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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
September 18, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM
BUF at TBB NE at CAR Sun 4 PM MIA at NYJ Mon 9 PM
JAC at IND* PIT at HOU* STL at ARI *Update Times ET

Prediction: San Diego 24, Denver 20

Both these teams stumble into this game with an 0-1 record and they both had been heavy favorites in the game - were they both caught looking ahead? These teams won their respective home games last year but this time around the Broncos are looking much worse with a suspect rushing game and an almost team-wide malaise after losing in Miami. The Chargers lost to Dallas, but did so really only on the final drive with an interception. Homefield will help the Broncos, but after last week it's hard to see what else will.

Update: There are no projection changes but there still exists some sliver of hope that Anderson can play on Sunday. It is unlikely and he is listed as questionable on the injury report due to his bruised ribs. He did not practice on Wednesday. Shanahan says that Anderson will be evaluated on Friday to see if he can practice. Anderson has said he wants to and expects to play against the Chargers this weekend. As with all things concerning the Denver backfield, we'll know only when we can see it for certain. Safest bet is that Anderson plays minimally if at all and that Tatum Bell and to some unknown extent, Ron Dayne, takes the bulk of work. Stay away from this situation if you can.

Anderson did work out on Friday and it appears he will play wearing a flak jacket. This only muddles the situation even more for a team that never had a runner with more than 13 yards rushing against the Chargers last year.

San Diego Chargers (0-1)
1 24-28 DAL 10 Open Bye
2 Sep 18 @DEN 11 Nov 20 BUF
3 Sep 25 NYG 12 Nov 27 @WAS
4 Oct 2 @NE 13 Dec 4 OAK
5 Oct 10 PIT 14 Dec 11 MIA
6 Oct 16 @OAK 15 Dec 18 @IND
7 Oct 23 @PHI 16 Dec 24 @KCC
8 Oct 30 KCC 17 Dec 31 DEN
9 Nov 6 @NYJ . MON SAT
SDC Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Brees 0 0 260,2
RB L. Tomlinson 70,1 20 0
TE Antonio Gates 0 40 0
WR Keenan McCardell 0 70,1 0
WR Eric Parker 0 90,1 0
WR Reche Caldwell 0 20 0
PK Nate Kaeding 1 FG 3 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Chargers were somewhat surprised at how well the new Dallas 3-4 defense held them (it probably surprised Dallas too). Playing without Antonio Gates, the Chargers still had a good passing game but the small game by Tomlinson running made it an uphill struggle that ended with an interception thrown into the Dallas endzone.

Quarterback: Even without Antonio Gates, Drew Brees played well and threw for 209 yards and two scores which included a new-found reliance on Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker (and literally no one else). Brees had two costly interceptions but still posted 24 points in the loss.

In the week three meeting last year at Denver, Brees only threw for 121 yards and went a mere 14 of 29. Even in the second game he only managed 106 yards and no scores in either games. if he does excel this week, it will be the first time against Denver.

Running Backs: Surprisingly, Ladainian Tomlinson only gained 72 yards on 19 carries last week but he scored for an NFL record 13th straight game. He ran for only 60 yards in Denver last year but later had 113 yards and two scores while at home. Unlike last year, the Chargers have a far better passing game to worry about and that should only help Tomlinson.

Wide Receivers: Last week Keenan McCardell turned in an astounding nine catches for 123 yards and two scores - easily his best game as a Charger and with Gates still out, it was needed and yet still not quite enough. Eric Parker had 75 yards on five catches but the only other wideout action was a single catch from Reche Caldwell for nine yards.

The passing game was inefficient last year when they played in Denver early in the season before Gates really took off and then was not used much in the final home win in San Diego. These players will need to step up again this week.

Tight Ends: Let's see,Antonio Gates plays last year and sets the NFL record with 13 touchdowns by a tight end. He misses one week and his replacement Justin Peelle had two catches for (-4). Yep - money well spent on the new contract. Now he needs to earn it. Gates had 30 and 31 yards against the Broncos last year and never scored.

Match Against the Defense: This game is harder to evaluate using past events because last week the Broncos were likely overlooking the new Dolphins and sometimes having no game film to study makes a difference. They still were very tough against the run by holding Ronnie Brown to only 57 yards on 22 carries and they have always played Tomlinson tough, especially in Denver. Expect, of course, a touchdown from Tomlinson but his yardage will likely remain below the 100 yard mark.

The passing game here is more exciting, since CB Lenny Walls was scorched by Marty Booker last week and Champ Bailey dislocated his left shoulder and will play hurt if he even plays at all. That leaves both McCardell and Parker with the best matchups and last week that was all Brees used in the passing game anyway. Gates return will add to the equation, but he's not done well against Denver who has the defense to cover Gates normally. Brees should pass well here and the scores could go to either the of three main threats. The wideouts look unusually appealing though.

Denver Broncos (0-1)
1 10-34 @MIA 10 Nov 13 @OAK
2 Sep 18 SDC 11 Nov 20 NYJ
3 Sep 26 KCC 12 Nov 24 @DAL
4 Oct 2 @JAC 13 Dec 4 @KCC
5 Oct 9 WAS 14 Dec 11 BAL
6 Oct 16 NE 15 Dec 17 @BUF
7 Oct 23 @NYG 16 Dec 24 OAK
8 Oct 30 PHI 17 Dec 31 @SDC
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DEN Projections Rush Catch Pass
QB Jake Plummer 20 0 270,2
RB Tatum Bell 30 10 0
RB Mike Anderson 30 0 0
TE Jeb Putzier 0 50 0
WR Rod Smith 0 60,1 0
WR Ashley Lelie 0 80,1 0
WR Darius Watts 0 60 0
PK Jason Elam 2 FG 2 XP -

Pregame Notes: Okay, so last week was not pretty. The new Dolphins put a whooping on the Broncos as if they were returning league champs instead of really being the second worst team in the NFL last year. The game was actually close through three quarters before Plummer turned back into a pumpkin and the wheels fell off late. Still, there is no mistaking that the Denver offense throughout looked troublesome and ineffective.

Quarterback: Jake Plummer threw for a total of 251 yards and one score (good) but also had a fumble and two interceptions (bad). When the team needed him to step up the most is when he played the worst. His lone score was thrown to fullback Kyle Johnson as a sign that the gameplan was in the trash can later in the game.

Plummer was very good against the Chargers last year, throwing for 287 yards and two scores in Denver and having 278 yards in San Diego. He also had a ground game that so far is missing this year.

Running Backs: Mike Anderson only had five yards on four carries before injuring his rib cartilage and leaving the game last week. He could possibly play if he can stand the intense pain or at least the pain of a big shot of cortisone that won't last all game. I am assuming that Anderson needs at least a week to heal. Five yards on four carries - they can get that from Dayne if needed.

Tatum Bell did gain a nearly respectable 47 yards on 13 carries last week but that was actually a 30 yard run and 12 carries for 17 yards. The Charger rushing defense is sound and held Denver last year in both games with the best being Droughns who had only 38 yards on the ground in the second game.

Wide Receivers: Rod Smith (7-90) was the only successful wideout last week and Ashley Lelie only had two catches for 17 yards despite getting a team high 14 passes thrown to him. Both players have been successful in the past against San Diego, with Lelie having 67 yards and one score in Denver last year while Rod Smith had 75 yards and a score as well. Both players will need to produce for the Broncos to win this week.

Tight Ends: Although Stephen Alexander was named as the starting tight end last week, he only had one catch for eight yards while Jeb Putzier turned in 7 catches for 67 yards. Obviously starting and playing well are two different things in Denver. Putzier had 66 yards in the home game against the Chargers last year

Match Against the Defense: The Denver rushing attack was never effective last year against the Chargers and it certainly doesn't look like a superior crew in this game. Expect low rushing numbers regardless who runs the ball and in Denver, you can almost flip a coin this week as to which runner will be the best (relatively speaking).

Plummer has had success before and will need it here with plenty of opportunities because the run game looks like it will not work. The Chargers were burned for three passing scores by Dallas last week and Smith/Lelie should be better than Keyshawn/Glenn. The slot worked well last week against San Diego, but the Broncos do not typically use the position much. When they do, it could be either Darius Watts or Charlie Adams like last week. Look for some decent passing numbers here and a much better showing by Lelie than last week.