to exploit.

Pre-Game Notes - HOU

It could happen. Houston opens against the Chargers and then faces the Lions in Detroit. It could be the much vaunted and never realized two consecutive wins for the Texans. It's still early enough to dream. The offense is in the best shape ever for the young franchise with no questions at QB, RB or WR this year. This is the start of the 2004 assault on a .500 season.

Quarterback: David Carr starts the season healthy which is better than how he ended 2003. Most importantly the Texans offensive line reduced the record 76 sacks allowed in 2002 to only 36 last year and with more time to throw, there's better receivers downfield to make some noise. Carr had a setback with his injury last year, but started the season strong. This could be the year the franchise player makes the leap.

Running Backs: Although Domanick Davis was not the starter a year ago - he missed more if the preseason with a hand injury - he is the unquestioned starter now and turned in some big games after taking the primary spot over in week six last year. His 1031 rushing yards last year finally broke the Texans into respectability and a ground threat that had to be respected. Now as long as he proves more durable than last year, the Texans are set. Houston has gone to a new zone blocking scheme this year specifically to get Davis better lanes to run in and more room to chose the open hole.

Tony Hollings will be used to keep Davis fresher this season and Hollings showed good form in the preseason. He did suffer a thigh bruise in the final preseason game but should be fine this week. The interesting aspect to this game is to see if the coaching staff was being truthful about getting Hollings as many as 10-12 carries a game.

Wide Receivers: Rookie Andre Johnson just missed out on opening with a 1000 yard season when he ended with 976 yards but the second wideout taken in last year's draft has already proven to be a great acquisition. There's optimism that he'll quickly join the ranks of the very best receivers in the game. Johnson had his worst four games last year when Carr was out injured so a healthy quarterback coupled with a year of experience should provide Johnson with a nice uptick in production.

Corey Bradford continues to be undervalued as a #2 receiver and he had catches in every game he was healthy last year but he was not much more productive than Jabar Gaffney who will continue to provide slot service after losing the #2 role to Bradford last year.

Tight Ends: Though Billy Miller was a big surprise in 2002, that mainly reflected the lack of other receivers and the fact that Carr was about to be creamed by a blitzer and need to hit the closest player. Last year the tight end spot continued to be used though rarely for more than 20 or 30 yards in any game. Mark Bruener is the only other tight end on the roster and he'll mainly be a blocker.

Match Against the Defense: Not unlike the Texans, San Diego is not bringing a particularly great defense to the game. New defensive coordinator Wade Philips has installed a 3-4 scheme which should help slow the run down. After having a horrible 2003, this rush defense has little else to do than get better. Still, installing a new defense with an already suspect group is not likely to provide instant results which means Davis should start out with a bang.

What has not been changed much is the secondary for the Chargers and a healthy Carr and Johnson will be hooking up regularly in the game. The biggest downside to the passing game is if Davis alone can get a good enough lead to not force the Texans to throw much. The majority of this game - as with any against the Chargers - will revolve around how well Tomlinson does and the game situations that creates.






Statistical Comparisons begin after Week 1

Chargers (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 @HOU
Week 2 NYJ
Week 3 @DEN
Week 4 TEN
Week 5 JAX
Week 6 @ATL
Week 7 @CAR
Week 8 OAK
Week 9 NO
Week 10 bye
Week 11 @OAK
Week 12 @KC
Week 13 DEN
Week 14 TB
Week 15 @CLE
Week 16 @IND
Week 17 KC
Texans (0-0)
Score Opp.
Week 1 SD
Week 2 @DET
Week 3 @KC
Week 4 OAK
Week 5 MIN
Week 6 @TEN
Week 7 bye
Week 8 JAX
Week 9 @DEN
Week 10 @IND
Week 11 GB
Week 12 TEN
Week 13 @NYJ
Week 14 IND
Week 15 @CHI
Week 16 @JAX
Week 17 CLE

* Fantasy point rankings calculated using standard Huddle fantasy points